When you visit Lisbon, don’t even contemplate renting a car. The traffic is crazy and the streets are uneven cobblestone narrow lanes. Picturesque the crooked quaint streets are, but you do NOT want to drive here. Trust me. Instead, enjoy the public transportation system and treat yourself to a tuk tuk too.
If you are a typical American, you are dependent on and feel lost without your own car. In Europe, it’s practical and easy to let someone else do the driving. So here’s a quick guide to public transportation in Europe. Buy your travel card (could be paper or plastic depending on country) and use your credit card to put money on it to use as needed at the machine at the bus/train/trolley station. We usually start with 10 euros on each of ours and then “top off” or add more $ at the machines as we use it up. Ride costs vary but are usually 1-2 euros each trip. Machines will be around the stations, usually with a line waiting to use, and just step up when it’s your turn, select your language and the machine will walk you through the process. Easy peasey.
As you proceed with your card/ticket, you will either just slap it on the pad at the machine turnstyles to enter the station or at the station just inside the door as you enter the trolly or sometimes it will be fed into the machine and spit out on the other side. Just watch the other passengers and follow in style. Grab a map of the subway or trolley lines at the station and off you go! Most systems are color coded, i.e. in Lisbon we took the red line to the blue line to get around the entire town. Inside the subway, trolley, etc. you will usually see a map of the system with the stops called out. Just watch for your stop and if you miss it, get off at the next stop and switch tracks to go back. It happens! Keep your card handy as you sometimes have to use it to get out of the turn styles upon arrival. Make sure you look for the green light vs. the red light so the exit you pick is active. Don’t be that crazy American tourist trying to exit a closed lane.
I have to give Lisbon A+ for their public transportation. In addition to a great metro (subway) system, they have trolleys/buses for easy around town travel and trains to get out of town and explore Sentra, Porto, Evora, etc. All except the trains use the one transport card. For trains, you have to get a separate ticket. We found out that they assign seats on the train tickets after we sat in the wrong seats and had to move. Oops.
For fun, we tried a tuk tuk one day for short ride. For $10 euros for the two of us, the lovely lady took us in her three wheel golf cart-like tuk tuk and proceeded to tell us stories about Lisbon during our trip. Travel + a story! She explained that Lisbon is quite safe but there are lots of “soft” crime meaning pickpockets. She told us about a tradition where the governor pays for 10 weddings a year at a big event in June. Unfortunately, our driver is engaged to a Porto resident not a Lisbon resident so she was not qualified to enter the wedding raffle. She contemplated finding another boyfriend but decided to keep him. Ah, true love! Hint: look for electric tuk tuk vs. a gas one so you aren’t sucking in deadly fumes on your lovely ride around Lisbon. Cheers!