Tag Archive for: Southern Europe

Saranda Albania: Even Better than Expected

In this guest post, Warren R. Johnson shares his experiences in Saranda, Albania. Here is his story…

I first ran across Saranda, Albania several years ago on YouTube. I saw a video of the city and thought, “Oh, that looks like a nice place,” and didn’t give it another thought.

But as algorithms work, YouTube kept sending me more Saranda videos and I kept watching them. Soon I was hooked. I had to see this place.

Arriving in Saranda

In no time, I found myself on a small bus ascending mountains and cascading one of them straight down to the shore of the Adriatic Sea.  I had arrived in Saranda (officially Sarandë). I looked out at the Bay and then turned around. There was the view I had seen so often on YouTube: the panoply of white towers encircling the Bay.

As soon as I settled in, I headed straight to the water’s edge. I looked out upon the Bay, with a view to the Greek Island of Corfu. Then, I turned around and was struck with the view of the picturesque buildings climbing up the mountainside. This was no video. It was the real thing. I had arrived in Saranda.

Saranda Albania PromenadeI started to walk the promenade (boulevard to some). The central portion at the head of the Bay is paved with elongated tiles and runs for almost one kilometer. This is Saranda’s main focal point. Its flat, smooth walkway makes for easy walking in an otherwise vertical city. People walk this promenade day and night, not only for exercise but also to encounter their friends. The view in all directions is stunning, even more so at night with all the twinkling lights popping out around this crescent.

Five roads curve horizontally around the mountainside echoing the shape of the Bay. There is only one real vertical road crossing the five. Otherwise, access is by climbing several series of marble steps. Fortunately, not being one of the faint of heart, I climbed up and up with the reward of a magnificent view out to sea each time I turned around. I think I have climbed all of these stairways to become acquainted with the five roads.

Where is Saranda

Saranda sits in Southeastern Europe lying along the Adriatic Sea close to the border with Greece. It has been dubbed the Albanian Riveria. Situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, it is the unofficial tourist capital of Albania. Saranda is considered to be part of the larger Mediterranean Riviera.

What’s in a name? Greece considers its waters to be the Ionian Sea, including those around Corfu, while Albania lays claim to be alongside the Adriatic Sea. Saranda lies directly on the coast and climbs up the mountains. It is a beach town as well as a port for ferries and cruise ships.

Saranda is served by two international airports. The first is in Tirana, the nation’s capital. Reaching Saranda requires a five-to-six-hour bus ride. The second is in Corfu, with a thirty-to-fifty-minute ferry ride. The ferry port is right at the edge of the city center.

Viewing the Temperature Gauge

Mango Beach Saranda AlbaniaOne of the reasons for Saranda’s popularity is its weather. Saranda has a Mediterranean climate and claims to have 300 sunny days each year. In essence, the summers are hot and dry, while the winters are cold and wet.

The winter season lasts for seven months starting in late September, while the summer season lasts five months starting in late April. The wettest month is November, bringing five inches of rain. July sees the least amount of rain, averaging 0.04 inches. Consequently, winter brings higher humidity and wind than summer, but neither is excessive.

Mean temperatures in Saranda range from º5C (º41F) to º33.5C(º92.3F). These low and high figures generally occur in January and July-August. I should point out that these statistics are from pre-Covid days, a demarcation we seem to have developed. Bear in mind that the world’s weather seems to be changing, so these figures are probably fluid.

Shopping and Eating in Saranda

Shopping in Saranda follows the usual European model. I find that I have to shop in multiple stores to find what I want. There are no large department-type stores. There are four large grocery stores and many smaller convenience stores that specialize in one product or stock smaller quantities of multiple products. I need to go to a grocery store or visit one or more of the street vendors every other day. I can carry only so much each trip.

Supposedly, Saranda has more restaurants per capita than any other European country. This is hard to prove but might be realistic. Certainly, there is a large quantity of places to eat from traditional restaurants to sidewalk stands. In addition to Albanian restaurants, there are ethnic restaurants representing numerous countries. What there isn’t is any international fast-food establishments.

The New Cobblestones

Saranda Albania Sidewalk DesignI find an amazing civic project taking place in the central and western areas of the city. Sidewalks, and eventually streets, are being replaced with a new form of cobblestone. These 2-inch square stones, at 4-inch height, are being meticulously installed by hand in a decorative pattern.

Teams of four men throughout are hand-setting each of the stones. First, a sand base is laid and then curvature-shaped pipes of various sizes are laid to specification. A tan stone is placed within the outline of these curvatures and the areas between the pipes are filled in with white stones. Lastly, all the stones are cemented together.

This pattern is not just limited to the sidewalks. The streets will have the same stone pattern. To allow for easy accessibility, there will be no curbs. A shallow drain allowing for rain runoff separates the street from the sidewalk. This massive project must be very expensive, but the final result will put the city on the map, bringing a beauty unparalleled with other cities.

Another massive project underway is the construction of more apartment buildings and hotels. Although there are more such accommodations than there are permanent residents in Saranda, the need for expanding the lodging facilities is to meet the continually growing summer tourist demands. The winter season is fraught with multiple construction sites all around the city. It is a noisy time of year.

During the summer months, Saranda is overflowing with tourists. Accommodations need to be reserved well in advance. It would be unwise to think of driving in the city during this season because of the heavy congestion. Even the locals park their cars outside the city for their own travels during the summer. There is just nowhere to park.

An Expat Haven

Saranda MarinaA large international gathering of expats have chosen Saranda for temporary or permanent living. The weather and the lower cost of living here have induced these expatriates to leave their homes and journey to Saranda. It is not possible to calculate the number of expats here, as they come and go.

The United States played a supportive role in the Balkans War of the 1990s and Albania is especially thankful for their involvement. Consequently, Albania offers all Americans the opportunity to enter and remain for twelve months visa-free. At the end of the twelve months, or any time short of that, Americans must leave the country for three months before entering again. All other countries are granted the normative three months of visa-free entry.

Albania is open to hosting tourists, retirees, and other nomads. They have yet to offer a digital nomad visa, but you can work online for yourself or an international company. You may not be employed in Albania under normal conditions. Nonresidents do not need to pay any taxes, though it’s best to consult a tax attorney to clarify this. Albania is not in the Schengen Zone nor the European Union, though they are working toward joining both.

Final Thoughts

Despite the large amounts of tourists and heavy traffic during the summer months, Saranda lives up to the hype. It’s an excellent destination for a vacation or permanent move. The temperate climate and the beautiful scenery make it a must-visit. It was even better than I expected.

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.

 

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Live In Seville Spain as an Expat: The Pros & Cons

Seville, Spain (or Sevilla in Spanish) is the vibrant capital of the Andalusia region. It’s a city steeped in rich history and culture, offering an enchanting blend of old-world charm and modern conveniences.

Seville was our first stop in Andalusia and it did not disappoint! We were amazed by the beauty and lively culture.

We picked the perfect time to go because it wasn’t too hot or too cold and it wasn’t during the height of the tourist season. Overall we loved our time there, but our visit wasn’t perfect. Unfortunately, a few aspects of Seville weren’t that appealing to us.

In this article, we dive into the experiences and observations from our visit and share the pros and cons of living in Seville as an expat.

Watch Our Video About The Pros & Cons of Seville, Spain

What We Loved About Seville, Spain

There’s a lot to appreciate about this romantic city, starting with:

Safety and Peacefulness

Spain ranks high on the Global Peace Index coming in at #32 on the list for 2023. During our stay in Seville, we felt secure wandering the streets day and night. We observed solo travelers, women, and even children walking by themselves and out after dark.

Beautiful Winter Weather

Monumento a San Fernando Seville, SpainWe visited in November and the weather was warm and dry, with a lot of sunshine and just a touch of rain on one day. Seville is a great place to spend the winter months unless you really like snow and cold!

Walkability and Bike-Friendliness

Seville exudes a big-city vibe while maintaining a compact and highly walkable layout. Many streets are designated pedestrian-only zones.

The city is flat and, outside the historic center, the sidewalks are wide and even, making walking easier and more wheelchair accessible. However, some of the streets in the historic center are narrow and you’ll have to share the road with cars so be sure to stay alert.

We were also impressed by the extensive network of bike lanes and the amount of cyclists and scooters zipping around the streets. Visitors and locals can find bike and scooter rentals all over the city. We didn’t expect two-wheeled transportation to be so popular!

Convenient Public Transportation

Seville offers a reliable public transportation system, including local buses, taxis, and ride-sharing services like Uber. If you’re traveling further outside of the city, Seville has a modern and reliable train station.

We took the train from Seville to Granada and it was affordable, easy, and relaxing. The station is in the heart of Seville and it is clean and easy to navigate. One thing to note is that your luggage must pass through a security screening but that process was quick and painless.

Rich History and Culture

With a legacy spanning over 2,800 years, Seville is steeped in history and cultural heritage. Evidence of its storied past can be seen in landmarks such as the Cathedral and Palace, as well as remnants of Roman and Moorish influence scattered throughout the city.

We were in awe of the medieval city walls and the enduring legacy of flamenco, although we heard that flamenco is often geared towards tourists.

Architectural Marvels and Scenic Beauty

We were also awestruck by Seville’s architectural landscape. The city is full of colorful buildings, picturesque rivers, and elegant bridges that are pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist-friendly.

Serene Parks and Outdoor Spaces

Parque de Maria Luisa Seville, SpainThe amount of green spaces and parks enhances the romantic feel of the city.  From the Jardines de Murillo behind the Royal Alcazar Palace to the expansive Parque de Maria Luisa, there’s no shortage of places to unwind and enjoy nature’s beauty.

We particularly enjoyed finding a quiet spot in Parque de los Príncipes to relax, people-watch, and listen to the birds.

Excellent Restaurants

Foodies will love Seville’s diverse culinary scene. We found plenty of options to suit every palate and budget.

However, dining in tourist areas can be more expensive. We recommend venturing a few streets outside the popular areas to find hidden culinary gems serving up authentic flavors at reasonable prices.

Great Shopping

As for shopping, the city offers everything from small specialty stores to a fantastic pedestrian mall that goes on for blocks! Shoppers can find anything and everything thanks to the variety of stores.

The pedestrian shopping areas get crowded but we still felt safe shopping there and we really appreciated that we didn’t have to watch for cars.

Vibrant Community Atmosphere

Mercado in Seville, SpainThroughout our visit, we were struck by the sense of community in Seville, with locals and visitors alike enjoying the city’s offerings. We loved seeing friends and family hanging out over tapas and wine or beer and enjoying the beautiful evenings. There’s an undeniable energy that infuses every corner of the city.

The Downsides of Seville, Spain

Although we loved Seville there are some downsides:

Sweltering Summers

While Seville’s sunny weather is generally pleasant, summers can be scorching, with temperatures often exceeding 95°F (35°C).

Lots of People

Popular tourist areas can become overcrowded, particularly during peak seasons, necessitating patience and strategic planning to avoid the crowds.

We were shocked by the amount of tourists and large tourist groups when we were there, during the supposed low season!

Limited Grocery Options and Higher Dining Costs

Antonio Garcia Hats Seville, SpainVisitors may find the selection at local grocery stores somewhat lacking in variety, requiring trips to additional stores.

We enjoy going on a “scavenger hunt” as we like to call hitting up the small shops to find everything we need.

However, if you prefer one-stop shopping you’ll need to go to one of the larger supermarkets outside the city center.

Dining out in Seville can be relatively pricey in tourist-centric areas, although still more affordable compared to many other destinations.

We ate at a popular restaurant in the heart of the tourist area and ate at other restaurants in the local neighborhoods. The local restaurants were half the price for more food and an overall better dining experience.

Language Barrier

We struggled to understand the Spanish spoken in Seville because the accent is much different than what we are used to in Latin America. The Spaniards speak rapidly and we had trouble understanding some of the words and slang.

Cultural Differences

We didn’t experience a lot of culture shock but we weren’t prepared for some of the cultural differences.

Stores and restaurants close during the day for hours and that meant we needed to change our schedule a bit. We’re used to eating dinner around 6 pm but restaurants close around 4:30 and reopen for dinner at 7 pm or 8 pm. We had to get used to eating later.

Most stores close around 2 pm and reopen between 4 pm and 5 pm, including some grocery stores. Additionally most stores close on Sundays.

We learned the hard way that we shouldn’t wait to buy groceries! A couple of times we wanted to pick up a few things to cook and the stores were closed.

Another cultural difference is tipping. Tipping isn’t expected or required, except in the tourist areas. However, if you do decide to leave a tip, the norm is 10%.

Popular Expat Neighborhoods in Seville, Spain

Seville is a big city with a lot of interesting neighborhoods. Here are a few of our favorites:

Macarena

Setas de Sevilla SpainDuring our stay, we resided in the vibrant Macarena neighborhood, which is conveniently located close to popular areas. We walked to Setas de Sevilla in around 8 minutes and to the cathedral in around 15 minutes.

Macarena has a lot of history, colorful buildings, funky stores, and great restaurants. There’s a nice Mercado and several small grocery stores making it easy to get your essentials without leaving the area.

We also ventured across the river to explore the popular neighborhoods of Tablada and Triana.

Tablada

Tablada is a local neighborhood with a lot of younger people including young families and university students. We saw lots of high-rise condo buildings, and the vibe of the pedestrian mall, Calle Asunción, was quite a bit different because it wasn’t full of tourists.  You’ll find local shops there and they do close in the afternoons and on Sundays.

Triana

Guadalquivir River, Seville SpainTriana is more touristy although it is still popular with locals. We liked walking along the river past all the lively restaurants and the view of the bridges.

This neighborhood has a big Mercado and its own pedestrian mall which is located on Calle San Jacinto. The pedestrian mall has local stores and popular chain stores along with restaurants, bars, and tourist shops.

Final Thoughts

Despite a few drawbacks, we had an amazing time in Seville, Spain. We fell in love with the charm, vibrancy, and history of this incredible city.

However, due to the hot summers and huge amounts of tourists, we wouldn’t want to live there year-round. But it would be great to go back and spend more time exploring Seville and immersing ourselves in the culture.

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.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Living in Rome, Italy

Rome, the eternal city, a place where history merges seamlessly with modernity, offers a plethora of experiences for travelers and residents alike.

From its stunning architecture to its rich history, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture, Rome captivates visitors with its charm at every turn.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the various aspects of Rome to help you get a better understanding of what this iconic city has to offer and help you decide if it’s a good place to live.

Watch Our Video About Scouting Iconic Rome, Italy

The Pros of Living in Rome, Italy

This astounding city has a lot going for it and here’s what we love:

Rome Is Gorgeous!

View of the Roman Forum from Rome, ItalyWe were awestruck by Rome’s beauty. The architecture is stunning and the shocking amount of iconic ancient monuments, statues, and fountains scattered throughout the city really surprised us!

We also loved all the trees, greenspaces, and picturesque parks. We walked to Parco della Caffarella, which is an incredible park with a lot of different walking trails, 2,000-year-old ruins, and even a flock of sheep! It felt like we left the city entirely and were in the countryside.

Parco Villa Borghese, located north of the historic center near the neighborhood of Parioli, is another beautiful, must-visit park, especially if you’re in the mood for a relaxing stroll.

Incredible History & Things To Do

The Baths of Caracalla in Rome, italyHistory buffs will find themselves in paradise in Rome!

It was well worth paying to access these incredible places, such as the Colosseum, the Roman Baths of Caracalla, and the Roman Forum.

However, you don’t have to pay to experience many of the sights. You can see so much just walking down the street and of course, you can appreciate the structures from the outside.

Rome Is Safe

While petty theft and pickpocketing can occur, the city is generally safe for visitors.

We felt comfortable roaming around day and night but we were extra mindful of our belongings in the crowded areas and on the Metro.

Rome Has Great Food & Restaurants

There’s no shortage of great food in Rome, from affordable street food to high-end restaurants.

Grocery shopping is easy thanks to the variety of small grocery stores, organic stores, and specialty stores in each neighborhood. You can easily find gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and gourmet products.

Buying produce in the mercatos is always an enjoyable experience for us. We like to buy local as much as possible and everything we bought was full of flavor and affordable.

Solid Infrastructure

Rome has good infrastructure, with well-maintained roads, reliable electricity, and widespread 5G cell coverage.

While the tap water may look unusual when boiled due to mineral content. It contains calcium-carbonate, which becomes insoluble at high temperatures making boiled water cloudy, but it’s safe to drink.

Public Transportation in Rome

Navigating Rome is easy thanks to its efficient public transportation system. The tram and metro are affordable and convenient, providing quick access to major tourist destinations and the airport.

Additionally, buses, taxis, and ride-sharing services like Uber are available, but traffic is congested and slow so rail options might get you there faster.

Rome Is Walkable

The Roman Forum in Rome, ItalyRome is a pedestrian-friendly city with wide sidewalks and drivers who generally stop for pedestrians.

Since we walked almost everywhere we appreciated the yellow walk lights and countdown walk timers.

Romans Are Friendly People

Despite being a bustling metropolis, Rome retains its charm with friendly locals who are often willing to help.

While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, learning Italian can enhance your experience and help you connect with the community on a deeper level.

Rome Is Centrally Located in Italy

Rome’s strategic location makes it an ideal base for exploring other parts of Italy and other countries.

With the availability and convenience of high-speed trains, you can easily travel to other cities such as Florence and Naples.  You can also take an international train to France.

Rome has two international airports with direct flights to numerous countries, including the U.S. and Canada.

The Cons of Rome, Italy

No place is perfect and that includes Rome. Here’s what we didn’t love:

Rome Is a Big City

As with any major city, Rome has its share of urban challenges, including traffic congestion, graffiti, and occasional crime. There are some areas to avoid and you always need to be aware of your surroundings.

Bad Traffic in Rome

Traffic congestion is a common issue in Rome, especially during peak hours, which can result in longer commute times and increased costs for taxis and ride-sharing services.

We decided to use Uber to take us to our Vatican City tour because we thought it would be faster. Unfortunately, we got stuck in traffic and we almost missed our allotted entry time! It was stressful and we would have been better walking or taking the metro.

Rome Is Crowded

Rome’s popularity as a tourist destination means that certain areas can get overcrowded, particularly around historical landmarks and tourist attractions.

At times we felt overwhelmed trying to navigate through the crowds and it wasn’t even high season!

Housing Issues in Rome

Rome Italy Centro HistoricoFinding affordable housing in Rome can be challenging, with high rents and landlords often preferring long-term leases of 3 years or longer.

Additionally, a lot of condos have been converted to short-term stays and listed on sites like AirBnB, reducing the supply for long-term rentals.

Therefore, purchasing property may be a better option for those planning to stay long-term.

Cultural Differences Are a Challenge

While we didn’t experience a lot of culture shock, we were surprised by the amount of smokers and that we couldn’t flush the toilet paper in some places, including our apartment rental. Consequently, we’ve embraced the bidet!

Tourist Scams

The Colosseum in Rome, ItalyTourist scams are a reality in Rome, with aggressive vendors and individuals attempting to exploit unsuspecting visitors, including us. We got hit up by these scammers multiple times and it was very off-putting and irritating.

Some common scams include offering a free gift or asking you to sign a petition and then trying to guilt you into giving them a “donation”.

As a general rule, don’t accept anything for free and if someone asks you to sign their petition, just move on, because more than likely it’s a scam.

In these situations, the best thing you can do is try to ignore the scammers by avoiding eye contact and not stopping or acknowledging them when they try to get your attention.

Weather In Rome

We visited Rome in December and we needed to wear our warmer coats, gloves, and scarves. The temperatures were above average for the time of year and, even though we had some sunny days, we were still pretty chilly!

Summers can be painfully hot and, in July of 2023, Rome experienced a record-breaking heatwave.

Final Thoughts

Rome is an amazing city and we’d absolutely love to spend more time there. While it has its challenges, the city’s beauty, history, and friendly atmosphere made us sad to leave.

Although we wouldn’t want to live there long-term, it would be a great place to live for a few months or even a year.

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.

 

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Portugal Livability for Expats

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.

D7 Visa

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.

D8 Visas

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

Torre Dos Cierigos tower in Porto Portugal Portugal is known for its safety. We felt comfortable walking around the city, both day and night.

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.

Picture of the moon in Matoshinos Portugal

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

Green Building in Porto PortugalPortugal provides various housing options, but prices vary, with coastal and city areas being more expensive, especially in Lisbon and Porto.

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.

Portugal Taxes

Capela das Almas tiles in Porto PortugalPortugal’s exchange rate and sales tax can impact expenses, and the potential end of the NHR tax scheme can lead to higher taxes for new residents.

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

Park with shadow of a tree in Matoshinos PortugalPortugal offers a high quality of life with a lot of different things to do. You can spend time in the city and visit a museum or go to a concert. You’ll find a variety of classes, gyms, and studios.

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!

Final Thoughts

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.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal is a city with a history that predates even the Roman Empire and it continues to captivate people from all around the world.

Despite our arrival coinciding with one of the worst rainy seasons in recent memory, we were lucky enough to have a few hours of sun and blue skies to explore the city. We didn’t let the weather stop us!

Porto is extremely popular with tourists and foreign residents but it isn’t perfect. In this article, we share what we love about Porto, as well as some of the downsides, to help you decide if it is a good fit for you.

Watch Our Video About Porto, Portugal

The Pros of Porto, Portugal

This historical city has a lot of great things going for it, starting with…

Safety and Friendliness

Porto boasts a reputation as one of the safest and most peaceful countries globally, ranking  #7 on the Global Peace Index.

The locals were friendly, helpful, and welcoming. We didn’t experience any anti-foreigner sentiment during our stay there.

Language Accessibility
Fonte Dos Leoes Fountain in Porto Portugal

The minimal language barrier is a significant advantage, as English is widely spoken, and Spanish is common.

We were surprised that we could read Portuguese because many words are similar to Spanish.

The spoken language is much different, however. It sounds like Russian and the pronunciation is different from what we’re used to when speaking Spanish.

Overall we felt comfortable communicating with the locals and we were able to pick up some Portuguese quickly.

Clean and Green
Crystal Palace Gardens in Porto Portugal

The city is clean. We saw very little litter or graffiti, and the air is clean, thanks in part to all the electric cars and buses.

Drinkable Water

You can drink the tap water, but it does have a strong mineral taste.

We were given bottled water when we asked for water in restaurants. They didn’t offer us tap water at all.

Rich History and Architecture

With a history spanning 900 years, Porto showcases a blend of old historic churches, monuments, and captivating architecture.

People have been living in Porto for over 2000 years!

The influence of Moorish culture, visualized in the Azulejo Ceramic Tiles, adds a unique charm to many buildings.

The Ponte Luis I Bridge in Porto Portugal Porto is also famous for its bridges. Our favorites are the Ponte da Arrábida which is the white arched bridge close to the ocean and the Ponte Luís I. It was the longest of its type at the time.

Compact and Walkable

When we looked at the map of Porto we thought the city was big and our walks from monument to monument would be long.

The reality is that Porto is a compact city and everything is close and convenient. Most of the places we visited were 5 to 15 minutes on foot.

Public transportation

If you don’t want to walk, Porto has excellent public transportation options, including Uber, Taxis, Metro, and Trains. Getting around the city is quick and easy.

You can also take trains to neighboring cities, such as Braga and Lisbon. The trains will take you all the way to the Algarve region as well.

Wonderful Restaurants

The city’s culinary scene, featuring street-side cafes and beautiful restaurants, offers a wide variety of delectable dishes.

From the traditional Portuguese sandwich, the Francesinha, to exquisite desserts like Maracuya Tiramisu and Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse, Porto caters to diverse tastes.

We loved the restaurant scene a little too much; we both put on a few pounds! We couldn’t resist the variety of food and the different ambiance. Plus everything was very affordable.

Affordable Food

There are several small grocery stores around the city as well as specialty stores and mercados.

Groceries are affordable and the prices were similar to those in Ecuador, with some exceptions (tropical fruits are more expensive in Porto).

We were able to buy a wide variety of local and international food, although we did have to shop at a couple of different stores.

Drinking Culture

We were surprised by the drinking culture at first but, because the Portuguese wine is quite good and very inexpensive, in retrospect it is understandable.

We saw people drinking wine at all hours, even in the mornings. People enjoy wine at the mercados as well as the street-side cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Shopping Experience

Porto has a lot of shopping, including outdoor malls, specialty shops, and unique markets.

We especially liked the pedestrian areas since we didn’t have to watch for cars.

There’s a variety of stores including local and international chain brands. You’ll also find a lot of specialty stores, such as chocolate shops, shoe shops, and tourist shops.

The shopping experiences in the pharmacies reminded us of Ecuador. Most of the items are behind the counter. You have to take a number and meet with the pharmacist who will then get you what you need.

The Cons of Porto, Portugal

No place is perfect and Porto is no exception. Here are the drawbacks…

Rainy Season

We knew we were visiting in the rainy season but we weren’t prepared for the intensity of rain. It can definitely be a drawback.

Tourists

We were shocked by the amount of tourists and we were there during the shoulder season! At times it was overwhelming.

We wouldn’t want to visit during high season and we wouldn’t want to live in the historic center. There were just too many people for our comfort level.

Construction

There are a lot of big construction projects throughout the city which made it difficult to navigate, especially since the maps weren’t updated and kept trying to send us through closed areas.

NHR Scheme Deadline

The Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) scheme, ending in 2024, presents potential tax consequences that may influence decisions about living in Portugal.

Since we’re not retired and still work online, the tax rates in Portugal on our active income would make living there cost-prohibitive.

Could We Live in Porto?

Despite a few downsides, we had a great time exploring Porto and we could live there. We loved the architecture, the variety of things to do, the walkability, and the public transportation.

We’re glad we stayed in the heart of the historic center but we found some other neighborhoods where we would prefer to live.

We liked Bonfim, an older and less touristy area with lower rents.

We liked Marques and Lapa as well, there is a younger vibe in both areas.

Vila Nova de Gaia is another popular area, especially with expats. It is located south of the river and is less touristy once you get away from the riverfront. We had fun exploring the neighborhood and we saw lots of locals. It is very hilly though, we were out of breath a few times!

Final Thoughts

The challenges posed by the weather, crowds, and ongoing construction, didn’t diminish our time in Porto. The city’s unique blend of history, modern amenities, and restaurant scene makes it a place worth considering for future visits or as a permanent residence.

Whether it’s strolling through its ancient streets, savoring local delicacies, or exploring its diverse neighborhoods, Porto has left an indelible mark on our experiences.

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.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Matosinhos, Portugal

We finally made it to Portugal! This is the first country on our multi-country tour while we search for a 3rd place to call home after the U.S. and Ecuador.

Portugal is also at the top of the list for a large number of our viewers so it seemed like a great place to start this adventure.

We took a red-eye from Newark New Jersey and arrived at the Porto airport around 9:30 AM.

We knew we would be tired from the overnight flight and the jet lag, so we wanted to spend the first couple of days of our trip recovering by the beach in Matosinhos. It’s located on the western side of the Porto Metro Area and it has a lot going for it.

This isn’t the best time of year for a beach vacation in Portugal, but it was perfect for our first trip to Portugal because this area is a really popular place to live year-round.

In this article, we share the pros and cons to help you decide if Matosinhos should be on your list of places to consider.

Watch Our Video About Matosinhos, Portugal

The Pros of Matosinhos, Portugal

This beautiful beach town has a lot of great things going for it, starting with…

Safety

Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world. We felt extremely comfortable wandering around Matosinhos, even at night.

Clean

The city is very clean! We were so impressed. It is obvious that the residents care about their city. They don’t litter and keep the sidewalks clean.

Less Crowded
Matosinhos Portugal Beach Sculpture

Matosinhos is a popular beach and surfing destination. Since we were there during the shoulder season, it wasn’t crowded.

In general, it doesn’t get as crowded as Porto, even during high season, which is a big plus for us.

Family-friendly

We saw a lot of families and lots of grandparents enjoying quality time with their grandchildren during the day. There are a lot of family-friendly activities and parks.

Matosinhos Portugal Street ViewWalkable

The city is very pedestrian-friendly. Drivers are considerate and stop for pedestrians, (you still need to pay attention to the traffic lights and walk signs).

There is a nice pedestrian and bike trail so you can avoid cars completely.

It is flat so you don’t have to walk up and down steep hills.

One thing to note is that some of the sidewalks are a bit uneven since they use stones instead of flat cement. This can be an issue for those with mobility issues.

Local Businesses

Matosinhos Portugal Old TownWe found a nice variety of restaurants and locally owned stores in the area.

After spending time in the U.S. it was refreshing to see the small, locally owned businesses. They add to the character and sense of community.

Grocery Stores 

There are some small chain grocery stores in the area that are walkable. We liked Pingo Doce and Mercadona.

We were able to find what we needed but they didn’t have a huge variety of specialty items.

Shopping

Norteshopping is a big mall in the area and it’s very popular! We were shocked by the amount of people there on a Sunday afternoon!

In retrospect, it isn’t surprising that the mall was crowded since it has so much to offer besides shopping. There is a play area for kids, a food court, upscale restaurants, and they occasionally have performances.

The shopping is great too. You can find everything you need from clothing to electronics and everything in between.  There is even a full-size grocery store.

Outdoor Activities 

Matosinhos Portugal ParkWe enjoyed connecting with nature while in the city.

The beach, Praia de Matosinhos, has so much to offer.  You can just relax and enjoy the views like us, or surf, play volleyball, fútbol, or go for walks in the sand or on the wide sidewalk.

We loved Parque da Cidade do Porto. It is a big urban park with a lot of walking trails, lakes, and beautiful views.

Cycling and skateboarding are also very popular activities in Matosinhos and there are lots of small parks to enjoy.

Public Transportation

Uber operates in Matosinhos; however, there aren’t many taxis in the area. If you don’t want to hire a car you can take the Metro or bus.

Location

A big pro for us is the proximity to the Porto airport and the heart of Porto. After traveling on a red-eye we wanted to get to our hotel quickly.

The airport is 20 minutes by Uber or taxi and there is a direct route on the metro.

It is also a 20-minute drive to the center of Porto making it a great place to explore the area without staying in the crowded tourist spots.

The Cons of Matosinhos, Portugal

No place is perfect and Matosinhos is no exception. Here are the drawbacks…

Matosinhos Portugal Rain at NightRainy Season

We knew we were arriving during the rainy season but we weren’t prepared for the amount and intensity of the rain.

A hard rain took out the internet for hours! The rain was blowing sideways and it was just miserable.

Expensive Housing

This area of Portugal is more expensive since it is close to the beach, the airport, and Porto.

We stayed in a Sheraton for $120/night, but there are small AirBnBs available in the $60 to $80 range.

Rents have increased steadily and the locals told us it is getting harder for them to find places to live that are convenient to their work. They said the rent has increased by hundreds of euros per month.

Construction

We didn’t expect the amount of cranes in the area. There are some big condo developments under construction.

Lack of  Cultural Activities 

There aren’t as many cultural activities in Matosinhos compared to Porto. You’ll have to travel into the city to find a wider variety of things to do such as museums and concerts.

Final Thoughts…

We enjoyed exploring Matosinhos and think it would be a great place to call home.

The community has a lot to offer: safety, nature, good shopping, and no need for a car thanks to the good public transportation.

The location is ideal since Porto and the airport are so close. You can easily explore more of Portugal or other countries in Europe.

We aren’t ready to call anyplace our 3rd home yet; we’ve just started exploring. We’re excited to share more of our exploratory trips from Europe with you!

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Why Josh & Kalie Moved to Portugal

In this guest post, Kalie from ExpatsEverywhere shares the reasons why she and Josh chose Portugal over all the other countries on their list. Here’s their story…

I get asked this question a lot: Why Portugal?

Obviously, there are a variety of reasons that someone chooses to move somewhere, whether that’s in their own country or abroad.

There are a lot of great options for places to move abroad, but we are extremely happy to currently be in Portugal.

The Backstory

Before I go into why, let me give you a quick backstory…

Kalie and Josh with their daughter in Porto Portugal.My husband, Josh, and I moved from the US in 2009. Our first stop was Spain, then South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.

So Portugal was tricky because it starts with a “P” and we had a really good streak going with countries starting with “S” haha.

But seriously, we had been living abroad for a while with no intention of moving back to the US.

While we loved our time in Singapore, we felt like we wanted to get back to the European lifestyle. We had been in Asia for quite a while.

During our time in Spain, we had visited Portugal a lot and really fell in love with the country, specifically the city of Porto.

It was always on the back burner as an option so when we started looking for our next move (and I kid you not, we were looking into Slovenia which just so happens to start with an “S” too) we were reminded of Portugal.

Josh started doing a bit of research to figure out just how hard it would be to move to Portugal. What’s the visa process like? What do we need to prove to get the visa? What’s a realistic budget? Questions like these. He found a very doable visa and path.

At the time, it was just the D7 visa which was classified as living off of individual revenue. A lot of people called it the retiree visa but it wasn’t just limited to being retired and passive income.

We found that we could apply being self-employed along with some passive income we had. Things have changed a bit with that, but more on that later.

Why We Chose Portugal

So why did we choose Portugal and, specifically, Porto?

We used to joke that Portugal was the hidden gem of Europe. Nobody knew where it was or even considered visiting.

Americans would plan a European trip and go to places like London, Paris, Rome, etc. No Portuguese city was ever on that list.

Boy has that changed! Even when we started our move in 2020 (yes, crazy timing I know) Portugal wasn’t that popular of a place to move to.

Portugal Safety

There are lots of reasons to consider Portugal as a good destination. One of the big reasons we decided to move to Portugal is safety. It’s currently ranked #7 in the world and #5 in Europe on the Global Peace Index.

This was a massive perk as we had recently had a baby girl and I like the city life so I wanted to be able to move around the city on my own and with her while feeling and being safe.

English Speakers in Portugal

Another great perk is the overall English language proficiency. Portuguese is a hard language so as I learn, it’s nice to know I can fall back on English.

Portugal is currently ranked #9 in the world for English and they teach it early on in schools. Obviously, smaller towns will have fewer people who are proficient but we wanted to live in Porto so we knew we would be ok.

Why Porto, Portugal?

For us, it has everything. We can live in a city with all the amenities we need but not be in an overwhelmingly large city.

The beach is nearby and easy to access by metro and bus. We also have a beautiful river to enjoy.

Some people will classify Porto as gritty. We know it’s not for everyone but we love it. We don’t mind the cooler weather in the winter (because we get the cooler and most pleasant weather in the summer too) and a little rain off and on doesn’t bother us.

It’s an overall vibe and we are definitely Porto people.

Portuguese people are notoriously nice but there’s something overly nice about the people in the north. It has a bit more of a humbler beginning and we don’t have the rush of being a capital city. People are very accommodating and helpful.

Final Thoughts…

I could go on and on about why we chose Portugal as a place to live but it ticks all of our boxes for the stage of life we are in.

We know it’s not for everyone and Porto specifically is not for everyone. However, we are really enjoying being back to the European lifestyle and being able to easily and cheaply travel around Europe.

Travel, the lower cost of living, and the reasons I listed above are all major perks of being an expat in Portugal.

If you’re considering Portugal, check out our YouTube channel and ExpatsEverywhere.com for more information. We also have visa courses and I do consultations.

Remember earlier when I mentioned we came in on the D7 visa? The D7 still exists for passive income but now there’s a D8 visa for active income. We are happy to help you with this or any other questions you might have. We love promoting Portugal as an amazing place to live!

Let’s get movin’!
Kalie

Watch a Video About Why Josh & Kalie Moved to Portugal

 

Portugal vs. Ecuador: A Peek Into Expat Life in Porto Portugal

We teamed up with Josh and Kalie from @Expats Everywhere in Porto, Portugal to create TWO must see videos!

The 4 of us have spent nearly 6 weeks working on these 2 videos, and we’re EXCITED to share them with all of you!!!

You can watch OUR video on THEIR channel here: Living in Ecuador 🇪🇨 The MOST COMPELLING Reasons From YouTubers Amelia And JP.

Portugal was near the top of our list when we researched expat destinations for our move abroad, so we were eager to learn about their experiences living in Porto, Portugal. This gave us the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast expat life in Portugal and Ecuador.

While many things are similar, Portugal has a few advantages over Ecuador, which we discuss in the video. But the major disadvantage is the timezone, especially if you work online for a company back in the US.

The 7 hour time difference between Denver and Portugal would mean we start working at 3PM and end after 11PM. In case you’re new to our channel, WE GO TO BED AT 9PM! We’re very excited to visit Portugal, but living there isn’t an option until we don’t have day jobs based in the US anymore.

Watch Our Video Where We Compare Our Lives in Portugal and Ecuador

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.

 

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