If you’re arriving in Portugal on an international flight, there’s a good chance you’ll land at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport. It’s not particularly large, so if all goes well, you should be through immigration and baggage claim in well under an hour, and ready to head into the city.
Assuming you’re not being picked up by your hotel, you’ve got four main options for getting to the Lisbon city center: metro, bus, taxi, or ride-sharing service.
The airport is only five miles from the downtown area, which means you won’t have a long journey time no matter which method you choose.
If your accommodation is within walking distance of a station, you’ll find Lisbon’s metro system a cheap and effective way of getting to it. The airport is at the end of the red (vermelha) line, which passes through Lisbon’s major intercity transport hub, Oriente, and terminates at Sao Sebastiao. Change to the green (verde) line at Alameda to take you into the city center.
The metro runs from 6:30 a.m. until 1 a.m. the following morning, every 6-9 minutes throughout the day. A single ticket costs 1.45 euros, plus 0.50 euros for the reusable card. A day pass costs 6 euros, which also covers other methods of public transport like bus, tram, and ferry.
To get to the airport metro station, follow the overhead signs from the arrivals area in Terminal 1. You’ll exit the terminal, turn right, and head down an escalator to the ticket area and platform.
Note that during busy times, the line to buy tickets can be extremely long.
Using a ticket machine will be faster than waiting at the ticket window—there is an English-language option, but not all machines accept all payment methods, and none accept notes larger than 10 euros. Hold onto your ticket after going through the entry barriers, both because you’ll need it to exit at the other end, and also because it’s reusable throughout your stay.
Outside rush hour you should have no problem taking large suitcases on the metro, although as in many European cities, you may need to carry it up and down stairs at certain stations.
A special Aerobus service operates from Lisbon airport between 7:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. every day. Buses run every 20 minutes until 7 p.m., and slightly less frequently after that. Buses have free Wi-Fi onboard, USB sockets for charging your phone enroute, and dedicated storage areas for large bags.
There are two Aerobus lines, with Line 1 covering much of the downtown area including stops at several major hotels. The helpful Aerobus website lets you choose which hotel you’re staying at, and shows the nearest stop.
Tickets cost 4 euros for a single ticket, or 6 euros for a return. Children aged 4-10 years are half price, and there’s a 10% discount off adult tickets if you buy them online instead of from the driver. A return ticket also gives a 10% discount off the Yellow Bus city sightseeing tours that run from various locations throughout the city.
The Aerobus service operates from directly outside the arrival hall in Terminal 1.
A number of standard city buses also stop at Lisbon airport. They travel to a wider range of destinations, and are cheaper than the Aerobus, but are less convenient for most travelers due to a limit on luggage size.
A single ticket costs 1.85 euros when bought onboard—be sure to have small notes or coins.
Routes that call at the airport include 705, 722, 744, and 783, along with the 208 night bus that leaves at irregular intervals between 11:42 p.m. and 4:42 a.m. Check the Carris site for specific route information.
Taking a taxi from Lisbon airport to the central city is the easiest, and most expensive, way to get there. Depending on the time of day, whim of the driver, and your exact destination, you’ll usually pay between 10 and 20 euros for the trip.
While some drivers are polite, speak reasonable English, and have clean, new cars, they are unfortunately a rarity. Old vehicles are quite common, and some drivers speak little to no English. If you’re going to take a taxi, be sure to have your exact address written on a piece of paper, including which part of town it’s in, to avoid confusion.
Taxis are metered, but some drivers have been known to take unusual routes to bump the price up for tourists unfamiliar with the city, or charge particularly high luggage fees. On the upside, getting a taxi is straightforward. Simply walk out of the arrivals area, and you should see several cabs pulled up at the curb.
Portugal doesn’t have much of a tipping culture, so drivers won’t expect one. If you do want to reward particularly good service, rounding up to the nearest euro or two is sufficient. While a few cabs have electronic payment facilities, it’s a good idea to have enough cash on you to pay for your journey. If not, you can ask the driver to stop at an ATM if necessary. A receipt should always be offered.
Two companies offer ride-sharing services in Lisbon, Uber and Cabify. If you have an existing Uber account from back home, it will work fine in Lisbon as well (although since the fare will be charged in euros, be sure to check charges and conversion rates ahead of time.)
With either app, you’ll need to have an Internet connection on your phone to call a driver. Free Wi-Fi is available in the arrivals and departures areas, but doesn’t extend too far beyond the doors.
As a result, calling your ride shouldn’t be difficult, but you may not be able to monitor its progress using the airport Wi-fi. If you have roaming service from home, or have picked up a local Portuguese SIM card at the airport already, there’ll be no issue.
Uber drivers tend to be younger than taxi drivers, which means they’re more likely to speak good English. The cars, too, are typically newer and cleaner, and fares noticeably cheaper. If traffic isn’t awful and surge pricing isn’t in effect, you’ll often pay under 10 euros for a ride to anywhere downtown.
The designated pickup area for ride-sharing services is outside the departures area, upstairs from the arrival hall. Take the escalators on your right, and meet your driver in the parking lot outside.