Moving to Portugal Expat Guide
Portugal has a population of 10.3 million people based on a 2021 census. The country lies along the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe along the Atlantic coast. The country’s geography can be described as scenic, wild, and sparsely settled.
Expats love to visit Portugal throughout the year. In the summer, the Atlantic coast offers beautiful beaches with breathtaking waves. There is a surfing culture that attracts adrenaline junkies from around the world. In the winter, expats love Portugal’s warm temperatures compared to the rest of Europe.
This informative guide will share what you need to know about being an expat in Portugal. In addition, we will include information about obtaining the correct visa and where you should consider living.
Type of Visas When Moving to Portugal
Portugal is one of the easiest countries to move to because many people worldwide do not need a visa. For example, EU passport holders do not need a visa when living in Portugal. Furthermore, Portugal has visa-free treaties with many countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom, USA, Australia, Canada, and many more countries. To qualify for visa-free entry, you must have a valid passport in the accepted countries.
However, if your country does not have a visa-free deal with Portugal, you will need a visa. The type you get depends on the length of time you want to stay in Portugal. Here are the available options:
Temporary visa: This allows for entry into Portugal, and you can stay for up to one year. The visa also supports multiple entries into the country.
Long-stay visa: Holders of this visa type can stay in the county beyond one year. The duration of the visa is usually related to the reason for entering Portugal, which can include work, medical treatment, and studying.
Residency visa: This visa type only allows two entries, and you can only stay in Portugal for four months. The residency visa holder must get a residency permit from the Immigration and Border Services (SEF).
Expat Way of Life in Portugal
Portugal has a slow pace of life, with many shops and restaurants closing for up to 7 hours in the middle of the day and on Sundays. However, it is a quiet and welcoming country with natural beauty. The Atlantic coast is the biggest natural attraction of Portugal, with many surfers flocking to find big waves.
Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, is a hub of art and architecture. You will also find an endless selection of fantastic restaurants with a wide range of seafood dishes. The warm climate of Portugal means that it is an excellent destination for tourists and expats all year round. This means it never gets too quiet in the hotspots throughout the country.
The weather in Portugal is appealing for expats all year round because temperatures in the winter average out to 11-12 degrees, and in the summer, the range is 22-27 degrees. Therefore, the best time to be an expat in Portugal is to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather between April and September. During the winter months, expect a lot of rain—much more than what neighboring Spain receives during the same period.
Many expats usually do not buy a car in the country they visit. Therefore, an excellent public transport system is essential to get around smoothly. Here is what you can expect with different transportation systems in Portugal:
Train: annually, Portugal experiences around 150 million rail passengers. The rail system is state-owned and managed by Comboios de Portugal. The train network provides access to the majority of the country. However, Lisbon, Lagos, Faro, Coimbra, Aveiro, and Porto are the most well-established routes. Passengers can bring onboard extras such as bicycles and luggage without paying a fee. Also, announcements are in both Portuguese and English, which is perfect for expats.
Buses: Portugal’s bus network is run by several private companies. The routes extend beyond what the rail system offers, which provides access to hard-to-reach destinations. Bus connections can be infrequent, so looking at the timetable ahead of time is a good idea.
Plane: Portugal has a good plane network, but you may need a connection if you come from a different continent. TAP Air Portugal is the flag carrier, and they offer 84 destinations in 35 countries. Overall, flights are frequent, so flying in and out of the country should not be a problem for expats.
Expats that want to drive in Portugal will need to acquire a Portuguese driving license within 60 days of registering for residency. However, short-term visitors can use their foreign license for up to 6 months. This provides enough time for expats to organize their paperwork to acquire a long-term solution.
The World Economic forum considered Portugal’s road network to be the 2nd best globally and the best in Europe based on the Global Competitiveness Report for 2014–2015. However, they dropped in ranking to 8th in the 2017-2018 report. Overall, it shows that the road network is well-maintained in Portugal.
Crime and safety
Portugal has low to moderate crime rates, so it is safe for expats to live in. The crime that occurs is not very violent, and people walking around towns and cities generally feel safe. For example, in Lisbon, you will see a police presence walking around the streets to make people feel safe.
Working in Portugal
There are many jobs that expats can do when living in Portugal. The most popular options include waitstaff, bartenders, sales representatives, web developers, customer support in multiple languages, team supervisors, online gaming support, and real estate agents.
EU residents do not need a visa to work in Portugal. However, non-EU citizens must obtain a visa, and there are different types. This includes permanent residence visas and resettlement visas for Portuguese and permanent citizen relatives.
Cost of Living in Portugal
In Portugal, the cost of living is around $1,100 to $1,300 USD per month. This includes accommodation, groceries, utilities, and transportation. Overall, Portugal is an affordable place to live, especially compared to other countries in Western Europe.
The cost of eating out can increase during the summer months of the heavy tourist season. However, if you learn the hotspots where locals eat, you can enjoy quality food at affordable prices. Also, transportation costs are reasonable for traveling around the country without incurring significant expenses.
Property and housing in Portugal
Expats that want to buy real estate in Portugal should expect to pay around 1,117 Euros per square meter. The cost of buying real estate in Portugal rises by about 1-3 annually. Overall, buying real estate in Portugal is more affordable than in the rest of Europe.
The rental prices in Portugal are attractive too. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in Lisbon costs around 650 EUR per month, increasing to 850 EUR for a two-bedroom. The rest of the county offers prices that range from 400 EUR to 1,000 EUR per month for an apartment.
It is easy to rent an apartment in Portugal through companies like Booking.com and Airbnb. Many properties are listed at affordable prices. When renting through an agency or directly with the owner, you must sign a tenancy agreement. Most rental agreements require that you stay in the property for at least one year.
Healthcare in Portugal
The extensive healthcare system in Portugal is tax-funded and called Servico Nacional de Saude (SNS). To qualify for free healthcare in Portugal, you must show a document that you have been a resident for at least 90 days. The emergency number is 112 if you need medical assistance.
Residents of Portugal need to pay between 20 and 50 Euros for health insurance per month. The amount you pay depends on the extent of coverage and the work. Overall, Portugal has an excellent healthcare system by international standards. Also, the response time of an emergency call is quick.
Education in Portugal
Expats living with kids in Portugal may want to know about the education system. Public schools are free of charge for foreign residents, whereas private schools have a tuition cost. The overall quality of education in Portugal is excellent. Children aged 6 to 15 attend school, and 15 to 17-year-olds attend college. The school children can attend is based on the neighborhood they live in.
Language barriers can be a problem for expats living in Portugal. Therefore, they can take advantage of tutors to educate their kids in English and other languages. This is a good strategy if the expat does not plan on living in Portugal for a long time.
Banking in Portugal
Expats can open an account with Portuguese and international banks. The biggest banks that operate in Portugal include:
To open a bank account in Portugal, you need proof of identity, address, employment, and documents showing your Portuguese NIF number. If you have opened a bank account abroad, you can use local branches.
The local currency is the euro (€), and seven notes are used: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. Over 11,000 ATMs are spread throughout Portugal, and finding one in big cities is not a problem. However, you will need to try harder in rural areas since they are sparsely located. The daily transaction limit of most cash machines is 200-400 EUR.
The bigger banks in Portugal have English-speaking staff. Typical opening hours are 8:30 to 15:00 Monday to Friday, and some banks open for a short period on Saturdays.
Check out our best international bank for expats guide for additional info to learn more.
Expats that want to send money from their home country to their account in Portugal should consider specialist transfer providers. The benefit of using a money transfer service is low fees, quick transfer times, and competitive FX rates.
Popular Places to Live in Portugal
This section shares the top places where expats can live. In addition, we share the details of why you might want to live in each location to save you time researching and pique your interest.
The capital of Portugal is Lisbon, with a population of around 3 million people. It is a diverse city with a thriving LGBT+ community. It is an ideal place for students to study and parents to raise a family. The mixture of the historical scene and close proximity to beaches of the Atlantic coast means Lisbon has a lot to offer.
There are many English speakers in Lisbon, and it is a hot spot for nomads and remote workers. You will find many hubs where other expats gather to work and build friendships. Also, Lisbon has the highest-paying jobs in Portugal, perfect for expats who want to get a job locally.
Porto is the second biggest city in Portugal, with a population of 1.3 million people. Many expats love living in Port because of its beauty and northern location. Also, it is cheaper to live in than Lisbon. For instance, the Vila Nova de Gaia neighborhood is very affordable compared to the city center.
Porto is known for its colorful streets, outstanding local gastronomy, and port wine. Also, many locals speak English, which helps expats get integrated with communities. Safety is another attractive reason why living in Porto is popular.
Located in the South of Portugal, Algarve offers some of the best beaches in Portugal. The city has a tourist vibe with a busy summer season. Expats can take advantage of the energy of living in a hot destination like the Algarve.
It is also known as Europe’s top golfing destination with an extensive choice of top-tier courses. The Golden Triangle in Central Algarve is arguably the most desirable place to live. In recent years, Algarve’s residential and infrastructure development has made it a practical place to live.
Other popular destinations in Portugal include: