Getting around in Lisbon — public transport
Getting a ticket
You can get a one-way metro ticket for € 1.40 at the vending machines in the metro stations. Alternatively, you can buy a € 6 daily ticket (valid 24 hours). Don’t throw away the ticket when you used it, it can be recharged in the vending machines. It’ll save you 50 cents. Instead of paying per journey, there is also the option to just charge the card with a certain amount of money. This is called zapping. For example, if you plan to go to the beach by train and you don’t want to wait in line at the ticket office or the vending machine, zapping is a great way to go round. Validate your ticket with the zapping credit at one of those time-stamp pillars placed on the rail track platform.
It may be a good idea to keep the receipt as well as I have had several tickets that randomly stopped working, even when appearing undamaged. Also, pay in cash if you don’t have a Portuguese Multibanco card.
If you plan on staying for a longer period, you can get a monthly ticket for about 35 euros. It’s also valid for trains, which normally have a higher ticket price, and buses. Go to Marquês de Pombal metro station and ask for the form at the information point. When the line is too long, just go in front of the line and grab the form and fill it in while waiting. You will need to bring a profile picture. There are photo booths in most metro stations. The picture will cost you € 5 in the booth. The card itself will cost 12 euros (if you want to pick it up the next day, tick urgent on the form) or 6 euros (if you want to wait a week). Note the form is in Portuguese. It’s mostly straightforward but the employees will (reluctantly) correct or help when it’s finally your turn.
Public transport for freeloaders
If you plan to stay in Lisbon only shortly, moving around may get quite expensive for the budget traveller. Here are some tips for people who are looking for a free, albeit not legal, ride.
On the metro station, you will have to pass a gate to access the platforms. A common way to get in for free is to jump after a person in front. The gates are sometimes being watched by metro personnel, especially in central locations such as Baixa/Chiado and Cais do Sodré. If the gates are being watched when you come out of the metro, you’ll always have the option to walk to the other side and get a ride to the previous or next stop to try your luck there.
When entering the train within the Lisbon area, you don’t need to pass a gate. Tickets are occasionally checked on the trains. If you take the train outside the Lisbon area, you will have to pass a gate on exiting.
Buses are the easiest way to get around without a ticket. A ticket can also be bought from the driver. However, nobody would check whether you validate your ticket at the machine inside the bus.
Note that the fine for not having a valid ticket is around 100 times the price of the ticket. However, we never got a ticket when caught (this happened only twice).
Even once you have your ticket, be prepared for walking. Lots of walking. If you are going to stay longer, perhaps it pays off to get a bike. There are some strips of bicycle path scattered randomly over the city but as you won’t see many bicyclists, these paths are often used by joggers as they are a bit more comfortable and spacious than the ordinary footpaths with their many obstacles.
The first metro leaves at 6:30 AM. The last metro leaves at 1 AM. After this time, there are still some night buses leaving. If you’re in the center, find a night bus at the bus stops next to Rossio square, opposite the McDonald’s.
One important Portuguese word to remember: greve (strike). Those lazy metro people strike all the time and you won’t be refunded for the tickets you may already have. You can check for strikes at hagreve.pt. When there is a metro strike, you can try the bus but they’ll be full and possible won’t even stop for you.
Another common word you’ll see: perturbações when the metro is late again. Some information may be displayed about delays but usually delays are unexpected.
Although I would normally not take a taxi, I often had to take one to work because there was no public transport in the morning. An hour walk becomes a 10-minute drive, costing about € 6. The meter starts at € 3.50. Note that if you know where you have to go, most things in Lisbon are in walkable distance.
Although generally most Lisbonese speak English, this does not seem to be the case for taxi drivers. Be sure to pronounce where you’re going to correctly. In my experience, pronouncing Centro Colombo like “Centro Colombo” will get you to Santa Apolónia so say it a few times until the driver says “Ah, Clomb!” Drivers don’t always care about speed limits or red lights so especially with low traffic, you’ll arrive quickly.