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Top 10 Things To Look For When Booking A Lisbon Apartment

by Lisbon Apartments on October 6, 2009

1. DISTRICT OF THE CITY

Marques de Pombal, Chiado, Parque das Nações. Do these names mean anything to you?

If they do, then you know Lisbon very well, but most travellers coming here won’t really be aware of where in the city these areas are, or if they’re convenient for sight-seeing. Furthermore, many local adverts mention the civil parish names (or “freguesias”) such as Prazeres, Santa Engrácia or Anjos, which are only really known by the locals.

You may also hear these areas called by their neighbourhood or “bairro” names: Alfama, Belém, Castelo, Lapa, Mouraria, Sete Rios, etc. up to a total of 160 according to Wikipedia.

But what you really want to know is which area is central, right? Where can you stay for convenient access to transport, sights, museums, restaurants and monuments.

In our opinion, the best areas in Lisbon are the central ones closest to the river and to help you we can tell you that if you rent an apartment in any of the following neighbourhoods, you’ll be in the centre and have easy access to Lisbon’s cultural offering:

Alfama: Lisbon’s Old Town district, described by us here.
Bairro Alto: good for restaurants, bars and night-life, although perhaps a bit too lively for some
Baixa: next to Lisbon’s central squares such as Rossio, Restauradores and Praça do Comércio
Belém: not central, but still within Lisbon and great for the area’s monuments (the Tower of Belém, Jeronimos Monastery, Discoveries Monument)
Castelo: the area around and just below the castle (there may be steep climbs)
Chiado: the major downtown shopping district
Mouraria: traditional area (info here) and good for transport since it’s close to the central Martim Moniz square, where there is a Metro and also where the famous Number 28 Tram stops.

There are perhaps others, but we would recommend looking at a map, and drawing imaginary lines from the Santos-o-Velho train station by the riverside in the West, up to the Avenida Metro station in the North, and to the Santa Apolonia Metro & Train station in the East. Anything within these lines is most certainly central. The image below shows such a map, together with our own apartments and some major tourist sights – an interactive version may be seen here)

The centre of Lisbon
The centre of Lisbon

2. WHO ARE YOU RENTING FROM?

In recent times there has been a veritable boom in apartment rentals, and of course apartment rental Internet portals to accompany this increased interest.

What you may not know, although can probably guess, is that these portals all charge a commission in one way or another. Often the commission is charged to the property owner, but sometimes it is charged to you, the client. Whatever the business model, bottom line prices are increased because obviously the apartment owners like ourselves want to cover our costs so we can continue to give our clients the best service possible.

When you rent direct from the owner, however, you have several advantages amongst which cheaper accommodation is only one: change of dates, cancellations, discounts, special requests, early or late check-in/out, arrival assistance, restaurant recommendations, tourist information … all of this is possible when you book direct from the owner.

Basically you have greater flexibility and almost always cheaper prices – worth it, don’t you think?

3. CAPACITY – T FOR TWO?

T time?

T time?

Make sure you know how many people your apartment can accommodate. This normally all boils down to the number of bedrooms available, although most tourist apartments will also include a sofa-bed in the lounge, which allows you to save on the final price since tariffs are generally published per apartment with perhaps just a small increase for extra guests.

But local accommodation adverts in Portugal will often refer to apartments as T0, T1 or even T1+1 – what does all this mean?

Well, it is basically referring to the number of bedrooms: a T0 has no bedroom and will be what is generally known as a studio apartment, with just a general space that serves as the living room, dining room, bedroom and sometimes even the kitchen. T1 is a 1-bedroom apartment, T2 is a 2-bedroom apartment and so on. A T1+1 is more subjective, but will generally be a 1-bedroom apartment with another internal room that has no windows and at a pinch could be used as another bedroom.

The origin of the T is unclear, even to locals, but is thought to stand for “tipo” or “tipologia”. And while you’re looking at capacity, it is often also worth asking what other rooms the apartment contains: separate kitchen, storeroom, separate living room, etc.

4. FACILITIES

Free Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi

An apartment’s just an apartment, right? Just somewhere to sleep at night, right? Wrong. You’ll find your stay much more confortable if your lodging includes all possible amenities to provide you a home away from home.

For example, does the apartment have an Internet connection, and more importantly is it free? Is it wi-fi? Are all sheets and towels provided for your stay? Is the apartment Children-Friendly with possibilities to request a cot or baby chair? Are there international channels on the TV? Is there even a TV? Is the kitchen fully-equipped with all cooking utensils and time-saving devices like dish-washers? Are basic necessities like toilet paper, hand-soap, salt & pepper, etc. provided? Can you wash your clothes at the apartment, and more importantly is there space to hang them out to dry afterwards? Is there an iron and ironing board available?

We’re sure you can find many questions of your own to ask, and this is another advantage of renting direct from the owner – you have somebody to ask those questions to.

5. PRICE

Is it the right price?

Is it the right price?

This seems an obvious one, right? But what is the normal price for a Lisbon apartment?

Our own 1-bedroom apartments are priced at between 60 and 100 euros per night, but you would only pay the top price of 100 euros when the apartment is for 3-4 guests in the middle of the High Season. And after all, 25€ per person per night isn’t that much, is it?

Generalising, we could say that a studio apartment (no bedroom) in Lisbon will cost between 40 – 60 euros per night, a 1-bedroom apartment between 60 – 120 euros, and larger apartments from 100 euros per night and more. Of course there are many, many exceptions to this rule and you shouldn’t think you’re paying over the top if the price of your apartment is more than these general guidelines – it almost certainly is worth it due to the extra facilities, prime location or whatever.

But make sure you know exactly what the price includes, and that takes us on to the next point.

6. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?

Make sure that the price you see is the final one.

Will you pay more or less according to the time of year? Is the initial cleaning charge included? (in many cases it isn’t). Is the Internet connection included in the price? Do you have to pay for more than 2 guests? Are clean sheets and towels included? Do you pay extra for early check-in or late check-out? Are all taxes included? Do you have to pay anything for electricity, water or gas (normally not)? Is it necessary to pay a damage deposit on arrival?

Don’t be afraid to ask – it’s always better than finding a nasty surprise when you arrive.

7. ARRIVAL INFORMATION

Airport Transfer

Airport Transfer

So, you’ve made your apartment booking and are ready to fly out to Lisbon. You can now concentrate on packing, flight times and the trip itself without worrying about your accommodation, right?

But wait a minute, what happens when you arrive at Lisbon airport? Are you sure you know how to get to the apartment? What happens if you arrive and nobody’s there to meet you? Do you know who to call?

First of all, before you leave home, make absolutely sure that you have all relevant information with you:
– owner’s name and telephone number
– is there an alternative number just in case?
– what is the full address of the apartment?
– if you have contact with the owner, ask for arrival instructions and/or map
– where will you meet to pick-up the keys (at the apartment, booking office, elsewhere)?
– what is the best way to arrive? – bus, metro, train, taxi, walking (ask the owner!)
– what is the earliest possible check-in time? And the latest check-out time?
– what are the payment possibilities on arrival (cash, credit card)?
– will the person meeting you speak English/Spanish/French/German, etc.?
– do you have to pay a damage deposit on arrival? In cash?

We can only speak for ourselves when we say we certainly try to provide all of the above information to our clients, or at least encourage them to ask any questions they wish.

And a nice added-value we provide for our clients is the possibility of booking a luxury sedan with English-speaking driver to whisk them from the airport to our apartments, all for as little as 40 euros!

8. HOW DOES EVERYTHING WORK?

And not only how, but DOES everything work? Once you’ve arrived at the apartment, have a good look around and if you think you don’t know how something works, just ask!

If there is a wi-fi Internet connection, do you need the security password? It may be worth trying to connect your laptop while the owner is still around, in case of problems.

Will you be getting all the necessary keys to the apartment? How many copies – enough for your group? Check that the keys you are given work before the owner leaves.

How does the washing machine work and is there washing powder available? Is there anything special about the lights – how do they switch on/off or dim? Is it necessary to switch off the electricity/gas/water when you leave? Is the hot-water automatic or do you need to turn on a heater? How does the TV work?

Again, please don’t be afraid to ask. Most owners will be happy to provide all the necessary information about their apartments.

9. APARTMENT SURROUNDINGS

It might be a good idea to check not only the district in Lisbon the apartment is located in (see point 1 above), but also what is available in the streets nearby.

Obviously one of the main advantages behind renting an apartment is that you can cook for yourself. Self-catering won’t work very well if there are no supermarkets or food shops near the apartment. So, ask the owner where the nearest supermarket or shopping district is. Lisbon is fortunate in that many supermarkets open every day, Sundays included, and often until quite late at night: 9 or 10pm. But this is of no use to you if such establishments are miles away from where you’re staying.

And even though you may be cooking for yourself most of the time, most people will also want to go out to sample the local cuisine at a Portuguese restaurant: are there any in the area you’re staying? And what about tourist attractions and sights – how far do you have to walk to see all that Lisbon has to offer?

The above also applies to other basic needs – is there a chemist nearby? Where can you buy bottled water or bread? Are their suitable transport facilities near the apartment: bus, train and Metro?

Whatever information you can get before your book your apartment will always help you choose the best option.

10. SAFETY

Is it safe?

Is it safe?

We’ve left this option until last, because it’s possibly the most important.

What safety aspects does your apartment offer? As a professional company offering apartment rentals in Lisbon, we will always try to keep the best interests of our clients in mind. And that means making sure we cater for every eventuality.

Our apartments include fully authorized fire-extinguishers and fire blankets, which will hopefully prevent even the most serious accidents. For lesser mishaps, we also have a first-aid kit at the disposal of all guests, and all properties include a small torch to help you find your way should there be an electricity cut.

We don’t use gas at all in any of our properties: all ovens, water heaters and other devices are electric, so there is no risk of anybody accidentally leaving the gas turned on.

Lastly, we are currently in the middle of the process to register all our apartments with the local council. According to a decree approved in 2008, apartments such as ours may be registered at the local city council to obtain official recognition as “Alojamento Local”.

Achieving such approval doesn’t simply mean we can put a nice official “AL” sign outside the door, it also obliges us to adhere to strict rules and regulations regarding safety, hygiene, cleanliness and information to clients. The apartment building has to be kept in a reasonable state, internally and externally, and the apartments have to pass an official inspection to make sure they are apt for renting to tourists.

So you can see that the authorities in Lisbon are taking the business of apartment rentals seriously, and so are we! Because we appreciate that what’s best for our clients is best for us too, because a satisfied client will surely return one day, or recommend our services to friends and family.

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Apartments in Lisbon

by Lisbon Apartments on June 6, 2009

Lisbon Apartment

Lisbon Apartment

Self-catering holiday rentals are becoming increasingly popular in Portugal in general, and in Lisbon in particular.

Several different companies are now providing these Lisbon apartments for tourists, and one of them is our very own, QuietZone, Lda. We are a couple who own 4 different rental apartments in the centre of Lisbon, all with 1 bedroom and suitable for up to 4 guests in each one.

The apartments are all close to or right in the heart of the historic Alfama district, which has recently been nominated one of the Top 10 Historic Old Town districts. And rightly so, because Alfama is truly delightful, a maze of narrow, cobbled streets with wonderful Fado restaurants (Fado is typical soulful Portuguese music), old churches and traditional cafeterias.

Renting an apartment is a particularly attractive option in these difficult times, since the cost for 4 people can work out at as little as 15 euros per night per person. Compare this with the price for 4 people staying in a hotel and you’ll soon appreciate why this accommodation is becoming so popular.

Added to the financial value are several other advantages such as more freedom than in a hotel because you can eat when you want and as cheap as you want using the kitchen facilities, integration with the local culture and people since you’ll be really living in the city,  and having more space in your accommodation to really fell at home. There are other reasons as well, and you can read more in our Top 10 Reasons to Rent list.

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