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Seasonal apartment rental

Hi
Has anyone rented a furnished apartment in the Algarve between 1 and 3 months ( winter season)?
An apartment within walking distance of the beach, public transport, supermarkets.
I mean a real apartment with a kitchen as opposed to a hotel room.
I’m very familiar with Portugal and the Algarve but not with apartment rentals for a complete season.
How was your experience ? Any tips?
What were the positives and negatives?
How did you find the apartment, from a website or from a private person?
What steps did you take to make sure it was a real rental and not a scam?
How did you make payments and got the key?
What were the arrangements if something broke and needed to contact the apartment owner to make repairs?
Did you have to pay for utilities? if so did you pay to the landlord or the utility company?
Any issues after the rental was over, with fees?
Anything unexpected?
Thank you in advance
Happy travels

Posted by
3944 posts

I have rented an apartment for 2 weeks then twice for a month over the winter in Cabanas, near Tavira. Be careful with 3 month rentals, as you only get 90 days in the Schengen Zone.

Some resorts pretty much close up for the winter, such as Salema and Altura near Tavira, but many are kept busy with winter visitors, particularly snowbird motor homers, who flock there in there hundreds, if not thousands.

There are thousands of rental options. I booked the same place when I went, booking with Homeaway the first time and directly with the owner for subsequent visits, which means you pay less! The flat was great - light, well decorated and furnished and a fantastic roof terrace. We haven’t returned for a couple of years as a new bar was opened by some Russians just down the road and it became too noisy. We picked a place that had reviews going back several years to avoid being scammed. The owner employed someone to clean the property and to effect the key handover in person. We had his mobile number if there were any problems.

If you are there for any length of time, you need an apartment, not a hotel, as you won’t want to eat out every day. Make sure you get an apartment with a washing machine. Most rentals of 4+ weeks will also require you to pay for any electricity consumed, so meter readings are done at the start and end of the stay. We paid about 15 euros for the month, but we didn’t need to use the heater much. Get a place with heating/ air conditioning, to avoid the place feeling damp.

There were lots of Americans and Canadians in addition to northern Europeans, particularly British and French in Cabanas and many visit for at least a couple of months, hence many places get booked up a year ahead. Prices have rocketed in the past 4 years. You may find more availability if you avoid the Christmas/ New Year season, as owners charge a premium for these weeks and many will have booked for this year already.

The weather has been very mixed in March when I have been - lots of rain and very windy. Friends who live there say January can be very cold and wet, hence we head to the Canary Islands then if we want sunshine.

Supermarket prices are good and eating out isn’t expensive. The benefit of having a place in the winter is the great prices that you get on car hire. Public transport isn’t the Algarve’s strong point.

Posted by
4062 posts

We tried this and it failed miserably. I've never left a place early, except Algarve in February. Our AirBnB had been closed up for months and re-opened for us. It was in a large condo complex which was completely vacant. Our condo was musty and nasty. I was scared to touch anything in the bathroom. We spent a lot of time in a weird mall trying to find a carseat for my son. We struggled to find good food (but did have one memorably good piri piri chicken meal). We saw lots of British and Dutch tacky restaurants, which were also closed. Honestly, we didn't like the area, but maybe we just had bad luck.

Posted by
44 posts

HI
Jennifer thanks for the tips,I will include Homeaway on my searches. I didn't even think about the washing machine - that's something essential, very good tip. 15 euros for utilities is cheap, so another positive for a long stay.
I'm familiar with snowbirds from Canada and Northern USA traveling south to Florida / Arizona - I didn't know they are going to the Algarve as well.

Emily thanks for your post. Sorry to read that you didn't have a good rental.
Thanks for the heads up for the musty / mold smells. I have experienced that in the Caribbean and the only way to get rid of it was to air out the place and then use a dehumidifier.
Did you stay in a small town and that's why the condo was vacant for a long time and the restaurants closed?
Or did you stay in a large town and that's just the way it is in the winter in the Algarve?
Was the town manly a tourist town ( with a high and low season) or a working town with open stores / restaurants that service the local population?

Happy travels

Posted by
914 posts

I’m outside of Lisbon - not the Algarve- but several people from the US and Canada winter in Cascais. They seem to have no problems finding a three month rental.
If you want the Algarve, I would suggest checking in Lagos. I stayed there for a couple of weeks during the winter and much was open and busy. Stay away from the smaller towns. And, yes, don’t forget the washing machine. But, also ask what type of heat it has. Many apartments have oil radiators only. While some do a pretty good job, be aware that you want a place where the rooms all have doors. No open concepts! The radiators do ok on relatively small areas, but not large open space.
I rented an Airbnb when I moved here for a month and had no problems. It was much like a shorter term rental regarding utilities, etc., but can’t speak to a three month one.

Posted by
44 posts

Hi
Kathrynj thank you for your tips.
The type of heating was something that I didn't think of ( same with the washing machine) - so another great tip.
All the places I stayed in Portugal so far were not open concept so it wasn't on my mind, thanks for heads up.
Linha do Estoril is my favorite in Portugal but not for the winter, Algarve is my winter alternative .
The tips are very helpful for trip planing.
Happy travels

Posted by
3944 posts

I would avoid Albufeira, which is the only part of the Algarve where I have noticed British restaurants. I have never had a musty, mouldy apartment in the Algarve and I have been numerous times.

Tavira has more character than Lagos and is less developed plus it’s not as wet and windy at the eastern end of the Algarve. It won’t be beachable, so the fact that Tavira’s beach is out on the barrier island, reached by a small ferry doesn’t matter.

Ask if there is any nearby new development happening before you book. Friends have just returned to a place they stayed at last year only to find the adjacent site is being developed and there is noise and dust everywhere, so they have moved to another location.

Posted by
4062 posts

We stayed in Tavira and Lagos. Lagos was the town that had the moldy condo and the whole place looked like a retirement village in Florida, minus the people. When I say the "whole place" I mean the city of Lagos. It was ugly.

Posted by
44 posts

HI
Jennifer thanks for your tips. I didn't think of the noise factor with new or old construction, another good tip .
Regarding restaurants I actually prefer the "mom & pop " restaurants that the locals use, so I rarely use non-Portuguese restaurants
I want a fully fitted apartment so that I can cook, and use the restaurants occasionally or while taking day trips, .
I understand parts of the Algarve have barrier islands and that limits my choices as I want to be able to walk to the beach and not have to rely on a boat.

Emily thanks for your post. I was surprised to read that you stayed in two of the larger towns in the Algarve ( by Algarve standards) and that so much shut down for the winter. Your post has me thinking carefully about which town to choose regarding winter closures. Another good tip.
Beside the summer rush / winter drop off weekly tourists, maybe something else is at play such as the NHR (Non Habitual Resident) status that the Portuguese government has been promoting, and that may inflate population numbers in the summer and add to the winter closures .
Happy travels