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Far more than a mere town, Vilamoura is actually an entire resort area – the largest in Europe in fact. This upscale, comprehensive and safe tourism development along Portugal’s Algarve coast is one of the most popular beach destinations in the country. With six golf courses, a world-class marina, a casino and a superb beach, there appears to be no need to even leave Vilamoura. But with a car, you can escape the obtuse tourism of the resort and venture down the coast to other cool Portuguese towns like Lagos, with its incredible seaside national park.
Who to Book With
Most travellers either fly into Faro or drive right to Vilamoura. There are plenty of reputable car hire companies to choose from at Faro’s airport, or you can make a booking at one of the Avis branches right in Vilamoura along the Avenida da Marina. This place is a pure tourist resort, so many visitors want their own car to get around. It is highly recommended to book your rental online well in advance, particularly if travelling during the peak holiday periods like summer, Easter and Christmas.
Best Time to Go
If it’s warmth you crave, Vilamoura delivers the goods all year round. Winters are even a great time to visit, with daytime highs of around 17?C. Most of the rain falls between November and February, however, so the peak tourist season is in the summer when it’s hot and dry. You can avoid the summer crowds and still enjoy warm weather by visiting in May or September, when temperatures average 25?C and rainfall is rare.
Need to Know Essentials
Bring the following documents to pick up your car rental.
- A valid EU or UK driving license or International Driving Permit
- A secondary piece of photo ID
- The credit card used to make the online reservation
- A print out of the confirmation if possible
There is really no problem driving around Vilamoura since nearly everyone here is a tourist. Most arrive by taxi and then stick to their resorts, so there is little traffic or parking headaches. It’s easiest to rent a car in Faro and then drive to Vilamoura. There is ample parking at all the hotels and resorts, and car parks located directly at the beaches.
As this is a lightly populated part of Portugal, it’s also very easy to drive to Vilamoura and around the Algarve. To get here from Faro, take the fast A22 motorway toll road or cruise along the older N125 secondary road for free. To explore the interior of the Algarve, take the A2 motorway which runs directly north from Vilamoura for fast convenient driving.
There really is no public transportation system in Vilamoura, but visitors have a few options for getting around. There is a local bus that connects Vilamoura with the town of Quarteira, making a few stops around the resort along the way. Taxis are also a convenient option, while the tourist train is a fun way to move between the beaches and hotels. For the most flexibility, however, a car rental is really needed here.
The Vilamoura tourist train is fun open-air tram that cruises in a loop around the resort area. It only makes a few stops, but they are very popular ones. The train runs a route that includes Praia da Falesia, Roma Golf, Cerro da Villa and Aldeia do Mar. An all-day ticket costs around €3 and can be bought directly from the driver.
If you don’t feel like walking, there are always taxis available. They are nearly impossible to hail on the street, but typically queue up at the marina, the beaches and most major resorts. Local taxi companies can also be called for a pick-up; simply ask your hotel or restaurant for help.
There isn’t really an extensive bus service in Vilamoura, but Eva Bus operates a route between the resort and the adjoining town of Quarteira. It runs every hour between 08:00 and 20:00 Monday to Friday, with the service stopping at 14:00 on Saturdays and no service on Sundays and holidays. The bus stops at Avenida da Marina in Vilamoura, and is only really useful to travelling to the towns of Quarteira or Albufeira.
It may seem like there is little reason to leave the resort enclave of Vilamoura, but with a car hire, you can quickly be away from the crowds and tourist atmosphere and explore the beautiful Algarve coastline. There are easy day drives in both directions along the coast as well as inland, allowing visitors to see another side of this region.
Faro - One of Europe’s liveliest beach towns, known for its partying as much as for its beaches. Unlike Vilamoura, there’s an ancient town in Faro with neat Moorish elements and loads of options for dining, drinking and wandering around its white-washed streets.
Sagres Cape - This is literally the end of the world as far as Portugal is concerned. This hamlet is just one of a handful of coastal settlements within the beautiful Alentejo and Vicantine Coast National Park. Stick to the N268 coastal road for one of Europe’s most inspiring drives.
Lagos - This is famous for its beach as much as its resort scene. If you need a day away from Vilamoura, drive down the coastal road and make a stop in Albufeira with its cool Fisherman’s Beach before continuing on to Lagos. It’s an easy drive that has plenty of options for break points.