Moving to Portugal from The Netherlands

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Written by: | Last updated on February 21, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 8 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

For the past few decades, Portugal has been an incredibly popular destination for those looking to escape the dark and colder climes of The Netherlands in favour of somewhere warmer. As well as its climate and beautiful beaches, Portugal also offers a more laid-back lifestyle and lower cost of living.

If you have a Dutch, EU, EEA, or Swiss passport, moving to Portugal is relatively easy. You will need to show you have the means of supporting yourself, whether that’s through a job, a pension, or by starting a business, but the criteria is much less rigid than it is for non-Europeans.

Why Portugal and why not, for example, Spain, Greece, or Italy? Although you may be focused on the warm weather, slower pace of life, and beautiful beaches, there are a few reasons Portugal wins over other European countries.

Safety is one reason, as Portugal is considered one of the safest European countries. The cost of living can be more affordable than other southern European countries, particularly Greece and Italy. For many, the large expat community, particularly in places like the Algarve, Lisbon, and Madeira, is another draw.

How to Obtain Residency

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss passport holder, and that includes a Dutch passport, registering for residency is fairly simple: after 90 days of being in Portugal you will be able to visit your local câmara municipal and obtain your CRUE or Certificado de Registo de Cidadão da União Europeia. This certificate, typically valid for five years, allows you to live in Portugal as a resident. More information can be found in our guide to moving to Portugal as an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen.

If you are a non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen who is resident in the Netherlands, you will most likely need to apply for a residency visa to live in Portugal. Example residency visas include:

  • Golden Visa: A popular choice for those seeking Portuguese residency through investment. It requires minimal time spent in Portugal, only about 7 days per year, offering flexibility. Investments often involve a standard amount of €500,000, with some programs allowing for lower investments.
  • D7 Visa: Suitable for individuals with steady passive income, like pensions or rental income. It requires a monthly income above a certain threshold, linked to the Portuguese minimum wage.
  • Digital Nomad Visa (D8): Designed for remote workers, freelancers, and digital nomads, requiring proof of a higher monthly income. This is particularly fitting for those in tech or digital professions.
  • D2 Visa: Ideal for entrepreneurs looking to start or run a business in Portugal, catering to a variety of business ideas and sectors.

As mentioned, if you are a Dutch passport holder you do not need to apply for a residency visa such as the golden visa or D7. You can simply register at your local town hall and obtain your CRUE. Certain family members (e.g. the spouse of an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen) can bypass the need for a residency visa as well.

Reasons to Move to Portugal

There are many reasons to move to Portugal, but for Dutch people some of the most compelling reasons include:

  1. Climate: Portugal’s warmer and sunnier climate offers a pleasant change from the Netherlands’ cooler weather. This is particularly the case in winter, and especially winter in places like the Algarve where you can expect blue skies and sunshine on most of the days.
  2. Food: Although Portuguese food isn’t as well known as French or Spanish, it is hearty and tasty with a focus on fresh produce and fish. For those looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle, the quality of fruit and vegetables available is much higher than in most of Northern Europe.
  3. Beaches: The Netherlands has some beautiful beaches, but if you’re looking for sandy, white beaches with the warm climes in which to enjoy them, Portugal is the place to be. The Algarve is the most famous coastal region, but other less developed regions to consider include the Alentejo, Setúbal, and Silver Coast.
  4. Cost of Living: Generally lower cost of living in Portugal, including affordable real estate and daily expenses, particularly when compared to cities like Amsterdam. However, it’s worth noting that property prices have increased rapidly in popular parts of Portugal, like Lisbon and the Algarve. This applies to both renting and buying.
  5. Lifestyle: Relaxed pace of life and a culture that values leisure and family time. This is a big positive if you’re retired but it could be a big plus if you’ve been working in a corporate job and are simply looking for a change.
  6. Scenic Beauty: Diverse landscapes, from beautiful beaches to historic cities and rural countryside. In Portugal, you have beautiful beaches along the coast, volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic, and sloping wine growing hills in the North. It truly is a very diverse country when it comes to landscape.
  7. Cultural Experiences: Rich history and cultural heritage, offering a different perspective from the Dutch and general northern European culture.

Challenges of Living in Portugal

Moving from the Netherlands to Portugal presents several challenges for Dutch expatriates. The difference in communication styles can be striking; the Dutch directness often clashes with the Portuguese tendency to avoid saying exactly what they think, where directness can sometimes be perceived as rudeness.

Adjusting to Portuguese bureaucracy and paperwork is another hurdle, as processes can be less efficient and more time-consuming compared to the Netherlands. Furthermore, the Dutch might find the Portuguese approach to deadlines and service efficiency slower than what they are used to. Additionally, the overall pace of life in Portugal is slower, focusing more on family and food, which might be a welcome change for retirees but could require adjustment for others used to a faster-paced lifestyle.

In terms of housing, while the weather is better, the quality of housing in Portugal may not always meet Dutch expectations. Portuguese homes often lack central heating, which is a necessity during colder months and something to consider when purchasing property. Like the Netherlands, Portugal faces its own housing crisis, particularly in major cities like Lisbon and Porto, where finding affordable housing to rent or buy can be challenging.

The lifestyle in Portuguese cities is less bike-friendly compared to the Netherlands. The infrastructure for cycling is not as developed, and there’s a higher reliance on driving. This could be a significant shift for the Dutch, who are accustomed to a more bike-centric urban design.

Another consideration is the lower salary scale in Portugal compared to the Netherlands, which could impact the standard of living. If you’re able to work remotely, you may consider keeping a job in the Netherlands and living in Portugal. There are a few challenges with this, namely registering for taxes and social security, so be sure to speak to an accountant.

While Portugal offers a promise of better weather, food, and a relaxed lifestyle, these benefits come with their own set of challenges that need to be weighed carefully.

Where to Live

  • The Algarve: A region known for its sunny climate, Algarve offers stunning beaches ideal for surfing and a relaxed lifestyle. It has a significant Dutch presence, evident in local businesses and communities. While traditionally a retiree hotspot, it’s now attracting younger families and digital nomads, offering a blend of leisure and work opportunities.
  • Lisbon: As Portugal’s capital, Lisbon combines a slower pace of life with a vibrant, tourist-friendly atmosphere. It’s particularly appealing for its mild winters, unique cultural experiences like pasteis de nata, and a thriving scene for remote workers. However, living costs can be high, similar to Amsterdam.
  • Alentejo: Offering a more rural and affordable lifestyle, Alentejo is less developed than the Algarve. Its coastal areas boast unspoiled beauty, while inland regions near Spain can experience intense heat. It’s perfect for those seeking a quieter, countryside living.
  • Porto: Portugal’s second-largest city offers a more authentic Portuguese experience with fewer expats. It has a cooler and wetter climate in winter but is more affordable than Lisbon. Porto provides easy access to Northern Portugal’s natural beauty and historical towns.
  • Madeira: Renowned for its stunning landscapes and mild, stable climate, Madeira is an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a peaceful lifestyle. It’s traditionally popular with retirees but has a growing digital nomad community, particularly around Funchal and Ponta de Sol .
  • Azores: Known for their breathtaking volcanic landscapes, the Azores offer a unique living experience. They are more remote, providing a sense of seclusion and natural beauty. São Miguel and Terceira are the largest islands, and the easiest to move to, but there are nine islands in total, each with its own unique landscape.
  • Silver Coast: Growing in popularity among various nationalities, including Americans, the Silver Coast is viewed as a more affordable alternative to the Algarve. It offers a less developed but equally charming coastal experience, with cooler winters.
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.