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Lisbon was one of the invisible cities imagined by Italo Calvino : a white and oceanic city surrounded by and emerald estuary, a place for thoughts and poetry, a city in the same time lazy, peaceful and intoxicating where we wander through the time even more than space. That was before the downsides of excessive commercial activities from mass tourism invited themselves, shattering the fragile equilibrium of the city, soiling its delicate charm, and penetrating in deeper and deeper. So the people of Lisbon are telling here to the tourists and local authorities what Lisbon doesn’t love, and we hope from the deepest of our hearts that the change will come from them.

airbnb
airbnb

Short term rentals

«Property bubble»... this expression has been used to describe the spectacular rise in rents and of the average cost per square metre in the centre of Lisbon. While prices in the Chiado neighbourhood are reaching values similar to those found in Paris, Airbnb is offering more than 10,000 properties in central Lisbon. The picture is even more bleak when it's understood that more and more of this business is concentrated in the hands of a few large speculators.

Problems for the inhabitants

  • Simply put - the disappearance of traditional dwellers from the central neighbourhoods, forced to move to distant suburbs.
  • Contant pressure and dubious tactics by estate agents and investors against small property holders.

Inconvenience for tourists

  • The great charm and very identity of Lisbon lies in the day to day life of these same picturesque old neighbourhoods. In the absence of actual locals, must we in the future use actors or create a "protected area" of indigenous people?

Solutions

  • Stay in hotels.
  • Try, where possible, to rent from someone managing their own property, rather than a big faceless company managing a large portfolio all over the city.
cruise ship
cruise ship

Cruise ships

Probably the epitome of capitalism, thousands of pigeons have left their credit cards at the reception desk of this floating building. A building pouring its occupants for a few hours in several cities of several countries. Mass tourism in all its’ beauty, expensive for average services, all you can eat and all you can see. Just like with the meal, you finish with a stomach ache.

Nuisance for locals

  • Floating buildings in front of the Alfama disrupt the nest of the city and are an insult to over 2000 years of maritime exploration and adventures.
  • Air pollution : Cruise ships moored at the quay generate an incredible amount of pollution for the locals (mostly sulphur dioxide, small particles and carbon dioxide).
  • Noise pollution : the roaring engines that keep on going while stationed, and sometimes the ship blares music to welcome its passengers on and off the ship.
  • Local tourism doesn’t benefit from these crowds, the cruise company already has all the services negotiated beforehand so they can take their commission.
  • It also creates the mass tourism described above that Lisbon doesn’t love.

Solutions

  • Prefer small group excursions.
  • Prefer cruises on ships of a more human scale.
Tuk-tuk
Tuk-tuk

Gasoline-powered Tuk-Tuk

Wait is this Thailand ? No Lisbon… Unknown less than two years ago, these auto rickshaws have flooded the city to the point where the mayors office doesn’t know how many there are. Our estimation goes from 200 to 300 that constantly go around the seven hills trying to grab tourists.

Nuisance for locals

  • Very noisy and underpowered, they make the same noise as alpha jets on steep hills, which are everywhere in Lisbon.
  • Polluting : as they have a tiny petrol engine and are badly made.
  • They constantly obstruct the streets and viewpoints as they queue up one behind another where the potential clients are.
  • Uninhibited activity for a portion of tourists that yell and shout encouraged by certain drivers.
  • They are typical from South-east Asia not southwest Europe, don’t let them take the charm of Portugal away.

Tourist annoyance

  • Visit done sitting on a shaky, noisy and uncomfortable seat.
  • Pretty expensive 30€ for 30 minutes for a tour made by unqualified tour guides that describe each place so fast and superficially that it is appalling.
  • Limiting as all other vehicle transport modes described previously.

Solutions

  • We cannot stress enough the fact that Lisbon is a city best discovered on foot - that’s how you can best find and explore unsuspected treasures.
  • If you must use a powered vehicle, try to use an electric one, that will be much more enjoyable for its silence.
  • Try to pick a driver that looks calm and competent, rather than one chasing you down the street...
Go-car
Go-car

GO-car

A hybrid between a car and a scooter which exhibits the worst of both worlds.

Nuisance for locals

  • Double sound pollution : propelled by a small moped engine, permanently at full throttle with a robotic voice that spits, periodically, a few banalities about the city.
  • Very polluting since the engine is usually used at full power.
  • Since people feel like they are on a ride in Disneyland, they tend to act as if they were with constant shouting, loud laughter, and silly games - and the more there are together, the worse that is.

Tourist annoyance

  • As uncomfortable as it gets : if you hadn’t noticed most of the streets are paved with cobblestones...
  • Dangerous : both on a physical and health level. You are at the same height as car bumpers and exhaust pipes...
  • Limiting : You can’t get to the most interesting and charming parts of the city, they are only accessible on foot.

Solution

  • Lisbon must be discovered on foot, full stop.
Segway
Segway

Segway

Often marketed as an eco friendly solution and reducing the traffic in city centres, this thing is not only useless in Lisbon but also perfectly ridiculous.

Nuisance for locals

  • Constraining for anybody on the sidewalk, forced to move out of their way. This is also applicable in the old city neighborhoods where no cars are allowed.
  • Dangerous for users and pedestrians. The former as they usually don’t control it like they should on all the different pavements, the latter as they are usually more interested by looking at the city than looking at what will hit them. A 10 minute driving lesson on the Praça do Comercio does not make you the Schumacher of Segways. Fun fact to keep in mind, the Segway owner died falling from a cliff on one of his babies.

Tourist annoyance

  • Uncomfortable : as you can’t get off of it easily, it’s also hard for the rider to focus on the tour guide’s speech and their own balance.
  • Limiting : as futuristic as they may seem, they still can’t climb stairs, so they prevent you from getting to the most iconic places.
  • Among all the means of transport used by tourists, it is probably the one that makes you look the most silly.

Solution

  • Don’t be lazy and walk.
mas tourism
mass tourism

Crowded tourism

All group above 20 participants (cruise ships, «free tours», etc.) are a real problem in the old neighborhoods of a city like Lisbon, its urbanistic design doesn’t encourage masses.

Nuisance for locals

  • Systematically obstructing the narrow streets of the old center by their number, standing still to listen to their guides, they do not realize that Lisbon is a city and people work and have to get around themselves. So these groups constrain the locals to be rude and push people just to be able to go through to their activities.
  • Group dynamics are what they are, the larger the group, the noisier it is, as well as their guide when it is necessary to yell out to people 20m away (free tours do not provide a headset system).

Tourist annoyance

  • Mass tourism is probably the least appreciated experience by people interested in a visit, an adventure. It doesn’t allow for a personalized tour, nor does it allow any adaptation to the participant’s interest, it only leads to groups following the guide like a herd of sheep.

Solutions

  • Prefer an individual trip or small groups by asking beforehand.
  • Prefer tour guides that are willing to adapt activities/visits to the will of the small group.
mass media
mass media

Mass media tips

The sudden popularity of Lisbon has seen many websites, blogs flourish on the internet and also paper guides written by people in the city for about a week in the best case, or people that haven’t even been there in the worst case but taking advantage of publicity, commissions, services for referring people here or there.

Annoyance for all

  • The « tips » given being read and believed by millions of people, whether good or bad, everybody runs to these and concentrate themselves there. The most notable example being the Belem tower…no-one would ever recommend the place as there is a very little of interest inside and you’ll spend ages stuck on the one-way narrow staircase.
  • « Good addresses » are usually good at first, but once published and known by all, the quality decreases to meet the increase of customers and the prices also tend to follow the hike in popularity. The entire soul of the place disappears as you will no longer find Portuguese people there but only tourists.

Solutions

  • Don’t rely on reading tour guides and web sites to find out what’s of interest - find out yourself. Discovering the city is not limited to a to-do list, but the accumulation of experiences you will enjoy by following your instincts and interests.
  • Common sense and a little effort is usually enough to find good addresses in Lisbon).
  • The unexpected discovery is the most rewarding part of a travel adventure. Don’t over plan, you will save yourself stress and disappointment.
mass tourism
mass tourism

Tourist dedicated structures

Please note that this section does not concern the city tourism center but the structures that were created here for tourists only and that have nothing Portuguese except maybe the name (Fado houses, souvenir stores) if it isn’t itself in English.

Nuisance for locals

  • Slowly but surely replacing small typical shops and crafts that make the charm and uniqueness of the neighborhood and its inhabitants.
  • Sharp increase in prices for all the goods.

Tourist annoyance

  • Usually a poor cost/quality ratio whether it is food, Fado or crafts compared to those provided locally.
  • No authenticity - at best you’ll be a tourist amongst other tourists - at worst an unwitting actor in a show staged only for you.

Solutions

  • Make the effort to shop out of the highly touristic areas (Baixa, Alfama, etc.). Lisbon has many more areas and great addresses, sometimes only a hundred meters away.
  • Avoid places where clearly the marketing has taken the best of the place : multi-language descriptions, overly modern soul-less design, waiters grabbing you in the street, tourist packed places... Look for places where Portuguese is being spoken, with Portuguese menus - then you’ll know you are in Portugal.
mass tourism
mass tourism

Rudeness

Vacation and traveling are often a time for people to blow off some steam, but there are ways to do so and ways to not.

Nuisance for the locals

  • Disrespect of privacy : taking pictures without one’s consent, blocking streets…
  • Un-civic behavior : bachelor parties, getting drunk in the streets, parties in rental apartments, yelling in Go-cars ad Tuk-tuks…
  • Avarice : unfortunately more and more frequent with low cost tourism. It consists in systematically trying to negotiate prices and expect everything to be cheaper than in your home-country.

Solutions

  • Be respectful and act with dignity just as you would do at home.
  • Be discreet, the good tourist adapts to the local habits, not the other way around.
  • Don’t travel if you are unwilling to respect the local prices.