ALGARVE WEST FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to the towns and villages of Algarve West?

Faro Airport (IATA code FAO), located 2 1/2 miles from Faro city, is the main international airport link North America and Europe has with the Algarve. With over 6 million travelers in 2015, it is the third-busiest airport in Portugal. Ryanair, easyJet, and Monarch Airlines use Faro Airport as a hub.

EVA Transportes (www.eva-bus.com) and Proximo (www.proximo.pt/en) offer bus service from Faro Airport to Faro City, and from there to various destinations in Algarve West. Bus route #16 in the Proximo system leaves at least once hourly from between the 5 a.m. hour and midnight (last leaving 12:10 a.m.), heading toward Faro`s bus station at Avenida da Republica 5. From there, you can buy tickets for EVA buses headed west. From there, you can take the EVA #9 bus to Albufeira, which departs sixteen times daily. The EVA #9 stops in Almancil, Quarteira and Vilamoura before eventually arriving in Albufeira, with a full travel time of 90 minutes. The EVA #51 bus leaves from Albufeira bus station six times daily (four times on weekends and holidays) in the direction of Lagos, with additional stops along the way at Zoomarine Algarve, Armacao de Pera, Lagoa, Portimao, and Praia da Rocha. Travel time for the #51 bus between Albufeira and Lagos takes an hour and 25 minutes. Finally, there is an EVA #48 bus which leaves Lagos and travels in the direction of Sagres and Cape Saint Vincent. Eleven buses leave daily, with nine ending in Sagres and two (11:25 and 2:35 arrivals) in Cape Saint Vincent. The journey takes between 45 and 55 minutes.

The Proximo ticket in Faro between the airport and the bus station costs €3 and can be bought on the bus from the driver. For EVA buses, you can buy tickets either online or at an EVA office. For tourists, there are three and seven-day tourist options available (€35, €40 before taxes and fees) which allow you to travel on EVA buses throughout the Algarve for the same flat rate. To buy these tickets, you must do so by going directly to an EVA office. Here are EVA Transportes office locations in the western Algarve:

-Albufeira Bus Station (Alto dos Calicos, +351 289 580 611, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily)
-Grande Odisseia Viagens e Turismo Lda, Armacao de Pera (Avenida Beira Mar, Edificio Sao Gabriel, Loja 4, +351 911 196 111, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily)
-Lagos Bus Station (Largo Rossio de Sao Joao, +351 282 762 944, 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sat-Sun)
-EVA/MT Bus Shop, Portimao (Largo do Dique, +351 282 418 120, 6:10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sat-Sun)
-Travelgarve, Praia da Rocha (Avenida Tomas Cabreira, +351 282 417 171, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)
-Quarteira Bus Station (Avenida Francisco de Sa Carneiro, +351 289 389 143, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)
-Aparthotel Aldeia do Mar, Vilamoura (Avenida Tivoli - Aldeia do Mar, +351 289 315 643, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Sat June through mid-October, closing at 5:30 p.m. Mon-Fri mid-October through May, and at 4 p.m. Saturdays mid-October through May)
-Edificio da Praca, Silves (Rua Francisco Pablos, Edificio da Praca, Loja B, +351 282 442 338, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sat)

For those arriving and wishing to take a taxi to your destination, you will find a taxi rank just outside the arrivals terminal at Faro Airport, and you will notice a big sign that quotes taxi prices from Faro Airport to various locations throughout the Algarve. The average fare between Faro Airport and Faro city ranges between €10 and €15. Expect to pay €25-€30 to Vale do Lobo and Quarteira, €30-€40 to Vilamoura, €40-€55 to Albufeira, €55-€65 to Porches, €70-€80 to Carvoeiro, €60-€75 to Lagoa, €65-€80 to Silves and Ferragudo, €70-€85 to Portimao and Praia da Rocha, €75-€90 to Alvor, €90-€105 to Lagos, €95-115 to Praia da Luz, €115-135 to Sagres, and €110-€130 to Aljezur. Faro Airport`s arrivals taxi rank is one of the few ranks in the Algarve which sees taxis queue 24 hours a day.

For those driving, TripMasters does indeed recommend that you book a rental car during the reservation process. You will be picking up your car at Faro Airport`s car rental area adjacent to the arrivals terminal.

Driving directions: When you leave the airport, follow the signs for the N125-10. At the roundabout, take the second exit and get on the N125-10, eventually merging onto the IC4/N125-4. After 2.6 miles, merge onto the A22 (signs for Lisboa/Portimao/Albufeira). A22 is the main motorway to reach most cities in the western Algarve. The final exit, #1, is located near Bensafrim, northwest of Lagos. The sign for that exit will say N125/Lagos/Vila do Bispo. The N125 road connects Lagos, Praia da Luz, and Vila do Bispo. Take the N268 in Vila do Bispo for Sagres, the westernmost city in Algarve West.

Are there buses or trains that connect the cities and towns of Algarve West?

Comboios de Portugal`s Algarve Line connects Faro with many of the towns in Algarve West. The Algarve Line`s train stops are, in this order: Faro, Parque das Cidades, Loule-Praia de Quarteira, Boliqueime, Albufeira-Ferreiras, Tunes, Alcantarilha, Silves, Estombar-Lagoa, Portimao, Mexilhoeira Grande, and Lagos. The distance from Lagos to Sagres is not connected by rail. For more information, visit www.cp.pt (website in both Portuguese and English).

EVA Transportes bus service links Faro with the other towns in the Algarve, including Silves, Aljezur, Lagos, Praia da Luz, Sagres and Cape Saint Vincent. EVA Transportes also offers tickets to Andalusia in Spain, with thrice-daily service from Faro Airport to Ayamonte, Huelva and Seville. For more information on the western Algarve routes, refer to our previous FAQ question/answer.

Intercity bus stations are open for business in Faro, Quarteira, Albufeira, Lagoa, Portimao, and Lagos. Bus tickets are sold in other cities, and there are pickup and dropoff points (not as formal as bus stations) in Vilamoura, Armacao de Pera, Praia da Rocha, Alvor, Sagres, and Cape Saint Vincent.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Calling for a cab over the telephone or via an app is preferred over hailing them on the street. With that said, it is possible to hail a cab from the street, and you will probably have the most success doing that in the larger cities (Albufeira, Lagos, Portimao).

All towns and villages have at least one taxi operator, with the larger cities obviously having the widest selection. Licensed cabs will be either beige or black and green in color; any other cab with different colors may very well be illegal. The meter in Faro, Albufeira, Lagos, Portimao, and other cities in the region will begin at €4 and an amount between €1.50 and €2 will be added with each mile traveled. Keep in mind that many taxis may charge a discounted fare if traveling between Faro and cities to the west, or to attractions in the north such as Paderne, Zoomarine, etc.; please have your hotel call ahead and inquire. Also keep in mind that in smaller towns, there may be a flat fee for traveling via taxi no matter where you go in the town.

NOTE: If you hail your cab from the street or walk up to a rank, do not assume your taxi driver will know how to speak English. You may find many English-speaking taxi drivers in Faro, Portimao, and other large cities, but the chances diminish in rural areas. Write out your destinations on pieces of paper and give the paper applicable to that specific trip to your driver before departing just to be safe.

How easy is it to explore the sights in the Algarve West region?

Some cities sprawl for over a mile in Algarve West and others can be explored by walking just five or six streets. Here`s an idea of how big various cities and towns are in Algarve West. Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive list:

-The area of Vilamoura and Quarteira is approximately a mile and a half in width and three-quarters of a mile from the coast to the edge of town.
-Albufeira is fairly compact and nearly every point of interest in town is laid out across an area of just under a square mile.
-Portimao is larger, with the central area of town stretching about three-quarters of a mile from north to south, and an extra mile down to Praia da Rocha.
-Lagos`s main attractions are all set within a quarter-mile of one another.
-Sagres, separated from most of the other cities, sprawls on a peninsula for approximately two or three miles.
-Alvor can be walked from top to bottom in less than a fifth of a mile.

The sizes of the cities in Algarve West vary, but hopefully you now have an idea now of how big many of the cities are and how much walking you will expect to do (if you choose to walk many distances). While the towns and villages themselves can be explored on foot, consider alternate transportation such as a taxi, bus or car to get between all of the towns and villages recommended by TripMasters.

How safe is the Algarve West region?

Crime is not a high concern for visitors to the Algarve. Visitors will most often encounter vagrants asking for money, or small-time hustlers wishing to sell them drugs. Either way, they will leave you alone if you ignore them. (Telling them `no` could backfire on you.) You will most likely run into these types of people on The Strip in Albufeira, in portions of downtown Portimao, or in Praia da Rocha. You may notice a higher police presence in some of these areas. They are there to keep tourists and locals safe; if you need to speak to a police officer, simply walk up to one and explain your predicament. Many of them will speak English; if the person you approaches does not speak it, they will usually get you in contact with an officer who can.

All towns and villages in Algarve West are safe to walk about at night, but stick to well-lit and well-populated routes, keep your wits about you, and always look like you know where you are going, even when you may not. Be sure to keep your valuables on your person at all times, and never keep all of your money in one place; split up your cash into various pockets in your clothes. When in doubt, call for a taxi or private transportation at night, especially on The Strip in Albufeira, where hustlers have been known to rob intoxicated foreigners.

What is shopping like in Algarve West? Where can I find noteworthy souvenirs that are unique to the area?

The Algarve is well-known for its luxury shopping perhaps more so than its production of unique handicrafts local to the region, but that doesn`t mean that you can`t find both if you know where to look.

In Vilamoura, you will notice most of the shopping revolves around the Vilamoura Marina complex, with retailers selling goods from Algarve handicrafts to luxury clothing and jewelry. The square adjacent to the beach in Quarteira is also a good place to snag souvenirs. In Albufeira, the largest shopping center is called Albufeira Shopping and is located on Rua do Municipio, approximately 0.3 miles from The Strip. Largo Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco is home to a number of smaller shops which sell such products as handicrafts, jewelry, and clothing. Also check out the Rua 5 de Outubro, Avenida da Liberdade, and Areias de Sao Joao. Praia da Rocha is a popular place for souvenir shopping, in particular the boardwalk and the main street, Avenida Tomas Cabreira. In neighboring Portimao, head straight for the Praca da Republica. You will find many mom-and-pop stores as well as chain stores selling clothing and merchandise you may not find in North America. Be sure to walk Rua do Comercio (on the north side of the plaza) and Rua Vasco da Gama (on the south side). In addition to those streets and plazas, there are three North American-style shopping centers in Portimao: Portimao Retail Center, Centro Comercial Continente Portimao, and Aqua Portimao. Lagos Marina Gift Shop is a great place to shop for souvenirs and unique gifts in the Lagos area, as are Candido dos Reis, Praca Gil Eanes, and the Rua 25 de Abril.

Additional shops of note that you may be interested in while traveling in Algarve West include the Quarteira Gypsy Market (M527-2 motorway, Quarteira); Souvenir da Luz (Rua Direita 17, Praia da Luz); beach souvenir shop Wavesensations (Rua Comandante Matoso, Sagres); art and ceramics shop Studio Bongard (Rua Infante Dom Henrique 62, Ferragudo); Portuguese gift shop Lipiscani (Rua 25 de Abril 57, Ferragudo); Porches Pottery (N125 motorway, Porches); and interior decor store Arrecadacao da Luz (Rua da Calheta 4D, Praia da Luz).

Are there any delicacies that are unique to Algarve West?

In the Algarve, the seafood that is served at restaurants is some of the best in Europe. Bacalhau is probably the Algarve dish you will see most often in restaurants. It is dried cod, preserved in salt. You will find it cooked in many different manners; indeed, locals joke that there is a unique bacalhau recipe for every day of the calendar year!

You will also find chicken dishes served `piri-piri`, which is a hot, bright red pepper used for marinades. Americans may know the `piri-piri` chicken taste from the chain restaurant Nando`s. Cataplana is another traditional dish, and it was brought to the Algarve during the time of the Moors. Clams, fish and other types of seafood are cooked in a copper pan with spicy sausage, tomatoes, wine, herbs, and garlic.

Seafood is so plentiful that you should be on the lookout for various delicacies on the menu. Popular seafood options that you may see on local menus include enguias (eels), tainhas (mullet), robalos (sea bass), dourada (bream), atum (tuna), espadarte (swordfish), ameijoas (clams), conquilhas (small clams), camaraos (shrimp), sardinhas (sardines), polvo (octopus), and lula (squid).

For dessert, try the torta de amendoa. The Algarvian version is a Swiss roll with ground almonds and lemon peel.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of Portugal is the Euro and US dollars are not accepted for payment. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks and ATMs can be found at your arrival airport and at many locations throughout the region.

I do not speak Portuguese. Do many people speak English?

It is more common to find English speakers in Portugal than it is in other southern European countries, such as Spain. A recent European Union language survey found that 32% of Portuguese people over the age of 18 can speak English on a conversational level or better.

With that said, you may encounter some difficulty finding an English speaker away from tourist areas such as Vilamoura, Albufeira, Portimao/Praia da Rocha, and Lagos. It is recommended to brush up on basic Portuguese phrases before arriving, like basic pleasantries and numbers from 1 to 10. To ask someone if they speak English, say `Fala ingles?`

Note: Do not speak in Spanish to a Portuguese person, thinking they will understand you when you do so. Responses will range from stunned silence to outright hostility; the Portuguese people are proud of their culture and heritage, and such an act will cause nearly everyone to take personal offense. On another note, the vocabulary and pronunciation in Portuguese differs from Spanish more than you may realize.

What are the drinking laws in Portugal?

The legal drinking age in Portugal is 18, whether you find yourself in a pub or a nightclub. Asking for proof of age upon ordering an alcoholic beverage or entering a nightclub is becoming more commonplace, especially if you appear younger. Keep your passport with you as it doubles as proof of age and identification.

If you are renting a car, do not drive after consuming alcohol. A blood alcohol content level of 0.05 is considered the legal limit; penalties can range from fines to a jail sentence of up to one year. Save yourself the potential trouble and heartache.

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ALGARVE WEST FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to the towns and villages of Algarve West?

Faro Airport (IATA code FAO), located 2 1/2 miles from Faro city, is the main international airport link North America and Europe has with the Algarve. With over 6 million travelers in 2015, it is the third-busiest airport in Portugal. Ryanair, easyJet, and Monarch Airlines use Faro Airport as a hub.

EVA Transportes (www.eva-bus.com) and Proximo (www.proximo.pt/en) offer bus service from Faro Airport to Faro City, and from there to various destinations in Algarve West. Bus route #16 in the Proximo system leaves at least once hourly from between the 5 a.m. hour and midnight (last leaving 12:10 a.m.), heading toward Faro`s bus station at Avenida da Republica 5. From there, you can buy tickets for EVA buses headed west. From there, you can take the EVA #9 bus to Albufeira, which departs sixteen times daily. The EVA #9 stops in Almancil, Quarteira and Vilamoura before eventually arriving in Albufeira, with a full travel time of 90 minutes. The EVA #51 bus leaves from Albufeira bus station six times daily (four times on weekends and holidays) in the direction of Lagos, with additional stops along the way at Zoomarine Algarve, Armacao de Pera, Lagoa, Portimao, and Praia da Rocha. Travel time for the #51 bus between Albufeira and Lagos takes an hour and 25 minutes. Finally, there is an EVA #48 bus which leaves Lagos and travels in the direction of Sagres and Cape Saint Vincent. Eleven buses leave daily, with nine ending in Sagres and two (11:25 and 2:35 arrivals) in Cape Saint Vincent. The journey takes between 45 and 55 minutes.

The Proximo ticket in Faro between the airport and the bus station costs €3 and can be bought on the bus from the driver. For EVA buses, you can buy tickets either online or at an EVA office. For tourists, there are three and seven-day tourist options available (€35, €40 before taxes and fees) which allow you to travel on EVA buses throughout the Algarve for the same flat rate. To buy these tickets, you must do so by going directly to an EVA office. Here are EVA Transportes office locations in the western Algarve:

-Albufeira Bus Station (Alto dos Calicos, +351 289 580 611, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily)
-Grande Odisseia Viagens e Turismo Lda, Armacao de Pera (Avenida Beira Mar, Edificio Sao Gabriel, Loja 4, +351 911 196 111, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily)
-Lagos Bus Station (Largo Rossio de Sao Joao, +351 282 762 944, 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sat-Sun)
-EVA/MT Bus Shop, Portimao (Largo do Dique, +351 282 418 120, 6:10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sat-Sun)
-Travelgarve, Praia da Rocha (Avenida Tomas Cabreira, +351 282 417 171, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)
-Quarteira Bus Station (Avenida Francisco de Sa Carneiro, +351 289 389 143, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily)
-Aparthotel Aldeia do Mar, Vilamoura (Avenida Tivoli - Aldeia do Mar, +351 289 315 643, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Sat June through mid-October, closing at 5:30 p.m. Mon-Fri mid-October through May, and at 4 p.m. Saturdays mid-October through May)
-Edificio da Praca, Silves (Rua Francisco Pablos, Edificio da Praca, Loja B, +351 282 442 338, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sat)

For those arriving and wishing to take a taxi to your destination, you will find a taxi rank just outside the arrivals terminal at Faro Airport, and you will notice a big sign that quotes taxi prices from Faro Airport to various locations throughout the Algarve. The average fare between Faro Airport and Faro city ranges between €10 and €15. Expect to pay €25-€30 to Vale do Lobo and Quarteira, €30-€40 to Vilamoura, €40-€55 to Albufeira, €55-€65 to Porches, €70-€80 to Carvoeiro, €60-€75 to Lagoa, €65-€80 to Silves and Ferragudo, €70-€85 to Portimao and Praia da Rocha, €75-€90 to Alvor, €90-€105 to Lagos, €95-115 to Praia da Luz, €115-135 to Sagres, and €110-€130 to Aljezur. Faro Airport`s arrivals taxi rank is one of the few ranks in the Algarve which sees taxis queue 24 hours a day.

For those driving, TripMasters does indeed recommend that you book a rental car during the reservation process. You will be picking up your car at Faro Airport`s car rental area adjacent to the arrivals terminal.

Driving directions: When you leave the airport, follow the signs for the N125-10. At the roundabout, take the second exit and get on the N125-10, eventually merging onto the IC4/N125-4. After 2.6 miles, merge onto the A22 (signs for Lisboa/Portimao/Albufeira). A22 is the main motorway to reach most cities in the western Algarve. The final exit, #1, is located near Bensafrim, northwest of Lagos. The sign for that exit will say N125/Lagos/Vila do Bispo. The N125 road connects Lagos, Praia da Luz, and Vila do Bispo. Take the N268 in Vila do Bispo for Sagres, the westernmost city in Algarve West.

Are there buses or trains that connect the cities and towns of Algarve West?

Comboios de Portugal`s Algarve Line connects Faro with many of the towns in Algarve West. The Algarve Line`s train stops are, in this order: Faro, Parque das Cidades, Loule-Praia de Quarteira, Boliqueime, Albufeira-Ferreiras, Tunes, Alcantarilha, Silves, Estombar-Lagoa, Portimao, Mexilhoeira Grande, and Lagos. The distance from Lagos to Sagres is not connected by rail. For more information, visit www.cp.pt (website in both Portuguese and English).

EVA Transportes bus service links Faro with the other towns in the Algarve, including Silves, Aljezur, Lagos, Praia da Luz, Sagres and Cape Saint Vincent. EVA Transportes also offers tickets to Andalusia in Spain, with thrice-daily service from Faro Airport to Ayamonte, Huelva and Seville. For more information on the western Algarve routes, refer to our previous FAQ question/answer.

Intercity bus stations are open for business in Faro, Quarteira, Albufeira, Lagoa, Portimao, and Lagos. Bus tickets are sold in other cities, and there are pickup and dropoff points (not as formal as bus stations) in Vilamoura, Armacao de Pera, Praia da Rocha, Alvor, Sagres, and Cape Saint Vincent.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Calling for a cab over the telephone or via an app is preferred over hailing them on the street. With that said, it is possible to hail a cab from the street, and you will probably have the most success doing that in the larger cities (Albufeira, Lagos, Portimao).

All towns and villages have at least one taxi operator, with the larger cities obviously having the widest selection. Licensed cabs will be either beige or black and green in color; any other cab with different colors may very well be illegal. The meter in Faro, Albufeira, Lagos, Portimao, and other cities in the region will begin at €4 and an amount between €1.50 and €2 will be added with each mile traveled. Keep in mind that many taxis may charge a discounted fare if traveling between Faro and cities to the west, or to attractions in the north such as Paderne, Zoomarine, etc.; please have your hotel call ahead and inquire. Also keep in mind that in smaller towns, there may be a flat fee for traveling via taxi no matter where you go in the town.

NOTE: If you hail your cab from the street or walk up to a rank, do not assume your taxi driver will know how to speak English. You may find many English-speaking taxi drivers in Faro, Portimao, and other large cities, but the chances diminish in rural areas. Write out your destinations on pieces of paper and give the paper applicable to that specific trip to your driver before departing just to be safe.

How easy is it to explore the sights in the Algarve West region?

Some cities sprawl for over a mile in Algarve West and others can be explored by walking just five or six streets. Here`s an idea of how big various cities and towns are in Algarve West. Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive list:

-The area of Vilamoura and Quarteira is approximately a mile and a half in width and three-quarters of a mile from the coast to the edge of town.
-Albufeira is fairly compact and nearly every point of interest in town is laid out across an area of just under a square mile.
-Portimao is larger, with the central area of town stretching about three-quarters of a mile from north to south, and an extra mile down to Praia da Rocha.
-Lagos`s main attractions are all set within a quarter-mile of one another.
-Sagres, separated from most of the other cities, sprawls on a peninsula for approximately two or three miles.
-Alvor can be walked from top to bottom in less than a fifth of a mile.

The sizes of the cities in Algarve West vary, but hopefully you now have an idea now of how big many of the cities are and how much walking you will expect to do (if you choose to walk many distances). While the towns and villages themselves can be explored on foot, consider alternate transportation such as a taxi, bus or car to get between all of the towns and villages recommended by TripMasters.

How safe is the Algarve West region?

Crime is not a high concern for visitors to the Algarve. Visitors will most often encounter vagrants asking for money, or small-time hustlers wishing to sell them drugs. Either way, they will leave you alone if you ignore them. (Telling them `no` could backfire on you.) You will most likely run into these types of people on The Strip in Albufeira, in portions of downtown Portimao, or in Praia da Rocha. You may notice a higher police presence in some of these areas. They are there to keep tourists and locals safe; if you need to speak to a police officer, simply walk up to one and explain your predicament. Many of them will speak English; if the person you approaches does not speak it, they will usually get you in contact with an officer who can.

All towns and villages in Algarve West are safe to walk about at night, but stick to well-lit and well-populated routes, keep your wits about you, and always look like you know where you are going, even when you may not. Be sure to keep your valuables on your person at all times, and never keep all of your money in one place; split up your cash into various pockets in your clothes. When in doubt, call for a taxi or private transportation at night, especially on The Strip in Albufeira, where hustlers have been known to rob intoxicated foreigners.

What is shopping like in Algarve West? Where can I find noteworthy souvenirs that are unique to the area?

The Algarve is well-known for its luxury shopping perhaps more so than its production of unique handicrafts local to the region, but that doesn`t mean that you can`t find both if you know where to look.

In Vilamoura, you will notice most of the shopping revolves around the Vilamoura Marina complex, with retailers selling goods from Algarve handicrafts to luxury clothing and jewelry. The square adjacent to the beach in Quarteira is also a good place to snag souvenirs. In Albufeira, the largest shopping center is called Albufeira Shopping and is located on Rua do Municipio, approximately 0.3 miles from The Strip. Largo Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco is home to a number of smaller shops which sell such products as handicrafts, jewelry, and clothing. Also check out the Rua 5 de Outubro, Avenida da Liberdade, and Areias de Sao Joao. Praia da Rocha is a popular place for souvenir shopping, in particular the boardwalk and the main street, Avenida Tomas Cabreira. In neighboring Portimao, head straight for the Praca da Republica. You will find many mom-and-pop stores as well as chain stores selling clothing and merchandise you may not find in North America. Be sure to walk Rua do Comercio (on the north side of the plaza) and Rua Vasco da Gama (on the south side). In addition to those streets and plazas, there are three North American-style shopping centers in Portimao: Portimao Retail Center, Centro Comercial Continente Portimao, and Aqua Portimao. Lagos Marina Gift Shop is a great place to shop for souvenirs and unique gifts in the Lagos area, as are Candido dos Reis, Praca Gil Eanes, and the Rua 25 de Abril.

Additional shops of note that you may be interested in while traveling in Algarve West include the Quarteira Gypsy Market (M527-2 motorway, Quarteira); Souvenir da Luz (Rua Direita 17, Praia da Luz); beach souvenir shop Wavesensations (Rua Comandante Matoso, Sagres); art and ceramics shop Studio Bongard (Rua Infante Dom Henrique 62, Ferragudo); Portuguese gift shop Lipiscani (Rua 25 de Abril 57, Ferragudo); Porches Pottery (N125 motorway, Porches); and interior decor store Arrecadacao da Luz (Rua da Calheta 4D, Praia da Luz).

Are there any delicacies that are unique to Algarve West?

In the Algarve, the seafood that is served at restaurants is some of the best in Europe. Bacalhau is probably the Algarve dish you will see most often in restaurants. It is dried cod, preserved in salt. You will find it cooked in many different manners; indeed, locals joke that there is a unique bacalhau recipe for every day of the calendar year!

You will also find chicken dishes served `piri-piri`, which is a hot, bright red pepper used for marinades. Americans may know the `piri-piri` chicken taste from the chain restaurant Nando`s. Cataplana is another traditional dish, and it was brought to the Algarve during the time of the Moors. Clams, fish and other types of seafood are cooked in a copper pan with spicy sausage, tomatoes, wine, herbs, and garlic.

Seafood is so plentiful that you should be on the lookout for various delicacies on the menu. Popular seafood options that you may see on local menus include enguias (eels), tainhas (mullet), robalos (sea bass), dourada (bream), atum (tuna), espadarte (swordfish), ameijoas (clams), conquilhas (small clams), camaraos (shrimp), sardinhas (sardines), polvo (octopus), and lula (squid).

For dessert, try the torta de amendoa. The Algarvian version is a Swiss roll with ground almonds and lemon peel.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of Portugal is the Euro and US dollars are not accepted for payment. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks and ATMs can be found at your arrival airport and at many locations throughout the region.

I do not speak Portuguese. Do many people speak English?

It is more common to find English speakers in Portugal than it is in other southern European countries, such as Spain. A recent European Union language survey found that 32% of Portuguese people over the age of 18 can speak English on a conversational level or better.

With that said, you may encounter some difficulty finding an English speaker away from tourist areas such as Vilamoura, Albufeira, Portimao/Praia da Rocha, and Lagos. It is recommended to brush up on basic Portuguese phrases before arriving, like basic pleasantries and numbers from 1 to 10. To ask someone if they speak English, say `Fala ingles?`

Note: Do not speak in Spanish to a Portuguese person, thinking they will understand you when you do so. Responses will range from stunned silence to outright hostility; the Portuguese people are proud of their culture and heritage, and such an act will cause nearly everyone to take personal offense. On another note, the vocabulary and pronunciation in Portuguese differs from Spanish more than you may realize.

What are the drinking laws in Portugal?

The legal drinking age in Portugal is 18, whether you find yourself in a pub or a nightclub. Asking for proof of age upon ordering an alcoholic beverage or entering a nightclub is becoming more commonplace, especially if you appear younger. Keep your passport with you as it doubles as proof of age and identification.

If you are renting a car, do not drive after consuming alcohol. A blood alcohol content level of 0.05 is considered the legal limit; penalties can range from fines to a jail sentence of up to one year. Save yourself the potential trouble and heartache.