Living abroad
April 9, 2024
Reading Time: 5 min

Living in Portugal: 14 Pros and Cons of Moving as an Expat

Relocation to Portugal offers many advantages: a pleasant climate, the Atlantic Ocean, mountains nearby, a low crime rate and a relatively low cost of living. Medicine and education are well developed here.

There are surely disadvantages, too. They include the need to learn Portuguese and carry cash on you.

In this article you will learn all the good and bad things about living in Portugal.

Alina Mishurenko
Alina Mishurenko

Offers a full picture of what it’s like to live in Portugal

Living in Portugal: Pros and Cons

Living in Portugal: 14 Pros and Cons of Moving as an Expat

7 advantages of living in Portugal

Relocating to Portugal is possible under a government investment program with a minimal financial option of €250,000. D7 and D8 visas are also suitable for financially independent persons and digital nomads, respectively.

Cosmopolitans move to Portugal for its warm climate, security and business opportunities. Let us analyse the main benefits of living in Portugal.

1. Warm climate. Portugal has a fairly pleasant climate, which varies by region:

  • the south is more arid;

  • the northwest is rainy;

  • the northeast is characterised by long and warm summers.

The warmest month is August. In Lisbon, the average daytime temperature is +27.8℃. The sea is warmest in August and September, and its temperature ranges from +13℃ to +19℃ throughout the year.

There are mild winters. The average daily temperature in January in Lisbon is +14.7℃. It rarely snows there; when it does, it melts quickly. It is more common in mountainous areas.

It is often sunny in Portugal, especially in July, August, and September.

2. Entertainment and recreation are abundant. In Portugal, everyone finds a place and activity to their liking. Surfing, fishing, and diving are definitely main parts of a Portugal lifestyle. You can swim in the Atlantic Ocean, explore the Serra da Estrela mountain range, and visit castles and fortresses.

Portugal was considered the Best Tourist Destination in Europe, according to the European edition of the World Travel Awards 2022. The awards were given for its attractions, beaches, and resorts: for example, the Algarve region, chosen by Portuguese residents and tourists as an ideal location to relax on the coast. Portugal was voted the best travel destination in Europe.

3. It is safe to live in Portugal. The 2023 Global Peace Index ranked Portugal seventh amongst the safest countries in the world, and in 2020 it was placed third in the Global ranking of peaceful countries.

Portugal has a low crime rate. The Portuguese are friendly and welcoming and treat immigrants with warmth, kindness, and openness.

4. A relatively low cost of living. The basic cost of living in Portugal is about 37% lower than in the US. Prices are also higher in other European states, such as Austria, Switzerland, the UK, and neighbouring Spain. Compared with prices in the European Union, life in Portugal is relatively inexpensive.

The average prices in Portugal are the following:

  • €40 — a 3-course dinner for two in an ordinary restaurant;

  • €1.45 — a cappuccino;

  • €1.25 — a loaf of bread;

  • €2.40 — a dozen eggs;

  • €8.40 — local cheese, 1 kg;

  • €0.85 — milk, 1 litre;

  • €1.75 — apples, 1 kg;

  • €1.90 — gasoline, 1 litre;

  • €110 — utility bills for an 85 m² apartment;

  • €35 — unlimited Internet, per month;

  • €35 — fitness club membership for 1 month.

Individual cost calculation of the residence permit in Portugal

Individual cost calculation of the residence permit in Portugal

5. Quality of education is high. Portugal has a fairly high quality of secondary and higher education. Degrees from Portuguese universities are recognised in the European Union, which helps graduates find work in other EU countries.

University courses are taught in Portuguese and English. However, English courses are not available at every institution and are more expensive. A bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Oporto costs a minimum of €8,900 per annum, while a degree taught in Portuguese at the University of Coimbra costs a minimum of €6,340 per annum.

6. Quality of medicine is high, too. Portugal spends about 9% of its GDP per annum on healthcare. According to the Global Health Expenditure 2020 study, the country is ranked 36th in terms of spending.

Medical care is available free of charge at public hospitals. It is available to citizens and residents of the country.

You can get an appointment in private clinics faster than in public ones. There is also a higher level of service, including telephone consultations with your doctor. Private health insurance policies cover part of the cost or the full cost of treatment.

7. Laid-back pace of life and English is common. Portugal is suitable for those who like a relaxed pace of life. The Portuguese are not often in a rush to go somewhere. Cities are less lively than the US or UK metropolitan areas, so it is a bit more different to live in Portugal as an American or British.

As most Portuguese people speak English, one does not need to be fluent in Portuguese to live there. It is a significant point for many expats when considering whether to relocate to Portugal or another European country.

The recent EF Global Ranking ranked Portugal 8th out of 111 countries due to its high proficiency in English. The regions with the highest scores are Leiria, Braga, Viseu, Porto, and Aveiro.

Pros of Living in Portugal: sightseeing

Castle of the Moors in Sintra, Portugal

Disadvantages of living in Portugal as an expat

Some disadvantages of life in Portugal are intertwined with its benefits, such as the climate or the pace of life there.

The need to learn Portuguese. On the street, in shops and museums, you can communicate in English. However, in government agencies, Portuguese is generally spoken. Therefore, you must learn Portuguese at least up to a basic conversational level.

Difficulties with paying by card. In Portugal, bank cards are issued in the Multibanco system. Visa or MasterCard are not accepted everywhere. You must check whether an international bank card is accepted and carry cash.

Heat in summer, rain in winter. The Portuguese climate remains mostly the same from season to season. It is rainy in winter, and there is hardly any snow. In summer, the temperature can sometimes rise to +40℃.

There is no central heating. It is cold inside apartments in winter. You have to buy heaters to stay warm.

The pace of life. For some expats, the quiet life can be a downside of retiring to Portugal. Locals are in no hurry and can be unpunctual. Restaurants and shops often close for several hours in the middle of the day and are closed on Sundays.

Best places to live in Portugal as an expat

When thinking of how to live in Portugal enjoying all its benefits, you should first realise what your goals and preferences are. Portugal has countless charming cities to settle in. Here are some ideas for places in Portugal, sorted by purpose.

To work internationally: Lisbon, Porto, Faro, and Portimao. They are the cities with the biggest number of expats in Portugal. You’ll find the most job, business, and networking opportunities in these areas.

Lisbon is home to numerous sectors, including finance, technology, tourism, and startups. The main industries in Porto are textiles, wine production, and creative arts. Faro and Portimao are both active in the tourism sector.

To raise children: the Algarve, Aveiro, Lisbon, and Porto. These places provide a range of international schools and a family-friendly environment.

The Algarve region has 13 international schools, most teaching the British curriculum. Lisbon was ranked second among the healthiest cities to raise a family due to its high safety, quality of education, and variety of activities.

Porto was also highlighted as the best city for family living in Europe. It has plenty of family activities and 'good for kids' attractions.

Aveiro offers a quieter life but can boast excellent ratings for local schools. Also, the University of Aveiro is among the country’s top six higher education institutions.

To retire: Cascais, Algarve, Braga, Óbidos, and Tomar. Portugal often takes the top spot among the best destinations for retirement. In almost any city, you will find high-quality medical care, stunning landscapes, and a pleasant climate.

Braga has a delightful mix of history, culture, and modernity. It provides all the amenities of a big city but at a more affordable price than in Lisbon or Porto.

Although Cascais is one of the most expensive places to live, this picturesque town offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, including golf and boating. Also, it is only 30 minutes away from Lisbon by car.

Obidos and Tomar are best for those who want to slow down. There are fewer English-speaking expats and a lower cost of living.

To save money: Vila Real, Castelo Branco, and Portalegre. If you’re looking for the most affordable places to live in Portugal, these three are the best. Here you can find affordable properties to rent, the necessary infrastructure, and a good transport connection to bigger cities.

The average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre varies from €300 to €415 per month.

Best places for expats to live in Portugal

Cascais is a town near Lisbon filled with natural beauty, cultural attractions, and leisure activities

How to start relocating to Portugal

To move to Portugal, you need to obtain a residence permit. Usually, it is issued to those who are going to work or study there, marry a Portuguese citizen or have carried out significant services for the state.

Portugal issues residence permits by investment. The process takes 8—10 months.

In July 2023, the Portuguese Parliament approved a bill restructuring the Portugal Golden Visa Program. Investors are no longer able to obtain residence permits by purchasing real estate.

Applicants have four investment options. They can invest at least €250,000 in supporting Portugal’s cultural heritage or €500,000 and more in local businesses, research activities, or investment fund shares.

There are some more ways of how to move to Portugal and obtain residence permit:

Foreign citizens with a Portuguese residence permit can live, study and work in Portugal. They can also travel without a visa to the Schengen states for up to 90 out of 180 days.

Five years after receiving a residence permit, the holder can apply for permanent residence or citizenship.

Individual cost calculation of the visa D7 in Portugal

Individual cost calculation of the visa D7 in Portugal

Moving to Portugal: key points

  1. Before relocating to Portugal, you need to obtain legal status. The Portugal Golden Visa is an investment program for wealthy foreigners and their family members. In 8—10 months, you can get a residence permit in an EU country, freely live in Portugal and travel throughout the Schengen Area without visas. Other popular types of visas for relocation are a Digital Nomad, a D7, and a Startup Visa.

  2. Portugal is a safe country with around 700,000 expats in the total population.

  3. While living in Portugal as an expat, you can face some disadvantages. The summer might seem extremely hot in July and August. If you are non-Portuguese speaking, it cannot be easy to communicate by applying for a job in some fields or visiting government departments.

  4. Portugal has seven main regions: Porto, Center, Lisbon and Tagus Valley, Alentejo, the Algarve, the Azores, and Madeira. Which one to choose for living depends on your budget and lifestyle. For example, the Algarve is known for its stunning coastline and idyllic countryside. This region is the most popular choice for British expats.

  5. Relocating to Portugal with kids is considered to be an excellent choice. You can send children to international schools in Portugal, which always welcome expats. Degrees from Portuguese universities are recognised in the EU, which helps graduates find work in other countries.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for citizenship and residence by investment programs in the EU, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Middle East. Take advantage of our global 15-year expertise — schedule a meeting with our investment programs experts.

Will you obtain a residence permit in Portugal?

Practical Guide

Will you obtain a residence permit in Portugal?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Portugal a good place to live for foreigners?

    Yes, it is. Living as an expat in Portugal is safe. Portugal is always welcoming foreigners, and the locals are very friendly.

    Portugal ranked among the top 5 countries for expats — 84% of those who moved to the country were satisfied with their lives. Most of the locals are able to express themselves in English, which will make it easier for you to communicate with them.

  • Is it expensive to live in Portugal?

    It depends on the region. Lisbon, Porto and Cascais are Portugal’s largest and most expensive cities, with numerous attractions. Their popularity among tourists and expats raised the cost of living in towns compared to the rest of the country, such as Algarve and Sintra.

    Among the cheapest cities to live in Portugal are Aveiro, Braganza, Evora, and Portimao.

  • Can I live and work in Portugal if you only speak English?

    Mostly yes. Especially in hospitality and tourism, there are plenty of job opportunities for English–speaking expats. Also, English is widely spoken by all people who work in Lisbon and Cascais. The business community in Portugal is represented by foreigners from all over the world, communicating in English as well.

    Under the EF English Proficiency Index, Portugal is the ninth most proficient country in the world when it comes to speaking English.

  • Can I live in Portugal speaking English?

    Yes, you can, especially in larger cities like Lisbon, Faro, and Porto. Due to the significant number of foreign residents and tourists, English is widely spoken in Portugal.

    According to the EF Index in 2022, Portugal has a very high level of English proficiency and is ranked 8th out of 35 European countries. The regions with the highest English proficiency score are Leiria, Braga, Viseu, Porto, and Aveiro.

    Tourist-oriented businesses like shops, restaurants, and hotels, most kinds of public transport and taxi drivers often provide service in English. A lot of websites and apps, including banking, have English versions too.

    However, you might need some basic Portuguese or an interpreter for situations like:

    • setting up a mobile phone or internet contracts;

    • setting up utility contracts;

    • getting loans, mortgages, or credit cards;

    • opening a bank account;

    • buying property or signing long-term agreements;

    • opening a business.

  • Portugal living conditions: pros and cons of moving there?

    Living in Portugal has many benefits: a warm climate, numerous entertainment, sports and relaxation activities, a high standard of living, and a relatively low cost of living. Most locals speak English, which helps immigrants integrate into society quickly.

    According to Resonance Consultancy, Lisbon, the Portuguese capital city, is on the list of the 100 best cities in the world.

    There are disadvantages to living in Portugal, too. One has to learn Portuguese as all the governmental service bodies mostly speak it. Also, there is no opportunity to pay with a Visa or MasterCard; one has to have a Portuguese bank card or pay with cash.

  • Which documents are needed to move to Portugal?

    To stay and live in Portugal, you need to obtain a residence permit. You can get it if you find work in the country, enrol in a long-term course of studies, marry a Portuguese citizen or invest in the country’s economy.

  • What is the easiest way to get a residence permit in Portugal?

    Getting a residence permit by investment in Portugal is the easiest way to become a resident. In this case, foreign citizens do not need to look for employment or enrol at a university.

    A residence permit by investment is issued within 8—10 months. To participate in the program, the applicant has to invest at least €250,000.

    The program has four investment options. Applicants can invest €250,000 or more in supporting arts and restoring cultural heritage in Portugal. The other ways are to invest €500,000 in research activities, local companies or to purchase investment fund units.

    Foreign citizens can also apply for the Portugal D7 Visa, Digital Nomad Visa, and Startup Visa.

  • How much money do you need to live comfortably in Portugal?

    Living in Portugal is more affordable than in most European countries. The monthly expenses depend on the region you live in, your family composition, and your comfortable living level.

    On average, a single person with a mid-range income may need between €900 and €1,070 a month to live in smaller towns in Portugal. A couple can get by with €1,700 per month.

    In cities like Lisbon or Porto, a single person can live with €1,200 a month, while a couple might need €2,000 and more.

    Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre will cost around €790 per month. A similar apartment outside the centre costs about €600.

    The average net salary in Portugal per month after taxes is around €1,020. The Portugal D7 Visa Program requires foreigners to have a monthly passive income of at least €760 for a single person.

  • Is Portugal safe to live?