Algarve Car Hire

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The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region and is famed for its white-sand beaches, warm waters and a tourist boom which began in the 1960s and has consequently made the region one of the country’s premier holiday destinations ̶ almost 23 million tourists visit Portugal annually, and an estimated 7.1 million of these go to the Algarve.

The Algarve has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times (as indicated by the megalithic structures like standing stones) and is steeped in history. Like much of Europe, its history also includes Roman occupation and then successive conquests by Visigoths and Moorish invaders/occupiers. The Romans in particular left behind extensive ruins and structures to visit, and as the Algarve is also reasonably compact it’s perfect for some longer excursions from the comfort of your car. Portugal is a safe country with good public services and so is popular for retirees from the UK and elsewhere as well as tourists.

Portugal is cheaper than the UK (albeit that isn’t hard these days) and you can take advantage of this with amazing deals on car hire. At time of writing, a Renault Twingo or similar (mini) costs just £8.85 a day and the compact Renault Megane is only £18.53 a day, while even a spacious people carrier such as the Vauxhall Vivaro ̶ ideal for longer excursions with all the family ̶ is just £58 a day. Hire your vehicle with Enjoy to explore Portugal and the Algarve for the ultimate in independent travel – but first, here’s some more about this warm and inviting area.

  • About The Algarve: thanks to tourism, the Algarve’s population of 450,000 people swells to one million in summer. The main city is Faro, and the coastal stretch from there to Lagos is the most developed in terms of resorts, hotels and bars. Inland is less developed, as are the more rocky cliffs and coastal areas. The name comes from the Arabic Al-Garbh, roughly meaning ‘West Andalus’.
  • There have been inhabitants in the Algarve area since the Stone Age, and successive conquerors and settlers have shaped the history and landscape of this spectacular region for millennia. The Menhirs of Lavajo (in Alcoutim) are ceremonial standing stones dating from the Neolithic period, with similar sites in Vila do Bespos and Lagos. The Algarve is also peppered with Roman remains ̶ temples, villas, mosaics, bridges and more. The Romans realized the strategic importance of the region as an Atlantic-Mediterranean port, and it flourished. After the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 410 AD, the Visigoths occupied the area until the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, which started in 711 AD and lasted until their expulsion from the region in 1294. They left their mark in the Portuguese language, culture, architecture, and cooking, to name just a few fields. The Kingdom of the Algarve, as it then became, also claimed large parts of northwest Africa known as the Maghreb. Portugal became a global trading and seafaring nation during the Renaissance, and from 1595 to 1808 the Algarve was a semi-autonomous region, becoming part of Portugal in 1910.

  • Airports and Access: The Algarve region is served by Faro Airport (FAO), also known as Algarve Airport, situated just west of the city of Faro. It became a hub airport in 2010, is busiest from March – October and processes 9 million passengers annually. It’s worth noting that Seville Airport (SVQ) in southern Spain is just over 2 hours away by car, making it a feasible transfer or connection option.
  • Driving Around The Algarve: There’s so much great motoring around Algarve and the surrounding region! Here a few of our favourite trips:
  • Tavira town is a hidden gem on the eastern end of the Algarve which has remained relatively untouched by the thriving Portuguese tourist industry, probably because it doesn’t have direct beach access (although beautiful beaches are just a short ferry ride or drive away). As the Algarve (and Portugal) is quite small, Tavira is less than two hours from Seville, one hour from Faro, and just 90 minutes to get to Portugal’s most south-westerly point, Cape Saint-Vincent.

    Praia de Benagil in Lagoa district has a small but pretty beach, but its biggest draw for visitors are its famous caves (known as ‘Benagil Sea Caves’). Located close to the world-renowned Praia de Marinha (considered one of the best beaches in Europe by the Michelin Guide) these awe-inspiring caves are Portugal’s most popular. Hire a boat, kayak, paddle board or guided boat to experience them as they should be seen – from the water.

    Cacela Velha and Manta Rota beaches are in the eastern part of the Algarve and both are accessible from either town. Often deserted, their soft fine sands are a blissful respite from overcrowded beaches often found elsewhere.

    Farol da Ponta da Piedade is one of the best viewpoints in the Algarve. It has rock formations at your feet and an Atlantic panorama before your eyes and is just one hour’s drive from Faro. Again, it’s worth finding a boat or kayak to really get into the caves and coves.

    Praia da Falesia is a long, narrow stretch of golden sands that lies between Faro and the small town of Albufeira. Here you’ll find that there are a lot fewer people than on the beaches closer to Lagos and Portimao, for example. This is the best beach in the Algarve for a day trip by car ̶ there’s plenty of parking available!

  • Famous Algarve: Portugal’s notable sons and daughters are well-known—think Ronaldo, Vasco De Gama, Magellan —and the Algarve has become something of a magnet for contemporary celebrities too. For instance, Cliff Richard has been an Algarve enthusiast for years ̶ he has a house in the region and once owned a vineyard here too. The Algarve is also popular with footballers (many Premiership clubs have their summer camp here). Furthermore, the region previously had the largest population of Iberian lynx in Portugal, although none have been seen in the wild in the Algarve for over a decade.

Guide to the Algarve

Beach in Lagos Algarve
Algarve Ponta da Piedade

Beaches, Caves, Coves

Perhaps the most recognisable images from the Algarve feature golden beaches of fine sand, azure waters lapping gently on shimmering white sand, or caves only accessible from the water. The coasts of the Algarve feature rock formations and geological characteristics that look like movie sets. They’re best accessed by guided boat, rented boat, kayak or even paddle-board. Some, like the aforementioned Benagil Sea Cave, even have small beaches within the caves! In the summer, the most popular beaches—generally, those along the coast from Lagos to Faro—can get extremely crowded. Thankfully there are enough options to find a nice quiet beach elsewhere, especially with the freedom a hire car provides.

City and Culture

Although Lisbon is arguably the capital of high arts and culture in Portugal, there are plenty of options in the Algarve, too. Firstly, the region is famous for pottery and painted tin-glazed ceramic tiles called azulejos, and accordingly there are plenty of places to admire or buy some gorgeous local offerings, in towns like Porches or Loulé. Secondly, the ‘real’ culture of the Algarve isn’t fine art or sculpture, but the historic buildings of the Old Town in Albufeira, the bougainvillea-covered, cobblestone streets of Tavira or the wonder of Benagil Sea Cave.

Nevertheless, cities such as Faro do have significant clusters of history, architecture and culture. The Neoclassical Arco de Vila is built on the site of the original 8th Century Moorish wall, Faro cathedral dates from the 13th Century and the Municipal Museum is in a 16th Century convent.

Sports and Pastimes

The Algarve has 25 top-level golf courses, many of which were designed by famous golfers. There are open-air swimming events throughout the year, and tennis is also popular. Other popular activities here include go-karting, bowling, off-road driving, quad-biking, diving, skydiving and of course, surfing!

What to do in the Algarve

The Algarve is a popular tourist destination, particularly with visitors from the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Because the region is small enough to drive East to West and back in one day, whatever you want to do is manageable.

Historical attractions

The Algarve is packed with historical sites of interest. Cero da Vila houses the remains of Roman bathhouses, villas, and mosaic floors, and has a small museum attached with artefacts found on site and bilingual descriptions throughout. The Old Town of Faro is one of the Algarve’s most beautiful urban centres ̶ it’s a walled city of cobbled streets lined with orange trees and the cathedral is unique in this cute little town. Meanwhile, the Castle of Aljezur perches over the village and river of Aljezur and dates to the 10th century AD, during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Subsequently in the 12th and 13th centuries, after the Algarve became Christian once more, the castle was renovated several times to improve its defensive capabilities. In the 20th century the fortification underwent further restoration as, like all old buildings in Portugal, it was severely affected by the massive Lisbon earthquake of 1755. For world-class religious art, try the Church of São Lourenço de Almancil, or get spooked at the unnerving Capela dos Ossos (Armação de Pêra), a cave lined with the bones of 1500 people.


The Algarve hosts all kinds of beaches and watersports. Long known as a surfing haven, areas like Sagres, Carrapateira, and Aljezur draw surfers of all levels, all year round. There’s something for everyone on the Algarve coast, from luxury-yacht charters and scuba diving to sailing, whale-watching, or flying boat tours.

Party time and family fun

The Algarve has a huge variety of tasks for all the family. How about an acrobatic flight in a racing single-engine plane for the adventurous teens, while the kids learn to surf and Mum does beach yoga? Alternatively, take in a concert of traditional Portuguese guitar, join a photography workshop, or just wander around quaint fishing villages.

Eating out in the Algarve

The Algarve has unique, flavourful dishes to suit any palette or budget, and there‘s loads of wine-tasting/food & drink/food & culture tours available, not to mention the seafood selection on offer everywhere! Let’s sample a few of The Algarve’s best eateries:


First up is Ocean, a stylish sea view restaurant in the town of Porches. One of only two restaurants in the country to win two Michelin stars, the cuisine at Ocean is rooted in the region and perfectly paired with wines as recommended by knowledgeable staff. Try the catch of the day with caviar and watercress, or Wagyu beef with garlic, sorrel and thyme. Reservations are essential!

Bacchus, also in Porches, features tiles by Algarve-adopted Irish artist Patrick Swift, inside Porches Pottery shop and studios. With quiches, sandwiches, smoked salmon salad and wine by the glass, it’s the perfect pit stop for lunch and unique souvenirs.

Sublime Seafood and Local Snacks

On many of Portugal’s beach-side restaurants the décor may be functional and the clientele boisterous, but the fish has literally been plucked from the water a couple of hours previously and boy can you taste it! Boia, in the fishing town of Salema is one such place ̶ find yourself eating locally caught sardines (when in season) right over the beach, with a crisp, cool glass of white wine as accompaniment.

Olhão is a town whose architecture retains a very Moorish influence, and which is famed for having the best fish market in the Algarve. There are plenty of excellent restaurants as a result, one of which is Terra i Mar. It looks like any other similar restaurant but the food is far from common. There are the usual sea bass, sea bream, and sole, but also crunchy weaver fish, eel, and cuttlefish eggs.


Dunas Beach Restaurant in Alvor sits atop perfect white sands in a beautiful wooden restaurant with outdoor deck. Great for oysters, octopus, and piri-piri chicken on a baguette, it also has a children’s menu.

Algarve Transport


The Algarve region is served by Faro Airport (FAO), also known as Algarve Airport and situated just west of the city of Faro. Enjoy partners not only with global brands like Avis and Dollar at the airport, but also with up-and-coming local brands like PAA rent-a-car and Yes Car Hire.

Buses and Trains

Generally, public transport in Portugal is safe, clean, cheap, and efficient. Most bus routes in the Algarve operate services between 7AM and 8PM all year, seven days a week, with buses operating until later in summer. Buses run every 30 minutes on weekdays and Saturdays until 2PM. On Saturday afternoons, and all day Sundays/holidays, all services are reduced to one per hour. Trains are similar – safe, cheap, and reliable. The largest station in the Algarve is Faro, although other towns/cities such as Lagos and Albufeira have stations.

Driving Tips

Drive on the right-hand side of the road in The Algarve. The speed limits are 120 km/h on the motorway, 100 km/h (60 mph) on expressways, 90 km/h (50mph) on other roads and 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas. Also:

Drivers must carry an international driving licence, passport, insurance documents, MOT certificate if the car is more than three years old, and car hire documents.

Speed traps are common so don’t be tempted to speed (even though the locals will!).

Using your phone while driving is illegal.

Be aware of the possibility of rock falls and other road hazards in rural areas.

Top Tips when hiring a car in Algarve

  • A great number of users hired rental cars in Algarve for less than £18 per day. Finding the best car hire deals in Algarve is not very difficult with Enjoy Travel.
  • Booking your rental car in Algarve in advance by at least 1 day before you set out for your trip will ensure you get a below-average price, a cheap car hire deal and a wider variety in car hire types available.
  • Compact car rental models in Algarve are generally much cheaper than different other car categories. They make for the best Algarve car hire options.
  • While in Portugal, Algarve car hire is recommended, regardless of whether the city is your destination or the where you start your journey. For example if you arrive in Faro Airport, you can pick up your Faro car hire vehicle from the car hire companies in the Airport and then head for Algarve. Same goes for Albufeira car hire and anywhere your trip begins.
  • It's worth keeping in mind that off-airport car hire locations often charge more, don't offer as wide a car hire variety and the pick up date options are limited.
  • Car hire locations within the Airport are very convenient and easy to access.
  • Algarve car hire is recommended if you want to explore the city at your leisure but also visit the surrounding points of interest such as the fishing villages, Sagres Fortress and of course the amazing remote beaches! It goes without saying that you must, especially while in Algarve, enjoy the pristine coastline during your holidays.
  • While in Algarve, search for the sun is not a challenge so it's advised to come prepared before you get behind the steering wheel.

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FAQs about car hire in Algarve

Most frequently asked questions about hiring a car in Algarve

Hiring a mini-size car like a Renault Twingo at Faro Airport is only €8.85 a day if you book in advance, and a compact car such as a Renault Megane is €19 a day.
You can hire a car for as little as €2 - €3 per day out of season, and if you book in advance.
The minimum age to hire a car in Portugal is 18 and the driver must have had a license for over a year.
There shouldn’t be – excess-free packages are standard with most car hire companies as are road-side assistance, theft protection, and collision damage waiver.
Yes – it’s commonplace to add extra drivers as long as they have a valid license, and an additional daily fee is paid.
Because you’ll probably end up driving a lot in the Algarve, a vehicle with a bit of flexibility (in terms of size and road surface) would be preferable.
In the unlikely event you have a serious accident in The Algarve, call 112 immediately for emergency services.
Algarve is not very expensive based on what past travellers have experienced. You’ll spend around €100 per day.
Algarve features one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world and is such a pleasure to drive along next to the sea. Renting a car grants this experience in the region and more.
As mentioned earlier driving along the whole southern coastline is an incredible way to experience Algarve.
Algarve is a summer destination so the months of June to September are the perfect time.
It’s €17.40 for a week, or €2.49 per day.
It’s €162.42 for a month, or €5.24 per day.
Price of fuel in Algarve is between EUR 1.45 and EUR 1.25 per litre.

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