Lets start with the fact that I am a big fan of public transportation in general. Whether it is taking the T to Boston for First Night, the ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan, the New York City Subway, the London Underground or Amtrak; I found them convenient, easy to use and inexpensive. With this in mind the Portugal Public Transport System was a nightmare, and I am a fluent Portuguese speaker! I had business in several cities in Portugal and had to find transportation from one city to another. Landing at the airport in Lisbon I had to make my way to Coimbra. I had booked a rental car prior to the flight so when we arrived we headed to the car rental location. When we arrived the attendant was arguing with a customer, after waiting for more than a half hour I approached another employee and was told that only the attendant could help me. After still more waiting I gave up and went to get the subway to the train station. The signage was atrocious almost non existent and no one was willing to direct us to the right platform. The only interaction we had was laughing at us when we jumped off the wrong train searching for the right one all the while dragging our bags behind us. Alex and I were both in tears. Later in the trip we had to go from Coimbra to Porto and from Porto back to Lisbon. The lack of rudimentary signage and helpful personnel was evident at all of the stations. I must say that once on board the trains were clean, efficient and on time, I am sure that when you are familiar with the platforms and schedules the experience would be very nice but it is definitely not tourist friendly.
The train stations themselves were spectacular especially the São Bento Railway Station in Porto.
On our day trip to Sintra and Cascais we hired a private tour guide which turned out to be a great option. With a private guide you not only get a personalized tour but all of the headaches of transportation are taken care off. Alex tripped and skinned his knee and our guide called around obtained the nearest open clinic and drove us there waiting outside while we saw the doctor.
The best part is that with the Portuguese health care system the entire visit to the emergency room cost us only 7 euros.
If you are better at reading timetables and subway routes than I am you may find the system easier to use but this was my experience as compared to public transport I have used elsewhere.