Living in Portugal

With its rich history, diverse culture, stunning beaches, magnificent architecture, cosmopolitan population and a pleasant climate, it’s no wonder Portugal is a highly appealing destination for expats. Not forgetting the vibrant food culture, the enviable Mediterranean cuisine that differs within each region. And, of course, the fine wines, each with their own distinct personality. Situated on the western tip of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal isn’t as centrally located as other European countries, yet it is hard to tire of the breath-taking scenery. On the continental European mainland, the westernmost point of the country is at Cabo da Roca, whereas if you include continental Europe’s islands, Portugal remains the westernmost country, with the westernmost point being Capelinhos, a volcano in the Azores. As a member of the European Union, Portugal’s currency is the euro. In the major cities and tourist destinations, such as Lisbon and the Algarve, English is widely spoken. Research suggests around a third of Portuguese people can speak English.


Portugal is one of the countries in Europe with the most sunshine, boasting an average 300 sunny days a year. Although warm weather can be expected throughout Portugal, the climate does fluctuate from north to south, and indeed from the coast to the mountains. In northern Portugal, the Gulf Stream offers mild winters and warm summer seasons, whereas in the south of the country, the Mediterranean climate brings sizzling summers and very mild winters. Travel further inland and the summers will be even hotter. However, temperatures will be much cooler in winter. You may even see snow in inland Portugal!


Portugal’s education system is run by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, supported by the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity in providing pre-school education. You can choose a state school or private. If you decide to go the private route, you are able to ascertain whether it is certified by the Ministry of Education (primary and secondary education), the Ministry for Science, Technology and Higher Education (for higher education), or the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity / Institute of Social Security (for pre-school education). In order to find the right school for your child/children, you can contact the Direcção Regional de Educação (Regional Education Authority). Should you decide to opt for state education, students between pre-school age and year 9 whose first language is not Portuguese are eligible for one-on-one extracurricular language support if required.


Expats are typically entitled to subsidised state healthcare in Portugal. Portugal’s system encompasses public and private healthcare services, and the standard of treatment is considered high, sitting in 12th place in the Best Healthcare in the World 2021 ranking. Portugal’s healthcare system features three sub-systems. These are the Servico Nacional de Saude, or National Health Service; designated occupation-based social health insurance schemes; and private health insurance. The Servico Nacional de Saude is run by Portugal’s Health Ministry, Ministério de Saúde, and is free and available to all residents, as well as expats. Both primary and secondary healthcare services are included. To be able to access public healthcare, you will need to register with Portugal’s social security, Seguranca Social, before doing so at your local health centre. You can also register on the online portal to make appointments. In terms of private healthcare, an appointment with a private doctor will usually cost around €40-€50. The range of services is vast and there’s a greater chance of being treated by English-speaking staff. Private health insurance is a popular option for expats in Portugal, as well as locals. Certain treatments, such as dental, have restricted coverage through the Servico Nacional de Saude so many people choose to go private.


As an expat, your tax liability depends on your residency status. If you live in Portugal for 183 days or longer in a calendar year, you will be required to pay income tax on your worldwide earnings. Whereas if you reside in Portugal for less than 183 days, tax only needs to be paid on income earned in Portugal. Certain expats can benefit from the Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) tax codes, which offer considerable exemptions during the initial 10 years of residence. This means you can live in the country as a resident, but not pay tax on worldwide earnings, which, in essence, means non-resident status. In addition, you’ll pay income tax on earnings made in Portugal at a 20% flat rate. Furthermore, so-called golden visas are awarded to foreigners who buy property over €500,000. This golden visa allows investors to obtain Portuguese residency and travel freely within the European Union. For financial advice about tax whilst living in Portugal, you can get in touch with a specialist expat adviser here.

Cost of living

When compared to other countries in Western Europe, the cost of living in Portugal is very affordable. Although life can, generally speaking, be expensive on this part of the continent, you can enjoy a very comfortable life on a modest salary in Portugal. Locals in the country can live off an average €750 per month. Of course, this depends on where you live and the lifestyle you choose. Lisbon and Cascais are considered the country’s most expensive cities, followed by Porto. Indeed, as at June 2021, Lisbon is the 83rd most expensive city in the world in regard to cost of living, according to Mercer’s 2021 Cost of Living city ranking, rising 23 places over 2020. In contrast, the most affordable cities are Braga, Viseu, and Coimbra, with rents averaging around €300-500 per month.

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