Looking for a Western European destination where you get the ultimate bang for your buck? Then look no further than this Lisbon itinerary! This trip was part of a series of trips I went on right after I quit my job. The other destinations I went to were the Balkans, Savannah, and Miami. The number one reason I chose to go to Lisbon was because it’s budget-friendly, has easy public transportation, and direct flights from the US, and heard great things about the food. It’s a city with a ton of history (Lisbon is the 2nd oldest city in Europe after Athens) mixed with a modern flair.
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My go-to method to plan a trip is to collect a bunch of locations that will be good for photography and tourist spots, the rest I just wing it. For this trip, I traveled with a friend who is a chef and had previously visited Lisbon so you can bet she took me to the good eating spots! The below itinerary is what I did get to do during my time there mixed in with things I had on my list but didn’t get to.
Usually, I’ll talk about how I chose my destination because it’s dependent on if I was able to use points for my flight. This time, my Lisbon itinerary wasn’t dependent on whether or not I travel hacked. I did not use any points because the flight prices were just so low and using points were so high. It didn’t make sense to use up the majority of my points for basic economy. In a quick cost-benefit analysis, I bit the bullet and paid $392 for a round-trip basic economy seat on Delta. A $400 round trip to Europe during the summer is significantly cheap!
When I first wrote this article in 2021, Portugal’s travel restrictions included the following requirements:
Even though COVID is still a significant health threat, the world has now classified it as endemic and dropped travel restrictions.
Public transportation in Lisbon is incredibly easy and accessible! Whenever I visit a city with a good public transportation infrastructure I opt for that instead of rideshares, shuttles, or taxis. I actually didn’t have phone service for most of the trip because my phone was locked so I couldn’t use a SIM card. I did have an offline map, but it was pretty useless so I navigated a lot of the city the old fashion way: wandering around.
There’s a few options for what kind of metro card fare to purchase. The “Viva Viagem” is the public transportation card which is used for all buses, metro and trams. To buy a card is €0.50 in addition to the ride fare. Most locations fall under Zone 1 which is 1.50€. The most economical way to travel around town though is by zapping. It’s based on pay-as-you-go rather than a time horizon.
If you’re planning on visiting a lot of attractions though then get a Lisbon Card instead because it comes with unlimited public transportation in addition to discounted or even free entry. Prices are 20€ for 24 hours, 34€ for 48-hours, and 42€ for 72-hours
The hotel we stayed at was Hotel Mundial, which has an amazing rooftop with a 360 view of Lisbon! Staying here was surprisingly budget-friendly (the overall theme of Lisbon). Their website claims they are 4-stars, but from my evaluation, I would say it’s more 3 stars. They’re very popular and coincidentally, my friend who I did this trip with realized she had previously been at Hotel Mundial for her cousin’s wedding. Small world!
Before my trip, I tried to shoot my shot with Hotel Mundial for a potential partnership since I was making content from their property anyway, but alas, I was shot down. At least free breakfast was included every day!
This is the fastest way to learn more about the culture, architecture and history. Expect to walk around for 2-3 hours soaking up everything, and make sure to bring water! Even though it’s free, don’t forget to tip the tour guide!
Fado is a popular genre of Portuguese music with historical context, melancholy theme, and accompanied by mandolins or guitars.
A day trip from Lisbon to Sintra is a popular excursion since it’s only about 40 minute commute. Take the train (Comboios de Portugal) from either the Rossio or Oriente station. The Rossio-Sintra train departs from historic center of Lisbon.
Try to go before 9 am! During the peak times (10am-12am) Rossio station can get very busy, and there can be long lines to buy train tickets.
Once you arrive in Sintra, taking the 434 bus is recommended because of how long and steep it is up to Park and National Palace of Pena. Since everyone goes to the historic center first, start at Palace of Pena in order to avoid the lines for the bus and then make your way down. There is also walking route carved out on the side of the road for hikers.
Be sure to also check out
A secondary day trip to do only after you have gone to Sintra is to visit Cascais. It’s a coastal town that was known as the summer destination for the Portuguese royals. We came here specifically to eat at Furanas do Guincho, and WOW their food is amazing, and their bathroom is so pretty!
You can literally walk around the corner and the food will be delicious, but these are some honorable mentions:
As this long a$$ post comes to a close, I have to say, coming into and out of LIS was probably my worst experience to date. There was a strike going on and when I arrived, so I had to wait in the customs line for 4 hours. Departing from LIS was only slightly better. I didn’t know the customs gate was after the lounge area, so we got stuck waiting in another line and almost missed our flight. Thankfully, other people on our flight were in the same situation and they brought in additional staff to move the lines quickly. Whoever designed the flow of LIS should rethink it. There’s no point to relax in their nice lounge if there’s still more obstacles to go to get to your gate.
Whenever I travel internationally, I ALWAYS get supplemental travel insurance to the coverage I have from my travel credit cards. The main reason is for medical purposes because if something happens while overseas, you don’t want to be SOL or stuck with some crazy bill. It’s not expensive and gives peace of mind to know medical expenses are covered should any negative situation happen. I typically shop around insurance companies to compare prices, and went with Safety Wing’s Nomad Insurance.
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