After spending 10 days in Lisbon and around Portugal, I was exhausted to say the least. It may sound weird to most of you, I’m sure, but you should know – if you haven’t already gotten to know me, that the literary definition of a holiday has never really applied to my family’s trips. You usually go on a beach holiday to relax and spend most of your time laying on the beach and forgetting about all your problems while sipping on a cold drink, right? Well, that’s never happened in my case. Apart from my Senior trip, though even then I didn’t just lay on the beach 24/7 like a sanded whale.
Holidays mean exploration, discovery and lots of walking. That’s what distinguishes a traveler from a tourist after all, isn’t it?
So I’ve decided to lay down in words a few tips for you to take into account when packing and planning your trip to Portugal.
1) DO be prepared for tough walks around Lisbon. If you enjoy hiking, then I’m sure you will enjoy strolling through the city, particularly around Barrio Alto, which is one of the oldest city districts and you can’t really leave without stopping by. Which brings me to point two:
2) DON’T bring your heels, especially your sky-high needle-like heels – unless, of course, you took lessons from Victoria Beckham and can walk better in those than in your flats. I took a pair of low-heeled boots and didn’t even take them out of the suitcase.
3) DO take your time to explore the city and don’t just stop there. Go around other places close by, like Belém and Cascais, that you can easily reach by bus and/or train and offer a different, more sophisticated atmosphere to that of Lisbon.
4) DON’T just rely on taxis. They are quite cheap compared to other European capital cities, but you can easily travel with public transport all around for a fraction of the cost. There are lots of bus lines that can take you pretty much everywhere and you can buy the tickets either on the bus or at the little news stands by the bus stops. Same thing goes for trams and trains.
5) DO rent a car. If you are planning on visiting places further than Sintra, which you can reach by public transport, then you should definitely rent a car. It’s cheap and it gives you the freedom of going anywhere you want, whenever you want. The cost of the freeway is quite pricey, particularly if you want to head South, but at the end of the day, a day tour will cost you much more than a day of car rental. It’s worth it, trust me.
6) DON’T be surprised at the slow pace the locals live. Just like most people from southern European countries (ie. Italy, Spain, Greece, etc.), they don’t exactly know what rush or adrenaline really mean (it’s okay, I can say it, I’m half Italian, remember?). Also, don’t be surprised if you find a car double parked in a main street. Once we were going to a café, when we hear the tram’s bell going off very loudly at the car double parked right on its path. The owner had left it there for 20 minutes (!!!), generating chaos and traffic, while he/she was in a store. He got a fine and a long speech from a cop from what we saw.
7) DO leave your diet at home. Portugal is not like the US or the UK where you can find a vegan restaurant or healthy food stores on every other corner. They like their meat, they like their hundreds of cheeses and they certainly like their pastries. However, they do have cafes on every corner – where you will get a tiny cup of espresso when you ask for a coffee (the Italian way) and where you should at least get a pastel de nata with it, a traditional pastry made of creme, milk and something else. Though the best ones are sold in Belém – more on that later.
8) DO bring your camera with you. You will want to take lots and lots of pictures. From the inner city views to the scenic sunsets over the coast behind the 25 de Abril bridge, you will get to capture very different sceneries.
I hope these tips were useful and that you will know how to face the adversities that Lisbon has in store for you… just kidding!
Stay tuned for more!