Living in Portugal
With hundreds of miles of coastline, mild weather in many regions, friendly people, and a warm, relaxed lifestyle, Portugal is a great place to live either part-time or full-time. It is Europe—with all its culture, history, and First-World amenities—but with a pace of life that belongs to an earlier era.
Portugal has long been popular among Europeans, particularly British, as a vacation and retirement destination. And today, thanks to a low euro (relative to the U.S. dollar) and increased interest in moving abroad, Portugal is gaining popularity among North Americans, as well.
Portugal is part of the Schengen Zone. This zone, which includes most of mainland Europe, has a uniform policy for tourist visits. As a tourist, you can stay in the Schengen Zone—including Portugal—for 90 days out of every 180 days. That’s nearly three months. Many people do choose to stay within this limit and live part-time in Portugal, coming once or twice a year for several months.
Short-term rentals suitable for a stay of 90 days or less are readily available in Portugal’s coastal areas, such as the Algarve, as well as in cities popular with tourists. These include Lisbon and the surrounding area (including the beach towns of Cascais and Estoril), Porto, Portugal’s second city, and the university town of Coimbra. Short-term rentals generally cost significantly more than long-term rentals—as much as double what the same property would rent for long-term. But short-term rentals come fully furnished, and rent tends to include all utilities and services.
If you’re looking to live long-term in Portugal, you can either rent a property or buy. Rents in smaller cities and in the interior can start as low as about $375 a month. Rents in the Lisbon area start at about $650 and up…a bargain for a European capital. Long-term rentals can come furnished or unfurnished; in some cases, “unfurnished” may mean without appliances.
It always helps to speak at least a bit of the local language. Speaking some Portuguese will help you integrate better into the local community and is much appreciated by locals. However, you’ll find a surprising number of Portuguese speak at least some English. (And if you speak some Spanish, that helps, too, especially in the larger cities.)
Weather in Portugal, particularly along the coasts, is pleasantly mild. Northern coastal Portugal enjoys a climate similar to that of the U.S.’s Pacific Northwest: generally cool (though seldom cold) and humid. Temperatures increase and humidity drops as you head south. Weather in the Algarve, Portugal’s most southern region, tends to be hot and dry, with average temperatures of 74 F in July, the hottest month, and 54 F in January, the coldest.
Portugal enjoys arguably the lowest cost of living in Western Europe. A couple can live on a budget from about $2,200 a month in Lisbon, the capital, and on a budget from about $1,700 a month in small cities and the interior.