Portugal has long been a top location to retire to. With dreamy sunsets over beautiful beaches, an affordable cost of living, excellent seafood, and attractive tax benefits, it is understandable why so many retirees are turning their attention to Portugal. Indeed, American retirement in Portugal is becoming increasingly popular.
In this article, we’ll provide you with everything that you will need to know as a US citizen that is looking to retire in Portugal. First, we’ll provide you with practical information, before examining some of the top locations to retire to in Portugal.
American retirement in Portugal: Why choose Portugal?
There are several reasons why Portugal is regularly featured as one of the best countries to retire to, garnering praise from Forbes to International Living. One of the greatest draws to retire in Portugal from the US is that the cost of living in Portugal is much more affordable than in the US, from property prices to everyday living costs.
Portugal was named as the fourth safest country in the world (and the second safest country in the EU, behind Denmark), according to the 2021 Global Peace Index, due to its stable socio-economic and political climate, alongside low crime rates. Moreover, the Portuguese are amongst the friendliest people in the world, according to an Expat Insider Survey, conducted by InterNations. This inevitably makes it easier for an expat to navigate the process of moving to a new country.
It’s easy to fully immerse yourself in the relaxed Portuguese lifestyle, where you can simply sit and watch the world pass by, with a coffee and pastel de nata – perhaps sitting in a park in Braga, or from the balcony of your waterfront property in the Algarve. Simply soak up the atmosphere and take in the little moments – something the Portuguese do so well.
With good healthcare, excellent cuisine, full-bodied wines, and a balmy climate —over 300 days of sunshine per year in fact— American retirement in Portugal is likely to grow further.
The Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) scheme also allows American retirees to live with exceptional tax benefits for the first ten years of their residence in Portugal if structured correctly.
Indeed, there is an abundance of reasons why American retirement in Portugal is on the up. Picture sitting in your country home, watching the sunset over the green Portuguese countryside, with a glass of rich Douro wine in hand, or with sparkling wine and a beach view to admire. Portugal does not disappoint, and whatever property type you are looking for, you will be sure to find it here.
Important information about American retirement in Portugal
Moving to another country is an exciting journey filled with opportunities to try new things. Is there a local delicacy that you really want to try? (perhaps the world-famous pastel de nata?) or are you looking forward to settling down in your new home, personalizing it, and making it truly special for you? Regardless, you will need to be aware of crucial practical information when settling down in Portugal, which we will run over here.
Healthcare in Portugal
Rest assured that healthcare in Portugal is very good. The National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde) or SNS is, in general, excellent. Increasingly, they have been implementing personalized care programs for their patients, and, if you are a resident in Portugal, you will have access to the SNS, and will only need to pay a minimum cost for treatment. Note that for X-rays, scans, and other procedures, an additional fee will be required. For retirees, it is very good to know that the Integrated Medical Emergency System offers very quick response times.
Private healthcare in Portugal is becoming increasingly common with expats. Particularly in the bigger cities, you will find very good private healthcare units and most practitioners speak very good English. Waiting times will typically be less if you seek private healthcare, in comparison to longer queues that can sometimes be found with public healthcare.
Getting around in Portugal
As a relatively small country, you can drive by car from Sagres in the southwest to Bragança in the northwest in less than eight hours. While it is probably easiest to get around by car, particularly if you are living in the countryside or outside the bigger towns and cities, the public services in Portugal are good.
Buses and trains make it easy to get around the country. In Lisbon and Porto, the metro services are reliable, fast, and easy to use, and it is often quicker to travel by metro than by car in these cities.
Lisbon, Porto, and Faro are the three international airports in continental Portugal. You also have international flights to Madeira and the Azores, if you are considering retiring to the stunning autonomous islands, each with its own unique and breathtaking qualities.
The Non-Habitual Residence Scheme
The non-habitual residence scheme, or NHR scheme, provides individuals the ability to live with significant tax advantages for up to ten years. To be eligible for the NHR scheme, applicants must have the right to reside in Portugal and not have been a Portuguese tax resident in the five years prior to becoming a resident in Portugal. Note that to maintain residency in Portugal, you must have a place of abode in Portugal on the 31st of December of that year and the property needs to be intended for use as the habitual home.
The NHR scheme is excellent for retirees, as, if structured correctly, they can enjoy very attractive tax rates. The complete guide to the NHR scheme can be found here.
American retirement in Portugal: What are the best places to retire in Portugal?
From a quaint historic town in the north to sunny beach houses in the south, Portugal has plenty to offer when it comes to choosing a place to live, perhaps even too many options. Here, we’ll provide you with a rundown of some of our favorites.
For a more thorough overview of the many different locations to find properties in Portugal, plus additional information on retiring to Portugal, you can buy our new book, Your Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal, here.
For Americans that cannot shake the city life, but that also would like some peace and tranquility, Lisbon is an excellent choice. While many Portuguese can be heard saying that life in Lisbon is too stressful, when compared to cities in America, you will probably find that Lisbon is a calm place to live and there are several quiet neighborhoods where you can find lovely homes. With excellent eateries, bakeries, and activities to explore, Lisbon is a good option to consider.
For those looking for more space or seeking the much-deserved beach life, while still living a stone’s throw (a mere 30-minute drive) from the capital, Cascais is the place to live. With excellent seafood, picturesque beaches, and waterfront properties, Cascais is one of the best options for an American retiring to Portugal. With good transport links and the international airport in Lisbon, avid travelers will have this added bonus.
You can see more about Cascais in our article here.
Porto and the North
Porto is an excellent location for those looking to live in a historic European city. It has everything that you could want – top restaurants (indeed, locals claim that the food scene here is better than in Lisbon), beaches close at hand, and waterfront properties available.
Properties in other northern cities, such as Braga, Guimaraes, and Ponte de Lima are also good options to consider. Here, you will be able to find lovely country houses to enjoy your retirement.
Well known amongst the British as a favorite retirement location, more and more Americans are heading to the southern coast to enjoy the best things in life – sunshine, fresh seafood, and stunning landscapes and beaches.
It is also very easy to live an active lifestyle in the Algarve, with 300 days of sunshine. Indeed, most days it is possible to enjoy golf, hiking, watersports, and the many other activities on offer. One thing is for sure, if you move to the Algarve, come wintertime you will be asking yourself how is it possible for it to be so sunny and warm in December?
Madeira and the Azores
The autonomous islands of Madeira and the Azores are both beautiful in their own ways. Madeira is the more developed of the two, with its capital Funchal having all the amenities that you could desire – fine dining, five-star hotels, and shopping galore. The landscapes in Madeira are breathtaking, the seafood is out of this world, and you will never get bored of the sweeping ocean views.
The Azores is for those that are looking for complete peace and tranquility. While you can find a taste of luxury in Ponta Delgada, the capital, much of the islands remain relatively undiscovered, and you can find very affordable properties here. The green islands, the natural hot springs, and impressive hiking trails make it truly an exceptional place to live.
An overview of Madeira can be found here.
An overview of the Azores can be found here.
American retirement in Portugal: Your options
As an American retiring in Portugal, you will need to obtain temporary residency. There are two options for you – the D7 Visa and the Golden Visa.
The Golden Visa is a residency-by-investment program, while the D7 Visa is relatively straightforward – you will need to provide sufficient funds to live in Portugal, alongside a few other criteria.
Information on the D7 Visa can be found here.
Information on the Portgual Golden Visa can be found here.