Most tourists arrive in Algarve by airplane, landing in Faro’s international airport, but there are many who visit Lisbon or Porto first and then take the train or an express bus to their chosen destination in Algarve. If that’s your plan, here’s your complete guide:
Train from Lisbon to Algarve
Faro is the last stop of the long-distance Alfa Pendular (AP) trains that originate in Porto and stop in Lisbon’s Oriente Station, and of the Intercidades (IC) trains that depart from Lisbon’s Oriente Station. This station is on the Metro’s red line and just three stops from the airport. The first stop in Algarve is Tunes, where you connect to the regional train for the towns to the west of Faro (Portimão and Lagos). For the towns to the east (Olhão, Tavira, Monte Gordo), the connection is in Faro. After Tunes, the long-distance trains from Lisbon stop in Albufeira and Loulé, before terminating in Faro. The stations in Albufeira and Loulé are actually quite far from the center, so for these destinations you should take the bus instead (see below). Faro is worth visiting for a day or two and has connections to just about anywhere in Algarve. Its train and bus stations are down the street from each other, in the city center.
The fastest train from Lisbon is that of the AP service. There are two per day (early in the morning and in the afternoon), taking 3 hours. The slower service, IC, departs three times a day and takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes. In total, there are five daily train services between Lisbon and Algarve. Tickets for the AP to Faro are €23.50 for the regular (second) class and €31.40 for first class, while for the IC they’re €22.15 for second class and €28.95 for first class. There isn’t much difference between the two classes, except for more spacious seats and the availability of power outlets in the first. The tickets must be bought before boarding, at the ticket office at the station or online at the cp.pt website (also consult the website for the current train schedules). Each ticket has an assigned seat and should be kept handy for inspection during the journey. Try to buy them days in advance, as they very often sell out early.
Unless you want to go directly to Lagos, Albufeira or Portimão from Lisbon, the train is better than the bus. It offers more space and a more scenic journey, and the price difference isn’t great. When you connect to the regional/Algarve line in Faro or Tunes, be prepared for much slower trains, as they make multiple stops. Seats for these trains are not pre-booked, but there are always many available.
Bus from Lisbon to Algarve
There are about a dozen departures throughout the day from Lisbon’s Sete Rios bus terminal to Faro and a few more to the more popular destinations of Lagos and Albufeira. These buses are operated by three different companies (Rede Expressos, Eva-Mundial Turismo and Renex), which all use comfortable, modern vehicles. To check ticket prices (which can range between 5 and over 20 euros, depending on if you’re storing luggage in the compartment or lucky to get a special online deal), see the rede-expressos.pt website (the three companies are part of the same group, so the website sells tickets and lists departure times for all three). When buying tickets online, you’re asked to provide a national ID or passport number. Buying online in advance is always a good idea in the summer, as they often sell out quickly and you avoid the long lines at the ticket office at the station. To Albufeira, the buses can take 2 hours and 45 minutes to 3 hours and 15 minutes. To Lagos, the journey can take as little as 3 hours and 40 minutes to as much as 4 hours and 25 minutes. To Faro it’s between 3 hours and 15 minutes and 3 hours and 50 minutes. To Tavira, it’s around 4 hours, and to Portimão around 3 hours and 30 minutes, and to Sagres exactly 4 hours (there is just one bus per day to Sagres). These times depend on traffic and on how many stops the buses make on the way (there are very few). All of the services to Algarve are direct, meaning no need to connect anywhere.
There are also buses operated by FlixBus, departing from Oriente Station. These go to Albufeira, Armação de Pêra, Faro, Lagos and Portimão.