Summary: With it's beautiful beaches, historic cities, lower cost of living and welcoming Portuguese people, Portugal continues to be a popular expat destination. 9 expats talk about what it's really like living in Portugal.
Portugal is a very popular expat destination with something for everyone. Some expats love the city life in Lisbon, while others love coastal cities like Cascais and Tavira. 9 expats talk about what it's really like living in Portugal.
Deciding Where to Live in Portugal
When we asked expats living in Portugal to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:
"We travelled extensively around Portugal, and although we wanted to live in the far north it was too cold in winter so we travelled further south and loved Tomar with its peaceful atmosphere, good connections, good shopping for my wife, good facilities and excellent access.We lived close by for 3 years,"said one expat living in Tomar, Portugal.
"I first lived in an apartment near the University. You can never go wrong living around a large school. People tend to be more open to help.I eventually bought a proprty and built a four bedroom home in a quiet section of the city. The land was a bit more expensive than other areas but it was well worth it.If your going to build.... please watch your contractor closely and NEVER pay for anything up front, only for work that has been done. You can get yourself into trouble that way,"mentioned another expat in Portugal.
"We came to Portugal last year for 2 weeks. We explored two areas only: first, the Algarve and next, Lisboa. These selections were based on weather, as we didn't want the colder weather in the North of Portugal. The Algarve is dead in winter, congested in summer, and just stuffed with Brits. The Lisboa area was delightful but we were sold when we took a train from Lisboa to Cascais. This is ideal: generally reliably nice weather, pristine beaches, restaurants all over the narrow streets and squares as well as along the pedestrian esplanade along the ocean. An easy train ride into Lisbon any time you want more culture or diversions, while plenty of museums, shows and parks in the Estoril/Cascais area. IDEAL,"commented one expat who made the move to Portugal.
"By cost and internet posts on Idealista. I had 10 days to get an address. Price was a big concern. I looked at 3 listings, 1 in Porto and 2 in neighboring Gaia. I chose the bigger place in Gaia. It was the right size and price. I was lucky that the Remax agent was honest and super helpful and spoke English! It is a good place in a nice neighborhood. Do your research beforehand and have representation, preferable an honest attorney,"remarked another expat living in Porto, Portugal.
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Search for Rentals
Need a rental in Portugal? We've partnered with Explorastay, the largest aggregator of 1-12+ month stays. Compare listings and rental rates from 20+ accommodation sites in one search, including: Booking.com, VRBO, Expedia, UniPlaces, Spotahome, HousingAnywhere, Zumper and over a dozen more accommodation companies. Search for Rentals in Portugal
Meeting People in Portugal
Expats living in Portugal talked about meeting people in Portugal and local clubs and organizations:
"In my experience, restaurants and cafes afforded me the opportunity to meet new people, develop friendships, and practice speaking the language. At nearly every turn, I was able to find people willing to speak English with me and to offer useful help in developing the ability to speak Portuguese. For my part, I have not made any attempts to join expat communities. Instead, a little humility and lots of hard work trying to learn the language has opened doors to friends and families in the local community. All this began by trying to frequent the cafes and restaurants that had employees and clients who were willing to communicate,"said one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.
"Americans in Portugal ([emailprotected] and on facebook) offers social activities to mark the US holidays and some informational meetings on taxes or similar topics during the year; International Women in Portugal is also helpful on a broad basis related to settling in,"mentioned another expat in Portugal.
"There are a wide number of groups that you can join in Lisbon that will help any newcomer get situated. For women, I would recommend: Lisbon Girl Gone International. For digital nomads: Lisbon Digital Nomads.For expats looking to make a move to Portugal: Portugal: The good lifeMeetup.com is also a great site for events and meet ups,"commented one expat who made the move to Portugal.
"International Women in Portugal,Women's Royal Volunteer Service andRoyal British Club,"remarked another expat living in Cascais , Portugal.
"Queen's Fitness, Obidos Lagoon, Baleal Beaches, Peniche BeachFigeuria Da Foz Beaches and Obidos main park,"added another expat in Portugal.
Expat Life in Portugal
What is it like living in Portugal? Here is what people had to say:
"Lisbon is a great city for socializing. There are many expats and digital nomads here who are always open to meeting new people. It is great for young people, as well as older expats with is wide range of options and close proximity to the beaches and lots of bars, clubs and restaurants,"said one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.
"All of the things you mention. There is a wide range of social activities and sports but a lot of young families with children.The city provides many fun activities and festivals during the year,"mentioned another expat in Portugal.
"Obidos is a tourist area for the castle. In Caldas it is a university town for art students, so you will see many different types of arts displayed,"commented one expat who made the move to Portugal.
What Expats Appreciate about Their New Culture
We asked expats in Portugal what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:
"The thing we like best about Portugal is the relaxed pace of life. The thing we like least about Portugal is the relaxed pace of life. It's great to be able to do things at a different speed but a lot of things move in slow motion when you wish they wouldn't. Just last night we had a piece of furniture being delivered. The time was supposed to be 6 and by the time they arrived it was 7:30 and we were just sitting down to eat. Typical," commented one expat living in Lisbon.
"Kind, helpful and genuinely friendly Portuguese people. The beautiful and, mainly, pristine beaches, forests, villages, towns, rivers and ocean,"said one expat living in Cascais, Portugal.
"The fantastic food, drink (wine especially) and weather. The beauty and history of the country. The warmth of the people, for the most part. The awesome health system and the low cost of living. The feeling of safety and security compared to the dangers of living in the US.Overall, living in Portugal is a dream come true,"mentioned another expat in Portugal.
"The slower pace of life, the rich history, the kindness of the Portuguese people, lack of guns, safety, frequent farmer's markets and heritage festivals (pre-Covid-19),"commented one expat who made the move to Portugal.
"The appreciation of living. Taking time to enjoy coffee, wine, cheese, and good conversation. Hurrying is frowned upon. Toxic politics do not dominate discussions. They do not come up,"remarked another expat living in Porto, Portugal.
"My vastly improved diet. Without any actual effort, I’ve lost 25 pounds since I got here, which I attribute to eatting a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables and walking on cobblestoned up and downhill sidewalks. The extreme level of consideration for other people among the Portuguese. Because of an obstruction in the left venticle of my heart, I have to stop and catch my breath about every block, and I had to learn almost immediately how to say “I’m OK. I’ve got water. I just need to take a short rest before I move on,” because people stop all the time to ask,"added another expat in Portugal.
The Most Challenging Aspects of Living in Portugal
Then, we asked expats in Portugal what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:
"Pace of life and government bureaucracy.Pace of life is easy to adjust...slow down and enjoy.When dealing with government agencies just be prepared for extreme bureaucracy,"said one expat living in Cascais, Portugal.
"People, especially in this part of the country, are pretty tough, they lack refinement and subtlety,"mentioned another expat in Portugal.
"The language. Portuguese is very difficult to learn. I speak French and Italian and learned both much more easily. And faster, in the case of Italian.Everything else is manageable,"commented one expat who made the move to Portugal.
"Mastering the language. This sounds silly, but steaks I can afford and no A1. Sizes. I’m built on a much bigger frame, particularly compare to Portuguese my age, and I wear size 8.5 3E shoes. I’ll just have to look for men’s shoe that will fit and pass. CUSTOMS which basically prevents ordering anything from beyond the EU. And Covid of course, though Portugal has handled it beautifully in my opinion,"remarked another expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.
"No real challenges, more like inconveniences. Instead of being able to go to one grocery store to get all of your groceries, we usually end up going to two or three,"added another expat in Portugal.
Advice for Newcomers to Portugal
With respect to learning Portuguese, one expat had an important warning, "Watch out for duolingo, it's Brazilian Portuguese. While it isn't hugely different, you may not always get what people are saying here."
"Don't live in the old town unless you want to deal with an influx of tourists in the summer. Be aware that housing is expensive.Get involved with clubs and organizations as soon as you can.Be aware that living here may spoil you because it's so beautiful and wonderful,"said one expat living in Cascais , Portugal.
Private Health Insurance for Expats in Portugal
Healthcare in Portugal is insured through the national healthcare system, called Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), and private health insurance companies. To learn more about the healthcare system, read our article, 6 Important Tips about Health Insurance for Expats in Portugal.
When we asked expats about their experiences with health insurance and the cost of medical care in Portugal, they said:
"We are required to have a private policy that meets the Schengen Community requirements (go to their website). The highest quality of coverage won't cost more than 3,000 euros a person/year (2017) and most retirees are paying only 2,000 euros annually. This includes dental and eye care, surgeries, private hospital room, unlimited doctor visits and tests,"commented one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.
"The cost of a private plan is half or less than charged in the US. Health insurance can be purchased through banks or a few organizations, such as the Automobile Club of Portugal or 'afpop'. These offer even better group rates than the bank rates,"mentioned another expat living in Portugal.
"The cost of public medical care in Portugal is affordable once you're on the National Health System.I have not yet used the private services, so I can't compare their costs, but everyone I know who uses them (especially Americans) says the cost is relatively low.In Portugal there are small co-pays, which are cheaper than in the States (when I lived there), but I've never had to pay a co-pay in Canada (and I've lived in 5 provinces),"said an expat in Portugal.
"Again, everything in regards to healthcare is much cheaper in Portugal. Yes, we have private health insurance, it is required when you renew your resident visa. Full medical and dental health insurance for my husband and I is a little over 100 Euros/month! Yes, it is accepted at all the hospitals near us. Millennium Bank offers Medis health insurance. It was recommended to us by another expat,"remarked another expat in Portugal.
Expats living in Portugal interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.Get a Quote
Expats living in Portugal interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.