Expat Exchange
Graca in Lisbon
Graca in Lisbon
Graca in Lisbon

Moving to Portugal

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: Moving to Portugal? Expats talk about what you need to know before moving to Portugal.

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

What do I need to know before moving to Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Portugal, they said:

"Do your research! What are your priorities? Food, wine and weather were ours! Keep in mind that whatever your guess/estimate is it will cost 2-3 times as much as you think and will take as much more time than you think. Find a good realtor and attorney in your new country. Go there and look around and see what feels right. Trust your gut but know your parameters," remarked another expat who made the move to Porto.

"The same advice related to a move anywhere. You must be here for some time - a month or two - before you select your home. Walk the many neighborhoods, see what amenities are around you, and work with a local realtor who comes recommended. If you like a quiet, more rural life, there are many villages and towns that meet this need. A good urban life is in Lisboa, and the coast just outside of Lisboa offers access to everything. If you're an EU citizen, everything you do is easier. For Americans, the process of getting a residency is twice as complicated and twice as time consuming, so getting advice from someone who has done/is doing it will help reduce your effort and anxiety," explained one expat living in Cascais and Estoril, Portugal.

"I would recommend Gualtar or Trofa as an area of Braga to live in. It's part of the city, yet doesn't have the "city" feel. It's atmosphere is more "suburban" than anything. The city has everything you need to live a life that you've been accustomed to in the US. Additionally, it's location is spectacular because you have the beach 30 minutes to the west, (awsome) Geres mountains 15 minutes to the east and Spain 40 minutes to the North.... you can't go wrong. :)," said another expat in Braga.

"Rent a small property first do not buy as there are too many hurdles to cover without knowing the Portuguses system. There are also at present unscrupulous estate agencies and unless you know who they are you could be on a hiding to nothing," added another expat who made the move to Tomar.

Allianz Care International Health Insurance

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

Learn MoreGet a Quote

Allianz Care International Health Insurance

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

Learn MoreGet a Quote

How do I find a place to live in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"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," said another expat in Porto.

"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," added another expat who made the move to Cascais and Estoril.

"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," explained one expat living in Braga, Portugal.

"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 another in Tomar.

Allianz Care International Health Insurance

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

Learn MoreGet a Quote

Allianz Care International Health Insurance

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

Learn MoreGet a Quote

What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

"We rent a condo. Yes, most of our expat friends have done the same, although, as it turns out, our landlords are also expats who own several condos and a single family house that they live in," said another expat in Porto.

"We are in a mid-rise condo building, renting a 2 bedroom apartment. We scoured all of the online sites, and fortunately took the advice of the owner of a holiday rentals site (Portugal Portfolio) to rent through her for 1 month and take that time to look around. This resulted in us finding our current home that we'd have never known about, at a better price, and ideally situated in an area of both local residents and holiday-renters, with every amenity within walking distance. We have no car--we walk to the market, beach, restaurants. We rent a car for excursions further away, as we are visiting every part of Portugal that we can, taking a trip every few weeks," added another expat who made the move to Cascais and Estoril.

"I live in a single family four bedroom home. To be honest I don't really know of any US expats in my area. The people up north are very friendly, so most of our support circle is Portuguese," explained one expat living in Braga, Portugal.

"We decided to wait before jumping in and buying and watched the buying behaviours, issues other expats had, studied the market, visited houses extensively. At present we have decided not too buy due to the exchange rate issues," said another in Tomar.

What is the average cost of housing in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

If you are thinking about moving to Portugal, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"Housing cost is less than half of what we were paying in Denver, Colorado. Depending on the size of place you need and location, $700-1200/month can be average. Porto is more affordable than Lisbon and Vila Nova de Gaia, which is a 10 minute drive from Porto, across the river can be several hundred dollars cheaper than Porto. Neighboring smaller cities are even more affordable," commented one expat who made the move to Porto.

"Housing costs are lower here, but we're comparing a mortgage on a million-dollar plus condo in the US to rent on a 2 bedroom apartment with ancient appliances. It is easy to find a clean, modern, 2 bed/2 bath apartment with new appliances in the upscale, coastal Estoril/Cascias area for less than $2200/month if one works with a local realtor, and can cut those costs in about half in the smaller towns and villages inland. Utilities per month can add about $100. Internet service is about $30. On average, this feels like one can get a bit more with less but Portugal's Lisboa coast isn't a low cost choice. South and North and inland are less costly," remarked another expat in Cascais and Estoril, Portugal.

"My home loan was 200k euros and I pay around 600 euros a month. Property takes is another 1k a year and generally speaking water, electric, heating, cable tv and such round off to about 350 euros monthly. It's MUCH cheaper out here than in the US," said another expat in Braga.

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.
Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance in Portugal

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.
Get a Quote

Should I buy or rent a home in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

If you have not spent a lot of time in Portugal, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"We are renting a lovely house in a Portuguese residential community. Very peaceful and quiet. Lovely neighbors. Just a 15 minute walk to the ocean - Good transportation. Many people speak English or French. We have all kinds of nice little restaurants in this neighborhood all within walking distance and we will probably look to purchase near here," explained one expat living in Cascais, Portugal.

"We decided to rent for a year while we get to know different towns before buying," said another expat in Tavira .

"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," added another expat who made the move to Cascais.

What should I pack when moving to Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

We asked people living in Portugal to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"Really, I wish we had not shipped anything. The process was a nightmare and cost three times as much as the original quote. After sharing stories with other expats it seems that the entire overseas shipping business is one big bait and switch. You are given a quote and after they pick up your shipment they up the price by half or more. What can you do? Nothing, they have all your things and the "full price" of shipping that you already paid! I wish we had left all kitchen glassware, most of the DVDs, and a lot of the books. Leave most of the things of sentimental value. I wish the 2 boxes that were lost in transit made it. Take unique art pieces, special kitchenware (antique cast iron) and favorite music if you must," remarked another expat who made the move to Porto.

"We wish we'd brought more of our clothing...costs here are higher than in the US even before you add in the exchange rate and it's difficult to find the quality and styling to which we are accustomed; to have brought binoculars; and we should have purchased an eReader and filled it with books as finding English books is tough. Left behind...nothing, we were really selective," explained one expat living in Cascais and Estoril, Portugal.

"Three things I wish I would have brought my golf clubs, my dog & my furniture. Three things I wish I would have left are all of my kitchen appliances (converters burn out quckly here)... that's about it," said another expat in Braga.

"Three things I wish I had brought were my CDs,all my clothes and my flat screen TV. Three things I wish I had left behind are: tent
business briefcase
bicycle," added another expat who made the move to Tomar.

AGS Worldwide Movers can move you to and from anywhere in the world. Presently the AGS Group has over 141 locations in more than 95 countries and has one of the largest networks in the international removals industry. We relocate 85,000 families every year. Free moving quote!
AGS Worldwide MoversMoving to Portugal Soon?

AGS Worldwide Movers can move you to and from anywhere in the world. Presently the AGS Group has over 141 locations in more than 95 countries and has one of the largest networks in the international removals industry. We relocate 85,000 families every year. Free moving quote!
Get a Quote

What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

We asked people in Portugal if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"We were yelled at by a check out staffer at Lidl because we did not know or understand where to put the empty shopping cart. We know now," remarked another expat who made the move to Porto.

"Yes. I ordered a take away dinner from a cafe ahead of time and misunderstood the time to pick it up. When we arrived to pick up our meal, all the food was gone, we were too late! They called someone who was in charge and referred to me as the "foreign lady," estrangeira. I was surprised at myself that I was hurt and offended to be called such, even though I am! It shows how badly I want to fit in, but don't," explained one expat living in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.

How are healthcare services Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Portugal, they replied:

"Speak to locals (especially other expats for have been around for at least a few years) to recommend health care providers, especially specialists," added one expat living in Porto.

"Much confusion exists for Americans and other third country nationals residing in Portugal and our access to Portugal's national health system. While we will always have access to the national health services and won't be turned away from a hospital or clinic, our primary care is served by the private health system for which we buy private international health insurance. We register at the Portuguese 'Center de Saude' or local health clinic and get a "numero de utente', a health ID number, which we can use with your private physician to enjoy the lower Portuguese citizen's prices for prescriptions, but we will pay out of pocket if we incur charges at the public hospital.. So our first option is to use the private health system, which exists in all major cities and is extensive, inexpensive and state of the art. When first coming to Portugal, bring with you a list of the prescriptions you're taking, with the Latin name, generic name, dosage and reason for taking....your current doctor will give you this. Be certain it includes your name, US address, date issued and doctor's signature. You can take these to any farmacia to be filled immediately without any issues," commented one expat who moved to Lisbon.

"Choose a healthcare insurance company that has a strong network in your area; some are focused on the Southern region, some across the middle and so on. Look into brokers for lower rates rather than buy the coverage directly from the insurance company or from your bank," said another expat.

"Connect with other expats to obtain physician references and sources of private insurance so you can benefit from their research and experience. Bring copies of your medical records with you. Quality of care can be very high in Portugal's major communities. Costs are much lower, by about half, and prescriptions range from a tenth to a half of the costs in the US," said one expat living in Cascais, Portugal.

"During the State of Emergency, we are accessing the healthcare services less than we otherwise might," remarked another expat in Ericeira.

"Unfortunately, back home health care was costing my family of 4 about $ 1,400 a month . Here, in Portugal, the equivalent coverage runs about $ 350 a month. The public health care system here is adequate and the majority of services given to its recipients is good. The only draw back is the waiting time one spends in being attended to. An example, is that of a friend who had to wait a year before having open heart surgery. The state paided most of the expenses which were incurred during the procedure. In contrast, private health insurance is moderately priced and less time is wasted in waiting to have a doctor perform an operation. Many of the local doctors also study in the States which makes them more qualified in their profession," added one expat living in Leiria.

"Healthcare is superior in Portugal to that in the states at a fraction of the cost," commented one expat who moved to Porto.

"Many Drs speak English here in the Algarve. Our insurance costs are higher than the US because I had a huge subsidy but actual Drs, prescriptions, tests and physical therapy are incredibly reasonable in cost," said another expat.

"Coimbra has a severe problem with administration and issuing SNS numero de utente (health care number)," said one expat living in Coimbra, Portugal.

"Very happy with the ease of navigating the public system and the swiftness, kindness and efficiency of healthcare staff," offered another expat living in Tomar.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Portugal GuidePortugal Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Portugal.

Portugal Forum Portugal Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Portugal on our Portugal forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

Portugal Index Portugal Index
An index of all of our site's Portugal information.

Contribute to Portugal Network Contribute
Help others in Portugal by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Portugal.

Expat Healthcare Advice in PortugalHealthcare & Health Insurance in Portugal

Expats in Portugal offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Portugal.

Expat Talk about Healthcare Advice in PortugalMembers Talk about Healthcare & Health Insurance in Portugal

Expats in Portugal offer advice about healthcare in Portugal.

Best Places to Live in Portugal Best Places to Live in Portugal

Portugal is a safe, expat-friendly country with stunning beaches, cities, popular beach towns and sleepy fishing villages. We've compiled a list of 12 of the best places to live based upon expats' recommendations.

Real Estate in PortugalReal Estate in Portugal

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Portugal.

Guide to Real Estate in PortugalGuide to Real Estate in Portugal

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Portugal.

Pros Cons of Living in PortugalPros & Cons of Living in Portugal

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Portugal.

Cost of Living in PortugalCost of Living in Portugal

Digital Nomads & Expats offer insight into the cost of living in Portugal.

7-Things-to-Know-Before-You-Move-to-Portugal7 Things to Know Before You Move to Portugal

Expats moving to Portugal are drawn by a variety of places to live, a rich history and so much more. Here are some tips on what it means to move there, and how to make it happen.

6-Important-Tips-about-Health-Insurance-for-Expats-in-Portugal6 Important Tips about Health Insurance for Expats in Portugal

Expats living in Portugal discuss health insurance options for expats in Portugal, the health letter needed for a residency application, pre-existing conditions, the cost of health insurance in Portugal and more.

5-Best-Places-to-Retire-in-Portugal5 Best Places to Retire in Portugal

Expat retirees love Portugal for its welcoming people, gorgeous beaches, quaint towns and wonderful restaurants. In this article, we cover 5 great places to retire in Portugal.

Graca in Lisbon

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Portugal GuidePortugal Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Portugal.

Portugal Forum Portugal Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Portugal on our Portugal forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

Portugal Index Portugal Index
An index of all of our site's Portugal information.

Contribute to Portugal Network Contribute
Help others in Portugal by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Portugal.

Expat Healthcare Advice in PortugalHealthcare & Health Insurance in Portugal

Expats in Portugal offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Portugal.

Expat Talk about Healthcare Advice in PortugalMembers Talk about Healthcare & Health Insurance in Portugal

Expats in Portugal offer advice about healthcare in Portugal.

Best Places to Live in Portugal Best Places to Live in Portugal

Portugal is a safe, expat-friendly country with stunning beaches, cities, popular beach towns and sleepy fishing villages. We've compiled a list of 12 of the best places to live based upon expats' recommendations.

Real Estate in PortugalReal Estate in Portugal

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Portugal.

Guide to Real Estate in PortugalGuide to Real Estate in Portugal

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Portugal.

Pros Cons of Living in PortugalPros & Cons of Living in Portugal

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Portugal.

Cost of Living in PortugalCost of Living in Portugal

Digital Nomads & Expats offer insight into the cost of living in Portugal.

5-Best-Places-to-Retire-in-Portugal5 Best Places to Retire in Portugal

Expat retirees love Portugal for its welcoming people, gorgeous beaches, quaint towns and wonderful restaurants. In this article, we cover 5 great places to retire in Portugal.

Guides to Cities in Portugal
Cascais Lisbon The Algarve
Country Resources
Health Insurance Moving & Shipping More Resources

Copyright 1997-2022 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal