The No-Nonsense FAQ for the Visitor to Lisbon

Are you planning a trip to Lisbon? Do you have questions? We have answers!

Are you planning a trip to Lisbon? Do you have questions? We have answers:

How do I say “Thank you?” 

Obrigado ( but the stress is on -ga-) for men, Obrigada (stress again on -ga-) for women.

Is the tap water safe to drink, out of the faucet?

Yes, almost everywhere in Portugal, but especially in Lisbon. Skip the plastic bottles, save the planet, save the streets of Lisbon. If you’re on a farm, ask whether it’s agricultural water, which is still fine for most of us who live here, but not for visitors.

Is Lisbon safe, crime-wise?

Yes, if you don’t start fights with the local drug dealers and keep your purse in your sight and hold on to your wallet on public transit and crowded touristy areas like markets and monuments, especially if you’re keen on wearing shorts. When we sit at cafés, we have our bag’s shoulder strap on our knees at all times. Theft is the biggest problem in Lisbon, but it’s almost never violent unless you go looking for that sort of thing.

Should I leave a tip?

The Portuguese don’t, but you can; 5% to 10% is more than generous.

Will they charge me for the bread, olives, cheese, etc., that they bring to the table without me asking?

Yes, you’ll get charged — but only if you have any of it. You can ask how much it is, or ask them to take it away. And don’t think this is “bad” food, because these little couverts, as they’re called, can be delicious, and usually, but not always, not too expensive. But pace yourself for the main course!

Can I drink alcohol on the street? Like, wine, beer, cocktails in a glass, or rum out of a bottle?

Yes, for now, but don’t be an asshole about it, and for heaven’s sake, keep your damn shirt, and especially your pants, on. You people…

Can I smoke weed on the street?

Not really. But neither do you have to go to a dark alley or abandoned building with that weird bearded dude (unless that’s your jam). Just be discreet, and again, don’t be an asshole.

Uber or taxi?

Uber is sometimes cheaper, and obviously always takes credit cards, unlike taxis, which only sometimes do. Taxi drivers very occasionally take advantage of tourists and drive longer than they need to, but usually, it works in your favor because they know of some traffic jam or street closure somewhere. Uber drivers may offer you temperature control, mints, and choice of music, but there’s nothing like catching a ride with a real Benfica fan in a taxi during a football match to give you a taste of local life! And taxi drivers know better routes to the airport than Uber drivers, typically (there are exceptions), and you can walk to a taxi stop or call a taxi if you need to (ask at a nearby cafe for a number). Also, taxi drivers don’t rate you on a social network, natch. But you do you, innovator.

Is 5€ too expensive for a regular beer by Sagres or Super Bock? 


For a craft beer?

Not for a pint, and you can usually get a smaller glass for far less at certain places.

Can I buy a local SIM card cheaply?

Yes, right inside the airport’s metro station, in fact (after you pass the turnstile, on the mid-level). In town, look for the Lyca Mobile signs in shops run, usually, by immigrants. Lyca plans are dirt cheap and include international calling too. [UPDATE Feb 3, 2019: Lyca plans are no longer the cheapest unless you plan to make a lot of international calls, primarily eastward. Your best bet now? Find a shop that also has other mobile plans and ask the person behind the counter for what’s the best deal for your needs. They’re inevitably very, very helpful.]

Do I need Portuguese to get by in Lisbon? And Portugal in general?

In Lisbon, not really — most younger Portuguese speak not one but two foreign languages, actually. Outside of Lisbon, the situation varies, but you should be able to get by with English or French or a combination thereof.

Should I try to speak Portuguese?

Absolutely! You’ll be treated as a guest instead of as a tourist! Here are some basics.

Can I just speak Spanish in Portugal?

If you really, really don’t want to learn basic Portuguese… But in general, don’t. Here’s why.

Are there any free museums in Lisbon?

Basically, no. Ok, there are two right now. But there are days when a lot of the others are free for some people, anyway.

Are there free concerts and stuff?

In the summer, tons! And even throughout the year, there are free shows, sometimes in venues that you would have to normally pay for. See our calendar for free events throughout the year, and these tips for discounts.


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2 Responses

  1. About tips. I’m portuguese and I can say we usually tip 5 or 10%, depending on satisfaction. It’s really a nonsense saying the portuguese don’t tip.

    1. This is a good point! It’s true that some Portuguese leave 5 – 10% but it’s not obligatory as it is in the states. I think that tipping here is more an exception to the rule, wouldn’t you agree?

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