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The Best Things About Living in Portugal

Portugal, with its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and welcoming atmosphere, has emerged as a top destination for expats from the US and UK seeking a change of scenery and a taste of the laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle. Living in Portugal offers a unique blend of modern conveniences and rich historical heritage, set against the backdrop of some of Europe’s most breathtaking scenery. From the sun-drenched beaches of the Algarve to the charming, cobblestone streets of Lisbon and Porto, this country promises a high quality of life that appeals to a diverse range of individuals and families looking for a new place to call home.

The allure of Portugal goes beyond its physical beauty; it’s the sense of community, the ease of making connections, and the genuine warmth of the locals that make expats feel at home from the moment they arrive. Whether you’re drawn by the promise of adventure in its lush landscapes and coastal areas, the lure of its culinary delights, or the tranquility of its small towns, Portugal offers an unmatched setting for starting a new chapter.

From the practical perks such as affordability and a favorable climate to the more intangible benefits like a sense of belonging and cultural richness, here’s what makes Portugal not just a place to live, but a place to thrive. 

Why Portugal is Popular Among Expats

Portugal’s allure for expats stems from a combination of its rich cultural heritage, welcoming community, and the high standard of living it offers at a comparatively low cost. The country’s traditional cuisine, known for its simplicity and use of seasonal ingredients, appeals to many. Dishes like Pastéis de Nata, Bifana, and Bacalhau reflect Portugal’s culinary diversity, while the national drink, Licor Beirão, and its significant wine consumption, particularly from the Douro Valley, highlight the country’s rich tradition in winemaking​​.

The Portuguese language, one of the top most spoken languages globally, is a draw for many expats, including those from Brazil. Despite its initial complexity, many find it relatively easy to adapt to, further facilitated by the inclusive and welcoming nature of the Portuguese people. This makes integration into the local culture smoother for expats​​.

Living in Portugal offers various options for accommodation, from short-term stays facilitated through platforms like Airbnb to long-term rentals and property purchases through portals like Idealista and various Facebook groups. The healthcare system, characterized by its comprehensive coverage through the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), provides most essential services for free or at a low cost, making healthcare accessible to all legal residents. Non-EU citizens can access this system by obtaining legal residency and registering with the SNS​​.

Education in Portugal offers a mix of private and public schools, with an increasing investment in state-of-the-art facilities improving the public education system. Additionally, a wide range of private and international schools offer high standards of education for expat families​​.

The working environment caters to a broad spectrum of expats, from those seeking to join the Portuguese workforce to digital entrepreneurs attracted by the vibrant startup scene in cities like Lisbon, often referred to as Europe’s Silicon Valley. Portugal’s accommodating stance towards digital nomads, alongside the strong Wi-Fi in cafes and coworking spaces, supports a flexible working lifestyle​​.

Furthermore, the cost of living in Portugal is attractive, especially when compared to other parts of Europe. From food to housing and healthcare, expats find Portugal affordable, which is a significant factor in its popularity. Rental prices vary across the country, with Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve being among the more expensive areas, while more affordable options can be found in the interior regions and smaller towns​​.

Overall, the combination of a welcoming expat community, ease of integration, and the affordable yet high quality of life in Portugal make it a highly popular destination for expats from around the globe​​​​​​.

Cost of Living in Portugal

The cost of living in Portugal offers a compelling argument for those considering a move from the US or UK, with its combination of affordability and quality of life making it an attractive destination for expats. Generally, the cost of living in Portugal is significantly lower than in many Western countries, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle without the need for a hefty income.

Housing: When compared to the US and UK, housing in Portugal presents a noticeable cost advantage. For instance, rental prices in Portugal can be up to 50% lower than in similar cities in the US and UK. A one-bedroom apartment in a city center may cost around €600-€800 per month, which is considerably lower than what you might expect in cities like London or New York​​​​.

Utilities: The monthly cost for utilities, including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage, typically ranges from €100 to €150 for an 85m² apartment. This is quite competitive, especially when compared to the US and UK, where the combined utility costs can often exceed €200 in many regions.

Food: Groceries in Portugal are also more affordable, with the cost of basic items like bread, milk, and eggs being lower than the average in both the US and UK. The fresh produce available at local markets and supermarkets allows expats to maintain a healthy diet without overspending, often with a monthly grocery bill of around €200-€300 for two people​​.

Healthcare: Portugal’s public healthcare system offers most services at low or no cost to legal residents, including expats who qualify. This is a significant advantage over the US, where healthcare can be a major expense. Even private healthcare in Portugal is more affordable compared to private options in the US and UK, with quality services and shorter wait times​​.

The cost of living in Portugal is a key factor in its popularity among expats from the US and UK. The affordable living expenses, coupled with the high standard of living, make Portugal an excellent choice for those looking to stretch their dollars or pounds further while enjoying a rich cultural experience and a comfortable lifestyle.

The Climate and Natural Beauty of Portugal

Portugal’s climate and natural beauty are as varied as they are enchanting, offering a unique blend of Atlantic, Mediterranean, and even continental influences that create a rich tapestry of weather patterns and landscapes across the country. The Atlantic climate dominates, particularly in the northwest, providing a mild and rainy environment that nurtures lush vegetation and contributes to the country’s reputation as a birdwatching paradise. Summers are warm with temperatures near sea level averaging up to 76°F (24°C), while winters are mild, with temperatures ranging from 37 to 40°F (3 to 4°C) but tend to be milder south of the Douro​​​​.

Rainfall varies significantly, from the heavy precipitation in the Minho region, receiving 40 to 80 inches (1,000 to 2,000 mm) annually, to the arid lee slopes in the interior where annual precipitation drops to at most 20 inches (500 mm). This variability extends to the Alentejo, which experiences extreme temperatures in both summer and winter, and to the highest points of the Estrela Mountains, where snow can persist for several months​​.

The diversity of Portugal’s natural landscapes, from the rugged coastline and serene beaches of the Algarve to the verdant valleys and imposing mountains of the north, offers an outdoor paradise for nature lovers. The country is home to unique geological features and UNESCO-listed Geoparks, where visitors can explore breathtaking landscapes that tell the story of the Earth’s history​​.

Portugal’s natural beauty is further enriched by its vegetation, a blend of Atlantic/European and Mediterranean species, with a significant presence of African species in certain areas. The country’s flora varies regionally, reflecting the climatic diversity across Portugal. In the north, European species dominate, while the south sees a greater prevalence of Mediterranean flora. This rich botanical diversity supports a wide range of wildlife and contributes to Portugal’s status as a must-visit destination for those seeking both beauty and adventure in nature​​.

With a climate and natural beauty that cater to a wide range of preferences and activities, Portugal ensures that whether you’re looking to enjoy the serene beaches, hike through ancient forests, or explore the country’s rich biodiversity, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Top Picks for Expats Living in Portugal

Here are our top picks for the quintessential experiences that make Portugal a haven for expats, from the serene beauty of its famed beaches to the rich tapestry of its culinary and cultural heritage.

Best Beach

Portugal, with its extensive coastline, is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in Europe. Among them, Praia da Marinha in the Algarve stands out for its stunning natural beauty, characterized by crystal-clear waters and surrounded by towering cliffs. This beach is not just a place for relaxation under the sun but also offers a perfect setting for adventure seekers, with opportunities for snorkeling and exploring nearby caves. Praia da Marinha exemplifies the best of Portugal’s coastline, offering sandy stretches ideal for sunbathing and picturesque rock formations that make every visit memorable. It’s a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the quintessential beauty of Portuguese beaches.

Best Food

Portuguese cuisine is a flavorful testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage, offering a variety of dishes that are a must-try for newcomers. Bacalhau, or salted cod, is considered the national dish and can be prepared in countless ways, embodying the versatility of Portuguese cooking. Another classic is the savory pork and clams dish, Porco à Alentejana, which perfectly blends seafood and meat, showcasing the country’s love for both. No culinary exploration of Portugal would be complete without tasting the iconic Pastéis de Nata, a creamy custard tart that is a staple in Portuguese bakeries. These dishes, among others, provide a delicious introduction to eating in Portugal, inviting expats and travelers alike to dive into the country’s rich culinary traditions.

Best City for Expats

Choosing the best city in Portugal for expats involves comparing the vibrant capital, Lisbon, with its northern counterpart, Porto. Lisbon offers a dynamic blend of historical charm and modern living, with an extensive expat community, diverse cultural offerings, and excellent amenities. The city’s neighborhoods, from the historic Alfama to the trendy Príncipe Real, provide a wide range of living experiences. Porto, with its picturesque riverside, world-renowned wine cellars, and slightly slower pace of life, offers a different charm. It’s known for its friendly locals, cultural richness, and affordability compared to Lisbon. Both cities boast robust expat communities and a high quality of life but cater to different preferences in terms of pace and lifestyle. Whether you’re drawn to Lisbon’s bustling streets or Porto’s intimate charm, both cities offer a welcoming environment for expats seeking a new home in Portugal.

Best Drink

Portugal’s rich winemaking tradition is a significant aspect of its cultural identity, showcasing a diversity of flavors that have been refined over centuries. Among the most celebrated Portuguese wines is Port wine, a fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northern provinces. This sweet, rich wine is often served as a dessert wine, savored for its depth of flavors. Beyond Port, Portugal offers a wide array of local beverages that reflect the country’s diverse regions and historical influences. Vinho Verde, a young, slightly effervescent wine from the Minho region, is another standout, offering a refreshing option during the warmer months. For a truly local experience, trying a glass of Ginja, a sour cherry liqueur popular in Lisbon and Alcobaça, is a must. Each Portuguese beverage, from the full-bodied reds of the Alentejo to the crisp whites of the Vinho Verde region, tells a story of the local landscape, climate, and tradition, inviting drinkers on a journey through Portugal’s rich viticultural history.

Best Cultural Experience

Portugal’s cultural landscape is a tapestry of vibrant traditions, events, and historical sites that offer a deep dive into the country’s rich heritage. One of the most poignant expressions of Portuguese culture is Fado music, a UNESCO-listed Intangible Cultural Heritage that captures the soul of Portugal through melancholic melodies and poetic lyrics about love, loss, and longing. Experiencing a live Fado performance in the historic neighborhoods of Lisbon or Porto is an unforgettable way to connect with the emotional depth of Portuguese culture.

Portugal also boasts a calendar filled with traditional festivals that celebrate the country’s history, religion, and regional identities. One of the most famous is the Festival of Santo António in Lisbon, where the city comes alive with parades, music, and sardine-filled feasts. Similarly, Porto’s Festa de São João sees the city engaging in joyous street parties, fireworks, and the unique tradition of hitting passers-by with plastic hammers.

Beyond music and festivals, Portugal’s rich history is etched into its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from the cultural landscape of Sintra to the historic center of Évora and the Monastery of Batalha. These sites offer a window into Portugal’s past, from its time as a Roman outpost to its era of maritime exploration and beyond. Visiting these cultural landmarks and participating in the country’s traditional celebrations provides a meaningful way to immerse oneself in the essence of Portuguese heritage, where the past is always present, and every corner tells a story.

The Best Things About Living In Portugal

Emigrating to Portugal offers a wealth of advantages that make it an alluring destination for expats from the US and UK, from its breathtaking beaches and vibrant culture to its rich culinary traditions and welcoming communities. The unique combination of a high quality of life, affordable living costs, and diverse natural beauty enables expats to not just live but truly thrive in Portugal. The country’s emphasis on community, leisurely pace of life, and the array of cultural experiences available ensures that life in Portugal can be as rich and fulfilling as you choose to make it. 

If you’re contemplating making this beautiful country your new home and need guidance on managing finances, maximizing your resources, or navigating the complexities of cross-border financial planning, getting in touch with an expert can provide you with the insights needed to make your transition smooth and rewarding. Consider Portugal not merely as a place to reside, but a place where you can lead a full and vibrant life, embracing new adventures and opportunities in one of Europe’s most enchanting countries.

This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research. You should seek advice from a professional adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this communication is correct, we are not responsible for any errors or omissions.

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