Expat Advice: Retiring in
An expat who recently retired to the beautiful coastal town of Cascais, Portugal details how she made it happen. If you want to know how to retire to Europe, and where to start your journey, this is a great place to begin!
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Why did you choose to retire abroad?
I wanted to experience another culture than the US and wanted the adventure of living in a country with history, good food and wine and lovely people and scenery.
I also wanted a more affordable retirement than I would have in the US.
Are you retired abroad all year or part of the year?
All year but have not been here an entire year, yet.
Why did you choose the country you retired to?
It was a process of elimination between Italy, Spain and Portugal. I loved all three for the history, the sea, the people, the food and wine and the culture that is so different than the US. Portugal won out due to the lower cost of living and the ease of obtaining a long term visa.
Did you ever live abroad before you retired abroad?
How long have you lived abroad since you retired abroad?
Just five months.
How many countries (other than your home country) have you lived in as a retiree?
What have been the most challenging aspects of being retired abroad?
Adjusting to using public transportation instead of a car, setting up a household in a country where I don't speak the language, and starting the process of making friends and learning the language.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of being retired abroad?
I love living by the sea, utilizing the Mercado for shopping, learning new things almost every day, being challenged and energized by my new home. I'm really enjoying getting to know people from many countries and seeing the similarities and differences. I'm also enjoying all the walking I'm doing since I've chosen to not have a car.
What would you do differently if you were just starting the retire abroad process?
At this point, I don't know of anything I would do differently - other than change some of the things I brought with me. Of course that may change as my time here increases.
What is life like for a retiree in your city and its surroundings? (Is there an active expat community? Cultural Attractions? Recreation? Nightlife?)
There is a very active expat community, especially for women. There are many cultural attractions in the Lisbon area with lots of recreation. Lisbon has a lot of nightlife opportunities and transport to Lisbon is very easy from Cascais.
What residency documents or visas did you need to obtain to retire in your host country? How difficult was this process? (Please describe)
I applied for a Type I Visa from the Portuguese embassy in the US. It was basically a Schengen Visa which enabled me to be in Portugal for 4 months. During this 4 months I was supposed to obtain my resident card. However, due to the large backlog, I didn't obtain this until I was here 5 months.
The process, starting with the Portuguese embassy in Washington D.C. was not really difficult but it was very stressful and took a long time. It started with an FBI background check - which took about 12 weeks. Then I had to obtain medical insurance, collect financial documents showing I had enough income to support myself without working, write a statement of why I wanted to retire in Portugal, fill out an application, have passport type photos taken and a copy of my passport notarized.
The biggest challenge with this was being unable to find out exactly how much money/ income was required.
After mailing all of these documents to the embassy, it look almost 5 weeks to get the approval. Then I mailed my passport to them and a request for a baggage certificate. The certificate enabled me to ship things to Portugal without paying duty.
I received my passport back within a couple of weeks with my Visa attached.
The resident card I just obtained is good for one year.
Did you buy a home or apartment, or rent one? Is this a difficult process? (Please describe)
I am renting an apartment. It was difficult at first because a number of realtors didn't show an interest in helping me. When I found the right realtor, it went fairly easily. The biggest issue was having to pay for an entire years rent due to having no family in Portugal. There is also a scarcity of rental properties that are long term rentals.
Financially, has living abroad in your host country met your expectations? Exceeded them?
It has met my expectations and I'm still amazed at the low cost of many things. But, there are other things that are more expensive than in the US.
What are the most important financial considerations for retiring to your host country?
Having a steady income plus at least $10,000 to get settled. This amount could be much more if you want a large, fancy apartment or house. Especially if you don't have family in Portugal and would be faced with paying a years rent up front, as I did. It's also important to research how you will get your money to Portugal. Be sure to have an ATM card with no foreign transaction fees.
How much can a retiree live on comfortably in your host country?
At this point, I'm thinking $1500-$2000 per month will be plenty. I'm still buying things for my apartment so don't have a really good sense of how much I will consistently spend.
Do you have access to quality medical care? (Please describe - is it close? Expensive?)
There is a CUF private hospital in Cascais. So far, the care is excellent and the prices are a fraction of what they would be in the US.
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Is there a lot of crime where you live? (Please describe)
Little crime in Cascais. in Lisbon there is a fair amount of pickpocket crime but only in certain areas.
Describe available transportation where you live. Do you need a car? Is there access to safe public transportation?
There is good bus service in Cascais and great train service to Lisbon. I do not have a car and, so far, am very happy with the decision to not have one.
Is there high-speed internet access where you live?
Yes. Great high-speed internet at great prices.
Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share about retiring abroad?
I'm very new to this, but, so far, it's wonderful. It's everything I hoped for - and more. I would encourage anyone with a sense of adventure and desire - to go for it!
More Expat Advice about Retiring in Portugal