getting around lisbon, portugal

transport, lisbon, alfama-3895334.jpg

Lisbon’s popular Tram 28

Lisbon is a dense city with good public transportation infrastructure.  They have subway trains, trams, buses and even a few funicular.  There are also private vehicles like tuk-tuks, taxis, vintage looking automobiles and sightseeing buses that can take you around the city. We used Lisbon’s buses, subway, trams and even a funicular in exploring the touristy part of the city. Here we describe how to get around Lisbon on your own using their public transportation.

Time of Visit: February and August 2023

From The Airport

Humberto Delgado Airport is served by the Metro’s (subway) red line. Exit to the right of the airport to reach the underground station. The Metro ticket dispensing machines are located at the base of the escalators along the left wall. Beyond the ticket dispensing machines are gates to get into the station. There are Metro employees in reflective vests that assist customers with the machines if needed.

The Metro’s ticket dispensing machines at the airport

The Metro (Subway)

A typical underground Metro station entrance. Just look for the red “metro” sign.

Metro Lines

The Metro system consists of four subway lines.  These are the blue (azul), red (vermelha), yellow (amarelha) and green (verde) lines. Some of the lines intersect so you can hop off from one and hop on another without leaving the train station.  Signs are clearly hung or posted in the subway stations to direct you to the connecting lines or to the exit.  The signs are both in Portuguese and English. 

Spatial map of the four Metro lines
Non-spatial map of Metro’s four lines

Purchasing Tickets

Typical Metro ticket vending machine

Each station has ticket vending machines and a manned booth. The manned booth are usually located by or across gates where passengers have to tap their tickets to enter the station. That same person manning the booth will answer the call button at the ticket dispensing machine if you have questions.  Ours actually came out of the booth to help us out despite having a “cerrado” sign in her booth. However, do not expect to get some help after normal working hours.

The available languages at the machines are English and Portuguese. Payments can be cash or credit cards. We did not have any issues using our US credit cards.

Type of Tickets

We bought a 24-hr pass ticket and a pay as you go ticket. These tickets are the size of a business card with a microchip. A physical ticket costs 0.50 Euros so do not throw them away if you plan on riding Lisbon’s public transportation in the future.

These tickets look the same so you have to mark which one’s which to avoid confusing one from the other. The  24-hr pass is an unlimited ride ticket.  It is valid on all modes of public transportation including the Metro, buses, trams and ascensor (funiculars).  The pass costs 6.60 Euros plus the ticket cost of 0.50 Euros for a total of 7.10 Euros.  The pass starts counting down from its first use.  Our flight the following day was early enough such that we were able to go back to the airport using the 24-hour pass we purchased the day before. The 24-hr pass makes sense if you are planning to ride five or more times within a 24 hour period.

Pay as you go ticket on top, day pass ticket on the bottom. There are subtle differences such that it is best to write distinguishing marks.

A pay as you go ticket basically has funds that dwindles in amount each time it is tapped. The cost of a Metro ride was 1.50 Euros. We only used the pay as you go ticket on the Metro. We do not know if it costs the same amount to ride a bus or a tram. We just purchased a 24-hr pass If we were going to ride buses and trams aside from the Metro,

Both 24-hr pass and pay as you go tickets are re-loadable. For the 24-hr pass, we only reload a day’s worth at a time so we can avoid the chance of not being able to fully utilize it if our plans change the following day.

There is a set amount that can be reloaded for the pay as you go tickets, meaning you cannot dictate the amount to add. All you can do is choose a pre-selected amount to add. The first two amounts on the available choices were 3 and 5 Euros. Higher amounts are available but we reason that we should just buy a day pass ticket if we think we were going to need more than 5 Euros worth of ride that day.

Riding the Metro

Each subway station will have two waiting areas corresponding to the train’s travel direction.  You must know the terminus of the train you are getting on as that will be shown on the signs leading to the waiting area.  Subway maps are also found at the stations so you can verify which train direction you need to board.

A typical waiting area at the subway station. Passengers are advised to stay behind the yellow area until the train comes to a stop.


Trams are the smaller version of the metro, except that it’s slower and runs above ground.  There are multiple trams that operate in Lisbon.  Some are modern with multiple cars while others are nostalgic with just a single car.  The most popular tram in Lisbon is Tram 28. We had a late start and got to Tram 28’s Martim Moniz station around 10:40 am (Martim Moniz is the West terminus of Tram 28).  The line was already looooong!. We waited for about one hour and six trams had passed before we got on board.

A nostalgic tram
A modern tram

Tip: The tram was not packed when it left Martim Moniz, meaning there were no people standing. We could have gotten on Tram 28 at the next station at Rua da Palma.  This station is less than a five minute walk from Martim Moniz.  The only downside is that you would be standing up. 

Tram 28 has double seats on the left side and single seat on the right side as you are facing the direction of travel. It has two doors, one at the front by the driver and the other at the back.  You enter through the front and can exit through both doors.

Trams have a card reader just behind the doors. We only saw people tapping their card on the reader to get on but not when getting off.  For Tram 28, the reader is by the front door just behind the operator.

The modern trams will have the electronic signs which would show which terminus it is heading to. The nostalgic trams only have the painted line number on it so you have to know which direction the tram is going.  There are also private tourist trams so you have to know which one those are so you don’t mistakenly get on it.

For both modern and nostalgic trams, you can purchase tickets in the tram itself.  The modern trams will have vending machines that accept credit cards.  For the nostalgic trams, the operation serves as the vending machine.


There are several bus lines that ply Lisbon’s streets.  The bus lines are designated by numbers and are clearly shown on the front and back of the bus.  The bus stops also show which bus would stop at that location.  There is also bus route information at the bus station so you would know where the bus is headed.  Some buses show their direction of travel on the electronic sign while others do not.

A bus prominently showing the bus number above the windshield
Bus route and schedule information at bus stops

Buses have card readers behind the doors that you can tap in.  Similar to trams, we did not see anybody tapping out.  Buses also have a ticket vending machine where you can buy the ticket using a credit card.


There are a couple of ascensors or funiculars that operate in Lisbon.  We rode the Ascensor da Bica because it ends at the street on the route of Tram 28.  We simply got off Tram 28 and rode the Ascensor da Bica going down.   Most people walk the ascensor’s route down and ride the Ascensor da Bica on the way up to avoid giving their legs a workout if.  The ascensor’s route  is short and takes less than five minutes. 

Ascensor da Bica

There is a physical building at the bottom of the run where people take selfies because it has the Ascensor da Bica sign on the wall.  There was a line of people, though not long, waiting to get on the funicular to go up.  At the other end on top of the run, the funicular is just parked on the street.  We just showed our 24-hour ticket to the driver and he nodded so we just sat and waited for a few minutes.  We departed at the top of the hour.  On-line articles we read indicate that the ascensor runs every 15 minutes.

Ascensor da Bica station at the bottom of the run

The cost to ride Ascendor da Bica is 3.80 Euros.  There are two cars that ply the Ascensor da Bica.  One would go up while the other would go down.  They have to be in-synch as there is a short section where they share the track. 

Other ways of Getting Around Lisbon

We just mention the following other means of getting around Lisbon since we only saw them but did not use them. 

Bus tours.  We saw a number of bus tours on the street.  Most of them are the red double decker buses.

Hop on and hop off bus tours

Tuk-tuks.  While waiting at the Tram 28, there were a lot of tuk-tuk or three (sometimes four) wheeled motorcycles trying to convince people that using their services is a better way to see Lisbon than wasting time waiting in line.  For us, we really never enjoy our explorations if there is somebody ushering us to go here or there.

One of the many tuk-tuks in Lisbon

Private tours.  We also observed some reproduction antique cars that do private tours.  

Reproduction antique cars doing private tours

There are also taxis, Uber, Lyft and Bolt rideshares that operate in Lisbon.


There are many ways to get around Lisbon.  For us, it’s using their public transportation and the 24-hour pass that gave the best value.  I don’t think you will be able to find a better deal than having unlimited rides for 24 hours for only 7.10 Euros.  Granted, there is no one that will guide you where to go or that you may be spending more time looking, searching or waiting but that’s the beauty of travel.  It’s more satisfying to discover and experience places on your own and at your own pace.