I recently returned from two weeks of solo travel in the Algarve, Portugal. I was amazed by how easy and enjoyable this trip was. Portugal is a safe country to travel and the Algarve is well-connected by trains and buses. Today I’m blogging all of my top tips for your solo trip to the Algarve.
When should you go to the Algarve?
While there are many things that you can do in the Algarve in winter, it’s much better to visit in the summer months so that you can enjoy the outdoors and the beaches in beautiful weather. The busiest time of year (peak season) is from June through to August when temperatures are frequently over 20 degrees. However, if you would like to travel when the weather is good but it’s not too busy then you could opt for the shoulder season – May and September.
Is the Algarve Safe for Solo female travellers?
Absolutely! Obviously always be aware of personal safety and your belongings, but I found the Algarve to be a safe and easy place to travel solo. I stayed in a mix of hotels and hostel dorm rooms all along the Algarve. I only came across one situation in Faro where someone had their mobile phone and money stolen from the hostel and the police were involved.
Petty crime and theft is probably going to be your main worry and this will be limited by keeping your eye on your stuff and locking things away securely. Crime against the person is very low in the Algarve. The police are strict in Portugal and tourist areas are particularly well policed to keep crime levels low. In fact, according to Vision of Humanity’s 2021 Global Peace Index rankings, Portugal is the 4th most peaceful country in the world.
Sometimes you need to watch out for the out of control party animals who get far too drunk in the Algarve. This is particularly an issue in the hostels of Albufeira, Faro and Lagos. Some of the guys do try it on with women and find it difficult to take no for an answer. Sometimes they come back completely pissed into dorm rooms in the middle of the night at like 4am!
But on the whole, I would totally recommend travelling around the Algarve. Many people speak English as they are used to working with English tourists. The staff in hotels, bars and restaurants are extremely helpful.
Remember to check the up to date travel restrictions regarding Covid-19. You may be required to show a vaccination passport, negative Covid test and wear a mask.
Solo Travel Algarve – How to get there
You will probably book your flight into either Faro or Lagos airport. However, if you can only fly into Lisbon then it is very easy to get to the Algarve by train. You can book your train ticket in advance on cp.pt. Remember that when you book a train in Portugal online you may be asked for the number of your ID document – if you are not a Portuguese citizen then you won’t have a citizen card – opt for passport number and add that. However, if you have your passport ID on your train booking, remember that you will need to travel with your passport on that journey.
Travelling around the Algarve
Most travellers make their way across the Algarve by train, bus or road trip – either going from Lagos to Faro or Vice versa.
For the local trains you can rock up and buy a ticket at the local train station. In my experience, they always speak English. However, it’s a nice opportunity to practice a bit of Portuguese if you can! The buses in the Algarve are slightly cheaper but take a little longer. You can book via Rede Expressos and also the local company http://eva-bus.com/.
If you are willing to drive then you will open up a great deal of beautiful more secluded beaches to your itinerary. However, driving in Portugal can also be a challenge. There are many narrow cobbled streets and lots of hill starts! Also driving is on the right (not the left which some UK residents will be used to). We hired a car with Europcar from Lisbon Airport and it was lovely.
Where to visit in the Algarve
The key places that you will visit include Lagos and Faro, but there are many others. Here are the main destinations in the Algarve that I recommend to Solo travellers…
Faro is surprisingly quite small and you can see the sites of the city in less than one day! So if you fly into Faro spend just a day or two before you move on. Check out the walled old town and the Capela dos Ossos (bone chapel). There are no beaches in Faro and so most travellers use it as a stop-off point for inward and outward flights. You can do the Ria do Formosa National Park from here as a day trip which is best done in the summer months.
Lagos is another popular destination for flying into and its got more beaches than Faro. Lagos also has a richer digital nomad population and a nice surfer community. Don’t miss Igreja do Santo Antonio and Praia do Camilo.
Tavira is possibly my favourite destination in the Algarve for solo female travel. This beautiful old town is positioned on the river Gilão. It’s easy to get to by train. In fact there are two train stations in Tavira – Porta Nova on one side of the river and Tavira on the other. I recommend getting off at Porta Nova and then walking through the city over the river to get back on the train at Tavira – this makes for the perfect day trip. You will climb up the steps towards the picturesque Tavira castle and enjoy the stunning views of the city from the top.
Albufeira is a coastal town popular for with the Brits. It has a nice old town, but is mostly famous for the drinking along the street popularly known as the ‘Albufeira Strip!’ If you don’t like too British or too much drinking, then you will probably prefer other destinations such as Tavira. However, it makes a good party place and is popular with stag and hen dos.
If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about Algarve Transport Guide