Monday, March 21, 2011

The Top 4 Tourist Mistakes Lisbon

Between rain and darkImage by F H Mira via FlickrFrom cultural faux pas to falling into tourist traps, there are always several mistakes tourists make when visiting a new place. Here are the top 4 in Lisbon:

Speaking Spanish

Remember that Lisbon is in Portugal and the official language is Portuguese. You don’t have to speak the language when you visit the city, and you’ll do fine communicating in English. Unless you’re Spanish, Hispanic, or a fluent Spanish speaker, don’t speak Spanish (often bad Spanish) in order to avoid offending cultural pride. Although most Portuguese are able to decipher Spanish (apparently Spaniards have a harder time understanding the guttural sounds of Portuguese), having a tourist thanking with “gracias” instead of “obrigado” can offend the biggest nationalists who’ll remind you that Portugal has its own Iberian language, and that it’s one of Europe’s oldest cultures and nations, founded over three centuries before Spain. Also remember that it’s the castle of “São Jorge” and not “San Jorge” and the nightlife neighborhood is “Bairro Alto” and not “Barrio Alto.”

Rossio Square in LisbonImage via WikipediaEating at Touristy Restaurants 
Most of the restaurants from Rossio Square to the riverfront Comercio Square cater to tourists. There are of course a few exceptions, but these restaurants serve mediocre food, the service is often poor, and they prevent you from exploring the city’s real cuisine. The restaurants to avoid are the ones with waiters standing by the door trying to persuade you into going inside, and the ones with illustrated menus (usually of tourist-friendly pastas and burgers) by the entrance.

Bartizan in Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal.Image via Wikipedia
It’s the Tagus, Not the Atlantic or the Mediterranean 

Lisbon stands where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean. It’s such a wide river, that many people think they’re looking at the sea. If you take the train to Cascais, you’ll see that it does become the Atlantic after you pass the Belem Tower, officially it is at Oeiras but in the center of the city, it’s still a river. With Portugal being a Southern European country, many tourists have also reportedly thought they’re standing by the Mediterranean. Other curious mistakes is thinking that the southern bank of the river is Algarve or the island of Madeira. It’s actually Almada, another city.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos. The Monument to the...Image via WikipediaNot Respecting the Queues 
When waiting for a tram or bus, the Portuguese line up and enter the vehicle by order of arrival. Apparently this is not common practice in other countries, and many tourists often just run inside in front of everyone else, leaving the typical old local ladies complaining about your bad manners. This is a tip that doesn’t come in most guidebooks, but it should.
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