Lisbon has been recently re-discovered by the rest of world but there are a few simple things to know before visiting Lisbon that will make your trip even better. From the many guests we’ve receive over the past years, we realize that there are some things that if the knew before hand, they would have enjoyed even more their visit.
Altough it’s located at the southwest tip of Europe and isn’t as centrally-connected as other countries, Portugal has a life vibrancy that is infectious. Everyone is happy and friendly, the food is delicious, and the weather in Lisbon is amazing.
How to get around Lisbon
You should know before visiting Lisbon that public transportation is quite good nowadays. The underground fares start at 1.45€/single ticket and will take you basically anywhere within a comfortable walking distance. Taxis are quite cheap and you can always call an Uber.
The bus system is a bit tricky but it’s cheaper than taxis and quite extensive.
If you want to visit Cascais or Sintra, there are fast trains that will drop you off at the centre of these villages in a half an hour journey.
There’s also car sharing, bicycle renting and even Asian style tuk-tuks.
You can get a Lisbon Card that allows you to travel for free and enjoy free access to Lisbon’s best museums and attractions.
Obviously you cannot forget Lisbon Trams. They are not just for tourist rides. They serve the public and are use by locals to commute. But, besides being a good way to get you from A to B, a tram ride is also a good experience.
How do I get money, money, money!
Portugal is in the Euro zone. The currency is Euros and it will be very difficult that any business will accept other currencies (except some hotels). In case you arrive at the airport without Euros, there thousands of ATMs (look for Multibanco signs) in all international airports and towns. So you can withdraw Euros directly from your bank account. Also, Portugal was the first country in the world to have a unified banking system where you can withdraw cash from any ATM machine. So all country is well covered with these machines and, except a few small restaurants, almost every business accepts credit and debit cards. Just check your banking fees first.
If you exchange money at home, avoid bringing bills larger than 50 Euros. If your currency exchange provider has given you a stack of 100, 200 or worse, 500 Euros notes, take them into a local bank when you arrive to get a stash of smaller notes. Not all places accept bills over 50 Euros.
Do I need to learn some Portuguese words/phrases.
No need! You don’t need to take portuguese classes before visiting Lisbon.
Portuguese take a lot of pride in their culture and language, but they always speak either English or try some sort of Spanish or French in order to help you. Nothing gives more pleasure (except food and wine, of course) to a Portuguese than helping tourists, giving them directions and best restaurant tips. There is however a bit of cultural shock that you can avoid if you try to speak portuguese.
A lot of people speak English and will communicate with you in some form or another. You won’t ever feel lost or misguided.
Safety in Lisbon
Different outlets and indexes rank Portugal repeatedly in the top 10 of the most peaceful countries in the world.
According to 2017 Global Peace Index Portugal is the 3rd most peaceful country in the world.
Having said that, here are some pointers you should know before visiting Lisbon:
- Large cities (Lisbon and Porto, essentially) are metropolitan areas, with all the characteristics of such. You can go anywhere and walk around freely. Areas near the centre are perfectly safe to wander day and night, because there is always someone out as well.
- Be aware of pickpockets, many of them are not even Portuguese. Tourists also attract this kind of thieves from other countries.
- On other Portuguese regions/cities that are not particularly touristic, you’ll find that people tend to mind their own business. At night it should be rare find anyone roaming around, unless it’s on those hot summer nights.
- Violent crime ratios are low and occurring incidents are mostly passion related.
- There is little worrying about displaying jewellery. It’s very rare to have someone pointing a knife (even rarer a gun) at you. Just beware of those damn pickpockets.
- If someone leaves a tip (generally coins) to a waiter, they generally tend to stick around to wait it’s collected (and not stolen). In any case, it’s fairly common to see coins on top of the table and the next visitors will sit down without touching it.
- Police forces are generally peaceful and act when necessary.
- People will help you if you need assistance.
As you probably know, drugs are decriminalized in Portugal. That doesn’t mean all Portuguese take drugs. In fact, it’s very rare to see even someone smoking a joint in public. The only difference is that we see drug addiction as a disease and try to help these people get treated, instead of turning them into criminals.
DRUGS SOLD ON THE STREET ARE A SCAM
Recently, in tourist areas, there has been a big increase of drug dealers offering drugs to tourists. This is very annoying and even considered a shame by Portuguese people. Unfortunately, the Police can’t even arrest these dealers because they don’t sell drugs. They sell flour instead of cocaine and pressed laurel instead of hashish. They could only arrest them if someone would press charges against them for fraud, since it’s not a public crime. But who’s going to officially complain that they got scammed when buying drugs?
These “drug” dealers don’t harm anyone. They are just incredible annoying.
Keep an eye on personal items
Travellers should always keep an eye on their personal items like purses and backpacks. It is crucial to keep this in mind in the more tourist-filled spots. Don’t place purses on the floor, especially while sitting at café terraces and even waiters may remind you to place personal items on empty chairs beside you (but don’t rely on them to warn you). Theft isn’t a major problem in Portugal, but it’s also not immune to it.
That nice person helping you park your car is looking for a tip.
Portugal is incredibly car-friendly but the cities experience a bit of a parking problem. At times, a man may begin waving you into an open spot. It doesn’t matter if you saw it first or if there’s plenty of vacant places. You may be approached for a tip. If you don’t give them anything usually nothing happens, but just give the man 50 cents to help him buy some wine.
Bring your walking shoes!
If you love to hike, then Lisbon is perfect for you.
Also known as the beautiful 7 hills city, you can have really interesting urban hikes, from going up to the castle down to the riverside in minutes, climbing up again to a great sight seeing viewpoint.
From street art hikes to incredible top viewpoints where you can see the entire city, the river and even the ocean, you can find hiking routes in Lisbon and discover the city in a healthy way.
Enjoy the sun, light and weather while visiting the traditional and picturesque Lisbon neighbourhoods and hike in one of the most beautiful capitals of Europe. The winter is perfect for long walks and remember, that Lisbon is one of the safest cities in the world, so if you get lost, you can always find someone to point you the right direction.
Sun and light
Lisbon light is bright and famous. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, you can understand why so many cinematographers and photographers love to work or visit Lisbon.
If you are an amateur photographer, bring your gear. From the viewpoints you can find some perfect scenic and landscape spots and during the day, when the sun is high, you’ll find it perfect for some black and white street photography.
Too much light can also be a problem, especially if you have a whiter skin. Don’t forget to bring sun screen and sun glasses. Even in winter.
These are 5 simple things you should know before visitng Lisbon will make your visit perfect. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, drop us a line or send us a Whatsapp . We’re glad to help you.
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