Getting Around Lisbon on Public Transit
Getting around Lisbon, with all its hills and winding streets can seem daunting, and even visitors who walk as much as we do (usually 10-12,000 steps a day) will find public transit handy, especially on really hot days. Fortunately, it's not hard.
The Metro system's four lines are not very evenly distributed, with the western and southern areas least served, but the bus net is fairly dense and many of the routes link quite widely-separated areas of the city. They move through tight streets with a speed and efficiency that can be amazing. There are also several tram lines, and they are not just for tourism. In some of the oldest areas of the city, including the Alfama, they are what fits through the maze.
The main transit operator, Carris, has a map of the system that's available at tourist information and at major Metro stations. You'll see that almost every bus line passes through parts of the main downtown area, stopping either near Terreriro da Paco/Praca do Comercio, Cais do Sodre or Rossio. That means that it's possible to use those points to make connections from one to the other, as well as to the tram lines. The most important of the tram lines is the 15e (all trams have 'e' for 'electirco' in their numbers) which runs to Belem and the attractions there, and the 28e, the famed tourist attraction which is also a key transit resource traveling from west of the center, through to and through Alfama.
All the stops are marked with yellow signs that identify quite clearly what stops there, when the next bus or tram can be expected, and listing all the stops on the line. One complexity: different schedules are listed for winter work days, summer work days, Saturday/holidays, Sundays, and for August. Each line has a colored oval with its number to identify it on the signs. Since buses don't always stop if no one onboard rings for the stop and the driver sees no one waiting, and since there are places where several lines share a stop, it's important when your bus approaches to stick your hand out, pointing. That way, the driver of, say, the 735, knows you want to get on.
Fares on the buses and Metro, with a prepaid card, is 1.25€; more if you pay cash on the bus. You can buy a farecard at any Metro station (from machines) and from any store with a "Carris MOB" sign, or a Payshop sign. The card costs 50c to buy, and you can then load it with any amount; tell the agent you want "zapping." That's for regular use--not a weekly pass or the like. At the farebox, you hold it up to the turnstile or farebox, and the fare is deducted. There's also a bonus in buying; 10€ gets you 10.75€ worth of fare; smaller top-ups get smaller bonuses.