I first visited Portugal on a stopover while flying to Spain some years ago. I stayed in Lisbon…enjoyed tours to Sintra, Cascais, and Cabo de Roca…and fell in love with the country. I paid several more visits over the coming years, and knew I wanted to move there…which I eventually did in March of this year. I love it even more now.
My new home is the capital city of Lisbon. It’s one of the oldest cities in Europe, but very cosmopolitan, with world-class museums, numerous musical and cultural festivals, excellent restaurants, large shopping malls, plentiful one-off boutiques, several spectacular lookout points for views over the city, and thousands of sidewalk cafés where you can enjoy a morning cappuccino and pastry.
When I looked for a place to live, I didn’t want just a “regular” apartment. Instead, I rented what they call a “T3+1” apartment, which means three bedrooms plus the old maid’s quarters next to the kitchen (that’s the +1), which I use for my office. I have two full bathrooms, both with bathtub/shower combos and marble floors and walls, as well as a half bathroom, dining room, living room, and large kitchen with lots of storage. I pay $1,600 a month in rent, but other places are available at much lower prices.
For healthcare, I’m paying half of what I was in the U.S.—and my insurance is good for Spain as well as Portugal. There is also a free national healthcare plan, which I got for backup. The doctors here are good, and the hospitals are modern.
There are real savings with food and other basics too. If you shop at a market rather than a supermarket, the savings are even better, and the food is fresh daily. Fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish are all much cheaper than in the U.S., and a great meal in a gourmet restaurant won’t break the bank either, at around $25 per person (including wine and dessert). Gasoline is more expensive in Europe, but I bought a hybrid car to offset that…and alternatively, public transport is both good and inexpensive. Taxis and Uber are also reasonable. A taxi ride from the historic center of Lisbon to my house averages $6.
Overall, my monthly budget here—including rent, electricity, gas, water, food, cable TV, internet, health insurance, and car insurance—is about $3,000. However, it would be possible to live here without a car, and in a smaller apartment, for about $1,800 to $2,000 a month.
My circle of friends here is growing as I meet new and intriguing people every day, and another great thing about Lisbon is that it’s a great jumping-off point for travel anywhere in Europe. My upcoming vacation to Milan in Italy cost me just $280 round-trip.
What I love most about life in Lisbon is what I call “the joy factor.” In Lisbon, it’s everywhere…from the hand-painted tiles on the outside of buildings and the red clay tile roofs, to the brilliant blue sky, dotted with cotton ball clouds, reflecting off the silver surface of the River Tagus as sailboats glide by. It’s the cobblestone streets, and the grandmother hanging laundry from her window. It’s the old men sitting in the park playing chess, or drinking a beer at a corner bar. It’s the children playing soccer in the park, or the dog jumping into the fountain. It’s the aqueduct built hundreds of years ago, that still frames the city.