Year-round sunshine, purse-friendly prices, and lots of great cafes with fast internet and cheap coffee. Could Portugal’s southernmost region be the next Chiang Mai? Maybe not quite, but there are a few reasons why it’s becoming more popular with digital nomads.
Why the Algarve?
For the past few decades, this enclave has been a haven for retirees and 18-30 partygoers. With Lisbon (just 173 miles up the road) drawing the attention of techies (hello Web Summit), the Algarve is a great low-cost option for digital nomad girls.
- It’s home to some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches.
- The majority of cafes and restaurants have free Wi-Fi. The local cafe culture means you can linger over your Macbook and 70 cent espresso without feeling awkward (the locals do the same, only with a copy of the local newspaper).
- Because it’s been a tourism and retirement hotspot for years, most of the locals speak English.
- Although it’s generally a sleepy and peaceful place from October to March, Algarve 360 ensures there are plenty of cultural events taking place throughout the year. I also love the low-season brunch at The Wolf Bar & Grill in Carvoeiro (free flowing mimosas!)
- Did I mention the weather? I’m writing this on December 20th and I’m sitting outside in a Chang vest top and PJ bottoms. Nothing but blue skies, ladies.
What you’ll need
Data sim card: The biggest 4G provider in Portugal is MEO, and they have a special 15 day data plan with 30GB of internet for €14.99. If you’re staying for longer, a regular sim from the MEO store costs €9.99. You can add data for the month (€5.49 for 200MB, and €30.99 for 15GB). Other major sim providers include Vodafone (€13.99 per month for 1 GB data) and NOS (€7.99 for 1GB of data).
Transport: Living in the Algarve is do-able without a car or scooter, but it does make exploring a lot more difficult as buses and trains can be infrequent (the pace of life here is lovely and lazy).
Cost of Living
Portugal isn’t an expensive country anyway, but the Algarve is especially cheap. In 2016 it topped the Post Office’s holiday costs barometer. The cost of living in the Algarve is generally quite low.
Accommodation: The only time you’ll have trouble finding a place to stay in the Algarve is from June to September. This is the summer high-season, and hotel/Airbnb prices tend to triple. Visit in the winter and you’ll find some very attractive prices (as well as excellent weather by European standards).
- Monthly Airbnb rental for a whole place with internet: around £600 per month (low season)
- One night in a hostel: €17 in low season, €20 in summer
Food and drink: If you cook a lot, expect to spend around €15-20 per week on groceries (much cheaper if you’re vegetarian). You can find fantastic bottles of wine for under €5 in the supermarket. Dining out isn’t expensive, either. Main courses in local restaurants cost between €6 and €12. I rarely spend more than €1 on a coffee or €2.50 on a beer.
Toiletries: Expect to pay about €3-6 each for a bottle of shampoo and conditioner, and about €3-4 for roll-on deodorant. In Continente (a big supermarket) a 4 pack of Venus Spa Breeze razor refills costs €14.49, and a 6 pack of Bic Pure Lady cost €3.29. 16 applicator tampons cost €2.99 (OB brand) and 16 pads cost €3.99 (Evax Liberty).
Where to work in the Algarve
Most coffee shops have free Wi-Fi, and if the password isn’t super easy to guess (usually the name of the network or the coffee shop) the staff are always happy to share it. One of my favourite coffee shops to work from is Lazy Jacks on the marina in Lagos.
As for co-working spaces, the main ones are:
- Faro Avenida Business Centre: €10 per day, one month from €70
- Votum Co-working lab (Faro): €5 per day, €80 per month
- CENTRO Lagos: €149 per month
Digital nomad retreats are also appearing in the region. CoWorkSurf in Sagres combines surfing lessons with co-working. They’ve got a few retreats in the pipeline for 2017 and are looking at getting a permanent space. Other retreats worth looking out for are CoWork Algarve, Cowork Villa and SouthWest Collective.
There’s also a Digital Nomads Portugal Facebook group, with lots of members based in the Algarve (including the moderator, Sergio, who is based in Faro).
Best places to base yourself
Faro – This is the capital of The Algarve, and where the region’s only airport is located. It’s also the main public transport hub. This makes it a good place to stay if you’re not planning on hiring a car or bike.
Lagos – This town is home to Portugal’s best burger bar and also has a growing digital nomad scene (as well as lots of surf schools). I recommend renting an apartment near Maia Praia beach, a 10 minute walk from the city centre.
Portimão- This bustling town has excellent shopping, including a fantastic fresh fish market and a shopping mall with a Primark. It’s very central, and near the party-town area of Praia da Rocha.
Silves – If you want to get a really authentic Portuguese experience, I highly recommend this little inland town. It’s halfway between the beach and mountains. Halfway between the west coast and the airport, and free Wi-Fi in the main square. The cost of living is a bit lower here, too.
Author bio: Jemma Porter has been living la vida nomad since 2012, when she left Scotland to become a freelance writer. Although she’s been all over Europe and Southeast Asia, she keeps coming back to Portugal. She co-runs the website Portugalist.com, and you can find her on Twitter and Instagram too.