These days, it’s hard to imagine ourselves traveling without our smartphones. Over time it became such an important tool that we risk not taking our eyes off our phones to notice what’s around you.
But that is not the case for this blog post. I do want you to explore and notice the city around, that’s why I narrowed down a long list to the 12 free Lisbon apps you must download to your smartphone.
12 Free Lisbon Apps
I know everyone uses Google Maps, but I prefer the look and feel of Citymapper. I also like how it shows me all the options to get from point A to point B in one single screen, so I can quickly decide if it’s faster to walk or hop on a bus, the metro, or a tram.
A lot of hassle with tourists in Lisbon could easily be avoided if they realized it’s quicker to walk than stand in line for a bus just because dozens of travel guidebooks told them to do so.
I use it frequently because public transportation times are usually accurate (and it saves me the trouble of opening a second app) and I suck at calculating how long it would take me to walk a mile. I also enjoy their sense of humor, suggesting a Jetpack as alternative transportation, and how the app shows you how many calories you’ll burn if you decide to walk.
I find the app quite user-friendly, but do explore it for a bit before giving it a test run in real life. I particularly like the info option where you can immediately see if you’re walking uphill or downhill (a valuable information in Lisbon).
Of course, Lisbon deserves visit longer than a layover, but if you only have a few hours in the Portuguese capital between flights why not make the best of it?
The airport is relatively close to the city center by bus or metro. If you want to make the best of your time and not be caught stuck in traffic, I strongly recommend you take the metro. The station is right outside the arrivals area. Take the red line all the way to São Sebastião and then either walk from there all the way down to the Baixa-Chiado neighborhood (it’s a long walk but worth the trip; just double check on Citymapper if you’re willing to do it), or switch to the blue line and get off at Restauradores.
For short trips to Lisbon, especially if you know nothing about the city or you had an unexpected layover, the TAP Portugal Stopover is a good option to plan your itinerary.
You can either explore by category (the app lists must-do activities based on culture, gastronomy, nightlife, parks, shopping, and sightseeing) or select one of the pre-defined tours they call roadmaps. Not bad for
CP – Comboios de Portugal
I love traveling by train in Portugal as much as possible, at least between the main cities. For some other areas in the country, you’re better off taking a long distance bus or venturing on a road trip.
The CP – Comboios de Portugal app is the official mobile app for the public train company (that doesn’t include Fertagus, the blue and white train known as the “bridge train”).
You can use to just check the schedules to plan your itinerary or use for that and to buy tickets. The upside of buying tickets directly on the app (or the website) is the access to discounts they have practically every day on long-distance trips and being able to carry your tickets on your phone or email wherever you go (the more paper-free I can travel, the better).
To buy tickets you’ll need to open an account with them and you can pay for tickets using your credit card or your PayPal account.
Zomato started as an Indian-based startup but it currently covers dozens of cities all over the world. Lisbon is one of them.
Although I don’t necessarily agree with all crowd-sourced reviews of restaurants in Lisbon you’ll find in the app, it’s still a good source of information that could prevent you from stepping inside a tourist trap — no one sees straight when they’re hungry.
I also use the Zomato app for work when I need to stay on top of newly opened places. I then refine my selection by bookmarking those that appeal to me or that might appeal to my freelance clients.
The information regarding price ranges, schedules, and menus are up to date (yes, I’ve checked). It’s particularly useful to know if a certain place someone recommended to you is still open for business.
Carris is the public company operating Lisbon’s buses, trams, funiculars (Glória, Lavra, and Bica), and the elevator (Santa Justa). I use the app as a local, especially to find or doublecheck a specific route, but I recommend that tourists download it too.
If you’re used to using public transportation in your hometown, you’ll quickly make sense of routes and schedules and decide if option A suits you better than options B or C. If you’re not well-versed in public transportation, stick to the Citymapper app instead.
When it comes to the information on how long it takes for the next bus to arrive, I’d take that with a grain of salt or at least double check the screens at the bus stop (if they’re working correctly, that is). So far, I’ve never had an accurate time. Then again, if you’re not in a hurry to get somewhere, it probably doesn’t stress you out so much.
There are a few more apps (at least for iOS devices) for public transportation, but I haven’t found one that has been updated recently. If I ever find a better alternative to the Carris one, I’ll include it here.
Gray Line PT
I wouldn’t normally include an app for a Lisbon hop on hop off bus unless it’s one I’ve actually used and tested which is the case.
Most people wouldn’t choose this kind of tour to visit a city unless they’re staying for a short period or it’s their first time visiting. Whatever the reason you’d choose Cityrama in Lisbon, it’s the only company in the city where you can download a free app instead of walking around with that pesky paper map (that ends up in the trash anyway).
It’s still worth it to add this Lisbon app to your list, even if you’ll only download it when using their services.
Just like in many other cities in Europe, taxi drivers weren’t too pleased about Uber. There were protests, some more violent than others, and complaints of illegal competition. The clients, however, were thrilled with the alternative.
After a few bumps, Uber is officially legal to use in Portugal. As for the taxi drivers, they need to improve their service if they want to attract more clients. That said, Uber service is not as amazing as it was a few years ago, especially since former taxi drivers quit their jobs to become Uber drivers. As you can imagine, changing employer doesn’t mean you’re a better employee.
For English-speaking tourists who just want to get from point A to point B without the small talk, it’s still a better alternative than a taxi and it’s also cheaper. Please keep in mind that the Uber pick up point at the airport is outside the arrivals area, a workaround they agreed to to avoid pissing off taxi drivers even more.
You’ve heard of culture shock before, right? We tend to look at it as something that we as travelers will experience, instead of looking for ways to minimize our negative impact. And while some destinations are so used to the mishaps of tourists that they’ll look the other way and excuse our ignorance, others won’t be so understanding.
After being a part of so many Twitter chats around the topic and hearing the same overused generic advice (speak the language, be respectful of locals, research your destination, etc.), I felt no one was really addressing the issue of cultural differences and how to behave abroad.
And then came the app Culture Mee and it’s like having a country’s cultural quirks in your pocket. Although the app focuses on the global culture of a country and not a city, it still provides a priceless overview that will not only help you plan your trip but keep your behavior in check.
My favorite feature is the “compare your culture” button. Instead of only listing the particulars of a given local culture, it gives you a visual representation of what is okay for you might be offensive for the country you’re visiting and the other way around. Absolutely crucial to keep things in perspective, especially when traveling is typically such a self-indulging activity.
I mentioned before that taxi drivers weren’t thrilled about Uber when it came to Portugal. If you’re not a fan of giving money to highly disruptive big corporations, and would rather support local taxi drivers, download MyTaxi.
I think I used it once or twice. It’s not a bad alternative to Uber in two situations: if you’re somewhere without Uber service or if you checked how long it will take for an Uber to pick you up and MyTaxi will get there faster.
As for the quality of service well that depends on the driver, not the service. The same way it would happen if you hailed a cab on the street, except it’s easier with the app and you don’t have to worry about carrying enough cash. Then again, Uber service used to be a lot better when they started too.
When I was approached a few months ago to be a Tiqets affiliate*, I immediately said yes. I’m a huge fan of paperless tickets except I had never found the same solution for attractions like I had for transportation.
I wish they had more Lisbon attractions listed, but I also know how most places in the city haven’t taken that digital leap yet. Especially the government-run museums and landmarks.
The app includes many more cities around the world, so it pays off to download the app even if you can only use for a few attractions. Like any other digital product, it’s a work in progress, and more cities and attractions are added every day.
Guides by Lonely Planet
I know a lot of travelers are loyal to the Lonely Planet guidebooks, but the Lonely Planet Guides app is a lot more portable and easy to use.
The content in the app is the same you’ll find on the website, so it’s bite-sized and digital-friendly. It gives you all the information you need to know, in a creative way but with less of the fluff, which is a good thing when you need the basics, not the details.
Omio (Formerly GoEuro)
As much as I love traveling in Portugal by train, some areas in the country are easier to reach by bus. A series of political decisions in the 1990s deemed railways and trains as obsolete, which led to shutting down to a lot of smaller stations and deactivating entire lines.
There are plans to bring some of the railways back to life and making train travel trendy again, but until then, long-distance buses are the only (and sometimes cheaper) option.
The Omio app* is useful to compare prices between flying or catching a train or a bus, in most European cities. In Lisbon, however, it doesn’t show you the train options for now which means you’ll have to open the Omio app and the CP – Comboios de Portugal app at the same time to navigate both and compare prices, schedules, and length of the trip.