Today we had to go to the airport so we thought that we would share our top life hack for flying from Faro (FAO) especially if you are flying at “civilised O-clock” as our elder daughter and son in law were.
What´s the hack?
Visit Praia do Faro, Faro beach, often referred to as “Faro Island”
Getting to Faro Airport (FAO)
The airport is reached from the A22 and EN125 national road along the IC4 and EN125-10 link roads. It is well signposted but there are some awful junctions on the last part of the route so drive carefully!
Approaching the airport on the EN125-10 we come to the airport roundabout with the stone figures gazing skywards. Going straight on at this junction would put us on the airport ring road, but we have time to kill and we know just how to kill it!
We take the left exit and head along the road past the end of the easterly runway (runway 10 for the enthusiasts) where we pass right under the flightpath before meeting the waters of “Esteiro das Charradas” an inland waterway that separates Praia do Faro from the mainland creating an “island”.
We have a choice at the end of the runway:
Park here and walk along the new pedestrian route over the estuary or carry on by car. It´s September so we drive but it´s still fairly busy. In August it can be almost impossible to park on the “island” so a walk is recommended.
Driving on, we reach the single lane road bridge over the estuary with its infuriatingly slow traffic lights! No choice here but to be patient, it will be rewarded with access to the “island”. We are only five minutes away from the airport BUT remember to allow at least 30 minutes for the return trip in case the bridge is busy.
Once on the “island” we see that things are “moderate” it´s not too busy and there are a number of parking options. We have turned left off the bridge (east) because this is where the majority of bars and restaurants are located.
There is a car park at the “square” just off the bridge and a few more along the “island”. There is plenty of on-street parking but be careful of the many restrictions. Getting clamped here is NOT a good option!
But, hey! We are parked up and ready to hit the beach
Things to do at Faro Beach (the “island”)
So where are we exactly? Well we are on a sand spit sandwiched between the ocean and the estuary. Looking north we can see the airport across the estuary, aircraft come and go but even the departing flights barely disturb the peace here. The “island” is incredibly beautiful with the flat waters of the estuary and distant mountain views on the north side and the ocean lapping at the south side.
The “island” runs east-west almost parallel with the runway at FAO. There are a number of restaurants, bars and snack bars along the “island” which is easy to navigate along the single road. Most of the action is concentrated on the east end (left off the bridge) but there are a couple of places on the west end.
The area immediately by the bridge has the majority of the smaller “snacky” places and bars. At the far east end of the road there are more bars and “snacky” places where the road ends and we are forced to return along the same single route.
We have an agenda though and that is to have lunch right on the beach at Wax RestoBar. There are a couple of places near to Wax and these are all perfectly good but Wax is our top pick a good range of food at very reasonable prices along with insanely (given the location) cheap national beers.
Wax is a loosely “surf” based establishment, it is laid back and has inside, patio and beach front dining areas. In winter the inside is nice but the sun is out and we are eating beachfront today.
It can get busy and there are a number of 6-8 seater tables which you can opt to share with other guests if all of the smaller tables are full. Usually a 10 or 15 minute wait is the worst case scenario at busy times (12:30 to 15:00). Once seated the guys can take a little while to get to you but food is generally served swiftly after ordering. They have WiFi so we sit here enjoying the ocean view and the good food whilst checking the inbound flight on FlightRadar.
We love it here, in around 90 minutes to two hours you can have a nice lunch and a walk on the beach and forget all about going to the airport.
We allow 30 minutes for safety in getting back to the airport but make it in 15. It is a good idea to allow some time for this because the bridge can be unpredictable at busy times and on weekends there is often a short queue back at the airport roundabout.
Why Go ?
If you have the time to do this before a flight then it really is worthwhile. Particularly handy if you have traveled a distance to the airport because the island is so close you can plan to get here well ahead of your flight and be sure of the time it will take to reach the airport from the “island”.
Relax, take a stroll on the beach, enjoy a beer, a cocktail, lunch or grab some street food from a kiosk! It´s way less stress than the airport and way, way, way cheaper. Calm yourself by the ocean and forget the inevitable 40 minutes of stress in the airport while you soak up the blue and yellow.
At the Airport
All good things come to an end they say, and we have to head back to the airport now.
A short drive back over the bridge, past the end of the runway and up to the airport roundabout once again. The stone people are still looking skyward.
This time we take a right to join the circular airport road. Faro is a fairly simple airport to navigate.
The circular road takes us past the “alternative” car hire return parking first. This is where the smaller local rentals like Gold Car and Yor Car take hire returns.
Continuing on we have a choice of short stay parking on the left and a split between the departure drop off zone (partidas) and the arrivals collection zone (chegadas).
Incredibly you can actually park in either zone for 10 minutes and it´s free! Yes you read that right FREE at an airport!. The only catch here is that if you don´t have ViaVerde (Portuguese national toll transponder system) in the car then you still have to take an entry ticket and validate it in a pay machine before leaving. You won´t have to pay if your stay is under 10 minutes but you will have to go and validate the ticket.
If you have a hire car from one of the big international groups you will probably have to return it to the depots along the airport approach road. Although the majority of these suppliers have on-airport pick up, they do not necessarily accept returns at the airport location so check when you hire.
If you are returning to the approach road depots a courtesy bus will drop you at the terminal.
If you are arriving by coach you will be dropped off at the departures door at the west end of the concourse.
From the short stay parking we stroll across the departures set-down area and enter the terminal by the central main door.
Fortunately the new terminal at Faro is a pretty straightforward layout. It is a single building housing arrivals and departures. Departures (partidas) is at the west end of the ground floor (right through the main door) and Arrivals (chegadas) is at the east end (left through the door).
There are standard information boards by the main doors showing your check-in desk. Some desks are located close to the main doors but the majority are located at the west end of the terminal (right through the main doors)
After check in you can walk back to the middle point of the concourse, opposite the main doors and take the escalator up to security. If you don´t need to check in then it’s a simple matter to cross the concourse from the main doors and go up to security control.
If you want a “sheshee” (wee) when you arrive then you will have to deal with the new terminal designer´s unusual policy on toilet location! The new toilets are along the inner wall of the terminal but the ladies and gents are accessed by individual corridors with entrances located some 30 Meters apart for some reason. So if you found the ladies keep walking west for the gents and vice-versa. You can then fight your way along the corridor against the tide of men/women who assumed that there would be a toilet for them at the end of it only to find one for the opposite gender only!
Never seen anything quite like this before, maybe the guy used to design runways.
Arriving passengers are fed towards the single meet and greet area where most of the official representatives of transportation, car hire, limousine services, golf tours and waiting friends and family can be found
Note that the big “on-airport” car hire groups are located in the opposite direction out of the end doors of arrivals at the east end of the concourse
The main exit “Saida” is located near the centre of the concourse. There are some slightly confusing fire exits so look out for the automatic exit doors and avoid the embarrassment of being told to leave the emergency exits alone!
Apart from the toilet marathon, there is not a whole lot to do “ground side” at Faro. There are a couple of coffee shops, a post office and a small newsagent shop. Outside we do now have the nice new “English” style pub which has fully embraced the “captive audience” policy on pricing. I was standing there one morning and the Portuguese woman in front of me actually asked four times how much the coffee was. When my turn arrived I understood why!
You could have a light lunch on the beach at Wax for the price of four coffees at the airport.
Airside does not offer too much either
There is a food court area, one half decent (in an emergency) restaurant and an expensive bar selling that Portuguese favourite er Hieneken?
One or two shops and the “duty free” and last chance gifts shop.
Airside is now split with passengers for Shengen destinations feeding in one way and UK and Ireland via the passport control desks. Look out for the signs when leaving the security check area.
Most internal and mainland Europe flights depart from the ground floor gates and most UK and Ireland flights from the upper level gates.
The airport is not very big and outside of peak times in high season it would be reasonable to expect to be at a gate 30 minutes after check in.
Our Top Tips
If you have the time you really, really should visit the “island” have a nice lunch or evening meal in a wonderful location and save yourself the stress and expense of trying this in the airport.
Would you really rather be in an airport?
- If you are in a hire car, check when you pick it up to see if the drop-off is at the same location.
- If you are dropping people or collecting friends and family, use the new drop off and collection zones they are free if you stay less than 10 minutes.
- Don’t panic if you are driving! The airport road is just a big oval loop. If you miss your way the first time, make like a pilot and have a “Go Around”
you´ll get it right second attempt.
- If you are checked in and don´t have hold bags, go straight up the stairs to security control.
- If you need food or drink at the airport, remember where you are, you will get the idea when you get the bill! You´re not in Portugal anymore once you´re through that airport door!
- If you are dropping people off, head back along the “island” road, park up on the runway parking and enjoy the views whilst waiting to wave as they thunder overhead!
- This only works when the westerly departure runway is in use (97% of the time) on the odd days when the wind is out of the East your friends and family will be heading towards Faro town on runway 10!
We hope you enjoyed the quick guide and the YouTube video.