For the past several years, Portugal has welcomed a growing number of Americans who want to live in this stunning European country, perched on the Iberian Peninsula. Drawn by the comparatively low cost of living and some attractive tax benefits, many Americans are now living in Portugal and find it the perfect place to settle down.
With progressive legislation, excellent healthcare and education, and being one of the safest countries in the world, Portugal has rightly become one of the most popular countries for Americans seeking a new life. Once you enter Portugal, you’ll quickly get to grips with the slow pace of life. It’s easy to see the appeal, as with charming historic Portuguese cities, beautiful landscapes, and a mild climate, there is something to suit every taste.
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
- Why are Americans living in Portugal?
- Where can you find Americans living in Portugal?
- The best places to live in Portugal as an American expat
- The cost of living in Portugal
- Practical information on moving to Portugal
- Taxes for American expats in Portugal
- Americans retiring in Portugal
- American families moving to Portugal
- Portugal visa types for Americans
- The American Embassy in Portugal
- How can I move to Portugal?
- Plus much more!
Why are Americans living in Portugal?
The benefits of living in Portugal go beyond purely financial reasons. Portugal’s mild climate – with more than 300 days of sunshine per year – ranks among the top reasons Americans decide to move to the country. Some Americans also opt to retire in Portugal since the pace of life and affordable living costs are big draws.
Add in beautiful beaches, welcoming locals, and the fact that English is widely spoken, and Portugal becomes an ideal place to watch the sunset well into your golden years.
Portugal ranks in 7th position in the 2021 Education First English Proficiency Index. While English is not an official language in Portugal, the proficiency is so good that Portugal ranked higher than South Africa, a country where English is an official language. Yes, people in Portugal speak English very well indeed, and you will not face any language barrier unless you are in the more remote parts of the country or speaking with older generations.
Indeed, Portugal is becoming increasingly popular with Americans, providing them with a high-quality life in a historic and cultural European country.
The country’s stunning coastline, summer sun, and up-and-coming tech scene are also drawing strong comparisons with California. For example, Websummit, the largest tech festival in the world, relocated to Lisbon in 2016, and the abundance of startups and tech companies can be seen across the country. Digital nomads and young professionals from across the world are dialing into the fact that Portugal holds a lot of cards regarding advantageous entrepreneurial benefits.
Where can you find Americans living in Portugal?
American expats tend to live mainly in the more urban areas of Portugal. The main reasons are access to transportation, ease of doing business, and opportunities for education, work, and Portuguese culture.
Americans enjoy the cities across Portugal. The Algarve Coast is also proving to be a popular place with Americans, those that are looking for a slice of the never-ending sun in the south of the country. Here are four popular choices for Americans living in Portugal.
Note that these are just some of the places where expats live in mainland Portugal. Other beautiful areas include the Silver Coast and the stunning autonomous islands of Madiera and the Azores.
Lisbon is located in the center of Portugal, filled with youthful energy and urban sophistication. The capital city is always welcoming to Americans, whether they’re looking to study, work, or live in Lisbon. The Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge is sure to remind you of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Franciso.
While the cost of living – particularly real estate – is more expensive in Lisbon than in other parts of Portugal, it’s affordable compared to any urban center in the US.
Every neighborhood in Lisbon has pros and cons, depending on your tastes and priorities, but some of our favorite areas include Baixa, Belém, and Campo de Ourique.
You can see our article on Where to Buy Property in Lisbon for more information on the different neighborhoods.
A quick 30-minute drive from the Lisbon airport, the former fishing village of Cascais retains a sophisticated charm, with less hustle and bustle than Lisbon. Its traditional architecture, beaches, good restaurants, and nine nearby golf courses make it an easy choice for Americans relocating to Portugal.
Porto is a gem in the northern region of Portugal, famous for its Port wine. The Portuguese city is simply gorgeous and is well-located for you to enjoy just about any activity. Many say Porto feels more “authentic” than Lisbon and gives you a peek at a more traditional side of Portugal.
One downside to retiring in Porto, however, might be the weather. It’s prone to gloom and clouds and has cooler, wetter winters than areas to the south. But it makes up for the rain with an atmospheric moodiness, perfect for lively conversations in a local taverna or a cozy evening sharing a bottle of Portuguese wine.
The golden coast of Portugal’s Algarve is a great spot if you’re dreaming of life by the sea. With beautiful, long stretches of unspoiled beach, the Algarve region is hugely popular with British visitors – and is being discovered more and more by Americans.
Along the Algarve Coast, you’ll find stunning scenery, pristine beaches, and excellent food. Vilamoura, in the Central Algarve, is especially popular with expats. Built as a resort town, it offers a 1,000-berth marina, a golf course, luxury hotels, beach clubs, and even a casino. For avid travelers, Vilamoura’s proximity to the Faro airport is another win.
Albufeira is a short half-hour drive from the Faro airport. But its charm is the real draw: cobblestone streets lined with restaurants, plenty of amenities, and a marina. Albufeira can suit just about any budget. It’s also popular with part-time residents, hosting snowbirds in winter and vacationing families in summer.
Why do Americans live in Portugal?
As mentioned, living in Portugal has a wide array of advantages – a sublime climate, the stunning Atlantic Ocean, unique landscapes, a high quality of life, and a relatively low cost of living. Education and healthcare are excellent and foreign residents can take advantage of significant tax advantages. In this part of our article, we’ll delve into why Americans live in Portugal.
Affordable cost of living
Although the cost of living in Portugal has climbed over the last few years, especially in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve, it’s still affordable compared to the US. We’ll provide you with some further information in the following section.
Friendly, welcoming people
In general, the people in Portugal are warm, welcoming, and helpful. This is very important to new expats trying to figure out the Portuguese language, the bureaucracy, or even where to find a grocery store. A little friendliness on your side will always be greeted with the same. Plus, if you speak Portuguese, even if it is a simple “Obrigado” or “Obrigada” (thank you), this is sure to be warmly appreciated by your Portuguese neighbors. As mentioned before, the Portuguese speak a very good level of English, so you’ll be able to converse with the local Portuguese people easily enough without any language barrier.
Good quality of life
Portugal is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. Violent crime rates are very low; pickpockets are probably the most common problem, and they’re mainly in areas popular with tourists. The Global Peace Index 2022 names Portugal as the 6th safest country in the world, after Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria.
Another major benefit is the mild winters, with temperatures rarely dropping below freezing anywhere in the country. The only area that sees any snow at all is the Serra da Estrela range up north. Summers are warm to hot, dry, and sunny. Alongside the sublime beaches, you’ll also find many national parks where you can enjoy incredible fauna and flora, natural beauty, and spectacular views.
Sports are also massive in Portugal, and it’s possible to try your hand at many different activities. From watersports, golf, yoga, football, and tennis, the list goes on. The Portuguese love to be outside, and you’ll find that you can easily get involved in different sports clubs in the country, another great way to meet fellow expats. If you have not tried any watersports before, then Portugal is the place to start, with a huge coastline. Portugal is a top surfing destination, with waves attracting surfers from around the world and several international competitions where you can see the top surfers in the world test their skills on a board.
A happy and healthy population
Thanks to a robust healthcare system that combines private care with the public system, anyone who is a resident of Portugal can access the medical care they need. Coming from the US, you’ll probably be surprised at healthcare costs in Portugal, as compared to America, which is very affordable – even if you were to pay entirely out of pocket.
While public healthcare is excellent, and you’ll only need to pay an additional cost for specific procedures, there are also many private clinics up and down the country. Private healthcare, in general, allows you to make appointments faster, and where you won’t face long waiting lines.
You can also have international health insurance or private medical insurance, should you so desire.
Cost of Living in Portugal
Americans will be pleased to know that the cost of living in Portugal is relatively affordable, one of the key reasons why many expats are flocking to the county.
Portugal ranks in 12th position in Global Citizen Solutions pioneering Quality of Life Index, part of our innovative way to uncover the true value of a passport. This index factors in the cost of living, alongside the Sustainable Development Goals, levels of freedom, happiness levels, migrant acceptance, and environmental performance.
Living in Portugal as an expat, you’ll be able to enjoy a high quality of life that is also very affordable. While prices in Lisbon are increasing, it remains one of the cheapest capitals in western Europe.
The cost of living will depend largely on your lifestyle choices, so bear this in mind and take the following with a pinch of salt. According to Numbeo, in Lisbon, a family of four estimated monthly cost is €2,266 without rent, and a single person’s estimated monthly costs are €640 without rent.
In this section, we’ll delve into what you can expect from rental and housing costs, eating out and daily essentials, and transportation costs. For further information, you can consult our article on the cost of living in Portugal, which also contains links to our collection of cost-of-living articles in Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Faro, and Coimbra.
Rental and property prices in Lisbon
Rental and property prices in Portugal are generally much lower than in the United States. Here, we’ve provided some examples of rental and property prices in Lisbon.
Rental property prices in Lisbon are as follows, according to data from Numbeo:
- A one-bedroom apartment in the city center – €1,171
- A three-bedroom apartment in the city center – €2,040
- A one-bedroom apartment outside the city center – €772
- A three-bedroom apartment outside the city center – €1,254
If you are looking to purchase property in Portugal, then this could be an excellent option, as real estate in the country is a very good investment in the long term, as opposed to renting a property.
When it comes to buying property, the following are averages for Lisbon:
- Price per square meter to buy an apartment in the city center – €5,483
- Price per square meter to buy an apartment outside the city center – €2,988
Within Lisbon, you will also find a wide range in prices, as some neighborhoods are deemed more desirable and will therefore come with a higher price tag.
Lisbon has its own price range, and in other parts of the country, you’ll be able to find property at much cheaper rates.
If you are looking to buy property in Portugal, our real estate division, Goldcrest, has recently launched their new book, Your Expert Guide to Buying Property in Portugal, which includes a step-by-step guide to buying property in Portugal, information on financing your property, and where to buy in Portugal.
Daily essentials and eating out
Compared to the US, it is very cheap to eat out in restaurants, and daily essentials and reasonably priced. You should also know that the quality of the produce is also very good. Given the long coastline, fresh fish and seafood feature heavily in the Portuguese diet, although you’ll find excellent meat. Portuguese olive oil is a staple, as are olives, dried hams, and cheese. Note that if you shop at local markets, you’ll find that daily essentials are even more affordable compared to buying imported produce.
Portuguese cuisine is excellent and Portuguese wines can compete with the very best in the world, another bonus of moving to the country. There are many wine regions in the country, but some of the best are from the Douro region or the Alentejo. Also, try the Vinho Verde, a delicious green wine that is the perfect accompaniment for a summer evening.
Here are some of the average prices for daily essentials in Portugal:
|Milk (regular), (1 liter)||€0.70|
|Loaf of white bread (500g)||€1.14|
|Rice (white), (1kg)||€1.05|
|Eggs (regular) (12)||€2.00|
|Local cheese (1kg)||€7.41|
|Chicken filets (1kg)||€5.53|
|Beef round (1kg) or equivalent back leg red meat||€9.27|
|Bottle of wine (mid-range)||€4.00|
|Domestic beer (0.5-liter bottle)||€1.08|
|Imported Beer (0.33-liter bottle)||€1.86|
Travel is very affordable in Portugal. A monthly bus pass will cost you €40, and a one-way ticket by public transportation (bus, metro services) is €1.60. Gasoline is €2.02 a liter for those that prefer to get around by car.
For Americans, you may be surprised by how close together everything is in Portugal. Indeed, it is possible to get from Sagres, in the southwest of the country, to Bragança, in the northeast of Portugal, in less than eight hours. Portugal is an incredible 107 times smaller than the USA.
While taxis are very affordable, another great way to get around town is with Uber and Bolt. These services are easy to use with an app and are incredibly cheap, especially when compared to taxis in the USA, particularly in New York. What’s more, Uber and Bolt drivers are great fountains of expertise and can provide you with information on anything from top restaurants, the best sightseeing locations, or some of the Portuguese food specialties that you should try.
Practical Information on Moving to Portugal
In this section of our Americans Living in Portugal article, we’ll delve into some key practical information that you’ll want to know before you move to the country.
Getting a NIF (Portuguese Tax Number)
Moving to Portugal, you will need to get a NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal or Número de Contribuinte) from a Finanças office (local tax office). This is essentially a Portuguese tax number that you will need when making transactions in Portugal.
You will need to present your passport and proof of address to your nearest Finanças office. Use your Portuguese address if you are already residing in the county, otherwise, your address outside Portugal will suffice. As an American, as with all non-EU residents, you will also need to have a tax representative in Portugal to get your NIF.
We recommend going to the Finanças office twenty minutes before they open to avoid the long lines. You will leave with your NIF number, ready to use for any Portuguese transaction.
Opening a Portuguese bank account
You will need to have your NIF number to open a bank account in Portugal. To open a bank account, you will also need to have with you a valid ID (passport), proof of address (utility bill in your name), and proof of employment. Some of the top banks to consider in Portugal are Millennium BCP, Novo Banco, Banco BPI, and Banco Santander Totta. You will also need to present a deposit in many cases, and, for some banks, you will need to have a Portuguese phone number.
To open a Portuguese bank account, Global Citizen Solution can introduce you to a competent English-speaking banker in Portugal who can open a bank account even before you come to Portugal.
Taxes for American Expats in Portugal
The US requires that all US citizens, wherever they may have their place of residence, disclose their worldwide income to the IRS. However, we recommend that you research the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, whereby you may qualify for an exclusion that could save you some money.
Basically, American citizens will need to pay taxes on their American earnings in America and their Portuguese earnings in Portugal. If you are an American expat living in Portugal, you must file tax returns in both America and Portugal.
One aspect of paying taxes in Portugal that you should be aware of is the Non-Habitual (NHR) Program, where you may be eligible to receive significant tax benefits for up to ten years.