I’m 25 & This Is How Much My Trip To Lisbon Cost

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Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 25-year-old research associate goes to Lisbon with a close friend.
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Age: 25
Salary: $51,000 + ~$1,000 a month from independent consulting 
Travel Companion: Best friend from grad school, M
Hometown: Washington, DC
Trip Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Trip Length: 8 days
Annual # Of Vacation Days: 18
Companion’s # of Vacation Days: 15 days plus “family days,” which are certain days before and after national holidays.
Costs: My round trip ticket cost $1,057.00. Flight left from Dulles in Washington D.C. to Lisbon, with a stopover in Casablanca, Morocco. Took the same route back.
Total: $1,057
Costs: We shared a one-bedroom Airbnb (we had the full flat), that came to $277.98 per person for six nights.
Total: $277.98
Miscellaneous pre-vacation spending:
None. I’ve been traveling internationally about once a month for work so I have all the travel necessities.
Total: $0

Day One

5:00 p.m. – Our flight is at 10:30 p.m. tonight and I really should leave the office to go home and pack, but Sweden is playing the Netherlands in the World Cup semi-finals and I am glued to the screening in our conference room. It’s such a close game! Eventually, the Netherlands wins and I head home. Can’t wait to watch them play our girls (#Rapinoe2020) in the finals on Sunday!
6:30 p.m. – My travel companion, M, and her boyfriend, T, pick me up at my flat. We’re flying out of Dulles, and it’s a bit of a trek from the city center, but luckily T has a car and offered to drive us. I’m grateful I don’t have to take a $40 Uber or mess around with multiple trains and buses. On the way to the airport, M realizes she forgot to pack her birth control. T thinks on his feet and, while driving, and just calls in her prescription. Damn, it pays to date a doctor. M and I are very impressed. We pick up her prescription at a CVS near the airport, and I grab some flight snacks. $2.75
8:45 p.m. – We check in and make it through security (even though apparently our airline does not participate in TSA pre-check?) and settle down at a restaurant by our gate. I order a gin & tonic while M orders a whisky ginger ale and I Venmo her for mine. We don’t really have anything planned for this trip, so on the flight M and I make a list of the things we absolutely want to do: We decide to do day trips to the beach and to Sintra, a world heritage site, and visit a few museums, castles, and religious buildings to learn more about the history of Portugal. We also make a list of the restaurants we’ve come across in various food and travel magazines that we want to visit (M and I love seafood and we fully intend to take advantage of being by the sea). $12.00
Daily Total: $14.75

Day Two 

10:00 a.m. – We arrive for our layover in Casablanca, Morocco. We grab some waters and I get a ham and cheese croissant to tide me over. After a bit of searching, we find a rogue charging station and settle down by it for the remainder of our layover. $9.62
4:00 p.m. – Finally made it to Lisbon! We try to call an Uber from the airport to the Airbnb, but after much back and forth about the pick-up location, the Uber driver cancels and we get a taxi instead. When we arrive at the Airbnb, we realize taxis only take cash in Lisbon. The taxi driver takes us to an ATM where I withdraw money for me and M (she doesn’t have a debit card). It’s been years since I’ve had to use or take out cash and I am pretty proud of myself for remembering the PIN on my debit card. $8.44
6:00 p.m. – It took us a while to find our Airbnb since the taxi couldn’t drive to the road our flat is on. We’re staying at the bottom of a massive hill that apparently also serves as a popular nightlife street in Lisbon and everyone’s out drinking and partying on the street. Our Airbnb host, L, is trying to direct us via shouting over the music from the balcony, and it’s this whole thing. M and I can’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, and how, of course, this would happen to us first thing.
7:00 p.m. – We thank our host for his guidance, then change and decide to head to the first restaurant on our list: Cervejaria Ramiro. We start walking towards the restaurant and run into a cute market selling sangria, cured meats, and cheese. We make a mental note to stop by here again, and each get a glass of sangria for the road. $3.38
7:30 p.m. – When we arrive at the restaurant, there’s a huge line. We grab a number to wait and the restaurant cleverly has a beer ATM installed in the waiting area: You put a two-euro coin into the machine and it pours you a pint! I grab a beer for us to share and we meet a couple from the US who are retiring in Lisbon. He and his husband talk about how much they love this city, and even though we protest, they buy us another two rounds of beers. $2.25
8:45 p.m. – Our number is finally called! We’re pretty hungry and slightly buzzed at this point, so we dig into the bread on the table as soon as we sit down. The food is incredible! We order roasted garlic shrimp, two king crabs, fries, and half a bottle of wine to split. We ask for more bread as well, because obviously ($33.78). We Uber back to the Airbnb when we’re finished since it’s late and fall asleep immediately ($2.16). $35.94
Daily Total: $70.89

Day Three  

9:30 a.m. – We take our time in the morning to refresh and plan our day. We decide to visit the monastery and a modern art museum because they’re in the same neighborhood. This monastery was an important landmark during Europe’s age of discovery due to its location by a key port, so we both want to check it out. We Google breakfast spots near our Airbnb and end up at The Mill, a hipster-ish coffee shop. I get avocado toast (there’s a lot of avocado toast on this trip because that seems to be the go-to savory breakfast option here and I’m not a fan of sweet pastries in the morning) and a flat white. $10.98
11:00 a.m. – We take an Uber to the monastery because we’re a bit far from the right tram station ($4.22). Our student ID’s don’t expire until 2020 (despite the fact that we graduated from grad school in 2018), so we manage to get student tickets ($5.63). Jeronimos Monastery is absolutely beautiful, and we muse about how wonderful it must have been to have a life where you just wander the gardens, read, and think about life, God, and humanity. $9.85
1:00 p.m. – We leave the monastery and walk along the water to the modern art museum, the M.A.A.T. (M read about the museum in a design magazine). On the way, we pass by a pastel de nata shop that supposedly has the best egg tarts in all of Lisbon (according to our Uber driver this morning). We each grab one ($2.93) and they’re delightful. I grew up eating egg tarts in China, but this was M’s first! We get student tickets at the M.A.A.T. and spend the next few hours exploring ($5.07), even though we don’t really understand a lot of the exhibits. $8
4:00 p.m. – We’re getting hungry so we leave the M.A.A.T. and continue walking along the water back in the general direction of our Airbnb. We come across a nice café along the water, so we stop by. We both order sandwiches and lattes and sit by the water for a while to people-watch ($7.88). There are a lot of stag/hen parties, so we see some crazy costumes. We laugh as a stormtrooper chases Darth Vader back and forth on electric scooters. My phone dies and since it is our only source of navigation (we’re both terrible with directions), we decide to Uber the rest of the way back to the Airbnb via M’s phone ($3). $10.33
6:00 p.m.After plugging my phone in to charge at our Airbnb, we walk through the shopping district nearby and browse. Mango is having a massive sale so we obviously have to pop in. I take 12 things into the dressing room and come out with two because I’m a tiny Asian woman and nothing ever fits me right in Europe or the U.S. I end up buying only one top because M points out the second top I’m holding is a literal replica of the one I currently have on. Oops. $10.13
7:30 p.m. – We’re starting to get hungry again but aren’t in the mood for a full meal, so we decide to go back to the market we stumbled upon yesterday. We buy goat cheese, prosciutto, olives, a baguette, and sangria, and sit in the park with our spread. We chat for a while about life since we’re both a bit fatigued by our jobs and comment on how much we like the street style here. $15.76
9:00 p.m. – We head back to the Airbnb to grab my phone and change before going out. There’s a bar on top of a parking garage that seemed cool (literally called Park), so we walk there. On the way, we end up meeting a massive group of people also heading to that bar! We feel very validated by our choice. We each get a gin and tonic and admire the views of the city. This Brazilian guy won’t leave M alone and I somehow get stuck talking to a bunch of Germans about the only thing Europeans ask Americans about now: Trump. Ugh, can’t get away from that man. $9.01
12:00 a.m. – Eventually the Germans and I rescue M. We debate going somewhere else but decide we’re too tired. We say goodbye to the Germans and head back to the Airbnb to watch season 2 of “Derry Girls.” Not mad about it.
Daily Total: $74.06

Day Four

10:30 a.m. – We sleep in after staying up ‘till 3:00 a.m. On our agenda today is a castle and a convent. M and I love castles because we’re both defense nerds and it’s fascinating to learn about rudimentary battle tactics, so there are a few on our list to visit while we’re here. The convent is also supposedly super beautiful and offers great views of the city, so we want to check that out as well. We Google the walking route to the convent and search along the route for a coffee shop. We stop for breakfast at Fabrica where we split an avocado toast and each get a latte. $7.88
12:00 p.m. – Lisbon has so. many. hills. The convent and the castle are both on top of massive hills, and we are struggling. We stop halfway up to “check out” the graffiti artwork (aka catch our breath). We also get bubble tea to hydrate. $3.37
12:30 p.m. – We make it to Igreja e Convento da Graça, and it does indeed have some beautiful views of Lisbon. The convent itself is quite small since parts of it were closed for renovation, but we spend some time admiring the tiling. It doesn't require a ticket to visit.
1:30 p.m. – We head to the castle. Unfortunately, Google Maps tells us there’s no way to walk straight there, so we’ll have to head down then up again. Why, Lisbon?
2:15 p.m. – We make it to the castle and are pretty knackered. We get our tickets and brochures and sit in a shady area for a bit to read up on the history of São Jorge Castle. I manage to snag a 25 and under discounted ticket, but M is a few years older and has to pay full price, which is double. We wander through the castle discussing how difficult some parts of it would be to defend from a sea attack because we are who we are. $5.63
3:30 p.m. – We’re feeling peckish but the restaurant we want to go to tonight doesn’t open until 7:00 p.m., so we decide to stop by the Time Out Market for food. On the way there, we visit a bookstore to pick up some books (I finished mine – A Philosophy of Ruin – on the flight over! Wasn’t a fan and can’t recommend it, unfortunately.) I get Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman because the bookstore is running a special “books banned in the Soviet Union” series and I love Russian literature. I also grab a portable charger because my old iPhone can’t handle these long days and a postcard to send my great-aunt ($35.12). At the market, we share a plate of seafood rice and a bottle of wine ($12.38), then sit and read for a bit. $47.50
7:00 p.m. – We start walking towards the ferry station. The restaurant, Porto Final, is located on the water across the river and everyone I’ve spoken to that has visited or lived in Lisbon says it’s one of the best restaurants in Lisbon. We buy roundtrip ferry tickets and read a bit more on the ride. $3.38
7:40 p.m. – We get to the restaurant and there’s already a massive line. We put our names down and the maître d’hotel tells us it’ll be about an hour wait. We buy a round of beers and sit along the water to wait. $1.80
8:50 p.m. – Three rounds of beer later and we’re feeling it ($4.05). I ask the maître d’hotel how many people are in front of us, and he calls our name about 10 minutes later. We order a pork entrée, a side of fries, and a side of garlic shrimp to share. At this point, between the bottle of wine and the beers, we’re pretty drunk and I honestly don’t remember which one of us paid. We catch the ferry, walk back to the Airbnb, and crash around 1:00 a.m.
Daily Total: $73.61

Day Five 

9:00 a.m. – Another slow morning. I check my banking apps and ask M how much I should Venmo her for dinner last night. She tells me she doesn’t have the charge on her credit card. I look at my cash stash: nope, all there. We look at each other in horror as we realize we didn’t pay. Yikes. We debate ferrying back to pay them, but decide it’s not worth it since they’re not open today and we’ll be on day trips tomorrow and the day after. Sorry, it was an honest mistake!
10:30 a.m. – Portugal has an interesting history with the Jewish faith, with forced expulsion and conversion during the inquisition. M wants to visit one of the synagogues in Lisbon that held secret services during this period to learn more about it. We map out the walking route and find a coffee shop along the way. We split an avocado toast at Copenhagen Coffee and each get an iced coffee for the road. $13.40
1:00 p.m. – We get to the synagogue and realize it’s closed and you need to schedule tours in advance. Oops. Since we walked all the way here, we decide to hang around the area for a bit and stop by a pharmacy to grab some sunscreen for our beach day. I get an Avene face wash and some Klorane shampoo and conditioner as well since I used the last of mine this morning. We browse a market that is in an old converted mansion nearby, Embaixada. $17.96
3:00 p.m. – We’re both a bit sick of carbs and seafood, and we’re craving some sort of broth and vegetables to settle our stomachs. We agree that pho is the answer, and I quickly google pho places nearby the place we’ll watch the world cup finals later today. We end up at a place called Boa Bao and, even though it’s a trendy “Asian fusion” place, the pho is amazing. We also order duck spring rolls and a side of stir-fried greens. $15.76
4:00 p.m. – It’s World Cup Time! We head to a sports bar and snag a seat right in front of the screen. I order a sangria. The game is fantastic, and even though M and I aren’t huge sports fans, we really admire the USWNT women and everything they stand for. When we win, M and I both get a bit emotional. It’s been a while since the U.S. has had a wholesome victory that we can be proud of. $4.50
8:00 p.m. – Back to the Airbnb to change. We skip dinner since we’re still full from our late lunch. Tonight, we’re visiting a bar that’s a converted brothel. At Penso Armor, M orders a cocktail and I get a glass of rosé. We’re not even there an hour and the Brazilian guy that wouldn’t leave M alone at Park walks in. M dodges his line of vision, and we quickly finish our drinks and leave to avoid getting sucked into that mess again. $4.50
9:30 p.m. – M wanted to check out a shisha bar, so we walk towards one but it's closed. We walk around for a bit longer to see if there’s anything else nearby, but it seems that most things have closed by now (that’s Sundays in Europe for ya). We’re hungry so we end up at McD’s. Sorry not sorry. I get a chicken wrap and some fries, and M gets a burger. We head back to the Airbnb after to get some rest because we decide to head to Sintra tomorrow. $2.70
Daily Total: $58.8

Day Six 

9:00 a.m. – Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to some beautiful 14th-century palaces and a Moorish castle. It’s on the top of every “Lisbon day trip” list online, and we feel at this point we’ve seen enough of the city so we can try some day trips. It’s an easy train ride from the city, so we don’t feel the need to plan much beforehand. On the way to the train station, we stop by Pastelaria Batalha for breakfast to eat on the train. I get their “breakfast deal”, which includes a sandwich, a pastry, a fresh-pressed juice, and a coffee. I’m delighted. $8.44
11:30 a.m. – After waiting in a bit of a line to get train tickets, we make it onto the packed train and tuck in for our trip. We’re standing the entire way so we don’t get to eat our breakfasts. $5.07
12:40 p.m. – We arrive in Sintra, and it’s pretty overwhelming. There are a ton of tourists and everyone is soliciting us for tours and souvenirs. We walk away from the train station and sit on a fountain to re-group and eat our breakfasts. Afterward, we walk to the historic center and tour the Palacio Nacional, where M finds her dream kitchen. It has several ovens, high carved ceilings, tons of counter space, and beautiful tiling! I appreciate the space but I’m not as much of a cooking fan as M is, so I can’t say I'm obsessed. An older Korean man who can speak but can’t read English asks me to read him the signs in each room. Turns out he went lived in D.C. for a year! I tell him I was in Seoul three weeks ago. Small world. $11.21
2:00 p.m. – Next on our list is Castelo dos Mouros, the Moorish castle that was a strategic point during the Reconquista. It’s located on top of a pretty steep hill that all our research has told us not to attempt to walk up. (Apparently, there aren’t any walking trails so you’re walking all the way up on the same narrow roads as the cars, and it’s super dangerous!) After asking around a bit, we eventually figure out that there’s a special bus that will take us to the top. We buy roundtrip tickets and hop onto a bus that seems way too big for the narrow roads. $7.74
2:35 p.m. – We get to the castle safely and buy tickets. There’s a bit of a hike from the ticket area to the actual entrance of the castle and we definitely should not have worn sandals but here we are. M doesn’t make it all the way up to the top but I love ruins so I walk up to the castle peak. It’s super steep and windy, each peak is shrouded by heavy fog so I can’t really see anything. But the trek was totally worth it; it is so surreal being in a medieval castle feeling like you’re amongst the clouds! $5.61
5:00 p.m. – We walk back down to catch the bus and debate visiting a few of the other sites in Sintra but decide to hop on the train back to Lisbon instead.
7:00 p.m. – After a brief rest in the Airbnb, we change and walk to dinner. We go to Vestigis, a restaurant along the water. We order mussels, shrimp, fries, and a caprese salad to share. The waitress tells us about her favorite wine made in Lisbon, so we split a bottle of that as well. M and I have similar personalities in that we’re both introverted and independent, so we have a long discussion about relationships and the struggles we have when it comes to teamwork and sacrificing our alone time. It’s hard sometimes to find people that truly understand you for you, and I’m once again so grateful to have found M. (She was my first friend in grad school!). $33.85
9:30 p.m. – We make attempt #2 at finding a shisha bar and this time we’re successful! Thank you, Shisha & Cocktail. We split an apple mint shisha and continue our conversation at the bar. Somehow the topic gets onto how children’s movies are so much more progressive today than they were when we were kids and we both realize we wanted to/haven’t watched Coco. So we walk back to the Airbnb and watch Coco, naturally. $11.21
Daily Total: $83.13

Day Seven 

10:00 a.m. – It’s beach day! We decided to go to the beach for our last day so that we can return to D.C. fully relaxed. We head to the Mercado and pick up snacks and drinks for the day: We get pork rinds, goat cheese, chorizo, crackers, a bottle of wine, and some gummies to share. I also get a pastry for breakfast ($11.21). We stop by the Copenhagen Coffee next door for iced coffees to go ($3.14). $14.35
12:00 p.m. – We walk to the train station and wait in line to get our roundtrip tickets. In line, we meet a South African musician who moved to Lisbon four years ago, and he gives us some tips for the beach town we’re visiting. Everyone has been so lovely here. $5.04
5:00 p.m. We’ve done nothing but lie on the beach, eat cheese, drink wine, and read. Sadly, the gummies melted into one huge jelly. Besides that tragedy, it was an ideal way to spend our last day in Portugal! I want to check out a few speakeasies tonight, so we take the train back to Lisbon.
7:30 p.m. – I don’t know if it’s because we spent the day lounging by the sea, but M and I are both craving sashimi. We Google some nearby sushi places and end up at Noori Sushi. We split the “chef’s choice” sushi and sashimi platter and I get a sake cocktail. The restaurant is playing old MTV music videos from the early 2000’s, and we’re thriving. $20.07
9:00 p.m. – One of the speakeasies I want to visit is described as being filled with “war memorabilia and other valuables collected during Portugal's luxury trade with imperial China,” so clearly we have to go. When we arrive at Pavilhao Chines, we knock on the door and the cutest old man with a dope mustache greets us. He leads us to the back room and seats us underneath a massive painting of the Soviet army. We both order the most delicious boozy coffee I’ve had in my life. $10.09
10:45 p.m. – We head to speakeasy #2, Red Frog. Same drill: knock on the door, greeted by the hostess. She asks if we want a smoking or non-smoking section, and when we say non-smoking we realize we are literally the only ones in the entire bar that chose that option. Classic. M orders a delightfully smoky drink, while I try a cocktail with miso in it. Not as good as the coffee, but a good nightcap. We walk back to the Airbnb – all uphill – after midnight. $11.77 
Daily Total: $61.32

Day Eight 

8:00 a.m. – We’re up “early” today because our flight is at noon. We pack up, express our gratitude for never having to use the terribly small Airbnb shower again, and head to Copenhagen Coffee for an iced coffee ($2.80). I also pick up a goodbye pastel de nata ($2.02). $4.82
9:00 a.m. – We call an Uber to the airport and our driver is an absolute delight. He describes in detail his first trip to the U.S. when he was 19. He recounts waking up at 4:00 a.m. due to jet lag, looking out the window, and seeing a bunch of guys chugging champagne out of the bottle while cruising out of a limousine sunroof. I think he had a better time in NYC than M and I did when we were there. $7.85
10:30 a.m. – Made it through security and passed through a food court on our way to the gate. We’re both quite hungry and the smell of fried food is calling us. I order a spicy chicken burger and get a massive bottle of water since they were pretty stingy with their water distribution on the flight over. After a quick recap of the things we liked (the food, the people) and didn’t like (how touristy it was, the hills) about Lisbon, M and I part ways on the flight (they wouldn’t sit us together) and tuck in for our trip back to the U.S. $7.79
5:00 p.m. – We arrive in DC after a short layover in Casablanca. Of course, Dulles has maybe two customs booths open so we end up waiting over an hour and a half to get back into the US. T is there to pick us up (and a total saint for waiting around in his car for an hour!), and I’m grateful to be back in my own flat around 8:00 p.m.
How did you prepare for this trip?
I research for a living, so it’s all about those varied sources! Condé Nast Traveler, New York Times, Time Out, Yelp, and Googling specific things we wanted to do while on vacation (like the beach and going to speakeasies) all led to the above itinerary. 
Did you use credit card points/miles to pay for parts of this trip? If so, please explain further: I’m saving my miles for now, but I get 5 percent cash back on Airbnb with my credit card.  
If flight, when did you book? Do you think you got a good deal? Definitely pricey for Europe, but this was peak vacation time. We booked maybe two weeks before, and basically looked at Google Flights to southern Europe and just chose the cheapest location. What can I say, we wanted to get out of D.C. for a bit!
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation? If so, how much?
None. I basically put all my post-tax consulting money in a special savings account specifically for travel since I grew up traveling a lot and can’t imagine staying in one place for more than a few months!
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
Still dreaming about that garlic shrimp at Cervejaria Ramiro. 
Is there a tourist trap you wish you had avoided?
Honestly, I didn’t enjoy Sintra all that much. The castle was cool, but it was so touristy and crowded. The food at Time Out Market also left a lot to be desired. 
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Lisbon can be a tourist trap, but it also has super vibrant and fun art, bar, and restaurant scenes. Talk to people, do your research, be flexible, and you’ll stumble into the coolest places!
Is there anything about your trip you would do differently in retrospect?
No. It was a good mix of sightseeing and just relaxing. M and I have similar travel styles where we don’t feel the need or want to see every tourist site, we just want to enjoy the vibe of the city. 
Would you stay at your Airbnb again?
Absolutely! Even though we had to walk up that massive hill every morning, we could walk pretty much everywhere we wanted to go in Lisbon.
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