Rick Steves aptly describes Lisbon as “a ramshackle but charming mix of now and then.” It consists of an impossible maze of narrow streets up seriously steep hills. So renting a car for the duration of our stay was not even a consideration. Since we are going to spend just over two months here, getting a Viva viagem “top-up” metro card was a no brainer. Not only is it proving to be the most economical way to get around, it’s also quite easy and very convenient. The Viva viagem that covers all public transportation in the metropolis and surrounding areas, including trains to Sintra and Cascais, is scanned on a magnetic pad to open the gates every time you enter and exit the system.
At one point on our journey, the popular number 28 tram trundles down a ridiculously narrow street. Pedestrians must shelter in doorways to avoid being clipped. If you’re parked on a street where the trams run, you’d better make sure your side mirrors are flattened against your car if you don’t want them unceremoninously ripped off.
Seeing the tangle of overhead cable wires fills me with nostalgia taking me back to when I was a young girl in Cape Town when it used a tram system before buses became its mode of public transportation. In this day and age of plastic, it is a treat to ride these vintage trolleys with their rich, warm aged natural wood.
What with being overwhelmed by graffiti everywhere, I was pleasantly surprised that on the whole the city’s subway train stations were clean and free of vandalism. In keeping with Lisbon’s traditional decor, each station was adorned with miles of beautiful tilework.
It’s handy and cost effective to have the Viva viagem card for the funicular at €1.30 which would otherwise cost over double the price for a round trip. I couldn’t be happier to hop on especially when going uphill.
Taking the train to Belem was pretty easy. The 15 min walk down twists and turns from Bairro Alto to the Cais do Sodré Station is non taxing. So far, we’ve gotten around on the tram, train and funicular with great ease. Lisbon’s public transportation sytem is extensive and efficient. We have yet to try out the bus, ferry, and host of other modes.