Lisbon Travel Information
When to Go
If you've come to lie on the beach any month will do, but keep in mind a bit of heat is good to complement the brisk Atlantic Ocean beaches. Carnaval, in February or March, is a draw card - but most places know it and prices rise accordingly, until it's much like the later mid-June to August peak season. Unless you're a football fan or a 'when in Rome' kind of person it's best to check when EFC games are held, as hordes of boisterous supporters descend on the city for various matches.
Lisbon lies in both the Atlantic and Mediterranean climatic zones, thereby enjoying a pleasantly temperate climate year-round. Its mean annual temperature is 17°C (63°F), with average temperatures in winter of 13°C (55°F) and 27°C (80°F) in summer. Even when summer temperatures reach the mid-30s, the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean insures some cooling breezes. July and August are the hottest, driest months, while November to February are the wettest and coldest. The granite Serra de Sintra hosts a series of climatic phenomena that results in considerably cooler, damper conditions than in Lisbon, with frequent mists that occur even in midsummer
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Lisbon airport, about 6km north of the centre, is the city's main international gateway. All overland connections are through Spain, of course. The two main rail crossings are at Vilar Formoso (the Paris to Lisbon line) and at Marvã-Beirã (the Madrid to Lisbon line). Buses remain the cheapest way to get to Portugal, but not by much. Prices for the alternatives are coming down fast, thanks to the growing attraction of rail passes (even over point-to-point tickets) and the rise of budget airline services.
Lisbon's antediluvian trams are more than just a way to get from A to B - they're an essential Lisbon experience. Similarly, the city's three funiculars are an indispensible part of its charm. There are also buses and a rapidly expanding underground train system, both run until late. Stick to public transport - the manic traffic makes cars or bicycles a stressful option.
Lisbon has rail links to most major Portuguese cities, including Coimbra, Porto and Faro.
Lisbon's long-distance bus terminal is Sete Rios. From here, the big carriers, Rede Expressos and Eva/Mundial Turismo run frequent services to almost every major town.
Nationals of EU countries, Brazil and the USA need only their home driving licenses to operate a car in Portugal. Others should get an Interntational Driving Permit issued in their home country.
Lisbon can be quite stressful to drive around, thanks to heavy traffic, maverick drivers, one-way systems, narrow streets, and tram lines, but the city is at least small. If you are used to driving in other European capitals you probably won't find it too problematic. There are two ring roads, both useful for staying out of the centre: the inner Cintura Regional Interna de Lisboa (CRIL) and the outer Cintura Regional Externa de Lisboa (CREL).
Once in the centre, parking is difficult. Spaces are scarce, parking regulations complex, and car-park rates expensive.
Don't leave the city without riding the No 28 from Largo Martim Moniz or No 12 from Praça da Figueira through the narrow streets of the Alfama.
Tram stops are marked by a small yellow paragem (stop) sign hanging from a lamppost or the overhead wires.
EU nationals need only a valid passport or identity card for entry to Portugal, and may can stay indefinitely. Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US can stay for up to 90 days in any half-year without a visa. Others, including nationals of South Africa, need a visa unless they're the spouse or child of an EU citizen.
Please contact the consulate for up-to-date information on travel document requirements.
Health and Safety
Lisbon has a low crime rate by European standards, but it's on the rise. Most crime against foreigners involves pickpocketing and bag-snatching (especially in rush-hour trams, trains and buses). Use a money belt and keep cameras and other tourist indicators out of sight. Car break-ins are common particularly from rental cars. The best bet is to park your car in a hotel's locked garage or an underground carpark.
Main streets are relatively safe to walk along at night, though be wary around metro stations. You should also take care in the dark alleys of Alfama and Graça.