Written by Gaby Heaton

Lisbon is slowly becoming one of the most popular European cities for tourists, and there is no mystery as to why. With its rich culture and history, amazing gastronomy and friendly locals this city is the new and affordable Barcelona.  

I was lucky enough to get to experience living in this vibrant city for a month, and I am hoping to share my wisdom with those who might travel there in the future. Whilst Lisbon (and Portugal as a whole) is somewhere where culture is not so unfamiliar to us, there are a few things to bear in mind when you are visiting, which may take you by surprise!   

One thing I didn’t know before I moved to Lisbon was the fact that you are always expected to carry photo ID with you, which for a stereotypically relaxed southern European country may seem quite bizarre. Even for just a quick trip to the shop, or a walk in the park, the Portuguese authorities will expect you to be able to present some form of photo ID. This does not have to be a passport - my student ID from the University of Lisbon was sufficient - so don’t worry about having to constantly carry important documents with you. I was not aware of this rule during my first week and, even though I was never asked to show any ID, I quickly learnt from other friends that a trip to the police station to prove your identity was not the best way to be spending your time!

A typical image seen all over Lisbon is that of the classic tram. Yet, despite the vintage image, the city has a very modern and well-connected public transport system that makes getting around extremely easy. In Lisbon you can buy a transport card called ‘Viva Viagem’ that you can top-up and use on the metro, buses and even short-distance trains. An absolute must-do when visiting Lisbon is to take a day-trip to nearby Sintra, a quaint historic town with castles and Arab forts, just a 50 minute train journey away. You can buy a travel pass for the day, directly on one of the buses, so that you can see everything this truly unique part of Portugal has to offer. Be aware that you can be fined for not having a proper ticket on public transport, so make sure you have bought your pass and don’t throw it away!   

While most of Portugal’s rules and regulations are fairly normal, there is one law that stands out and always provokes a chuckle. It is actually illegal in Portugal to do a wee in the ocean. Although completely understandable in theory, it is hard to understand how this law is enforced… As always though, it is better to know about these laws than to risk being caught out abroad! 

You can find everything you need to know about travelling in Portugal on The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website. They have a wealth of information on over 200 countries and territories so, if you are unsure about the rules and regulations of a country that you are visiting, make sure to consult the FCO travel advice pages first.

While you're here, why not read our other blog on Portugal?