Life in Portugal

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More people than ever are asking us about life in Portugal. The recent decision by the United States Supreme Court has made people who were casually thinking of retiring in Portugal consider moving up that decision. Our long-time readers know that we moved to Portugal in April of 2021. We’ve lived in two different apartments in the Cascais/Estoril region and we really like it here.

We’ve also provided non-sugar-coated updates on our lives in Portugal over the last year. The ups and the downs. Spoiler alert: there are a lot more ups than downs!

To make it easier to find all the information we’ve written on moving to Portugal this one post will contain links to all our Portuguese posts even the ones written before we moved. We also write for Travel Awaits and have a lot of content there on Portugal as well. I think it’s safe to say that we’re their Portugal “experts.”

While you are considering moving to Portugal from the U.S.A. we thought we’d give you a few of our thoughts on what to keep in mind as you go through the process. Grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, get comfortable, start reading, take notes, and enjoy!

Life in Portugal

Is Portugal A Good Place To Live?

We happen to think that it is but like everything in life your experience may differ. If you have an open mind and are flexible and patient you can make a home for yourself in Portugal. Here the obvious attractions are good weather, friendly people, safe communities, a beautiful country with endless historical sites and of course delicious food and wine. As with any big life decision, deciding on a life in Portugal should be well-researched and done with care. Come for a long visit and experience what it might be like for you,

Best Places To Live In Portugal

The different regions in Portugal and the varying climates in each area make it possible to find a place that may be right for you. Whether you like the warmer weather you find in the south in Algarve or a more temperate climate along the Lisbon coastline or cooler weather up north in Porto and beyond.

We settled on Cascais as our home base when we first moved to Portugal. We were given the advice that it would be easy to get in and out of Lisbon for administrative meetings we would need to make (it was, and is). Many people speak English in this area which is great when you first move but not so great when you want to actually learn to speak more Portuguese. The Portuguese are very hospitable and will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and at home. Once they hear your native tongue most will speak to you in English.

Life in Portugal Sue and Diana Wine Tasting in Evora Portugal

Another thing to mention is that as a same-sex couple we have been welcomed with open arms in Portugal. I never hesitate to introduce Diana as my wife. While no place on Earth is perfect we truly feel like Portugal is home to us.

What Is Life In Portugal Like?

I’ll answer that question with the frustrating response – that depends. But it truly does. If you’re coming to retire in Portugal then you’ll fit in with the many other American Expats in Portugal who spend their days going for walks along the beach, exploring new places, meeting new people, and simply enjoying life in a new place.

People like us are still working, although admittedly not as much as we used to. We have a terrific Internet connection (basically the same as we had in the states). We have home offices and spend part of the day working and the rest going for walks, taking the train to discover new places, and playing with our cats, whom we also brought to Portugal.

We’ve met lots of other Americans but also made friends with a few Portuguese and other immigrants from the UK, France, and Ukraine.

For us living in Portugal as an American has been a pretty smooth transition. You can read all about our discoveries over the year-plus in the articles below.

Moving To Portugal was our very first post when we told everyone that we were moving.

Life in Portugal: The First 30 Days we walk you through what our first month in Portugal was like.

Moving To Portugal – 3 Months Later time flies here in Portugal. Check out our first three months.

Moving to Portugal – 6 Months Later half a year in Portugal. We’re really starting to settle in.

What’s It Like To Live In Portugal For 9 Months – 9 months and two apartments later we feel at home.

15 Lessons We Learned Living As A Resident in Portugal For A Year – the story of our one-year anniversary in Portugal.

Fish Market in Cascais

What Are The Cons Of Living In Portugal?

There are plenty of articles written about how wonderful Portugal is and why you should move here. However, there are some things to be aware of before you consider the move.

If you are impatient, inflexible, and don’t like change, then moving to another country, Portugal or any other, will be difficult. You need to keep an open mind realizing that you are now part of another culture and must try to assimilate the best you can.

Some of the Bad Things About Living In Portugal

Here in Portugal, in fact, living in Europe, things move slower. Imagine slow and then slow it down again. That’s Portugal. Things like getting an appointment at the SEF office (immigration) or IMT (driver’s license office) can be beyond frustrating. We’re here a year and still don’t have our driver’s licenses. Fingers crossed we will get them soon.

Many times you need to wait in lines with no information on how long you will be there. One tip – be sure to take a number, often people don’t know you need one and stand around waiting only to realize they are not really in line yet.

There is simply nothing you can do to make most anything move faster. Getting mad and raising your voice will only make matters worse. Best to take a breath and remember that you are in this beautiful country and this small annoyance will be over eventually.

Being an expat in Portugal means that you may not have access to all the things you did in the U.S. You really need to think about what you’ll miss and what you’re willing to live without. For us, this was a non-issue.

Pro Tip: if you need help with logistics contact Expat Solutions by Professionals we have worked with them and have found them extremely helpful and reliable.

Learning the Portuguese Language is Tough

We are still learning Portuguese. It’s not a particularly easy language to learn and as I mentioned before many Portuguese do speak English. However, you still should learn it. It will make going to appointments, stores, and meeting new people a lot easier.

Check out our article on how we’re learning Portuguese.

Learning The Portuguese Language discover what tools we have found helpful.

Pro Tip: There are many, many Facebook Groups for expats, immigrants, and others thinking about moving to Portugal. One of the best we know and have used extensively before we moved was Americans and FriendsPT. Run by our dear friend Susan Korthase this group has many resources that can help and you instantly join a community of mostly like-minded people. But as we always say – read everything (read the files) and then do your own research.

Is It Expensive To Live in Portugal?

Many people first consider moving to Portugal because they have heard that it’s “cheap.” Let us tell you Portugal may present a more cost-effective lifestyle than the one you have in the United States. However, in many aspects, it may not. Contrary to the many recent articles about the “droves” of Americans moving to Portugal claiming that living here will be cheap and perfect, we’re here to tell you it is not.

Sure you can save money on some daily living expenses here but costs of housing, utilities, and owning a car are not among them. You will find these categories of expenses in some cases more than you are currently paying. We have said this a zillion times but it bears repeating – you MUST do your own research. Do not rely on Facebook groups in making all your decisions. There are plenty of groups and more than enough people waiting to weigh in both positively and negatively. Read it all and then start analyzing and really digging into what it means for you to move and what will be best for YOU.

A couple of areas you can save money are food and healthcare. Delicious food and wine are more reasonable and plentiful here in Portugal. Even a meal out at most Portuguese restaurants is very affordable especially if you order the “Prato do Dia” or dish of the day. These can range anywhere from 6 to 10 euros and typically include a starter, entree, and drink, sometimes even a dessert.

Wine is delicious and varied here with so many different wine-growing regions. It’s difficult to find a bad one. Wine in the grocery or liquor stores is a real bargain starting at 2 euros a bottle. We’ve had great fun trying wines that are on sale and have found some real winners at the Pingo Doce grocery store right across the street from us.

Healthcare is another space that is a money saver. We have private insurance and pay half of what we did in the United States. There are many plans available. Again, do the research on what works best for you and your family. Most Americans living in Portugal will find significant savings on healthcare.

Shopping is of interest to many people moving to Portugal. We provide some insights about that too. Check out more details about shopping in Portugal through the link below.

Expat Shopping 9 Tips for Shopping it takes some extra navigating to fill a new home in Portugal.

We Even Wrote A Book

Yep, for even more insights check out our ebook 101 Tips For Moving to Portugal (And Once You Arrive)We think you’ll find it informative, easy to read, and helpful even if you’re not sure if you want to move or not.

101 Tips For Moving To Portugal ebook

In our book, you’ll get tips on these important topics:

  • Deciding To Move
  • Getting Started
  • Where To Live
  • Taking Your Pets
  • Banking and Finance
  • Transportation
  • Getting Adjusted

The ebook is on Amazon Kindle but whether you have a Kindle or not you can download their free eReader and use it on any device you own.

LIsbon Portugal

Still Unsure?

We totally get that. Making the move abroad is a MAJOR life decision. We’ve made a couple of really big decisions in our lives and used a system for figuring out how to decide what to do. We’re sharing how to do just that in our book, What Should I Do Now? It’s a 14-day program in an easy workbook that takes you through our process step-by-step. You can read our article about it below.

 How To Change Your Life only you can make the decisions to change your life, but we can help you do it.

You can also listen to interviews we’ve done on several podcasts in the links below. You can hear our honest, heartfelt words straight from our mouths.

Our Interview on Nomadic Foodist Podcast

Interview with Sandi McKenna on Unforgettable Conversations

Interview with Kathy Beihl on Celestial Compass

We hope that our thoughts and experiences help you if you’re thinking about a potential move to Portugal. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.

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Co-founder of Food Travelist. I love to explore the world and love learning about new places. I'm an eater and I've got a smile for everyone I meet.

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