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Is Lisbon safe for tourist? Crime or dangers? Is Lisbon safe for female and sole travellers?
Lisbon is one of the safest capital cities in Europe, and few tourists will experience any difficulties or dangers during their stay. The city is progressive, liberal and diverse, and is perfectly safe for females and sole travellers or older visitors.
That said, Lisbon is a major city and has its equal share of shady, odd or desperate people, and we would encourage you to use the same common sense as you would back at home. The biggest potential issue visitors will experience while in Lisbon is from highly skilled pick-pockets or the annoyance of endless "drug dealers", who are selling little more than crushed herbs.
This article will detail possible problems tourists may experience while in Lisbon and provide links to useful resources.
Portugal is a politically stable country, and the Portuguese are a welcoming and pleasant people. Tourism is critical to Portugal’s economy, and the country has invested heavily in the tourism infrastructure and the training of people who work within the sector.
The main tourist areas of Lisbon are very safe, with a high-level police presence during the day and very few series crimes against tourists. Most series injuries or issues to tourist, only come about from excessive drinking (or other inebriation) or while partaking in dangerous and ill-advised activities. If you plan to come to Lisbon as a sensible and responsible tourist, you can expect Lisbon to be a very safe destination.
Related article: Which district to stay in Lisbon?
Other high-level points and considerations
• Portuguese is the national language of Portugal, but English is widely spoken by all who work within the tourism industry.
• There are stringent regulations for places preparing or selling food, and you should not have concerns regarding where to eat or the quality of food served.
• The healthcare of Lisbon is of a good standard for life-threatening issues, but for lesser alignments, it can feel inefficient and disorganised.
• Lisbon is safe for female or sole travellers, and there is a large backpacking community.
• My parents, who are in their 70s, have visited Lisbon independently numerous times, and recommend it to their friends of a similar age.
• Unlike many other European tourist destinations, tourists will not feel as if they are being continually financially exploited.
• Don’t drive in Lisbon; public transport is excellent, while taxis are safe and inexpensive.
• Tap water can be drunk, but the pipework in older builds may mean it is not suitable to do so (always check first!)
• Always have travel insurance, never consider a trip without it!
Related articles: Taxi Guide – Metro Guide – Driving in Lisbon
Quick Crime and Emergency Information
The emergency telephone number of Portugal (and Europe) is 112.
The best place to report minor tourist crimes (pickpocketing/loss of items etc.) is to the Tourism Police, which is based in Foz Palace in the Praça dos Restauradores plaza (GPS: 38.71580, -9.14232). This office can be contacted on (+351) 213421623. For most insurance claims, a police report needs to be issued (sometimes within 24hours of the crime) and the Tourism Police station in Praça dos Restauradores is the best place for this.
Pickpocketing – Lisbon’s most prevalent crime
Tourist to Lisbon should be aware of the high level of pick-pocketing in crowded tourist areas, and especially on the tram routes. These pickpockets are highly skilled but are opportunistic, and only ever target tourists who are being careless (or tired). While on the trams, never place valuable items in your back pockets, always wear rucksacks on your front and be very wary when standing close to the door.
The pickpockets are never Portuguese, and are often from Eastern Europe, flown in by organised gangs to "work" for a few days. They also do not follow the common stereotypes, and are often women and have learnt to dress well to blend into a crowd.
Related articles: Lisbon tram guide – Tram 28
Pickpockets and petty crime will always be found were wealthy tourists visit, and Lisbon has it’s issues, but it is never considered as the one of Europe’s worst destinations:
Independent: 10 cities your most likely to be pickpocketed in
Daily Mail: 5 European cites worst for pickpocketing
Why do the police do nothing with the drug dealers?
Portugal has a very progressive approach to drugs and addicts, classing it as a medical concern instead of a criminal one.
While wandering the central Lisbon, you will be approached (and on many occasions) by people offering to sell drugs. The police are unable to arrest or deal effectively with them as the “drugs” that they are selling are little more than crushed herbs. Do not be offended if you are offered; firmly decline, and it is pointless reporting it to the police. Never make an issue with the seller, as these are desperate people, and simply walk away.
Areas in Lisbon to be wary of
Generally, central Lisbon is safe, and this includes the Baixa and Chiado districts and the area surrounding the Avenida da Liberdade. Lisbon’s worst estates are far to the north west of the city and are areas where no tourist would have any need to go to.
The districts of Intendente, Mouraria and Anjos (which follow the green metro line) are traditional immigrants’ areas of the city, and we would not recommend these districts for our parents to have a hotel in.
The Cais de Sodre district has been transformed into the new nightlife hub of the city from a very deprived, red-light district. This area is great for a night out, but elements of it's not so illustrious past continue today.