Strolling through cobblestone streets surrounded by timeworn, majestic buildings covered in azulejos—those iconic blue-and-white tiles. Sitting at a café terrace overlooking the Douro River as I sip delicious local port wine for only €4. Evenings spent with new friends from around the globe, enjoying delicious sliced pork sandwiches called bifanas and pasteis de nata—ridiculously yummy egg custard tarts dusted with cinnamon.
These are the ways I spend my time since moving to Porto, this welcoming coastal city in the northwest of Portugal. I’m a brand-new arrival, having moved here on October 12, but I’m already loving my decision.
I began my overseas adventure five years ago. At the age of 56, I quit a perfectly good job, rented out my fully furnished apartment in Denver, strapped on a travel backpack, and hopped on a plane. I spent the next 5 years traveling the globe non-stop, to places like Nepal, Turkey, Madagascar, Italy, and Macedonia…mostly solo!
When I decided to move from the U.S. to Europe, everyone I mentioned “Portugal” to smiled and said, “What’s going on with Portugal lately? I’ve heard about or read about it so much all of a sudden!”
Portugal has become a prime retirement destination “all of a sudden” because of many incredible reasons. I’ll tell you about the seven big reasons I chose Portugal in a moment, but first I want to tell you about Portugal’s D7 visa.
While I wouldn’t recommend moving somewhere just because it’s easy to get a visa, this visa did make my move to Portugal much easier.
Portugal’s D7 Visa
Although many countries including Portugal offer Golden Visas (a quick route to residency which can lead to citizenship through investing a large amount in the country via real estate or business) the D7 is more attainable for many. It merely requires you to submit proof of passive income the equivalent to Portuguese minimum wage (approximately $8460 a year for one person at the time of this writing), opening a bank account in-country and obtaining a NIF (a Portuguese tax-payer ID number) along with a few more items and submitting these to the consulate. In just a few short months, you’ll receive your D7 visa—and you’ll be off to Portugal to begin your new life as an expat!
So besides the relative speed and ease of obtaining the D7, what made me choose Portugal after I’d been traveling the world non-stop for the past five years?
Here are my seven top reasons for choosing this ancient Iberian country.
After living my entire life in snowy places (Chicago and Denver) I was ready for a blizzard-free life! Portugal—and Porto in particular, where I chose to reside—offers a very moderate climate with a Mediterranean climate of mild wet winters and pleasant summers… and most importantly, an absence of the fluffy white stuff.
2. Cost of Living
Portugal is the most affordable western European country in which to live. I love that I can go to the local fruit market here in Porto and fill up two bags with fresh, tasty produce for around €12. Private health insurance is incredibly affordable at around €40 per month, and my apartment here is half the price of my place in Colorado—my total cost of living here is just 50% of what I was paying in Denver. It’s wonderful!
There’s no need to own a car here! There are three metro stops within a few minutes’ walk from my apartment so I can explore the city easily and inexpensively. The train station is at the end of my street, ready to whisk me off to adventures in Braga, Coimbra, Lisbon, and more! And don’t forget that Porto has an international airport, easy to get to on the metro line. I’m all set!
As a single woman moving overseas on my own, it’s nice to know that I’ve chosen the country ranked #6 in the world for safety. It’s not an issue to walk around alone after dark here. Coming from the U.S., which is ranked 129th in safety (Canada is #12), I am breathing a sigh of relief and enjoying this new feeling of calm.
Being in Portugal means it’s a quick journey to some of the most amazing places in the world! Want to check out the Christmas Markets in Berlin? Eat pizza in Naples? Explore the historic souks of Marrekesh? Take a bargain-priced flight, rent a car, take a train—just go!
After living in the U.S. where an “old” building might be 100 years old, I absolutely love that here in Portugal there are cathedrals dating from the 1700s, cities founded 2,000 years ago and traditions that go back for centuries. It makes me giddy to eat in a restaurant founded in 1784 and walk the ancient winding streets through neighborhoods that have weathered the millennia, filled with generations of families who’ve lived there since forever.
Another amazing reason to live here is the wine. Over 14 different wine regions, 31 DOCs (the highest ranking for Portuguese wines—these wines are produced in a specific demarcated region and are subject to strict local regulations) and nearly 300 grape varietals. Velvety smooth ports and madeiras. Robust vinhos tintos and crisp brancos. Light and playful vinhos verdes. And the prices? Ridiculously affordable. I can enjoy a lovely glass of wine for €3 at my local restaurante, or buy a bottle of my favorite red for €5. That can be reason enough for me to live here!
It’s only been a short while that I’ve been living expat life in Porto but I’m settling in nicely and enjoying walking around wide-eyed, exploring…and enjoying the wine, of course! As we say in Portugal, “saude!”
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