Linha do Algarve – the Algarve railway line – is for local and/or relaxed travel as it meanders its way from Vila Real de Santo António in the East to Lago in the West. The best site we found for planning trips is an unofficial one run by Tom – a local resident www.algarvebus.info and it is from his superb site I have borrowed the excellent map above.
If you are needing to travel from east to west, or west to east quickly then you are probably better to use the toll motorway. However if you have time to enjoy your journey then hop aboard.
Actually hopping on is not very easy, as you can see the step up is quite enormous and this was taken at one of the better stations! There is no step free access at any of the local stations and it must be nigh on impossible for those in wheelchairs. I’m not sure how Portugal is going to meet EU regulations for disabled access given their financial situation but who knows perhaps they will find a solution as I am sure I read there are discussions on-going about an upgrade.
So far we have only travelled between Faro and Vila Real de Santo António, but intend to go west soon. If you are planning to travel west before we go, then do visit Tom’s site for information and also photos. Faro and Vila Real de Santo António stations are close to their town centres, and if you are a bit of a train enthusiast like my husband then Faro is the one of the three to visit. Faro like Loule and Tunes is where the lines from Lisbon connect with Linha do Algarve. In Vila Real de Santo António there used to be two stations. However although there is still a ferry service, the ferry railway station is now closed. Most travellers now use the fast and quiet motorway, and cross over to Spain using the Guadiana International Bridge which opened in the 1990’s.
Linha do Algarve is mostly a single track railway and for those who are interested it is broad gauge (for those less technical that means the tracks are much wide then you find in England as they are 5ft6!).
Don’t be put off by the inevitable graffiti at the railway stations. Graffiti is just part of life here, and given their sparse resources is not a priority for removal. The architecture at some of the stations is wonderful, just a shame that again due to limited resources buildings are abandoned.
It is a regularly used line and we found it both safe and fun. However it is essential to check timetables before you travel as most stations are unmanned and there is very little information available about services or tickets once you are out and about. The guards are helpful but don’t carry timetables on them. We also discovered on our first visit that there are occasional strikes, but it all just adds to the adventure as does the wildlife on the line.
The views from the trains are wonderful in places, and it is a relatively slow journey you are able to enjoy the views despite the state of the windows. They are not so much dirty but seem to have this speckled plastic on them. Not so great for photos as you can see but doesn’t really impact otherwise.