When you go somewhere new, whether it’s to visit or to live, adapting to the culture is always the biggest step, and the first stage of this is learning the little things that people who live there have always known, but make living in the city much easier to handle.
To that end, allow me to bring you a few helpful hints, tips, and things to know about the beautiful city that is Lisbon.
1. The Winters are Freezing
If you know anything about Lisbon, you’ll know that the summers are very, very hot here. It isn’t rare for the temperature to hit the 30s, or even the 40s through the summer months, to the point that going out in the middle of the day is not always advisable.
However, the flipside is just as extreme. It gets very cold here in the winter, and as most of the houses are built to deal with the summer months, expect to wear as many layers inside as you do outside!
2. Drugs Aren’t Legal
You well have been misinformed on this. A few years back, drugs in Portugal stopped being the responsibility of the Department of Justice, and moved to the Department of Health, with the focus switching from punishment to rehabilitation.
In the eyes of most, this move has worked well, and lessened many drug problems in Portugal, but it doesn’t mean drugs are legal here, don’t expect Amsterdam.
3. It’s Best Not to Buy Things on the Street
From cocaine to sunglasses, you will become familiar with random strangers coming up to you in the street and offering you products of all kinds, especially in the busier and more tourist heavy areas.
Pretty much without exception, these things are fake and overpriced, it is rarely (if ever) a good idea to buy anything from a stranger in the street.
4. Learning Portuguese Isn’t Essential, but it Helps a Lot
English is widely spoken in Portugal, so you can get by just speaking English, but this will result in you losing out on a huge amount of the city’s culture.
Lots of people give lessons for a good price, and Duolingo always helps. Although, at the time of writing Duolingo only offers Brazilian Portuguese, be aware that there’s a difference between that and European Portuguese, from words and phrases, to general pronunciation, but you’ll be understood if you speak it here.
5. House Prices are High and Rising
There is a lot of speculation as to why, but for whatever reason, house and apartment prices in Lisbon have gone up a lot over the last few years.
For comparison, house prices in Lisbon are on a level with central Manchester, if that helps.
Obviously, this affects Airbnb and other short term lets, but it also has an impact on long term rentals. If you’re going to be here for a while, expect cost of living to be low, but accommodation prices to be high.
6. Don’t Expect Anything to Happen Quickly
The chilled out vibe in Lisbon is one of the city’s biggest selling points, but it is not without its downsides, and one of the biggest is that everything, literally everything tends to be pretty slow.
If you have anything legal to sort out, put a day aside to pitch up in whatever governmental building you have to be in, and if you’ve arranged a meeting, don’t be surprised if the person you’re meeting turns up a fair while after you expect them.
You’ll get used to it, and learnt to love it, but the adaptation process can be gradual!
7. Get Portuguese Friends!
While most places will speak English, when you have to do anything official, you may find the process moves a lot faster if you have someone Portuguese with you to translate.
Beyond that, Portuguese friends have a natural understanding of how things work here. Not to mention the fact that they know all the best places to go!
And there you have it, my quick guide to the important things to know when you come to Lisbon. Anything I’ve missed? Feel free to give me a shout and let me know.