Country #5 Portugal, How to Live in 10 Countries

Relocating to Portugal- How to move to Portugal

The Concise Expat Guide on Relocating to Portugal

Key questions to ask yourself are: How much is the cost of living in Portugal? Will I be able to find  a job in Portugal? And, how can I find rent a place in Portugal? I made the big move just a few years ago, and here’s what I wish I’d known before I relocated to Lisbon. You need to know exactly how to move to Portugal and what life as an expat in Portugal will truly look like.


Relocating to Portugal: Residency

relocating to Portugal fine local restaurants

Paperwork is hell, but here’s the need to knows. If you’re an EU resident you can travel visa-less, for an indefinite stay in Portugal. If you’re from Canada, Australia or the US you can stay (but not work) for up to 90 days without a visa.

For long term stays (and aren’t you in it for the long haul?) you’ll need a residence permit, that lasts 1 year and can be extended. After 5 years you can apply for Permanent Residency . You also need to register at your closest Câmara Municipal (city hall)- do this early in the morning and bring a book to read in the queue.

Portugal provides everyone who is resident with universal healthcare, so thumbs up to that! Luckily, I never had cause to use it.


Relocating to Portugal: How much does it cost to live in Lisbon?

relocating to Portugal transport costs

Not too pricey, at least in comparison to many English-speaking countries. Believe me, Paris was much pricier too. However, the minimum wage translates to around 530 a month from 2016, and that is hard for both locals and foreigners. Funnily enough, I taught very few Portuguese students while in Lisbon, but numerous Angolan or Brazilian expats- language classes are a great way to integrate if you have moved abroad.

Here are some of the costs:

A month’s transport pass: 36 euros
A month’s ADSL internet: 25 euros
Meal for 2 in an average place: 30 euros
Renting a 1 bedroom flat in Lisbon per month: 600 euros
A loaf of bread: around 1 euro, and feeding yourself on 10-15 euros a day is very doable
A museum ticket: 7- 9 euros, but many offer free entry on particular days of the month which is perfect for those who have emigrated to Portugal
A beer in a bar: around 2 euros


Relocating to Portugal: Finding accommodation

relocating to Portugal housing


Strolling around Lisbon you will see an array of derelict properties like this. Locals tell me that they are held in rent control agreements, so the tenants cannot be charged more rent or asked to leave. The landlords tend to give up renovating and let the place decay until the day when the rent can be raised. You can see an example of this from Lisbon in the photo above.

Even if you eventually plan to buy a house or villa, rent first to put down roots and get your bearings. I rented via AirBnB initially as a lodger and that allowed me to move into a shared house as I met people and searched local adverts. AirBnB protects you with offers of a refund, so it’s the perfect option if you are too far away to come and actually see a property before you arrive.

Some good areas in Lisbon to try would be Baixa and Chiado- the central areas, Alfama- where quaint tourist shops and gorgeous cafes abound, Lapa and Madragoa for pricier but calm family housing. You may want to visit but not actually live in the most famous nightlife suburb- Bairro Alto. Or, if, like me, you are a broke traveller with a dream you may rent in the more budget suburbs such as Belem or Cascais.


Relocating to Portugal: Work

relocating to Portugal work and the beach

Moving to Portugal won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, not least because spring after relocating to Lisbon was really rainy!

The easiest source for flexible casual work was, with Ocasiao.Pt a runner up. These are great ad sites which are very active, and so long as I kept my prices fair I always got great responses. A friend of mine began to run an extremely successful freelance service as a tour guide and trip planner for visitors to Lisbon.

Other Tips for Finding Work in Portugal:

  • Tourism is a vital industry in Portugal, as an expat can you use your second language to find work?
  • Nokia, Samsung and Portuguese Telecom all run large companies in Lisbon
  • You may be able to have your international qualifications legitimised in Portugal through the Bologna Process

Keen to visit short term and not ready to live yet? Take a look at this 3 Day Itinerary to Lisbon.


How to Move to Portugal- Your guide to relocating to Portugal Successfully

Pin these key phrases and facts for your big move!


Cover image adapted from @ Flickr  CC-BY 2.0 . Got a question? Tweet me or leave a comment below!


  1. Robert

    May 6, 2017 at 2:22 am

    We stopped in Portugal on a recent Mediterranean Cruise. A lovely country with some beautiful places to visit. Some very helpful tips for those considering a move to the Country! 🙂

    1. Danni Lawson

      May 6, 2017 at 9:52 pm

      Thanks, Robert, much appreciated! Hope your cruise was great!

  2. Agness of eTramping

    May 9, 2017 at 2:53 am

    I would love to live in Portugal. This country is so amazing and there are plenty of interesting things to be done there. Excellent post, Danni!

  3. Nicole Anderson

    May 9, 2017 at 10:35 am

    The closest I have been to Portugal would be when I visited the UK on holiday and I can’t wait to see more places in mainland Europe. My partner and I plan to travel to his family’s original homeland (The Netherlands) next year and Portugal is obviously not that far from there. We will have to include this lovely country on our itinerary and thank you for the tips and useful information and photos in this post.

  4. Maggie

    May 9, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    I’m surprised at how affordable Lisbon is! I was expecting much higher rent. I live in Orange County, CA where it was just announced that anyone making $80k or less a year is considered lower class, so at this point most places seem super affordable. I haven’t been to Lisbon, but I hear it’s the SoCal of Europe.

  5. Lois Alter Mark

    May 9, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    These are great tips, and I wish I’d had that list of useful phrases when we visited Portugal last year! We loved Lisbon, although I don’t remember seeing those decrepit buildings. It’s interesting that they’re rent-controlled and the landlords just let them go.

  6. Soumya Nambiar

    May 10, 2017 at 6:27 am

    I was in Lisbon last year and I remember seeing these derelict buildings but never realised what they meant till now. I have moved many times all through my life and I know especially how hard it is sometimes to get acquainted with a new city. This is a really good guide for anyone who plans to move to Lisbon.

  7. Kristina

    May 10, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Moving abroad anywhere is always a challenge! This is a great guide though, you were super helpful! I haven’t thought about moving to Portugal, but if I ever do, consider this my guide! Surprised at the affordability!

  8. Sasha

    May 10, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    This is a really interesting post, bravo for being brave enough to do it. Its great that Portugal offer free healthcare etc for people with resident visas. Can you speak Portuguese or can you work/live with just English?

    1. Danni Lawson

      May 11, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      I speak Spanish and tried to learn Portuguese while I was there, but I’d say many people do speak good English in big towns. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Promise Chika Maxwell

    May 11, 2017 at 12:39 am

    I love the way you spilled them out from house renting, monthly transportation pass, internet bills etc. All these will make you cross check your budget before planning to make your move. Thanks for the info!

  10. Iza c/o Fill My Passport

    May 11, 2017 at 3:08 am

    These are all good tips. I have a friend who lives in Madeira. The rent is quite expensive. She is not an expat so I am sure it would be more difficult for a foreigner to find a nice and affordable place. I would like to visit Portugal because the culture seems and the people are nice. I’d like to see the beautifully designed tiles there too. The details are so intricate. The tiles make Portugal even more interesting.

  11. Katalin

    May 11, 2017 at 4:24 am

    I really liked the detailed living cost. How about talking with locals? Do people speak English, or is it very important to know Portuguese?

    1. Danni Lawson

      May 11, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      I found them friendly and a lot of people did speak English, so I’d say don’t let the language scare you off. But it’s great to go to classes and learn as much as you can. Thanks for commenting!

  12. Sridharan S

    May 24, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Interesting.. and must be quite useful for someone moving into Portugal..

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