Updated: September 11, 2023
Some say that it is sometimes not easy to be an expat. However, if you are thinking about moving to Portugal, you may find that this is not the case. Portugal is a captivating country, people are friendly, the food is excellent and the conditions for buying property are outstanding. Portugal’s highly popular Golden Visa scheme is also considered invaluable for non-EU citizens looking to reside legally in Portugal. On top of the huge tax benefits, living in Portugal as an expat is an outstanding life investment.
Why live in Portugal?
Portugal is a safe and peaceful European country that offers a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. The country ranks in sixth position in the 2022 Global Peace Index, which monitors the safest countries in the world, and trails only Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria.
Portugal is perched on the Iberian Peninsula, with miles of Atlantic coastline, bustling cities, pristine beaches, and stunning national parks. Heritage and tradition are valued by the Portuguese, and they are known for their generosity and openness toward expats. When you enter Portugal, be ready for late-night dinners, days spent at incredible beaches and golf courses, hip parties and events, excellent Portuguese wine, and gastronomy. Portugal also offers high-quality education and vibrant, local culture, making it one of the best countries in Europe to live in.
Advantages of Living in Portugal as an Expat
Portugal attracts expats from all walks of life, including retirees, digital nomads, young professionals, and families. There are plenty of advantages to living in Portugal as an expat. From a practical point of view, the cost of living in Portugal is low and it’s relatively easy to buy property — where you’ll find some of the lowest prices in Europe. You can take a closer look at Portugal’s real estate market here.
The cost of living is relatively inexpensive
Portugal is considered one of the cheapest countries to live in in western Europe and is on average, 50 percent cheaper than living in the United States. Therefore, living in Portugal as an American is as good as it gets.
Portugal also has affordable living costs when compared to other countries in the European Union (EU). The cost was significantly greater in neighboring Spain and other European nations like Switzerland, Austria, the United Kingdom, and others. This is a key reason why Portugal has become a favorite with foreign buyers.
Below there are some average costs of the basic expenditures in Portugal:
|Dinner for two at a good restaurant
|A dozen eggs
|Local cheese (1kg)
|1L of milk
|Apples 1 kg
|1L of petrol
|Unlimited internet bill
Tax benefits for foreign residents
If you don’t pay tax on income generated abroad and the tax is withheld at the source, you can achieve non-habitual resident (NHR) tax status as a foreigner with a Portuguese residence visa.
You must be a tax resident in Portugal and pay taxes in the country to qualify for NHR status. This entails renting or purchasing property and residing in the nation for at least 183 days out of the year. Only those who have not paid taxes in Portugal for the previous five years are eligible for the exemption. Special tax status is granted for up to ten years.
Investors that have NHR status are eligible to pay less income tax in Portugal. Professionals including CEOs, programmers, engineers, scientists, artists, and performers now pay 20 percent income tax instead of the previous 48 percent rate.
Quality of education
The school and tertiary education levels in Portugal are comparatively high. Portuguese university degrees are recognized by the EU, enabling graduates to obtain a job in any one of the 27 member countries.
Portugal’s education system uses English and Portuguese to teach university courses. However, not all institutions provide English language courses. At the University of Coimbra, a degree in Portuguese costs at least €6,340 annually, while at the University of Porto, a bachelor’s degree in English costs at least €8,900 per year.
Quality of healthcare
Portugal dedicates 9 percent of its GDP to healthcare annually. The Health Care Index 2021 by Numbeo ranks Portgual in 24th position, indicating that it has one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
For Portuguese residents, you will find that healthcare is very affordable, although you may need to pay a little extra for certain operations and x-rays, etc. Compared to many other European countries and in America, you will find that healthcare costs are very reasonable.
For more information, you can consult our article on Portugal Healthcare.
Additionally, if you are covered by the national healthcare system of an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, then you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is issued free of charge and provides individuals with free access to healthcare in all EU and EEA counties, in addition to Switzerland and the UK. Note that for British Citizens, when your EHIC card expires, you will need to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card, which will replace the EHIC card.
Government hospitals offer free medical care for Portugal’s inhabitants and residents. Private clinics offer a greater level of service, including the ability to speak with doctors on the phone, and booking an appointment is quicker than at public clinics. Your medical expenses may be partially or entirely covered by private health insurance policies or international health insurance.
Portugal has a generally mild climate that varies by region. The north is prone to rainfall, while the south gets more arid conditions. In August and September, the sea is at its hottest, and August is the hottest month in the country. Temperatures range from 13°C to 19°C all year round, although temperatures can frequently be higher than this.
Winters in Portugal are also warm. Lisbon’s January daily average temperature is 14.7°C. Although it doesn’t snow often there, when it does, it evaporates rapidly and is more frequent in mountain areas.
Entertainment and recreation
While tourists can visit castles and fortresses, swim in the ocean, and explore the Serra da Estrela mountains, locals enjoy surfing, diving, and fishing. From top to bottom of the country, you can also explore the local culture of Portugal, with each region having its own traditions.
Portugal is known for its resorts, beaches, and attractions. For instance, the Algarve region has long been regarded as one of the best places to live in Portugal, with its pristine beaches, unique landforms, excellent climate, and delicious seafood.
The English language
The majority of Portuguese people speak English, particularly younger people. Therefore, living in Portugal as an American, a British citizen, or any other foreign national that has a good command of English, you won’t be much of a problem if don’t have to speak Portuguese very well. While in the bigger cities, there probably won’t be much of a language barrier, in the more rural parts of the country, you will find that older generations may not speak English. Also, in some government organizations, English is not so commonly spoken, so it is a good idea to be able to speak at least an elementary conversational level of Portuguese.
With this said, across the country, welcoming locals are known for their hospitality towards foreigners, and the Portuguese often go out of their way to answer any questions you may have, pointing you in the direction of the closest café or recommending a restaurant for you to try out.
The pace of life
Portuguese people typically don’t rush off anywhere. Portugal is the place to go if you like to relax and unwind.
Portugal has a low crime rate
The Portuguese are hospitable, kind, friendly, and welcoming to foreigners. The country has a very low crime rate, so you should have few problems on this front.
Disadvantages of Living in Portugal as an Expat
Have you ever wondered about the disadvantages of living in Portugal? Living in Portugal has several drawbacks that are related to its benefits, such as the country’s climate or pace of life.
Difficulties with paying by card
Make sure that international bank cards are accepted in the places you are going to shop, and you should also have cash in hand for cases where your card is not accepted. You can always open a Portuguese bank account, which may make life a little easier.
If you are looking to move to Portugal and buy property in the country, opening a bank account should be on your list of things to do. You will also need to get a NIF number, which is your tax identification number. This is required to carry out any transaction in the country and you will also need a NIF number to open a bank account in Portugal. You can see more in our article here: How To Get a NIF Number in Portugal?
No central heating
Due to the lack of central heating in many apartments, some people have to purchase a heater to keep warm as it can get cold in the winter months.
In general, summers are hot and winters are mild but rainy. Seasonal climate variations in Portugal are not significant. The country does not get much snow in the winter months, except in the mountainous areas, while the summertime temperature can sometimes reach 40 °C.
Downsides to retiring in Portugal
When it comes to the downsides of retiring to Portugal, be aware of the difficulties to pay by card, the potential English language barrier if you are living in a more remote part of the country, and the fact that bureaucracy can be quite slow in some cases.
What is the cost of living in Portugal?
Portugal has an affordable cost of living, compared to the USA and other European countries, particularly northern European countries. Taking into account the high quality of properties, the high standard of education and healthcare institutions, as well as the excellent commodities and products on offer, we can safely say that Portugal is an affordable and comfortable country for many expats to settle in.
Price of property
The property prices are reasonable, and you can buy an apartment in Continental Portugal for around €2,514 per square meter, as of 2020. This is the asking price, so the sales price can be either higher or lower than this. Properties in Lisbon will be more expensive as it has its own price range, although compared to property prices in other western European countries, you will still find real estate to be quite affordable.
At present, there are tens of thousands of foreign owners in Portugal and several million Portuguese homeowners, the vast majority of whom are satisfied with their purchases and who have found few or no problems when buying property in Portugal.
You can also get legal residency if you invest in Portugal. This is done under the Portugal Golden Visa Program (certain pre-existing conditions apply). Lisbon has its own price range, but you should still be able to find some excellent properties and reasonable prices. Note that if you buy in the city center then property prices will be more expensive. For example, a property address in Avenida da Liberdade, Baixa, or Príncipe Real, will be more expensive.
The best part about buying a property in Portugal as a non-EU citizen is that you can benefit from the Golden Visa program — a scheme that offers a legal residency permit to expats in exchange for a qualifying property investment. You can also apply for permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship after five years, provided that you meet all the requirements under Portugal nationality law. So, if your goal is to live or retire in your own apartment or villa in a calm and warm country, the Portuguese Golden Visa program could be the perfect scheme to help you achieve this dream.
If you are interested in the Portugal Golden Visa program, it is best to seek professional advice. Global Citizen Solutions is a multidisciplinary firm offering bespoke residence and citizenship solutions in Europe and the Caribbean. If you would like to discuss whether the Portugal Golden Visa is the right residency-by-investment program for you, please get in touch with us today.
Note that EU citizens can enter Portugal easily and stay for 90 days. After this, they will be required to apply for a residency permit.
Cost of living
In Portugal, you can find high-quality properties, amazing food and drinks (including delicious fresh fish and wine), technology, and all the commodities of a stable country at accessible prices.
Most foreigners consider the cost of living to be low. According to UBS (Prices and Wages), the Consumer Price Index is only 67.4 compared to New York, where it equals 100. A good tip is to visit the local farmer’s markets or small grocery stores when doing your weekly shopping, as the produce will be excellent and often more affordable.
Portugal’s entire coastline stretches for 1187 km, with plenty of gorgeous picture-perfect beaches for surfers and water sports enthusiasts. Most of the beaches in Portugal have family-friendly modern facilities.
Useful Portuguese phrases
The basics “bom dia” (good morning), “boa tarde” (good afternoon) or “boa noite” (good evening), and the general phrase “tudo bem?” (how are you doing?) are commonly used phrases among the Portuguese. These phrases are a good place to start when starting a conversation with a local.
Yes, more in-depth conversations with Portuguese people will be easier if you learn the language. The Portuguese language also has certain mannerisms and expressions, so speaking with locals will help you sharpen your communication skills.
Other useful Portuguese phrases may be:
- “Eu gostaria de pedir…” (“I would like to ask for…”)
- “Poderia ajudar-me?” (“Could you help me?”)
Almost all Portuguese speak a second language, so if you develop the conversation in English, French, or Spanish, there’s a good probability of being understood. If you are thinking of living in Portugal for a longer time period, it is a good idea to begin learning Portuguese, to easily communicate with the locals and make your stay in the country easier.
Portugal is known for its warm summers and mild winters (the average low temperature doesn’t fall below 11 degrees C (52 degrees F) in January). However, the country is, in general, very humid and many apartments do not have integrated heating during the winter months. You can enjoy an African breeze on the Algarve coast and snow in Serra da Estrela. The most special thing about Portugal, that you’ll quickly notice when visiting, is its golden sunlight, shining throughout the year.
Portugal is located physically and historically at the meeting point of three continents — Europe, Africa, and America — and constitutes a privileged entry point into the Schengen area. Manueline art, tiles, and fado are unique expressions and symbols of the Portuguese and their contribution to world heritage. In Portugal, as of 2022, UNESCO has classified 14 World Heritage Sites in the country, for architectural monuments and landscapes, with a further 19 on the UNESCO tentative list. Quite a few for such a small country.
The public Portuguese healthcare system (SNS) is very good. The hospital network in Portugal consists of modern units that are well-equipped throughout the country. An integrated medical emergency system provides care for anyone who is injured in an accident or who suddenly becomes ill.
There are also excellent private clinics up and down the country. Regarding private healthcare, medical expenses may be either partially or entirely covered by private health insurance policies or international health insurance.
The Portuguese, in general, are demanding when it comes to the quality of their properties, transportation, and other facilities. It is important to note that the quality and speed of technologies are also highly valued. As a general rule, for the Portuguese, comfort is essential.
Portuguese public transportation has improved greatly in recent years. While there are a few shortcomings here in terms of network coverage and schedule continuity, you will generally find that public transport links are very good. Transportation is clean and of high quality, especially in large cities. That being said, many people use a car to get around. Unfortunately, cycling isn’t considered popular in Portugal due to the unevenness of the ground and the few bike lanes. However, in recent years, there have been initiatives to encourage cycling, with bike lanes now common in Lisbon. There are also many electric bike and scooter points across the city, whereby you can easily jump on a scooter to get around easily.
For keen travelers, you will find that there are international airports in Lisbon, Porto, and Faro. Each international airport has good links so that you can easily explore Europe for a weekend getaway, or even further afield.
Coworking spaces in Portugal are becoming quite popular, but they mainly exist in big cities. Digital nomads flocking to Portugal will find that the country is, in general, a very good place to settle for remote workers. Lisbon is home to one of Europe’s largest digital nomad communities with regular meet-ups and coworking spaces popping up all over the city to accommodate the influx of freelancers and startup companies. There are over 50 coworking spaces available, catering to freelancers, startups, and small businesses in Lisbon. Digital nomads will have plenty of places to try out, to find the best spot for them to work and meet new people.
Portuguese nightlife offers good surprises for those looking to party in a friendly country. The cities host a young, bohemian, multicultural soul, and, above all, there are nightlife options to cater to all tastes and budgets.
What are the most popular places in Portugal for expats?
According to InterNations, it’s easy for expats to get settled and make friends in Portugal. Home to a buzzing nightlight, beautiful beaches, and picturesque castles, it’s no wonder why life in Portugal is so sought-after by foreigners.
It’s also easy to get around the big cities if English is the only language you speak. While Lisbon is a melting point for expats, there are many incredible places to live in Portugal, such as Vilamoura, Cascais, Ericeira, Nazaré, and Porto. While some foreigners favor city life, other expats may be more inclined to live with an ocean view or in the countryside. You’ll be pleased to know that Portugal can cater to your needs.
Portimão and Albufeira in the central Algarve are very cosmopolitan and full of life both day and night. If you are a water sports lover and especially enjoy surfing, then you’ll find plenty of beaches to enjoy yourself. Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo, and Almancil — the so-called Golden Triangle of the central Algarve — are increasingly sought after by foreigners looking for comfortable homes. Tavira, a symbol of the Mediterranean diet, is the perfect place to live if you are looking for a more authentic taste of Portugal in the sunny south of the country.
Let’s put it this way: Cascais is Lisbon’s best beach destination. Every corner is beautiful and has a lot to offer. This is the place where people come to enjoy the warm weather and go diving. There probably are a few hundred expats living in Cascais as a lot of people find it to be peaceful, attractive, and, above all, very welcoming. Some expats living in Cascais keep in touch through Facebook groups such as Expats Cascais and the local community is happy to help newcomers. Neighboring Estoril is also a prime location for exapts.
Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve are by far the most popular destinations in Portugal. If you are an expat living in Portugal, these may be your go-to places to explore. Because of this, quite a few visitors do not venture further inland. It is a real shame because the central Portugal region is equally as scenic and picturesque as other regions in Portugal. In particular, Nazaré and Ericeira are known for their surfing culture, Óbidos is known for their chocolate and sweet (but strong) drink ginjinha, and Fatima for its spirituality. The north of Portugal, close to the Spanish border also offers beautiful, relatively untouched countryside, and charming cities, such as Braga and Guimarães. In recent years, however, more and more expats are beginning to discover the interior regions of Portugal, such as the Silver Coast.
In western Europe, Portugal is perhaps the cheapest country to live in. The cost of living in Lisbon for an expat is generally considered to be much cheaper than in other popular European cities. However, prices are increasing quite rapidly in the Portuguese capital. Currently, Lisbon is in first place in Nomad List’s best places to live and work in the world, and it’s also one of the best places to invest in real estate.
Like Lisbon, Porto is also a very safe Portuguese city, making it perfect for expats. Home to the famous Porto wine, the fabulous Douro River, and beautiful cobbled streets, It’s also considered cheaper to live in compared to Lisbon.
Frequently Asked Questions About Living in Portugal as an Expat:
What are the job opportunities like?
It is not difficult for an expat to find a job in Portugal. There are now many companies interested in working with professionals who speak second languages, the startup scene is growing and the Portuguese naturally welcome foreigners to the country.
Which jobs are available for expats in Portugal?
Can you work remotely for a foreign company?
In Portugal, technologies are fast and reliable, and remote work is very possible. There are a lot of coworking spaces that cater to remote workers, plus almost all cafes have good, reliable wi-fi. The Portugal Digital Nomad Visa, which will launch on 30 October 2022, will make it easy for digital nomads to work from Portugal.
Is it a good idea to buy a property in Portugal?
Expat buyers have a high degree of protection under Portuguese law. While the pitfalls should never be ignored, buying a property in Portugal is usually a safe and secure investment.
What is the property rental market like?
On average, rental property in Portugal costs around €1,100 ($1,200) per month. This number grew considerably from the €800 ($880) registered just a year before. Rent prices will vary greatly depending on the part of the country in which you choose to live and the type of housing you seek.
Is Portugal a good place to live?
Yes, Portugal ranks in sixth position in the global ranking of peaceful nations, according to the 2022 Global Peace Index. The Portuguese treat visitors with friendliness and openness, and the crime rate is low in Portugal.
Can I just move to Portugal?
You will need a residence permit if you want to move to Portugal. It is typically given to expats moving abroad to work or study, who have rendered important contributions to the Portuguese government, or who married a Portuguese national.
Is Portugal worth moving to?
The stunning Atlantic Ocean, adjacent mountains, mild temperatures, low crime rates, and comparatively low cost of living are just a few benefits of living in Portugal in 2022. In addition to offering inhabitants tax benefits, the country has established quality healthcare and education systems.
Is there free healthcare in Portugal?
Portugal’s public healthcare system is generally free for residents of the country, although you will need to pay a patient contribution. Patients pay normal user fees, known as “taxas moderadoras”, and the state covers its costs.
Where do American expats live in Portugal?
Americans relocating to Portugal tend to favor Lisbon, the Algarve, and Porto, which have the biggest American expat communities.
How do Americans live in Portugal?
For American citizens, Portugal offers a high quality of life that contrasts nicely with a low cost of living. Portugal excels across many well-being dimensions in comparison to other countries in the OECD Better Life Index and Global Citizen Solutions’ Quality of Life Index, clocking in at 12th position.
What are the pros and cons of living in Portugal?
Portugal is an excellent country to live in. Some of the key advantages include a favorable climate, an excellent healthcare system, very good international schools, and an affordable yet high quality of life. Cons include the fact that bureaucracy can be slow and indoor heating can be lacking.