Portugal has a low cost of living, easy residency, and a 10-year tax incentive for new residents. It also has great food, more sunshine than anywhere else in Europe, some of the best beaches and golf in Europe, excellent infrastructure, and a large English-speaking population. Access is easy and cheap, making this a great base from which to explore the whole of the Continent.
Cost Of Living
The cost of living in Portugal has been rising steadily for the past five years. However, the country remains a relative bargain; you could live here for 30% less on average than elsewhere in Western Europe. A couple could live comfortably on 1,915 euros per month, including 1,000 to 1,250 euros per month for rent.
The U.S. dollar remains relatively strong versus the euro. However, if you’re retiring with a dollar-based nest egg or dollar-based income (from Social Security, for example), you should set aside at least four months of living expenses as a safety net in case the dollar-euro exchange rate moves significantly against you.
Cost Of Real Estate
In some Lisbon neighborhoods and other sought-after locations in the country, in particular in the most touristed destinations along the Algarve coast, property prices have likewise risen steadily over the past five years. Still, it is possible—away from the top tourist spots and city centers—to buy a home for 200,000 euros or less. Investing in a home of your own is a smart strategy in a country like Portugal where the currency is different from that of your home country. By buying a home, you remove housing cost from your monthly retirement budget and therefore eliminate any long-term currency risk concerns on that portion of your expenses.
Living or retired in Portugal, you should open a local bank account. Keep your accounts back home, as well, and use your Portugal account to pay local bills and expenses. This will save the cost of bank transfer fees and concern over day-to-day exchange rates. Note that banks in Portugal open at 9 or 9:30 in the morning and close at 3 p.m.
Becoming A Legal Resident
Portugal’s Golden Visa program is one of the best residency programs in Europe. It offers many options for obtaining an investor’s visa in Portugal, including through an investment in real estate (the starting minimum is 280,000 euros). As a legal resident, you have access to local public schools and health care.
Under Portugal’s Golden Visa program, you become eligible for Portuguese citizenship after five years of residency, and you can include family members as part of your citizenship application. When you qualify for citizenship in Portugal, you also gain the right to work and live in all 26 European countries in the Schengen Area.
If you’re not interested in buying property or investing the required minimum to qualify for the Golden Visa, you can also qualify for residency in Portugal by showing that you have enough income to support yourself. The amount of income required isn’t stipulated formally in the law. Your immigration officer has the discretion to decide if your income is sufficient or not. However, generally speaking, an income of 1,200 euros per month or more per month will suffice.
Safety And Security
Portugal is ranked as the world’s third-safest country. Violent crime is unheard of, and petty crime is a concern only in some Lisbon neighborhoods. The immigration crisis that is causing concern elsewhere in Europe has bypassed Portugal.
As recently as 10 years ago, it was a struggle to find good internet in most of Portugal. Today you’ll be able to access high-speed internet in 90% of the country, and 4G service is increasingly available. Still, if good internet is important to you, do some research about the service available in different areas of the country before committing to a region. You’ll find great internet in much of Portugal but not in the most remote spots.
The emphasis for cooking and dining out in Portugal is on fresh seafood. Cod (bacalhau in Portuguese) is featured on almost every menu, as are tuna and shrimp. Fast food is not a concept in Portugal, so don’t be in a hurry to eat and run and expect slow and relaxed table service.
The produce in Portugal is fresh and organic, naturally, without the premium you pay for organic in other countries. All produce is labeled to tell you where it’s from. Usually, it’s very local. The farthest it may have traveled could be from Spain.
You could lose weight by default living in Portugal and eating local cuisine. The Mediterranean diet is often regarded as the healthiest in the world and has been proven to reduce heat attack and stroke risks.
Owning And Driving A Car
Outside Lisbon, Cascais, or other large cities and especially if you base yourself in the Algarve, you’ll need to invest in a car living in Portugal. Portuguese law requires drivers to carry with them at all times a valid license, vehicle registration, current vehicle inspection certificate, headlight converters, reflective jackets for every person in the car (within reach of the driver), spare glasses or contacts if you have an eye prescription, spare bulbs, and a first aid kit. The police can and do stop and ask to see these items. If you’re stopped and are missing anything, even your spare pair of contacts, you’ll be liable for a fine payable on the spot. Don’t worry if you don’t have cash on you to cover the fine. The police have electronic cash machines in their cars.
Portugal is globally renowned for its standard of health care, which the World Health Organization ranks the 12th best in the world. Hospitals are modern and well-equipped, and at least 90% of all doctors in both public and private facilities are English-speaking. Public health care in Portugal is available to legal foreign residents who are registered with their local medical center, and the national health care system guarantees all basic health needs—accidents and illness—are covered.
To give themselves an option in case of long wait times in the public system, most expats invest in a private insurance plan that allows them to visit private facilities if they choose. Health insurance costs in Portugal are much lower than in the United States. Your annual health care policy might be as much as one month’s premium in the States.
One Thing, One Day
You may be surprised to find that, although Portugal is not the developing world, life here moves at its own pace. While the climate is definitely not tropical, you could find the administration and bureaucracy reminiscent of that in Central America or the Caribbean. Don’t fight it. Embrace the slower gait. If you get one setting-up-a-new-life task accomplished in a day, consider that a win.
Founding Publisher, Overseas Opportunity Letter