Tips for Navigating Lisbon — What not to do

Every guide book will tell you what you should do in the city, but no one tells you what you shouldn’t do. Hear it from the locals:

  • Don’t speak Spanish with the Portuguese. Really, don’t. Everyone speaks English or at least understands enough to help you. Take some time to learn a few Portuguese words that can touch the heart of a local, such as: Bom Dia (good morning), Obrigado (Thank you) and Por Favor (Please).
  • Respect the crosswalks. Pass when it’s green, stop when it’s red. This is a universal rule, we know, but the locals don’t always do this. Now imagine a group of 20 people looking at maps and crossing a red light – it can end badly.
  • Don’t ride the electric scooters/mopeds on the sidewalks. Remember those beautiful cobblestones we mentioned before? They are already tricky by themselves. Also, you don’t want to run over a local who just got their shopping done at the supermarket.
  • Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world, meaning our crime rate is very low. However, we do have pickpockets, so always pay attention to your belongings and don’t carry large amounts of money with you. Keep your belongings close to you, specially on the trams, at viewpoints, and in lines for monuments.
  • Don’t feed the pigeons.
  • Don’t swim in the river. The water you see in Lisbon is the river, not the ocean. We have plenty of beaches just 20 minutes from Lisbon where you can go for a swim, which is a healthier, safer alternative to the river.
  • Don’t think that driving is the best way to explore. Some people call the Portuguese crazy drivers – we don’t know why! There have been many changes in the city over the last few years — chances are when you use Google Maps it will guide you to a one-way street or to a local road that you shouldn’t be driving on. If you want to rent a car, make sure to drive on the highways and freeways rather than the narrow city streets – it will not be a fun experience! Also, think twice when driving up those hills.
  • The Portuguese are very polite and welcoming people, so most of us find it rude when someone doesn’t say hello, good morning, how are you, thank you. Try using these simple expressions and see the transformation in conversations with the locals and the service you receive.
  • Don’t count your calories. There are so many pastry shops in Lisbon and so many different pastries and sweets to chose from that you must try more than just the “Pastel de Nata”! With all the walking you will do those calories will be gone in no time.
  • Don’t pass in front of a local in a line, whether it is on public transport, in a shop, or in line… Remember that they’re probably not on vacation and are carrying out their daily routines.
  • Don’t leave your trash behind. There are plenty of thrash bins in the city so don’t leave that old map or bottle of water on the ground.
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