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Saturday, 17 August 2013

Toll Roads on the Algarve in Portugal

We visit the Algarve from the Costa del Sol at least twice a year. It's an easy drive. From Marbella on the AP7 toll road down to Los Barrios just before Algeciras and then inland to Sevilla. On maximum alert as we skirt Sevilla to the south, climbing the big suspension bridge over the Guadalquivir river before swinging west towards Huelva then Portugal.

Guadiano River Bridge from the Portuguese side
Leaving Spain in the morning, we have the sun behind us and gain an hour entering Portugal. Leaving the Algarve in the afternoon and driving east towards Seville, we have the setting sun behind us. Our journey gains urgency as we cross the River Guadiano and lose an hour from our day. Approaching Seville in the late afternoon we can expect three full lanes of traffic heading in the same direction for some kilometres outside the city.

Two kilometres after the bridge over the River Guadiana along the A22 / IC highway, signs invite foreign motorists to pull off the road into a drive though area to register for the automatic registration plate recognition toll road charging system.

Our visit in mid August coincided with Spain's Virgen del Carmen long weekend and well trained teams of smiling Portuguese helpers were positioned ready to explain the system.
A motorcyclist registering for the toll road
Have your credit card ready to insert into the roadside machine. As your card is checked, so your front registration plate is being read by a camera  on an overhead gantry, associating your car registration number with your credit card. The machine will
print you off a ticket with all details recorded on it. This is valid for a month.

 Not all of the A 22 toll highway is charged however, and as you approach the metered sections of the road, you'll see the cameras on overhead gantries and the charges for the upcoming section will be displayed.  The automatic toll charging system means you can move easily from one side of the Algarve to the other, avoiding the overcrowded N125 old coast road which runs parallel to the A22 / IC toll road. It's overcrowded because the local Portuguese residents refuse to use the toll road and show their opposition to the scheme by simply avoiding any tolls.

Credit card toll charge registration booths
If you prefer not to use the A22 toll road for your stay on the Algarve, simply drive past the toll registering area and take the first exit down to Villa Rea do Sto Antonio. You'll join the N125 coastal road which is not metered. Most of your driving will be on the lower N125 road which joins the coastal resorts. Driving standards in Portugal are generally good.

If you are driving on up to Lisbon or Oporto along the  magificently empty IC 1 toll highway, then make very sure you pick up a ticket from an automatic ticket dispensing machine. You will be charged at your exit point. This system is separate to the Algarve toll roads. If you don't collect a ticket on entry, you will be charged the full north to south transit cost, nearly €50, even if your journey on the IC 1 was much shorter.

Elsewhere in Portugal, the overhead camera gantries will continue to charge your credit card automatically as you enter and leave the metered areas. The system works well and you can feel comfortable about contributing to Portugal's economic recovery. Please don't repeat me on that to any of locals though.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Faro to Fuengirola by bus

Terry wrote to me on Facebook: "Hello there, I'm in Portugal from 13th till 20th July and I'm just wondering how hard it is and much it costs to get to from Faro on the Algarve in Portugal to Estepona on the  Costa del Sol in the south of Spain, thank you."

I wrote back: "Hi Terry, thanks for writing in. It's very easy actually. You take the midnight bus out of Faro which travels through Sevilla, stopping in the early hours of the morning in Sevilla before taking the inland route to Malaga, stopping at Malaga bus station and then travelling down Costa del Sol through Torremolinos and stopping in Fuengirola which is the end of the route.

Have a welcome early morning cup of coffee at Fuengirola bus station and then jump onto the next local bus along the coast to Estepona, it'll call in at Marbella bus station and then travel on to Estepona, total time about 90 minutes. That last journey is about €6.(2013)

You can book the whole trip online right here, using the Gomarbella online bus reservations link. You'll see the exact timetable and the fare for the journey. Select INTERNATIONAL then put in Portugal and Spain for the countries of Origin and Destination. Then enter Faro and Fuengirola as your towns. Select the date. You'll see the bus leaves at 01.45 and arrives at 09.45 Cost €45 (2013) Remember leaving after midnight on 20/07/13 it means 01.45 in the morning on Saturday 20 July so you are travelling overnight and arriving on Sunday morning.

I hope this sounds OK to you Terry, I love the Algarve and go there at least twice a year. We stay about 17 kms inland from Faro. Best wishes from Marbella,  Mike."

Entrance to Faro Bus Station





The main train line along the Algarve runs right behind the Faro bus station and Faro train station is less than 200 metres away.






Faro Bus Station Ticket Office




The pleasant girl on duty in the Faro Bus Station ticket office gave me the timetable for the whole trip. You can also find it using the online bus reservation link above.





Plaza de Armas Bus Station in Seville



Terry's bus will call in at the Plaza de Armas Bus Station in Seville in the early hours of the morning to change drivers. This big bus station serves Portugal, routes to the north of Spain right up to Santander and also east to Cordoba and Granada and south to Malaga. His next major stop will be Malaga bus station.







Fuengirola Bus Station



Fuengirola bus station is the end of the route travelling from Faro in Portugal. Terry will have a welcome cup of coffee and with the early morning sun behind him, travel west towards Estepona, calling in at Marbella bus station on the way.