Finally, a week ago on 30.12. we arrived to Faro. In this post, I am going to tell about the first feelings and impressions about Algarve and especially Quarteira, where we are staying for these three months. Before going into that, I will shortly let you know, what we needed to consider before traveling to Portugal in terms of COVID restrictions.
The COVID cases have increased around Europe and many countries have tightened their restrictions during the past weeks. In Portugal, starting from 1.12.2021, all entering Portugal (even EU citizens with a vaccination certificate) needed to have a negative PCR test taken within 72hours before departure. Alternatively, a negative rapid antigen test taken within 48hours before boarding is accepted. We took the PCR test 3 days before boarding. Additionally, before landing to Portugal, we needed to fill and submit a “Passenger Locator Form” online. In practice what needed to be filled was flight information, address information both in home country (permanent address) and address in Portugal and emergency contact details. Once we landed to Portugal, the checking process of the COVID test was smooth and we didn’t need to queue more than 10minutes. We also had luck with our luggages, and didn’t need to wait for more than 10minutes to get them. Overall, I was positively surprised on how things were handled in Finland and Portugal but also during the flights; it felt safe to travel.
Moving to the first impressions! We stay in an airbnb apartment 20 minutes drive from the Faro airport, in Quarteira – a small town of 20 000 residents. As Quarteira is located right next to one of the biggest tourist resorts in Algarve – Vilamoura, before arriving I thought Quarteira would be quite touristic as well. However, especially now in winter time, there doesn’t seem to be many tourists and the majority of the people we have come across are locals (ok of course British as well). That was a pleasant surprise, as I want to be surrounded with locals rather than tourists. We were told from our airbnb host that people still speak English relatively well due to the tourism. We noticed quite soon that especially older people prefer to communicate in Portuguese, and that’s totally ok, I will try to learn a bit during these three months. But basically, any languages can be heard in Algarve due to the high tourism.
Another thing that got my intention immediately; the roads are in very good condition as well as the streets are clean. Overall, it feels good and safe to walk around even though locals recognize we are tourists. Our place is in 5minutes walking distance to the beach, which makes it very convenient to go for a run to the beach promenade (went four times already during this first week!). Also, we have small markets, pharmacy, bars and restaurants near us. Our apartment itself is cosy and comfortable, with sea views and all the needed equipment included. One thing that concerned me a little beforehand, was the availability of hot water. I was afraid that the hot water would run out after 1 shower and then we would need to wait for the hot water to heat again (which had been the case in many places I’ve visited). But that turned out to be a pointless fear, as we have had no issues getting hot water, actually I almost burned myself during my first shower as the water was too hot!
Despite Quarteira is well located in the middle of Algarve and Uber working flawlessly (maximum waiting time has been 5minutes during our first days here, once we went to golf courses nearby), we decided to rent a car for our stay, in order to get the full freedom to go and explore Algarve and who knows other parts of Portugal as well. Having free parking next to our building was a great surprise as well!
One downside regarding payment is that apparently in taxis and in some restaurants the only accepted payment method was cash. It is quite surprising that despite COVID, in many places only cash is accepted. That’s no problem for us, we just need to remember to always have some cash with us, which is easier to say than do! Once we figured that grocery stores accepted card payment, we felt more like home and will make life so much easier. Another remark that I’ve made is that groceries are actually not that much cheaper here than in Finland. Of course i.e. freshly baked bread, vegetables, some meat and fish are a little less expensive than in Finland, but not as much as I thought. Also hygiene products such as soaps and shampoos cost the same as in Finland, in small markets might be even more expensive.
Finally, some words about the first impressions about the people and the culture. Overall, people seem to be friendly and polite. During this first week of course we haven’t seen much yet, but the first impressions in the supermarkets, streets, cafés, taxis and golf courses, the service level has been good and people have been friendly and helpful. The only bad experience so far was in a car rental company, where the lady was not very willing to help us, and we could feel that she wanted us just to go away, as “she had other work to do”. Well, I am glad we don’t need to return to that place anymore as we already got our car elsewhere!
And finally I want to show you a sneak peak of Quarteira from the above. If you would like to see more videos along with my future posts, comment down below!
That was it for this time. In the next post I am going to describe what does my typical day here in Quarteira looks like!
x Mari Susanna