Here are my top tips and advice on exploring the Portuguese Algarve on a budget, including my top picks on where to visit, accommodation, attractions and Portuguese food!
Portugal has been Europe’s top value destination for years and the Algarve region is not to be missed. The beautiful coastal destination has topped affordable holiday rankings, making it the perfect destination to soak up the sun and save some cash.
I visited the region back in May 2018 for 5 days, flying into Faro airport for just £40 return. I took around €200 euros spending money and came back with at least €35 to spare.
WHEN TO VISIT ON A BUDGET
Timing can all be important when visiting the Algarve on a budget. The region is extremely seasonal and with being such a huge tourist destination, the summer school holidays are the most popular. Flights and accommodation are more likely to be considerably more expensive during this time, so save yourself some buck and book outside this period.
The temperatures in May and June, and September and October are still in the mid to late 20s, meaning you can still enjoy the sunny Portuguese blue skies without the sky rocketed price. I visited at the end of April/beginning of May back in 2018 and despite there being a drizzle of rain at points, I caught a lovely tan, sunbathing in mid to late 20s heat.
GETTING AROUND ON A BUDGET
Unfortunately public transport is not the best in the Algarve region, with little bus and rail links between towns. Your best option is a hire car.
Hiring a car provides you with ultimate freedom to explore and is essential to reach those unmissable beautiful secluded beaches in the Algarve. I booked online in advance and ended up just paying €5 a day for the car, which worked out at just €1.66 each between the three of us. Search around using comparison sites like Expedia to find the best deal.
Flying with RyanAir? The budget airline ‘guarantee the lowest prices on car hire’ and offer FREE car hire if you find a car hire for less anywhere else. A whole holidays transport for free? YES! Make sure you take advantage of this offer.
ACCOMODATION ON A BUDGET
Accommodation is probably the biggest expense for your holiday to the Algarve – however don’t even expect this to break the bank. AirBNB has become a major success in Portugal, from cute Iberian apartments to gorgeous huge villas. I stayed in a nice, modern apartment in Faro, with 2 bedrooms and a fully equipment kitchen. It cost just £13.30 each per night – a total bargain!
WHERE TO EXPLORE ON A BUDGET
Now you’ve got your hire car and accommodation sorted – it’s time to explore. There are many breathtaking places to visit and I’ve listed the best towns in Algarve that are truly worth your precious vacation time and money:
Rich in history, presented through ancient preserved walls and stone-paved small paths, Faro is definitely not to be missed. The gorgeous town is also located just an 11 minute taxi ride from Faro airport, making it a great starting place for your Algarve adventure.
Faro’s history dates back to the fourth century BC, during the period of Phoenician colonisation of the Western Mediterranean. A walk around the Cidade Velha (the old town) is unmissable, along with a trip to to the Faro Cathedral. It’s well worth the climb up to the top of the cathedral to get stunning views of Faro and the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa – both completely free!
Faro has something for everyone. There are streets and plazas full of shops, tonnes of restaurants and a beautiful marina for some peace and relaxation. The food choice is incredible; pizza, pasta and traditional Portuguese seafood (such as Cataplana), all at great prices – you’ll find it hard to spend more than €10 on a main course.
Attractions not to be missed: Faro Cathedral, Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, Praia de Faros, Ilha Deserta (Deserted Island), The Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), Cidade Velha (the old town) and Alameda João de Deus Gardens (all marked in bold are FREE to visit!).
If you’re looking for a party in the Algarve, then head straight to Albufeira. The town hosts an amazing atmosphere that bursts with energy and gorgeous sights and beaches. The town is home to a haven of bars, nightclubs and restaurants, with something going on every night of the week.
You’re spoilt for choice with food and drink in Albufeira, with local and international cuisine available for you wherever and whenever. Grab a local Portuguese beer for around €1, or try out the local wine ‘Vinho Verde’for about the same price. You can have an amazing night out, rolling in at sun rise for less than €20.
Albufeira is home to the most amazing and beautiful caves in Europe (if not the world). No cave list would be complete without mentioning the world famous Benagil Cave (pictured above). You can grab a boat trip for around €25 (approximately 2-3 hours long). If you’re feeling a bit more active, explore the caves whilst paddle boarding! A whole day of fun for just €40 – I highly recommend it! Or for totally free experience, you can swim into from Benagil beach (at your own risk).
Attractions not to be missed: Praia da Oura, Praia de Coelha, Largo Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco (the main shopping/bar area), Benagil Cave, (all marked in bold are FREE to visit!).
When you picture the Algarve in your head, you’ll be picturing Lagos. It matches all your wildest dreams and thoughts of the Algarve and has so much to offer. Once a fishing village, the town is full of interesting history alongside golden sandy beaches and clear blue water.
Lagos is perfect for long walks across the beach (boasting an amazing 4km long beach) and hikes along the stunning coastline (like Ponta da Piedade). The town is full of bars and restaurants, with affordable prices and great atmospheres. The focal point of Lagos is the harbour, a perfect place to watch the sunset with a bottle of beer bought from the local supermarket for around 50¢!
Due to it being the most picture-perfect place in the Algarve, expect Lagos to be a bit more expensive than Faro and Albufeira. Perhaps just take a day trip to the town and explore the sandy beaches and gorgeous coastline without forking out for some pricey accommodation. Just a 45 minute drive from Albufeira and a 1hour drive from Faro.
Attractions not to be missed: Mercado dos Escravos (Europe’s first slave market), Santo Antonio church, Bandeira Fort, Ponta da Piedade, Porto de Mós (yes – all of these are free to visit!)
There you have it! My top picks for exploring the Portuguese Algarve on a budget. Drop a comment below with any questions you might have about visiting the Portuguese Algarve on a budget. Or if you have any awesome tips to add, please feel free to share those below as well!
Until next time – live your best life, low cost!
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