An aerial view of Lisbon overlay

Advice for Moving to Lisbon, Portugal, and Living Abroad

Posted Country Guides / June 6, 2023

Navigating a new city and culture can be as exciting as it is challenging, and when that city is as captivating as Lisbon, the adventure reaches new heights. In our guide for moving to Lisbon, Portugal, we’ll shed light on the key aspects, so it can become an ally on your journey to becoming its resident. Read on if you’re ready to immerse yourself in the life and soul of this enchanting Portuguese city.

Relocating to Lisbon requires planning. Secure the right visa, learn some Portuguese, and understand the cost of living before your move. Choose a neighborhood that suits your lifestyle and find accommodation. Familiarize yourself with the healthcare system and educational institutions if you’re moving with children. Remember to network for job opportunities and to socialize. Embrace Lisbon’s rich culture, enjoy its Mediterranean climate and cuisine, and use efficient public transportation whenever possible.

Why Move to Lisbon? Facts About the City That May Attract You to Its Charms

Lisbon, the vibrant capital of Portugal, has much to offer those considering relocating across the world. It’s a city that effortlessly blends traditional heritage with striking modernity, with a unique appeal that captivates visitors and residents alike. Here are some relocation benefits you can look forward to:

  • High quality of life – this city is safe and clean and offers a relaxed pace of life that many expats appreciate,
  • Cultural heritage – it is rich in history and culture, with numerous museums, historic sites, and architectural marvels,
  • Affordability – compared to other European capitals, it is relatively affordable,
  • Accessibility – it is geographically well-placed for travel within Europe and beyond, with an excellent transportation system,
  • Scenic beauty – nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus River, it is one of the most picturesque cities in the world,
  • Cuisine – Portugal’s cuisine is a food lover’s delight.

On top of that, you’ll be met with a friendly and welcoming community. Portuguese people are known for their hospitality – after all, keep in mind that Portugal is one of the friendliest countries in the world.

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Necessary Documents For Moving to Lisbon From the US

Since a passport is one of the crucial documents needed to travel abroad, you need to make sure your US passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned date of exit from the Schengen area.

Additionally, if you plan to stay in Portugal for more than 90 days, you will need to apply for a long-term visa, such as a work, student, or retirement visa. The requirements vary depending on the type of visa, but you generally need to provide financial proof that you can support yourself, proof of accommodation, and sometimes proof of health insurance.

The average visa processing time is fifteen calendar days - apply for a Portuguese visa at least a month before your planned relocation date

If you plan to get overseas vehicle shipping services and drive in Portugal, note that an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required along with your valid US driver’s license. As for other records, you need to bring a birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), financial statements, as well as legal and employment documents. Note that any documents that are not in Portuguese may need to be translated and notarized. It’s crucial to check with the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in the US for the most current requirements, as the necessary paperwork can change.

Navigating the Legal Requirements for Permanent Residency and Citizenship

After moving abroad with a valid long-term visa, you must apply for a residence permit. This initial permit is usually valid for one year and can be renewed for two-year periods. After five years of legal residency, you can apply for a permanent residence card, which is valid for ten years and renewable.

To qualify for permanent residency, you must show evidence of sufficient income or financial means to support yourself and your family if you’re not relocating abroad alone. You will also need to show ties to Portugal, such as a rental contract or proof of property purchase and proof of enrollment in the Portuguese Social Security system. Additionally, you must demonstrate basic knowledge of the Portuguese language.

After six years of legal residency, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship. The requirements include showing sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language (B1 level or higher), having no criminal record, and providing proof of effective links to the national community. Dual citizenship is permitted in Portugal, meaning you can retain your US citizenship.

Finding Your Perfect Neighborhood in Lisbon – Lisbon’s Five Best Neighborhoods for Expats

Lisbon’s unique charm is reflected in its diverse neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and appeal. When deciding where to live, consider factors like your budget, lifestyle preferences, proximity to work or school, and access to public transportation. A visit to the city before hiring an overseas moving company and relocating can be beneficial when exploring these neighborhoods and finding your perfect fit. However, if you don’t know where to start, here are five neighborhoods that American foreigners often find desirable:


If you crave a lively atmosphere in the heart of the city, Chiado is the perfect neighborhood for you. It’s a hub of culture, shopping, and gastronomy, known for its beautiful squares, historic cafés, and boutique shops. Chiado offers a variety of housing options, from modern apartments to renovated historic buildings.

Príncipe Real

Known for its charming gardens, antique shops, and historic mansions, Príncipe Real is an elegant and trendy neighborhood. It offers a relaxed lifestyle with its organic farmer’s markets, upscale boutiques, and diverse dining options. It’s also home to a vibrant LGBTQ+ community.


If you wish to immerse yourself in traditional Portuguese culture, Alfama is the place to be. It’s Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, known for its narrow winding streets, ancient houses, and stunning views. Alfama is also the birthplace of Fado music, and many authentic Fado houses can be found here.


For those seeking the best places to live abroad with family, Estrela is a great choice. It’s home to the beautiful Estrela Garden, Basilica da Estrela, and many embassies. The area boasts plenty of green spaces, traditional bakeries, and local shops.


Known for its industrial past, Alcântara has transformed into a trendy hub for art and food. It’s home to LX Factory, a creative complex housing unique shops, restaurants, and artist studios. Alcântara provides a balance between traditional and contemporary lifestyles.

Understanding Lisbon’s Costs of Living for Expats

Compared to many other European capitals, and certainly compared to major cities in the US, Lisbon offers a relatively lower cost of living – good news for all who have to relocate on a low budget. According to Expatistan, the average rent varies between $850 and $1,600, depending on the size of the accommodation, as well as its location. Utilities, transportation, and groceries are also relatively affordable. For buying a house, on the other hand, you’ll need to set aside $357 per square foot on average, according to My Dolce Casa report for 2023.

What Currency Do They Use In Portugal?

Portugal uses the Euro (€) as its official currency. It’s one of the 20 countries in the European Union that have adopted the Euro as their official currency, a group collectively known as the Eurozone. Currently, €1 equals $1.07.

Important Healthcare Information You Need to Be Aware of

Healthcare in Portugal is provided through both a public and a private system. Portugal’s public healthcare is known as the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS). It provides healthcare to Portuguese residents, including some free healthcare services. As a resident of Portugal, you’ll be eligible to receive healthcare under the SNS. Keep in mind, however, that while some services are free, others require a co-payment, and waiting times for certain treatments can be long.

When moving overseas, note that Portugal also has a robust private healthcare sector, with many excellent hospitals and clinics. Private healthcare providers often have shorter waiting times and offer a wider range of services and treatments than the public healthcare system. However, costs can be high, so private health insurance is advisable if you plan to use these services.

Finding Work and Job Opportunities as an Expat in Lisbon

Getting a job in a new city as an expat can vary greatly depending on your skill set, proficiency in the Portuguese language, and the industry you’re interested in. However, keep in mind that Lisbon has a growing job market, particularly in the tech sector. The city has become a hub for startups and is home to many international companies. Other sectors with opportunities include tourism, education (especially English teaching), real estate, and services.

There are several ways to find job opportunities in Lisbon after getting packing services and relocating. Online job portals like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor are commonly used. Also, there are Portugal-specific job search websites like Emprego. However, as a non-EU citizen, you need a work visa to legally work in Portugal. Often, this requires a job offer from a Portuguese employer, so you’ll need to get a job before you move.

A Guide to Schools and Universities in Lisbon for Foreign Residents

Choosing the right school or university is an essential aspect of relocation, especially for families with children. Portugal has a comprehensive public education system. The language of instruction, however, is Portuguese, which can be challenging for older children who have yet to learn a language abroad.

Private schools in Lisbon offer an alternative to public schools. Many have smaller class sizes, varied extracurricular activities, and alternative educational philosophies. Some private schools offer bilingual programs. International schools can be a good option for expat children, as they often follow a curriculum from another country, and the language of instruction is usually English or a mix of English and Portuguese.

University Options Are Great for Students Looking to Skill Up

Lisbon is home to some of Portugal’s top universities, which offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs in English – they are a good choice if you wish to continue your education abroad. The University of Lisbon and the Nova University of Lisbon are well respected, both nationally and internationally, across a variety of disciplines. Tuition fees vary but are often less expensive than in the US and many other countries.

Some Basic Facts About Lisbon, From Climate to Cuisine

Before you get international moving services from an overseas shipping company and move, let’s go over a few more things about this incredible city first. Lisbon enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. The city is one of the sunniest in Europe, but because it’s on the coast, a pleasant breeze often moderates the summer heat.

As for Lisbon’s cuisine, it offers a vibrant mix of traditional and contemporary flavors. Seafood is a staple, given Portugal’s extensive coastline. It also provides an array of international foods, reflecting its cosmopolitan nature. Whether you’re dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant, a family-run tavern, or sampling street food at a local market, exploring Lisbon’s culinary scene is an adventure in itself.

Transportation and Getting Around Town

Lisbon has an efficient and affordable public transportation system, making it easy to navigate around the city. Its metro system is modern, quick, and covers a large portion of the city. Trams and buses are another excellent way to explore but at a slower pace. Trains are useful for reaching suburbs or for day trips to nearby towns like Sintra or Cascais. Ferries can take you across the Tagus River to districts like Almada, offering a unique perspective. For regular public transportation users, consider getting a rechargeable Viva Viagem card or a monthly pass, which offers unlimited travel on metros, trams, and buses.

In addition to that, Lisbon is a walkable city, although the hilly terrain can be challenging. While it’s possible to drive in this city, it’s not typically recommended for daily commuting due to traffic, narrow streets in some areas, and the challenge of finding parking. However, having a car can be useful for exploring areas outside of the city itself.

Mastering the Language: Tips for Learning Portuguese

Learning Portuguese can significantly enhance your experience living in its capital, aiding in everything from job opportunities to everyday interactions. Therefore, it’s wise to enroll in a Portuguese language course or use online resources and language apps even before shipping overseas. In addition to that, try to watch Portuguese films or TV shows, listen to Portuguese music, read, or tune in to Portuguese radio stations as much as possible. This will improve your listening skills and help you understand the culture better.

Learning a new language takes time, so don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes – that’s how you learn! And for some additional tips on how to start learning this wonderful language, make sure to watch the following video:

Saving Money and Managing Moving Costs Will Be Easier With an International Moving Company

Reliable companies, such as I Love International Moving, have the experience and expertise to handle the logistics of this type of move. They are aware of the customs regulations and required documentation, which can help avoid costly delays or issues at customs when moving internationally. We are here to prevent damage to your belongings with professional packing and secure transportation, relieving you of unnecessary relocation stress. Therefore, don’t be afraid to place your trust in our international moving company – contact us now and book your move.


What Should I Consider When Moving to Lisbon From the US?

Consideration should be given to the cost of living, legal aspects such as immigration policies and visa requirements, housing, the job market, and the healthcare system. While English is spoken in many parts of this city, note that finding some tips for learning a new language (Portuguese) can improve integration and enhance daily life.

How Do I Obtain a Visa for Portugal as a US Citizen Moving to Lisbon?

As a US citizen, you can stay in Portugal (and the rest of the Schengen Area) for up to 90 days without a visa. For longer stays, you will need a visa. The application process involves filling out a form and submitting it to the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in the US. The application must be supported with relevant documents, including proof of financial means, a valid passport, health insurance, and possibly a criminal record certificate.

Is It Necessary to Learn Portuguese Before Moving to Lisbon?

While it’s not strictly necessary to learn Portuguese before relocating to Portugal (as many locals speak English), it is highly recommended. Learning the language will help you break the language barrier, facilitate everyday interactions, help you integrate into the community more easily, and increase your understanding of Portuguese culture.

What Is the Cost of Living Like in Lisbon Compared to Cities in the US?

The cost of living in Lisbon is generally lower than in major US cities. However, like any city, costs can vary depending on your decision of where to live, your lifestyle, and your personal choices. While living in Lisbon is more affordable, wages also tend to be lower, so it’s important to factor this into any financial considerations.

What Neighborhoods in Lisbon Are Popular Among Expats From the US?

Neighborhoods popular among expat communities include Chiado, a vibrant area filled with shops, restaurants, and cultural sites; Estrela, known for its beautiful gardens and laid-back ambiance; and Alcântara, a formerly industrial area that has been revitalized with art spaces and eateries. Príncipe Real and Avenida da Liberdade are upscale areas popular among expats, while the historic neighborhoods of Alfama and Mouraria offer a more traditional Portuguese lifestyle.

How Do I Find Accommodation in Lisbon as an Expat From the US?

Finding accommodation in Lisbon can be done through online real estate platforms, local newspapers, or a local real estate agency. It’s also beneficial to visit neighborhoods in person to get a feel for the area. Whatever you choose, note that it is standard practice to pay a deposit before relocating to a new home.

Are There Any Cultural Differences or Customs That I Should Be Aware of When Moving to Lisbon From the US?

For starters, Portuguese people value personal relationships and social etiquette. They’re generally conservative and respectful and expect the same in return. Family and food are central to Portuguese culture. Their pace of life can be slower than what Americans are used to, and punctuality is often seen differently, which can cause culture shock once you move. Learning about these customs and integrating them into your behavior will make your transition smoother.

Is It Easy to Find Work in Lisbon as an Expat From the US?

If you want to find a job abroad, note that English-speaking jobs are available, particularly in the tech, tourism, and education sectors. However, speaking Portuguese opens up a wider range of job opportunities and is often seen favorably by employers. However, keep in mind that the average salary in Lisbon is generally lower than in major US cities.

What Is the Healthcare System Like in Lisbon Compared to the US?

Portugal has a high-quality healthcare system. It offers both public and private healthcare, with many residents opting for a combination of both. The public healthcare system (SNS) is generally well-regarded but may involve longer wait times for non-emergency procedures. Private healthcare providers offer faster access to specialists and procedures but at a higher cost. Compared to the US, healthcare in Portugal is often considered more affordable.

How Can I Meet Other Expats and Make Friends in Lisbon as a Newcomer From the US?

This city has a thriving expat community, and there are many ways to connect with others. Consider joining social groups or clubs catering to expats, which can be found online or through social media. Attend local events, festivals, or language exchange meetups where you’re likely to meet and make friends.

Milly Andrews

Born and raised in Portland, Milly has had a lot of experience moving and writing about the relocation process.

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