Updated: July 3, 2024

 

Relocating abroad and living in a foreign country as an expat can be challenging. However, if you are considering moving to Portugal, you can expect more than days bathed in sunshine surrounded by the country’s rich history and unique traditional charms.

Portugal offers a warm welcome and an expat experience filled with simple pleasures and endless possibilities, and living in Portugal could turn out to be an extremely rewarding life decision.

Portugal is a captivating country with a warm climate, friendly and welcoming Portuguese citizens, excellent Portuguese cuisine accompanied by a laid-back lifestyle, visa-free travel to other European countries for legal residents, and a growing real estate market in an extremely safe country.

In this ultimate guide, we will explore the reasons why American, British expats, and other non-EU citizens are moving to Portugal in hopes of obtaining Portuguese residency and, ultimately, Portuguese citizenship in this stunning Westernmost EU country.

Why live in Portugal?

Portugal offers a safe and peaceful environment, a rich history, high quality of life and stable economy. Portugal beckons with a simple yet fulfilling way of life. Imagine basking in the warm sunshine with a vibrant culture and exciting activities at your fingertips. Whether you crave historical exploration, invigorating hikes, or relaxing soaks in natural hot springs, Portugal caters to every mood. With a high standard of living, a stable economy, and a peaceful atmosphere, it offers a haven for both visitors and expats.

Perhaps the most endearing aspect is the Portuguese approach to life itself – slowing down to savor a delicious pastel de nata with coffee or stretching out sunny afternoons in the company of loved ones.

Portugal ranked seventh in the 2023 Global Peace Index, which monitors the safest countries in the world. This stunning European Union country is seventh to Singapore, Austria, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Iceland, which currently ranks first on the Global Peace Index.

Portugal is perched on the Iberian Peninsula, with miles of Atlantic coastline, bustling cities, pristine beaches, and stunning national parks. The Portuguese value heritage and tradition and 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 a vibrant local culture, making it one of the best countries in Europe to live in. Expats in Portugal will find the country to be rich in history and culture, where you can easily integrate into Portuguese society and make new friends, both locals and fellow expats.

The Advantages of Living in Portugal

Portugal attracts expats from all walks of life, including retirees, remote workers and young professionals, and even foreign investors with their family members. There are plenty of advantages to living in Portugal. 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 where you’ll find some of the most affordable property prices in Europe in the country. You can take a closer look at Portugal’s real estate market in our Portugal real estate guide.

Take a look at our ultimate guide to buying property in Portugal.

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GC-ICON-57The cost of living is relatively inexpensive

Portugal is considered one of the cheapest Western European countries and is, on average, 50 percent more affordable than the United States. From an economic perspective, living in Portugal as an American is as good as it gets.

Portugal also has affordable living costs compared to other European Union countries (EU) countries and you live comfortably on an average salary of €1,048. Prices in Portugal are significantly lower than prices in neighboring Spain and other European nations like Switzerland, Austria, the United Kingdom, and others. This is a crucial reason why Portugal has become a favorite with foreign buyers.

Below there are some average costs of the basic expenditures in Portugal:

Product

Average Price

Dinner for two at a good restaurant

€40

Bread

€1.37

A dozen eggs

€2.75

Local cheese (1Kg)

€9.85

1 Liter of milk

€0.92

Apples (1 Kg)

€1.98

Cappuccino

€1.76

1 Liter of petrol

€1.79

Basic utilities 85m2 apartment

€111.23

Tax benefits for foreign residents 

Until the Non-Habitual Residents (NHR) program ended in January 2024, foreign residents living in Portugal benefitted from the non-habitual resident (NHR) tax status as a foreigner with a Portuguese residence visa. 

It’s still possible for some individuals to apply for the NHR regime until March 31, 2025. Discover more about the latest changes to the NHR program in this article, Full Guide to Non-Habitual Resident Portugal.

Quality of education 

The quality of primary, secondary, and tertiary education is high in Portugal, leading many young families to relocate here for education prospects for their children. There are 51 international schools in Portugal, offering a range of curricula and language options to parents. The European Union recognizes Portuguese university degrees, enabling graduates to obtain a job in any of the 27 member countries. 

Portugal’s education system uses English and Portuguese to teach university courses. However, not all universities in Portugal provide English language courses. To provide you with some examples of costs, at the University of Coimbra, a degree in Portuguese costs at least €7,000 annually, while at the University of Porto, a bachelor’s degree in English costs at least €3,500 per year. 

apartment iconQuality of healthcare 

Portugal dedicates nine percent of its GDP to healthcare annually. The 2024 Health Care Index  by Numbeo ranks Portugal in 19th position, indicating that it has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. 

Portuguese residents will find that healthcare is very affordable, although they may need to pay a little extra for certain operations, X-rays, etc. Compared to many other European countries and in America, healthcare costs are very reasonable. For more information, you can consult our Portugal Healthcare article. 

Additionally, if you are covered by the national healthcare system of an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is issued free of charge and gives individuals free access to healthcare in all EU and EEA countries, in addition to Switzerland and the UK. Note that for British Citizens, when your EHIC card expires, you must apply for a Global Health Insurance Card, which has replaced the EHIC card.   

Government hospitals offer free medical care for Portugal’s inhabitants and residents. Private clinics provide more excellent 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. You can also access all the information in this extensive Portugal healthcare guide from our partner Global Citizen Solutions.  

Excellent climate 

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 warmest, and August is the hottest month in the country. Temperatures range from 13 Degrees C to 19 Degrees 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 Degrees C.  

GC-ICON-15Entertainment and recreation 

Portugal offers an unlimited number of cultural experiences and outdoor activities to make you vacation or life in the country a memorable one. You can discover more about Portugal’s rich history in castles and fortresses in located different regions of the country, swim in the Atlantic Ocean on the stunning Lisbon Coast or explore the Serra da Estrela mountains located in the middle of Portugal.  

From top to bottom of the country, you will have the opportunity to explore the local culture of Portugal, with each region having its traditions. Portugal is also 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.  

GC-ICON-10The English language 

While Portuguese is the official language, most people in Portugal speak English, particularly younger people. Therefore, living in Portugal as an American, a British citizen, or any other foreign national with a good command of English, you won’t have much of a problem if you don’t have to speak Portuguese very well.  

While there probably won’t be much of a language barrier in the bigger cities, in the more rural parts of the country, you will find that older generations may not speak English, and it can be a good idea to learn Portuguese. Also, in some government organizations, English is not so commonly spoken, so it is a good idea 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 culture is easy and simple to integrate into and enjoy, with people generally placing more importance on spending time with loved ones and the importance maintaining a healthy work/life balance. People typically don’t rush off anywhere, making it the perfect country to go to relax and unwind. Portugal currently ranks 13th on the Global Citizen Solutions Quality of Life Index with an overall happy population.  

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 very few problems. According to the 2024 Numbeo Crime Index by Country, Portugal ranks 28th in the European Union with a low crime percentage of 31 percent and a safety index of 69 percent. 

Disadvantages of Portugal Expat Life

Have you ever considered the bad things about living in Portugal? As with any other country, living in Portugal has several drawbacks, some of which are highlighted below.  

GC-ICON-52Difficulties with paying by card 

Make sure that international bank cards are accepted where you 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 want to move to Portugal and buy property there, opening a bank account should be on your list of things to do. You will also need to get an NIF and 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? 

GC-ICON-79No central heating 

While Portugal has an incredible climate, it can get cold inside in the winter. Due to the lack of central heating or good insulation in many apartments, make sure you have a good heating system in place to keep warm. 

Important Considerations for Living in Portugal as an Expat

Portugal has an affordable cost of living compared to the USA and other European countries, particularly northern European countries. Considering the high quality of properties, the high standard of education and healthcare institutions, and 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 

Property prices in Portugal are quite reasonable. However, properties in Lisbon will be more expensive as it has its own price range as a capital city. Although compared to property prices in other Western European capitals, you will still find real estate quite affordable. It is also important to note that when buying property in Portugal, the asking price, the sales price can be either higher or lower. In most cases, it turns out to be lower.  The table below showcases the average asking prices in the different districts of Portugal in the last quarter of 2023, according to the Confidencial Imobiliário. 

Districts

Average Asking Price (€/sqm)

Lisbon Metroplitan Area

€4,061

Porto Metroplitan Area

€3,291

Northern Portugal

€1,740

Central Portugal

€1,864

Alentejo

€2,685

Algarve

€3,897

Can foreigners buy property in Portugal? Find out in our ultimate guide.

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Beaches 

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 

azores island portugalThe 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 an excellent place to start a conversation with a local.  

Yes, more in-depth conversations with Portuguese people will be easier if you learn the Portuguese language. Portuguese also has certain mannerisms and expressions, so speaking with locals will help you sharpen your communication skills.  

Other useful Portuguese language phrases may be: 

  • “Eu gostaria de pedir…” (“I would like to ask for…”) 
  • “Poderia ajudar-me?” (“Could you help me?”) 

Almost all Portuguese speakers speak a second language, so if you develop conversations in English, French, or Spanish, there’s a reasonable probability of being understood. Suppose you are thinking of living in Portugal for a more extended period. In that case, it is a good idea to begin learning Portuguese to easily communicate with the locals and make your stay in the country easier.  

Climate 

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 generally very humid, and many apartments do not have integrated heating during the winter months. The most memorable thing you’ll quickly notice about Portugal when visiting is its golden sunlight, shining throughout the year.  The mild climate makes it possible to enjoy the simple pleasures of hiking on the weekend, trips to the beach, and sight-seeing in popular locations like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve region throughout the year. 

Culture 

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 for architectural monuments and landscapes, with a further 19 on the UNESCO tentative list. Quite a few for such a small country.  

Healthcare 

The public Portuguese healthcare system (SNS) is excellent. The hospital network in Portugal consists of modern units well-equipped throughout the country. An integrated medical emergency system provides care for anyone injured in an accident or who suddenly takes ill.  

There are also excellent private clinics up and down the country. Regarding private healthcare, medical expenses may be partially or entirely covered by private or international health insurance policies. 

Facilities 

The Portuguese, in general, are demanding regarding the quality of their properties, transportation, and other facilities. It is important to note that the quality and speed of technology are also highly valued. Generally, for the Portuguese, comfort is essential. 

Transportation 

Portuguese public transportation has improved dramatically in recent years. While a few things could be improved here regarding network coverage and schedule continuity, you will generally find that public transport links are excellent.  

Transportation is convenient and of high quality, especially in large cities. That 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, there have been initiatives to encourage cycling in recent years, with bike lanes now common in Lisbon. There are also many electric bike and scooter points across the city, whereby you can quickly jump on a scooter to get around easily.  

For keen travelers, there are international airports in Lisbon, Porto, and Faro. Each international airport has good links, so you can easily explore Europe for a weekend getaway or even further afield.  

Coworking spaces 

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 generally a perfect place to settle for remote workers. Lisbon is home to one of Europe’s largest digital nomad communities, with regular meetups and coworking spaces popping up all over the city to accommodate the influx of freelancers and startup companies.  

Over 50 coworking spaces are available, catering to freelancers, startups, and small businesses in Lisbon. Digital nomads will have plenty of places to try out and find the best place to work and meet new people.  

Nightlife 

Portuguese nightlife offers great 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.  

According to InterNations, it’s easy for expats to settle 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 your only language. While Lisbon is a melting point for expats, there are including  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.  

Living-in-Portugal-as-an-expat-Algarve-png

Portimão and Albufeira on the central Algarve coast are cosmopolitan and full of life day and night. You’ll find plenty of beaches if you are a water sports lover and especially enjoy surfing. The resorts of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, Vilamoura, 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 want a more authentic taste of Portugal in the sunny south of the country.  

Living-in-Portugal-as-an-expat-Cascais-png

Cascais is Lisbon’s best beach destination. Every corner is beautiful and has a lot to offer. This is where people come to enjoy the warm weather and go diving. There are probably a few hundred expats living in Cascais, and many people find it peaceful, attractive, and, above all, very welcoming. Some expats living in Cascais keep in touch through Facebook groups and the local community is happy to help newcomers. The neighboring area of Estoril is also a prime location for expats. Take a look at our guide to the best places to live in Portugal for more information. 

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Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve are 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 as other regions in Portugal. 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 

Living-in-Portugal-as-an-expat-Lisbon-png

In Western Europe, Portugal is perhaps the cheapest country to live in. An expat’s cost of living in Lisbon is generally much more affordable than in other popular European cities. However, prices are increasing quite rapidly in the Portuguese capital. Currently, Lisbon is in first place on the Nomad List’s list of best places to live and work in the world, and it’s also one of the best places to invest in real estate. 

Living-in-Porto-as-an-expat-png

Like Lisbon, Porto is also a very safe Portuguese city, 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 than Lisbon.

How to get residency in Portugal?

If you are looking to live in Portugal, you will need to get a residence permit. The Portuguese government offers many different Portuguese visas and residency options to cater to different expat profiles. We’ve highlighted some of the most popular below.

Golden Visa: For a qualifying investment in the country, you can secure Portuguese residency under the Portugal Golden Visa program. Investment options for the Golden Visa include investment funds, job creation, and investments into cultural production, amongst others.

D7 Visa: Also known as the Retirement Visa or Passive Income Visa, the D7 Visa allows you to live in Portugal, provided you have sufficient passive income to support yourself in the country.

Digital Nomad Visa: The Digital Nomad Visa, introduced in 2022, allows you to relocate to Portugal provided you work for a foreign (non-Portuguese) employer and earn four times the Portuguse minimum wage.

Portugal D3 Visa: Designed for highly skilled professionals, you will be able to live and work in Portugal for up to a year with this residency visa, which can then be renewed for two additional periods of two years.

After five years of legal residency in Portugal, you can obtain permanent residency and Portuguese citizenship. Being a Portuguese citizen unlocks an array of benefits, such as the ability to live and work in any EU member country and increased travel freedoms.

Should you need to discuss your residency options or assistance with the Portuguese visa process, our residency and citizenship partner, Global Citizen Solutions, would be more than happy to assist you.

Goldcrest: Why Work with Us?

Goldcrest is a local buyer’s agent based in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve that provides insightful real estate expertise and strategic advice. From sourcing to property acquisition, we offer a tailor-made service for our clients, assisting them in identifying outstanding investment opportunities in some of Portugal’s finest locations, from relocation to investment projects. 

  • Local knowledge: With offices located across Portugal, our presence nationwide allows us to assist you personally across the country.
  • Independent service: As an independent buying agent, we do not represent any development or project. Our service is entirely tailored toward each individual client, providing you with everything you need to secure the right property at the best possible price. As an impartial advisor on the market, we work solely on behalf of our client and provide a service tailored to your needs and requirements.
  • Streamlined process: We have a team of estate agents in Portugal, and our service is completely focused on providing you with a hassle-free buying experience, saving you time.
  • Experienced team: Our expert real estate team has a vast local knowledge of the Portuguese property market. We have cutting-edge technology and metasearch tools at your disposal to provide full market coverage, ensuring the best real estate in Portugal is at your fingertips.
  • Network of partners: Lawyers, property management services, builders, architects, designers, and landscape gardeners, again saving you time and hassle by providing you with trusted experts in their field of work.

Frequently Asked Questions About Living in Portugal as an Expat:

Portugal’s job market offers opportunities in several sectors. With the right skills and experience it is possible to find a job in the country with some research, networking, and patience. The tourism and tech industries are growing steadily, and many international companies are setting up shop in Portugal. This creates a demand for multilingual professionals. Additionally, Portugal is known for its welcoming attitude towards foreigners. 

As the capital city and being awarded the European Capital of Innovation in 2023 by the European Commission, expats in Portugal can find employment among dozens of startups and agencies in Lisbon. Look through the sites Jobs in Lisbon and Expatica to find your perfect job. Living in Portugal as an expat as a foreigner, the Digital Nomad Visa also allows you to work remotely in Portugal for a foreign (non-Portuguese) employer or be self-employed, provided you earn 4 times the minimum wage. 

The Portugal Digital Nomad Visa that launched in October 2022 allows digital nomads to work from Portugal without having to rely on Portuguese source incomes. Additionally, technologies are fast and reliable in Portugal making remote work seamless and enjoyable. There are also a lot of coworking spaces that cater to remote workers, plus almost all cafes have good, reliable wi-fi. 

Expat buyers have a high degree of protection under Portuguese law. While the pitfalls should always be addressed, buying property in Portugal is usually a safe and secure investment. 

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. On average, a one-bedroom rental apartment in a city center will cost around €939 per month while a one-bedroom rental apartment outside a city center will cost around €725.50 per month, according to Numbeo 

Yes, Portugal ranks seventh in the global ranking of peaceful nations, according to the 2023 Global Peace Index. The Portuguese treat visitors with friendliness and openness, and Portugal’s crime rate is low. 

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 essential contributions to the Portuguese government, or who married a Portuguese national. Portugal offers non-EU citizens and foreign investors several residency visa programs that could ultimately lead to Portuguese citizenship, including the Portugal Golden Visa Portugal D7 Visa and the Portugal Digital Nomad Visa 

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. From Lisbon to the Algarve coast, the country has established quality healthcare and education systems making it a great place for expats.  

You can benefit from the relatively low cost of living, laid-back lifestyle, and vibrant local culture. If you’re considering a move to Portugal, careful research and planning can ensure a smooth relocation.  

Portugal’s public healthcare system is generally free for residents of the country, although you will need to pay a patient contribution for certain procedures such as x-rays. Patients pay standard user fees, known as “tax moderators,” and the state covers its costs. 

Americans relocating to Portugal tend to favor the major cities of Lisbon and Porto, Mainland Portugal and Central Portugal cities, and the stunning Algarve region in Southern Portugal. Living in Portugal as an expat as an American, you’ll find that these regions have the most extensive American expat communities.  

For American citizens, Portugal offers a high quality of life that contrasts nicely with a low cost of living. Portugal excels across many dimensions of well-being in comparison to other countries in the OECD Better Life Index and Global Citizen Solutions’ Quality of Life Index, clocking in at 12th position. 

Living in Portugal as an expat pros and cons:

Key advantages to living in Portugal include the country’s favorable climate, the outstanding National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde), good international schools, and the affordable yet high quality of life.

When it comes to the drawbacks of living in Portugal, bureaucracy can be slow and it’s best to double check that you have good insulation in your home as central heating can be lacking in some properties.

Lisbon, the Algarve, and Porto have the largest expat communities in Portugal, alongside Setúbal.

Portugal offers a high quality of life, affordable living costs, and a welcoming atmosphere for expats. With its stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, rich culture, and favorable climate, Portugal is a top choice for many expats seeking a fulfilling European lifestyle.

 

 

 

Living in Portugal as an American is relatively easy due to its welcoming environment, English proficiency, and range of residency options to cater to different expat profiles. With a similar lifestyle and shared values, Americans find Portugal an accessible and enjoyable place to settle down.