Central Lisbon is relatively compact and, because of heavy traffic, it's best explored by foot. That's virtually the only way to see such districts as the Alfama. However, when you venture farther afield, such as to Belém, you'll need to depend on public transportation like trams, which are inexpensive but often slow. Considering the hilly terrain and the fact that many of the streets were designed for donkey carts, though, the tram system works well.
As one Frommer's reader (Evamarie Doering, of Belmont, California) wrote, "In the 15 years since my last visit there, Lisbon has become one of the noisiest cities I've ever visited. Traffic is outrageous; driving is difficult because of the speed and the tendency of the natives to ride 6 inches from your rear bumper. The buses, of which there are a great many, are very noisy, and produce volumes of smoke. Honking of car horns seems to be a national pastime." Her description is, unfortunately, apt. Even the most skilled chauffeurs have been known to scrape the fenders of their clients' rented limousines while maneuvering through the city's narrow alleyways.
By Public Transportation
CARRIS (tel. 21/361-30-00; www.carris.pt) operates the network of funiculars, trains, subways, and buses in Lisbon. The company sells a bilhete de assinatura turístico (tourist ticket). A 1-day pass goes for 3.70€. Passes are sold in CARRIS booths, open from 8am to 8pm daily, in most Metro stations and network train stations. You must show a passport to buy a pass.
Metro -- Lisbon's Metro stations are designated by large M signs. A single ticket costs .80€, a day pass 3.70€. One of the most popular trips -- and likely to be jampacked on corrida (bullfight) days -- is from Avenida da República to Campo Pequeno, the brick building away from the center of the city. Service runs daily from 6:30am to 1am. For more information, call tel. 21/350-01-15 (www.metrolisboa.pt).
Surprisingly, riding the Lisbon Metro is like visiting an impressive art collection. Paintings, glazed tiles, and sculptures make for an underground museum. You'll see interesting collections of contemporary art, including some works by famous Portuguese artists such as Maria Keil and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva. Stations that display some of the finest art include Cais do Sodré, Baixa/Chiado, Campo Grande, and Marquês de Pombal.
Bus & Tram -- Lisbon's buses and trams are among the cheapest in Europe. The eléctricos (trolley cars, or trams) make the steep run up to the Bairro Alto. The double-decker buses come from London and look as if they need Big Ben in the background to complete the picture. If you're trying to stand on the platform at the back of a jammed bus, you'll need both hands free to hold on.
The basic fare on a bus or eléctrico is 1.40€ if you buy the ticket from the driver (tel. 21/361-30-00; www.carris.pt). The transportation system within the city limits is divided into zones ranging from one to five. The fare depends on how many zones you traverse. Buses and eléctricos run daily from 6am to 1am.
At the foot of the Santa Justa Elevator, on Rua Áurea, there's a stand with schedules pinpointing the zigzagging tram and bus routes. Your hotel concierge should have information.
The antediluvian eléctricos, much like San Francisco's cable cars, have become a major tourist attraction. Beginning in 1903, the eléctricos replaced horse-drawn trams. The most interesting ride for sightseers is on eléctrico no. 28, which takes you on a fascinating trip through the most history-rich part of Lisbon.
Electric Train -- A smooth-running, modern electric train system connects Lisbon to all the towns and villages along the Portuguese Riviera. There's only one class of seat, and the rides are cheap and generally comfortable. You can board the train at the waterfront Cais do Sodré Station in Lisbon and head up the coast all the way to Cascais.
The electric train does not run to Sintra. For Sintra, you must go to the Estação do Rossio station, opening onto Praça de Dom Pedro IV, or the Rossio, where frequent connections can be made. The one-way fare from Lisbon to Cascais, Estoril, or Sintra is 1.80€ to 4€ per person (tel. 21/261-30-00; www.carris.pt).
Funiculars -- Lisbon has a trio of funiculars: the Glória, which goes from Praça dos Restauradores to Rua São Pedro de Alcântara; the Bica, from the Calçada do Combro to Rua da Boavista; and the Lavra, from the eastern side of Avenida da Liberdade to Campo Mártires da Pátria. A one-way ticket on any of these costs 1.40€ (tel. 21/261-30-00; www.carris.pt).
Ferry -- Long before the bridges across the Tagus were built, reliable ferryboats chugged across the river, connecting the left bank with the right. They still do, and have been rebuilt and remotorized so they're no longer noisy. Many Portuguese who live on the bank opposite Lisbon take the ferry to avoid the heavy bridge traffic during rush hour.
Most boats leave from Cais de Alfândega (Praça do Comércio) and Cais do Sodré, heading for Cacilhas. The trip is worth it for the scenic views alone. Arrivals are at the Estação do Barreiro, where trains leave about every 30 minutes for the Costa Azul and the Algarve. Ferries depart Lisbon throughout the day about every 15 to 20 minutes; trip time across the Tagus is 15 minutes. The cost of the continuing train ticket includes the ferry. The separate ferry fare from the center of Lisbon to Cacilhas is .81€ (tel. 808/20-30-50; www.transtejo.pt).
Taxis in Lisbon tend to be inexpensive and are a popular means of transport for all but the most economy-minded tourists. They usually are diesel-engine Mercedes. The basic fare is 2.50€ for the first 153m (502 ft.), .10€ for each extra 162m (531 ft.), plus 20% from 10pm to 6am. The law allows drivers to tack on another 50% to your bill if your luggage weighs more than 66 pounds. Portuguese tip about 20% of the modest fare. For a Rádio Táxi, call tel. 21/811-90-00 (www.retalis.pt).
Many visitors stay at a Costa do Sol resort hotel, such as the Palácio in Estoril or the Cidadela in Cascais. If you stay there, you'll probably find taxi connections from Lisbon prohibitively expensive. Far preferable for Costa do Sol visitors is the electric train system.
In congested Lisbon, driving is extremely difficult and potentially dangerous -- the city has an alarmingly high accident rate. It always feels like rush hour in Lisbon. (Theoretically, rush hours are Mon-Fri 8-10am, 1-2pm, and 4-6pm.) Parking is seemingly impossible. Wait to rent a car until you're making excursions from the capital. If you drive into Lisbon from another town or city, call ahead and ask at your hotel for the nearest garage or other place to park. Leave your vehicle there until you're ready to depart.
Car Rentals -- The major international car-rental companies are represented in Lisbon. There are kiosks at the airport and offices in the center. They include Avis, Av. Praia da Vitória 12C (tel. 21/351-45-60; www.avis.com), open daily from 8am to 7pm; and Hertz, Rua Castilho 72 (tel. 21/381-24-30 or 21/381-24-35; www.hertz.com), open Monday to Friday 8am to 7pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm and 2 to 7pm, and Sunday 9am to 1pm and 3 to 7pm; Budget, Rua Castillo 167B (tel. 21/386-05-16; www.budget.com), is open daily 9am to 7pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.