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Originally, Albufeira is a simple fishing village, but now it is the best known and most popular tourist town in the Portuguese Algarve. The centre of the town consists of narrow streets, but outside the centre there are many new hotels and apartments for tourists or hibernators. Near the new harbour, there are modern houses in bright colours. The locals call that area 'legoland'.
We strongly recommend exploring the interior in your rental car. You will find interesting villages that aren't spoilt by tourism.
Since the emergence of tourism in the 1960's, the number of inhabitants has grown tremendously. At the moment, Albufeira has 30,000 inhabitants, although in the summer there are many more.
Originally, Albufeira was a fishing village. In addition, fruit also served as a source of income. Especially dried fruit was a product for which the region was well known. Nowadays, fish and fruit play a modest role in the local economy, which now depends almost entirely on tourism. The Algarve annually attracts five million foreign visitors; many of them go to Albufeira or the surrounding area.
Faro Airport is located some 35 kilometres to the east of the town. Many budget airlines have direct connections to Faro from Northern-Europe, like EasyJet, Flybe and Air Berlin. Via the N125 coastal road the drive to the airport takes about 45 minutes.
There is no city bus in Albufeira. The bus services to other places in the Algarve are reasonable, but do not really too much on the official timetable. The connection to other tourist locations is maintained via high-speed buses (Serviço Transrapido). Long distance buses to, for example, Lisbon are good and usually on time.
Albufeira has plenty of taxis, which are not expensive by European standards.
In recent years, the roads in the Algarve have improved considerably. The new A22 motorway runs from the Spanish border to the western Algarve. It runs parallel to the EN125, which runs somewhat to the south. On the EN125, you need to be careful. For turning left there is often a separate lane to the right of the road, requiring a left turn, after which you cross the road you were on. Zoo Marina near Albufeira has an example of this set-up.
The road signs are not always up to scratch. Sometimes, old roads are indicated instead of the newer and better routes. Before exploring the surrounding areas in your rental car, we recommend buying a recent roadmap.
Furthermore, be aware that in Portugal you are no allowed to park your car within 18 metres of an intersection or within 15 metres of a bus stop. People are being fined for this! In addition, in the Algarve the speed limit (120 km/h on motorways, 100 km/h on through roads and 50 km/h in residential areas, unless indicated otherwise) is rigorously enforced.
In Albufeira itself, the best way to explore the town centre is on foot. The Portuguese disagree, as a result of which traffic in the centre is often clogged. Around the old town centre there are various car parks..
For more information about Albufeira, we recommend Google, and the following sources: