Travelers in Portugal who start in Lisbon have the option to continue north toward historic Coimbra and the country's second-largest city of Porto or to head south to bask in the dreamy beaches of the Algarve region. Faro is the largest city in the Algarve and contains the only major airport in Southern Portugal, making it a convenient spot to stay or use as a base to explore the rest of the region.
While you could take a short flight from Lisbon to Faro, the trains and buses are significantly cheaper and take almost the same amount of time once you factor in the hassle of checking in and waiting at the airport. If you're renting a car, driving yourself is not only the quickest way to reach Faro, but also lets you explore all of the small towns and seaside views along the way.
How to Get from Lisbon to Faro
- Train: 3 hours, from $6 (cheapest option)
- Bus: 3 hours, 35 minutes, from $20
- Flight: 45 minutes, from $80
- Car: 2 hours, 40 minutes, 172 miles (278 kilometers)
When booked in advance, the train is the cheapest and fastest way to get from Lisbon to Faro. The Portuguese National Railway offers two types of trains: the premier Alfa Pendular train (AP) and the slightly slower InterCity train (IC). Both are air-conditioned and comfortable, but the AP train gets you to Faro about 30 minutes quicker for only a few more euros. Both trains get more expensive as the trip date gets closer, so buy your tickets as far ahead in advance as possible. However, even a same-day ticket should only cost about $25—assuming seats are still available.
Lisbon has multiple train stations, and passengers need to specify the exact station in order to purchase tickets on the Portugal Railways webpage. For trips south to Faro, you'll want to choose Lisboa Oriente or Lisboa Entrecampos. The Oriente station is near the airport, while Entrecampos is located closer to the city center.
The Faro station is located near the city center, and once you arrive you shouldn't be more than a short walk or quick taxi ride from your accommodations.
The bus from Lisbon to Faro has a fixed price of 18.50 euros, or about $20, regardless of when you buy the ticket from Redes Expressos. It takes slightly longer than the train, between three and a half to four and a half hours, and some buses require a change of line in the resort town of Albufeira. If you're purchasing last-minute tickets and the train is too expensive or sold out, you can usually get a bus ticket just by showing up at the station.
The plane ride to Faro is virtually just a take-off and landing, and you'll be back on the ground before the flight attendants have time to serve you a drink. You'll pay more for a flight than you will for the train, and after arriving at the airport, checking in, going through security, and waiting at your gate, you really don't save much time, if any at all.
Once you arrive at the Faro airport, you can use one of several bus lines that will bring you straight to the city center, or use a taxi that should cost about $10.
If you like road trips and would like to have the convenience of a car to make stops along the way, driving might be your best option. The trip from Lisbon to Faro takes about two hours and 40 minutes by car and is about 280 kilometers, or 175 miles, traveling mainly by the A2 highway. National highways in Portugal are tolled, and while it isn't as expensive to drive there as in other European countries, the convoluted toll system is confusing to understand. If you've rented your car in Portugal, it likely contains the transponder you need so tolls are automatically deducted from your credit card. Confirm with your car rental company to be sure, and ask them for any restrictions on roads you can use.
If you have the time to spare, you could prolong your trip by heading farther east from Lisbon and stopping in Évora on your way to Faro, a historical town with ancient Roman structures and medieval buildings, only adding an hour to your total driving time. Or, stay along the water and drive down the Alentejo Coastline with its breathtaking cliffs dropping into the Atlantic Ocean. Not only is this route more scenic, but it also avoids the tolls that you'll have to pay on the national highway.
What to See in Faro
The port town of Faro, in Portugal's Algarve region, is a regular arrival point for visitors to Portugal. The biggest draw of the area is, without a doubt, the beaches. Faro is hugely popular during the summer months, especially with tourists from the northern parts of Europe. Faro itself, as well as some of the other nearby resort towns like Albufeira and Vilamoura, are very developed with lots of hotels, bars, and restaurants, but primarily cater to tourists. If you have a vehicle, visit one of the other towns in the area or explore beaches away from the main tourist traps. Lagos and Portimão are two nearby cities with excellent beaches that have maintained a semblance of local culture, and either would make a great spot to enjoy a glass of Portuguese wine while watching the water.