Expat Exchange
Cascais, Portugal
Cascais, Portugal
Cascais, Portugal

Living in Portugal

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Feb 10, 2022

Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees talk about what it is really like living in Portugal. They offer advice about meeting people, cost of living, finding a home and more.

William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance

What do I need to know about living in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

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

"Don't expect to find another version of your part of America. Expect to embrace change and a new lifestyle (I go every morning to my local coffee shop to read my news online)," added another expat who made the move to Silver Coast.

"Foz do Arelho is small, quiet and beautiful. It is only 8-10 minutes from Caldas da Raihna with all of the big grocery stores as well as a decent size mall. The weather here is very much like Newport Beach, CA - mild with some foggy mornings, a little sea mist late at night and lots of sunshine. I arrived in the winter which was very mild - I didn't need my puffy coat at all. It rained in mid March and in April. Not every day, and not all day. Enough to give spring flowers their needed water. I enjoy living here for its charm, tranquility and proximity to the beach, Caldas and then Lisbon is only 55 minutes away. It is an excellent place to live," explained one expat living in Foz do Arelho, Portugal.

"Obidos is a great place to visit or to live if you do remote work. If you want more of a social life move to Caldas which is five minutes away," mentioned another in Obidos.

"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," explained one expat who made the move to Cascais .

"I would tell them to meet as many local people as possible and to learn some Portuguese to get situated quickly. Even though most people speak English, knowledge of the language would help them get settled and find good accommodation deals that otherwise would be hard to find," said one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.

"After basic research using internet sites, so you understand the cost of living and ease of speaking English, spend time here--two weeks or so--before making any commitment. Renting for a few months or longer is most common and affords the flexibility to try other towns, as the life style varies quite a bit between city and village or rural life. This is not a dirt-streets beach town; it is historic, relaxed, casual yet chic," explained one expat living in Cascais, Portugal.

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How do I meet people in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in Portugal about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Volunteer with dog/cat shelters Join local groups on FB Become a regular at a coffee shop," said another expat in Foz do Arelho.

"Queen's Fitness, Obidos Lagoon, Baleal Beaches, Peniche Beach Figeuria Da Foz Beaches and Obidos main park," added another expat who made the move to Obidos.

"International Women in Portugal, Women's Royal Volunteer Service and Royal British Club," explained one expat living in Cascais , 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 life Meetup.com is also a great site for events and meet ups," mentioned another in Lisbon.

"Americans in Portugal ( 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," explained one expat who made the move to Cascais.

"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.

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What is life like in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in Portugal what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Foz is a quiet town on the Atlantic, or Silver Coast. It also has the benefit of the huge Lagoon which offers a variety of water sports from kayaking, paddle boarding, wind surfing, sailing, and swimming. The water in the Lagoon is calm and shallow which make it warm enough for families to swim. The beach itself is very wide and has a good offering of restaurants right on the sand. In town there are also a good selection of restaurants, a butcher, two small grocery markets, a bank, hair salon and doctor," commented one expat who made the move to Foz do Arelho.

"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," remarked another expat living in Obidos, 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," added another expat in Cascais .

"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," remarked another expat who made the move to Lisbon.

"Without a doubt, the vast majority of folks that I have met are first and foremost concerned with quality of life. This begins with family and friends. Sure, the economic crisis is hitting hard in Portugal, so one can expect to hear a lot about the hardships and difficulties being wrought by the austerity measures, but one can also begin to feel right a home with new friends. Conversations can certainly be started by anyone interested in football, and any chance to question locals about the rich cultural history is met with excitement and enthusiasm. Basically, if one opens their hearts and minds to Portugal and the Portuguese people, they can expect to meet warm caring people with a propensity for eating, drinking, and sharing times with friends," explained one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.

"There's a little bit of everything in Lisboa (Lisbon). Public transportation is a must in this city. There are a number of outdoor cafes where you can enjoy a coffee and people-watch. However, sports is the priority in Lisbon. Futebol (Soccer) is king here. Sporting and Benfica are the top soccer teams in the city. Be careful about wearing green (Sporting colors) in the Benfica neighborhood," said another expat in Lisbon.

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Is there a lot of crime in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Really no crime to speak of in this area. There are some reports of pickpocketing in the downtown, touristy areas, but very few. Lisbos also has some pickpocketing and other tourist crimes, but it's rare to hear of more serious crimes being committed," added another expat who made the move to Cascais.

"Portugal has one of the lowest crime rates and is the third safest country in the world," explained one expat living in Tavira , Portugal.

"Little crime in Cascais. in Lisbon there is a fair amount of pickpocket crime but only in certain areas," mentioned another in Cascais.

Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Portugal accepting of differences?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

"Full of a wide range of expats - generally mostly secular (a - religious); the region is huge and you need to explore what fits your lifestyle. Don't jump in without looking as you need to find the niche that meets your needs. Some parts are very traditional (you might want to learn PT), others much less so. Wide range of house prices," explained one expat living in Silver Coast, Portugal.

"There is a diversity in Foz of both Portuguese and immigrants. There are Brits, French, Brazilian, and America. There are all shades of skin color here and the towns people are all very low kep and accepting of differences," said another expat in Foz do Arelho.

"Obidos is a tourist area so not many people actually live in the village like we do. The people who live in the Obidos village tend to be people who inherited their property. They keep to themselves and are very quiet," added another expat who made the move to Obidos.

"The city is definitely racially diverse. Not certain about religion. The cultural activities are pretty focused on the Portuguese culture, which is appropriate IMO. They are accepting of immigrants and expats in my experience but I am not a minority so can't speak to that," explained one expat living in Cascais , Portugal.

"Lisbon is remarkably diverse. The area of intendente itself is home to 87 nationalities! Portuguese are very friendly people and accepting of all people from every background. There is a little India area, little Chinatown, African cafes, Nepalese restaurants and also lots of options for vegan and vegetarian people," mentioned another in Lisbon.

"Portuguese are intrinsically accepting of others, so they embrace diversity. They respect American, British and Scandinavian persons highly among foreigners; they will not embrace 'Gypsies' but won't go out of their way to disrespect them. A good size foreign population lives here, representing all of Europe, South Africa, Asia, Middle East and South Americans," explained one expat who made the move to Cascais.

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What are the schools in Portugal like?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

"Look into other schools instead: Nobel and Aljezur are the only other international schools within a 30 minute radius. However, if you are British and looking to feel like you are still in Britain and not Portugal, you may enjoy the school as it is 85% British. The school lacks diversity and there is no integration with the local community or country in general. The teachers are largely not inspiring with some exceptions. The school is strict about the uniform. The school has terrible communication with parents," remarked another parent with kids at Vale verde international in Burgau.

"The price is competitive compared to most international schools in Lisbon and Cascais and the Cambridge program is considered to be the best curriculum in the world. I highly recommend this school," explained one expat living in Cascais and Sintra, Portugal.

"VVIS is a very friendly and inclusive school but clear parameters regarding uniform and code of behaviour including a clearly structured anti-bullying policy are in place," said another parent with children at Vale Verde International School in Lagos.

"We wanted a big enough school to give good opportunities for subject choices and team sports. We have been very please so far and the kids look forward to going to school every day," commented one expat when asked about International School of the Algarve in Porches.

"This school is great and is relatively cheap compared to all other options in the Algarve. The teachers are very dedicated and actually set the school up themselves when their previous school became too interested in making money. There's a bus which goes to the Lagos area which helps too. All round great experience so far," explained one expat in Aljezur, Portugal with kids at Aljezur International School.

"Go and visit; it might not be for you if you are against your child learning the Bible. We are Christians, so we like that. There are many other non-christian families though that appreciate the good morals that are encouraged here," wrote an expat living in Cascais with children attending International Christian School of Cascais.

Is the cost of living in Portugal high?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

We asked people how much they someone comfortably live on in Portugal, they wrote:

"I think one could live quite well, everything included, for around $3000 per month, and if one were to budget a bit, probably even less than that," added another expat in Cascais.

"The minimum required by the governs $550/mo. That is about what the average Portuguese makes. More than that, and you can have a very. Ice lifestyle," remarked another expat who made the move to Tavira .

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

Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Portugal?

Live in Portugal? Answer this Question

"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)," remarked another expat living in Porto.

"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," said one expat living in Lisbon.

"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," mentioned another expat inLisbon.

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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.

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Cascais, Portugal

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

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Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Portugal.

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