January 2019: Lisbon

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Return flights: £20.50 (after redeemed travel credit)

Accommodation: €34.20 (approx £29.91) Residencial Geres (Booking.com)

Total: £50.41 

Summary and Highlights:

  • Read the accommodation’s check-in policy before booking
  • If arriving late at night, consider pre-booking transfers

 

  • Almafa district
  • Tram 28
  • Praça do Comércio
  • Belém

I was so glad when these flights came up (and for so cheap) since I love Portugal and Lisbon is really starting to build up a reputation as a tourist destination. Plus I had built up a decent amount of travel credit so that took a good chunk off the price. The evening flight meant I still went to work during the day and only had to take one holiday day. When arriving late at night there are two important things to consider; what transportation options are available at that time of night from the airport? Plus what is the check-in policy and time for your accommodation and do they have a 24-hour reception?.

The first one I’d considered and booked a taxi in advance. I used Hoppa to request a private car for when I arrived at the airport and thought it would be really expensive but I got a 25% discount so was only £12. The dispatcher I guess you could call them was waiting at the airport with my name printed on a piece of paper stuck to a railing. I was originally meant to arrive at 11:10pm and check-in time ended at my accommodation at midnight. Even then I would’ve been cutting it fine to get there but my flight was delayed by an hour so I didn’t even land until midnight. I had messaged the accommodation prior to the flight saying I would be late and arriving after midnight which they replied that someone would be waiting for me. Despite the delay, the taxi guys knew I was late and I was in a taxi and on my way within minutes.

The second consideration I’d only realised after booking. Always read the check-in policies before booking accommodation to ensure you arrive during that time or there is a 24-hour reception. Even seasoned travellers like me make easy mistakes like this and it cost me an extra €20 for arriving after midnight. It may also be worth considering accommodation with free cancellation in case plans change or you change your mind.

That aside, I had a full day following that started by nothing other than a walking tour. Lisbon is built on seven hills that definitely tested my stamina and built up an appetite for my favourite tarts – Pastel de nata which are readily available in every coffee shop and bakery for just over €1 each. I did a second tour in the afternoon of the Alfama district which is noted for its cobbled streets and old houses with the historic trams running through. My favourite part was the woman who was selling homemade cherry liqueur from her living room window for €1 a shot.

An integral part of a trip to Lisbon now includes the historic trams that have gone from commuter transport to tourist highlight. The trams cannot be replaced by modern ones as the gradients would be too steep and the corners too tight. The number 28 is the most popular tram as it travels through the winding and picturesque streets of Alfama. My advice would be to go on early to ensure getting a seat and being able to actually get on otherwise it’s pretty much standing room sardines the rest of the day. I would also advise getting a Viva Viagem travel card that is valid for 24 hours transport that includes the trams, metro, buses, funiculars and the lifts. After I’d been on most of the 28 route, I got the number 15 tram down to Belém – the historical home of Portugal’s explorations and the original tarts; Pastéis de Belém.

There were only 6 people including myself on the walking tour which was a nice change to the usual volume I’m used to and was a great way to learn about Portugal’s empire and history as a nation of exploration and navigation. That was the only part of the day when it wasn’t raining but apart from that it pretty much poured. A good way to kill some time is at the Lisboa Story Centre, just off the Praça do Comércio. It’s an interactive, audio guided museum that takes you through the history of Lisbon and a reasonable €5 with a student card. The only downside was the weather but apart from that, I think Porto will be my next Portuguese destination.

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Torre de Belém
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