Car Hire: Faro Airport

Faro Airport, better known as Algarve Airport, serves the city of Faro. It is the capital of the Algarve and a tourist district in Portugal.

Faro Airport is the third busiest airport in Portugal when it comes to passenger traffic. Algarve Airport has established 4 km (2.5 miles) west of downtown Faro and was constructed during the 1960s and inaugurated in 1965. 

The Portuguese Government-owned Faro Airport and was operated by ANA Aeroportos de Portugal until they passed its ownership to the Vinci Group in 2010. The airport’s permissions to grant support to civil aviation were also operated by ANA Aeroportos de Portugal under terms of decree 404/98 on 18 December 1998. With this authorization, ANA became accountable for the outlining, expansion, and development of future infrastructure.

Faro Airport already made two major developments from its opening in 1966 to the 2000s. There is also the new passenger terminal building in 1989 and its expansion in 2001. As the growing traffic demand rises, the same thing goes for the passenger’s safety and satisfaction requirements. As such, the construction plan for 2009–2013 included Faro Airport’s extensive developments to its runway and infrastructures. They also made a widespread remodeling of the airport terminal and some commercial areas. 

The airport authority started its development program for Faro airport in February 2010. Phase I of the expansion began in 2010 and was completed by 2011. Phase II commenced in 2011 and was completed by 2013. The newly developed Faro International Airport can now manage 5,447,200 passengers with a reported 39,789 aircraft progress in 2008. 

During the first phase of the expansion process, the latest instrument landing system (ILS) was fixed at the runway along with the installation of a flight reflection mirror. The security area at the runway also underwent a development program. Phase II included the improvement of the passenger terminal and the expansion of the landside access.

When Phase II of the expansion program was completed, the annual capacity of the airport had risen from six million to eight million passengers. Passengers being handled in the airport per hour increased to 3,000 and the number of aircraft that the airport can handle per hour now increased to 30. The aircraft parking bays also went to 33 from 22. Additional shops and waiting areas were built as part of the expansion program. 

As of 2019, Faro Airport can handle nine million passengers a year. There are 22 stands of which 16 are exclusive, furnished with 60 check-in desks and 36 boarding gates.

Top Sights in Faro

Faro is the largest city in the region of the Algarve that serves as the gateway to southern Portugal. Sprawling on the coast, facing the shallow lagoons of the preserved Ria Formosa Natural Park, this is a destination bestowed with rich artistic wealth and a remarkable location.

Faro’s history is very impressive. The Romans termed it Ossonoba, and their legacy is visible. But the greatest historical monuments that date back from the 16th and 17th centuries are held together within the walls of the Old Town.

Exalted of its maritime heritage, Faro is considered to be the busiest and most colorful port. From the marina, fishing boats and pleasure craft furnish the fine channels that twine towards the open sea, relinquishing dense marshland and deserted islands. The wetlands are among Europe’s most significant natural habitats, drawing a dazzling collection of seabirds and other wildlife.

Tourists, meanwhile, are attracted to the city’s diverse selection of visitor attractions, traditional restaurants, and low-priced shopping. The cafés overlaying the harbor esplanade are popular rendezvous points, and nearby golf courses and some excellent beaches are charming leisure opportunities.

To have more ideas on the best places that you can visit, read on.

Cidade Velha

Traversing Faro’s dense Old Town is considered to be one of the most famous things to do and an excellent approach to get to know Algarve’s capital city.

Surrounded by untouched medieval walls constructed over Roman foundations, the environment is a genuine history book of visitor attractions. It is a pleasing page-turner that includes the city’s ancient but sometimes turbulent past.

The Arco da Vila presents a pleasantly impressive entrance, a 19th-century gateway, the colonnade of which is Moorish in origin. Cobbled pedestrian streets scented by lines of orange trees make Cidade Velha joyful to traverse on foot, and all roads lead to Largo da Sé where Faro’s stocky, stout cathedral takes the center stage.

Resting against the same square is Paço Episcopal, or the bishops’ palace. Unfortunately, this elegant 18th-century building is no longer open to the public.

A short walk away, though, is the magnificent Museu Municipal whose convent setting only adds to its beauty. Open, too, is a section of the wall that faces the quiet Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. And scattered everywhere in this historical area are several cafés and various restaurants where tourists can unwind and enjoy the scene.

Sé (Cathedral)

Constructed alongside an Arab mosque, Faro Cathedral was hallowed in the late 13th century. However, it underwent a series of consecutive facelifts that have Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque traits. This allows the building’s surface a rather haphazard look.

Its imminent destruction in 1596 after an invasion by the English didn’t help either. But by the mid-1600s it was looking considerably more charming, particularly inside.

The interior contains the eye with a glittering chancel covered with azulejos panels and the Capela de Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres, an embellished chapel dripping with gilded and lacquered wood carvings and ornate marble. Take time, too, to reflect over the bizarre Chinese themes that decorate the church’s 18th-century organ.

Topping it all is the scene from the medieval bell tower. From the terrace, you can soak up a nice estuary seascape and almost feel the beady-eyed seagulls that fly effortlessly overhead.

Note that some of the time that the cathedral is inexplicably closed, normally with a hand-written note pinned to the door that translates as: “Please consider our privacy – we are praying!”

Museu Municipal

This excellent and award-winning cultural masterpiece serves from its union within the former 16th-century convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção; the splendid Renaissance cloister alone is worth exploring.

Set chronologically, the unchanging collection crosses prehistory and the Roman, Moorish, and medieval periods. This includes the 18th and 19th centuries.

Roman artifacts discovered at nearby Milreu are given proper prominence, but as you quietly skim each gallery, look out for the skillfully crafted Arab oil lamps, some of which mirror Popeye’s pipe.

The finely sculpted Manueline statues will ring with enthusiasts of 16th-century sculpture, but the must-see display is the immense Roman floor mosaic highlighting a fierce-looking Neptune that dates from around the 3rd century AD.

This is a highly proactive building, and the museum staff is pleased to reveal a piece in more detail if asked. You might also have to yield the floor with crowds of visiting school children, as this is a favorite field study venue.

Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

Faro is bestowed with a subliminal tangible asset, which is the wonderful and fundamental Ria Formosa nature reserve.

Following a 60-kilometer coastline from Praia de Faro to Cacela Velha, the park consists of 18,000 hectares of lakes and marshland, salt pans, islets, and channels. These, in turn, are protected from the open sea by a string of barrier islands. As a result, there are enormous wind-sculpted dunes.

This precious and delicate ecosystem is preserved and forms one of the most valuable wetland environments in Europe.

Various sightseeing cruises leave daily from Faro and voyage the lagoon waters up to Ilha Deserta (Deserted Island). The vessels carry passengers through an ecosystem abounding with birdlife, where species like flamingo and spoonbill are frequently sighted. Ilha Deserta has one single restaurant girdled by swathes of sandy beach, and the lunch is exceptional.

On dry land, nature paths and cycle tracks are formed to turn west from Ilha de Faro through pinewoods, nearby lakes, and past world-class golf courses. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some of the residents, creatures like the baffling Mediterranean chameleon or the rare purple gallinule, a representation of the park.

Land Train

The Comboio Turística, or tourist train, provides a unique way for tourists to explore Faro. Withdrawing from Jardim Manuel Bivar in front of the marina, the land train turns its way beyond the city’s most reminiscent landmarks and visitor attractions.

The round-tour takes around 45 minutes to get to the Old Town before giving passengers a sight of modern Faro and areas like the municipal market (perfect for a later shopping spree). The itinerary also involves the majestic Carmo and São Pedro churches.

The trip is a great opportunity for family groups (youngsters are kept filled), the elderly, and anyone with tired feet, and is a delightful introduction to the Algarve’s local capital.

Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Aside from the Old Town, Faro’s city center is landmarked by the 18th-century Carmo Church. The attractive and much-photographed, twin-towered façade of this Baroque elegance overlooks the neighborhood and is as much a place of worship for locals as a sightseeing treasure for tourists.

A walk inside exhibits an extraordinary altarpiece, shimmering with gold leaf from Brazil, and an embellished sacristy. But there’s a higher ghoulish display that lies behind the church, the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones).

Constructed in the 19th century, the chapel’s interior is stuffed with the remains of approximately 1,250 monks’ skulls and other bones settled in a bizarre finish that decorates the walls and even the barrel-vaulted canopy. The bones were transferred from the friars’ cemetery in 1816, a method well-known throughout Catholic Europe at that time when skeletons were applied to decorate ossuaries.

The biggest and well-known bone chapel in Portugal can be located at Évora, in the Alentejo.

Milreu in Estoi

As you proceed, 10 kilometers north of Faro occupies Milreu, one of the most prominent Roman places in the Algarve. On a hill encircled by orange groves, the reminiscent remains, which date back from the 1st or 2nd century AD, are those of what was once a noticeable peristyle villa complex, constructed around a central courtyard. The property owner would have been someone with explicit wealth and great social ranking given the size of the property and the various buildings set within it.

The grounds are decorated with some amazingly intricate geometric mosaics; other vestiges highlight maritime motifs, prominently those drawn by jumping fish that embellish the bathing chambers. Two marble pillars survive the colonnade that would have sustained the roof of the villa, although its cylindrical buttresses are still visible.

Far more noticeable are the big chunky walls of a ruined temple that views the site. This was later turned into a Christian basilica, apparently around the 5th century. The neighboring visitor center exhibits a series of poker-faced marble busts found during excavations, but the most precious and exotic artifacts are housed in Faro’s Museu Municipal.

Milreu is located just outside the peaceful little village of Estói. Its sleepy movement and traditional character are instantly visible, but the parish can flaunt a celebrated visitor attraction called Palacio de Estói.

Constructed in the mid-19th century, the Rococo palace was the previous residence of a rich landowner and is now a remarkable pousada, a hotel of significant cultural importance.

While non-residents can dine at the restaurant, the rest of the property is only open to guests – except the landscaped patios, which are free to the general public.

Centro Ciência Viva do Algarve

Traveling with children? They’ll surely love the Algarve Live Science Center. This appealing activities center is equipped towards improving technological and scientific knowledge in a fun-filled style.

Kids can join in easy-to-play interactive games and experiments like learning to grips with the earthquake simulator and climbing up into an observatory for a trip around the universe.

One of the aquariums has a touch pool depicting the nearby Ria Formosa. Elsewhere, there is a gallery devoted to the senses, and another describes the phenomena of light.

Outside, a garden with a greenhouse was devised to highlight renewable energy solutions, and there’s a play park for toddlers, too.

Conducted by an excited (and patient) staff of qualified teachers, most of whom speak different languages, kids will be kept entertained for hours. This will enable them to learn more about physics and the environment in an engrossing and extremely unique manner.

Faro Jewish Heritage Centre

Faro’s unprecedented 19th-century Jewish cemetery creates the centerpiece of this unique and moving visitor attraction. Set out in the common Sephardic way, the cemetery is the only surviving remains of post-Inquisition Jewish presence in Portugal. Most of those buried were retreating Jews from Gibraltar and Morocco.

Careful rehabilitation has seen the gravestones refined and restored; the earliest marker records back to 1838.

In one corner of the cemetery stands small museum housing items. It depicts the city’s Jewish culture and the narrative behind the establishment of the Center. Unique artifacts include furniture rescued from one of Faro’s now obsolete temples. There’s also a copy of Samuel Gacon’s 1487 Pentateuch in Hebrew, the first published manuscript written in Portugal.

Visitors can view a DVD show of the award-winning documentary “Without the Past.” Donations are also welcome.

Teatro Lethes

Tourists will be stage-struck by this small Italianate jewel of a theater. The playhouse was once established as a Jesuit college, but in 1845, the curtain was raised over the opening for its new role as a music and concert hall.

In the 1860s, the theater was extended, and further renovation in 1901 saw the formation of four rows of boxes replete with wrought-iron balustrades and a top-floor gallery.

The theater’s rich handcrafted interior has pointed to it being described as a “miniature La Scala.” Meanwhile, the intense, refined ambiance is visible. However, shortage of funding indicates the once regular program of plays, concerts, and recitals has declined, and Lethes is often closed for months.

But the historical venue hasn’t been discontinued and still treats occasional entertainment. Faro’s tourist office can present more details. Otherwise, sightseers can ring the theater’s front doorbell and, if fortunate, will be welcomed by the custodian to catch a quick peek inside.

Parque Ribeirinho de Faro

Established on 16 hectares of land facing the Ria Formosa, Faro’s recreational park grants residents, and visitors alike a nice break from the city’s urban hustle and bustle.

Reached by foot passing through the railway station, or by walking the car park opposite Faro’s Algarve Forum shopping mall, the park highlights a walkway and cycle lane that connects the entire area.

Moving parallel to the route is a keep-fit track. Wildlife lovers, meanwhile, will enjoy the bird observation platforms placed at different points along the water’s edge.

For kids, there’s a fully furnished children’s adventure playground to be found, and everyone can take advantage of the park’s café, which has bathroom amenities.

The whole purpose is to take people in and back to nature, and the 45-minute tour will work wonders on the legs while providing delightful aspects of the estuary and its diverse ecosystems.

Ilha de Faro

Several hot days have been spent drooping on Faro Island. This is the westernmost islet of the Rio Formosa, and the only one convenient by car; the single-lane bridge can reduce traffic down to a near-standstill during the summer periods.

Sunseekers are brought to Praia de Faro, the unimpaired bar of soft white sand that creates the island’s south coast. Lapped by a crystal-clear sea, this is the most adjacent beach to the city and is very famous windsurfing and kitesurfing spot.

The other side of the Ilha meets a shoal, a more protected lagoon, and is loved by canoeists and kayakers. A single road divides the island and is lined with holiday homes, several cafés, kiosks, and restaurants peppered with the tantalizing fragrance of grilled sardines.

A boardwalk at the eastern end of the island leads to a group of ramshackle fishermen’s huts where the dunes are more isolated. This is as near to off-season as you’ll acquire.

Recommended day trips from Faro Airport

Santa Luzia – Driving time: 45 mins

Drive east from Faro over the traditional fishing center of Saint Luzia, acknowledged for its octopus, which is caught employing traditional techniques. The village is near the lagoons of the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Salir, Serra do Caldeirão – Driving time: 45 mins

A lovely whitewashed village in the center of the rolling Serra do Caldeirão hills. The area is recognized for its natural appeal, birdlife, and common way of life. Look out for ‘fontes’, popular water fountains found in local centers.

Sagres – Driving time: One hour 20 mins

Drive west and you’ll eventually arrive at Sagres, a secluded and relaxed beach town whose crashing waves have made it something of a surfing hotspot. Look for daredevil local anglers resting on the cliffs.

Driving in Faro

Hiring a rental car is an excellent way to traverse the Algarve and opens up several beaches and ancestral villages that have little or no public transport alternatives.

Driving in Algarve is considered relatively simple where the roads are frequently quiet with low levels of traffic as compared to driving in bigger Portuguese cities like Lisbon and Porto.

Most tourists receive their rental car from Faro Airport and this saves on transfer charges and delays. This part will present a summary of driving in the Algarve particularly for tourists.

Driving Rules

  • All vehicles must be driven on the right-hand side of the road.
  • All passengers must wear seatbelts.
  • Children under 12 years of age are not permitted to ride in front of a car unless they are taller than 150cm. All children seated in the rear must have suitable booster seats which can seem very expensive when rented from rental companies.
  • The nationwide speed limit is 90km/hr for standard roads and increases to 120km/hr on the toll freeway or dual carriageways.
  • In built-up places and cities, the speed limit is decreased to 50km/hr while speed limitations are indicated by round signs with a red border showing the speed limit in km/hr.
  • While driving in Portugal, the present-day alcohol limit is 0.05% which is equivalent to a small beer or a very small glass of wine. 

Important Things to Remember

  • The Portuguese are very impatient drivers and will gladly tailgate slower cars and try to overtake on hills or even in blind corners which have unfortunately settled the country as one of the highest levels of road mortality per population in Europe.
  • Alcohol limits and penalties have dramatically fluctuated respectively after several years of rule flouting and horrific collisions by Portuguese drivers and there is an almost zero-tolerance policy exercised by the police, that is why it is more comfortable and safer not to drink and drive.
  • The bizarre traffic rule that catches out several foreign drivers to the Algarve is that the traffic connecting a road from the right has priority over the main road.
  • Bypass the green lanes on toll roads unless you have an electronic Via Verde transponder. You might end up being overcharged.
  • Want to evade tolls altogether? Drive through the N125, which mostly runs laterally to the A22. The road gets busy and there can also be delays, so you might spend some extra time.
  • Flashing your lights doesn’t indicate “go ahead” or “thank you” as it appears in the UK. In Portugal, it means “here I come.” The driver requires you to give way and let them pass through.

Documents Needed While Driving in Portugal

While driving in the region of Algarve, you should carry an ID with a photograph in it and it is also advisable to carry both your EU driver’s license (or International Driving Permit if you are from a non-EU country) and passport in the case of being stopped by the police.

Other documents that you should also carry with you are the car’s logbook (the Livrete) and the registration document (the Titulo de Registro de Propriedade). Both documents can be consolidated to produce a Documento Unico Automovel and are provided by the car rental company. Non-Portuguese car models must have valid insurance and proof of ownership (the vehicle registration documents).

Car Rental Companies in Faro Airport

Hiring a car in Faro Airport is the most reliable way to experience your vacations with family and friends in Algarve, touring the beaches along the rugged coastline. 

You can locate the following car rental companies at Faro Airport:

Car rental companies are positioned in the offices outside the terminal, at the P4 park (small companies) and the international ones can be located on the other side.

Documents Required to Rent a Car in Portugal

Some of the required documents in hiring a car in Portugal include a driver’s license. Passport and credit cards are also required for insurance charges in the event of vehicular damages which will be provided at the point of hiring.

You must also provide yourself an International Driver’s License which is also required in Portugal if you’re a non-European Union country citizen. But if your driving license is issued by a country that is part of the European Union, then you no longer require an IDP.

Type of Insurance Needed When Hiring a Car at Faro Airport

If you plan to rent a car in Portugal, it is good to remember that all the rental companies come with Liability Insurance and Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) as a part of their base rate. Plus, there is the Theft Protection cover (TP).

Depending on the company you prefer, you may or may not have to spend an extra if you’re involved in an accident or if the vehicle is stolen. Keep in mind that CDW never incorporates damage or loss of any part of the vehicle. Damage to locks or loss and damage to keys is also not included.

You may be offered other insurance by the local car rental company when you receive your car upon arrival. This is voluntary and you may not need this if you have already purchased insurance. Companies may only offer other types of insurance such as Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), Personal Effects Coverage (PEC), Super CDW, Seguro Relax Insurance, Roadside Assistance, and more. These are normally charged daily but still optional.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

What age do I need to be to hire a vehicle in Faro?

You must be at least 18 years old to hire a car in Faro. However, each car rental company sets its own minimum age limit, so you may spot some only rental cars for those over 21 years old. You should also own a full driving license for at least a year.

Do I need car rental insurance in Faro?

No, you don’t have to purchase additional insurance to hire a car in Faro, but it could still be worthwhile. Having excess insurance means you don’t have to spend a high excess charge if you damage the vehicle or get into an accident. You can purchase excess insurance from the car rental company you prefer or from a standalone third-party insurer, which is normally cheaper.

Can I rent a car with a debit card in Faro?

Yes, several car rental companies in Faro accept debit cards, but some may require a credit card. You can check with your preferred car rental company before you travel. Make sure that you have sufficient funds on your debit or credit card to cover the booking and your deposit.

Is it cheaper to rent a car at the airport or off-site in Faro?

Car rental companies inside the airport usually have additional fees and taxes. Thus, it will be cheaper to rent a car off-site. There are still excellent car rental deals open at Faro airport though, so it’s worth analyzing prices online and in advance.

Can you rent a car in Faro and drop it off in another city?

Yes. Several car rental companies offer one-way rentals between cities in Portugal. You just have to pay an additional charge or a higher base rate if you’re not taking the vehicle back to the original pickup location.

Can you rent a car on the same day you arrived in Faro?

Absolutely. You can rent a car at the rental desk. Keep in mind that there may be only limited cars available and car rental companies aren’t open 24/7, even in airports.

Can I Add an Additional Driver to My Rental Car in Portugal?

Yes, you can add an additional driver to your car hire if you like. Some car rental companies in Portugal enable you to add an additional driver free of charge. Other companies may charge a daily fee for an additional driver. This is paid directly to the company upon receiving the vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Faro is situated on the southern coast of a famous region known as the Algarve, a place enriched for exploration. This piece of Portugal extends from the striking coastline of Aljezur all the way to the Spanish border. No wonder it is rich with lots of wonderful views and attractions.

If traversing the wider marginal region of the Algarve in your rental car is a portion of your travel itinerary, then you have a couple of opportunities for how you’ll go about it.

The A22 motorway that extends from the Spanish border approximately to the west coast is a toll road. The final decision to provide tolls on this road has been fluctuating, which has caused several motorists to opt for the older N125 highway.

You can still take that route if you like since  A22 is essentially empty of major traffic. So if you’re amenable to paying the tolls, it’s a quick and relaxing means to travel.

As with several cities in Portugal, driving in Faro should be engaged with a healthy dose of care. It’s always safer than sorry, after all.

Portugal has a reputation for restless roadways, and there is some fact to the rumors. But the motorways of this country are not as frightening as some accounts would lead you to believe. Portugal has created great paces in current years to form streets and highways more orderly, and better marked.

Driving in the city of Faro, a favorite destination for sun-worshippers is definitely more laid-back than in Lisbon. During the hectic season, traffic in the central part of the city can be pretty heavy, due mainly to the seasonal influx of tourists. But there are lots of paid parking services in the area, and the city’s center is a delightful place to explore while wandering around on foot.

In particular, keep an eye out for unlit, animal-drawn carts making sudden turns into the main road from blindside streets. Also, be aware that Portuguese pedestrians tend to take a rather blasé approach toward motor traffic. They may step out in front of your car suddenly, so be sure to drive as carefully as possible in areas with huge foot traffic.

Another traffic condition worthy of attention is the inclination of Faro drivers to park in the middle of a lane of traffic, possibly due to the shortage of shoulders on many roads there. A couple of taps on the horn should make the driver remedy the situation.

Those who tour Faro in the off-season will still discover plenty to love. Its picturesque, whitewashed buildings and moderate winter temperatures make it a pleasant escape any time of year and traffic thins out considerably outside peak travel periods.