When you’re in Lisbon for more than 10 minutes and you look foreign, or even Portuguese but not uptight, you’ll be approached by gentlemen offering you marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, and whatever else the kids are doing these days for kicks. Their favorite areas to offer you things to put into your pipe/nose/vein include Rossio square, Cais do Sodré circle, certain corners of Bairro Alto and, now, Principe Real. We can’t testify to the quality of their product personally, but what we can say is this:
The cops know they’re there.
Where there’s one, there’s another dozen a whistle away. Probably 100 or more within a 1-minute jog. Like you and I, they carry mobile phones. They all know each others’ numbers.
There are about 30,000 of them by some estimates, actually, although they rotate throughout Portugal and beyond.
Drugs — all drugs, mind you — are decriminalized in Portugal. And have been since 2001. Read here how that’s worked out for the country (it has, and Portugal’s now used as an example for drug reform around the world).
Those friendly gentlemen weren’t really around before the drug reform, from what most people remember.
Pay attention to what the locals do when they see them.
Pay attention to what the cops do when they see them offering anything.
Draw your conclusions.
Don’t sell them insurance, many have tried.
In fact, don’t try to sell them anything.
They’re reserved, so no need to antagonize them with stupid questions about their name or origin. Unless you really want to know, of course.
They don’t take kindly to threats.
They’re very handy with skewers in particular.
They understand “no, thanks” in at least 45 different languages.