Having never visited Lisbon before and also being rather short on the cash front, our stay at Praça Figueira was the culmination of hours of internet research. We had set a list of criteria at the beginning that we were looking for which basically included the following
No more that £30 each per night
Not much of a criteria really but that these were the only points that we weren’t willing or able to compromise on.
First I built up a list of all the budget hotels, hostels and pensions in Lisbon from reputable sites like Trip Advisor, I’ve Been There, Lonely Planet and Hostels.com. From this list we then checked if they had the basic requirements set out above. From that remaining list I then ear-marked the ones that were actually available on the dates we wanted and discarded the rest. Now came the fun part…for each hotel or hostel I then revisited all the sites that offered reviews by people who had actually stayed there. This proved to be an eye-opener. Some places that had been in our ‘top 10’ ended up being struck off straight away after reading tales of leaky toilets, grouchy owners and cockroaches! I accept that everyone’s experience is different and everyone can have the odd bad experience but hotels with a catalogue of moan reviews did suggest a problem!
Having sorted the wheat from the chaff, next I looked to see if our current favourites had their own website as well as a listing or advertisement on another site. I have to say that those without a website got struck off the list. Being the internet girl that I am, I feel that having a web presence is important these days. I am endlessly frustrated by the multitude of businesses here in the UK that are still not web savvy, but I digress…
Next we checked the remaining contenders against the places we wanted to visit and whether their location was truly suitable to our needs. Whilst planning our trips out weren’t done with military precision (you have to have some free time to just wander in Lisbon) there were places that we definitely wanted to see, so it made sense to check how easy it was to get to where we wanted to go and just as importantly check if we could get back again. Being women, we didn’t want to find ourselves stuck in the middle of nowhere late and night and not be able to find safe transport to get back ‘home’.
So by now we had got down to our final three and from then on it was just pure intuition. After gazing at the websites for a while I just decided on Pensão Praça de Figueira. It just felt right. Situated on Praça Figueira itself we couldn’t be more central. This is right beside the main square Praça Rossio. Praça means ‘square’ in Portuguese but remember it’s not interchangeable like in English to mean ‘uncool and dated’!
I booked through Hostelworld.com as I have used them before and know they are a trusted site. We only paid a small deposit of £16 with the balance paid at the end of our stay. The room cost £27.50 per night. The Pension emailed me straight away which was good but also asked for details of my credit card by email. I did send these in a secure way but in hindsight I would do this over the phone in future. The reason they wanted this was in case we didn’t turn up or notify them that we weren’t coming so they could charge us for a night’s stay. Fair enough but it did make me a little nervous although this turned out to be inconsequential.
Getting to the Pension was easy as pie. The Aerobus (No 91) stop was right outside Lisbon Airport. It was at this point in the journey that I discovered to extreme excitement that I really could ask the way in Portuguese and understand the answer! The young lady at the information point smiled politely as I grinned at her like a lunatic and pointed just in case I hadn’t understood what she had said.
The information point by the way is right by the main doors as you leave the airport – you’ll see the glass doors out – just look to your right and it’s there. There are plenty of maps and leaflets and I think they also speak English although I was too busy speaking Portuguese to find out properly.
The stop for the Aerobus is outside right behind the information point. You really can’t miss it. You can also catch the normal local bus numbers 42 or 45 but to be honest if you have suitcases or in our case rucksacks, the Aerobus has a lot more space.
Once again I practised my new found linguist skills on the driver and was informed that the journey to Praça Rossio (right beside Praça Figueira) would cost us 3 fingers each. Very droll.
That’s 3 euros for those who missed both mine and the driver’s humour.
One of my main concerns before going was not knowing where to get off the bus but that wasn’t a problem as it’s announced on the bus at each stop. The journey took us about 25 minutes if I remember rightly.
On arrival at Rossio square it took us about 10 minutes to find the Pension. This was simply because we were looking for the main door which had a sign over it. Here’s a tip – look up! The Pension has a huge sign and is on one of the corners in Praça Figueira. Walk round the corner off the square, on your right you’ll see a shoe shop (and this won’t be the last shoe shop you see), then take the immediate next left which leads down a little side street. On the corner to your right is a little local café which, by the way, is a nice friendly little place to stop for a coffee and then the door to the Pension is beside it. In the day the main door is open so you’ll just see a huge flight of stairs. The building is very old and doesn’t have a lift that I could see so you do need to be able to climb up. Go up two flights and the reception is there.
We were greeted with a smile from the receptionist and once we had given our names we were shown straight to our room. We were down on the second floor. The room itself was small but absolutely spotless. We did notice other rooms during our stay there which were quite a bit bigger. It was pretty hot in there when we arrived but once we’d opened the window it cooled down. Later we attempted to put up the floor fan but in such a small space and me having very long hair we decided against using this. The receptionist gave us various instructions about the Pension, the most important one being ‘don’t put anything down the loo’ – and this included toilet paper! She told us it gets blocked easily but we never had any problem with it at all. The shower was hot although you had to make a leap to get into the bath to have access to it. The side of the bath was pretty high. Not a problem for those of us who are agile but no good for someone who has problems walking.
In the room itself we had the requested twin beds, a fridge, a wardrobe with hangers, extra blankets, side cabinets and a tv. I was excited to be able to watch some Portuguese television but I noticed it did that weird thing that many hotel tv’s do which is that even though you turn the volume up to full it’s barely more than a whisper. Seeing as the only thing I ended up watching was half of the Eurovision Song Contest I could probably consider this a blessing.
The room looked out onto the road where the number 28 tram runs and is quite busy during the day although again we never found this to be a problem. It’s busy at night but quietens down. I guess I’m used to the sound of traffic as I live in the centre of a city anyway. Also it was quite nice to gaze out of the window onto the streets of Lisbon.
The Pension has a safe which they encourage you to use as they do not take responsibility for valuables left in the room. I decided to use it to store my Passport and spare credit card which I had in case of emergencies.
The room was cleaned everyday – beds made and fresh towels left. There are also phone/fax services and internet (although I didn’t ask about the latter). They also will exchange foreign currency and offer a laundrey service. Pretty good all round.
I only have a few basic moans which are quite minor when taking everything into consideration.
1) It would have been great to have a kettle seeing as there was already a fridge. But then I guess there is no shortage of places to get a cup of coffee in Lisbon.
2) The main door is locked at night and you are not given a key so you have to buzz the door to be let back in. I always felt a little guilty to wake up the night staff and we did think that having a front door key would make the world of difference.
3) Lastly – and this was an unfortunate incident – when you are given the keys to your room there is a large white plastic square fob on them. This is slotted into the main light switch and this activates the electricity in the room. One evening I was coming upstairs key to the ready in my hand and tripped because I was tired. Of course I put my hand out to stop myself falling and ‘crack! there went the plastic fob.
Worried, I made my way to reception to be greeted by someone I hadn’t met before and who was a good deal more serious than the previous receptionist. In my tiredness and worry over breaking the fob my Portuguese went to pot as I lamely tried to explain what happened. She wasn’t at all impressed (I think she thought I was drunk!) even when I offered to pay for it but hunted down another one and gave it to me. Things didn’t really improve when I then had to go back up to reception because for some reason I couldn’t open the main door to our floor – something which had caused me no problems for the last 3 days. Without a word the receptionist took the key from me turned it round and showed me which way it went in the door. I scuttled away feeling quite humiliated! Maybe she’d just had a bad day!
But despite this minor moans Pensão Praça da Figueira was a really good choice. As we were out and about around Lisbon most of the time, we didn’t spend a huge amount of time in the hotel but it was a very good base to have and overall I would recommend it to anyone looking for a budget place to stay.
Check out their website here
The site is in English, Portuguese or French