Some of you may have already gathered that I am a big fan of a European weekend break, I love to to make the most of my weekends and be able to explore a different city, country and culture in my weekend without having to take time off work.
Last summer I was craving some sunshine, sea and sand but couldn’t afford a big summer holiday trip for a week or more, and that’s what most people think a summer holiday has to entail! But a summer getaway doesn’t have to break the bank! In fact, I did this whole weekend break to the Algarve for £177 and here’s how…
Everyone thinks this has to be the biggest expense, but that’s not true, and if you don’t have specific dates or destinations in mind then you can still get them cheap! I didn’t even book this trip too far in advance, I only booked 8 weeks before I went. Looking at shoulder-season flights is key here! So I did what I do best and shopped around for some cheap flights to anywhere hot. I discovered return flights from Stansted to Faro with Ryanair for £60 on a Friday evening to Sunday evening - perfect for a weekend trip!
Faro is the main airport for the Algarve and many low-cost carriers now fly there, there are direct flights from London Luton, London Stansted, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. From Faro there are transfers to all major resorts and towns along the coast, more about that below.
Total for flights = £60
Where to stay
I love the Algarve and while I’ve not travelled it all extensively, I feel like you really can’t go wrong wherever you choose to stay. For me, I’d dreamt of the beaches and coastal scenery around Lagos for so long, I also wanted to see the Benagil Sea Caves so I chose to stay in Lagos.
For me, accommodation is just a bed for the night, I don’t spend any time there and since this is a budget guide, I of course stayed in a hostel. I stayed in the Gold Coast Calm Hostel which was the perfect place for a bed for the night, they offered free breakfast in the price and they had flexible check-in for arriving late on the Friday evening, it cost me 16 euros a night. There are also plenty of other options for hostel accommodation in Lagos. If you aren’t sure about Lagos (or hostels!), there are so many options on booking.com for all types of budgets and preferences.
Total for accommodation = 32 euros / £27
How to get to your accommodation
This is the bit I struggled with most for my trip. There are no trains between the towns in the Algarve on weekends and the buses are irregular, take a long time and stop running at around 7pm on a Friday, not great for a late evening flight coming in! Fortunately there are several shuttle bus services that run from Faro airport to each town and resort. Your hotel may even provide one for you. My hostel recommended a local service to me which was brilliant - Green Bus picks you up from the airport and offers shared shuttles for 16 euros each way or 20 euros for an express shuttle (less stops). The journey from Faro airport to Lagos was just over an hour.
Total for transfers = 32 euros / £27
What to do in Lagos
Lagos is surrounded by beautiful coastline and beaches, there are so many options for boat tours, water sport activities, cave tours and snorkelling so its’s really up to you and your budget. But all the beaches are free and accessible by foot. I have another blog post of the best beaches in Lagos here, but these are the must-see beaches:
Ponta da Piedade
Praia dos Pinheiros
Praia do Camilo
Praia do Pinhão
Praia dos Estudantes
Benagil Sea Caves
This is more of an optional trip but seeing the stunning natural formations of the Benagil Caves was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit the Algarve. I took a speed boat from Lagos harbour for 35 euros which included a tour of the coastline down to Benagil and back, including other caves, rock formations and coastal landmarks. Note that you cannot get off the boat in the caves as there is no where for boats to moor. If you have more time in the area, it’s possible to see the caves for cheaper either by taking a bus to Benagil or driving if you have a car, then you can ether hire a kayak or paddleboard to get to the caves from the beach next door, alternatively you can also swim to them but please check the tides before you do and only do so if you are a confident swimmer.
Where to Eat
If you’re a seafood fan then you really can’t go wrong anywhere in the Algarve, all the seafood is caught fresh daily and it’s so tasty! There’s lots of options for different budgets but there are my favourites and where I would recommend:
Mar - this isn’t too far from the town centre and has beautiful views overlooking Estudantes Beach. The prices are reasonable and I’d recommend as a lunch, snack or quick beer on your way back up from an afternoon on the beach.
Nah Nah Bah Restaurant - amazing burgers if you’re not a seafood fan
Adega Da Marina - big, friendly and great location right on the harbour with fresh seafood. Also great for families and kids and very well priced.
O Camilo - this was my favourite place on my trip. It’s a little out of the town but it’s right at the top of the stairs from Camilo beach if you’ve spent the day there. At first I thought it was too fancy for me (very modern, chic, big glass windows), but it was actually super friendly, casual dress code and very well priced for amazing fresh seafood, i had three courses (one was a platter) and it cost me 27 euros / £25.
Total for weekend trip = £177
For a weekend break in the sun, including flights, accommodation, food and transfers I paid £177. Any additional activities (like the Benagil Caves) are of course optional but I cannot recommend Portugal, and specifically the Algarve, for a quick, cheap and easy getaway from the UK - or wherever you’re based in Europe!
Have you been to the Algarve? Do you have any tips? I’m hoping to go back again soon!