Lisbon, Portugal is a city of various steep hills, winding alleyways, historical beauty, and wonderful surprises at every possible corner. Within the city center, it’s best to explore on foot—but if you really want to see everything this destination has to offer, you might need to rely on some wheels.
This is where Lisbon’s public transportation comes in to make your exploration easier!
What you’ll find is that there will almost always be several ways to get to your destination. The option you go with will really depend on how much time you have to spare and what your travel style is. Keep reading to get the download on the best ways to get around town.
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HOW TO GET AROUND LISBON, PORTUGAL
For the majority of the time, you’ll either find yourself walking around Lisbon on foot or taking the Metro.
Central Lisbon is relatively compact, making it easy to explore on foot. In fact, it’s the only way to see some quintessential neighborhoods like the Alfama. But, there are pretty hilly parts of the city too.
In fact, Lisbon is a city of seven hills and no matter what you have planned for the day, you’ll likely find yourself walking up a hill at some point. Because the city is so hilly, you’ll find that walking 100% of the time isn’t exactly feasible.
For cases where you just don’t have the energy to take on another hill or you want to venture farther out to places like Belém, Lisbon’s got your back with their public transportation system that includes trains, buses, and trams.
In order to determine which option is best for you, simply pop in your starting point and destination into Google Maps to explore your options.
When I was last in Lisbon, I utilized the metro, the train, as well as the tram once, just for the heck of it. Otherwise, I definitely aimed to tire my feet out by walking to every corner of Lisbon possible!
Lisbon’s buses and trams are among the cheapest in Europe, making them affordable ways to help you explore the city. If you purchased a Lisboa Card, you can take advantage of unlimited travel by all public transportation, including the metro. Here are a few more details about each of the transportation methods available:
Lisbon has six tram lines operated by Carris, as well as a few elevators that will allow you to skip the need to manually walk up the city’s steep hills. If you’re not in a rush to get anywhere fast, taking these can be a fun way to discover the city and get those photo ops.
A tram ticket will set you back €2.90 (about $3.50 USD). Costs to ride the elevators vary.
Do note though, Tram 28 is now a tourist attraction, making it the most popular tram line. It’s no wonder it’s the most popular because It runs through some of Lisbon’s most iconic neighborhoods including the Alfama, Graça, and Chiado.
And because Tram 28 and the Santa Justa Elevator double as attractions, expect crowds during the majority of the day.
The metro is the quickest and most practical way to travel around the city. The metro network has a total of 4 lines that serve 55 stations, each denoted by a different color: green, blue, yellow, and red.
One of the reasons why it’s so convenient (and our preferred method of traveling around Lisbon) is that the metro operates every single day from 6:30am to 1am with trains running every 6 to 9 minutes.
If you’re a germophobe that tends to stay away from subways, don’t worry because they are very clean and well maintained! Lisbon’s Metro stations are designated by large M signs. A single ticket costs €1.45 (less than $2 USD). A day pass, which includes the use of buses, trains, and trams, costs €6.30 (less than $8 USD).
You’ll need to swipe your Viva Viagem card (or Lisboa Card) both when you enter and exit the metro, so keep it within arms reach for a speedy entrance and exit.
Lisbon’s bright yellow buses are cheap, quick, and efficient. Similar to the trams and elevators, the buses are operated by Carris. With a total of 170+ routes, buses can take you to a wide variety of destinations, including those you can get to by metro or tram. Bus rides do usually take longer than the metro, so if you had the option to choose between bus or metro, I’d recommend going with the metro.
Buses in Lisbon run from around 5am-1am. A single ticket purchased on board for a bus is €1.85 (about $2.25 USD). You can either pay the driver as you enter the bus or swipe your VIVA Viagem travel card or Lisboa Card.
If you are waiting for the bus at a bus stop, it’s completely normal to wave at the driver of the bus so that it doesn’t drive past you. Hop on via the front door, get off via the back door.
If you plan on visiting Sintra and Cascais, the commuter train (or comboios) will be the best option for you. In total, there are 67 stations within the four lines: Sintra, Cascais, Azambuja and Sado. If you’re a tourist, you’ll mostly be interested in the Sintra and Cascais lines.
Train services to Sintra depart from Rossio Station. Sintra is served by regular trains that run every 15-20 minutes and the entire trip takes about 45 minutes.
Train services to Cascais depart from Cais do Sodré Station. Trains run every 10-30 minutes and the journey takes about 40 minutes.
Remember to validate your ticket at the station before actually boarding the train. Your ticket will most likely be inspected once on board, so you don’t want to be on there without having paid for your trip!
If you’re not interested in public transportation, your other options include taking a tuk-tuk, taxi or Uber. These are relatively inexpensive compared to other parts of Europe and tend to be the most convenient method of getting around.
If you’re traveling with a larger group and plan to split the costs of taxiing or Uber-ing, this may be a viable method of transportation. Also if you’re going to be out late into the night, this will probably be the best option for you.
Do note that during rush hour, you’ll be sitting in your cab/Uber for a while thanks to all that traffic in the city!
USEFUL CARDS FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN LISBON
Save time and money with a Lisboa Card or a Viva Viagem card.
If you plan on visiting a bunch of sites, landmarks, and tourist attractions and you plan on taking a lot of public transportation in and around Lisbon, you should consider getting the Lisboa Card, an all-inclusive attraction and transportation card.
With the Lisboa Card, you can choose between a 24, 48, or 72-hour card that will give you free admission to 37+ museums and historic buildings, various discounts around the city, and unlimited free access to the public transportation system.
Not only will you save on admission costs and precious time waiting in ticketing lines, but you’ll also save a bunch on transportation costs!
The price of the Lisboa Card ranges from approximately €21 to 44 ($23 to $50 USD) depending on the duration of the card you select.
To use any means of public transportation, you’ll need to buy a Viva Viagem card.
The Viva Viagem card is a quick and easy way to pay for rides on public transportation in Lisbon. You won’t be saving any money as you would with the Lisboa Card, but they are pretty darn convenient.
This card can be used to travel on the metro, bus, tram, funicular, ferry, and commuter train without requiring you to pull out exact change each and every time. Simply preload your card and hop on board the transportation vehicle of your choosing!
You can purchase a Viva Viagem card at the ticket vending machines or ticket offices at any metro, ferry, and train station. The Viva Viagem card costs €0.50 and can be unlimitedly reloaded for one year after purchase.
If you’re traveling with others, you will need a separate card for each person. However, you can also lend a Viva Viagem card to someone else, but only if you’re not traveling at the same time.
HOW TO GET TO LISBON FROM THE AIRPORT
Located just 20 minutes away from the city center, getting from the airport to the city of Lisbon (or vice versa) is super easy and straightforward. You have a few options, depending on your budget.
The Lisbon Airport has a metro station with a direct line to the city center. Taking the ‘Aeroporto – Saldanha’ line will take you to downtown Lisbon in about 20 minutes.
Simply buy a Viva Viagem electronic card for €0.50, load it up (Single Fare Price: €1.45), and hop onto the subway. You’ll get off at whichever stop is closest to your hotel/accommodation.
The Aerobús is an affordable and easy-to-use shuttle service that links Lisbon Airport to the city center in just about 45 minutes. It consists of two routes, one runs through the city center and the other runs through the city’s financial district.
The Aerobús departs every 20 minutes and runs from 7:30 am – 9 pm. These buses have free Wi-Fi, USB chargers, and luggage compartments. A one-way adult ticket costs € 4 (less than $5 USD).
- One-way trip (Adult: €4.00, Child: €2.00)
- Round trip (Adult: €6.00, Child: €3.00)
Taking a taxi is going to be the most convenient method of getting to the city center. And surprisingly, it’s pretty affordable. It normally costs around €20 (about $25 USD) to get to the city center. One advantage of taking a taxi is that they’ll take you to exactly where you need to go (no need to walk around town with the hassle of your luggage/bags).
You can always find a taxi at the airport, as they normally line up outside the departures and arrivals terminals.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you should purchase a pre-paid ticket in the taxi stand before getting into any taxi. That way, you will know the exact price you’ll pay ahead of time. The ride will take approximately 20 minutes to reach your destination.
ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR GETTING AROUND LISBON, PORTUGAL
- With all the walking that you’ll be doing, make sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes. My all-time favorite travel shoes these days are the tried and true Ecco Soft 7’s (they’re stylish, comfortable, and have been raved about for decades since they were first created)! The best part is that they have them for both men and women.
- Tram #28 is especially popular with tourists, so it can be quite crowded. On really bad days, you can even find wait times to board at over an hour. If you want to try out the tram, aim to hop on board on one of the earlier trams of the day. The early bird gets the worm!
- Pickpocketing can be common in trams, particularly on Tram 28. Though Portugal has a fairly low crime rate, as with any major travel destination, it’s always best to take precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
- Consider getting the flexible Lisboa Card. You’ll get to enjoy unlimited travel on city transport, as well as free admission to 37 museums and historic buildings and get additional discounts throughout town!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: LISBON TRAVEL
IS LISBON SAFE?
The short answer is yes; Lisbon is considered to be an exceptionally safe city, especially when compared to other popular European destinations.
The crime rate in Lisbon is low compared to other major cities and most visitors report feeling safe while they are there. I’ve been to Lisbon twice and I’ve never encountered anything sketchy, other than the peddlers who try to sell you friendship bracelets by trying to tie them on your wrist as you pass them by!
Having said that, you should still take standard travel safety precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, not walking alone at night, and avoiding secluded areas.
And as with any major metropolitan city, pickpocketing can occur in tourist hotspots like on public transportation or near monuments. To avoid this potential issue, it’s best to keep your belongings in an anti-theft travel bag, keep them close by, and always remain vigilant when out exploring the city.
With that in mind, you should have an enjoyable and safe experience while visiting Lisbon!
IS LISBON EXPENSIVE?
When compared with other major cities in Europe, Lisbon is definitely not expensive. I’d say Lisbon is cheaper than cities like Paris, Milan, and Rome, but more expensive than cities like Prague, Budapest, and Krakow.
A cup of coffee rarely costs more than 1 euro, and wine/beer is not too much more expensive. And on the food side, local Portuguese food is very high quality and inexpensive.
While you can certainly rack up some hefty expenses in Lisbon, such as accommodation costs and dining out at higher-end restaurants, there are also plenty of ways to explore this vibrant city without breaking the bank.
In fact, many activities can be done for free or very low cost – walking around the streets of Alfama, taking free walking tours around the city, exploring Parque das Nações, or enjoying free admission to paid attractions with a Lisboa Card!
If you’re trying to do Lisbon on a budget, shopping at local markets, staying at hostels, and eating at cafés or casual counter-service restaurants can also help keep your costs down.
IS LISBON HILLY?
The answer is both yes and no, depending on where in Lisbon you are.
Lisbon does contain several hills, including many steep cobbled streets in its old quarter. However, for the most part, the streets are quite flat. This makes it easy to explore on foot or by bike without having to worry about tiring yourself out too quickly with all the inclines!
In some parts of Lisbon, you may come across quite hilly climbs, but this isn’t true for every area as there are plenty of parks and waterfront districts which offer great views without too much effort.
If you plan on taking public transport then don’t worry either; many buses and trams can make their way up steep hills with ease!