An elderly gentleman wearing a Panama hat and carrying a walking stick strolls leisurely down a cobblestone tree-lined street in a suburb of Lisbon. “That’s what I’m talking about,” says expat Dave Dougherty as he snaps a photo to preserve the moment. “Old World elegance is alive and well here in Estoril.”
Over the years, Dave and his wife, Kelly, had spent several holidays in Portugal. Then, in 2016, they decided it was time to make a more permanent move to the Iberian Peninsula. “We still go back home fairly frequently to visit family,” says Dave. “But we’ve definitely had enough of a daily dose of traffic, noise and the tension of city living.”
Dave was in the construction business for many years, designing high-rise office buildings. “I loved what I did, I admit it. I was good at it, made money and enjoyed life. But keeping up that pace requires you to take breaks—as frequently as possible—so you don’t drive yourself crazy.”
Now life is a permanent holiday. Estoril is located 20 minutes by car west of the capital of Lisbon. “What’s perfect about this area is we also have quick access to Cascais village,” says Dave. “The village is packed with restaurants and cafés, parks, shopping and has a little beach stretch.”
There’s more. Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. the local outdoor market offers bargains of all kinds and the library hosts readings and signings by multi-national authors. At the Cascais Cultural Centre and Hotel Bai’a, expat groups sponsor events including Happy Hour gatherings, Christmas dinners, New Year’s celebrations and Valentine’s Day dances.
The cost of living in this area is higher than what you would find inland, for instance in the Alentejo. But this, along with Porto in the north and the southern Algarve, is one of the prime areas for expats to choose as a base, especially since English is widely spoken.
“We bought a three-bedroom apartment overlooking the water,” says Dave. Kelly and I wanted that view and needed the extra space because we have frequent guests. Once friends heard where we’d settled, they all wanted to visit,” he adds, laughing, “but we love it.”
Rentals in the area range around $1,200 for a refurbished one-bedroom and $2,500 for a two-bedroom. Purchasing rather than renting, however, is probably a better idea now for anyone considering a move to the country, because property prices are on the rise.
Dining out is still affordable, even in this upscale region of Portugal. While dinner for two can easily run $80 with wine, a lunch at a local pub can be had for around $17 and coffee and a pastry for $4.
Another plus is low-cost healthcare. CUF Cascais is a private hospital nearby, but the state system is virtually free and available to anyone who has a temporary residence card (required if you intend to remain in the country longer than 90 days).
“We have the best of all worlds,” concludes Dave. “Our free time is spent in museums, playing sports, sunning ourselves on the beach and having a glass of wine with friends. Not a bad place to be in life.”