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.
Well, Lisbon at night is beautiful. Strolling at night you can admire illuminated monuments, amazing views from the belvederes to the river, the bridges and to the charming streets.
But never walk alone at night because Lisbon can be dangerous like all big towns.
Lisbon is still one of Europe's safest capitals, but as in any other capital city, be aware of petty crime. Pickpocketing is rather common in the most popular trams such as the 28. However, with common sense you should have a trouble-free visit.
A common harmless annoyance downtown (especially in Rua Augusta, Rossio, and Comercio Square) is being constantly approached by Gypsy or Moroccan immigrants trying to sell you sunglasses and then drugs. They can be annoying, but they are harmless. They go away when you show no interest and say no.
Be aware that you're likely to encounter some beggars in the metro, train and outside some stations. Also, I've noticed some beggars in the Rossio square - so if you sit at a table outside a cafe, they'll probably approach you. If anybody approaches you at night or in a deserted area, think twice before picking your wallet.
Avoid to stay stoped at the corners of Teatro D. Maria building, in Rossio. You will noticed large concentrations of ethnical groups from africa, and as soon as they spot you they will come to sell drugs. Some tourists robbed time to time, or undercover police could come and you're in a trouble. However you should not avoid Rossio it's a safe place during daytime, just don't stay on this corners for long time. Because this is a high tourist concentration area, expect to have a lot of beggers bugging you for money. Stay alert.
You should avoid this area of the city. It's located in the middle of Avenida Almirante Reis nad it's a really dirty zone in all aspects that you could imagine - drug dealers, prostitution, ethnic confrontation. Also is, in my opinion, one of the ugliest places in the city. Don't waste your time going there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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