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How does the metro/subway work in Lisbon?

Updated on December 1, 2009
Lisbon Subway
Lisbon Subway

Want to visit Lisbon but do not know how to move around within the city? The following pages will serve you as a basic guide on how to take advantage of the subway system in Portugal; saving you time and money as you will be able to evaluate your options and decide where you want to go and how. Read on, you will be surprised what you can do with a single electronic ticket.  

Portugal offers a pretty versatile transportation system. The only inconvenience is that you have to know the resources, or else, you will find yourself paying a high priced taxi to get to your destination. Before you travel to Portugal, take a look at all the options; from then on, all you have to do is decide the places you want to visit and see how to get there using public transportation.

Blue line
Blue line
All subway lines
All subway lines


This is one of the easiest ways to circulate in Lisbon.  Accessible and relatively cheap, the Metro or subway has four main colored lines:

- Yellow Line (Rato - Saldanha Station),

- Green Line (Cais do Sodre - Telheiras), 

- Blue Line (Santa Apolonia - Amadora Este),

- Red Line (S. Sebatiao- Oriente)


7 Colinas
7 Colinas
Viva Viagem
Viva Viagem

Buying the ticket

Before you hoop on that fast piece of metal that works from 6:30 in the morning till 1 o’clock of the next day, you will have to buy an electronic billet. Options are either 7 Colinas, or Viva Viagem. The card itself costs .50 cents, therefore, I would recommend to keep it in a save place so that it has a longer use-life. Cards can be bought at any ticket’s vending machine or at the station’s ticket office.

For functional reasons, the Viva Viagem is the best option, as it is more common and in case of any doubts or last minute malfunctioning, people will be more able to help you out. Always keep a receipt when you get one, you might need it later on if the card doesn’t work well. Trust me, it happens!

There are 4 main ticket offices, Red line: Oriente, Green line: Cais do Sobre, Yellow line: Campo Grande, and Blue line: Colegio Militar.

These are needed especially if you are interested in buying a combined pass.

Lisboa Viva
Lisboa Viva

Lisboa Viva

This is a second option that I would only advice for longer stays. The Lisboa Viva is a magnetic card that can be used with any public transport (Metro, Carris, and Transtejo), and can be reloaded accordingly to its use. In order to get it, you need 7 Euros, a cute picture, and a filled application.  It takes around 10 days to be ready and it’s needed if you want to buy a monthly pass.



Now, let see the alternative fares and which one will be the best depending on the time of your stay in the city.

First, you have a ticket exclusively for the metro. This pass can only be charged up to 20 Euros. You can get it at any ticket machine at the stations; where you can also check its balance choosing the option “carregamento/leitura”. This is the handiest selection if you are not planning to use any other type of transportation; with the advantage of buying single tickets every time you go on the metro.

Tip: recharge your card with the approximate number of trips in mind, as you can get little bonuses every time you charge it with more than five Euros.

Other choices

Metro/Carris: single ticket. Use time: 24 hours. Number of trips: Unlimited Price: 3,70 Euros.


In case you are planning to unlimit yourself as far as transportation, I recommend the zapping option as the more convenient one. It is used on the 7 Colinas or Viva Viagem, and it is valid for the Metro, Carris and Transtejo. The amount spent on each operator will be deducted as you travel. This type of service cannot be transferred, if you are traveling with a group, each one has to have a card.

Monthly passes

If you are studying in Lisbon, or plan to stay for more than 15 days in the city, my suggestion would be to buy a monthly pass. They are quite expensive considering their purpose (save money); however, if you plan to move around frequently, it will save you the struggle of recharging every time you run out of money.

All passes have a validity period of 30 days and they are always put onto the Lisboa Viva Card.  I will try to summarize the options, and then you can choose according to your needs.

Metro exclusive - can be bought at the electronic machines or at any ATM (Multibanco) and Metro/Carris with the zapping option. There are also other types of combined and single passes. You can see a list of prices here.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Entrance SubwayReader Machines EntranceSubway Underground
Entrance Subway
Entrance Subway
Reader Machines Entrance
Reader Machines Entrance
Subway Underground
Subway Underground

On the Metro

Now that you have understood how the system works, let see some details that will help increase your comfort when using the metro.

To enter the subway you will have to softly approach the pre-charged card to a reader located at the entrance channels. Two little transparent doors will open. Always make sure you look at the green arrow sign before standing next to the door, if you see a red x, your card will not work, no matter how much you try.

Now, when talking about easiness, I would categorize the stations, on a 10 point’s scale, at 6. It can be tricky sometimes for new users. Therefore, read all the signs and make sure to carry a little map with the lines and station’s names. They can be bought at the station’s offices.

The metro takes around 3-7 minutes between each ride and the doors close very fast, so be aware of the sound telling you the doors are closing, you will avoid embarrassing moments. Depending on the hour, you can easily get a seat and enjoy the underground journey.

Where to go

Unless a person had lived in Lisbon for some time, and even so it can be tricky, there is no  way to know where these lines can take you, this Mapa contains all the stations within the city, meaning that by knowing the name of the place you can locate the metro stop. Once you know the stops, plan your trip here, it will help with the line colors and the names of the stops.

Being relaxed and sure about our next move can make our travel in a big city a lot more pleasant and enjoyable. Review the maps; select the main places to visit in Lisbon, and jump on… the metro will take you there in a blink of an eye.

Até já!


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Glad I noticed this on hubs.

      best regards,

      Ron from Fitness

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Important and helpful information. Wish I'd seen this a year ago before I learned it all with a bit of hit-and-miss!


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