Living In The Algarve: Everything You Need To Know Before You Move

Living in the Algarve guide: the cost of living, the best places to settle down, integrating into the expat community and other helpful tips for enjoying this area of Portugal.

Living in the Algarve has long been a popular choice with expats. They favour its warm climate, great beaches, and its buzzing expat community.

If you’re considering living in the Algarve then this is the guide for you. We’ll cover the cost of living, the best places to settle down, integrating into the expat community and other helpful tips for enjoying this area of Portugal.

What’s it like to live in the Algarve, Portugal?

The Algarve is known for its sunny weather, long summers, great food, and popularity with tourists. However, like many European regions, it can be easy to get bogged down in bureaucracy when it comes to even the simplest requests.

living in the Algarve
Carvoeiro, a picturesque and traditional Portuguese resort town in the Algarve, is very much famous for its fabulous beaches, lush gardens and beautiful hiking trails

The Algarve is a region on the southern coast of Portugal. Its capital, Faro, is also the site of its international airports, which has good connections to the UK and elsewhere.

It’s known for its Arabic heritage, which can be seen in the food, architecture, and culture. This makes it a fascinating blend of European and Middle Eastern/North African, which is one of the Algarve’s main appeals to a lot of culture seekers.

A large portion of the regional economy is based on agriculture, including oranges, almonds, figs, and cork oak. Of course, tourism is a massive industry too, particularly in larger cities where a great proportion of building space has been devoted to massive hotels.

There’s every chance you’ve already been to the Algarve at least once on holiday. If so, you probably already know what it’ll be like to live there: basically a long and very enjoyable holiday.

Is the Algarve a good place to live?

The Algarve offers one of the best places to live in Portugal and in Europe, if you like sunny beaches, plenty of real estate opportunities, and a high quality yet affordable lifestyle.

The Algarve is a particularly good place to live if you want some connection to home too.

Living in the Algarve offers great opportunities for expats. The food is very fresh and the seafood is almost always locally caught and sold the same day.

There’s plenty of wine available, along with Madeira, Muscatel, and local beers.  Of course, you’ll need to separate out the wines for tourists, but that shouldn’t be too difficult after living there for a while.

Importantly, the cost of living is surprisingly low, but the quality of life is very high. The property market is at an important stage, meaning prices for both rental and purchase are fairly low.

What’s more, healthcare is high quality in the area too. You need to be a Portuguese resident before you can get access to public healthcare facilities, but the private ones are also very good.

Perhaps one of the most important factors to consider when deciding if the Algarve is a good place to live is the weather. The Algarve is known as one of the sunniest places in Europe, and summer days see over 10 hours of sunshine.

living in the Algarve
Vilamoura is the most refined of all the Algarve resort towns, or so they say. It’s developed around its spectacular Marina where tourists and residents moor their luxurious yachts

Summer temperatures regularly reach the mid 30s, and this drops to the low 20s in autumn. In winter, however, you might need to break out your coat and scarf because it can drop as low as 13 degrees!

The Algarve benefits from a southerly wind off the Atlantic, which brings warm weather from North Africa. This means summers are hot and dry and winters are mild and a bit wetter. Maximum rainfall in winter is about 100mm a month, but this only comes in short bursts.

Another reason the Algarve is a good place to live is its expat connections. Granted, not everyone wants this, but it’s unlikely you’d consider the Algarve if you didn’t.

Many of the larger cities, such as Albufeira, are essentially hotter, sunnier British seaside towns.

Expats often set up businesses catering to British tourists, so you won’t have to go far to find a fried breakfast or “Irish” pub. The region also prints its news and other media in English specifically for tourists and expats.

The area is also known for its golf courses, which are regarded as some of the best in Europe. There are plenty of sites to see in the area, many of which are notable for their Islamic or Roman heritage.

One thing the area does arguably lack is “high” culture. It does have its share of museums and art galleries, but you won’t find any major concert halls or operas being shown in the area.

In short, the Algarve is a good place to live for expats wanting warm weather all year round combined with good food and a low cost of living.

Arguably its most appealing – and divisive – factor is its British connections. But there are plenty of other places to consider if this isn’t for you.

Is the Algarve dangerous?

The Algarve really isn’t a dangerous place.

Like many other tourist hotspots, there’s the potential for things like pickpockets and scalpers, but these are unlikely to be a problem if you’re actually a resident in the area. Of course, crime rates are lower in less tourism-centred towns.

According to Numbeo, the overall crime rate in Algarve is very low. While it states crime has increased over the past three years, most types of crime are still only rated low or moderate.

The highest rated type of crime is robbery – both of homes and people. However, compared to somewhere like London, the incidence rates are barely even worth discussing.

The Algarve is also rated as incredibly safe for walking alone during the day and at night. Considering the Algarve is a tourism hotspot, these crime rates are surprisingly low. In fact, your chances of getting bad sunburn are much higher than being robbed.

The pros and cons of living in the Algarve

It might seem like the Algarve is mostly a perfect place to live. However, there are some factors that can be considered disadvantages, comparatively speaking. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of living in the Algarve to illustrate everything clearly.

The pros of living in the Algarve

1. It has some amazing beaches

living in the Algarve
The Algarve is known for its spectacular Atlantic beaches framed by whitewashed fishing villages on low cliffs overlooking sandy coves

Tourists are drawn here for a reason, and this is often the Algarve’s beautiful beaches. Praia da Marinha regularly appears on lists of the best beaches in the world. Of course, some are more touristy than others, but with hundreds to choose from you’ll always have the chance for privacy.

2. Great weather

The Algarve boasts more than 300 days of sunshine a year and is mild even in the winter. When compared to the UK, the difference speaks for itself. You can basically eat al fresco all year round and will develop a great tan too.

3. Relaxed pace of life

Like the rest of Portugal, the region is known for its leisurely pace of life. While this might initially take some adjustment, after a while you’ll wonder how you used to cope with long commutes and even longer working days.

4. Plenty of people speak English

One benefit of its focus on tourism is that English is widely spoken by locals. This will obviously help during your adjustment period, but it’s still a good idea to pick up some Portuguese as time goes on.

5. Low cost of living

You’ll get much better value for money in the Algarve on everything from food to property. This is particularly helpful for retired expats, and means you don’t have to worry as much about currency conversion rates.

The cons of living in the Algarve

1. Bureaucracy

Portugal, like many other European nations, is famous for its bureaucracy. It can take a good while to get something as simple as a permit renewal sorted. This is a side effect of the more relaxed lifestyle, but is definitely something many Brits need time to adjust to.

2. Transportation

The Algarve’s public transport network isn’t great. While this won’t be a major issue living in a city, you’ll definitely need to own a car if you live in a quieter town.

3. It’s not densely populated

On the surface, a sparse population isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, if you plan to meet new people and integrate into expat communities, you might find it a challenge to make these initial connections. The Algarve’s population density is roughly 90 per square kilometre.

4. The expat community

While this isn’t necessarily a con in its own right, it does come with some considerations. For example, if you want an authentic Portuguese lifestyle, the Algarve isn’t for you.

On the surface, it can feel like a British enclave with supermarkets, cafes, bars and media all catering to the English-speaking community.

5. The job market isn’t great

The Algarve is very seasonal, meaning it almost shuts down in the autumn and winter. A side effect of this is a fairly unreliable job market. While this won’t be an issue for expats looking to retire, you’ll want to consider establishing your own form of income rather than finding a local job.

How much does it cost to live in the Algarve?

Like much of Portugal, the Algarve is known for its very low cost of living.

living in the Algarve
Take 200 wooden steps down to the sheltered, sandy cove of Praia do Camilo for a truly unforgettable day on a beach

Property prices are fairly low compared to other European countries, and food and utility costs are consistent across the Algarve. You could easily live a comfortable life on €2,500 a month.

When looking to relocate to the Algarve, property is probably going to be your number one expense.

Both renting and buying property is pleasantly cheap. According to Numbeo, a city-centre apartment can cost as little as €450 (£389) a month.

Property prices can be as low as €2,389 (£2,000) per square metre, which is 80% cheaper than in London.

Of course, food is another important expense.

Prices will vary depending on where you buy – local markets, Portuguese supermarkets, or British supermarkets – but food prices can be as much as 50% cheaper than in the UK. That said, you can expect to pay more for imported British foods, particularly after Brexit.

Utilities are inexpensive in the Algarve. A rough monthly estimate for your gas, electricity, water, etc. is about €125 (£109), which is 40% cheaper than London.

Internet costs are comparatively high with an average cost of about €33 (£38) a month. Internet quality and speed vary massively across the region, so this works out as quite a high price for rural internet.

A final important consideration is healthcare.

Until you’re officially a Portuguese resident, you’ll need to invest in private health insurance. The cost of this can vary wildly depending on your age and pre-existing health conditions, but the cost could be anywhere from €400 to €1,000 depending on your plan.

The amount of money you need to live in the Algarve varies depending on the town or city. In rural areas, you could live comfortably on €1,400 or less. But in a larger city, you’d be looking at €2,000-2,500.

Where do most expats live in the Algarve?

The Algarve is known for its large British expat community.

Many are based in the larger towns and cities, such as Faro, Lagos, Tavira, and Portimao. Settling down in any of these locations will make it easy to integrate into expat communities and retain a connection with home.

This isn’t a prescriptive list of expat destinations in the Algarve, however. For example, somewhere like Albufeira is popular with tourists, and so is a good choice for expats wanting to set up a business.

Settling down in a larger town or city will make it easier to find expats. However, if this isn’t for you then choosing a smaller or more rural town will be the better option. You might still have some expats living nearby, but the area will be more authentically Portuguese.

How do you connect with expats when you first move to the Algarve?

One option is to use a dedicated site like Expats Portugal. This is exactly what it sounds like: an online space for connecting with expats in your area. It also features guides for settling in.

Another option is to find groups on Facebook.

This will be a good option for more rural locations and is also a good hub for local events and meet-ups. However, there are plenty of other dedicated websites for British expats in Portugal, so spend some time doing online research before you move.

Then it’s worth considering things like learning the language. While plenty of Portuguese speak English, this is less common in rural areas.

Towns and cities will often have classes specifically for expats, possibly even run by expats. This makes them a great option for learning the language and connecting with like-minded individuals.

Best places to live in the Algarve

The Algarve offers plenty of great places to live for expats depending on the lifestyle you’re after. Rural areas are cheaper and more authentic, while larger towns and cities offer more leisure opportunities and social connections.

Here’s a selection of some of the best places to live in the Algarve:

1. Porches

Porches is a small town in the Lagoa municipality. It’s located right on the coast and has amazing views of the ocean. The town is known for its amazing wine and even features the annual Fine Wines Food Fair at a local luxury hotel. It’s a great choice for a quieter town lifestyle.

2. Tavira

Tavira is a small town located on the coast, roughly 28 kilometres from Faro. It’s perfectly located to offer a combination of Faro’s international connections and shopping with a quieter, more Portuguese lifestyle. It’s fairly common with British expats, too.

3. Albufeira

Albufeira’s beautiful waterfront promenade is a popular meeting place for residents. You can meet your friends, have a chat, take a pleasant stroll or just sit down and enjoy a gorgeous view.

Albufeira is a lively town with a busy nightlife and wide variety of restaurants. It’s very tourism-centred, meaning it’s heaving in the summer and almost dead in the winter. However, this makes it a good choice for expats wanting to set up a business.

4. Sagres

Sagres is a quieter and less touristy town. It has a population of less than 2,000 and is a fairly quiet and sleepy place. Its main claim to fame is that it’s the Western end of the longest straight path over land. Said path is 11,241km and ends in Jinjiang, China.

5. Castro Marim

Castro Marim has a long history of war. It’s located on the Spanish border and so was long a contested site. The leftover of this is a large castle that dominates the landscape. Also, the town hosts an annual Medieval Fair that attracts reenactors from around the world.

Is it better to rent or buy in the Algarve?

The Algarve benefits from Portugal’s fairly relaxed rental and purchase regulations. Rental agreements can be fixed term or open end, meaning it’s not difficult to try out a few different towns before buying a home.

What’s more, landlords often don’t ask for references or perform credit checks. To a Brit, this whole process can feel very informal. Of course, it’s always worth using an official estate agent and getting the contract double checked before you sign.

Property prices are low across most of the Algarve, and there are plenty of opportunities for renovation projects. However, there are a few common pitfalls that would-be buyers encounter. These range from the property not having official deeds to overlooking clauses in the purchase agreement.

Also, be aware of the Portuguese law of subrogation according to which any property debts pass over to the buyer and become their responsibility. This can lead to some nasty surprises. The best advice is to only deal with government-registered estate agents and hire an English-speaking lawyer.

Considering the fairly relaxed laws, it’s perfectly possible to rent an apartment in a few different areas before looking to buy. Many holiday properties have dirt-cheap rent in the off-season, making them an attractive option.

Final thoughts on living in the Algarve

The Algarve has its own charm for expats. The combination of sun, high temperatures, and beautiful beaches make it an attractive option for those wanting a less rainy lifestyle.

Its large number of expats is either a big pro or a massive con. However, if this doesn’t appeal to you then the Algarve is perhaps not for you. Many know what to expect from the region, and there are plenty of other places to find an authentic way of living.

If you can, spend some time travelling the region to pick up on its nuances and quirks, as this will give you useful information for where to settle down. Wherever you pick, the Algarve has plenty to offer expats.

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Jacob Powell
Jacob is a freelance writer based in Swansea, Wales. He lives with his partner and two dogs, Merlin and Matilda. After gaining his BA and MA in English Literature, Jacob decided to take his writing full time. He writes for Expatra alongside a number of other regular clients. After his parents emigrated to France in January 2020, Jacob has a special interest in all things expat related and even plans to retire abroad himself someday.
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