“I first came to Faro on Erasmus and I chose it for a very superficial reason – there is a beautiful beach here,” says 36-year-old Kateřina Klugová bluntly. The southern Portuguese metropolis enchanted her so much that she has been living here for twelve years. Here she found a job as a tourist guide, met her husband and gave birth to a daughter. The relaxed atmosphere of the Algarve cannot be denied.
She hugs you to welcome you, doesn’t spare smiles and is bursting with energy. During a conversation with the local Portuguese, a layperson will not notice that she only learned the language a few years ago. The dark-haired native of Prostějov first came to the country as a university student in 2009. Today, she guides Czech tourists through Portugal and mediates internships for Czech teachers. In addition, she is a co-founder of the Faro Czech School, where she also teaches.
“Portuguese people have hearts of gold, they are very accommodating. If anything happens to you, the locals will help you and even give you something to eat, even though they don’t know you,” he illustrates the character of the locals, which is another positive of the region. In addition, they have a common hobby with the Czechs – they like to make fun of each other.
Over the past years, Kateřina has made many friends here. He often meets them in unexpected places, such as Cape St. Vincent, which lies 120 kilometers west of the Faro. “Ola, boa tarde!” an elderly married couple greets each other in the parking lot.
Although she got by in the tourist-attractive region for the first few years without knowing Portuguese, over time she discovered that the language barrier was an obstacle to getting to know the locals more deeply.
“As soon as I learned Portuguese, and it took me three years before I was able to have a meaningful conversation with the locals, they stopped taking me as just a tourist. I used to wonder how many friends I didn’t know and how I knew it all, but only when I finally could language, I made real friends,” she explains.
“A person can easily stay in his English-speaking bubble here for years. For example, the English have lived here for twenty-five years and they don’t know Portuguese, because they only have their community, which they never leave,” he adds.
“When the Portuguese promise something, they really deliver”
It’s not surprising that she chose the city on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Bordered by the Ria Formosa National Park, Faro boasts wide sandy beaches, clean air and low white houses with colorful decorations. The average annual temperature reaches 20 degrees and at the beginning of October you can sunbathe and swim in the ocean in the Algarve. The relaxed atmosphere, excellent food and the mood of the locals are simply contagious.
“Time passes differently here. The saleswoman in the store is able to chat with the shopper about the recipe for lunch or cake. Yes, there is a long queue, but the locals are fine with it, only the tourist gets upset. No one is annoyed if someone comes late ,” explains Kateřina’s traditional Portuguese quarter-hour delay. “But when the Portuguese promise something, they actually deliver,” he adds.
The biggest income for locals comes from tourism and the Algarve is well prepared for travelers. It has an international airport, good infrastructure and above all many places to explore. To get to know the southernmost part of Portugal, Kateřina would recommend going in early spring or autumn.
It is best to stay directly with local people – there is a lot of interest in renting apartments or houses of Portuguese people. Also because, thanks to them, visitors get to know authentic living in the countryside or in the city center.
An authentic journey through the Algarve
You can travel to Faro all year round, but the winter is rainy and the native of the Czech Republic points out that many Portuguese houses and apartments do not have heating. “I found out almost everything about Portugal before my studies. But then I moved into a very bad apartment where there was no heating in the winter. That was probably my worst winter. It was maybe 10 degrees outside and azure, but when I was sitting inside and writing my bachelor’s , my fingers were completely frozen, blue. My mouth was steaming and I was sitting under a blanket. There is no heating here. Sure, Portuguese houses today are better built, but they still don’t have heating,” she recalls.
Kateřina is the only purely Czech tourist guide in the Algarve. He works for several Czech travel agencies, including the travel platform Worldee. It offers all the services normally provided by travel agencies, including an itinerary and a guide, but at the same time preserves the advantages of individual travel. In the application today, you can choose one of half a million itineraries, Kateřina, for example, is in charge of the Portuguese ones.
Photo credit: Worldee Archive
How Worldee works
- The travel platform brings interested parties closer to authentic experiences, connecting them with a community of experienced travelers with the same passion and allowing them to discover the world through the eyes of locals.
- The tourist chooses an itinerary for a given location that he likes. Subsequently, he can buy a package of related services (air ticket, accommodation, car rental, local guide services) from Worldee. He can then travel accompanied by a so-called travel buddy, or on his own axis with support from Worldee. During the journey itself, it is carried out by an application that shows not only individual places, distances or times of departures and arrivals, but also basic information about attractions. The application also serves as a personal travel diary, it was with this idea in mind that Tomáš Zapletal founded it.
- The platform also offers specially targeted routes, such as gastro tours or tours of architectural attractions. Zapletal and his companion found inspiration in travel groups on Facebook, where strangers met to go on vacation together to the same destination.
“Itineraries are created by people who live in a given place. The goal is to connect travelers and show people a given location through the eyes of locals. When you travel with Worldee, you get to know a given country or place authentically. We don’t normally have all-inclusive resort accommodation on Worldee, even if we arrange it we can, but rather with local people so that you can really get to know the place through their eyes,” explains founder Tomáš Zapletal.
Some time ago, Worldee won the CzechTourism award in the field of digitization of tourism. “I travel individually, I wouldn’t travel with a travel card, but I missed a place where I could save travel itineraries and return to them. I also missed a mobile guide so that I wouldn’t have to search for everything separately on Wikipedia,” he adds.
Trouble in Portugal’s Paradise
In addition to getting to know the Algarve, Kateřina Klugová is also in charge of a plan to get to know Lisbon and its surroundings. He has been working with the platform since this year, and among its most frequent customers are active tourists who are genuinely interested in getting to know the country with all their senses. As a local, he will recommend the best restaurant in town, arrange a surfing lesson with a Czech instructor or add a story about how Václav Havel flew to Fara to treat his lungs and where exactly he lived. All this while walking along the breathtaking coast formed by limestone cliffs.
Although Portugal appears to foreigners to be a dream destination for life, Kateřina and other interviewed Czech women who live in the Algarve draw attention to the country’s systemic problems. They are most visible in the areas of employment, housing, health care and education.
“The huge problem with unemployment in the south of Portugal is in the winter, i.e. outside the tourist season. In the summer, on the other hand, there is a lack of people in some sectors,” says Kateřina. The availability of rental housing is also a big problem, as most locals prefer to rent their house or apartment to British tourists who are willing to pay more than renters.
State healthcare is also problematic. There is also a lack of money and doctors who have to work overtime. Strikes by medical personnel are thus very frequent. According to Kateřina Klugová, it is better to pay for the care of private doctors and the hospital.
“One of my acquaintances – a Czech woman waited three years for allergy tests for her little daughter. They suspected celiac disease and lactose intolerance, which negatively affected their daily life. She was finally diagnosed in the Czech Republic,” she describes. “Portuguese state hospitals are bad. But in private ones it’s fine, they’re nice, clean and you get your turn quickly,” he explains.
Teachers’ strikes are just as common as health workers’ strikes. They too struggle with financial undervaluation and overtime. “There are strikes here for even a month, which also affects children’s knowledge,” illustrates Kateřina.
Despite all the problems that Kateřina is aware of, she still wants to stay in Faru. “But my Portuguese husband and I are flexible and we don’t say that we will stay in Faro forever. I can imagine returning to the Czech Republic. If anything changes in a way that we don’t like, then we are ready to move to a place where we it will be fine,” he says. For now, however, they are at their best on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and the visitor-observer is not even surprised.
Photo author: Personal archive of Kateřina Klugová
Kateřina Klugová (36 years old)
- She was born in Prostějov, lives in Faro, where she moved in 2012.
- She studied marketing communication at the Tomáš Bata University in Zlín.
- She is a tourist guide all over Portugal, she works with several Czech tour guides. She mediates internships and training for Czech pedagogues and is a co-founder of the Faro Czech School, where she also teaches.
- She has a Portuguese husband and a four-year-old daughter.
- She loves working with people and likes to transfer her energy and enthusiasm to this country – Portugal.