Portugal is one of the most popular places for expats, but how livable is it?
We took an exploratory trip to see for ourselves because it was at the top of our list for another residency. While it does have a lot going for it in terms of livability for expats, we’ve crossed it off our list for one main reason.
This article evaluates Portugal’s livability based on the crucial factors that matter most when considering a potential new home, such as safety, cost of living, residency options, and taxes.
Watch Our Video About Why We’re No Longer Considering Portugal
The Crucial Factors
Residency Visa Options in Portugal
One of the critical factors when contemplating a move to a new country is the availability of residency visa options. Portugal has two viable visa options, the D7 and D8 visas.
This is a passive income visa, with a minimum income requirement of 820 euros per month plus a minimum savings of 9,840 euros deposited into a Portuguese bank account.
It is a 2-year visa and can be renewed for an additional 3 years. This visa allows you to apply for permanent residency after 5 years.
The 1-year Temporary Stay visa has a monthly income requirement of 3,280 euros and is renewable. You are not required to obtain a NIF (taxpayer identification number). However, depending on the consulate processing your visa, you may need a Portuguese bank account.
The 2-year Residence visa has a monthly income requirement of 3,280 euros and is renewable for an additional 3 years. This visa allows you to apply for permanent residency after 5 years. You ARE required to obtain a NIF and open a Portuguese bank account for this visa.
Disclaimer: Please note there are additional conditions and requirements for the D7 and D8 visas. Please consult a qualified visa specialist for complete information and guidance.
Safety & Stability in Portugal
The country recently experienced some political upheaval, including the resignation of the Prime Minister, triggering snap elections on March 10, 2024.
Regional Weather in Portugal
Portugal has diverse climates across its regions, from the cooler and wetter Green Coast to the warmer and drier Lisbon Coast and Algarve Region.
While the country generally experiences favorable weather, occasional storms from the Atlantic Ocean happen.
We experienced heavy rains when we visited Porto, (part of the Green Coast), in November. It didn’t rain 24/7 but it rained more often and heavier than we expected.
We still enjoyed our trip but we’ll go to the Lisbon area or the Algarve Region if we go back during the rainy season.
Health Insurance & Healthcare in Portugal
With a healthcare system ranked 20th globally by CEO World, Portugal offers good medical services at affordable prices. Public healthcare is mostly free; however, it may take longer to see a doctor compared to private healthcare.
Private health insurance is affordable, with an average price range of $50 to $150 per month for 1 person. Prices vary depending on the type of coverage, age, and other factors (like smoking).
We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the quality of care in the private sector from other expats. English-speaking doctors are available and a typical office visit will cost $40 to $50 without insurance.
The high quality and low cost of healthcare contribute to the overall livability of Portugal.
Cost of Housing in Portugal
Housing prices have increased significantly over the last few years, and locals told us they are struggling to find affordable rentals. You can expect to pay more for less in terms of size and amenities.
The average home price in Porto is 1,802 euros per square meter, according to Portugal Business News. Despite a slight cooling down expected in the housing market, prices remain a significant factor since this is typically the biggest living expense.
Typical rental prices are between $700 to $1500/month depending on size, location and amenities.
You’ll find more affordable options in smaller cities such as Braga and Coimbra, and rural locations.
Cost of Food & Restaurants in Portugal
We found a nice variety of food, from locally produced items to international and gluten-free to fresh produce for sale at the local markets.
Our food costs were similar to Ecuador and approximately 50% to 70% less than in the United States.
We were impressed with the quantity and quality of restaurants in Porto and Matosinhos. There is a wide variety of local and international cuisine, along with fast food, casual dining, and high-end, multi-course meals.
We spent $15 to $30 for lunch and $30 to $50 for dinner with wine.
Sales tax is up to 23% but not on everything. There are variable rates with some items, such as most food, taxed at 6%. Wine is taxed at 13%.
There isn’t a tipping culture in Portugal so you can save the 20+% that many Americans automatically add when dining out. If you do decide to tip, 10% is more than what’s expected.
There are tax exclusions and credits available to help offset the higher taxes in Portugal (assuming they do eliminate the NHR tax scheme), but you still may end up paying more in taxes.
Monthly Cost of Living in Portugal
Understanding the cost of living is crucial for anyone considering a move. Based on our research and personal spending, the average price for a single person is around $1800 to $2200/month, and for a couple, the average price is $2500 to $3000/month outside the major cities.
Tack on an additional 30% to 50% if you want to live in Porto, Lisbon, or other popular areas.
Although the increased housing costs have impacted the livability of Portugal the overall cost of living is still reasonably low, especially when compared to the United States and Canada.
Walkability & Public Transportation in Portugal
The cities and towns are designed for walkability. There are a lot of local neighborhood shops so you can get what you need within a short walk.
We had no problem walking around in Portugal although some areas are hilly and some places have uneven sidewalks. There are plenty of crosswalks and the drivers stop for pedestrians.
The country has an extensive rail system, making it easy to travel in and between cities. There are also plenty of buses, taxis, and Uber services.
Quality of Life in Portugal
You can hike in the mountains or go to the beach. You won’t be bored in Portugal!
It is family friendly and all the locals we met were helpful and welcoming.
Language Barrier in Portugal
While Portuguese can be challenging, English is widely spoken, especially in larger cities and popular tourist areas.
We were surprised by the amount of Spanish spoken, which was great for us. If someone didn’t speak English, they spoke (or at least understood) Spanish so we could communicate.
And we were able to read a lot of Portuguese since the language is similar to Spanish, although when it’s spoken, it sounds more like Russian than Spanish!
Portugal is definitely livable for expats. It offers a compelling mix of factors that make it an attractive place to call home.
We enjoyed our time there and plan to explore more of the country. However, we are taking Portugal off our list for a 3rd residency, at least for now, because of the elimination of the NHR tax scheme.
PLUS, we have a lot of other countries to explore before we make a decision about our 3rd place to call home.
DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Get the Free Move Abroad Checklist
PLUS, there are several other free perks in our Live Abroad Toolkit we think you'll enjoy!