Solo to Portugal tips

Mar 22nd, 2019, 04:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17,810
Yes. I had a late flight into Lisbon. Stayed at the Star Inn Lisbon Aeropuerto (recommended) which is a 5 minute downhill walk from the airport. Next morning after breakfast (great buffet) shuttled back to the Airport and took the Metro Red Line to Oriente. The Oriente Station is a little confusing don't be afraid to ask a guard about where to buy the train tickets and then how to get to the train platform. Arriving at the train station in Sintra it was pretty easy to just walk into town with my rolling suitcase although taxis were also available. Dropped my luggage at my hotel (I think they allowed me to actually checkin). Was raining when I went back to Lisbon, so asked Casa de Pendoa to call me a taxi to the train.

Should have bought a return ticket to avoid wait in line at Sintra train station. But it worked out ok. BTW if you are a Senior and have your passport you may qualify for some reduced fares for the trains and also the admissions, pays to ask. Can't remember if I was able to get a senior price for the Metro day pass. There were not a lot of attended Metro stations where you could buy passes. I had some trouble with Metro tickets and I think once even had to jump a turnstile.

In Sintra it's easy to walk to both the Sintra National Palace and the Quinta da Regaleira although you'll want to use the buses to Pena Palace. If your time is limited skip Monserrate and the inside of Pena Palace. Buy a combo ticket at your first entry. Go as early as possible especially for the inside of the Sintra National Palace.

I had thought initially that I would store my luggage at the Star Inn and pick it up later, but in the end just took it along with me (just one 20inch rollaboard and a small daybag).

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 22nd, 2019 at 04:27 PM.
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Mar 23rd, 2019, 06:51 AM
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I would recommend taking an Uber from the airport. It was only ~20euro, and if you factor in the hassle of first taking Metro, then taking the Oriente, then getting you and your luggage to your hotel, I thought an Uber was well worth it in terms of both $$ and time. I agree with mlgb on not making this a day trip (esp if you aren't getting there EARLY). I stayed 3 nights and loved taking my time... half the fun at these amazing places is wandering the grounds and discovering things just around the corner. For me, Day 1 was Quinta da Regaleira (my favorite) and the National Palace (an hour and a half was about right for me, and doing this at the end of the day meant I had the place practically to myself), Day 2 Pena Palace (again used an Uber so I could be in line by 830... the Palace doesn't open til 9, but the buses don't start til then either -- you want to beat the buses! Buy your tickets in advance at the Tourist Office in town to skip at step at the palace) and the Moorish Castle, Day 3 Montserrat (incredible, esp if you love gardens), Day 4 Cabo de Roca and return to Lisbon. I could have skipped the Moorish Castle and Cabo de Roca but I'd have a hard time choosing between the Quinta da R., Pena Palace, and Montserrat.
rali is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 08:27 AM
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I was thinking an uber might help after a long flight. I am usually good till 3 in the afternoon that first day after an overnight flight. In other words, the earlier I could leave my bags the better! So great advice either way I decide to get to Sintra.

so as a rough itinerary:

fly to Lisbon spend first night in Sintra (or 2)
Lisbon 3 nights
Porto 3 nights
Azores (one island) 3 nights

Any opinions on length of each stay?
kelsey22 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 08:47 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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I don't see the point in going to Sintra for one night, spend all your nights in Lisbon.

Taxis in Lisbon are cheap, no need for Uber, and if you sleep in Lisbon there's an airport bus.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 11:40 AM
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Sintra is charming (Unesco World Heritage Cultural Landscape) and more affordable than Lisbon. Spending the night allows you to see one or two sights the day you arrive (don't miss the Quinta de Regaliera), and wander around town along some of the alleyways and stairs when the day trippers are back in Lisbon. Then do a full day of touring the following day. Sure you can rush about and try to do everything in a day (or even miss some of the better sights like Quinta) but I think you will see that most who have spent the night in Sintra wish they had spent two nights. All of Portugal is pretty much a cluster of tourist overload (Belem and Alfama in particular). I think my night in Sintra was the quietest night I had, and the nicest room. And it really was easy to walk from the train station to my hotel, using Google Maps and a video they had produced. You pass some interesting buildings (and Queijadas da Sapa) along the way. Be sure to hit up those pastry shops in Sintra for that specialty..others have them too.

I did not realize Uber to Sintra was 20 can get a fare estimate if you want to confirm that. My train ticket was 1.15 Euro each way, with the 50% discount. The Oriente station is quite striking, architecturally. I'm glad I stopped there.

In Lisbon followed the free Rick Steves podcast/Audio tour for Lisbon City Walk and it worked out well. There are others which weren't free, too.


Uber works fine in Lisbon. The advantage over taxis is that the fare is charged to your credit card. Lisbon has a lot of strikes, sometimes taxis, sometimes it's nice to have options. I only used Uber on the day I flew out and needed to get back to the airport, discovering when I reached the Metro gate that there was a Metro strike. The Airport Bus doesn't run that frequently so needed a faster option. Perhaps when thursdaysd went (how many years ago?) Uber was not as well established. The Driver told me there is no conflict with the taxis, that there's plenty of work for everyone. Most of the time I walked or took the Metro. Metro can be very crowded and have lots of stairs and escalators. Some of the popular tourist routes you won't even be able to get onto the next bus or tram and then you're jammed in like sardines hoping you don't get pickpocketed. So that's another advantage of using taxis and Ubers if you have limited time. In fact if I had it to do over again, I would use Uber to Belem instead of the overcrowded public transit (not walkable from central Lisbon).

I did buy a one day Metro pass which included the Santa Justa Elevator and the Gloria Funicular. Worth it to not have to deal with the ticket machines. The Airport Metro Station had attended ticket booths, which was helpful. Many did not. I had issues with recharging the Via Viagem cards also.

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 23rd, 2019 at 12:13 PM.
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Mar 23rd, 2019, 12:04 PM
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I believe my most recent visit to Lisbon was late in 2014. I didn't use a taxi or Uber, I have never used Uber and have no plans to start. Lisbon was a lot more crowded in 2014 than on my previous visits, not sure when I will be back.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 12:13 PM
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Sounds like your advice is not only outdated, but biased, IMO not unusual for an older traveler... "never used Uber and never will".
mlgb is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 12:18 PM
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Never used FB either and certainly don't regret that.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 01:10 PM
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I recommend taxis to get around Lisbon. They are frequent and inexpensive. We didn't use the trams because they were always very crowded, even in April, and we didn't want to be crammed in like sardines, as mlgb mentions, and worry about pickpockets. Because I have some mobility issues, we didn't use the metros either because of the stairs. So taxis worked well for us.

I also recommend using a tuk tuk at least once. It was a lot of fun, and we paid the driver extra for a tour.

We did not find Alfama to be overloaded with tourists once we left the castle area. We followed Rick Steves walking tour of the Alfama, and saw very few tourists. People live in the Alfama. We saw laundry hanging out to dry; heard radios or tv's coming from open windows, and saw children riding bikes on the few flat areas. We saw an older woman who set up a small table under a tree and was seling gingrinja (the cherry liquor).
KarenWoo is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 01:45 PM
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That's good to hear about the RS Alfama Tour. He gets a lot of grief but I found the audio tour I used to be really good and allowed me to go at my own pace, stop to eat, etc. Love that Ginginha!

Don't forget that the old school sidewalks can be very slippery when it's wet (another reason you may want to opt for an Uber or taxi).

BTW it was the desk staff at my last hotel that recommended using Uber..when I went back and told them about the Metro being closed! After I had carefully selected a hotel with a Red Line station right out front!

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 23rd, 2019 at 01:50 PM.
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Mar 23rd, 2019, 02:01 PM
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Some sound advice. I have to go back to jot down all the great ideas. I like the idea of Ubers so I don't need to keep looking for a taxi or use cash.

Any thoughts on the Lisbon/Porto portion of the trip? I am a bit confused as to where to stay in Porto. I am looking for a solo-friendly, lots of restaurants or cafes to be able to stroll around in the evenings.
kelsey22 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 02:02 PM
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love the links - thanks
kelsey22 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 02:38 PM
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In Lisbon, I stayed in the Avenidas Novas neighborhood, I liked the location. One place was Silk Lisbon which had stairs and not an elevator, however the room was pretty nice and had a safe, and was across from a grocery store. Feeling Eduardo VII had a great location across from Metro and El Corte Ingles. It had an old cage elevator but the bathroom was strangely narrow and there was no room safe. Both were kind of noisy. Any place that included breakfast was at least $100 US. I also liked the Airport Star Inn, if you can get it at a good price. The price on that hotel can vary by $50 a day depending on demand I guess. I was so glad I had booked it because our flight was delayed by a hurricane (!!) and I did not have to take a taxi across the city at midnight with trees down everywhere, just a 5 minute walk. If you're arriving late in the day be sure your hotel desk stays open late enough, that was an issue with the more affordable lodgings.

Casa da Pendoa in Sintra was a far better value for money. I booked direct and recommend the "Double Studio with Mountain View" . Check rates on their own websites and the consolidators. This is the room I recommend. They leave you a little bottle of port and some snacks eg cheese, fruit, juice, crackers etc and hang a bag of fresh bread rolls on your door for breakfast.

Last edited by mlgb; Mar 23rd, 2019 at 02:45 PM.
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May 21st, 2019, 07:35 PM
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I had to take a bit of a hiatus on plans but I am back. I have been following up on some of the links and suggestions. Thank you all so much.

I have a few more questions to tack on and hopefully, I can get your thought.

I have 4 nights in Porto. I think I will do one general walking tour (thanks for the link). I will do 2 day trips. One to Aveiro and one to Bragas and Guimar„es. I am not big on guided tours so I might do one morning in Aveiro and head to Porto. Then here is my dilemma. Do I skip Aveiro and head to Coimbra? I doubt I can do both in a day. There are multiple organized day trips, but Most do not include the library (I adore libraries). I am a bit of a slow traveller. I enjoy wandering and exploring. I know there are many like-minded travellers on this fourm. I am looking forwars to your insights.
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