Tavira and in particiular the Old Town are one of the most confusing towns to navigate in Portugal or Spain. Very narrow streets suddenly change names at moments notice. One way streets find ways of zigzagging continuosly. Even with a good navigator as copilot it is easy to get lost and as a matter of fact that happened several times in Tavira. So to minimize frustration, save a little gas, and enjoy the scenery even more please get a map from Michelin or bring an update to date GPS that includes Tavira.
A new complication in traveling to Portugal has been the imposition of the Algarve Toll Road also known as the Via Enfante de Sagres (Sagres of course being on the far west end of the toll road).
Beginning in October of last year Portugal took an existing highway the A 22 and converted it into a toll road. While this in itself is not an issue and I am all in favor of user fees to support freeways and expressways the way that this has been done has created quite a few issues. There have been protests and even riots over the issue as local residents feel they should not pay for something they are already taxed on. The cost of a 30 km commute for someone who previously took the toll road could be as high as 8 euros tound trip daily. Considering that many residents are on limited incomes this is a major cost. Traffic on the A 22 has dropped by over 50% since the toll road has been instituted.
The Via Enfante De Sagres uses electronic monitoring through a transponder situated at ten different locations along the approximate 130 kilometer A 22 which runs from the Spain/Portugal border just past the town of Lagos. As your car passes through one of these locations it is electronically read. Unfortunately there is no toll booths and you can't automatically pay the fee. Add the fact that petrol in Portugal is at least 15% higher than in Spain traveling in Portugal can be very expensive. A round trip on the toll road can easily cost in excess of $ 30.
This caught me by complete surprise as we traveled into the Algarve for two days. The owner of the bed and breakfast where we stayed told us that the new system does not have the ability to correctly read foreign plates so don't worry about the tolls if you are there for a short time. However this was unsettling and I don't want to end up with a large bill and penalty from our rental car company in Spain. The problem is made worse by the fact that you have to go to a local post office with your license number 48 hours after your last trip on the tollway. You cannot easily pre pay your tolls and when you cross into Portugal there is no information on it posted on the highway.
For those traveling to Portugal from researching the issue, after I returned to the U.S; now I offer the following suggestions depending on where you are coming from;
Personal and Rental Vehicles outside of Portugal- Go to one of the service stations that you see on the A 22 and prepay your tolls. This can be done in amounts of 3, 5 and 7 day passes. I wish I would have known this when I entered the country. For longer term stays you can rent a transponder that affixes to your windshield also from a service station on the highway.
Vehicles Rented in Portugal- Find out from the rental car company if you can prepay your tolls. Make sure there is some agreement as to what your responsibility is and how you can avoid any penalties if you don't pay your tolls before you leave the country.
There is an excellent little article on trip advisor about how to handle the toll road. Here is the link to it;
So I await here in the United States wondering when I will hear from my Spanish rental car company ):
One of the best values in Tavira is provided by the Camara (town Council). Tavira's bus service is really well thought-out and first rate. It is operated jointly by the Camara, and by EVA, Portugal's largest inter-city bus company. The buses used are clean, modern Mercedes mini-buses that carry about 20 seated passengers. I've never seen one that was full to the point where you couldn't get a seat. They operate on two circuit routes, encompassing about 40 stops. The stops are placed as close as practical to where people would like them to be, barring the occasional narrow old street, but there is literally no place in Tavira which is further than ten minutes' walk from a bus stop. The bus routes connect with the inter-city bus network at the municipal bus terminal, and with the Portuguese railway system at Tavira's Main Station, as well as one other minor train stop. The drivers are friendly and courteous; just tell them where you are headed, and they'll make sure that you get the correct stop. If there is one dark spot in the whole system, it is handicapped access...while it is possible, it clearly could be improved. The buses operate on either 30 minute or one hour schedule (depending on demand) all day and on weekends, and schedules are posted at many bus stops, but they do not operate late into the evening. The best part of the whole system? A bus pass costs one Euro per person, and while the driver will punch the pass every time you board a bus, it is good for unlimited use on the date of issue!
I hired a car for my time in the Algarve as I wanted the freedom of exploring all the way along the coast from Cabo de Sao Vicente in the west to Vila Real de Santo Antonio on the Spanish border in the east and so didn't use the local bus. However, there is a very useful English website dedicated to bus routes and timetables etc which you can find below. If you don't have a car then this is the next best way of getting around the Algarve as well as the train, details of which are also provided on the same website.
The boat shuttles between the island of Tavira and Cabanas beach - one of the 4 most beautiful beaches in Europe. It runs hourly and cost only a little more than 2 euros for round trip. Its a pleasant 20-minutes' boat ride and you can enjoy the beautiful harbor and bay all the time.
You go towards Fish Market and find the place of embarkation just next to it.
The name of the company is: Sinido, Transports Fluviais,Lda
leaving the center of tavira to a small location called cabanas de tavira.t here we have a two minutes ride on a small boat to the east side of tavira island and founding one the biggest and less crowded beaches in Algarve
I arrived by bus from Seville. The bus station is by the river, just 2 minutes walk from the central square, the Praca de Republica.
The train station is 1km from the centre, straight up the Rua da Liberdade. From here, you can take slow trains to other towns on the Algarve, or the express to Lisbon.
The nearest international airport is Faro, only 30km away.
Spain is only about 30 minutes drive away too.
Tavira is small and easy to walk around.