Antique wooden tram 28 in Lisbon passing on a hill in Graça

Working out which travel card and payment system you need to use the many forms of public transport in Lisbon can prove more complicated than it should be. If you aren’t using a Lisbon Card, you need to consider how many trips you are likely to take each day and which forms of transport that will involve before deciding the best way to pay.

On days when you intend to make less than 5 journeys on any given day, or use public transport like trains and ferries, the Viva Viagem Zapping system is the way to go. If you’re travelling within the city and plan to make more than five single trips per day using only buses and the metro, a €6.30 daily pass is the cheapest option.

If you have a Lisbon Card, your travel costs are covered, as well as some entrance fees. Check to see if the places you want to visit in Lisbon are discounted or free with the Lisbon Card to see if this is your best option.

Not sure what to do in Lisbon? See this article for ideas: 33 Things To Do In Lisbon. Must See Sights & Hidden Highlights

What is Zapping?

If you’re familiar with London’s Oyster card, Zapping runs on the same principle and, in my experience, it’s the best truly inter-modal transport payment system (see my experience with the Sete Colinas card below). Once you have a Viva Viagem card and have loaded it with credit, you can use it to pay-as-you-go on Lisbon’s buses, trains, trams, funiculars, the metro and ferries.

How to pay for and use the Viva Viagem Zapping system

You buy a Viva Viagem or Sete Colinas card for a small fee (50 cents) then add money to it – click the ‘zapping’ option on machines in metro stations or ask for this at the counters in metro and train stations, the ferry terminal, Carris kiosks and post offices. You need one card for each person travelling.

Each time you travel by public transport in Lisbon, you validate the card by swiping it across a sensor and the cost of one journey gets debited.

Simple.

And it’s slightly cheaper than paying for individual journeys any other way, for example, you only pay €1.25 on buses and the metro instead of €1.40. The savings are even greater when you consider that the on-board price of a tram ticket is €2.85 but with Zapping, it’s only €1.25. On trains, you pay a flat rate of €1.80 for urban journeys of up to 90 minutes.

When you recharge your card, you get a small bonus credit. The minimum amount you can add to your available Zapping fund is €3, maximum is 40€.

If you find that your Viva Viagem card has expired (they’re only valid for 12 months) but you still have credit on it, don’t worry. You can continue to use the card as normal until there is no longer enough money left to cover the cost of a journey. Any remaining credit can be transferred onto a new card – just take it to a counter and ask them to do it for you.

More details in Portuguese.

Prefer to explore on a city tour? Check out these fun ways of getting around Lisbon. Click an image for more details and availability.

Looking for Lisbon accommodation? See which neighbourhoods make the best bases.

A word of warning about the Sete Colinas card

I made an expensive mistake with the Sete Colinas card which turned out not to be as inter-modal as I expected it to be. I understood that I could use it on buses, trams and the metro so I calculated how many journeys my family would need during our stay and loaded up four cards with the appropriate number of journeys.

We used the bus one day with no problems but when we tried to use the metro the following day, our cards were refused. Even though we had unused journeys, I had to buy separate cards and pay for more trips for everyone to use the metro and we never did get around to using all the prepaid journeys on the Sete Colinas card.

This is because you have to use all of one type of transport credit before you can load a Sete Colinas or Viva Viagem card with journeys for a different mode of transport.

Crazy but true.

Happily, I’ve now found a system that allows me to use all forms of transport with one card, which is the way it should be. Zapping is my preferred way of paying for Lisbon public transport because you don’t waste money.

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Lisbon guide books

If you’re staying for an extended period in Lisbon, you may want to grab a guidebook to help you explore its nooks and crannies better. A proper map will come in handy, too.

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How to pay for Lisbon public transport using Zapping to pay as you go on buses, trams, elevators, trains and the metro
How to pay for Lisbon public transport using Zapping

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84 Comments

  1. Dear Julie,many thanks for this helpful description.I have read many pages in connection with the Lisbon public transport but there is one thing which is not clear for me.I will travel by metro from the airport to the city center and I will have to transfer to another metro line at Alameda Station(my destination is Rossio Square). So how do I have to use zapping in this case? Do I have to validate my card twice (second time at Alameda Station) and pay 2.50 for this journey? Thank you for your answer in advance 🙂 Gabriella from Hungary

    1. Author

      Hi Gabriella. You only need to validate your card as you enter and exit at the final metro station. There is no need to validate your card when you change lines. If (and in this case it doesn’t but I thought I’d mention it anyway) your journey involves both metro and bus within 60 minutes of first validating your card, you simply swipe it again as you board the bus and the journey fare continues without you being charged for an additional one.

  2. Sorry posted in the wrong place.

  3. Can you tell me on which forms of transport a one hour journey rule applies. We live beyond the end of the metro line at Campo de Orique so need a bus to complete the journey. Also from Cais de Sodre we need to use a tram or a bus. We have zapping cards

  4. Thank you for your answer, Julie. That’s really nice of you that you share your information and experience here 🙂
    We need to station “Restauradores”. Maybe we take the metro. Or I look for a bus lines. I must inform me again.

  5. Hi Julie, thank you for the detailed explanations. They are really helpful. I have a question: do I take the Viva Viagem- card with the Aerobos from the airport to the city? Formerly belonged to these bus lines are also attached to Carris. But I do not know if that’s still the case. Can you help me? Greetings from Germany, Jenny

    1. Author

      Hi Jenny, the Aerobus is not covered by the Zapping system as far as I know. Even though it’s part of Carris, they don’t form part of the standard public transport system.

  6. Hello and thank you for the very helpfull article. Can I use Zapping for train (CP) from Lisbon to Cascais and Sintra?

    1. Author

      Yes, you can. Check the cp.pt website for the lines you can use.

    2. Author

      Yes, both fall within the Lisbon urban train network and will cost you 1.80€ each way using Zapping.

      1. Thank you again. Then Zapping it is the best solution for use for a week in Lisbon. The only problem is that for our 7 years boy there is no discount on zapping. If we would take cp tickets directly from train station he wiil pay 2.3€ instead of 4.3€ adult price for to snd return from Sintra.

        1. Author

          If you use Zapping to get to Sintra, it costs 1.80 euros each way.

  7. Very helpful Julie. can you buy a Viva vlagem card at the airport?

    1. Author

      Hi Jon, yes you can buy one from the machines or ticket office in the airport metro station.

  8. Geeezzzz…! Where do you buy the Zapping card and recharge it?

    1. Author

      Jose:

      “How to pay for and use the Zapping system

      You buy a Viva Viagem or Sete Colinas card for a small fee (50 cents) then load it with money. You can do this in the machines at any metro station or in person at the counters in train stations, the ferry terminal, Carris kiosks and post offices.”

      You can recharge it at the same places.

  9. I will be travelling to Lisbon with my husband. We intend to use the ‘zapping card’ as you recommend. However, do we need to acquire 2 cards or can we share one?

    1. Author

      Hi, Diane, you’ll need a card each.

  10. Hi Julie,

    Thank you for the informative post. I’m going to be in Lisbon for a few days, and also hoping to take day trips to Sintra and Cascais. I wanted to get your opinion if going with a Lisboa Card (the Lisbon Card which includes discounts to tourist spots) would be better, or if sticking with the Viva Viagem card is enough?

    Also I’ve read some contradicting which regarding whether the Viva Viagem can be used for the trains to Sintra or Cascais, but it seems like they can?

    1. Author

      Hi Jill, You’ll need to think about which attractions you want to visit and how much discount you’d get with the card to work out whether or not the Lisbon Card is the best option for you. You can use it (and the Zapping option http://www.cp.pt/cp/displayPage.do?vgnextoid=6938924161230310VgnVCM100000be01a8c0RCRD) to get as far as Sintra and Cascais but just to add another option to the mix, CP have just introduced a tourist ticket which covers them http://www.cp.pt/cp/displayPage.do?vgnextoid=452fad45a1316010VgnVCM1000007b01a8c0RCRD&contentId=ebad8645066d5410VgnVCM100000be01a8c0RCRD

  11. Hi Julie! Me and my family are going to spend a month in Lisbon this summer, and we’ve been struggling to figure out which card to use for public transport, which we no doubt will be using a lot! This post was very useful information to us. I’m still a bit confused as it says on metrolisboa.pt that Viva Viagem can only be loaded with same type of tickets, but transportespublicos.pt says Zapping enables you to use it in any mode of transport, so I need to do some more reseach, but if this works, it is much better than Lisboa Viva, which is more expensive and needs an application with many attachments. So, thank you for this, now I think I’m going to read through the rest of your blog for more useful information 🙂

    1. Author

      Hi Heidi! Thanks for taking the time to comment. The confusion stems from the fact that the green Viva Viagem cards are used to buy travel credit in various ways. I fell into this trap when I loaded a Sete Colinas card (similar to the Viva Viagem and supposedly intermodal) with multiple tickets, planning to use them to ride the metro, bus and tram. When I tried to use it on the metro after having taken a bus journey, I found it wouldn’t work! The man explained that all the credit on the card was now defined as bus tickets and I would have to use all of that up before loading the same card with metro tickets. These days, it’s a little easier as the metro and bus are more integrated and a single journey can include both forms of transport.

      I still prefer to use Zapping – you load the green Viva Viagem card with money which is debited from the card each time you travel, regardless of the form of transport. Just make sure you choose the Zapping option when you buy your first Viva Viagem card from the machine. It will ask how much money you want to put on it – I usually just put 5 euros on but it at a time then top up when I need to but it depends how much you plan to use public transport. If you’re still in doubt, head to the ticket booth (if it’s manned) and ask for Zapping.

  12. Way to go, Matt! Julie’s tip, combined with a quick look at the CP website, will make one a Lisbon travel pro in no time.

  13. Thanks you for writing this description of zapping! It is much clearer in this post than it was in any of the guidebooks and it came in super handy when my wife and I went to Portugal last month. I even taught some German tourists how to set up their Viva Viagem cards for zapping. 🙂

  14. Hi,
    Can you use the zapping card for the train to travel from the Orient Station to the Braco de Prata Station or to continue into town? How much does it cost to ride the train from Braco de Prata to downtown Lisbon.
    Thanks,
    Al

    1. Author

      Hi Al. Not sure where that station is but if it’s on the metro line or urban train lines, yes. Same if it’s a city bus stop.

  15. Thanks for the quick reply. Will definitely use the zapping! Is it any cheaper for children?

    1. Author

      No, but if they’re under 4 years old, they travel free without the need for a ticket.

  16. For 4 of us do we need a card each or will one suffice?

    1. Author

      You’ll need 1 each.

  17. I would like to add something to your excellent information. You can use this Viva Viagem card also for the beautiful elevadores. For example “Elevador de Bica” and Ëlevador da Gloria” I noticed that some tourists didn’t see the cardreader and bought a ticket near the driver. The driver is happy then for a great part is for him.
    I can’t help to be a Dutchman. ;-))

    1. Author

      You’re right, Dirk. The savings on the elevadors, including the Santa Justa elevator, are significant, as they are on the trams.

  18. This is really vital information…no one I know has been able to figure it out! We have the laminated Lisboa Viva cards and for some reason can’t use them on the Carris system…they work on the train between Lisbon and Cascais, and on the Metro, but not on the bus lines, although we expected that they would. We reload these cards via Zapping, agreeably the best way to go….any insight on our limitations with the Viva cards?

    1. Author

      Hi Susan, I’m afraid I don’t know why your cards won’t work on Carris if you’re using Zapping to recharge them.
      I think you’ll have to take it to a counter somewhere and get them to investigate.

      1. Thanks, Julie. I’m definitely going to take it to the counter and ask….it’s just such a nice way to go when it works!
        Susan

  19. Thank you very much for explaining all of that. I looked at the Carris website and many travel websites and never could figure out if Zapping was less expensive or not. I found the Carris website confusing because of the huge range of options.

    1. Author

      Happy to help, Keith. It took me a long time to figure it all out myself so I thought it would be useful to share.

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