Cabanas: Camping Ria Formosa – 1. The Campsite/Statics – November 2014

Camping Ria Formosa  is situated about 1 mile from Cabanas sea front. We arrived here (from the aire at Albufeira) on October 21st and our stay here will be for a minimum of 30 days.

Winter deals are common-place on <proper> camping sites in southern Europe and don’t require that you have an ACSI card in order to get a discounted price.

The 30-day+ cost is therefore comparable to the cost on many aires (typically costing between €9 and €13 per night with EHU and WiFi included), you will also mostly experience better site facilities and a larger plot size.

A no-brainer? – well, yes – unless you like to move on more frequently – as many do (but not all, there is also a large contingent that quite happily locate here for all of the winter months).

From the point of view of long-terming in one location, we had experienced staying in the walled garden in Derbyshire for just over 3 months but that was entirely different because 1) we were using the summer to get Twernt set-up for our winter jaunt and 2) throughout that period  our ‘focus’ was on a date in the future when we could start our new adventure – a feeling very different to ‘we’re here’ and we’re committed to being ‘here’ for the next 30 days even though we could ‘absorb’ what this location has to offer in 2, 3, 4, 5 , 6 or 7 days and then move on to the see what’s on offer somewhere else along the coast.

We wanted to ‘taste’ long-term staying-over in one location in order to ‘test’ how we feel about using this as an M.O. for our future wintering trips to southern Europe.

When we were in the walled garden we had certainly felt that a tow vehicle/caravan would have been a better option as we weren’t using Twernt to take advantage of its prime design remit – a motorised caravan.

Twernt became a caravan for 3 months.

This is the first of 4 blogs reflecting on our month-long stay at Campng Ria Formosa. This blog (and the next 3!) will therefore focus on a ‘sanity-check’ for our own set-up needs for future wintering in sunnier climes.

The questions that interest us are:

Did we get it right?

Is the layout working for us?

Do we need a car?

If so, a toad, a rental or a caravan outfit?

Would a larger or smaller MoHo have any justifiable benefits?

Could any alternative solution work for us?

In addition to mulling over our thoughts, we also hope that we will, over the coming months, identify which parts of southern Europe appeal most to us for our future winter visits; like many others, our motivation is simply to be in warmer climes during the British winters. We’re happy that the UK can (and does) offer us all that we need/desire during the summer months. Warm is good, cold is bad.

Beyond that all else is ‘open’ to our discoveries during this winter trip.

This stay at Camping Ria Formosa could therefore give us a steer on how we structure our future winter trips.

This blog and the next three blogs will be mostly picture based with thoughts attached to pictures and those pictures/comments will then be in our ‘Trip Book’ for us to reflect upon when the time for reflection comes.

The 4 blogs are:

1. A brief view of Camping Ria Formosa and Static options

2. A brief view of Solo MoHo’s

3. A brief view of Moho+Toad – Caravan/Tow Vehicle

4.  A brief view of Bricks & Mortar options

The purpose of these 4 blogs is not to produce a solution to the questions posed but to hopefully provide us with a point of reference when the time comes for us to make a decision.

That decision may well be to keep our current set-up, which, in any event, we always saw as a 2-3 year commitment before considering making any changes.

This and the next 3 blogs are therefore, most probably, ‘selfish’ blogs!

But hopefully some readers may be able to gain something from my pictures/comments and all are very welcome to add their own two penn’orth worth!. I freely admit that the questions posed above were the most difficult ones for us to answer when we set out as winter sun-seeking newbies.

I have no qualms about holding my hands up should it transpire that I/we got it wrong (It’s always ‘we’ when it’s gone well but never ‘we’ when something goes pear-shaped!). If ‘we’ have to re-visit some of those past decisions then so be it – but ‘we’ won’t be in a position to do that until Amanda has ‘we’ have completed this trip.

When we were seeking advice on which transport/living/layout vehicle to run with we were advised by quite a few experienced MoHo’ers.

The best advice was along the lines of:  when it comes to discerning what is right and what is wrong, we each have our own views, requirements and our own standards that we bring to the table. There is no singular ‘right’ way or ‘wrong’ way, only what is the right for you.

e.g. A geriatric hippy may well be comfortable full timing in a VW fixed roof camper, whereas Bill Gates will need at least everything that a fully pimped out Morelo has to offer. Bill will need a change of clothes every couple of hours whereas my hippy buddy will get by with one change of clothes every six months, give or take a month or three.

There’s nothing wrong with either of those examples (unless you’re the type of dictator person that likes to impose your standards on others) but the ripple-down effect on establishing your own set-up can already be seen to be taking shape – Bill will need a platinum, heated seat, toilet whereas my hippy friend will happily use the pan that he also cooks his lentils in. Different strokes for different folks.

I do know that the actual experience is very different to the perceptions that we developed and fostered before ‘T’ day (Twernt day!).

One example for us being that we settled on using cycles and dog trailers as our ‘secondary’ transport for outings and shopping trips.

Prior to being on the road in Twernt, we saw this secondary transport set-up as ‘Yes, we can do that, nae problem’ – the reality has been that we need a car to get the best out of this experience.

It may well be OK with some folk to do 2 x 8 mile hikes in 28°c heat to purchase sim cards but that’s not for me/us – Amanda doesn’t ‘do’ major roads on a cycle and buses don’t ‘do’ dogs in Portugal (well they do until a transport official intervenes – then it’s ‘hassle-city’ and that could spoil your day).

We have many examples like this and our conclusion is that we need more mobility –  a scooter/motorbike would be perfect if we didn’t have dogs, but we do.

We’re happy with our ‘test’ platform so far and recognise that some compromise is always going to be required.

Perhaps, as a former IT Test Manager (in a previous life), I should have spent more time developing ‘test scripts’ before diving in to this UAT phase!

Not to worry, as we are the ‘users’ we can make allowances for not having formalised the process and the ‘FORMER’ in ‘former IT Test Manager’ is much more important to me now! For now it’s back to ‘the old days’ of cutting <our> code as we go!

A few more mentions on Camping Ria Formosa as they’re not included in the pictures herewith:

– there is an on-site restaurant/bar that also does a take-out chicken/chips for €4.50

– there is a mini-supermarket on-site

– the pictures hopefully portray the reality that this is a well cared for and well maintained site

– it is a mature ‘quiet’ site

– WiFi is better than most sites, Camping Ria Formosa have invested heavily in ensuring that WiFi is relayed to all points of the site – you don’t need a booster to gain access (don’t need an id/password either as the WiFi is ‘open-access’)


The entrance road into Camping Ria Formosa – Temporary parking area behind layby on the left – a railway line runs behind the parking area and also to the rear of the mobile homes situated on the left side of the main camping inner road – trains are infrequent and the noise is barely audible on the site


Reception and secured entrance/exit at Camping Ria Formosa


Turn left just after Reception and the main inner road has mobile homes to the left and 7 or 8 ‘Ruas’ on the right side – each of these being for Motorhome/Caravan pitches, although some rental log cabins and a few mobile homes exist in some areas


Camping Ria Formosa: the enclosed swimming pool at the eastern end of the ‘Ruas’


At the north eastern end of Camping Ria Formosa’s main inner road is this area dedicated for tents. Adjacent to the swimming pool area.


A resident giving a pre-polish wash to the roof of a Motorhome (Twernt!)


and the view towards Cabanas from Twernts roof – the sea is JUST visible – it’s that blue bit beneath the blue sky

Another resident tests out his cycle and dog carrier before venturing out into rush hour traffic of Cabanas (population 1181 inhabitants)


Centrally in one of the Ruas is this Pétanque pitch. You need balls to play this game


OK, that’s the flavour of Camping Ria Formosa – here’s the park owner relocating a newly purchased second-user mobile home down to a permanent pitch for the new owner to live in whilst enjoying his escapes to the winter sun of the Algarve. Somewhere in the region of €25K and €3K p.a. pitch fees gets you this type of set-up. Less on some sites and more on others – we saw one in France for circa €8K including new-ish decking and a half-terrace awning, pitch fees always seem to be around €2K to €4K p.a.


The mobile unit is manoeuvred out of the ‘sales’ pitch with only inches to spare


….. and is then skilfully persuaded towards a ‘forever’ site


Another example of a decked out mobile home – the owners of this one have a van conversion MoHo for their trips to/from Camping Ria Formosa


Another ‘permanent’ set-up at Camping Ria Formosa – Caravan, awning, 2 further tents and a canopy covering the entire – Plants a plenty for those with horticultural inclinations (not me!)


Another canopied set-up of a semi-permanent nature. There are about 4 such examples at Camping Ria Formosa, well cared for and they can be quite attractive but we’ve seen some that make some camp-sites look like. erm…….well, you know, imagine this without the plants and with a tatty canopy, no trees and an ancient pick-up parked outside – then imagine a lot of them on one site!


Now here’s a contender………..Log cabins that can be rented for 1 month+ at a good weekly rate during the off-peak months…….


Parking lot – outside area – small deck – saw at least one with a MoHo parked and using the cabin for his/her/their stay, another being used by a couple on a bike (a proper one – with a 1Litre+ engine)


A closer view of the log cabin – now for the really interesting bit – I costed out a 1 month stay in one of these puppies and the cost is LESS than £1 per night more than the cost of a 30-day+ pitch fee. So that’s a car/4WD/van conversion MoHo for travelling to/from Camping Ria Formosa and you get the atmosphere of a winter camping site instead of the isolation you get with a rented apartment – but then some would prefer that, but, for others, this is a low-cost solution and with similar deals in many areas of Spain/Portugal you could be good to go for 4 or 5 monthly rentals in different locations. Just a thought.


The centrally located pond at Camping Ria Formosa – for pond life


A central meeting area for whomsoever requires/desires/organises get togethers


Finally a few pics of some of the facilities – this is wasser nicht trinkbar. That means you can drink from here to your hearts content …… but you may die from it


For those that follow the ‘little voice in your head’ here is what it’s telling you – Drink water from here, you shouldn’t die


This is where to take your Thetford when you take it out for ‘walkies’


Ablutions Central – ‘Hey, you, the baldie 3rd in on the right that’s shaving – yes………. you – You missed a bit’


and you’ll always find a right shower in here


If you’re missing home and want to be reminded of what a Cadbury’s chocalate bar looks like – or if you’re fresh out of Marmite – there’s an British Supermarket nearby, well, I say Supermarket but think kiosk as opposed to Tesco’s

Next instalment very soon………………….


8 thoughts on “Cabanas: Camping Ria Formosa – 1. The Campsite/Statics – November 2014

  1. Sounds like you are doing the right thing, balancing staying put with moving on. We have a similar goal to yourselves, keep warm in the winter and see some of the rest of Europe in the spring and summer. We have also considered for the future a caravan sited for 6 months in the winter (summer storage in the local area is only 1E a night) then get a small moho for doing our travelling – we don’t need as much space when we’re on the road. We also find that people only really start to talk to you when you’ve been around over a week so on the road I get “people starved”. This is our second winter in Albir (Costa Blanca) and we’re staying 6 months. We’ve now got many friends, some are ex-pats living here. Iain even plays in a local pool team. This is more like home than anywhere these days. I love my dog, but it is a pain with public transport. The campsite is on the seafront (flat) which is about 2 miles long and goes to Altea. The town of Albir is very short walking distance and the dog trailer gets used more for shopping than the dog so we don’t have to worry about carrying essential supplies such as beer. There’s a bus every 20 minutes if we want to go into Benidorm which love it or hate (we do both) it has to be seen. We occasionally hire a car and last year shared the cost with another couple and used it alternate days – by the end of the week we had all had enough sight-seeing. On the med it tends to be a bit warmer than the Atlantic coast. Will definitely check out your current campsite when we do Portugal next spring – it looks good.


    • That’s a really good point Wendy – ‘people starved’! – we don’t have any other UK vans on this campsite at all and we’ve only seen 2 Brit-vans passing by locally in the last 2 weeks. Sadly, we don’t speak Spanish, German or French so our conversations with others is limited. Not a problem though as we have Skype and the folk back home satisfy our appetite for ‘people starvation’. If the site you’re on is called ‘Orange Grove’, you should have Beth and Nathanial on the site (their blog is – they may be on a different site? I don’t think that it would be a good idea to bring an RV sized MoHo onto this site, every newcomer is welcomed by existing campers who rush to assist with negotiating around the trees, the long-termers here must have seen quite a few ‘incidents’ – we’ve seen one ‘cruncher’ in 2 weeks out of only a handful of newcomers attempting to get into here. Lovely site though, better than next door! Four MoHo’s stayed in the parking lot next to the beach last night and another ‘official’ free parking area had five MoHo’s parked up last night, so ‘off-gridding’ is possible and both are next to the beach (it’s the Med here). We’re already itching to move on but there’s the small matter of a Christmas to deal with first!


  2. We stayed on this campsite in February/March 2010, it is very good value for money, unfortunately although it was warm (20 degrees plus most days) it rained most day’s, apparently they said it was the worst winter for many years. At that time Cabanas front was like a building site because they were developing the new promenade. I must say it looks really good now. Yes we liked Cabanas and found some really good restaurants on the front. You have ‘wetted my appetite’ to return there.


    • We did get some rainy days at Ria Formosa Graham but only 2 or 3 when we were pretty much confined to barracks and even then there would be a ‘dry window’ when we could take the dogs out. Amanda informs me that November is the month with the rain reputation in the Algarve. Our first week there (late October) was around 34°c – TOO hot! Totally agree with you on Cabanas and we would like to return there as well – just depends if I can get my head around what those Portuguese roads are doing to the van!


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