Algarve Motorway Tolls Explained

If you haven’t been to the Algarve before (or even just for a few years) then the new toll system on the A22 motorway might be something of a surprise.  It is actually not new (it has been in operation in Portugal since 1991) but it is new to the Algarve, and it is actually very good: in brief, here is how it works.

You may be more used to road tolls in countries like France where you queue up at a window, fumble for change, pay your money and drive on.  The difference is that in Portugal, no people or cash are involved: instead the car is recorded electronically as it passes the toll points and 48 hours later you can go to a post office to pay the toll.

It is a good system (you don’t have to slow down and there are no queues at the toll points) but going to the post office 2 days later is a bit of a pain, especially if there is a queue there, and it is easy to forget (in which case you get fined).  The biggest problem will  be when you are driving back to the airport: if you are flying out of Portugal, how will you get to the post office the next day?

When you pick up a hire car, most companies will offer you an electronic box at a nominal charge of typically about 2€ per day.  The gadget is usually already installed and beeps as you pass the toll point.  The money is taken from your card, usually at just the public tariff, and you don’t need to do anything else.  Many people say ‘no thanks’ to all the extras at the car hire desks: by all means say ‘no’ to everything else but not the road toll box!



The Algarve Children’s Activities

With hundreds of miles of unspoilt beaches, beautiful scenery and matchless golf, Portugal is rightly one of the top destinations for family visits in Europe. It is an especial hit with children as well: everybody loves a pool but there is more to it than that. The Algarve loves children and they are entirely welcome in all restaurants and cafes at any time of day, and when the beaches and the pool get tiresome (as if!) there is still plenty for them to do. The following is just a sample of possible days out from the villa, in all parts of the Algarve.

Slide and Splash, Lagoa. More than just a waterpark, this offers at least a day’s worth of thrills and excitement and is highly recommended: something fun for all ages including the large shallow children’s area with dragon and elephant slide and the tunnel slides and Blue Hole. Gets excellent reviews , site here (in Portuguese). (Open 1 April to 31 October, 26€ for adults, 19€ for children.)

Fiesa Sand Sculptures: unusual and definitely a must-see. An annual event since 2003, covering 15000 m2 and created by teams of sculptors from around the world, the effect is baffling in its brilliance and the theme this year is music. You are encouraged to get sandy and creative, and there are workshops and demonstrations. Opening time is from 10am to 10pm up to 14 July, then open until midnight. The evening, when the lights add another dimension, is particularly recommended. At Pera: more information on 282 317 084

Riding at Pine Trees: in a lovely area just between Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, professional and well-run riding stable, child friendly with happy horses offering individual lessons, hacks and trecking in the pine forests and along the coast. Not the cheapest but worth it. Approved by the BHRS. +351 289 394 369 More details on their Facebook page

Boat Trips: Maybe a bit slow for some thrillseekers, but nobody can say that the sight of dolphins in the wild is dull! As you walk through the marina in Vilamoura, Lagos or Albufeira you will come across lots of organised tours, or splash out and organise your own boat for the day, and do what you want to do. Dolphin watching, deep sea fishing and jetskiing (only for the older ones) are all possible. (Algarve Seafaris 289 302318 in Vilamoura, or Dream Wave at Albufeira Marina have been recommended strongly, but there are lots of others to choose from if availability is tight.)

This photo of Sealife is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Hot Wheels Karting, Albufeira Marina: fun and fast, smelly and dirty and guaranteed to be more exciting than the pool. The underground track has 12 corners and a long straight with powerful 4 stroke gokarts. From 15€ up, depending on how many races etc, student discounts. ,

Parque Aventura: get back to nature in the assault course in the treetops where adults and children of 4 and above (minimum 1 metre height) can dangle, slide and climb on the ropes using climbing harnesses.  Make your way along 4 increasingly vertiginous treetop rope courses. Stop where you like – the last one is really quite scary! If that isn’t enough adrenaline there is paintballing as well. 2pm – 6pm daily.

Wherever you are in the Algarve, local tourist information offices are enormously helpful and keen to help.