Cost of living in Portugal vs USA

Planning to relocate to Portugal from the USA? In this detailed cost of living in Portugal vs USA guide, we walk you through all the expenses to factor in ahead of your big move.

Cost of living in Portugal vs USA: What to expect

Relocating abroad is a rewarding yet equally nerve-wracking decision. And one of the biggest factors to take into account is the cost of living in the country you choose to move to. It so happens to be that Portugal is one of the most affordable countries to live in Western Europe and one of the few countries in the world where the quality of life consistently scores highly among the expat community.

Generally speaking, the cost of living in the US is around 42% more expensive than in Portugal. You’ll find that real estate prices, groceries, and dining out are cheaper in Portugal than in the US.

Bonus tip: Wondering about what to expect in Portugal? Check out our expats in Portugal guide.

Cost of living in Portugal vs USA: Capital city comparison

To get an idea of the cost of living in Portugal vs USA, it’s useful to compare the cost of living in Lisbon, Portugal with Washington, D.C.

  • Consumer prices in Lisbon are 37.8% lower than in Washington, DC.
  • Rent in Lisbon is 46.37% lower than in Washington, DC.
  • Restaurant prices in Lisbon are 57.21% lower than in Washington, DC.
  • The cost of living in Lisbon, Portugal, including groceries, is 49.63% lower than in Washington, DC.

Living expenses in Portugal vs USA

Groceries expenses

Grocery shopping is quite affordable in Portugal, especially when it comes to buying fresh produce like fruit and vegetables, fish, and meat. The rule of thumb is, anything that’s grown or caught in Portugal is cheap. For example, apples per kilo cost €1.56 in Portugal, but in the US, cost €3.87. Since Portugal has a lot of supermarkets and traditional markets, a typical monthly grocery budget for a couple can amount to €200 (depending on what you buy).

However, brand name products are usually more pricey than in other countries. Cereals and toothpaste, for example, along with international brand name household cleaning products are much more expensive in Portugal than in the US. In Portugal, toothpaste costs around €2.5, while in the US, you can purchase a tub for just 95 cents.

Alcohol costs

Alcohol is considerably cheaper to buy in Portugal than in the USA. For example, a decent bottle of wine will set you back €4 in Portugal, but in the US costs around €10. Meanwhile, domestic beer costs €1 in Portugal and €2 in the US.

Eating out costs

Eating out in Portugal is extremely affordable, and many Americans living in Portugal can afford to eat out a few times a week. A lunch menu at a pasteleria (bakery) can cost around €5, and in a cafe that serves lunch, usually costs between €5 and €12, often including wine as well. A coffee, especially a bica (espresso), might cost €0.50 or less in rural towns in Portugal, and even in Lisbon rarely costs more than €1. Dinner is a bit more expensive, although you can still find main courses for less than €10.

These meals are usually at traditional Portuguese restaurants and cafes, which are simple in their decor and ambiance. If you want to dine out at a trendier restaurant, expect to pay around

€35 for a two-course meal for two people. Whereas, in the US, a typical meal out costs around €46.35.

Transport costs in Portugal vs USA

The transport costs in Portugal compared to the US are relatively cheaper, with some exceptions. Gas/petrol per liter in Portugal cost €2.24 and in the United States, costs €0.96. To purchase a new car like a Volkswagen Golf, it’s 64% more pricey in Portugal than in the states, with a car costing around €27,936.91 while in the states it typically costs €16,923.35.

However, public transport is similarly priced, whereby a monthly public transport pass costs €46.93 in Portugal and in the United States, costs €55.40 (depending on the state).

School costs in Portugal vs USA

Portugal has a number of excellent international schools that are not considered overly expensive. Usually, international schools cost upwards of Є6,000 per year. This fee depends on the school you pick and generally what grade your child goes to. Public schools in Portugal are free for all citizens and foreign residents. On the other hand, Portuguese private schools are costly, averaging between Є400-500 a month for private schooling.

In the United States, the national average private school tuition is around Є9,394.60, and private elementary school averages Є8,492.72 per year.

Traveling costs

Traveling around Portugal is very affordable. As one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe, you can explore the country’s nature, beaches, and historical towns for as little as Є80 per day, depending, of course, on the type of accommodation you’re seeking. Within Portugal, a train ride from Lisbon to Faro typically costs Є20 euros one way. In contrast, traveling within the United States costs more money, where you typically need around $224 per day for accommodation, food, and sightseeing.

Healthcare costs

Portugal boasts an excellent government-run healthcare program. While it’s not completely free, you won’t go into debt paying medical fees. It also happens to rank 13th in Europe for the quality of care received. On the plus side, children and seniors receive free medical care. Everyone else must pay a somewhat fair price, and are subsidized by the National Health Service in Portugal.

To get a better idea of the healthcare costs in Portugal compared to the USA, check out our comparison table below.

CostIn the USPortugal public healthcarePortugal private healthcare
GP visit$100Free or €5 ($6.17)€50 ($61.55)
Dental cleaning$120Free€25 ($30.85)
Hip replacement surgery$40,000Minimal co-pay€4,000-€20,000 ($4,924-$24,618)
Mammogram$250Minimal co-pay€75 ($92.32)

For more information, read our detailed guide into healthcare in Portugal.

Housing costs in Portugal

Housing costs for expats is a huge factor in deciding whether you can afford to live in another country. Luckily, housing costs in Portugal are around 50% cheaper than in the states.

Rents in small interior Portuguese cities start as low as €400 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. Rents in Lisbon, however, are much more expensive, costing around €670 for a one-bedroom rental, and can easily go up to €1,500 for a three-bedroom apartment close to the city center.

Buying property in Portugal vs the USA

If you want to buy your own property in a big city in Portugal like Lisbon, you can find small properties going for €150,000 in the outskirts, easily adding up to €500,000 depending on the location, the condition of the property, and type. Closing costs on property sales in Portugal tend to run around 10% of the purchase price.

An important thing to be aware of is that the average size of apartments in Portugal is notably smaller than in North America. This should definitely be factored in when considering buying a property.

Electricity and bills expenses in Portugal vs USA

In Portugal, the utilities like electricity, heating, water, and garbage collection for a mid-range apartment cost around €100 per month. Of course, this depends on whether you’re using aircon every day during the hot summer months, or heating during mild winters. In the United States, utilities are roughly 36% more expensive, averaging €170 euros per month.

Cost of moving to Portugal

If you’re about to relocate, you must take into account the actual cost of moving to Portugal. Shipping expenses are a considerable cost you must incur if you want to transfer your belongings from the United States to Portugal. To transfer your goods by ship, from New York to Lisbon a 20ft container box will set you back €1,229.11 and it takes 14 days. If you wish to fly your belongings, it costs around €2,705. On top of this, you must factor in a plane ticket to get to Portugal, which averages around €382 per person (one-way). To top it off, actually making the move will always incur extra costs, like putting in a deposit if you’re renting a property, paying for a new phone plan, and buying extra goods you may need to help you get settled.

How to move to Portugal?

In order to move to Portugal, you must first have the legal right to reside in the country. If you haven’t applied for residency yet, consider the Portugal Golden Visa Program.

In exchange for an investment in the country —  typically by buying real estate worth €500K — you and your family are immediately granted legal residency in the country. Eventually, you can apply for permanent residency after five years of holding your investment, and even acquire Portuguese citizenship after six years.  If you do decide to pursue a Portugal Golden Visa, we recommend getting in touch with one of our Portugal Golden Visa Consultants here. As specialists in relocation solutions and residency by investment, we can guide you toward a smooth relocation.

Take a look at our Portugal Golden Visa Ultimate Guide by local experts

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Frequently asked questions about cost of living in Portugal vs USA

How much does it cost to live in Portugal?

How much it costs to live in Portugal depends on what your budget is like. Generally though, one person can live quite comfortably with an income or allowance of $2,000 per month. A family of three can live from $3,000 per month easily.

How expensive is Portugal?

Portugal is not expensive at all. In fact, the average cost of living in Portugal is considered to be around €1,500 per month, depending on what part of Portugal you’re living in. Overall, Portugal is considered one of the cheapest countries to live in Western Europe, and is on average, 50% cheaper than living in the United States.

How much is rent in Portugal?

 A decent one-bedroom apartment in Portugal costs around €670 close to the city centre, and around €500 away from the city centre. A three-bedroom place in Lisbon can cost around €1,500 and upwards.

How much is the average cost of living in Lisbon, Portugal?

The average cost of living in Lisbon, Portugal depends on how much money you have. Generally speaking, the cost of living in Lisbon, Portugal is around €1,700 per month.

What is the cost of living in Portugal vs USA?

The cost of living in Portugal vs USA is roughly 50% cheaper, making living in Portugal a highly attractive prospect for expats. In particular, living expenses in Portugal are very affordable, making it a comfortable transition for families relocating from the USA. 

How to move to Portugal?

How to move to Portugal depends on your visa status. If you opt in for Portugal’s highly-rewarding Golden Visa scheme, you need to make an investment first like purchasing a qualifying property in Portugal, then after the paperwork for the visa is filed and you’re granted legal residency, you can move to the country with your family.