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Skip Lisbon Trolley 28E!

Despite R.S.'s suggestions to take this "San Francisco-style Lisbon joyride", we suggest that it is not worth the excellent chance that you will be a pickpocket victim, no matter how experienced a traveler you are or how careful you are about your belongings.

NO ONE in Lisbon is surprised when you say you were pick pocketed on "the 28"! According to the Lisbon police, it is mostly Romanian gypsies who "work" at the trolley stops and the Portuguese who "work" aboard the trolleys. (Not to mention all the discomforting lighted warning signs inside the Metro stations!) We were told the pickpockets want just your cash to feed their drug and alcohol habits. There were many other victims at the station when we filed a police report. These pick pockets are known to the police, who claim there is nothing they can do about them....except to give them "a warning". They are "very smart, having practiced for 20 years".

The trolley ride was interesting....but definitely not worth the feeling of violation and the aggravation of replacing cards. (In our experience, most guest houses had no safes available for storing valuables, and larger hotels had only a few.) While our situation could always have been worse, it definitely colored our feelings about Lisbon, which I would skip on future trips. It was totally over-run with tourists....the perfect place for a pick pocket to "work"! Other cities and towns felt much safer to us....or maybe we were just lucky.

Beware any group of "tourists" waiting and crowding to get on the trolley, Metro, or anywhere else. Sometimes it is a legitimate crowd, but it is just as likely that those "tourists" are a group of pick pockets! It is impossible to be sure, when there is such a large mix of cultures and languages involved. We found it to be a sad commentary on an otherwise interesting city.

Posted by
16769 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience. It's been years since I was in Lisbon to take any trams but believe that "full precautions" are advised in most crowded spots in big cities. (For a moment, I thought you were describing Barcelona, another city with a reputation for professional pickpockets.) Very likely that they will size you up well before you recognize them; they could indeed look like tourists.

It sounds like you did not lose everything, for which I'm glad. Were you using a money belt for deep storage of some valuables? How did that work out?

Posted by
1068 posts

Sorry to hear you were victimized but a good reminder for everyone. I was in Lisbon last month and had several rides on funiculars and trolleys but was lucky enough not to lose money. I do try to make it hard for thieves, but it is a reminder that they are professionals and very good at what they do. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip.

Posted by
20625 posts

Besides warming about the Trolley, you should mention how you were pick-pocketed so others can take better precautions and avoid that situation. We have ridden it a couple times over the years and didn't feel particularly threaten.

Posted by
264 posts

Sorry to hear about your pick pocketing incident, but his is a problem in the whole EU. We've been a victim also in Madrid, witnessed a purse snatching in Barcelona and stood next a cop in Naples as he and I watched pick pocket artists at work. He actually directed other cops to the pick pocket artists and made them returned the items to the victims. That was so weird, I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. You should also watch for teenagers in small groups. That's how my wife's small backpack got picked. Since she only had a credit card or two in the small wallet they took, can you believe they returned it to her? Ever since, when we go to the EU we both use a cross body purse and carry a very small amount of cash in the front pocket directly under the purse. I will also stick my hand in my pocket with the money in crowds, buses, metro or any other gatherings. So far this has worked. I feel your pain...

Posted by
2 posts

Husband was wearing money belt. I had a small Le Sport Sac bag strapped across my chest, which I always clutched. Just enough cash for the day plus one credit card were in a tiny purse at bottom of bag under eyeglass case and small water bottle. Having arrived in Lisbon the previous night, maybe I looked tired and vulnerable. We had read all the guidebook warnings, which we think should be emphasized even more strongly. Our feeling is that the tram drivers, like the police, have to know who these people are (since they wait at the tram stops), but they ignore the problem. Our situation happened at the Prazeres Cemetery stop, where we were crowded together while boarding the tram. Yes, I had thoughts of leaving just because of the crowd....but didn't. Lesson learned! It must have been a sizeable group "working" together, because no one got on the tram after us....another clue but too late. We know that different cultures view things differently, but closing one's eyes to such a rampant problem does not seem to be the best way for a so-called poor country to attract the tourists it needs and wants.

I was in Lisbon in 2005 and had a scary experience with tram 28. Fortunately I didn't have anything taken but my bag was opened. First there was an argument while the "crowd" crushed to get onto the tram (distracting everyone, including me, so pickpockets could do their thing). Then on the tram, people jumped up from the street to reach into the big open windows to take handbags from laps. I noticed that most of the crowd didn't get onto the tram too.

I reported my experience to Lonely Planet who had raved about the experience and they put the warning into subsequent editions.

Lisbon is a pretty city and worth a visit. Just be vigilant about pickpockets.