Test-Driving Our Dream Retirement in Portugal — Part Three

Jan and Chris Schroder are spending a month in Portugal as a trial retirement and reporting on what it would be like to retire in the Algarve. Read the first two installments here: Part One and Part Two

My husband, Chris, did not weep for joy when he proposed, on our wedding day, or when we won this contest—but he did in Lagos—over fish.

As he wiped the tears from his eyes with the navy-blue paper napkin, a large oval plate with fish bones, and a few more remnants of our meal in front of him, “I’m in heaven,” he said. “I’m going to build a house right over there so I can come here all the time.”

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Although we’ve eaten enough seafood to fill an aquarium since we got to Portugal, we discovered our favorite place in Lagos, A Barragada. A friend told us about the all-you-can-eat grilled fish special and we enjoyed that along with a half liter of wine and a large beer for lunch. Total cost: €32.70

eating in lagos

You will eat well in Lagos. We’ve also enjoyed hamburgers, pizza, poké bowls, Indian food, and dumplings. All at affordable prices.

I will have a hard time leaving the land of a €3 glass of wine. I read a tip that you can order the house wine and you will rarely be disappointed. I’ve done just that, from a hot dog place in Porto to a traditional Portuguese place in Lagos, and have loved every glass. Chris has developed a fondness for the two major beers made in Portugal, Super Bock, and Sagres, and pays less than €3 for a large glass.

I knew Portugal was one of the most affordable places for people to visit and to live, especially for Americans now with the favorable exchange rate. I’ve learned other factors that attract expats include healthcare, the prevalence of people who speak English, and the favorable taxation rates.

For Lagos specifically, the beauty and weather are a big draw, as I mentioned last week. What I’ve been surprised to learn is just how much there is to do.

Activities in Lagos

“I don’t know how we ever had time to work,” one retired expat told me at the weekly expat Happy Hour, pointing around at some of her fellow retired expats. “We are all so busy.”

With its temperate year-round climate and numerous beaches, Lagos is perfect for water sports enthusiasts and beach worshippers. You can swim, scuba dive, snorkel, paddle board, kayak, and wind surf. Lagos has been named one of the best spots for surfing, and even novices can learn by taking a surfing class.

There’s also a new activity invented by the French I’d never heard of, longe-côte, which consists of walking or running in the ocean, waist deep or up to your chest. One day we watched a group warm-up and then hit the water in their wetsuits, while I stood nice and dry on shore in warm layers marveling at their heartiness.

If you don’t have a fear of heights, the hiking in and around Lagos is amazing, with paths winding along the cliffs with spectacular views. You can hike to neighboring towns and stop for lunch, then hike, bus or Uber back.

Activities in Lagos 1

With several courses, Lagos is a golf-lovers paradise, too. You can also cycle, play tennis, and rumor has it, soon play pickleball. There’s a sports center and yoga, Pilates, and other exercise classes available.

You can also attend shows and visit the art galleries at the Lagos Cultural Center. We have tickets to see a big band concert, which cost just €10. There are plenty of art classes available at the Lagos Municipal Youth Space, including jewelry making, stained glass, and tile painting.

You can even take a class to learn how to make your own leather sandals. We took a morning walk through Lagos and stumbled upon a handmade leather sandal shop, LindavanOs where we met Linda, who handcrafts beautiful leather boots and sandals, and teaches the course. I bought a pair of gorgeous sandals she made and painted with a blue-and-white Portuguese tile design, my only major purchase in Lagos.

There are some nice shops with gorgeous pottery and ceramics, but lack of space and their breakability kept us from purchasing too much, although I did get a small pitcher that will be challenging on our journey home.

Check Out Our In-Depth Retire in Portugal Page Here.

Affordability and Healthcare

It’s not just the wine and beer that are inexpensive. We’ve been surprised at rates for accommodations, attractions, and restaurants. We have paid a lot for some things, however, including sunscreen, pillows, and granola, but those are the exception.

While prices are going up as more people discover Lagos, rents, and prices can still seem astoundingly low by U.S. standards—€950 a month for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a sea view. Another expat said, “I have been in Algarve for nearly seven years. I have rented in Ferragudo, Lagos and now Odiaxere. I’ve paid between €500 and €600 a month for very nice two bedrooms.”

I’ve seen real estate listings for a four-bedroom villa with a separate one-bedroom cottage for €789,000 and a studio in the posh neighborhood of Porto de Mos within walking distance of the beach for €168,000. If you’re looking to spend more, you can find listings for €1 million and €4 million.

beach living in lagos

Another major reason people move to Portugal is the quality and affordability of healthcare. We’ve heard stories of people having multiple tests, stays in hospitals, and doctor visits that cost them less than $100.

Glenna Evans, an expat from California, had recently moved to Lagos with her husband, Mark, when she fell in the street and broke her hip. She was taken to the public hospital by ambulance, had surgery and physical therapy afterward. Out-of-pocket cost? Zero.

We hadn’t planned on building a house here. But now Chris has his eye on some property— right by the fish restaurant.

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