Moving to Portugal is a life-changing decision, and you need to fully prepare for what taking this step brings. The country is situated in the westernmost part of Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula. It borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Apart from sunshine, olives, and wine, it is also home to amazing world heritage monuments and architectural gems of Baroque and Neoclassical style with the Islamic influences due to a turbulent history of clashes between the Christian and Moorish cultures.
Since it is popular among tourists, the majority of young people speak English. Still, older people do not, so it will be considered as a token of respect if you try to learn a bit of Portuguese, more than the usual “Bom Dia” (good morning) and “Obrigado/a (thank you). But remember, it is not like Spanish. Even though they are neighboring countries, they each have their own cultural heritage, and it is best not to raise that issue among the locals. People that live here are generally warm and welcoming.
The Mediterranean vibe you’re bound to encounter in Portugal might seem too relaxed at first, as things move slowly here. Be flexible, and eventually, you may get to like it, except for bureaucracy. You will never get used to that. The administration is slow and inefficient. And the Portuguese cuisine is excellent and healthy as it is based on fish, particularly cod, vegetables, and wine.
Cost of Living and Moving to Portugal
Even though it is considered to be among the cheaper countries in Western Europe, thriving tourism in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon has had an impact on the prices. But the capital city is still affordable, except for accommodation which is getting rather expensive, almost double as compared to some ten years ago. Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around €600, and for a two-bedroom apartment, it will cost you about €1250 in the central part of Lisbon. However, food is cheap and public transport, too. The average monthly salary is around €1,170, and the minimum salary is €700.
Living Conditions in Portugal
It is safe to say the living conditions here are excellent if you consider the fact that it is one of the sunniest and warmest countries in Europe. One of the main advantages of living in Portugal is that each resident is entitled to
It is safe to say the living conditions here are excellent if you consider the fact that it is one of the sunniest and warmest countries in Europe. One of the main advantages of living in Portugal is that each resident is entitled to free health insurance. With about 10.3 million inhabitants, the population is not large, but the population density is the highest in the northern part of the west coast, including the cities of Lisbon and Porto. Further south, Algarve is another region popular for settling down. However, as everywhere, the job markets are the largest in metropolitan areas.
Along with the authentic Portuguese population, there are numerous newcomers from Eastern Europe and other parts of the EU, as well as communities from the former colonies in Africa and South America, and also from China. According to some data, the percentage of immigrants today is about 20%.
It is a Mediterranean country, and as such, it shares some values with other countries in the region, like family ties and personal relationships. Building trust is very important for business, both between the business partners and among the colleagues.
The VAT is one of the highest in Europe and amounts to 23%, with the exemption of food, which is taxed 6% and wine, which is taxed 13%. Personal income tax ranges from 14.5% to 48% and increases with the rise of income.
As for security, it is one of the safest countries in the world now, even though it has seen some rough days, especially with protests during the economic crisis.
Education Opportunities and Statistics You Want to Know
Learning a language such as Portuguese, the ninth most commonly spoken language in the world with approximately 230 million speakers, is quite an asset. So, what better way to study than to travel here and let the magic guide you to explore its beauty.
Higher education can be obtained at the universities and higher education institutions, both public and private. Private higher education institutions need to be approved by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education to operate. There is also the Portuguese Catholic University instituted by the Holy See and approved by the state. Some of the known universities are the University of Lisbon, University of Porto, University of Algarve, and others.
If you are moving with a family, there’s an international school in both Lisbon and Porto, and also in the southern Algarve region and on Madeira as well. Working language in many of them is English, and students regularly score high on tests. Almost the entire population is literate, which is not surprising if you know that both primary and secondary school is compulsory.
Therefore, if you have children, you can be sure that they will be taught the Portuguese language and so even help you in honing it, in a way.
Easy Life with Light Baggage
Portugal is such a diverse place, featuring long sandy beaches, beautiful mountain landscapes, cosmopolitan cities with vibrant communities, and offering a laid-back lifestyle everyone would wish for. It is convenient to transit everywhere, but you might not want to leave as you have everything you need – from water sports, golf terrains, beautiful nature, amazing architecture, and excellent food and wines.
The climate is warm and pleasant, featuring hot and dry summers and mild and wet winters. This is one of the warmest countries in Europe, so don’t forget to pack your summer clothes and items. From November to March, there can be a lot of rain in the coastal areas, especially in the north, whereas the highest mountain range can see some snow as well. But the rest of the year is warm and sunny, and it can even get pretty hot in the southern and eastern parts. With a climate like that, you may expect longer days and therefore less frequent health issues.
Lisbon and Porto
Lisbon is the capital, with beautiful buildings in Pombaline and Manueline architecture styles, and some ranked as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Jeronimos Monastery. Several Pritzker Architecture Prize winners designed the modern buildings.
The climate in the capital is very nice and warm. The municipality is small, but its metropolitan area is quite large and developed. The transportation is rather good and affordable, comprising buses, trams, and metro. Apart from job opportunities, especially in the tertiary sector, it offers cultural and historical sites to visit.
Porto is a city you first think of when one mentions Portugal. That’s no wonder since this is the town that gave the country its name. It is also one of the most famous wine hubs in the world, known for the production of Port, maturing in cellars along the Douro River banks. The old city displays Medieval architecture and Neo-Gothic interiors and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And just to add to the city charm, a famous writer of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, lived in Porto for a while, teaching English by day and writing about the popular adventures during the night, mostly in a cafe called Majestic Cafe.
Portugal’s Economy and Job Market
Being a popular tourist destination, it offers hospitality jobs for qualified workers. However, finding a job isn’t easy, even though the unemployment rate dropped from 6.8% to 6.3% in the second quarter of 2019. The youth unemployment rate increased to 18.1%. The economy, in general, is not booming after the financial crisis it suffered, but there are signs of recovery. As the living conditions are favorable, more and more entrepreneurs are settling in the cities, especially digital nomads and IT experts, creating a vibrant tech community. Information and Communications Technology is expanding fast, as well as research and modern technologies specialized in renewable energies. There are also other fast-growing sectors, such as services.
One of the challenges that companies are facing here is a relatively limited local market that cannot produce large public consumption. This has quite an impact on the tax earnings as well. It’s good to know that if the company is registered here, its overall income is taxed in the country, regardless of where it originated.
A while ago, the country had a very competitive real estate market as the prices were rather attractive. However, economic growth has led to the rise of prices in the housing market, making it difficult to find a home. Foreigners are allowed to buy properties without any limitations, so those who are planning on settling down permanently can buy a place instead of renting if they can afford it, of course.
If you want to buy an apartment downtown, it will cost you from €1,200 up to €5,000 per square meter, and outside the city center, it will cost you from €1,000 to €2,500.
Apartments for rent in some attractive parts are not easy to find, and the rents are not cheap if you take into consideration the relatively low per capita income as compared to other EU countries. For a one-bedroom apartment downtown, you need to pay from €400 to €900 and from €440 to €650 outside the city center. The median price for renting a three-bedroom apartment downtown is €1,100, and outside the city center, it is €750.
Expat Guide for Americans in Portugal: Getting a Visa and Permits to Live and Retire
Portugal is an EU member state and as such, grants frictionless travel and work to other citizens within the Schengen Area, which means they are exempt from entry visas as long as they have a Schengen visa. Other countries’ citizens must comply with Portuguese legislation, and their visas depend on the purpose of their visit and the duration of stay.
Foreign citizens who intend to stay here up to one year or more have to apply for a long-stay visa at the Portuguese Embassy in their residence countries, indicating the purpose of stay, such as work, study, investment, research, teaching, medical treatment, etc. Make sure you start doing all of this before booking international moving services or ordering the packing of your items to be shipped to the desired place.
Retirees have it relatively easy. They start by getting a visa that lasts four months. All they need in police clearance and proof that their pension check is no smaller than 1200 USD. The next step is acquiring a temporary residence permit that lasts for one year. That permit can be renewed for two two-year terms. Then, after five years in Portugal, pensioners can apply for permanent residency. However, during that period, their passport has to remain valid or their residency permit will be revoked.
Ways of Getting Residency
Residency can also be obtained if a prospective expat has enough money to get himself a ‘golden visa’. Let’s get through a short guide on possibilities.
The first option is to transfer into the country at least one million euros. It doesn’t matter how you will invest them, the only condition is that the funds come from abroad. You can also gain residency by starting a business in Portugal and invest at least half a million euros. That is the preferred choice for many expats. There is also the option to create at least ten jobs or to buy a property worth at least 530000 euros. If the said property is older or located in a specific place, the price limit is much lower.
To be eligible to become a citizen, you have to have residency for six years. However, you don’t have to be there for the entire period. Two weeks per annum is just enough. Once you obtain citizenship, you’ll have access to public healthcare and all other real benefits.
Getting Around Following the Relocation
Getting around is easy as you can get everywhere on foot in a matter of half an hour. The only downside is that Lisbon is a hilly town, and wherever you go, except for the riverside, you will have to go up and down. It’s a good workout, but if you’re not in good shape, it can be exhausting. However, there’s public transport, which is very efficient and cheap and Uber, also very affordable.
There’s one trick, though, to help you navigate the ups and downs of Portugal’s cities. The trick is simple – learn to use shopping malls. There’s quite a few of them, and they’re all multistoried. Since (naturally, we might add) they have escalators, just move up to the desired level of the town and go on with your business on the top of the hill.
For all the other things, whether it’s healthcare access or culture, contact the expat community in your place of living. They’ll certainly share their experiences with you and aid you in settling into a new place.
Driving Conditions in Portugal
If you decided to ship your car overseas, keep in mind that you need to drive on the right-hand side of the road. The seat belt is obligatory. If you own a driving license written in the Latin alphabet, you will have no problem driving it, at least for six months. If not, you need to get an international driver’s license in English. But if you register your residence, you will have to get a Portuguese driving license within 60 days.
Mediterranean temperament is reflected in driving here, as speeding is common, and the driving style is rather aggressive. The legal alcohol limit is 0.5%, and the fines for driving under the influence are harsh. The road infrastructure is significantly improved. There are parking restrictions in urban areas you have to follow. You can also rent a car in major cities both in the internationally known and local companies.
Using Public Transportation
Public transportation is cheap and reliable and comprises buses, trams and metro lines. There are also transport cards for reduced prices. If you take a taxi, bear in mind that they often try to operate without turning on the meter, so make sure they do.
Take Advantage of the Many Travel Opportunities
The country is situated on the western coast of Europe. It is an entry point into the EU, and people come in from all over the world. Lisbon is only two and a half hours away from Paris or London by plane, and there are regular lines you can take to major world destinations, including American cities such as New York, San Diego, Miami, and so on.
If you prefer shorter trips, all the culture of Spain is just across the border, with countless great places to visit. It’s a perfect place for travelers that are moving abroad alone and want to explore and find the best European countries to live in. And since most of the air travel in Europe is done via low-cost airlines, you can go to every place you ever imagined in the Old World at just a fraction of a cost it would usually entail. Life can be really good that way.
A Bit More on Culture of Portugal
Besides the excellent school and healthcare systems, there is one more thing why the place is perfect for a new home for single folks as well as for family life – rich culture. And perhaps most recognizable of its features is local folk music, Fado. If for nothing else, songs of globally popular artists such as Amalia Rodrigues, Mariza or group Madredeus should be incentive enough to study Portuguese language and dive deeper into the vibrant and great culture. And a good incentive is the greatest help there can be.