Moving to Lisbon? Whether you are moving with your family or starting a new university course as a student, saving must be in your mind. The cost of living in Lisbon is rising yearly. According to a Mercer Study, in 2021, Lisbon rose 23 positions in the cost of living ranking compared to 2020. It ranked as the 83rd most expensive city for expats in the world.
However, in comparison to other major European capitals, Lisbon remains affordable. it is 40% less expensive than Amsterdam and London. If you are aware of the best tips and tricks to save money in Lisbon, you’ll find that you won’t be spending unnecessary cash.
In this article, we put together Lisbon the average monthly budget for expats, digital nomads, and families with two children. Let’s take a look at how you can reduce your monthly budget and save those euros with 9 Lisbon budgeting tips.
1. Public transport and walking always
Public transport is affordable in Lisbon, unlike in cities like London where a monthly transport pass will cost you over €100. A monthly transportation pass in Lisbon for metro, buses, and trams should cost you around €50.
There are plenty of places in Lisbon that are also accessible by foot, but if the steep hills are too tiring for you, there’s always a tram around.
The best way to save money here is by avoiding Ubers and taxis. These have been rising in prices, particularly in the last six months due to the rise in gas prices. If you decide to take the occasional Uber, try to share one with friends and split the fare.
2. Student discounts: Bring that student card everywhere
If you are a student, take advantage of the many student discounts across the city and all of Portugal. The International Student Identity Card, ISIC, is the most widely accepted form of student ID. You can get discounts on sights, accommodation, food, transportation, and more. Discounts range anywhere from 10% to 50%.
3. Avoid restaurants in touristy areas
The key to finding affordable restaurants in Lisbon is to avoid tourist traps. There are plenty of touristy areas such as Chiado and Bairro Alto with great affordable restaurants, but some areas are to be completely avoided.
For example, many restaurants near Rossio Square, particularly the ones with large pictures on the menu charge at least €20 for a low-quality meal.
You will find cheaper restaurants with better and larger meals all over the city. For example, Ze da Mouraria in Mouraria serves huge portions for around €10.
Pro tip: order the special of the day. For example, Taberna da Casa do Alentejo serves a daily special that costs anywhere between €6 and 7€.
Some places even offer a full lunch menu with a starter, main, dessert, and coffee for €10.
If you really want to save, always ask for “tap water”. If you just ask for some water, you will be served a large glass water bottle that could cost you anywhere between €5 to €8.
4. Rent a room instead of an apartment
If you are really looking to save, the best way to do so is to rent a room in a shared house. A one-bedroom apartment will cost you around €850 at least, but you can get a room for around €300 to €400 a month. These prices can increase depending on location, size, and whether the place has been recently renovated.
Look for a place to rent on websites such as Idealista, Spotahome, and Custojusto. Know that in all of Portugal, it is part of the rental culture for you to negotiate the price of the rent.
An unusual factor about renting in Lisbon is that landlords will try to not give you a rental contract, which is NOT advisable. Many landlords choose not to declare their rental income in order to not pay the tax for non-tourism properties set at 28%.
Landlords will often give you a 28% discount in turn, but this means you will lose most of your tenant rights as you won’t have a legal rental contract. This is not the place to save money, do not take this risk!
5. Find free activities and entertainment in Lisbon
Lisbon has loads of free activities and sights, you just need to know where to go! From green parks perfect for picnic dates and the iconic Lisbon viewpoints, the city has so much to offer, without costing you a penny.
One of our favorite free things to do in Lisbon is to visit the Gulbenkian Garden. Open from sunrise to sunset, the Gulbenkian Garden was created in 1969 at the headquarters of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Covering 19 acres, the garden features two lakes, landscaped lawns, small bridges, and paths for guests to stroll.
Head to one of the many miradouros (viewpoints) in Lisbon, where you’ll find people drinking beer and playing music while watching the sunset. The best lookout spots are Miradouro de Santa Luzia in Alfama, Miradouro da Graça, and Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
Many of the stunning historical monuments in Lisbon are best enjoyed from the outside, which is completely free. For example, located on the northern bank of the Tagus River, the Monument of the Discoveries was founded in 1960 by Portuguese architect José Ângelo Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida during Salazar’s Estado Novo dictatorship.
You can also snap some photos of UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and Torre de Belem.
6. Look for promotions at supermarkets
Supermarkets in Portugal regularly have promotions on certain products, so look out for these. Sometimes discounts can reach up to 50%! Many supermarkets also offer discount coupons so make sure to keep these with you and use them by their due date.
In the center of Lisbon, you will also find many mercearias, these are traditional supermarkets that are quite smaller than the mainstream supermarkets. Although you might not find everything you need here, many products such as fruit, vegetables, and bread are more affordable here.
If you’re going to a large supermarket like Continente or Pingo Doce, don’t be afraid of the white label products, known as marca branca in Portuguese. These are high-quality in Portugal and a lot of times just as good as the expensive brands.
7. Travel the country by bus
Moving to Lisbon for the first time and not exploring the country would be a waste. Due to the rise in gas prices and how expensive it is to rent a car, traveling by bus is the cheapest option. Do check out the prices of trains for a given journey as this is more comfortable, but usually, a bus ticket is your cheapest option.
The most popular bus company is Rede Expressos, a national express coach network in Portugal. You will find bus routes all over the country and you can purchase tickets online. They sell tickets from Lisbon to Porto and the Algarve starting at €5.
8. Browse the flea markets for cheap gems
The most popular flea market in Lisbon is called Feira da Ladra and has been a part of the capital’s culture since the 12th century. The flea market in Alfama sells everything from vintage clothes, and accessories, to antique furniture. If you need something for your new home, instead of driving to Ikea, check out what Feira da Ladra has to offer.
The market happens every Tuesday and Saturday from dawn to early afternoon. Make sure to get there early if you are looking to purchase items. The flea market is free to visit and if you do end up buying something, prices are extremely low.
9. Be careful with your heating and electricity bills
Not so fun fact – the energy bills in Portugal are some of the highest in Europe. Basic energy utilities average out at €150 depending on the size of the household. You can definitely save some money by watching your consumption.
Try to avoid leaving lights on that you are not using, the environment will also thank you. While the winters are not too cold in Lisbon, it can get quite cold at night. Try to reduce your heating consumption by not leaving it on all day, this could almost triple your heating bill in the winter.