Is it a car? Is it a bike? No, it’s a bright yellow, three-wheeled go-cart!
And we’d rented it for the day from GoCars Lisbon, a unique tour company with some rather unconventional vehicles for hire. I’d spotted the mini convertibles online while researching for our trip to the Portuguese capital, and knew immediately we had to give it a go.
Size difference aside, this is not just a rental car, because each vehicle is fitted with a GPS system which acts as your very own, in-car tour guide.
With one to four-hour tours available, we went all out and hired one for the full day at a cost of €89 (which has recently increased to €99). Picking it up at 9am from the GoCar office in Baixa-Chiado, we handed over our driving licences, bought some insurance which capped our excess (should we accidentally rear end a tram, or something), and watched a 5 minute safety video before we were given the keys, and let loose on the streets.
“Just remember to put the handbrakes on using this lever here – everything else is just the same.” It was good to know the friendly staff had faith in our driving.
The GoCars were surprisingly easy to pick up, with driving being pretty much the same to that of a scooter.
Dave took the wheel first, and with one twist of the handle, we whizzed off into the cobbled streets grinning from ear to ear at the silliness of our garish vehicle, standing out like a bungalow among skyscrapers in the morning traffic.
Attached to the inside of the car are two laminated maps, with four different coloured routes highlighted through Belém, Alfama, the waterfront and expo. We headed to Belém first, along the red route, to sample the iconic Portuguese custard tarts.
On our way there, we quickly learnt of the misleading feature of the car. That GPS guide I mentioned? It only works if you stick to the programmed routes, meaning if you take a few wrong turns (which you probably will), you’ll have to get back on track by yourself.
This wasn’t an issue for us, as we actually preferred finding our own way with the help of Google maps, but it did mean we didn’t get the talking guide (which we couldn’t hear a lot of the time anyway over the sound of the engine and road noise.)
The other fun feature of the GoCar, and another way in which it was similar to a scooter, was that you couldn’t reverse the car! When we had to turn around or do a ‘three-point turn’, one of us (aka Dave) had to jump out and physically push the car backwards.
One big positive was that thanks to its compact size, parking was surprisingly easy to find throughout the city. If you’re visiting in the summer, I’d recommend leaving the car somewhere shaded – those plastic seats get really hot when left in the sun!
It may be small but don’t be fooled, because there’s a surprising amount of power in that little car. Lisbon is known for its seven hills, but an encouraging turn of the handles was all it took for us to zip up each incline we faced.
We spent the day going from Belém, to Bairro Alto, to Baixa, and finally Alfama, and had an absolute blast exploring this beautiful city at our own pace.
I can’t count how many times we accidentally drove in a bus lane, took the wrong turn or circled the same streets thrice, but it never felt stressful thanks to the forgiving and patient Lisbon traffic, who always gave way to our idiot driving.
The locals didn’t bat an eyelid at us, but it was really funny posing and waving at other tourists, who stared and took pictures of us as we drove past. If you’re looking for a different way to sightsee, look no further than Lisbon GoCars!
More ideas for your Lisbon trip:
Need to know
- Tours start from €30 for one hour
- Helmets must be worn at all times
- Insurance can be bought for €10 which caps your excess should you have an accident – this is optional, but probably a good idea
- You must be over 21 and have a valid licence to drive the car
- You can go just about anywhere, but you must avoid motorways and the bridge