What It Costs to Live in Portugal

living in Portugal

I’ve sung the praises of traveling for cheap in Portugal before after being impressed by how reasonably priced it was when I visited last year. But what does it cost to actually live there as an expat? Here’s an excerpt from A Better Life for Half the Price with the scoop from some people who have made the move.

When Susan Korthase and her husband were looking to move abroad from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they had already lived abroad and moved 17 times. They started diving into the options and considered all the usual “retire abroad” suspects. They decided to go traveling around and check out different options, but they started in Europe, with plans to begin on the Atlantic coast and make their way east.

“The first place we started with was Portugal, but we went to the Algarve and really disliked it quite a bit. We went to Lisbon, and that was better, but at the very end of our two-week trip we got on a train and went to Cascais and said, “Wow, this is it!” We had planned to move on and check out other places, but we never did. We just stayed. We rented out our condo back home and eventually took a trip back to get new visas, but we have been here since January of 2011.”

Unless you’re loaded, it’s hard to imagine moving to Western Europe unless you’re working for a big company that’s posting you there on a job transfer.

Portugal is the odd man out though. Even before the recent economic debt crisis, it was a country that was drastically less expensive to travel in than its other euro-using counterparts. Since the crisis started, prices have flatlined for anything not imported. Plus there’s plenty to see and do. Here are some of the best places to visit in Portugal.

Traveling around you’ll find lots of options in this warm coastal country: boutique hotels, timeshare, gourmet restaurants, bars, nightclubs, spas, and lazy beaches.

Reasonable Housing Costs

With the economic crisis in Europe still hitting Portugal hard, it’s a buyer’s market for real estate and a renter’s market for apartments—at least outside the university towns. Many Portuguese people will tell you that €750/$1,000 is a pretty common amount for locals to live on. Sure, several family members will generally pool resources in one home, but still, if you move here as a couple that can bring in $3,000 a month, you’re going to be considered very well-off by local standards.

Julie Dawn Fox had been teaching English as a second language for 12 years, mostly for the British Council. After living in Spain, Tanzania, and Venezuela, she was getting tired of the transient lifestyle and wanted to settle down somewhere in Europe. “I missed the boat on buying a house in the UK; had an opportunity when I was younger but passed on it to go traveling instead,” she says. “While I was gone, prices skyrocketed and there was no way I could afford it. I looked at Portugal and the prices were much more affordable. I knew I could buy a house there on my own. I got a job teaching, but then I met my husband (also English) there. We only pay a couple hundred euros a month for his place. The drawback of that is we need two cars. We’re about 35 kilometers from Coimbra city where we work. We spend €200-250 a month on petrol. It’s usually more than our mortgage”

Julie and her husband regularly put €1,200 a month (around $1,620) from their teachers’ salaries into a joint account and that covers all their expenses. “If you aren’t extravagant, you can live well on a decent wage. Occasionally there’s enough left over for eating out and a bit of travel. We could probably could do it on €1,000 a month if we had to.” They are living in a modest three-bedroom house, but the low mortgage cost definitely helps. “This house would probably be 700 – 800 pounds a month in the UK,” she estimates. “We wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

Gail Aguiar has plenty of places to compare with her new home in northern Portugal. She was born in the Philippines but moved as a toddler with her family to Canada. “I grew up in several regions of Canada, where she spent time in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, and Banff. In between there was time in Australia, the UK, and the semi-rural northeastern U.S. This is it, though,” she says. “I have no plans to move anywhere else unless my Portuguese husband suddenly decides he wants to try expat life for himself, in which case I would join him.”

Alentejo region

Gail lives about 10 miles from the center of Porto and while her husband already owned a place, she says rental for a two-bedroom apartment like she’s in starts at around 400 euros per month ($540). In the center of Porto prices would be similar, but the apartment might be older and smaller.

Prices are similar in Lisbon, where a one-bedroom flat in a prime area can be found for under $600 a month and if you’re willing to expand your zone of possibilities, you could get more space or a lower price.

Buying a place is very reasonable by European standards throughout the country. “In Coimbra, for a reasonable apartment you would pay 150,000 to 200,000 euros for a nice two- or three-bedroom place. In rural areas, it’s easy to find a place that size for 100,000 euros or less,” says Julie. “There are lots of repossessions and bank sales going on right now. Banks sometimes offer 100 percent mortgages on these so you don’t need a big down payment, but restrictions are rather strict. When I was looking into it, they wanted an additional guarantor for the mortgage. They also wanted us to buy life insurance that would cover the amount in case something happened to us.”

Alicia and her husband paid cash for their home from a sale in England and had enough left over for a fixer-upper project on top. They live near the Silver Coast in Central Portugal, half an hour from the ocean and an hour from Lisbon and the airport. “We have a pool and an olive grove, and gorgeous views. We also bought an incredibly cheap village house in Castelo Branco which is a stunning area,” she says. “We get to experience real village life and the neighbors are very friendly. We are renovating the house and its slow going as we don’t live there now but we plan to rent it out for holidays.

Property prices are incredibly low,” she adds. “For the price of a tiny terrace or flat in, for example, The Midlands area of the UK you can get a lovely three-bedroom house with a garden near the coast or a two-bedroom flat a stop or two away from the center of Lisbon. We viewed a three-bedroom flat with a view of the sea for €35,000 just a ten-minute drive away from the city of Lisbon and only a 5 minute walk to the metro.

They don’t have rent or a mortgage since they own the house outright, but Alicia says, “You can get something decent from about €350 a month in Central Portugal and on the Silver Coast.” For their five-bedroom house near Lisbon they pay €890 per annum in property taxes. For the two-bedroom house in the countryside it’s only €100.

Living in Lisbon

Foreigners can own real estate outright in Portugal, but closing costs can be high: figure on 7-8 percent.

Author Alicia Sunday grew up in the Leicestershire countryside in England, moved to London for fifteen years, then to Cambridgeshire for twelve years. “We were attracted to the warmer weather in Portugal and being able to lose the mortgage and buy something with the equity from the house yet have more space and land,” she says. “We also liked the fact we could still afford to be less than an hour away from a fabulous capital city. Since coming here we have also discovered that expats are being encouraged here by lower taxes via the non-habitual residency scheme.

Good Infrastructure, Drinkable Water

This being Western Europe, infrastructure is good as well. “You can usually get broadband or Wi-Fi anywhere so if you can work on the internet then Portugal is a great place to be,” says Alicia. “You can realistically ‘live the dream’ here, be working on your laptop under a palm tree and then a quick dip in the pool in a property that can cost a lot less than 100,000 euros.”

You can drink the water, crime is low, and infrastructure is very good. The World Economic Forum ranks countries by how developed its infrastructure is and Portugal comes in at a very high #14, easing out Japan at #15 and just behind Canada at #13. (The UK, USA, and Australia aren’t in the top-20.)

There’s another place where Portugal is at the top of the list: liberal drug laws. Holland may get all the attention, but Portugal quietly dropped penalties for purchase and possession of any drug and has stuck with it. Despite the conservatives’ fears, crime hasn’t gone up and cities haven’t turned squalid. What’s defined as enough for “personal use?” That would be a 10-day supply. If you want to cut your costs while living in a liberal country with real democracy and no harsh winters, here’s your spot.

This is a good country for families, with a safe climate and good schooling options, at least in the cities. “The main reason why we decided I would move to Portugal was because we want to raise children here,” says Gail. “Portugal is much more child-friendly than Canada.”

Lisbon tram

Transportation Costs

The cost of getting around in Portugal has a lot to do with whether you’re driving a car on the highways or not.

Gail says in Porto a monthly public transit pass for their (outer) zone is €36, with individual trips as needed into the city being €1.50 each. One subway, bus, or tram ride in Lisbon ranges from €1.40 to €2.85, but an all-day unlimited pass is €6 and a whole month is the same as in Porto: €36.

A taxi in Lisbon for two people is officially €2.25 to start, then €1.60 per km. This can vary a lot across the country though. When I was in Evora it was €3.25 to go two blocks, but only €0.80 per km after that.

Bus routes in rural zones are not very frequent, but between the larger towns and cities it’s a different story. The 1.5 hour bus ride from Lisbon to Evora is €12.50 one-way. A 2.5 hour bus ride (Lisbon-Western Algarve towns for example) will run around €20 one-way, while the three-hour one between Lisbon and Porto is €24 to €42 depending on how luxurious it is.

What can really kill your budget in a hurry here though are the tolls on the expressways. “The highway tolls can really have a big impact on the cost of your trip,” says Julie. “Below Lisbon to Algarve, there’s a short stretch of road that’s 20 euros, for example. But it saves loads of time, so people pay it if they can afford it. The good thing is, the motorways are pretty empty when you’re on them because of the high cost.”

“Motorway tolls are a definite minus,” agrees Alicia. “They are far too expensive and thus not well used.”

You need to check the routes you don’t know in advance because you don’t stop at a booth and pay: you get charged automatically via a sticker on your windshield. You could return from a jaunt around the country to find a hefty bill on your account.

Portugal countryside

Health Care

The World Health Organization ranks the effectiveness of care in Portugal at number 12 in the world, well ahead of the United States, England, and Canada. Portugal also has the 10th-highest life expectancy for women in the world, at 84. Pregnant women get 120 days of paid leave at full salary and you won’t get stuck with a hefty bill if an ambulance picks you up at the scene of an accident.

Julie and her husband both have health care through her employer, but says if you’re on the national health scheme, you pay €5 to see the doctor and €10 for emergency care. You pay out of pocket for lab tests and x-rays, but then you can charge them back to insurance and get reimbursed 60 to 80 percent.

In general terms, you will be treated like a local in terms of the health care system. Some costs are free, while others require a token payment. Dental costs are mostly covered by taxes, plus children, pregnant women and pensioners have the right to receive dental care for free.

To choose your own doctor or hospital outside the national health care system, various insurance schemes are available at a reasonable cost. Is Lisbon the care is excellent and if you ask around you’ll easily be able to find an English-speaking doctor. This also applies to tourist zones like the Algarve and larger cities such as Porto. In smaller towns you may just have a local clinic, which is fine for basic problems, but then you’ll likely want to travel to a larger city for surgery or serious tests.

 Visas for Living in Portugal

“For EU residents, the visa situation is quite straightforward,” says Julie. “The most important thing is to be able to prove income, to show that you can support yourself. You need to have ample documentation to show them. Assuming that’s in order, you go to the foreigners service desk and soon you’ll have a residency permit for five years, which you can then renew.”

Evora AlentejoFor those without a local spouse or EU citizenship, it can be much tougher. “Almost all the articles you read about moving to Portugal talk about Brits or other Europeans,” says Susan Korthase. She and her husband spent around $400 in fees to get their residency visa, then another $3,600 for attorney fees. Each time they renew, they have to do it all again, though this last time they got two years instead of one. “There are a set of steps, with very explicit requirements,” she says. “Then you have to overcome the language barrier, which is where the attorney comes in. You quickly forget how painful it was when it’s done, but it was. Start to finish first time was about six months. If we had tried to do it without an attorney it would have taken longer and they treat you differently. You have to accept that bureaucracy will be a lot more complicated than you’re probably used to and people in the offices will be asking for things they don’t really need.” Next year they’ll be at the five-year mark though and can then apply for a five-year residency permit. At that point the big renewal bill they face each year from the attorney will go away.

For new arrivals, it turns out the prevailing assumption that you can only get a three-month visa is not true. Susan and her husband applied for six months at the embassy in Washington, D.C. before they left and after showing the means to support themselves, it was granted easily. In theory anyway, you could return to the USA for a bit and then do it again if you still didn’t have residency sorted out.

Susan writes about living in Portugal for ExpatExchange.com and also does consulting for people considering a move to her adopted country. “I’ve been able to help a few dozen people who are considering Portugal but can’t find a path through the confusing, capacious, and contradictory information about the process, costs, resources, and difficulties. Some of them cross Portugal off the list, opting for a Costa Rica or Belize. But for those of us who seek a first-world, high-culture experience, Portugal is among the most accessible.”

Alicia sums it all up like this: “The health care is good. Foreign investment is going into the area. School fees are reasonable. People are generally friendly and helpful. The scenery is stunning and there is so much beautiful coastline it’s easy to live near the sea and have spectacular views. To know that within half an hour of where we live is the opportunity to go surfing, swimming, sailing, etc. is just wonderful.”


This article is a shortened excerpt from A Better Life for Half the Price. For more in-depth information on Portugal and other countries where you can drastically cut your living expenses, get a copy of the book or sign up for an insiders membership program

  1. Ryan from Jets Like Taxis

    Great excerpt/article, Tim. I never really considered Portugal as a full-time stop because I’m not a fan of the language (haha), but it’s nice to see some expat perspectives here. Maybe I’ll loosen that bias a touch in the future. :)

    • Alan

      We owned a property in the Algarve for several years and couldn’t wait to get out and I’m far from alone! The bureaucracy is a nightmare. If you own a house the cost of water, electricity and council tax etc. etc. is punitive and subject to future big increases as their economy is in dreadful shape.
      Portugal like Spain etc. is run by greedy corrupt officials. You will see police stopping motorists for hardly anything at roundabouts etc…….easy money.
      Ludicrous motorway toll systems causing traffic jams entering from Spain in the summer.
      If you buy a car and then wish to sell it’s the buyers responsibility to change the name, if they don’t then you will be billed for the road tax infinitum.
      A friend of mine asked what advice I’d give him about buying a place in Portugal….easy answer….don’t!
      Portugal is a great place for a holiday with beautiful beaches and wonderful scenery. The people are wonderful and very tolerant considering the misery inflicted upon them by greedy politicians who keep on increasing their taxes.
      If anybody insists that they are still going to go then my advise is to rent for a while and keep your heads under the radar. For as soon as you wave a flag and say here I am be ready for the greed!

      • Ruy

        You just don’t want to admit that there are other countries that is better than yours. Although there are poor people in Portugal, there are no ghettos there. What a loser!

        • ronn

          thank you for some truth-yes, it looks better to rent then to own.

      • Alex Mercedes

        Thanks for the report. Helpful to have some “salt” to balance out the mostly sweet reports.

      • Tom

        Thanks for the candid and honest assessment. Too many of these websites funded by real estate pimpers tend to overlook the negatives. Often for many of these countries that are cheap, there is a reason–or reasons why they are cheap, and I’ve heard other people mention pretty much what you have said.

    • Stanley Goldstein

      Ha! With that attitude, you should stay in Queens!

  2. Anthony

    Eh? What’s wrong with Portuguese?

    Great write-up Tim. If things go as planned, my future children will likely be educated in Portugal.

    It’s nice to know there won’t be a serious price shock between living in say Florianopolis compared to living in Porto or Lisbon.

  3. Lily Lau

    Thanks for the post, Tim. Tomorrow I’m leaving to Portugal, I’ll live between Lisbon and Coimbra and I really needed to have this little helpful guide with me! You saved the day! :)

    • Heather

      How are you liking it Lily? Are you still there? I visit in 36 days and want to buy a plot of land somewhere South of Coimbra or Silver Coast, etc (no snow and not cold!). I’m looking to put a container home on it for future living/retirement.

  4. Richard

    Susan Korthase and her husband made the usual mistake of thinking the coastal concrete and golf was “the Algarve”. We disliked it too, until we explored the Serra da Monchique. Stunningly beautiful; laid back; & unlike the rest of the Algarve, the local council is solvent. – Portugal is run by a bunch of self-serving interconnected families that milk it for all it is worth, and far more.
    The tragedy of the revolution was the failure to purge the system totally. That is the price of having good guys in charge of much needed revolutions. Such a shame, it’s a beautiful land with many good people. Still, we can’t have everything perfect can we? :)

    • Craig

      What a great and insightful comment Richard.

  5. Trevor

    Thanks for an informative and encouraging article. I am considering retiring to Portugal. Please refer me to a company that can assist me with the paper work. Thanks

  6. Crystal

    WOW!!!!!!! How exciting. I am planning a trip to to Portugal and the more I read
    the more excited I am to go. The thought of leaving the winters behind and picking fruit off of trees makes the temptation more desirable. Thanks for the information.

  7. Mike

    Very nice article — as a US expat living in the outskirts of Lisbon, I’d say that most of the information in this piece rings true. There are a couple of points where I would differ, particularly for Americans:

    1. While apartment rentals are indeed extremely affordable, if you’re accustomed to living in a house, don’t expect home rentals to be commensurately cheap. This is especially true if you want to live in the more affluent areas around Lisbon (which for middle-class Americans might seem “middle class” but for Portugal are like living in the 90210 zip code). We pay 1600 a month for our 4-bedroom house in Cascais, but that’s a bargain. Expect to pay 2000-3000 a month.

    2. Real estate for small apartments is cheap, but again, forget finding value in and around Lisbon for purchasing even a 3-bedroom house. Yeah, you can probably buy some shack in the middle of the Alentejo for a bargain, but houses in the neighborhoods and cities that you would expect to live in are agronomical right now. I think this is because of the golden visa: people with houses want to list them at 500,000 euros or more to attract gold visa hunters. It’s a bad scene. I regularly see junky houses on a postage stamp listed for 750,000. If you want real estate value on homes in western Europe, France is the way to go.

    3. It’s true that basic goods and services are really cheap here: food, utilities, healthcare, etc. That’s one of the best part of living in Portugal, especially coming from the US, where you buy “a few things” at the supermarket and end up spending $40 bucks. However, luxury goods (cars, computers, etc.) are quite expensive, thanks to a 23% sales tax applied across the board. Fortunately, as the gap between the dollar and euro narrows, it makes it less painful for Americans transferring dollars, but still.

    4. Don’t expect the convenience and availability of the US: the culture is different here, and it shapes the thinking in things like convenience. This isn’t a country of 24-hour stores, Targets, and drive-throughs. And because the average wage is very low, there is a small middle class, which means that there isn’t hyper-consumerism driving the stocking of shelves in stores. Expect to come here and yearn for things you cannot get. Add to this the fact that anything you order from the US gets slapped with a huge tariff, you can easily find yourself frustrates by lack of access to the things you want and need.

    5. Vacation spots are not kid-friendly: There are endless miles of beachfront resorts in Portugal. But I’d say they are geared toward adults. Lots of boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants, bars, nightclubs, spas, and lazy beaches. It’s not like in the US where there are boardwalks, amusement parks, mini golf courses, movie theaters, arcades, and attractions galore along the coast for kids. Often times, all a hotel will have aid a small jungle gym. Coming from the US, our kids have had to adult to enjoy simpler diversions. Just giving you a heads up on this.

    • Tim Leffel

      Yes Lisbon, like most big cities, is far more expensive than smaller towns and cities in the rest of the country. That’s where most of the country’s money is. I have lots of examples of what expats are paying elsewhere in A Better Life for Half the Price.

      Electronics are more expensive than the USA almost anywhere, with a few notable exceptions in Asia and duty-free zones.

    • Ricardo

      Sorry, but you cannot expect to go to Europe and live by American Standards. Thanks God there is moderate consumption, no 24/7 stores and child-free resorts there.

      • Jesse

        Yes people..if you expect american “standards” or “culture” in other countries…do yourself a favor, and spare the rest of us from all your bitchin’, and just keep your silly butts in your own country. (Bunch of whiny babies)

    • Virginia

      Good points, Mike. As an american living in London and now moving to Portugal I would say you will live well in Portugal if you embrace the Portuguese way of life. Enjoy the cafes, the river beaches, the gardens. Shop in the weekly markets for the freshest food you have ever eaten and you won’t mind that there are no 24hour 7/11’s or Tesco. Live in a smaller house with a big veranda or a tiny apartment in the middle of Porto, get out and listen to Fado, take the kids to the beach, and have a great time talking, laughing and eating great food. Enjoy life.

      • Marta

        VIrginia! Thanks <3

      • Alex Mercedes

        Thanks! I’ve lived my life as a “struggling artist” in the U.S. so the discussions of mortgages and 24/7 convenience stores don’t apply. Your review is very helpful for someone with my values and income.

      • Heather

        Thanks Virginia! I’m traveling to Lisbon and Albufeira in 36 days and plan to drive around in search of a plot of land for a container home for future living/retirement (that I buy now). I am NOT interested in winter/cold or very wet. Looking for any suggestions of good towns/areas that you might or anyone else might have. I’m looking at a nice plot that is about 35 minutes South of Coimbra, unsure on the weather there (seems ok, dryer and less cold than Coimbra), Silver Coast and outside of Lisbon and Central Areas, all of interest and Algarve, if it’s not touristy and inexpensive ($25k or less).

  8. Alex

    When I read ‘ if you move here as a couple that can bring in $3,000 a month, you’re going to be considered very well-off by local standards.’ I really wanted to stop reading.

    I think almost everywhere in Western countries except those super expensive places like NY, Paris,… $3,000 a month can be considered very well-off by local standards.

    • Tim Leffel

      Alex, that’s way below the median income in the USA, Canada, and most of Europe. Then you can throw in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, many Middle Eastern countries. You’re not well off and it takes some serious frugality to get by on that in a developed country. If it’s easy for you, more power to you. But most struggle to make it work.

      • Alex

        Have a look at this ‘Median household income’
        I live in Canada, take it as an example:
        41,280, after 20% tax (after basic tax-free amount), it would be around 36,000, this would be exactly 3000 a month.
        Please note it is, as you said, ‘median’. I know many families are way below that.
        What I mean is people come here to look for info about ‘cheap’, $3,000 a month defo not cheap.

        • Michael

          Alex, you are totally correct in your explanation regarding $3000 per month. I am surprised Tim cannot simply agree instead of trying to prove he is correct but yet he is clearly wrong.

          • Tim Leffel

            My answers are based on solid research and expat interviews, not on anecdotal opinion from a single experience. Believe what you want—I’ve got no stake in whether anyone moves to Portugal or not.

        • Jeremy B

          In the book he puts Portugal at the very top of the scale for what you need and has $1,000 per month places in there aplenty if you want really. cheap. Portugal is priced for people who aren’t broke. It’s developed Europe—what do you expect? For you the place may not be cheap, bot for someone living in London or New York, it’s a fantastic value–even in Lisbon. People featured in the book say they have a much higher standard of living than where they came from. That’s the ponit of it all. For me $3,000 a month for my family expenses would be very cheap. And I don’t feel like my income is above average where I live in teh states.

    • Alex Mercedes

      Thanks. Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks $3000 a month is a lot of money in any country.

  9. Sanne

    My fiancée and I are considering relocating to Europe, we were thinking Spain, but maybe Portugal is better? Any advice?

  10. carol joyce

    I am a divorced woman, recently retired – 60 years of age, who is considering the Cascais region of Portugal to live. I love the ocean, the small town feel of Cascais and the proximity to Lisbon. I am now living in New York.

    My net income is $3,600 a month. Do you think that is enough to rent an apartment, live comfortably and put a little away each month for savings?

    I have never been to Portugal and don’t know anyone who lives there, but I’m very outgoing and make friends easily.

    Thank you for any replies. Carol Joyce

    • Tim Leffel

      I think you would live very well on that. Start following local expat blogs and message boards and you’ll get a better idea of prices. Start with the Portugal chapter and resources in A Better Life for Half the Price if you have

      • Jeannen-Michelle Pridgeon

        Thank you Tim I appreciate all of the good information. I’ve always wanted to visit Portugal and possibly live there.

    • Pawan

      I will help you here without get any fees. I love go help people newer person. I’m in Lisbon now. Please contact me on: pagr0001@gmail.com

    • Pawan

      I will help you here without get any fees. I love to help people newer person. I’m in Lisbon now. Please contact me on: pagr0001@gmail.com

    • Pawan

      I will help you here without get any fees. I like to help newer person who don’t know anyone here . I’m in Lisbon now. Please contact me on:

    • Teresa Gonçalves

      Hi, I’m in MAP real estate agency established in Cascais. Please contact us if you need any help! teresa.goncalves@mapcascais.com

      • Heather

        Do you have any plots of land for $25k or less that would work for a container home? I will be in town in 36 days.

    • wilish macwan

      HI Carol
      This is wilish macwan
      Please send reply we will talk more

    • Lisa Craycraft

      Hello, Carol Joyce,
      Like you, I am a single woman, 62 with retirement income of around $3600 per month. Last October I visited the Estoril and Cascais area. I too, am considering retiring in the Cascais area of Portugal. I see that it has been a year since you posted your interest and am wondering what you have learned and whether you have made a trip there as well. I am currently still living and working in Massachusetts with plans to retire in a year or sooner if I find the right opportunity. My son and his wife live in Brooklyn, NY.
      I look forward to learning about your experience.
      Warm regards,
      Lisa C

  11. Dr. Smith

    I lived in Lisbon for two years, returning to the States this June. I’m a radiologist and worked remotely, doing some clinical work and some consulting while finishing up a long-overdue medical textbook edit.

    I found Lisbon to be beautiful, friendly, safe, inexpensive, and very authentic.

    The language is difficult, even for a fluent speaker of Spanish.

    I would say that you can live nicely on $3,000/month if you don’t plan on traveling extensively throughout the rest of Western Europe.

    …and it isn’t the Portugal (or the rest of the world) is not “kid friendly” by any means..Portugal in NORMAL. The United States just panders to children and ruins experiences for everyone else with the sprawl and inauthenticity. See also: Disney World

    • Howard Ballard

      Thank you Dr. Smith. I couldn’t have said It better myself.

  12. Darla Mathis

    Great article! Quite informative and helpful. I’ve been in Portugal three times on business trips and I love everything about this country and it’s culture. I’m considering moving to Europe, especially ti Portugal to live and work there and your post gives me great basic guidelines to follow while planning. Thank you for sharing!

  13. leslie reichlin

    This is very helpful information. I am spending Jan-Feb-March 2016 in Portugal. I speak (Brazilian) Portuguese already. I am looking for a teeny little fishing village that is not a ‘tourist’ type of town, where I can live with the locals…… Any suggestions???

    • Gringo

      espinho :-)

    • Jean


    • Julia

      Figuiera da Foz 20 minutes east of Coimbra

      • Heather

        How cold/snow/wintry and rainy is it in Figuiera da Foz?

  14. Kara Curry

    Very interesting article. I am interested in Portugal because I am planning to move with my family there. I am afraid that Europe`s crisis still affect on Portugal. I hope it ends soon because this is a gorgeous country. Greetings!

  15. Maurini

    @ Alan
    What is your comparison point for the utilities price in Portugal ?
    I live in Brussels with a foot in Lisbon and Algarve every second month, and price for water for instance is below 1eur for 1 m3 while in Brussels is around 3,30 euros. More precision is needed. I agree that first you rent, you decide latter what to do. Motorways are indeed expensive like in France for instance at 0,10 cents for Km, but you drive very safe and fast if you need it. if not you have nacional roads for free.

    • Tim Leffel

      Most blog and book readers are U.S., British, and Canadian so those countries are the point of comparison.

  16. Al Green

    We have recently purchased a nice house in Madeira, we are both Brits, have lived in Australia, Queensland. But Madeira suits retirees, Funchal the capital is great.
    Standard of living is second to none, people are friendly most folk in Funchal speak English. Property prices are a tad more than Algarve but the property and lifestyle is so much better.
    Approx three hours from UK, the whole of Europe on your doorstep.
    If you like peace, sensible living costs, all year round sunny warm climate, good infrastructure, free motorways, this is the place to live.

    • Tim Leffel

      Thanks for the feedback on your experience Al. Enjoy the sun!

    • Gene Amdahl

      Madeira is a boring place – virtually no sand beaches – steep hills – without a car ur lost. In a couple of days u have seen it all.

  17. Sandrine

    Hi everyone,
    Before deciding to move to Lisbon I read a lot of posts. Good and bad. Especially about the bureaucracy. Being worried, I searched for help. And help I found. This great lady helps us foreigners settle in Portugal, anywhere in Portugal. She doesn’t just take our money and takes care of things, she actually takes us along to take care of everything. In my case, I prefer. This way I know what my money is worth. She found me an apartment with the most beautiful view, and took me everywhere for the remaining paper work. I felt like a local with her. She is from Lisbon and speaks all the languages, from English to Dutch, French to German and spanish. She knows her country and know how to get things done. If you need help, I recommend. Here her website http://www.lisbon-living.com Good luck to everyone.

    • Alma

      Hi Sandrine,
      My husband and I are planning on eventually moving to Portugal as well. How much does this person from Lisbon Living charge?

  18. Richelle

    All good info. My husband has a house by Ansiao, paid for. So we won’t have a mortgage. We plan to have a large vegetable garden & we have nut trees & fruit trees already. So much of our food we will grow along with chickens & maybe a goat for milk. I’m trying to get an estimate how much our monthly expense will be. We might do some work, hopefully I can teach yoga so basically we don’t have much income besides our rental property in Canada.
    Can anyone help with what our monthly costs would be.

  19. leslie r

    we are in the final decision stage before moving, porto being top of the list. planned few years in bali but we’d have to ditch our lovely dog and that wasnt going to happen. will state my bias – i love portugal despite obv drawbacks

    as a point of comparison, my son and i spent the past 3.5 years in canada (toronto/ vancouver), munich and now the hague. in each case the cost of living (talking basic here) was stupifying. hague – i spend 4200 euro+/pcm just to rent, eat and send son to the local (subsidised) international school. travel/ holidays have been minimal otherwise this would push signif higher. munich – moderately cheaper/ higher standard of living but the experience for my 11 yr old son was horrific – neither of us had a good time despite my having lived there as a child and having been happy/ defending the germans my whole life (: . gods know what will happen after events of this year. canada – living expensive but education free. while living in vancouver we had little choice but to spend significant time in bellingham (food shopping, kids movies, decent restaurants, cheerful pleasant people) and seattle (sadly a bigger mess with passage of time). in all 4 places the education standard fell below what would be expected a a reasonable british state school.

    in 49 years of living in diff developed countries i find the dutch to be the biggest !%&ß to date – despite myriad rosy media write-ups about how wonderful it all is. like every newbie/ former newb our time here has been mired in bureaucracy and bad behaviour. i conclude there is good reason the dutch are ‘overgoverned’, even if law stares them in the face the dutch will have a go… depressing mayhem at best but i guess expected in a culture born of piracy. dont get me started on the weather/ leaving for school at 7.15 when there isnt any light until 9+ and a total disconnection with nature. having lived in new zealand and england/ london thought i’d seen /experienced some real crap but it was only practice for bigger!!! am getting old, always picky but honestly – the standard of living in all 3 countries was a poor exchange for the cost. healthcare in canada and neth poor, german better if you are patient, healthy and dont mind paying 1000+/ pcm for your private medical insurance (healthy fam of 4 = 1500+). the effort put into achieving basics was unexpected and silly – again, if time was cheap ok, but at this cost of living? really?

    in hindsight would have helped if i had a job with a large, reputable employer (am self employed) and was male. found it difficult to adapt to euro misog after living/ operating business in new world countries where equality is closer to the norm. have heard from other women/ agree that being a single, self employed woman in eu is like having a LED dollar sign target on your back and we all agree its pretty tiring and gets old fast.

    because the economy is such a mess and i am so drawn to the place i have intentionally only visited portugal in poor weather/ off season. ironically their poor weather beat vancouver and netherlands hands down and i found the place far more livable than the others.

    the whole global thing is a bit of a mess, there is no perfection and much compromise everywhere but europe has created its own brand of misery – dont see any legit intention of pulling out of the downward spiral either. canada, nz and england as well. portugal is the only country i feel positive about – well scotland too but the weather ): after the hague i cannae do it – there is an understanding they need to change and they are making an effort. in canada, germany and netherlands – meh

    we return to (wintery) porto in 2 weeks to visit school etc and do it with nervous hesitation – hesitation i would have done well to embrace germany and netherlands with. the killer in all this moving shit is buying the bull fed to you in media and failing to be critical/ ask the UGLY questions people dont want to answer. anything that looks good probably isnt… note that everyone wants your cash but the place you want to be is the one you feel appreciated/ welcome in as well. carefully listen to what newbs say about integrating…

    • Peter

      I am also living in the hague with my fiancee. We rent for 550/ month for a nice 3 bedroom appt in Mariahoeve, we have a small car and 2 good bikes. With groceries, health insurance, care for our pets and lots of daytrips we live on 1500/ month: 750 each. So what are u on about with your 4200 for basic living? Seems someone did a number on you.

      Furthermore, the daylightsituation you describe is only in high winter, between november and february. Now in april it’s light between 7.15 and 20.30. In high summer, days go from 5-22.30.

      If u have so much difficulty living in all those different places, maybe it’s time that you look at yourself and your perspective. Because otherwise I have the feeling that in 2 years you will be writing something like this about portugal (also a nation of pirates, btw ;)

      • leslie

        ah peter. comments from the childless (: . isnt life nice? do get back to us when you have a significant constraint on your mobility, like schooling or a non-student lifestyle that doesnt allow you to bike in the rain & requires living centrally. your life is very cheap, say that, but mh is suburban? and even for that area 550 is rather good so well done. and climate is better in mh – who knew? know many people who live on more than we did – expat salaries dont help the rest of us – but i wouldnt refer to their lifestyle as excessive. the dutch qualify for subsidised housing if they earn less than 39,000. emphasis on DUTCH.

        yes portugal has issues – the ”Portugal is run by a bunch of self-serving interconnected families that milk it for all it is worth, and far more” being an apt observation and not the only one. it is not a cheap destination if you are, again, tied to english schooling and unable to do up a ruin in the country. at this time there are 10 sale properties for every rental – with many phantom rental listings – so rental market is partic disastrous. i pay upwards of 1900/pcm for 2 people to live a 25 min walk from school (no applicable transit and that i had to get permission for kid to walk to school says it all). owner wanted 2500 which is at present the going rate for a basic house/ largish apartment ‘near’ applicable schools. porto is in less than a year similar $$$ to lovely cascais outside lisbon. wtf??? yet many kind, hard working portugese are wildly underpaid (esp as airbnb/ holiday rentals have effectively cleared central cities of affordable housing adding significant commutes/ costs to work). in my average neighbourhood i see smocked grannies on 500/pcm taking rubbish to central bins at 20.00 looking positively knackered – in the eu? if you are retired on decent money and want 100sqm rental in foz with a cleaner 2 days per week and excellent private healthcare i would def have a look at porto/ cascais – but dont expect it to be ‘cheap’

        if/ when we move again it wont be to an eu country or migrant hot spot – its been interesting but can i say its ‘different’? even outside the eu globalisation has a lot to answer for – much of living abroad being the new macdonalds. my kids learned languages, lived in ‘diff’ places/ arent tied to a spec cosy village – things that are important to me – but its also possible we could have managed the same living in penzance with a good au pair (: . so, in closing, careful what you wish for… and keep in mind that at this time places/ circumstances are changing at epic pace and info isnt always reliable. oh, and if you can, move with a job…

        • rilme

          Loved your rant, Leslie. U krak me up! Hope it all works out for you.

  20. venessa

    I will be moving to Portugal, preferably Lisbon in a couple of year’s time for my daughter to study languages at UNI. Is it better to buy or rent an apartment. In Lisbon or surrounding areas ( I like Cascais/Estoril)

    What is the travelling like? she will be studying at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

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  22. Jack Brouwer


    I have a list of questions I would like to ask you but I’d prefer to do it by email. Could you send me an email on jack-brouwer@live.com ?

    Thanks in advance.

    Kind regards,

    • Pedro Martins

      Hi Jack,

      Available for any help you made need.
      Send me a email if you need some help.
      Kind regards,

  23. Mark

    Does anyone have experience of moving to Portugal and exercising EU family rights to obtain the five-year residency card for a non-EU spouse? I have done this in Spain and it was relatively straightforward however I have heard other member states can be difficult. There, in Andalucia, they only required my local registration (I’m British), a certificate of lodging, and the legally translated proof of our marriage. No earnings requirements.

    • Pedro Martins

      Hi Mark,

      Available for any help you made need.
      Send me a email if you need some help.
      Kind regards,

    • Mya

      Mark, did you ever get an answer to the question of 5 year residency for non-EU spouse? Thanks.

  24. Helen

    What are the rules around having a Portuguese relative and being able to settle in the country. I am from Australia so not part of the EU and my great great grandmother (fathers side) came from Portugal and married into a British family which I believe is quite common as the Portuguese traveled widely.

    • Pedro Martins

      Hi Helen,

      Available for any help you made need.
      Send me a email if you need some help.
      Kind regards,

  25. Dennis

    I find this article very informative and I have lived in Porto before. I do have dual citizen and find it hard to get the info. I need. Now I am planning on making the permanent move from Canada to (hopefully) Lisbon. My problem is where do I go to find listings of apartments. Internet is more setup for foreigners who don’t care how much it costs. Talking to the locals is kind of funny since they figure those that go over come from the land of gold and very well off. So if you can help me figure out how I can go about finding a place that would be great.

    • Tim Leffel

      Just because they think you’re loaded doesn’t mean you have to pay what they want. Negotiation is a key part of life in most parts of the world and if you’re not good at it, find a local helper. There are certainly hundreds of other expats there to get advice and connections from too. Trying to do it all passively over the internet is usually not a good solution. Get feet on the ground and start talking to people.

    • Pedro Martins

      Hi Dennis,
      Available for any help you made need.
      Send me a email if you need some help.
      Kind regards,

  26. Roy

    I come from San Francisco, CA where the rents are very high so the rents in Portugal seem low. However, I have been living in Alicante, Spain. Compared to my current rent the rent in Portugal is high. I would like to find a 2 or three bedroom 1.5 – 2 bath apartment for 500 -600 euros in either Lisbon or Porto. Is that reasonable? Are there any other large cities besides those two with populations in the 200,000 – 400,000 range?


    re .

    • Pedro Martins

      Hi Roy,

      Available for any help you made need.
      Send me a email if you need some help.
      Braga can be a option.
      Kind regards,

  27. JD Long

    Hi All,

    Like many of you, I worked a bit and now have a ridiculously high pension to blow on myself in my old age. That, plus the alimony payments, and my sizeable inheritance (pick your parents well!), and the fact that I got lucky in the real estate market and the house I inherited rose in price astronomically though I did nothing!

    Anyway, I’d like to live in a nice Lisbon apartment and drink lots of good wine and eat chorizo and cheese until I pop. Do you think a budget of USD 8,000 per month will suffice?

    Many thanks.

    • Tim Leffel

      Yes after the near-unlimited wine and cheese budget, you’ll have at least $7,500 for the rest of your living expenses. You’ll feel like a Portuguese king!

    • Alma

      We should be friends.

    • Julia

      I have a house in Northern Portugal which is rather large. Perhaps you might email me jacarrico77@gmail.com

    • Pedro Martins

      Hi Long,

      Available for any help you made need.
      Send me a email if you need some help.
      Kind regards, 8000 euros in Portugal you would be a King for sure.

  28. Sanjay Thakur

    Very Informative.

  29. James

    Can you discuss the cost of living in Lisbon vs. Porto, Braga, and other northern cities? We don’t like hot weather which is why we are looking to the north

    • Pedro Martins

      Available for any doubt.
      I live near Porto and im from Braga,
      Send me a email.

  30. Leo

    I am Portuguese,
    moved to London 4 years ago.
    used to work as hotel Receptionist,earning 900 euros per month
    could live a good life even paying 320 euros rent for one bedroom flat at the Algarve
    had a car,diesel,and was single,used to travel twice a year.
    since I am in London even with an high wage,life it is much diferent and dificult
    much more expensive and the weather doesn t help.
    So ,for anyone who wants to life the life ,dont esitate to move to Portugal or Spain
    just stay outside big cities or Touristic place and you will have a wonderful life.


  31. Anthony

    Hi, I enjoyed the article and especially all the comments. Very informative. I am in the early phases of exploring living and working outside the US for my wife and I. I have always been self employed, mainly in custom furniture and cabinetry. Also have lot’s of design and remodel experience. Although my goal would be not to do (outside of personal projects) remodeling for work. But I am a good designer for interior layout work etc. and can do any most cabinetry involved whether residential or commercial project.

    What I am seeking to find out is, is there any demand for these services? Also what is involved to be self employed and is there light industry/home workshop space availability? There is an outside chance that I could get dual citizen ship (US/Italy) which would seem to make things logistically easier having EU.

    Thanks in advance for any input and advice.



  32. John

    Hi all. I’ve been offered a job half an hours drive north of porto. It pays €1570 x 14 after tax. I have a wife and baby. She wonr be working. What do you think I could expect my standard of living to be? Just about paying bills or could we be saving money? We would like a 2-3 bedroom place to rent.

    • Pedro Martins

      Hi John,
      If it´s outside of Porto you can expect a normal way of living.
      500 euros for a flat and the rest you can manage. You are not going to be the more cich guy here but you can handle.
      If you need some help i live near Porto.
      Send me a email.

      • Ian

        I’m from the uk, I have bought a house in Portugal for retirement. I have a non EU wife. I could really do with some help figuring how to get her into portugal. Some one on the ground would be ideal.
        Could you assist? I’m open to striking a fair deal. Regards

  33. Kevin crook

    Hi, I’m a Brit who is looking to escape to the country!
    I have no problem living it rough for a while… I’ve been looking at small holdings / farms in fundao near caste lo Branco , I have only a very small budget 10 -15 k £ .
    I’d like to buy a plot of land that I can come back to in the future, and maybe put a small dwelling on.
    Is this buy now live later idea feasible?
    I understand that farm land / smallholder plot of say an acre would be liable for some kind of tax?
    I’m happy to camp out under the stars , just to get away from it all!

    • Pedro Martins

      Dear Kevin,

      First of all, I am here to talk to you about my company, PÉ DIREITO – Management | Reconstruction | Construction.
      It is a young, personal and “out of the box” company. We want to give our clients what they seek and in the end a Reconstruction/Construction with the highest quality possible on the budget defined in the beginning.

      My Grandmother it´s from that region.
      We help people get the very best out of your new home in Portugal.

      Whether it is an old house that the client want to refurbish or a new home which want to construct. We help to make the most of any property project with our professional, design, construction, project management and maintenance services.
      Professionally managed services with full accountability ensure that the client get what he wants. On time and to budget. We work only with experienced and licensed tradesmen, architects and engineers to deliver exceptional results.

      Our services:
      • Reconstruction of Houses, Apartments and Buildings;
      • Interior and exterior remodeling;
      • Correction of various pathologies;
      • Turnkey solutions;
      • Permitting, Inspection and Coordination of Works;
      • Architecture and Engineering Projects;
      • Procurement, Purchase and Sale of real estate;
      You can count on our full support to assist you in all costing / budgeting processes and final project execution.
      I´ll wait for your reply
      Pedro Martins

  34. Francis(co)

    Hello, all–

    My wife and I spent four years in Porto, returning to the US five years ago. While I appreciate most of the article, I am confused by the part about the high attorney fees paid by Susan Korthase for getting her legal residency.

    The first time I applied, shortly after arriving, I had the assistance of a Portuguese friend– I think I bought her coffee in exchange, which was a lot less than $3600 in legal fees. The following times, I just went in and handled it myself. Ms. Korthase said that she hired the lawyer because of the language difficulty. Granted, I arrived in Portugal already speaking some Portuguese, but still! Over the first year in country, it should be easily possible for an American to learn enough Portuguese to fill out the forms, and certainly over two, three, or four years!

    It sounds to me as though she was being taken advantage of by the attorney. No one should be charged that kind of money to fill out a form and hand it in.

    Portuguese can be a difficult language for English speakers to learn to converse in, as some of the sounds are quite dissimular to English. However, the instructions for filling out each box on the form are printed out, and reading Portuguese is not as difficult as speaking or understanding the spoken word.

    Do you know all those lawyer jokes that were so popular a few years ago? Well, apparently they translate pretty easily into Portuguese, too!

  35. Christine

    And with google translate everything is simple. The lawyers use it too!

  36. Cheryl Leighton

    Hi, I am a nurse in northerm California and want to consider moving to Portugal. I am 62 and have a small retirement since I became an RN in later life. I like a simple life, want to live in a small ocean town in the north of Portugal near a larger town to visit. I have a small retirement of $1100.US dollars per month. I need a small but nice apt. only Any suggestions?

    • Pedro Martins

      Hi Cheryl Leighton
      My name is Pedro Martins and i have a Construction/Reconstruction company in the North of Portugal.
      I can help you if you need. I live in a small city near Porto, Esposende, a seaside city.
      You can reach me on my email:

  37. Daniela Novotná

    Thank you for the article, unfortunately in 2017 this might not hold such value as it did in 2014. I have a bachelor degree and 5 years experience in the field with 750 euros a month, to buy a small apartment in Lisbon will put you to 350,000 euros. My husband and I with combined salary do not cross 1,500 euros a month. It might seem that getting over 3k as a couple is easy but not nowadays even in Lisbon.

    • Tim Leffel

      I’m hearing from expats outside of Lisbon that it’s a better deal than ever for those spending dollars instead of euros. Of course though purchasing property in a major European capital city is going to be expensive almost any time you look.

      • Donna

        Tim, I appreciate the effort you have put into your articles, great info.

  38. Donna

    I’m a non-eu, and a US citizen. I have limited funds, I’m concerned with getting a visa from San Francisco consulate. I sent a message with a question about financial means. I told them what I earn per Social Security each month and the amount of my small savings. The reply I received was the amount should be sufficient, however, they are not the ones to make decisions.
    Anyone here have success through San Francisco consulate?
    I’ll be sharing an apartment or house with my sister.
    I’m 66 and retired with guaranteed Social Security.

  39. PG

    Portugal is a resonably cheap place to live , but cars are expensive by European standards due to an illegal tax added by the government to all car imports . Also it is very difficult to get quality material and a choice in many domains . Getting health care if you do not go private is very slow . Outside major towns and cities , there are less and less facilities and shops , the biggest shops being Chinese ones selling cheap goods ( not good quality) , motorways are expensive . Most Portuguese houses are badly insulated , and badly ventilated .

  40. stuffy

    ALENTEJO is the best area!!!

    • Heather

      How cold and wet does it get? I’d love to know more, going in 36 days and looking for land in a village or close by, with a larger city within 45 minutes without SNOW AND COLD/TOO WET. :) I live in Phoenix now! (too hot)

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