Is Lisbon Over for Digital Nomads?

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Written by: | Last updated on February 29, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

Over the past few months, there have been an increasing number of blog posts, YouTube videos, and comments on social media saying that Lisbon is “over” — especially for digital nomads.

Comments from NomadList where users talk about the high cost of rent, attitude from fed-up locals, and quality of housing have even featured on the Portuguese daily news. Many of these comments encourage digital nomads to go to other places like Thailand or Eastern Europe in favour of a lower cost of living. 

So is Lisbon over as a digital nomad hotspot? Yes and no. 

There’s a lot of truth to these comments. If you’re looking for a cheap place to come and work from for a few weeks or months, there are a lot of other places around the world to consider. If the costs are comparable, many other European cities, such as Berlin or Barcelona, may even appeal more.  

But the people who say that Lisbon is over simply because it’s no longer cheap often miss the reason that so many digital nomads move here. It isn’t just about cost, although that’s obviously a big factor and what initially attracted many nomads, but about the type of nomad that moves here. 

Yes, Lisbon attracts plenty of nomads flip-flopping around the world but it also attracts a lot of people who are looking for a base from which to establish themselves. They stay longer, meaning they can potentially find cheaper accommodation, and they’re interested in obtaining residency and eventually Portuguese citizenship. 

And given it takes just 5 years before you’re able to apply for Portuguese citizenship, compared to say 10 in Spain, it makes a lot of sense to consider settling down here over other European countries. Thailand or Vietnam may be cheaper, but it doesn’t come with the potential to obtain a European passport and live within the stability of an EU country. 

Ash Baruah, who runs the Lisbon digital nomads group, says that while living costs have risen in Lisbon, that hasn’t put everyone off. 

“Lisbon is less of an option for those looking for a cheap place to live but for people who have their own businesses or are making a reasonable income, Lisbon is still a big consideration. And for people moving from wealthier countries, such as the US, it’s still cheaper to live in Lisbon.”

That said, he has noticed more and more people moving outside of Lisbon in search of cheaper accommodation and a different lifestyle. 

“Many nomads don’t stay in Lisbon, but in places like Costa da Caparica. As well as being a great place to work from, you’re closer to surf and hiking spots down there.”

Yes, it’s over

Rental prices in Lisbon have been increasing for years and it’s now a struggle to find a one-bedroom long-term rental for less than around €1,200 per month. Even if you do find somewhere, you’ll be up against lots of other people all competing for the same apartment. 

Short-term accommodation, which many globe-hopping digital nomads rely on, can be even more expensive. A May 2023 study by HousingAnywhere, which specialises in short-term accommodation, suggests that Lisbon is the third most expensive city for rentals in Europe after Amsterdam and Reykjavik. 

That isn’t to say you can’t find anything. If you book in advance and you visit off-season, you can still find short and medium-term rentals on sites like Airbnb and Flatio for around €1,500 per month, although typically that figure is closer to €2,000 per month. 

The cost of living has been increasing in Portugal too, although it is still considerably cheaper than many other locations, especially North America and Australia. There are fewer and fewer cheap tascas and pastelarias around Lisbon city centre but if you look hard, you can still find affordable coffee and meals. 

As for red-up locals, it’s true that attitudes towards the wave of immigration to Portugal are becoming increasingly complex. While most locals are tolerant of foreigners moving to Portugal, many are feeling the pressure of increasing housing costs. 

It’s not over yet

While the rising cost of living is going to make Lisbon a lot less appealing, there are a couple of reasons that Lisbon isn’t over just yet. 

  1. The community: Lisbon has a huge digital nomad community with regular meetups and knowledge shares. In order to meet new people and to grow in their careers, nomads typically flock to locations with other digital nomads. For this reason, as long as there’s a decent-sized community in Lisbon, there will always be new digital nomads. 
  2. Ease of moving here: Portugal is one of the easier countries to move to, thanks to Portugal’s new digital nomad visa, which allows digital nomads to move to Portugal if they make at least €3,280 per month (as of 2024). Yes, there are countries that have more attainable digital nomad visas, but Portugal has a quicker path to citizenship and, in some cases, can be a better deal in terms of taxes. 
  3. Internet Speeds: Portugal has much faster internet than many countries, particularly those in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but even within Western Europe as well. 1 gbps internet is available throughout Lisbon and the surrounding towns and for those that need it, you can even get 10 gbps home internet
  4. Tax schemes: Portugal offers a number of different tax regimes, which could mean that you pay less tax by living in Portugal than you do elsewhere. This isn’t always the case, and you should speak to an accountant before making any big decisions, but at the very least tax regimes and schemes at least make Portuguese taxes more palatable. 
  5. Ease of obtaining citizenship: By living in Portugal, those from outside the EU, EEA, and Switzerland can work towards obtaining an “EU passport.” Portugal only requires applicants to have lived in Portugal for 5 years before applying for citizenship and only requires you to achieve at least 55% in the A2 Portuguese exam. Compare that to Spain where you have to live for 10 years or Germany where you have to live for 8 and, in the case of Germany, show a B1 level of German. 

With the exception of the community, all of these benefits also apply if you move to another part of Portugal where the cost of living is lower.

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.