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Lisbon - Terreiro do Paço
Claudio Schwarz / UnsplashLisbon - Terreiro do Paço

Travel tips every Lisbon visitor should know about

Every first-time Lisbon visitor should follow these tips to avoid those typical tourist traps. You’re welcome.

Written by
Time Out Lisbon editors
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The people of Lisbon are good-hearted, but, like everywhere else in the world, there are always those who try to take advantage of tourists. So, ff you are planning a trip to Portugal's capital - as you should! - there are a few tips that could help make sure you have the best time. Start by getting those high heels out of your suitcase - there really is no point in bringing them-, learning how to dodge the queues and bypassing restaurants with large pictures of food at the front door. By the end of this article you will be a true Lisbonner. 

Recommended: The essential guide to get the best out of your Lisbon trip

Tourist survival guide

Pay attention to the bill at the end of the trip
Fotografia: Ana Luzia

1. Pay attention to the bill at the end of the trip

The years go by and the bad reputation of our taxi drivers lives on. The truth is, the windy trips with totally unnecessary detours made for the obvious inflation of the final bill are as real as the queue for pastéis de nata in Belém. If you still haven’t registered on one of the many transportations apps available in Lisbon, just make sure you’re not getting ripped off. In normal conditions, the trip from the airport to the centre of the city should cost about 10 euros. And follow this old trick: hail your taxi at departures instead of arrivals.

We speak English (and a bit of everything else)
©DR

2. We speak English (and a bit of everything else)

Portuguese people are known for their linguistic abilities, not to mention their hospitality. You’re very likely to find people who speak English better than average, and maybe even some French (especially in the older generations), or pretty good Spanish, but don’t push your luck – no one expects us to speak Armenian.

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Avoid the lines, top up your transport card in the metro
©Manuel Manso

3. Avoid the lines, top up your transport card in the metro

With a Viva card, you can choose the “zapping” option and travel across nine modes of public transportation with only one title. Top up any value you want at any automatic machine in the metro network, even if it’s a train or an elevator you want to take – you’ll avoid long lines this way.

No one will get mad if you arrive late
Fotografia: Ana Luzia

4. No one will get mad if you arrive late

Though a lot has changed over the years, including the increased attention paid to schedules, Portuguese punctuality is still far from the British standard. The tolerance is usually up to half an hour (if not more), so don’t be surprised if you’re the first one there because you arrived at the time agreed upon, just like a Swiss clock.

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Bring comfy shoes for the seven hills
©Manuel Manso

5. Bring comfy shoes for the seven hills

Lisbon’s beauty is unbeatable on Instagram, but remember that this is tricky terrain, with the city’s famous seven hills and slippery Portuguese pavement that turn the walking experience (better to discover every nook and cranny) into a real challenge. On the one hand, your breathing capacity will be tested to the max, but on the bright side, this city is basically an open-air gym. Bring your comfiest sports shoes or you’ll regret it. And don’t even think about heels.

Don’t take risks: book a table
©Mariana Valle Lima

6. Don’t take risks: book a table

The recent boom of trendy spaces and experiences, particularly strong in the restaurant scene, has made Lisbon’s gastronomy even more appetising, with a caveat: if you’re not quick enough, you risk not being able to get a table in the majority of popular venues (and this is a risk every night of the week, by the way). Do your homework (meaning, read Time Out), and whatever you do, book a table.

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7. Very typical? Think again

There’s one trend you should pay particular attention to: the shops and restaurants that are supposedly really old, but not actually. Since 1872? Very typical? In some cases, the tradition has just been created for the benefit of tourists, so be aware, especially in the heart of the city, the most fertile grounds for these traps.

Choose your fado house carefully
©DR

8. Choose your fado house carefully

Fado is Portugal’s traditional music – nothing new here – and suddenly became cool again in recent years, but know that not every venue is worth it, especially the ones for tourists. We’re here to help: in this edition you’ll find a guide of the best sites to listen to fado. Just fast forward until you reach the Music section.

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9. Beware of the pictures on the menu

It’s a timeless and universal classic: the plague of menus full of photos of dishes, whether in a list format or posted on the door, is one we believe very strongly we can avoid, and yet how many times have we been caught, when on tourist mode? As a general rule, if the menu is actually good, it doesn’t need to be paraded so much. Keep this in mind when walking around Baixa, Belém and other tourist hotspots.

10. Don’t pay ridiculous amounts of money for pressed bay leaves

It’s been sold all over Baixa for years. It’s one of the most expensive seasonings you can get your hands on in the city. They’ll tell you it’s hashish, it’ll really look like hashish, but it isn’t hashish. Which isn’t a problem, because you’re not one to go around buying hashish. But if you were, we’d advise you not to accept these offers. They’d only serve to season your steak – at best.

Where to stay in Lisbon

  • Hotels

The offer for hotels and hostels in Lisbon keeps growing to keep up with tourists pouring in to meet the capital. We’ve already covered the best hotels in Lisbon, but now we are narrowing it to the cream of the crop. If you are looking to live it large check-in at one of these best 5-star hotels in Lisbon.  Recommended: The best things to do in Lisbon

  • Hotels

It's the most popular neighborhood in Lisbon and it won't spare you with shops where you will lose your mind, restaurants to ruin your diet and mess up with your food restrictions and streets to get yourself lost. At the end of the day, enjoy the views and the comfort of some of the best hotels in Chiado. Recommended: the best neighbourhoods in Lisbon

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  • Hotels

Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon and its narrow streets contain some of Lisbon’s most historically important buildings, including the Sé Cathedral, Lisbon Castle, National Pantheon and Saint Anthony’s Church. And it’s also in its narrow and traditional streets that you can find nowadays the youngest, trendiest and fashionable area of Lisbon. And thank God, it did not lose its old charm with the amount of novelties in the recent years. Can you imagine a better place to stay in Lisbon? Book a room in one of the best hotels in Alfama. Recommended: the best places to see Fado music in Lisbon

  • Hotels

What makes a hotel cool? In coming up with this list of the coolest hotels in Lisbon, we considered a heady mix of factors – from definables like design, location, service, amenities, architecture, and value for money, to less tangible elements like ambience or history. Then we factored in what we think Time Out readers would want from a trendy hotel and ended up with this list of the coolest hotels in Lisbon with something for every relaxed aesthetic sense. Recommended: Best cheap hotels in Lisbon 

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