Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling to Lisbon Portugal (Like how a Limp Bizkit fan would Avoid a Backstreet Boys Concert)
Even if you follow my blog on a somewhat irregular basis and have no idea that I was traveling to Lisbon Portugal:
You’ve still probably read some of the crazy shizzle that happens to me while I’m unglamorously traveling the world. Ans trust me, my Lisbon Portugal travel experience was no exception to this general rule.
While some of my experiences are hilarious and make for some epic tales of lunacy after the proverbial dust settles, (like that one time when a crazy lady in Greece randomly started spitting at me and calling me a bastard son of a bitch) other instances not so much.
Take my multiple, travel to Lisbon Portugal fails:
They were downright annoying, rotten, and no good; something I NEVER want to go through again, like my horrendous flight experience with TAP Portugal when traveling to Lisbon.
So as you probably gathered from this mildly ominous intro:
This Lisbon Portugal travel guide is about mistakes, mistakes, and oh yeah, more mistakes because when Kelly (aka Girl with the Passport) hits a new country, calamity ensues and general shenanigans are a go.
Rest assured though:
My travel disasters and resulting Lisbon travel tips are really nothing too serious.
I typically feel like Ashton Kutcher is punking me and wanna be like, “All right Ashton, fun’s over. You can come out now.”
So instead of bemoaning my mildly bad luck:
I try and grow from my experiences, like a somewhat introspective thirtysomething and create a travel in Lisbon Portugal guide that details what NOT to do, in a mildly humorous way.
So without any further ado and unnecessary verbiage:
I give you this list of tips for visiting Lisbon; travel hacks and Lisbon insider tips that I accrued from actual, real-life locals (Hmm, maybe I should open a Lisbon travel agency? Kidding! No way am I that knowledgeable).
1. Not Eating as Many Portuguese Pastries as Possible (This piece of silly Lisbon travel advice makes this the best Lisbon travel guide ever. LoL)
This may be total foodie blasphemy but I feel like the pastries in Lisbon were on par with those that I found in Paris.
I too always think of Paris when I contemplate exquisite pastries that are expertly interwoven with champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
When I longingly daydream about the warm, flaky, phyllo dough pastry that I devoured in Sintra (it was slathered in a sweet and creamy almond flavored custard for good measure), I want to cry out in gastronomic ecstasy because I could easily have eaten an entire box of these deliciously baked carb bombs of awesome.
I wouldn’t have felt an ounce of guilt about eating twelve of them.
Okay, maybe I would have felt a little guilty:
But whatever, calories don’t count while you’re on vacation. So pack some elastic waist pants and prepare to say goodbye to any intentions of maintaining a low carb diet while you’re on vacay.
Totally not worth it in Portugal.
Besides, eating sensibly is something you can do at home so that you can eat your face off while on vacation. At least that’s what I do and if that makes me crazy then so be it (stop by in Belem for a tasty treat as you travel from Lisbon airport to city centre).
***The food scene in Lisbon is so amazing that you may want to save time and money by joining a culinary tour of Lisbon.
2. Slipping on the Sidewalk Tiles
Not sure if you know this:
But Lisbon, and Portugal in general, kind of have a thing for tiles.
And while Yes:
The tile work throughout Lisbon, and Alfama especially, is gorgeous to say the least, this artistic medium can be a bit tricky to walk on in the rain.
When these tiles get wet:
You feel like you’re ice skating on top of a giant slip and slide ((Maybe I can score some pity, Lisbon travel deals if I look pathetic enough).
And yes, I’m as graceful as a moose.
That’s why I would proceed with caution in the rain since the last thing you want to do is break your hip while you’re partying like a rockstar in Lisbon.
You probably won’t break a hip because you’re not 90 (I checked my demographics and if you were, I’d have denture ads).
You may sprain an ankle and that really isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, except maybe a lawyer (talk about a Lisbon solo travel nightmare).
3. Visiting Belem Tower (Welcome to Belem Lisbon Portugal)
Belem is an amazing neighborhood in Lisbon (check out a Belem Lisbon map for more details) that has these nuggets of deliciousness known as egg tarts (okay they are pastel de nata but my Portuguese is about as good as my Chinese, meaning its nonexistent). Yum!
Belem has museums for things that you didn’t know needed a museum (a water museum?), the gorgeous Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos (I played it cool and was all pensive and brooding in the corner), and the pretty in pink house for the President himself (the home was adorned with some pretty tasty, I mean handsome guards).
These Lisbon attractions do make Belem an awesome part of your Lisbon Portugal travel plans, I don’t suggest trekking to the top of Belem Tower (one of my handy Lisbon travel tips for you).
Sure, the tower is lovely:
A magnificent, historic structure that protected the city from barbaric heathens that were hell-bent on destroying Lisbon, but it’s not really worth a trip inside.
Not only are the stairs steep and seemingly never-ending (Harry Potter, stop enchanting my staircase):
They were also incredibly narrow and take forever to ascend or descend because the staircase is only wide enough for one person at a time (womp womp womp).
Some engineering genius created a light system where you can only move in the direction of the green light, and for a minute and 30 seconds at a time.
As a result:
Climbing the stairs can feel even longer than a trip to the DMV. I shudder though because I went during OFF season. I cannot even fathom how long it would take to trudge up and down this iconic structure in the summer.
And while the view is nice but it’s not worth the hassle:
You can get better and cheaper views of the city at Miradouro de Santa Catarina, Elevador de Santa Justa, Largo das Portas do Sol, Miradouro da Graça, Basílica da Estrela, and more (You’re welcome in advance for this awesome piece of Lisbon travel information. Kidding! I’m not that insightful).
***I also felt this way about the castle Lisbon Portugal. Castelo de Sao Jorge (you get discounted admission with a travel card Lisbon). It’s not like the castle was bad but the site was just rather bland. There was very little information to explain the history and purpose of the structure. That’s why it felt like I was paying for a glorified view of the city.
4. Take Your Ticket (I might be the only one who needs this type of Lisbon travel advice)
This one sounds pretty obvious but give me a chance because this guide isn’t all travel and leisure Lisbon (lol).
Maybe this isn’t the most earth-shattering of all my Lisbon Portugal travel tips but you should know that the citizens of this city have an affinity for tickets.
And not just any tickets, like to ride a train while traveling in Lisbon.
No, these tickets hold your place in line for well, pretty much anything.
For my American readers:
The tickets in Portugal are similar to those that you would find at a deli counter. You know, the ones that you pull out of the machine, that don’t really mean anything because no one really cares about the number. They are just kind of there so that everything appears more organized than it really is.
Now Bare in Mind:
These tickets are found not just at tourist attractions you would find in a Lisbon Portugal travel guide but in random (random to me but obviously not to locals) public places like the Tourism Office and the Pharmacy.
So don’t be like me.
Don’t assume that these tickets aren’t a big deal, because they are.
I was waiting in line at the Tourism office and didn’t realize that I needed a ticket before I got in line.
I figured That:
it wouldn’t matter, but it did. I was promptly escorted to the back of the line because I simply didn’t have a ticket for the number that was called.
So whatever you do:
Make sure that you hold onto your ticket because without it people probably won’t serve you.
5. Waiting in Line for the Santa Justa Lift (Elevator)
So I had no idea this even existed:
But the Santa Justa elevator is an architectural icon that is symbolic of Portugal’s close relationship with France.
Have no idea what I’m talking about?
Just think of this lift as a mini Eiffel Tower.
EVERYONE and their brother, cousin, and sister’s dog add this to their Lisbon travel itinerary and all want to ascend this elevator so that they can procure an epic snapshot of the enchanting panoramic views of Lisbon that lie at the top.
What on earth would you do if you didn’t obtain these pics for your Instagram and Facebook accounts?
Totally being sarcastic by the Way in this travel guide to Lisbon.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the lines for this elevator can be as long as a receipt for CVS.
No need to wait in line for this view.
Believe it or not:
There is an access bridge, behind the elevator, that you can use to skip the line completely. Just buy a ticket for €1.50 so that you can climb to the top, and snag a spectacular view without waiting for more than two minutes.
There is a decrepit looking church in the back of the elevator that is actually worth a visit.
This church is actually Carmo Archaeological Museum and is closed on Sundays, but stop by on any other day of the week, while traveling around Lisbon, and marvel at this building’s exquisite interior.
6. Eating at an Overrated Touristy Restaurant
I’ll admit it:
This Lisbon travel tip is kind of lame since it can apply to basically any city that any tourist has ever visited (Like in my Italy travel mistakes post).
But this one is so important.
We’ve all eaten at overpriced, overrated restaurants since we’re not from the area and have no idea where to go.
I know you’ve gotten to that point where you’re so lost, tired, and hungry that you don’t care where you eat or how insanely expensive it is because your head is throbbing and you wanna throat punch anyone you meet.
I Get it.
Hangry is indeed a very real state of being that has overwhelmed me many times in my life.
So to help you avoid this predicament:
I highly suggest that you stop what you’re doing and speed walk straight towards Rua de Duque. All along this quaint side street are a ton of restaurants that the locals frequent and that won’t eat up your entire food budget (lame pun intended. Insert cheesy drum roll here).
And you know the food is amazing since you’ll find nothing but locals here (except you, duh).
And the location is epic.
This street is tucked far away enough to avoid tourists, but close enough to Rossio Train Station (Maybe a 5-minute walk up a small hill and to the left) that you’ll be able to find it.
7. Booking a Fado Tour
If you have no idea what Fado is:
I wouldn’t feel too bad. I thought I had properly researched all potential Lisbon travel experiences But then as SOON as I got there, everyone kept talking about Fado and I looked at them like they were speaking in tongues.
I thought it was some strange venereal disease, but thank God I was wrong. So no, Fado isn’t an STD or some ritualistic sacrifice that you need to attend.
I learned so much about Lisbon Portugal, like the fact that Fado is a form of traditional Portuguese music; a soulful folk music that is performed throughout the city.
You’ll literally see signs for it everywhere while you’re traveling around Lisbon.
Since I had no idea what Fado was I didn’t make reservations to attend a performance.
As a result:
I was terrified that I wouldn’t find a restaurant where I could watch a performance (can you tell I suffer from anxiety? LoL).
I booked one of those insanely overpriced, around Lisbon tours (not one of the best Lisbon tours) that I would NOT recommend.
The performance was lovely but it was not amazing enough to justify the insane amount of money that I spent on the tour (So much money that I’m not gonna tell you how much because it’s really embarrassing).
You do not need to make my mistakes and book an overpriced Fado tour. If I could do it all over again, I would reserve a table at Tasca do Chico Fado and call it a night.
This Fado Club is supposed to be amazing:
So be sure to make a reservation. And what the club lacks in square footage it makes up for in ambiance.
You never know who will turn up and do an impromptu performance. The club also has a great, central location and is a ten-minute walk from the Baixa-Chiado metro station in the Barrio Alto neighborhood in Lisbon.
***What you can book instead is an amazing day trip to Sintra and Cascais. Truly gorgeous places that can be difficult to access using public transportation. At least, I booked this tour and am so glad I did because some of the hills were pretty crazy. Thank God for the tour guide and his van.
8. Boarding Tram 28 in the Middle of the Day
You know those vibrantly colored cable cars that are plastered all over Instagram?
Yeah, those bad boys are from Lisbon. This form of Lisbon public transportation is known as a tram (shocking, I know).
Now bear in mind:
These trams are sometimes the only way that locals can access the more remote and hilly regions of Lisbon, that are not reachable by bus, (so don’t be the dick that doesn’t let the local ride the tram home),
This mode of transportation is a fun way to tour Lisbon and experience some of the historic charms that this city has to offer.
Now while there are several different tram options available:
The Lisbon Portugal tram that you’ll hear about ad nauseam is tram number 28.
At some of the more central stops:
People will actually wait hours just to board this tram. I mean I would never do that because I’m from New York and have no patience for that kind of wait.
Because the journey aboard tram 28 is absolutely lovely:
I suggest riding the tram either early in the morning or late at night when most people are onto. This way, not only will you avoid a long wait but you will also avoid the feeling of being squished into a sardine can as you are packed into the tram with 20 other people (And not an exaggeration. Claustrophobia party of one).
Now, if neither of these options is appealing to you:
You can also try to board the tram at a less popular stop. I boarded the tram near Lisbon Cathedral and had no problem getting on and off tram 28.
So definitely consider this option:
Unless you relish getting up at the ass crack of dawn or partying the night away on a local Lisbon tram (Pink Street is a great place to party it up and the perfect spot to find some of the best Lisbon bars. For me partying sadly means staying up past 10 pm).
***Because Tram 28 is insanely crowded, pickpockets love to hang out here so PLEASE guard your belongings or you could find yourself putting someone else’s kids through college by accidentally giving away your social security number.
***Purchase your tickets before boarding the tram because tickets are much more expensive on board.
9. Missing the Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo. One of my favorite Lisbon travel experiences)
Before visiting Lisbon, I didn’t fully appreciate the significance of tile work in the Portuguese culture and architectural landscape. But this distinctly Portuguese, artistic medium was actually originally adopted from the Moorish people and has since become an integral and hella awesome part of the Lisbon cityscape. So much so that this form of art even has it’s own museum (Actually, this isn’t a big deal in Lisbon since they have a museum for everything from beer, to cars, to water) that is totally worth a visit and free if you purchase a Lisbon Card (more on that later).
At this museum, not only will you see historic tile mosaics, but you will also witness stunning modern reinterpretations of this ancient art form. I mean, not only is there a full scale model of the entire city of Lisbon before it was destroyed by the infamous earthquake of 1755, but there is also a full scale church within the museum that displays exceptionally beautiful tile work that, not surprisingly, exemplifies more religious themes that are centered on Catholicism. Therefore, I truly believe that no trip to Lisbon would be complete without visiting and absorbing this uniquely Portuguese form of artwork (Even if you hate the museum, the modest entrance is adorned with cascades of enchanting fuchsia flowers. Romantic right? Where’s that night in shining armor when you need him).
10. Flying to Lisbon with TAP Portugal
This was by far the BIGGEST mistake that I made during my Lisbon trip (bigger than deciding to eat that fifth pastry in a row. Oops). Now, I won’t get into details because last week’s post explained the whole insane experience in gruesome detail, but let’s just say that while scoring some Lisbon flight deals, I booked my trip through TAP Portugal and was bumped from my flight (along with 25 other people). My flight then got delayed the next day; a flight that I later missed because of misinformation from my airline. I was subsequently bumped from my flight again because the airline proceeded to give me and another passenger the same seat.
Therefore, I cannot in good conscience recommend this airline to you, even though you may have a much better experience than me (I really hope you do. But just in case bring a horseshoe, four leaf clover, and David Beckham’s magical feet to be extra safe).
However what I can say, as I try to be as diplomatic as humanly possible, is that everyone should have their own experience and form their own opinion about an airline or q company. And that’s all I’ll gonna say about that because people get rather indignant anytime you leave a negative review (That’s an understatement. You should have seen some of the nasty things that people said to me under the guise of “criticism”. I had no idea calling me a total idiot was a form of constructive criticism. But moving on. New week, new post).
11. Staying in an AirBnB Lisbon Portugal that does not support sustainable tourism
This is another issue that I’m not going to delve into too deeply because I really don’t know enough about the subject to speak on it in a mildly intelligent manner. However, what I can say is that in recent years, Lisbon has blown up (not literally) and become a major tourist destination for traveler’s all across the globe. You know, kind of like Iceland. No one knew anything about it and then all of a sudden, bam, it became known as the land of fire and ice and now all you see are Diamond Beach pics splashed across your Instagram feed (I’m not complaining because the country is freakin’ stunning).
Well, when you have such an incredible influx of tourists, people try to capitalize off this by catering to the needs of anyone visiting the area. As a result, older buildings in Lisbon have been renovated and converted into AirBnbs and not apartment buildings, since owners can make more money by renting to tourists than by renting to locals (prices of daily goods like coffee have also skyrocketed). The result is that many locals can no longer afford to live in the area and are being priced out of the city. So unless you want to visit a city full of tourists (an option that has appealed to no one ever), make sure that you stay somewhere that is officially registered with the Tourism Office of Portugal (You don’t want to inadvertently support the guy who is basically pricing locals out of the city).
12. Not protecting yourself from pickpockets
So I don’t know about you but sometimes I get overly confident in my ability to avoid catastrophe while traveling abroad and kind of throw caution to the wind. Like when I was in Barcelona and put my wallet in my bright pink backpack and wore a bright green shirt that screamed, “Pillage me” to any local criminal. Clearly I was not as cautious about pickpockets as I should have been.
Anyway, that’s why when I went to Lisbon I wasn’t super concerned about pickpockets but they are out there. Very much alive and well. And you need to be aware of them because if you’re not careful, you could lose some of your most valuable possessions or money. For me it’s always money (what you don’t want to voluntarily hand over your social security number and pin number to a total stranger so that you can support him or her in the manner the he or she has become accustomed to? What’s wrong with you? LoL).
But my story is pretty simple. I knew someone was too close to me, but I just kept stopping and crossing the street and walking faster to avoid her. Well, she must have gotten close enough to open my bag because before I knew it, I had some kind soul informing me that my bag was out there, flapping in the breeze. Thank God I had nothing valuable in my backpack because if I had then I would have been totally screwed. So the moral of the story is that all those ominous signs telling you to beware of pickpockets are not just there for decoration (Who knew? Kidding!).
13. Not Using the Lisboa Card (Lisbon travel card)
A lot of cities use these city cards, like the Lisbon day travel card, and I always wonder, “Is this worth it or am I totally getting taken advantage of because I’m a naive tourist?” Well, I am gonna make it super simple for you and emphatically declare that yes, the Lisbon Card is totally worth it.
To purchase this card you can go to a tourism kiosk or order a card online. Before you get your card though, you have to choose between a 24 hour card for € 19.00, a 48 hour card for €32.00 or a 72 hour card for €40.00. And no need to worry about the card expiring because the card is electronic and will activate once you use it for the first time.
With this card, not only can you ride trams, buses, and the metro for free, but you also receive either a discount or free admission to literally hundreds of attractions across the city. I recommend a 24 hour card but it depends on how much you want to explore Lisbon itself. I only spent a day in the city center so the 24 hour card was perfect for me since I entered the Lisbon Cathedral and Tile Museum for free (okay not really because I bought the card but you know what I mean) and received discounted admission to the Lisbon Castle and various other sites. So as you can see, the card quickly pays for itself and is an easy and economical way of exploring all the cultural diversity that Lisbon has to offer and living out your Lisbon travel itinerary.
14. Getting Ripped Off by a Taxi From the Airport
This one is always the worst. I mean, let me set the scene for you. You’re exhausted and have just emerged from customs after an insanely long flight with some hardcore, gut wrenching turbulence that was thrown in for good measure. You’re in a new city, have no idea where you’re going, and really just want to get to your hotel room and crash into bed (if Justin Timberlake is waiting there for you, even better).
So rather than try to navigate a foreign metro system, with your bigger than the Titanic size suitcase in tow, you elect to eff it and just hail a taxi instead. And sure, you know that it’ll be a little more expensive than taking the metro, but you had no idea that it would cost you twice as much as everyone else (I guess your luggage, brand new sneakers, and Hubble telescope size camera gave you away as a tourist).
Yeah, this happens to the best of us, including a dear friend of mine. Well, I have it on authority that a taxi ride to the airport should cost you about 10 euros. Obviously it depends on where your hotel is but the price should be around this number. Anything significantly higher and that means that you are getting RIPPED OFF big time.
15. Don’t Throw Out Your Non-reusable Metro Ticket
This one is kind of a random and I’m probably the only totally clueless traveler who did this but whatever, I’m gonna say it anyway because maybe this little snippet of advice will help someone, somewhere out there in the great beyond (sorry I’ve been watching WAY too much Stranger Things).
But what I’m really trying to say in way too many words is that if you have a non-reusable ticket for the metro, save it because you will need it to both exit and enter the metro. I kept idiotically throwing mine out because you don’t need a ticket to exit the New York City subway. As a result, I had to do a little impromptu dumpster diving to escape the confines of the metro. So don’t be like me and hold onto your ticket like it’s your first born or your ticket out of subterranean prison. Whatever works. Oh and PS, the Lisbon metro is also super easy to use.
See what I did there? O fim is actually Portuguese for the end! Pretty clever right? I’d laugh if it was wrong because I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t speak a word of Portuguese and had to look this up on Google. So may the google Gods be ever in my favor. That and I really wish (on a genie in a bottle) that you make it to Lisbon ASAP because it’s kind of sort of a big deal. I mean, did I see everything I want and become a total expert on the city? No, not really. But I did explore a beautiful and culturally vibrant city that I hope to return to someday. That and I have created this list of Lisbon mistakes that will maybe, kind of, sort of, help you possibly an even better trip than you thought you would, at least that’s the plan.