Expat Guide to Portugal: Essential Tips and Advice

Expat Guide to Portugal

Moving to a new country is exciting yet challenging. Portugal, with its stunning landscapes, rich history, and warm climate, is a popular destination for expats. This guide provides essential tips and advice for those planning to make Portugal their new home.

Understanding the Basics


Portuguese is the official language. Learning basic phrases can be very helpful. Many locals, especially in tourist areas, speak English. However, speaking some Portuguese will enhance your experience.


Portugal uses the Euro (€). It’s wise to familiarize yourself with the exchange rates and the cost of living. Major cities like Lisbon and Porto are more expensive than rural areas.


Portugal has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild and wet. The Algarve region enjoys more sunshine, making it a favorite among expats.

Legal Requirements

visa Legal Requirements
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Visas and Residency

EU/EEA citizens do not need a visa to live in Portugal. Non-EU citizens will need a visa, which can be obtained from a Portuguese consulate. Common types include the D7 (passive income) visa and the Golden Visa for significant investments.


After arriving, EU citizens must register their residence at the local city hall. Non-EU citizens need to apply for a residence permit from the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras).


Portugal offers a public healthcare system (SNS). Expats from the EU can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) initially. For non-EU citizens, private health insurance is advisable until you gain access to the public system. If you need dental services, searching for “Dentist Almancil” can help you find local professionals.

Finding Accommodation

Portugal Accommodation
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Renting is popular among expats. Websites like Idealista and OLX list available properties. Long-term rentals can range from apartments to villas. Renting contracts are usually for a minimum of one year.

Buying Property

Portugal is an attractive place to buy property. The process is straightforward but involves legal procedures. It’s recommended to hire a local lawyer to assist with the purchase.

Cost of Living

The cost of living varies by region. Lisbon and Porto are pricier, while smaller towns and rural areas are more affordable. Groceries, dining out, and transportation are generally cheaper than in many Western European countries.

Employment and Business

Job Market

The job market in Portugal is competitive. Fluency in Portuguese is often required for most jobs. The tech sector, tourism, and teaching English are common fields for expats.

Starting a Business

Portugal is supportive of new businesses. The startup ecosystem is growing, especially in Lisbon and Porto. There are incentives and grants available for entrepreneurs. Registering a business involves several steps, including getting a tax number (NIF) and registering with the Commercial Registry Office.


Public Schools

Public schools in Portugal are free and provide a good education. However, the instruction is in Portuguese. They follow a curriculum set by the Ministry of Education.

International Schools

For those preferring education in English, there are numerous international schools. They follow different curricula, such as the British, American, or International Baccalaureate (IB).

Higher Education

Portugal has reputable universities. Many offer programs in English, particularly at the postgraduate level. The University of Lisbon and the University of Porto are among the top institutions.

Culture and Lifestyle

Portugal Culture and Lifestyle
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Social Life

Portuguese people are friendly and welcoming. Family and social gatherings are an important part of life. Learning local customs and participating in festivals can help you integrate.

Food and Drink

Portuguese cuisine is diverse and delicious. Seafood is a staple, with dishes like bacalhau (salted cod) being very popular. Don’t miss trying the pastéis de nata (custard tarts).


Portugal has a good public transportation system. Trains and buses connect major cities and towns. In cities like Lisbon, the metro is an efficient way to get around.

Practical Tips


Opening a bank account in Portugal is straightforward. You’ll need a tax number (NIF) and proof of address. Major banks include Caixa Geral de Depósitos and Millennium BCP.


Setting up utilities (water, electricity, internet) is part of settling in. Many providers offer combined packages. It’s advisable to research and compare options for the best deals.


Portugal is considered one of the safest countries in the world. Petty crimes, like pickpocketing, can occur in tourist areas, so staying vigilant is wise.


Portugal is a beautiful and welcoming country with much to offer expats. From understanding the legal requirements to finding accommodation and integrating into the culture, this guide provides essential tips and advice. With some preparation, your move to Portugal can be a smooth and enjoyable experience.

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