In recent years, Portugal has become a popular destination for Americans looking to escape the fast-paced lifestyle and high cost of living in the United States. This blog post will look at the cost of living in Portugal.
The cost of living difference between Portugal and the USA makes the decision to move to Portugal that bit sweeter.
Cost of Living in Portugal vs the USA: What to Expect
When deciding where to relocate, one of the most important factors to consider is the cost of living in the country you want to move to. Portugal is one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe and one of the few countries in the world where the quality of life consistently scores highly among the expat community.
Bonus tip: Want to learn more about being an expat in Portugal? Read our guides for expats in Portugal.
In fact, Portugal ranks 13th in Global Citizen Solutions’ pioneering Quality of Life Index, whereas the US comes in at 39th. Our index factors in the cost of living, alongside sustainable development goals, levels of freedom, happiness levels, migrant acceptance, and environmental performance.
According to the latest figures at Numbeo, consumer prices, including rent, in the United States are around 74 percent higher than in Portugal. Restaurant prices are around 91 percent higher in the US than in Portugal, and grocery prices are 89 percent higher in the US. Eating out, buying quality ingredients, and renting a property in Portugal is significantly cheaper in Portugal than in the USA.
Cost of living in Portugal vs USA: Capital City comparison
To get a clearer picture of the cost of living difference, we’re going to compare the cost of living in Lisbon, Portugal, with Washington, DC, USA. This data is taken from Numbeo (last updated in July 2023).
- Consumer prices in Lisbon are around 38 percent lower than in Washington, DC (without rent)
- Rent in Lisbon is 52 percent lower than in Washington, DC
- Restaurant prices in Lisbon are 42 percent lower than in Washington, DC
- Groceries prices in Lisbon are around 46 percent lower than in Washington, DC
- Local purchasing power in Lisbon is 63 percent lower than in Washington, DC
Living Expenses in Portugal vs USA
Grocery shopping is quite affordable in Portugal, especially when it comes to buying fresh produce like fruit and vegetables, fresh seafood, and meat. The general rule of thumb is that anything grown or caught in Portugal is cheap. For example, a kilogram of apples might cost around €1.70 ($1.80) in Portugal but $4.84 (€4.22) in the US.
Interestingly, brand-name products are more pricey in Portugal than in other countries. Items like cereals, toothpaste, and cleaning products can be more expensive in Portugal than in the US.
|Milk (regular), (1 liter)||€0.81||€0.95|
|Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)||€1.23||€3.23|
|A Dozen Eggs (regular) (12)||€2.32||€4.60|
|Chicken Fillets (1kg)||€6.00||€10.97|
|Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)||€9.75||€13.88|
|Local Cheese (1kg)||€8.12||€10.48|
|Domestic Beer (0.5-liter bottle)||€1.09||€2.48|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||€4.00||€11.94|
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, this would cost around €12.
Meanwhile, domestic beer costs €1 in Portugal and over €2 in the US. You’ll also find places in Portugal where you can buy a small domestic beer for around €0.60.
Eating out costs
Eating out in Portugal is a huge part of the culture, and luckily, it’s very affordable. Many Americans living in Portugal can afford to eat out a few times a week.
A lunch menu at a pastry shop (pastelaria) costs around €5, but you can usually get toasties for about €2 – €3. You can also enjoy lunch in a cafe, including wine and coffee, for between €7 and €12. A coffee, especially an espresso (bica), costs €0.50 or less in rural towns. Even in Lisbon, an espresso rarely costs more than €1.
At an inexpensive restaurant, you can enjoy dinner for less than €10. Meals at traditional Portuguese restaurants called tascas are very reasonable.
If you want to dine out at a trendier mid-range restaurant, expect to pay around €35 to €40 for a two-course meal for two people. In the US, a typical meal out costs around €65.
Transport costs in Portugal vs USA
Local transport costs in Portugal are generally cheaper compared to the US, with some exceptions.
In Portugal, gas/petrol per liter costs €1.89 whereas, in the United States, it costs €0.91. To purchase a new car like a Volkswagen Golf (or an equivalent new car) is actually slightly more expensive in Portugal than in the States.
However, public transport in Portugal is much cheaper than in the US. A monthly local transportation pass costs €40 in Portugal and €64 in the United Statues. However, this, of course, will depend on the state.
School costs in Portugal vs USA
Portugal has free public schooling for all citizens and foreign residents. With this said, many expats chose to send their children to Portugal’s international schools, which cost upwards of €6,000 per year.
Fees change depending on the school and grade your children are enrolled in.
In the United States, the national average private school tuition fees are around Є9,394.60, and private elementary school averages at Є8,492.72 per year.
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 staying in.
Within Portugal, a train ride from Lisbon to Faro typically costs Є20 euros one way.
In contrast, traveling within the United States costs more. You usually need around $224 daily for accommodation, food, and sightseeing.
In Portugal, you will also find affordable taxi fees. The average taxi fee per km is €0.75. You can also save money through the low-cost public transport infrastructure. Buses and trains are cheaper than in the US. A cross-country train ticket known as the Portugal Rail Pass gives you unlimited travel for three or seven days in a month as of the date of purchase. For three days, adults pay €73, and children pay €36.50.
Portugal boasts an excellent public healthcare system. While it’s not entirely free, you won’t go into debt paying medical fees. Portugal’s healthcare system is also one of the best in the world.
Portugal ranks 25th in the 2023 Health Care Index by Numbeo, meaning that it has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Healthcare in Portugal is under a hybrid system with excellent public and private services. The World Health Organization (WHO) also ranked Portugal 12th place in their ranking of healthcare systems. Under the Portuguese healthcare system, children and seniors receive free medical care. Everyone else must pay a small contribution.
To better understand the healthcare costs in Portugal compared to the USA, check out our comparison table below.
For more information, read our detailed guide to healthcare in Portugal.
Private health insurance in Portugal
Private health insurance is cheaper in Portugal than it is in the US. Private healthcare plans in Portugal are available at an affordable cost, as most people use private insurance to supplement the Portugal public healthcare system. A more comprehensive insurance plan will be more expensive, but health insurance plans, in general, are far cheaper than in the US.
Are utility costs (electricity, water, gas) high in Portugal?
Average monthly utility costs in Portugal are around €109.40 per month (Numbeo, July 2023). These are roughly the same as utility cots in other Western European countries.
Education costs in Portugal
If you’re considering moving over with children, or if you are considering enrolling in university, you might be wondering how expensive it is. Basic education in Portugal’s public school system is free. However, many expats chose to send their children to private schools as the country has many top international schools.
Portuguese universities are fairly affordable, as is the case with most European third-level institutions.
For more information, see our blog post on International Schools in Portugal.
Housing costs in Portugal
Housing costs for expats are an important factor in deciding whether you can afford to live in another country. Luckily, housing costs in Portugal are around 40-50 percent cheaper than in the states.
Rents in small or more remote Portuguese cities start as low as €400 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. However, average rent prices in Lisbon, Portugal, are much more expensive, costing around €861 for a one-bedroom rental outside the city center or €2,449 for a three-bedroom apartment in the city center.
Buying property in Portugal vs USA
If you want to buy property in a big city in Portugal like Lisbon, you can find small properties going for €3,207 per square meter in the outskirts.
Depending on location, condition, and the type of property you’re looking at, prices may go up to €500,000.
Note that the average size of apartments in Portugal is notably smaller than in North America.
Electricity and bills expenses in Portugal vs USA
In Portugal, utilities like electricity, heating, water, and garbage collection for a mid-size apartment cost around €112 per month. Of course, this depends on whether you’re using aircon every day during the hot summer months or using the heating during the mild winters. Do note that it can get quite cold inside in the winter months if you don’t have good insulation, so make sure you have a sound heating system.
In the United States, utilities are roughly 52 percent more expensive, averaging €169 per month. A pre-paid mobile tariff costs roughly the same in both Portugal and the US.
The Cost of Moving to Portugal
If you’re about to relocate, you must consider the actual cost of moving to Portugal.
Shipping expenses are a considerable cost you must incur if you want to transport your belongings from the United States to Portugal. If you choose to ship from New York to Lisbon, transportation costs for a 20ft container box will set you back around €1,229.11 and take 14 days. If you’re looking to fly your belongings for speed’s sake, the same package will have transportation costs of 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).
Moving will always incur extra costs, like putting in a deposit if you’re renting a property, paying for a new phone plan, and buying all the additional goods you may need to help you get settled.
How to Move to Portugal
The Portugal Golden Visa is a very attractive option. In exchange for an investment in the country — typically by buying real estate worth €500,000 — you and your family are immediately granted legal residency. Eventually, you can apply for permanent residence after five years of holding your investment. You can even apply for Portuguese citizenship, provided you meet all the requirements under Portuguese nationality law.
If you decide to pursue a Portugal Golden Visa, we recommend contacting 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.
Note that the Portugal Golden Visa is coming to an end. If you are interested in applying for the program, we highly recommend you begin your application now.
The D7 Visa is another excellent choice, particularly if you have a passive income from a pension or investments. Complete a free eligibility test and read more about the visa scheme here. We also have dedicated D7 Visa specialists, so get in touch, and we can get the ball rolling on your visa application.
The Cost of Living in Portugal for Retirees
US retirees often find that Portugal is an excellent place to retire. As we’ve outlined above, groceries, healthcare, dining out, and public transport are considerably cheaper in Portugal than in the US.
You can put your feet up, enjoy the Mediterranean life and sea breeze, and say hello to top-quality restaurant meals.
You can read our article on American Retirement in Portugal for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions about the 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 your budget, lifestyle, and which part of Portugal you choose to live in. The cost of living in Portugal for a family of four is €2,073 on average per month, not including rent.
How expensive is Portugal?
Portugal is relatively inexpensive. In fact, the average cost of living in Portugal is around €1,608 (€1,500) per month, depending on what part of Portugal you’re living in. Overall, Portugal is considered one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe and is, on average, 50 percent cheaper than living in the United States.
How much is the rent in Portugal?
A decent one-bedroom apartment in Portugal costs around €776 close to the city center and around €590 away from the city center.
What is the average cost of living in Lisbon, Portugal?
Lisbon is more expensive than other cities and towns in Portugal. Generally speaking, the cost of living in Lisbon, Portugal, is around €1,700 per month. The cost of living in Portugal per month will be lower than this, however, as the Portuguese capital has its own price range.
What is the cost of living in Portugal vs USA?
The cost of living in Portugal vs the USA is roughly 50 percent cheaper, making moving to Portugal a desirable prospect for expats. Living costs in Portugal are much more affordable, making it a fruitful transition for families relocating from the USA.
How can I move to Portugal?
Moving to Portugal depends on your visa status. If you’re an EU/EEA/Swiss national, you can move to Portugal visa-free and with relative ease.
However, if you’re a US citizen, you need a visa. If you choose to opt-in to Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme, you must invest first, like purchasing a qualifying property in Portugal. Then, after the paperwork for the visa is filed, you’re granted legal residency and can move to the country with your family. If you are considering applying for the Portugal Golden Visa, we recommend that you do so as soon as possible, as the program is coming to an end.
What is the cost of living in Portugal vs California?
To give you some indication of the cost of living in California compared to Portugal, consumer prices in Lisbon (not including rent) are around 38 percent lower than in Sacramento, the capital of California.
Rent prices are approximately 31 percent lower in Lisbon when compared to Sacramento. Restaurants prices are 41 percent lower, grocery prices are 51 percent lower, and local purchasing power is 55 percent lower in the Portuguese capital, indicating that prices are more favorable across the board in Lisbon.
Note also that Lisbon is the most expensive city in Portugal. Californians moving to other parts of the country will be pleasantly surprised by the affordability of the country, particularly in the countryside.
How much money do you need to live comfortably in Portugal?
Compared to other European countries, Portugal is exceptionally affordable. A couple with a mid-range income can live comfortably in Portugal’s cities for around €1,700 per month. A couple in Lisbon can live on around €2,000 per month. When it comes to the cost of living in Portugal for a single person, you can get by on €1,200 per month in Lisbon or Porto and even less in Portugal’s smaller towns.
Note that your idea of living comfortably may differ from someone else’s, and the cost of living will largely depend on your lifestyle.
Is it cheaper to live in Portugal or in the USA?
It is cheaper to live in Portugal than in the USA. Compared to other European countries, Portugal is one of the best places to consider in terms of affordability.
What are the pros and cons of living in Portugal?
Portugal is one of the best European countries to live in, with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, a high quality of life, and a low cost of living. Some pros include excellent education and healthcare and welcoming locals. The tax-friendly Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) Scheme is also a great advantage to foreigners, where you can live with significant tax benefits for up to ten years.
Some of the cons include low salaries and the slow bureaucratic process. However, Portugal remains one of the most attractive European countries for foreigners.
You can read more in our article, the pros and cons of living in Portugal.
What is the cost of living in Portugal for a couple?
Depending on your lifestyle, a couple should be able to get by with between $2,500 (€2,332) to $3,000 (€2,798) a month in Portugal outside the major cities. In major cities, particularly in the city center, expect to need a little more. Regardless, Portugal provides one of the most affordable costs of living when compared with other Western European countries, such as the UK, Spain, and France.
What is the cost of living in the Algarve, Portugal?
Living in the Algarve is quite affordable, but the cost of living will depend on your lifestyle and which part of the Algarve that you live in. In general, for €12, you can eat out in an inexpensive restaurant in the Algarve. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost you around €900, while basic utilities will set you back just over €100 per month. You can find out more in our Living in the Algarve Guide.
What is the cost of living in Portugal versus Canada?
Portugal is considerably more affordable than Canada. Consumer prices in Canada are almost 46 percent higher than in Portugal, rent prices are 47 percent higher than in Portugal, and restaurant prices are 62 percent higher.
What is the cost of living in Portugal compared to the UK?
Portugal is more affordable than the UK. Consumer prices in the UK are 38 percent higher than in Portugal (without rent), rent prices are around 40 percent higher in the UK than in Portugal, and restaurant prices are around 77 percent higher. Note that this is relative, for example, the average salary in Portugal is quite low.
What is the cost of living in Portugal versus India?
Portugal is one of the most affordable countries in Europe. However, when comparing the cost of living between Portugal and India, consumer prices are around 53 percent lower in India than in Portugal (without rent), rent prices are around 77 percent lower, and restaurant prices are around 62 percent lower.
Can you live in Portugal for $1000 a month?
If you live frugally and in an affordable part of the country, you should be able to live on $1000 a month. Given the increasing rental prices and housing costs in Lisbon and other major cities, however, it may be difficult to live on $1000 a month in these parts of the country.
What is the cost of living in Portugal for international students?
It is quite affordable to study in Portugal, but costs will vary depending on your lifestyle and which part of Portugal you will live in. A single person estimated monthly costs are 595.4€ without rent.