What you need to know before moving to Portugal

Tips to help you avoid mistakes when moving to Portugal in 2021.

Photo by Thibault Mokuenko on Unsplash
17 February 2021, Emma Donaldson

The expat community in Portugal is made up of half a million foreign residents according to the latest figures. Despite the coronavirus pandemic affecting much of Europe and the world, people very much still have their eye on moving to Portugal in 2021, especially those who have realised that a lifestyle change is in order as a consequence of the pandemic. With everything Portugal has to offer, from its pleasant climate to a relaxed way of life, the number of expats moving to Portugal in the future is set to increase. So, If you’re thinking of moving in 2021 as an expat, there are some important things that you need to know before moving to Portugal: things are not always sun, sea and sand.

Portugal is not Spain

First things first, Portugal is certainly not Spain. Although this sounds like stating the obvious, many people make the mistake of thinking that these Mediterranean neighbours are identical, but quite the opposite. The unique geographic layout of the Iberian Peninsula has resulted in Spain and Portugal developing in relative isolation from each other, and although the two countries have a good relationship, things are not the same. Apart from the language, there are many other differences between Portugal and Spain, especially when it comes to cultural differences: from the people and landscapes to the food, you are in a for a treat in Portugal due to its unique culture.

Learn some Portuguese before moving

Moving to a new country is a wonderful experience that involves embracing a new culture, and with it comes a new language. Although Portugal is a country that is home to lots of expats and English speakers, it’s still a good idea to learn some Portuguese before you move for several reasons. Although English levels are generally quite good in Portugal, some basic Portuguese phrases will go a long way, especially if you plan to buy or rent property, or when it comes to filling out paperwork during your move.

Research shows that foreigners that move to Portugal and make the effort to learn Portuguese report higher satisfaction levels in general. If you want to properly settle in Portugal and if you want to make friends, then speaking Portuguese only has advantages, as well as the fact that you may be able to find a higher paid job.

Cost of living in Portugal

Portugal is widely known as an affordable country, where things like eating out, buying food and even buying or renting property are much cheaper than the majority of other EU countries. The most expensive place to live in Portugal is Lisbon, with property prices on the rise, while inland areas which are further from the coast tend to have the cheapest property prices in Portugal, as well as general cost of living. The average cost of living in Portugal is said to be around 1,500 euros per month, and depending on what part of Portugal you're living in, this figure could be more or less.

There’s more to Portugal than just the Algarve

While the Algarve is one of Portugal’s most popular areas for expats with its obvious attraction of warm weather and beaches, Portugal has lots more to offer and is home to some of the best places for expats in the world. From charming cities to beautiful countryside, there’s more to Portugal than just beautiful beaches, and if you want to live by the coast but further from the tourist hub of the Algarve, then Portugal’s Silver Coast might be the perfect destination for you, home to some of Portugal’s surfing hotspots.

On top of this, don’t discard Portugal’s stunning islands, from Madeira to the Azores, you’re sure to fall in love with these places off the beaten track in Portugal. Certain areas of Portugal are even starting schemes to encourage people to move to inland or remote areas to live and work, due to the rise in working from home as a result of the coronavirus.

It’s not always sunny in Portugal

If you’re thinking of moving to Portugal for good weather, you’re certainly not wrong, as the country is famous for its sunshine. Temperatures in the Algarve have an annual average of 18°C and can even reach the dizzy heights of 40°C in the summer.

However, you are mistaken if you think that moving to Portugal is a permanent escape from winter cold. In the winter months, temperatures in central and northern Portugal can easily dip below freezing, while rain is a normal occurrence throughout the country. In summary, you’ll enjoy lots of good weather in Portugal, but bringing a coat is advisable!

Be prepared for paperwork

When moving to Portugal, it's a good idea to go prepared and take with you any paperwork you may have, as it may be needed when it comes to becoming a resident or even signing up for healthcare. As an expat, you will have to apply for several different items of paperwork, and if you're from the UK, things are now a little more complicated due to Brexit. Check out our guide on how to become a resident in Portugal post-Brexit and avoid any unnecessary bureaucracy stress in Portugal. 

Food and culture

Portugal is heaven for food lovers and is generally buzzing with leisure activities, coronavirus permitting. Whether you’re moving to Portugal alone, with family or if you’re retired, Portugal has something for everyone. If you love golf, then the Algarve is home to some of the best courses in Europe, while Portugal’s cities are oozing with history just waiting to be discovered. If you’re a foodie, then Portugal’s gastronomic delights are just for you, with fresh fish and wine some of the many local products you have to try.

Opening a bank account in Portugal

Finances are another important point to consider before moving to Portugal. If you are thinking of moving to Portugal long-term, then opening a Portuguese bank account is a must. Make sure to do your research to find the right bank for your needs, as quite a few banks in Portugal will charge you some quite hefty monthly fees if you don’t meet certain conditions, such as a minimum monthly income. Take note that to open a bank account, you don’t have to be a resident, but this will make the process easier and also get you better conditions on your account. Check out our simple guide on how to open a current account in Portugal.

Portuguese people

What are Portuguese people like is a big question for those considering moving to the country. And while it’s difficult to define the character of a nation in such a general way, the consensus is that Portuguese people are easy-going, helpful, welcoming, and friendly. Many expats who move to Portugal often say that the Portuguese seem distant and a bit ill-tempered at first, but this soon changes with time, especially if you know a little Portuguese to help you along the way.

Finding somewhere to live in Portugal

Now that you're up to date with some of the most important things to know before moving to Portugal, it's time to start your house search. Whether you want to buy or rent property in Portugal, you'll find exactly what you're looking for on idealista with our large selection of property listings in Portugal. 

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