Moving to Portugal from the UK: 15 Important Considerations

By | Last updated: July 21, 2020

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So, you’re thinking about moving to Portugal from the UK. Great choice! Portugal is an incredibly welcoming country with fantastic weather, a laid-back lifestyle, and a much lower cost of living than most of the UK. 

Brits are the biggest expat group in Portugal, and have been for many years. The majority live in and around the Algarve, but you’ll also find people of other Brits in places like Lisbon, Cascais, Porto, and Madeira. There are also plenty dotted around the rest of Portugal in parts of the country that aren’t dominated by expats.  

Having such a large community of British people in Portugal is definitely a plus. It means that if you have a question about something like importing a car from the UK or moving your pension, it’s easy to get the information you need. 

There are also plenty of services for British expats in Portugal including British supermarkets, removals companies, and even companies that will drive your shopping from the UK to your address in Portugal. 

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But, even though there’s a well-trodden path between the UK and Portugal, there are still a few things that you need to think about before making the move.

Brexit

No discussion about moving to Portugal for the UK would be complete without mentioning the B-word. 

Pre-Brexit, it was incredibly easy for Brits to move to Portugal. It was so easy that many would just live in Portugal without ever really registering properly, often still driving UK-reg cars for many years. 

That sort of freedom might be coming to an end, although that doesn’t mean it’ll be impossible for you to move here post Brexit: it’s just that there may be more paperwork involved – the kind of paperwork non-EU citizens have to deal with. Brexit also has a lot of implications on things like tax, healthcare, and pensions, so there’s a lot more to think about. 

Golden Visas

If you’re lucky enough to have €500,000* to spend on a property in Portugal, you may be able to get around the whole Brexit saga thanks to Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme. 

The scheme, which is aimed at non-EU investors, gives people who invest in Portugal the right to live in Portugal for 5 years at a time. After the first 5 years, you can apply for permanent residency and even Portuguese citizenship. 

Both Portugal and the UK allow dual citizenship, so this would give you an EU passport without having to give up your British one. 

* There are circumstances where you can spend less than €500,000, for example if the property is more than 30 years old or in an area of urban renovation.

Income

If you don’t have Golden Visa money sitting in the bank, you’ll have to register to live in Portugal the normal way. And, a big part of this is showing that you have a means of supporting yourself while you’re living here. 

For some people, that would mean having a job or job offer but, for others, it could also mean a pension. Basically: do you have enough money coming in or sitting in your bank account to cover your living costs. 

Where Will You Live?

While the whole of Portugal is your oyster, you may have specific requirements for your future town or city.

Firstly, the weather. If your main priority is blue skies and sunshine, you’ll probably need to focus on Lisbon and anywhere South of Lisbon (especially the Algarve). While the North of Portugal does have wonderful, warm summers, winters are cold and damp — not unlike those in the UK.

Secondly, it’s important to decide whether your want to live in an area that has a lot of expats. Some people do and some people don’t but, if it’s what you’re looking for, it’s important to realise that expats tend to be focused in certain parts of the country with the Algarve and Lisbon being the two most popular places.

Renting & Buying Property

Although many British expats come up with creative ways for living in Portugal, such as living in campervans or in temporary structures, the majority ending up buying or renting a place — often both over the course of their time here.

Unless you’ve already decided where you want to live in Portugal, and found that dream home, it’s probably a good idea to rent for at least six months before making a permanent commitment.

Keeping an address in the UK

Many people who move to Portugal from the UK keep an address in the UK, at least in the beginning. 

This is useful (although not always essential) if you’re keeping a bank account open in the UK, but may be helpful for lots of other things as well. 

The easiest thing that you can do is ask a friend or family member if you can use their address but, if that’s not an option, there are services like EXPOST that allow you to keep an address in the UK (Use the code SAVERS to get 1 month free when you sign up for a year). 

 If you still have a property in the UK, another option would be to use the Post Office’s mail redirection service and get your post forwarded to your new address in Portugal. You can even do this after you’ve moved. 

Keeping Bank Accounts in the UK

You’ll probably need to get a Portuguese bank account at some point, particularly to pay bills, but you may also decide to keep a UK bank account open – especially as most current accounts in the UK are free. 

It may also be worth opening a few travel-friendly accounts like the Halifax Clarity Credit Card, as there are no charges for overseas card payments, or Metrobank’s current account, which gives free cash withdrawals in Europe. 

Transferring Money to Portugal

At some point, you’ll probably need to transfer a large portion of your Pounds into Euros. 

Generally speaking, high street banks charge high fees and offer poor rates when it comes to international transfers. You can get around most of these fees by using a specialist online transfer service. 

Transferwise is probably the favourite amongst expats, and for good reason, but, if you’re sending a large amount of money, it makes sense to use a comparison service like Monito to see who’s offering the best rate. 

ISAs and Investments

The UK has several tax and saving schemes, and you may hold several of these – particularly an ISA. 

If you have an ISA, it’s worth noting that you can’t continue to contribute to it once you’re no longer resident in the UK. You can keep your ISA there, and you can switch providers, but you can’t add any more money to it. 

If you return to the UK, you can pick up where you left off, but, if you decide to withdraw money while you’re living in Portugal, you may be taxed on those earnings. 

You’ll need to decide whether you want to keep it in the UK but stop contributing to it, or withdraw from it before leaving the UK. 

Bringing a Car to Portugal

Cars, both new and second-hand, are expensive in Portugal — much more than the UK. Because of this, lots of people drive to Portugal and bring their cars over to Portugal with them. You can even buy LHD cars in the UK, and there are a few companies that specialise in them as well as others that specialist in expat car insurance.

While bringing a car over is a solution in the short-term, it does create a few problems later on. 

Firstly, if you’re registered as living in Portugal, you’ll need to import your car into Portugal. This often seems to be a very complicated process, not least because you’ve got to move the steering wheel over to the other side. 

If you’re no longer living in the UK, you’ll also have to insure it. Finding a Portuguese insurer who will insure it pre-importation is difficult, but thankfully there are a few companies like Abbeygate that specialise in this confusing grey area. 

Even if you continue to be technically living in the UK, on paper anyway, you will still have insurance and MOT issues to think about down the line. 

Transporting Your Stuff

From furniture to appliances, you may have lots of things that you want to move to Portugal — things that are much too big to fit in your Ryanair carryon or in the boot of your car. 

If that’s the case, you’ll probably need to use a removals company to transport your stuff to Portugal.

There are lots of specialist removals companies. Some actually specialise in moves to Portugal, while others cover the whole of Europe or even the whole of the world. It’s worth getting quotes from several companies, as prices can vary significantly.

Pre-Move Shopping

While on the one hand you may be thinking about downsizing all of the stuff that you own, in order to save on the removals costs, it can also be worth thinking about buying things in advance.

Some things are just more expensive in Portugal, including electronic items such as laptops and televisions, appliances, and even furniture. It all depends on how these purchases are going to affect your shipping costs, and whether you need to buy them right now, but it’s definitely something to think about.

Bringing Pets

If you already have pets, you’ll probably want to bring them with you to your new home in Portugal.

There are a few things to consider here, but the biggest is moving them to Portugal. First of all, they’ll need to meet the conditions of the PETS travel scheme which may have slightly different requirements depending on Brexit.

Secondly, transporting your pets from the UK to Portugal is a challenge in itself. You can either:

  • Drive to Portugal with the pets in the car.
  • Bring the pets on the plane with you (only an option with certain airlines and certain airports).
  • Use a specialist pet transportation company to bring them here.

Healthcare

Like the UK, Portugal has both a public and a private healthcare system.

The public healthcare system, SNS, is similar to the NHS, although not exactly identical. You do have to pay small amounts when you visit A&E or the doctor, and you often have to pay for prescriptions as well. The amounts are very reasonable, though, and the quality is comparable to the UK. The experience of visiting a doctor is also different.

Although residents of Portugal are entitled to use Portugal’s public health system, some expats also take out private health insurance as well. While insurance holders may still end up using the public hospitals for major operations, it does help with waiting times. Many of the smaller procedures are done in a private hospital.

Education

If you’re moving to Portugal with kids, or with the intention of having kids, education is another thing that you’ll need to think about.

As residents of Portugal, your children would be entitled to attend school in Portugal and, later on, attend university here at the same cost as someone born in Portugal.

Many expats prefer to put their children into international schools, particularly ones that follow the curriculum in England and Wales. There are private schools dotted around Portugal, but the majority are located near big cities like Lisbon and Porto or in areas with large numbers of expats like the Algarve.

If you’re planning for your children to attend a private school, you’ll probably need to pay attention to the nearby schools before making a decision on where you’re going to live.

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