Yeee haw and a g’day or two for you. Okay, sorry for that. But it’s time for another $200 challenge, and I was really having trouble choosing me a city that I’d been to where keeping a 2 day budget under $200 would actually be a bit of a challenge. Because a lot of the cities I’ve visited have been places where 200 bucks over two days might have you living like a king. And where’s the challenge there? Although it might be a fun experiment to try it one day on a cheap city and see exactly everything one could cram in for that much money.
But today I am going with Lisbon, the last international capital city I visited. It’s a great city to visit and naturally 2 days is not long enough even vaguely to really experience the place, however that is the boundaries of this challenge I set myself. So yeah, Lisbon, 2 days – arriving early morning day one and leaving late evening day two, so technically not quite 48 hours – with just $200USD in our pockets to see just what we can get from this amazing city.
Where to Stay?
Okay, for starters, when I was there I stayed in an Air Bnb and it wasn’t cheap enough to use in this experiment so that means we need to look elsewhere for accommodation and see just how we can keep the costs down as it is our biggest expense no doubt. We will see what we can find over the ol’ interweb – in terms of a bed in a hostel and then if we want our own private room.
Ok so first of all I have the Home Lisbon Hostel which seems to be just about the top ranked hostel in all of Lisbon. Yay! And it comes in at around $33USD to $34USD for a bed for a night. It does look pretty homely too, so as far as hostels go, it’s probably okay.
But – what if you want your own room? Personally, I find dorm beds not particularly inspiring to say the least. I’ve had some brilliant hostel experiences, and I’ve had some shockers. And so basically, I’m now at a point where I prefer to ensure I don’t have any shockers by getting my own room. And that means, especially in Western Europe, that it’s going to cost substantially more. BUT – it’s only one night’s accommodation and as long as we keep it to 50% or less than the total budget, we should be fine.
The problem researching right now is that in covid times we don’t get an accurate picture of how much places cost, and most are heavily discounted in 2021. I’m looking at places around the centre. I’ve found one that I really like the look of and it’s around $75 USD which is right in our price bracket. Let’s allow though for the fact that in less corona-y times it might be a bit more. It’s called the ‘Feel Lisbon B&B’, and it looks spotless and very friendly. The Santa Justa Prime Guesthouse is less than $50 if booked today, so that’s a backup if prices shoot up considerably.
Lisbon is blessed with great public transportation, although it must be said it’s an awfully hilly city too so not every part of the city can be reached. But it does have a great tram system which can be fun to ride. The Number 28 is a handy tram which does a huge loop around town, and will take you up the hill to the Castillo San Jorge. The interweb says a ticket that covers the buses, trams and metro costs around 9.55 Euro per day, so 19.10 Euro for two days which is around $23. The metro does take you in from and out to the airport which is handy so with a little bit of luck you won’t need to take a taxi at all in Lisbon. The trams run into the night as well.
Lisbon and indeed Portugal is not the cheapest place to eat, but what I did find is that eating out was more expensive, at least I felt it was, in Spain. On the flip side self-catering felt more expensive in Lisbon.
We do want the chance to eat out at least once in a nice restaurant, but I didn’t really sample the restaurants in Lisbon, saving my money to eat out in Porto. What you can do for lunch is find a nice little café. My itinerary recommends spending one day exploring Belem, a sort of suburb these days of Lisbon and it has a wonderful, huge bakery where you can sit down and enjoy pastries and coffees and the like. I think it’s called Pastel de Belem and 10 Euros or $12 should easily see you well fed there. You’ll find a place in Lisbon central for a similarly priced meal. Let’s keep our eating out dinner to $30 and for breakfast on day two grab a croissant or something otherwise this will sink the budget. Because we are $158 right now!
Day One Sight Seeing
Okay. So I suggest to take the tram ride up to Sao Jorge Castle for amazing views of Lisbon and its hills. It will take your breath away. That’s $12 (Running total $170). You also get to ride the number 28 tram which is in its own right a tourist attraction. Get yourself down to the Placa Comercio which is a stunning square opening out the water. On the way there you might enter the beautiful Lisbon Cathedral, both things are free. Grab some lunch.
Head into the centre of town for a feel of the place and check out the column on Sao Pedro. You can take the very cool Santa Justa lift up the hill too which is a heck of a lot better than walking! It’s this old lift which again, is quite a little tourist attraction in itself. At the top of the lift is a viewing platform too for some more photographic opportunities.
Up there are some interesting places to explore. One is the Carmo Convent and Museum, this burnt out convent which is really interesting and costs 5 Euro or $6 ($176). Then we have the Basilica de Sao Roque, a beautiful church to visit. If you’re under control of your money, try the Café a Brasiliera for a coffee, it’s a wonderful old café the likes of which I’ve only seen before in South America.
Find somewhere nice for dinner. Keep it to $30! Alternatively that may be enough to see a Fado Show. Fado is the local music style and at the show you get a small snack of cured meats and a glass of wine. It’s a lovely night out. The tourist offices sell tickets and you may be able to get one for less than $30 if you search around a bit. And then maybe grab a Big Mac if you’re still hungry lol!
Day Two Sight Seeing
So I said we had to head to Belem, and so take the tram out there in the morning. You can visit the Belem Tower which is one of the most famous Lisbon landmarks there is, but you can still get good shots of it from outside and unless you have the spare cashiola, I would suggest to skip it as we are running short already here.
What I would recommend you spend your remaining pennies on are two things which are worth quite a bit of time. The Saint Jerome Monastery is 10 Euro to enter, and it is really splendid with loads of rooms to explore and the adjoining church is stunning. You can get a combined ticket with the tower for 13 Euro. 10 Euro is around $12, so we are at $188. From there it’s a short walk to the Pastel de Belem Bakery for lunch.
The next thing you want to do is navigate the buses up to the top of a hill a bit closer to Lisbon proper. The Palacio Nacional de Ajuda blew me away, a former royal residence (of which there are many in Portugal it must be said!) You go from room to room to room and your jaw just drops a little closer to the floor with each one. Entrance is 5 Euro or $6, taking us to $194.
That leaves you with a little time if you’re lucky to squeeze one more thing in (or do the Tower of Belem). The Museu de Nacional de Coches is a special museum full of horse-drawn carriages. Without the horses. That’s around $5-6 OR the Pilar 7 Punte de 25 Abril Experience takes you up one of the pillars of the most significant and largest bridge in Lisbon for amazing views, that’s quoted online as costing $6.05 so we could potentially squeeze that in. Alternatively ride one of the city’s funiculars up steep hills which should be included in the transport card you already have or ride the entire tram 28 route which will take you at least 90 minutes or more once you get back to the centre.
And then back to the airport and have your meal on the plane because we have spent ALL OUR MONEY. Wow. It’s not usually this close. But the entrance fees in Lisbon actually add up really quickly. What would you keep and what would you not? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading today! Take care – and May the Journey Never End!