Ah, Lisbon! We’re very laid back here. So laid back that if you have dinner plans before a concert, you’re probably gonna be late for that concert, and if you thought you’d be able to go to three museums in one day – HA! You funny.
However, the locals know a few tricks to make life move just a little faster. Avoid long lines, avoid frustration, do more stuff with these tips (and send us more if you got ’em!):
Speed up Your Travel
- Planning to go to Estoril, Carcavelos or any of the other beaches along the Cascais line? So does everyone else. If you don’t want to spend 40 minutes waiting for the train ticket machines, get your transit card and/or fill it up with money the night before. Too late? Here’s another tip: go downstairs to the Metro and buy a Lisboa Viva Card from the machine or the kiosk – just make sure you choose the “Zapping” option, which will allow you to use it both on the metro and on the train to the beach (the train system is called “CP Comboios” in case you need to explain yourself to the kiosk attentdants).
- Skip Carcavelos and take a boat and/or bus to Caparica or another beach!
- Avoid transit, including buses, Ubers and taxis, around rush hour. It’s a beast in Lisbon, and everyone is angry during it. Go before or after.
Get Your Food and Drink — and your Bill — Faster
- Don’t go to a restaurant you read about in your in-flight magazine or see on TV. About 50,000 other people have the same idea. Be brave. Explore. There are always good alternatives for whatever you’re looking for.
- Once you’re at the restaurant, if you see a menu on your way in, ask your host if you can take it with you to the table. Menus are a rare commodity here and can be hard to get once you sit down.
- If you’re in a hurry, don’t choose something exotic from the menu, just go for one of the specials of the day, they always come out faster.
- Even if it looks like a good bar, it’s usually prudent to save the cocktail for bars dedicated to cocktails if you’re in a rush. Instead, go for a beer or a glass of house wine and you’re more likely to get it before anyone ordering cocktails.
- Don’t ask for the bill to be brought to the table. This is what you risk: you waive at your waiter to get their attention (sometimes you’ll need to do this up to five times). You get their attention, and you make the international hand signal for a bill. The waiter comes over and confirms you want the bill. Best case: he writes you the bill right there at the table. Worse case: He goes behind the counter or into the kitchen. He tells someone else to print out the bill. He comes back out three, four, five times, without your bill. You get the bill. You say you want to pay with a credit card. The waiter goes looking for a credit card machine (see “Worse case” above). He brings the credit card machine, tries your non-Portuguese card, it doesn’t work, he goes back to get another machine (see “Worse case”). Sounds annoying? It is! Instead, do as the locals do: don’t ask for the bill at the table. Walk right up to whatever looks like a cash register, whip out your wallet, and you’ll be outta there in 60 seconds or less. Don’t tell anyone.
Don’t Spend Your Day in Lines to See Lisbon’s Sights
- This is obvious to many, but let’s spell it out: Don’t go to the well-known Lisbon landmarks if you want to see anything without wating in line. If you saw it in a brochure, it’s probably going to be crowded and you’ll have to stand in a queue for a very long time (exception: Castelo São Jorge, which has perfected getting people in quickly. Kudos, Castelo!). There are plenty of things to see that don’t have long wait times.
Avoid Waiting at the Climbing Crag and the Surf Line-Up
- Just show up early. Lisbon’s surfers, climbers, footballers all like to sleep in, so if you get there before 9am, you’ll have the waves/cliffs/field to yourself.
When You REALLY Need to Go (Pee Pee)
- The bladder capacity of the Portuguese is likely higher than the rest of the world, which is the only way we can explain a club with a capacity for 300 having one bathroom for both boys and girls and why most of Lisbon’s public toilets cost money. And you shouldn’t wee on the street or in the park, because it smells awful and whatever you drank is going to kill the flowers. So what do you do when nature calls and there’s a massive line for the WC? We like to go to chain restaurants, shopping malls, and big-box stores, all of which have free restrooms by law. They’re anonymous and you can usually be in and out quickly, although we recommend asking a security guard where to go to save time. And avoid Starbucks — they now have “codes” to get into their loos that they only give out if you buy stuff. Kudos, Starbucks!