portugal golden visaLiving in Portugal means being surrounded by incredible charm and culture—a blend of architecture, rich cuisine, tradition, history, and innovation. From the local markets, Portuguese people, or something as simple as traditional dishes, it’s easy to distinguish why people living in Portugal love this EU country.

British citizens and other expats in Portugal are no strangers to the wonders of this slice of Western Europe. As a member of the European Union, there are several benefits to becoming a Portuguese citizen or simply living as an expat in a safe country with a warm climate. But what exactly makes this small nation so special? How are expats faring in Portugal? What does living in Portugal cost?

Read on to discover how expats in Portugal are navigating the country, from lifestyle insights and landing a job to cost of living, learning the language, taxation, and the best places to settle.

Overview of Living in Portugal as an Expat

One of Portugal’s main aspects that makes it the envy of other European countries is its long stretch of Atlantic coastline.

Attracting more than seven million tourists annually, Portugal is renowned as a world-class destination for holidaymakers. Living in Portugal has many benefits, from golfing to surfing, hikes, or simply marveling at the nearest world heritage site. In any small rural town or large Portuguese city, there’s always something amazing available for expat life in Portugal. 

Expect a relaxing lifestyle under the sun, with temperatures ranging from 12 degrees in January to 33 degrees in July. The climate varies slightly, depending on where you’re based.

Algarve coast clocks in over 300 hours of sunshine annually, whereas Porto catches most of the country’s rainfall in autumn and winter. Blessedly, cool winds from the Atlantic Ocean keep the temperature fairly stable, meaning that even during summer, expats can expect a refreshing coastal breeze. Another advantage is that there’s no shortage of things to do in Portugal.

Living Costs for Expats in Portugal

Cost-of-Vanuatu-passportNaturally, living costs depend on many factors, including an expat’s income, but generally speaking, you can get by with a modest salary in Portugal. From sipping a coffee for €1 to tucking into a hearty meal in a mid-range restaurant for €10, food expenses are reasonably priced. A family of four can easily get by with €300 per month on groceries. Fresh salmon at the market can cost as little as €4.

Rent in Portugal’s urban cities like Lisbon or Porto can get pricey, with a one-bedroom apartment in Principe Real easily racking up to €1000 in monthly rent. Meanwhile, renting in one of Portugal’s low-density areas is considerably cheaper, with a one-bedroom costing on average €500.

For more clarity on expenses in Portugal, check out our handy guide to the cost of living in Portugal versus the USA.

Housing for Expats in Portugal

Portugal offers a variety of real estate options for expats. There’s something for everyone, from luxury condos and apartment complexes to traditional houses in Alfama.

Whether you plan to rent or buy, it’s important to consider what you need to be comfortable. Considering the different architectural styles in the country, consider your personal comforts, such as central heating or air conditioning, before deciding where to live. These additions may impact your rental price. For instance, a condo in Lisbon’s city center will always be higher than outside the main city.

Below is a list of options for finding suitable accommodation for expats in Portugal.

Short-term stays or monthly rentals

Long-term rentals

Buy real estate in Portugal

If interested in buying property as an expat, consult our How To Buy Property In Portugal guide.

Healthcare in Portugal for Expats

public-heatlh-system-portugalPortugal has a comprehensive tax-funded public healthcare system known as Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS). Under the SNS, most essential medical services are free, while non-essential services and treatments come cheap.

Expats living in Portugal may be eligible for the SNS, provided you have all the necessary documentation and a unique tax identification number,

EU citizens in Portugal can get free treatment temporarily, provided they show a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). They are eligible to use the public health system for free for up to 90 days. Afterward, they must register as legal residents to continue tapping into health care privileges.

Non-EU citizens, including British citizens and Americans living in Portugal, aren’t entitled to the public health system unless they have legal residency, have applied for the SNS, and are paying social security. Note that various private health insurance providers exist, like Medis or Multicare.

Need more information? Check out our guide to healthcare for foreigners in Portugal.

Download Portuguese Healthcare Guide

Education and Schools for Expats in Portugal

Portugal offers an excellent education system, with a good mix of private and public schools. However, public schools have recently received a bad reputation due to frequent teacher strikes and underfunding. This has pushed the government to reinvest in state-of-the-art facilities and education materials, notably improving the situation.

There are plenty of private schools for expats to choose from. Private schools have smaller class sizes, a range of extra-curricular activities, and more modern facilities than public schools. It’s important to note that teachers in these institutions are normally paid less than in the public sector, so the quality of teaching can vary. 

Portugal also boasts a range of international schools with high education standards or extracurriculars. From St Julians to the Lycee Francais school, some excellent options exist for expat families.

For more information, consult our guide on education in Portugal

Working Life for Expats in Portugal

Whether you’re a digital entrepreneur, eager to start your startup, or planning to work for a Portuguese-based company, it’s important to know that working in Portugal differs from other European countries.

Working for a Portuguese company

  • Working hours: For a standard business, you can expect to work between the hours of 8:30 am to 6 pm. By law, you’ll have a maximum working week of 40 hours.
  • Paid leave: Full-time employees can expect 13 days of paid public holiday leave and a minimum of 22 working days’ holidays. 
  • Earning potential: The average salary in Portugal depends on the line of work and position you’re in.
  • Business etiquette: In Portugal, business is conducted in a more traditional manner. Face-to-face meetings are preferred, and written communication is considered somewhat impersonal. 

Punctuality is also not considered a priority like in some other countries. Don’t be surprised if your meeting starts twenty minutes late or a team member turns up half an hour late to a meeting. Don’t be offended; it’s quite common amongst Portuguese residents.

Self-employed expats

Dubbed Europe’s Silicon Valley, mainland Portugal and Lisbon are extremely attractive locations for non-EU or British expats looking to run a startup in Portugal. The startup scene is real, and Portugal’s stable economy is an attractive bonus for expats looking to kick-start their businesses.

For digital entrepreneurs, Portugal welcomes digital nomads with open arms. There are hundreds of cafes, and co-working spaces, each offering fast, reliable internet to get your work done. You can also utilize a coworking app called Croissant, allowing nomads to find what they need to work in Portugal or neighboring EU countries. 

Work visas in Portugal

If you are looking to live and work in Portugal, there are several visa options you can consider:

  • D2 Visa – This is considered an entrepreneur visa, which allows applicants with the relevant means to start or expand their business in Portugal.
  • D3 Visa—This visa is reserved for qualified individuals with specialized experience in certain fields, such as professors or within the tech industry. Applicants must have a contract with a Portuguese company to qualify.
  • D8 Visa—Also known as the Digital Nomad Visa, the D8 allows freelancers to live and work in Portugal, provided they have a steady income four times the national minimum wage as your average salary.

The D7 Visa allows those with a passive income outside of Portugal, such as real estate rentals, shares, or other investments, to live in Portugal. Passive income means you have a stable flow of money into your bank account that is generated passively from investments, which you can live on. Therefore on the D7 Passive Income Visa, you are not allowed to work and earn money in Portugal.

All of these visas allow applicants to obtain Portuguese citizenship after certain criteria have been met.

Traveling in Portugal as an Expat

International travel

Lisbon’s main airport has excellent air connections to the rest of Europe and direct flights to several African nations, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. Depending on your residency permit, most expats can enter and exit Portugal to the Schengen Areas without needing an extra visa. 

Public transport

Trains

Portugal’s railway system is fairly developed, and trains are a popular mode of transportation. The Metro operates within the Lisbon and Porto CBD, but an overland network also travels outside these cities. A return ticket from Lisbon to Porto costs around €30.

Buses

Buses are considerably cheaper, with a two-way ticket to the Algarve region costing about €15. Regarding city transportation, Lisbon and Porto boast an excellent bus route system.

Own transport

Many people in Portugal have their own mode of transport. As the roads within the old cities are quite narrow, you can expect large traffic volumes, especially in peak times. To avoid this, many residents opt for Vespas or scooters—even cycling but be aware that Lisbon is built on seven hills, so cycling may not be a viable option for everyone.

Taxation Considerations for Expats

Expats in Portugal should note that the tax system can be tricky to wrap your head around. If you’re a freelancer or happen to have your own business, then getting an accountant is recommended. Expect to get taxed between 14.5% to 48% of your income, depending on your income bracket. Always ask your accountant if you qualify for any tax incentives, especially regarding cryptocurrency. 

Latest tax updates

Tax-Regime-POrtugalThe NHR ended for most applicants in January 2024. The Portuguese government conducted a State Budget Proposal for 2024, which included modifications that determined the end of the non-habitual resident regime.

The ultimate vote on the budget legislation happened on 29 November 2023, introducing the transitional regime before the end of the NHR tax regime in 2025.

Some individuals can apply until 31 March 2025, but the eligibility requirements for this deadline are more stringent. If you’re wondering how to apply for NHR in Portugal now, it’s necessary to meet at least one of the following criteria to qualify:

  • Having an employment contract signed/to be signed by 31 December 2023
  • Having a lease agreement or other contract for the use/possession of property signed by 10 October 2023
  • Having a contract to buy property in Portugal signed by 10 October 2023
  • Having children enrolled or registered in a school in Portugal by 10 October 2023
  • Having a residence visa or a residence permit valid from 31 December 2023
  • Having an application for a residence visa or residence permit initiated by 31 December 2023
  • Being a member of the household of anyone who meets the above criteria

Anyone who qualifies under these conditions will have NHR status from the date they become a tax resident—whether in 2024 or the first quarter of 2025—until 31 December 2033.

While tax allowances are available, this depends on the nature of your work. If you haven’t been a resident in Portugal for the last five years, consider registering at the local tax office for Non-Habitual Resident Status. It’s an attractive tax incentive that allows a 20% tax rate for ten years and no double taxation for pensions for employment and self-employment obtained abroad. 

Interested in the NHR? Check out our NHR Portugal guide.

Take a look at our Portugal's NHR tax regime: the complete guide.

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Banking in Portugal for Expats

While Portugal’s bureaucracy is somewhat notorious, it requires a lot of patience. Opening a bank account is fairly straightforward, with various options and reputable banks such as Barclays, Bankinter, and BPI.

Most banks are open between 8:30 am and 3:00 pm on weekdays and may close on weekends. Banks in smaller towns usually close for lunch.

How to open a bank account in Portugal

  • Provide identification such as a residency card, passport, or identity card
  • Notarized proof of residence document
  • Present your tax identification number (NIF) in Portugal (NIF), which can be obtained from the local finance office.
  • Fill in bank application forms, many of which can be downloaded from reputable banks’ websites.

Best Expat Communities in Portugal

Lisbon

Lisbon appeals to the young at heart. It’s the perfect place for those who feel energized by buzzing city life and want to be in the middle of a vibrant tech startup environment.

Lisbon’s cost of living is among the highest in Portugal as the capital city. However, compared to other European Union capital cities like Paris, these costs are still very reasonable.

Cascais

Just 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. Despite having more than 200,000 inhabitants, Cascais is still considered a village and retains much of that traditional Portuguese society charm.

In earlier years, Cascais was popular with royal families, who would visit the beaches every chance they got for warm sand and sunny weather.

Porto

Porto has always been a popular choice for Americans moving to Portugal because of this old fishing town’s blend of rich culture and modernity. Most known for its Port Wine, beautiful beaches, laid-back lifestyle, and UNESCO World Heritage Site city center, it’s an incredible city for many expats and digital nomads alike.

As the second-largest city in Portugal, it’s also more affordable than the Lisbon region, making the affordable cost and property prices an attractive incentive for foreign citizens.

Algarve

The Algarve’s golden coast is a great place to consider if you’re moving to Portugal.

With beautiful, unspoiled beaches and dramatic rocks along the shoreline, this region has been a haven for expats for generations. British, Canadians, and Americans living in the Algarve choose this area for its relaxed lifestyle and warm climate.

Frequently asked questions about expats in Portugal

What is living in Portugal as an expat like?

Portugal has won numerous lifestyle awards for being the ultimate destination for expats looking for a home. From it’s excellent weather, delicious cuisine, affordable living costs, down to its nightlife scene and rich cultural history, Portugal has something to offer for all.

Where do expats live in Portugal?

Most expats in Portugal live in Portugal’s urban centers like Libon, Porto, Cascais, Lagos, Faro, Ericeira, Sintra, Coimbra, and Braga.

Which city in Portugal has the most expats?

Lisbon by far has the biggest expat community.

Is it safe to live in Portugal for expats?

It is very safe to live in Portugal for expats. Portugal consistently ranks as one of the safest countries. Violent crime rates are extremely low; pickpockets, however, are common, and they’re mainly in areas populated with tourists.

What are the benefits of living as a Portugal expat?

Several key benefits of living in Portugal include the fact that English is widely spoken, there’s modern technology and architecture, a fantastic and dynamic property market, and healthy and affordable living

Do I need to speak portuguese to live in Portugal?

Most Portuguese citizens who have completed schooling in Portugal will have at least a basic understanding of English. If you are moving to one of the major cities, like Lisbon or Porto, there’s a good chance you can get by with basic Portuguese or none.

However, the further away from the major cities you move, the more beneficial it will be to speak or have a basic understanding of the Portuguese language.

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