FAQs about Algarve

Frequently asked questions about Algarve

What are the shop opening times?
All hypermarkets and large supermarkets are generally open from 8.30am until 10pm, 7 days a week. Small supermarkets in the main towns tend to open from Mon to Sat, 9am until 6pm or 7pm.

Large DIY and home stores open 7 days a week. Here are opening times for popular stores and outlets:
Leroy Merlin: Mon to Sat  - 9am to 9pm / Sun - 9am to7pm
MaxMat: Mon to Sat & Holidays - 9am to 8.30pm / Sun -10am to 7pm
MAR Shopping near Faro is open daily from 10am to 11pm (midnight at weekends).
IKEA is open from 10am to 10pm every day.
Designer Outlet Algarve is open from 10am to 10pm every day

Other shops tend to close for lunch, generally opening from 9am to 1pm & 3pm to 7pm, Mon to Fri. Many small shops open on Saturday mornings , but close for the afternoon.
In the resorts, most shops are open 7 days a week until late.

What is the best time of the year to visit the Algarve?
The weather in the Algarve is mild all year round, each season has its own charm. Summer in the Algarve is magical and it is the season most people plan to visit the Algarve. However Spring and Autumn are wonderful too. The weather is usually mild offering perfect conditions for active holidays. Winter in the Algarve is a quiet season which is ideal for exploring and taking advantage of great offers on flights and hotels.

Is it safe to drink the tap water in Algarve?
It is generally safe and healthy to drink public tap water in the Algarve and, in fact, across Portugal. If you order water in a restaurant, you will be served bottled water, but you can request tap water if you wish. If you are staying in a rural area, it's wise to check if the water supply is 'mains' (supplied by the local council) or from a borehole or cisterna. Borehole/cisterna water may not be safe to drink direct from the tap.

If you prefer to drink bottled water, this is readily available in 30cc, 50cc, 1.5 litre and 5 litre bottles.

Will I be able to rent a safety deposit box?
Safety deposit boxes are readily available in most hotels and apartments. You can rent them on a daily or weekly basis. Generally they require a deposit but this is refunded to you on return of the safe key.

Are the banks open on Sunday?
No, the banks keep the following hours: Mon to Fri: 8.30am to 3.00pm. Some branches close for one hour at lunchtime. 

Will I be able to use my ATM card in the machines in Algarve?
There are plenty of ATM machines around the resorts and in the commercial centres.  They are very easy to operate with English and Portuguese language options.

Can I buy antibiotics over the counter at the pharmacy?
No, you will need to have a doctor's prescription in order to get an antibiotic from the pharmacy. Other than antibiotics, there are many medications that are available over the counter in Portugal compared to other countries. You'll find pharmacists in the Algarve very knowledgeable and helpful, and many speak good English, especially in the resorts.

I am travelling with an infant and small child, if they become ill during the night will I be able to see a doctor?
You will find that the main hospitals along the Algarve, like Faro Hospital and Hospital Barlavento in Portimão have an emergency pediatric unit which is open 24 hours a day.  Even though you may have to wait a while in high season, the service is excellent. There are also private hospitals and clinics across the region.

What is the EHIC card and do I really need it?
Inside the European Economic Area (EEA) you may be entitled to medical care at reduced cost or sometimes even free. Emergency treatment is available to patients with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You will be treated here in Algarve on the same basis as a Portuguese resident. It is important to know that the card will not cover private healthcare and it does not replace travel insurance. 
You can find out more about the EHIC card and how to apply for yours here.

What is the emergency services phone number in Portugal?
The emergency services phone number for ambulance, police and fire brigade is 112, it is a good idea to put this into you phone contacts on arrival.

Are the pharmacies open all day?
Generally the pharmacies keep the following hours: Mon - Fri 9.00am to 1.00pm & 3.00pm to 7.00pm. Sat: 9.00am to 1.00pm. The name and address of the 24-hour pharmacy on duty is available in any pharmacy.  In high season (July & August) most resort pharmacies tend to keep longer opening hours and generally open on Sunday too.

What is Couvert?
In most restaurants in Algarve, when you are seated at your table the waiter/waitress generally brings some bread, butter, pate and or olives to you. This is not free, the charge comes up on your bill under the heading Couvert. Legally, you should be asked whether or not you want the couvert before it is placed on the table. If you don't want it, all you have to do is say, "no thank you". If the Couvert is left on the table for the duration of the meal, whether you eat it or not, you will be charged for it, so if you don't want it, ask the waiter/waitress to take it away immediately.

What is the tipping protocol in Algarve, Portugal?
Portugal doesn't have a tipping culture, so there are no fixed rules about tipping in Portugal. However, it is customary to tip in restaurants in Algarve - around 10% of the bill, but it really depends on how you feel you have been treated.Tipping maid service, taxi and bar staff is optional and, while it is not expected, it is appreciated.

What is the cheapest way to call home?
Nowdays everyone carries a mobile phone and roaming charges are not what they used to be. And if you have access to WiFi you can call using WhatApp or similar for free. One of the cheapest ways to call home offline is with a local phone card. There are many phone cards to choose from,  check the cost per minute before buying. Phone cards can be bought at newsagents and outlets displaying the PayShop sign.

Are other languages widely spoken in Algarve?
English is widely spoken in the Algarve and to a high standard. In addition, Spanish, German and French are frequently spoken in the resorts.

Are there lifeguards on the beaches?
The beaches in the Algarve are among the most beautiful in the world and are supervised from June 1st until end of October. The life guards are on duty from 9am until 7pm every day on the beaches where there are concession areas (sunbeds/umbrellas/sport activities) and they can give you lots of handy beach information. There are first aid posts on many beaches. You should always follows the indications of the life-guards and the color-coded flags posted on the beach.

Are the Theme Parks open in the winter?
Many theme parks close for the season in October, however there are still lots of activities to entertain you and your family, such as golf, boat trips, fishing and surfing.

We are a group of 8 travelling to Algarve for just 4 days and want to see a little bit of the country side and have a bit of fun too. What do you recommend?
If you have limited time and still want to explore some
of the Algarve and have fun, then we recommend a jeep safari. Adults and children love it, its fun and informative and runs all year round. Alsafari Tours offers fun and relaxed off road Jeep Tours through the Algarve countryside and along the coast. Their Sunset Jeep Tour is particularly popular. Algarve Jeep Safari Portitours, offers a with a wide range of trips and tours including the Super Combi - a combination of Jeep Safari, canoeing and hiking; or the Super Day which combines the safari with a relaxing cruise along the River Arade.