Strolling the streets of Lisbon, Portugal
Frugal travel in Lisbon, Portugal can be hard, especially when you are visiting the city with friends. However, we were able to keep our costs to a minimum while enjoying everything the city had to offer.
Highlights of the trip included wandering the cobblestone streets of the old town, a day trip to the castles of Sintra, and sipping mojitos on the boardwalk.
Castelo de São Jorge
On top of the highest hill in Lisbon sits one of my favourite European castles – Castelo de São Jorge. Much of the castle was destroyed during the great earthquake of 1755, but in 1910, the building was declared a national monument, and work began to restore it. Although you can take a taxi or minibus to the top of the hill, you would be missing out on walking through the most beautiful, historic, and interesting neighbourhood in Lisbon.
Great frugal travel accommodation
We stayed in the family-style apartment in the This Is Lisbon Hostel. Tucked in the corner of a hillside in the old part of town, the location was perfect – just 5 minutes away from the Castelo de São Jorge, and surrounded by a maze of winding streets, cool buildings, and endless staircases (bring comfortable shoes!). I think the best part of the hostel was the huge, amazing terrace. It had terrific views of the city and the hillside.
TIP: for a frugal option, the dorm rooms at the This Is Lisbon Hostel start at around €15 per night, and are super comfy. The hostel has both private rooms and dorms available.
Across the street is the apartment that we stayed in (for 3-4 guests), and that goes for €96 per night. It had two bedrooms, a full kitchen and dining area, and a spacious washroom. It was a place I could actually live in, not just stay for a few days. :) I can see how you could be comfortable during an extended stay there. The hostel feels more like a B&B, with home cooked meals served every evening, and fresh bread, juice, and eggs in the morning.
Hiking in Sintra
We took the train 30 minutes outside of Lisbon to a town called Sintra (€4,50 roundtrip). From the train station, we followed the signs to the Palácio da Pena – about a 45-60 minute walk through beautiful forest. Don’t worry, you can get by in sandals if that’s all you have. Admission into the castle cost €13,50.
Keep it frugal – don’t let the extras add up
We had a really bad dining experience in Lisbon, at a restaurant called Solmar. I should have read the reviews online before going in, but it was one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions. They placed a basket of bread and a tiny plate of prawns on our table as an appetizer. Later, we found out that we were charged for both items – to the tune of €30 (that’s over $40!)! We were upset, because being from North America, you just assume that the bread they bring before the meal is free. Especially since they didn’t say anything about the price, or having to pay for it. But I should have known.
Long story short, we ended up paying the bill, but we weren’t happy with how we were treated. And you just know dozens of tourists fall for that every single day. At first, I thought it was a European thing – they put something on your table, and if you touch it, then you pay for it. But that’s not the case. Some restaurants you get charged for it regardless if you eat it or not. And other places, you get it for free. There doesn’t seem to be a rule – so wherever you go, the best thing to do is just ask.
Take the tram
Although Lisbon is definitely a city that was meant to be explored by foot (there is so much of the city that is inaccessible by taxis, tram, or bus), taking a ride on the tramway is a must if you’re in the city. The tramway has been operating since 1873, and there are still many traditional trams with wooden interiors that bump, screech, and lurch around the city.
Lisbon is one of my favourite cities in the entire world. There’s something so beautiful about the city that I just can’t put my finger on. It’s the combination of friendly people, beautiful architecture, interesting alleyways, and historic landmarks that makes me want yearn to go back.
Breakdown of Expenses:
- €0 ($0) – Accommodation (2 nights): Hostelbookers.com sponsorship at This Is Lisbon Hostel
- €42 ($54.96) – Transportation: roundtrip train ride from Faro, Portugal
- €78,69 ($102.97) – Food: average of €39,35 per day
- €7,35 ($9.61) – City Transit: roundtrip train ride to Sintra, and a tram ride in Lisbon
- €21 ($27.49) – Entertainment: entrance fee to Castelo de São Jorge and Palácio da Pena
- €0 ($0) – Miscellaneous
TOTAL COST: €149.09 ($195.03)
Krystal Yee is a travel blogger and personal finance expert with substantial media credits to her name. Lover of off-beat travel, hiking, French macarons, barefoot shoes, and her iPhone. Excel spreadsheet addict. She is currently living in Vancouver, plotting her next adventure.