-By Bárbara Cunha
Portugal. It’s not hard to fall in love with this European gem. The unique pace of life of this country attracts people looking for a new life abroad - either to work or to retire. This year, Portugal earned the number one spot on International Living‘s Annual Global Retirement Index, and Live and Invest Overseas (LIO) put Portugal at the top of its “10 Best Places to Retire Overseas in 2020.”
But what do you need to know before moving, besides that there are beautiful beaches, good weather, and amazing food? It’s important to get some inside background on this country’s lifestyle before wanting to move. So we’ve prepared this sort-of-guide for you. Read on!
“Who” is Portugal, anyway?
Ten years ago, most visitors knew little about Portugal. Right now, the country that is a gateway to Europe is reopening its own doors to the world. Over the past 10 years, tourism had massive growth in the country and more and more people looked Portugal to become their new home.
The 876 years as a nation do not make Portugal less young in spirit - in fact, Portugal is growing in innovation and is no longer a conservative country with strong traditions. Today, once isolated Portugal is part of an international world - foreign companies invest here, tourism is a key sector for Portugal’s economy and locals are happy to communicate in English with visitors.
We are talking about a country that significantly improved its quality of living over the past 20 years - new highway and rail connections, high-quality health care, strict food regulation due to the EU’s standards, drinkable tap water in most of the nation, etc. A new world is forming inside of Portugal.
Also, Portugal is a welcoming country, where life outdoors and social interaction are the basics of its lifestyle. Here you can spend less money (comparing to the cost of living in the US) and enjoy the freshest fish with a beautiful wine next to the beach on a sunny day. How great is that?
Benefits of Moving
Being the 3rd safest country in the world gives tranquility to whoever wants to come to Portugal. You can understand this feeling not only while strolling around in the calm and small towns but also in the bigger cities like Lisbon or Porto. Walking alone late in the night or taking a ride in the metro are not times to feel scared since major crime is not something Portuguese face. Mostly, people are very friendly and helpful if anything happens.
As a member state of the EU, Portugal must respect several standards for different sectors. That includes the health care system of the country - which is of high quality. In Portugal, health care is free for all citizens, but if you’re not one (yet) you’ll still pay way less money than you would if you were in the US. Portugal is ranked 12ht in the world for health care, the US comes in at 37th. Right at the beginning of the current crisis of Covid-19, Portugal ensured foreigners living in the country would have access to health care to battle the spread and effects of coronavirus.
Cost of Living
To live in Portugal is considered quite affordable - arguably Western Europe’s most affordable country. In Lisbon, a couple can live comfortably from about €2,000 a month, and in smaller cities, the budget can run from €1,300 a month. Food, wine, restaurants, public transportations, and normal shopping commodities are generally very reasonably priced. However, electricity, gasoline, medicine, and electronics are usually more expensive than in the US.
Real Estate Market
An investment in real estate is not only a pathway to residency but a sound investment with a stable opportunity for financial growth. By buying a home, you remove rental housing costs from your monthly retirement budget and therefore eliminate any long-term currency risk concerns on that portion of your expenses. In Lisbon and a few other more touristy areas (like the Algarve, Porto or Cascais) property prices have risen steadily over the past five years. Still, it is possible to buy a home for 200,000 euros or less.
With an average of 300 days of sun per year, plenty of blue skies and outdoor activities are guaranteed. In summer, Portugal has a generally warm and dry climate, and the thermometer can easily climb to over 90 in some areas. During wintertime, the humidity and the bad isolation of buildings can actually make you feel pretty cold but the thermometer barely goes under the 40 in most parts of the country.
The combination of historic monuments, cultural heritage, beautiful landscapes, a cheap lifestyle, and good weather allows you to easily enjoy Portugal’s richness - all year round. Historic city centers, castles, museums, typical restaurants, golf courses, vineyards, fado music houses, etc. There’s a whole lot of activities and entertainment around the peaceful and sunny Portugal. You’ll see it with your own eyes.
One of Portugal´s upsides is the fresh seafood. But, salt cod is featured on almost every menu, as are grilled sardines, tuna and shrimp. As well, fresh and organic fruit and vegetables are in every supermarket or local market for a considered low price. All produce is labeled to tell you where it's from, and it's usually local. The Mediterranean diet is often regarded as the healthiest in the world, so you can happily cook healthy and delicious dishes at home or have it in most local restaurants. Succulent local ham, fresh dairy cheeses, and the wonderful Pastel de Nata tarts are also other types of delicious food popular in Portugal. Not to mention all the beautiful wines that you can find coming from the Douro to the Alentejo.
… Not to forget how easy it is to get to Portugal from the U.S. - TAP has direct flights for affordable prices to Newark, Boston, Miami, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco. So having friends and family visiting can happen more often than you think!
Where to Move to
Portugal is a small country - you can travel by car from North to South within less than 6 hours. However, what this little piece of land can offer can change a lot between districts, either in terms of cuisine, cultural offer, and lifestyle.
If you’re looking for bigger and more cosmopolitan towns, Lisbon - the capital - and Porto are the perfect places - both are cities full of life and with a great expat community. Here you can always find a huge offer of restaurants, shops, and cultural activities. Also, these two cities are set on the main Portuguese rivers - Tejo and Douro - and are just a few minutes away from the ocean.
On the other hand, if you rather live in mid-size cities, Braga, Guimarães, Coimbra, Abrantes, Cascais, Setúbal, Tomar or Lagos can offer you the perfect balance between the vivid city life and the proximity to nature and more calm rhythm of living.
Smaller villages like Dornes, Nazaré, Alvaiázere, Aldeia do Meco, or Monsaraz are places for an authentic retreat since they are part of deep Portugal - there are more natural life and local cuisine to appreciate, rather than bigger cultural events or great expats communities. Here you can enjoy pure Portuguese traditions and find real peace.
Besides these towns are villages, there are a lot of other places that might be a better match for what you are looking for. Nevertheless, one thing is guaranteed - no matter where you decide to relocate yourself in Portugal, the kindness and the warm spirit of its inhabitants will quickly make you feel at home.