The major towns, and many of the smaller towns are served by a small but reliable train network run by the national operator Combois De Portugal. Although the trains are definitely not the most modern looking, or the fastest mode of travel in the Algarve. They do offer a scenic way of travelling sometimes missed in the more modern Algarve. Many of the stations are in the hearts of small towns. It’s a charming prospect of hopping off a train and grabbing a café in an unfamiliar town. Compared to places like the UK, the trains are a very cheap way of traveling and sightseeing. You just need to be familiar with the routes and timetables. Unhelpfully, you’ll find that most rail maps and even the official ones, don’t list all the stations or show where they are. Luckily for you we’ve created our own!
The Rail Network and Different Algarve Train Lines
Within the Algarve are four different train lines, although they use much of the same railway and train stations. All are operated by the national operator Comboios De Portugal. The four lines of the Algarve train network are Alfa Pendular (AP), Intercidades (IC), Regional (R), and the InterRegional (IR). The most important and most commonly used are the Regional and the Intercidades lines.
The Regional (R) Line in the Algarve
The regional line is the main route from the east to the west Algarve and covers nearly the entirety of the Algarve coastline. Or at least the most populated areas of the Algarve coast. It’s a route that goes from Lagos at its most westerly and in the east right up to the Guadiana river at Vila Real de San Antonio. It is the most cost-effective route, but also the slowest as it stops at every station in the Algarve. The Regional line is effectively two different lines that originate and terminate in Faro. One heading west, and the other heading east. Usually, but not always, you’ll change train in Faro to continue your journey in either direction. So if you’re heading from Loulé to Tavira on the Regional line, you’ll have a short stop and usually a change of train in Faro. Before continuing east to Tavira.
The Intercidades (IC) Line in the Algarve
The Intercidades line is the main route to and from the Algarve and Lisbon. In Lisbon it departs Lisboa-Oriente, and stops at Entrecampos, and Sete Rios. In the Algarve it stops at Messines-Alte, Tunes, Albufeira, Loulé and Faro. The trains are usually timed to link up with a Regional train heading east or west in the Algarve. If you want to head west, you’ll need to connect in Tunes. If you want to head east, you’ll need to connect to a regional train in Faro.
The Alfa Pendular (AP) Line in the Algarve
The Alfa Pendular is the only trainline that runs up the Atlantic coast stopping at most of the major towns and cities. In general, there are two departures a day from Faro, one early in the morning and one in the Afternoon. It takes approximately 6 hours to reach the final station in Porto at Porto Campanhã. With stops in Aveiro, Coimbra and Lisbon and multiple others along the way. In the other direction there are again usually two departures a day from Porto, one early in the morning and one in the afternoon. Within the Algarve the Alfa Pendular stops at Tunes, Albufeira, Loulé and Faro.
The InterRegional (IR) Line in the Algarve
The InterRegional line is the least common and is essentially a special service that only operates during the summer high season. It follows the same route as the Intercidades between Faro and Lisbon. It’s pretty much a ‘weekend return’ train. That allows people in Lisbon and those arriving to Lisbon, to depart on a Friday evening and arrive in Faro. Then to depart Faro on a Sunday evening and return to Lisbon on the same weekend. It runs from the 7th June to the 30th August. It’s a great option for those wanting an Algarve beach break or for those travelling to any of the Algarve’s summer festivals from the Lisbon area!
Price Difference Between the Algarve Train Lines
The biggest thing to consider is that all of the above, depart Faro and stop in Loulé, Albufeira and Tunes. This means when looking at timetables between these places you’ll be presented with a variety of departure times and trains across the different services. In practice the time difference between an AP and an IC train, and an R train departing Faro and arriving in Albufeira is about ten minutes. However, the price difference is more than triple! The regional train costs €3.40, while the IC costs €9.55 and the AP costs €11.70. With a time difference of about 10 minutes, it’s usually worth it to wait for the following Regional train than it is to hop on any of the others!
Train Stations in the Algarve
Below is a map showing all of the train stations in the Algarve and where they are located. The one thing to consider is that several of the stations are relatively far from the towns they serve. If you plan on visiting Loulé, Albufeira, Alcantarilha, Silves or Lagoa, then all these towns will require some additional transport or a long walk.
How to Book Train Tickets in the Algarve
Tickets can be purchased in several different ways. Most commonly for advanced tickets you’ll need to use the official Coimboios de Portugal website. The website is available in both Portuguese and English. Alternatively, for smartphone users you can use the official app available on both Android and IOS. Most of the bigger train stations have official ticket offices, so you can buy them in person during daytime hours. Unfortunately, many of the smaller stations in the Algarve don’t have ticket offices! If your departure station does not have a ticket office, you can also purchase your ticket on the train at no extra cost. Those with Portuguese bank accounts can also use the Multibanco network to purchase tickets on the Alfa Pendular and Intercidades. Using Multibanco you can buy your ticket from up to 21 days in advance to 15 minutes before departure.
Advanced Ticket Discounts on Trains in the Algarve
Booking tickets in advance usually always gives you a better price, the further in advance, the bigger the discount applying. Although this only applies to Alfa Pendular and Intercidades tickets. If you buy them at least 5 days in advance, you can get up to 50% off. If you buy at least 8 days in advance the discounts can be as big as 65%. Tickets can be purchased up to 60 days in advance so it’s a great way to save on intercity travel. Purchasing tickets well in advance means you can travel between Faro and Lisbon for as little as €11.00. Unfortunately, the advance discounts do not apply to the Regional train line in the Algarve, but the following section does give some good details on how to get discounted tickets on the Regional line that aren’t advanced tickets.
Discounts on Trains in Portugal
There are a wide variety of discounts that people can take advantage of. Senior citizens, those over the age of 65, can travel with 50% off the ticket price. Children younger than 3 can travel for free, if they don’t occupy a seat. Although in practice this rarely gets checked and the trains are not usually full. Children between 4 and 12 can travel for 50% off and have their own seat. If you’re younger than 25 you can travel for 25% off purchase price of the ticket. If you’re between 12-30 then you can also get the 25% youth discount if you have a European Youth Card. In all the above cases, you will need to prove your age, or the age of those travelling with you with an officially recognised ID card. A separate page on the Coimbois website explains the discounts and their terms and conditions fully.
Tourist Travel Card for Trains in the Algarve
The last major discount useful for tourists and visitors to the Algarve is the Tourist Travel Card. It’s a card that allows unlimited travel across the Algarve Regional line, which provides the user unlimited journeys over consecutive days. The tickets cost €20.90 (2 days) and €31.90 (3 days) for adults and €15.90 (2 days) and €23.90 (3 days) for children. It can be a good way of saving money if you’re planning on visiting multiple towns over a few days or a weekend. With common journeys like Faro to Lagos (€7.45 each way), Albufeira to Tavira (€5.90 each way), you should check to see if you’ll actually spend more or less than the tourist card price first though vs. booking in advance or with discounts.
Frequently asked questions about Algarve trains
How to get from Faro Airport to Faro Train Station (Faro Airport Connection)
If you’re arriving at Faro Airport and planning on taking the train, then you will need to know that Faro Airport is located on the outskirts of Faro. It’s around 7km from the train station to the centre of Faro. To get to the train station, you will need to take a bus, taxi or even an electric scooter from the airport! The local bus service is operated by Proximo, and it’s a short ride on either the no.14 or the no.16. The bus costs €2.35 for single ticket. If you choose to take a local taxi it will cost approximately €10, or an Uber will cost around €5-6.
Can I bring a bicycle on a train in the Algarve?
Yes, you can bring a bike on board any of the trains on both the Intercidade and Regional lines in the Algarve. The general conditions are that you can only take one bicycle per person, and that person is responsible for lifting and carrying the bike on and off the train. On Regional Trains, officially, you must first check with the on-board inspector who will allow you to bring your bike on if there’s space. If there’s no space, then you will have to wait for the next train. On the Intercidade trains (Faro to Lisbon) there is usually space for 1-2 bikes per carriage. Bicycles can only be taken on the Alfa Pendular network if they’re disassembled and can fit in the normal luggage compartments. For the full regulations check here!
How much luggage can I take on a train?
In general, each person is allowed to take one large bag and one small piece of luggage like a handbag, small backpack or briefcase. That’s the official rules, but rarely are they checked and actually applied. On the train you’ll find an overhead rack, space under the seat and on the entrances to Intercidade and Alfapendular trains large luggage racks for your more typical suitcases.
Do trains run on public holidays in the Algarve?
In Portugal, public holidays are always held on the day that they fall on. Unlike in the UK where normally they’ll be placed on the following Monday. On public holidays, trains will usually run on their published Sunday schedules. This usually results in them operating much more infrequently than normal. Trains and buses do also run on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Disclaimer: The information published here was correct at time of publishing, but for official departure times, rail maps, and ticket booking, you should check Comboios De Portugal website!