Hassles from people on the street, Lisbon
We are Brits living in Portugal. Almost every time my wife and I are in Lisbon we are hassled by hash sellers.
All drugs are decriminalised for personal use in Portugal (the focus is on health to help addicts instead), and unfortunately that extends to the dealers unless they are caught with a huge amount on them. Result, there are more hash dealers in the central part of Lisbon than in any other city we have ever been to: I have travelled a lot, for 30 years, in my work.
Rather than just say "no", as it results often in further pestering, I just look at them aggressively and say "You are scum" and they literally run off: they don't carry weapons, the whole area is well policed, and busy. I have never seen an aggressive response back, because they know if they do that then the police become very interested in them.
When walking through Lisbon, even in the most touristic area's, you get harrassed repeatedly by guys offering marihuana and coke. This happens already in the afternoon and is not limited to late evenings or special area's. When walking through the main street Rua Augusta we got harrassed more then 15 times in about one hour time (it was only 9pm!). Police doesn't do anything about it. I approached 3 police officers standing at the Praca do Comercio and asked them whether they could do something about it. They answered that it were no drugs but herbs for cooking.... (!!!). They denied that it were drugs! I told them i saw the drugs with my own eyes but they kept denying it were illegal drugs. I asked them to search one of the guys but they refused. When asked, they even confirmed they were not going to do anything about it. It was clear that the police is corrupt in Lissabon and they were not intending to intervene. If you are looking for a peaceful city trip i suggest to stay away from Lissabon as you may feel uncomfortable about the harrassments and the fact that police doesn't do anything about it.
In certain cities around the world, your are some times approach by shady people offering drugs, prostitutes and other vices ….. but not even in Amsterdam they aren't as bold and as open as in Lisbon ….
We were approached several times asking if I wanted to buy hashish or cocaine ????? What the f&&K ??????
and no police around to get rid of these people … what a shame ….
just ignore them and they will leave you alone ….
Coming to Lisbon and don't go to Parque Eduardo VII (Edward VII Park) is, of course, loosing much of Lisbon. But, there is a side street that you have to be aware of, because there are ladies selling some other kind of "souveniers".
The street is "Alameda Edgar Cardoso". During the day the ladies are just on the benchs looking for cars to stop, but during the night they might approach you...
We witnessed the following scam during our visit to Lisbon in December 2011:
We were queueing to take a ride on Elevador de Santa Justa; a lift that connects Baixa at ground level with the square of Largo do Carmo in the elevated Chiado district.
The queue stretched for 10 or 15 metres from the lift's entrance and out onto the surrounding streets. As we waited, a man approached the back of the queue and began to ask people whether they already had tickets or whether they needed to purchase them. He was carrying a small cash register and a large pile of green Viva Viagem transport cards.
He sold dozens of tickets and there was nothing to suggest that anything was untoward. Thankfully, we had already purchased daily transport cards (which include rides on Lisbon's various lifts and funiculars) on the metro that morning otherwise we too would have purchased tickets from him.
When we boarded the lift, those tickets that he had sold were found to be fakes (probably just discarded metro tickets) and those who had purchased them were forced to purchase new tickets from the conductor or were turned away. Most of those who were stung by the scam were Portuguese speakers. A long conversation took place between the victims and the conductor and I believe the police were called, although the conductor's attitude and body language gave me the impression that he was used to this chain of events and was sceptical about the chances of the perpetrator being caught.
If you need to purchase a ticket to ride Elevador de Santa Justa, only purchase it from the conductor as you board the lift and not from anybody who approaches you in the queue!
For information purposes, the scammer was a white male, probably in his 40s and wore a dark coat that covered his neck and a baseball cap that seemed to be concealing a ponytail. However, he is unlikely to be operating alone.
Lisbon is like many other European capital cities - as a tourist you sometimes become a little bothered by buskers and the like.
During my visit to Lisbon; I was approached by artists, sellers of sun glasses, accordian players on the metro, accordian players on the street, youthful accoridan players with small dogs and then most worryingly - men of all ages and ethnic back grounds trying to sell innocent tourists some form of drugs (hash generally was what was offered)
I should say that I like accordian music and most buskers are playing at an acceptable level - the sellers of art work are fine too! My irritation is with the sellers of things you dont want, nor would want to buy from these people on the streets.
Big point to note about Lisbon - I saw very little outright begging and can only recall two instances. In both cases the people begging had very severe physical impairments which would have limited their ability to work significantly.
As in any big city you should stay to the main busy streets and plazas.I felt quite safe here but like many other places in Portugal the odd local or two would be constantly trying to sell me drugs.Only in Lisbon its on a much bigger scale and a lot didnt take no for an answer,thankfully there are a lot of police patrolling the streets and a quick point to one of them and the seller was walking the opposite direction.My advice is just keep walking,stay calm and they will give up.
Nearly every corner is occupied by Drug Dealers who will have no problem approaching you in broad daylight trying to sell a variety of drugs. This I think was the biggest problem in otherwise a very nice city and the local police do nothing to stop it even though they are always around.
Also I did not see any prostitution myself but my friends told me they had come across some on their walks at times like 6pm.
A guy asks me for a smoke, I generously offer him one, but only to find wads of brown hashish rolled up in his sweaty hand... Uh, no thanks.
This continued to happen many more times.. sometimes a few in a row.. but they all relent after a 'no' without insisting.
I don't know if it is any good or not, but I never opted to try it out--these guys do this right in the middle of the crowds on the busiest streets... Offering coke, hash, marijuana.. I never tried any of the them, but had the gut feeling that all of it was either fake, poor quality, or an easy way to get in trouble. I may have be wrong.
Bairro Alto is crammed with bars, restaurants and clubs, most of which are quite fun and chic. The gay/lesbian hang outs are also located here and in Principe Real. At night, the nightlife attracts some rather unsavoury characters. I was accosted several times by young Brazilian men trying to sell me everything from marijuana to coke and heroin. Looking at the ground and not responding as you walk rather quickly usually makes them stop, but not always. One of the men followed me for a bit and started shouting that he knew I wanted to buy. He eventually left me alone, but it was nevertheless rather unpleasant.
There are performers and street vendors everywhere, which can be entertaining or extremely hassling. The performers usually move on if you say no. Mainly the vendors are the most aggressive. Don't show ANY interest unless you prepared to buy. Don't make eye contact, shake your head and say 'nao'. Especially don't touch anything. I watched a woman who just looked at a man get bothered throughout her entire meal in Cascais. Don't expect restaurant staff to do anything since they have to deal with these people every day.
Gypsies are hanging out in most of the train stations and metros right next to the ticket machines.....begging, harassing and intimidating everyone for money. They work in twos or in groups. Many use their children or babies....but don´t let them kid you. They are con artists and we ran into very well dressed ones at the Oriente Station near the Vasco Da Gama Mall. Begging for their baby....I screamed at them to get away while we were getting our tickets. They backed off.
Very aggressive and mean at the Main Station at Cais de Sodre near Old Town Lisbon. Again...standing at the ticket machines with a partner.....cursing at me and telling me "f*** you", etc. The entire time....calling me vulgar names in english. Chasing me through the station while I was screaming back at her.....and stopping short of coming up the escalator....afraid that I would push her down if she got near me. A real problem. We were trying to get to Sintra or Cais Cais and when we went back down......the same people were working other people over...... Same routine. So, we did not want to deal with them again....and went to Old Lisbon that day. Returned to the hotel from another station.
I noted police officers in Old Lisbon...on bike patrol and patrolling....but none in the Metro stations that we visited. Not a pleasant experience. Ate at an outdoor cafe and no problems. We kept our tote bags in our laps.........as they would stroll by looking for trouble.
Many of them in that area using their dogs to beg. The city needs to get this under control but probably won´t.
If you would like to eat outside, unfortunately, you definitely WILL be interrupted every 5 minutes with accordion players, beggars, trinket sellers and hustlers trying to beg money off you. Sorry, but I did not ask to hear their stupid noise.
Some could be really pushy, but "f*** off" seems to work in Portugese in the more persistent cases. Pretty soon, I just wanted to eat inside simply to avoid these parasites.
This happened in the city centre, especially around Rossio and Restauradores.
They are aggressive and they speak English! Just walk away. Do not engage them. If you speak another language, start speaking it. They tend to hang around the major tourist areas (i.e. Pc do Comercio).
A tale from fellow travelers on a business trip, who told the beggar to "bugger-off" in so many word. The beggar actually followed them to a restaurant. He continued to harass them from outside the restaurant. The owners did not intervene. The couple were frightened to leave. So I repeat, do not engage them.
Other tales of theft. Camera's left on the table, bags stolen etc. Just be wary. My advice, keep your wits about you and you'll be fine, just like in any city.
There are people in central Lisbon that will approach you trying to sell sunglasses and when they get your attention (and even if they don't) they offer drugs.
It is not unusual also to be approached by older women (over 50) trying to sell drugs.
They are usually gypsies (they usually dress in black, even on very warm days).
This happened to me on a daily basis when I was working in Lisbon, so it is not only an issue for tourists.
I have seen "transactions" happen in broad daylight...
The Rua Augusta and Rua das Portas de S. Antão (behind the Theater) are the streets where you are most likely to be approached.
However, if you say no, they usually will not insist.