My family moved to Cascais sight unseen.
We had spent time in Portugal on several occasions but never with the intent of moving. We moved here during the pandemic, which made a scouting trip all but impossible.
We knew we wanted to live in Portugal, but narrowing down where was a beast of a decision.
Originally a small fishing village, Cascais has grown into a popular tourist spot and is home to some of Portugal’s wealthiest and most famous citizens, as well as a growing number of expats.
A 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, slightly less by car depending on traffic, the coastal town of Cascais has all the luxuries of any other urban area.
There’s well-maintained roads, reliable electricity, good tap water, high-speed internet (there’s also slow but free city-wide Wi-Fi), a wide-ranging public transportation system, and more.
My husband and I moved here with our two children so, for us, schooling was a deciding factor. One of the amenities that draws a lot of international families to Cascais is the abundance of schools.
After doing extensive research on the international schools in the Cascais area, we had narrowed our choice down to one school.
When we found out that the school did not have space for our kids, we had to keep looking. Luckily for us, we found an amazing private Portuguese school that leaned heavily on the international side and just so happened to be next door to our original choice.
Whether it’s a public school, private school, or international school you seek, Cascais has them all.
The rental market varies greatly in Cascais. Because there are a lot of expats looking to move here, many rentals get priced for expats—much higher prices than locals would typically pay. It’s wise to be wary of any rental that seems unfairly priced.
We were lucky enough to find a rental house that was priced fairly with a wonderful Portuguese landlord who wanted nothing more than to find a good family for the home.
Not all landlords are created equal. When looking for rental properties, remember one thing: if something doesn’t feel right, move on. No home is worth the headaches a bad contract or shady landlord can bring with it.
The rental market is extremely tough right now, and that’s the exact time when some may try to take advantage of someone new to Cascais or Portugal. That said, be prepared to go above and beyond for the place you love.
We paid three months’ rent upfront and a one-month deposit and signed a one-year renewing lease. But you may be asked to pay six months’ rent upfront or sign a three-year lease. These details can be negotiated to some extent, but know that this is quite normal.
Cascais is quite possibly one of the most diverse cities in Portugal. And as such, you will hear English (as well as many other languages) being spoken everywhere.
Although they can be quite modest about it, the large majority of Portuguese residents in Cascais speak an impressive level of English. Most offices and shops have at least one person available who speaks English, and if you get stuck, there are usually bystanders willing to help translate in a pinch.
Cascais has two hospitals: one public, one private.
The private hospital, CUF Cascais, is part of a large network of CUF hospitals. The hospital is small but centrally located and easy to access.
My family and I use this hospital regularly, as our private insurance is accepted by most providers, and it’s quite easy to make appointments with English-speaking doctors.
A couple of things to note: CUF does not offer 24-hour emergency services and the emergency department is quite basic. For after-hours and dire emergencies, you should use the public hospital.
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The public health option is Cascais Hospital, located in Alcabideche. Expansive in size, it’s the largest hospital near Cascais.
We’ve also called the SNS health line on multiple occasions. It’s a great system to get answers from nurses or doctors quickly and from the convenience of your own home.
Now that we have a dedicated GP, we communicate with her about these things.
But before we established that relationship, the SNS hotline was a great friend.
Having used the public and private systems for myself and my family, I can say the private system is more convenient, but the public system will not fail you.
One of the things I love most about living in Cascais is not something I thought I wanted at all. But as it turns out, it’s something I needed and must have been craving in my previous life…
It surprises me how often I randomly run into people I know while running errands, grocery shopping, picking up the kids from school and activities, etc. The expat community in Cascais is probably one of the best in Portugal.
Between meeting people through my blog, in Facebook groups, and through friends and friends of friends, I’ve made more meaningful connections since moving to Cascais than I did living 12 years in New York City.
Maybe it’s because we’ve all been on a similar journey to get here, or because we know how vulnerable it can feel to be in a new town, a new country, a new life. But it feels like you have a safety net below you as you navigate the high wire of settling into expat life.
There is always someone willing to help, offer advice, or simply connect with you over coffee or a glass of vinho verde. Several groups plan local meet-ups, and the area-based groups on Facebook are a wealth of information.
Whether you’re an outdoorsy person, a music lover, a sports person, or an avid reader, Cascais offers no shortage of activities and events year-round.
Cascais also has a lot going for it when it comes to weather.
I mean, I didn’t count or anything, but I would never tell someone they were wrong if they told me there were more than 300 days of sun over the last year.
It certainly feels like it’s sunny most of the time. Even in winter. My vitamin D levels have never been higher.
Cascais’ proximity to the ocean gives it a distinct advantage when it comes to weather. The breeze coming off the Atlantic keeps the temperatures comfortable and dry in the summer.
One of the reasons people started flocking to Cascais was to escape the heat and humidity of Lisbon. During summer, you can count on Lisbon to be at least 10°F higher than Cascais.
Overall, Cascais has been everything we hoped for with few aspects worth worrying too much about. It’s diverse and has so much international flair, but that is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it’s a wonderfully soft landing spot for expats who want to ease into Portuguese life. Great for families, retirees, singles, and couples, you really can’t go wrong by choosing to live in Cascais.
On the other hand, if you’re hoping to assimilate into Portuguese life quickly—learning the language and making a lot of Portuguese friends—Cascais may not be the place for you. For that, you should seek out more rural areas with less of an expat presence.
If you do choose to settle in Cascais, it will welcome you with open arms.
Full-Time Portugal Expat