Portugal is one of the most affordable places to live in Western Europe. Combine that with beautiful weather, great food, and it’s easy to see why so many people are choosing to make Portugal their home.
All kinds of people choose to make Portugal their home, and Portugal has even attracted a few celebrity faces over the years. J.K. Rowling lived in Porto where she wrote early sections of Harry Potter, Madonna has as a house in Lisbon, and Cliff Richard has lived on the Algarve.
Of course, for such a small country Portugal is very diverse and lots of things differ depending on what part of the country you’re in. The Algarve, for example, has mild winters, whereas Northern Portugal and The Azores are much wetter. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, has seen a huge increase in tourism and city centre rental prices are disproportionately higher than anywhere else in the country.
So, while Portugal has great weather and a great cost of living overall, it’s best to look at things on a regional basis (we have guides to the cost of living in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve to get you started).
Regardless of where you end up, Portugal can offer a great quality of life and a very affordable one as well. Even with the rise in the cost of living in Lisbon, it’s still Western Europe’s most affordable capital city. Likewise, house prices have risen considerable in the Algarve but they’re still well within the reach of many retirees from Northern Europe, North America, and Australasia.
Rental costs in Portugal
Rental costs vary across Portugal, and even within regions themselves. In the Algarve, for example, rents can vary depending on how close you live to the coast. Rather than pay the coastal rental prices, many people choose to live inland and then drive to the coast as and when they want to visit. Towns like Lagoa and Silves are just 10-20 minutes from the beach by car, while the mountainous region of Monchique is just 30 minutes away.
As apartment rental prices can range from €100 per month to more than €1000 per month, the easiest way to estimate the rental costs it to look at the classifieds adverts for that region on a site like Sapo.pt or OLX.pt Doing this, you can get a better idea of what rental prices for that region are.
Property prices in Portugal
If you decide to purchase a property in Portugal, that’s another cost to consider either as an upfront cost or as a mortgage.
Like rental prices, property purchase prices vary considerably across the country. Apartments can cost as little as €20,000 in some parts of the country to hundreds of thousands and even millions in other parts.
As with rental prices, it’s best to look at house prices for the region you’re thinking of living in using a site like Idealista, Sapo.pt, or OLX.pt.
Eating out in Portugal
The cost of eating out in Portugal is extremely affordable, and many expats living in Portugal can afford to eat out almost every day. A lunch menu or menu do dia can cost less than €5, although typically costs somewhere between €5 and €12, and this often includes wine as well. A coffee, especially a bica (espresso), might cost €0.50 or less in rural parts of Portugal, and even in Lisbon rarely costs more than €1. Dinner is slightly more expensive, although you can still find main courses for less than €10.
These prices are for traditional Portuguese dishes at traditional restaurants and pastelarias, which are typically simple in their decor and ambience. Head to somewhere upmarket and the prices will increase.
Non-Portuguese cuisines can be more expensive although this isn’t always the case. There are plenty of affordable Chinese and Japanese restaurants in Lisbon and plenty of affordable Indian restaurants in the Algarve, for example, but it can be difficult to find affordable Mexican food. This is simply because Mexican food is in vogue, and all of the restaurant put a higher-than-average pricetag on their meals.
Wine in restaurants is also affordable, at least for a very drinkable but simple bottle of wine. A bottle of wine starts from around €10 in a restaurant, and many traditional restaurants will often have a cheaper vinho de casa (house wine).
Grocery shopping in Portugal
Grocery shopping is also very affordable in Portugal, particularly when it comes to basics like fruit and vegetables, fish, and meat – essentially, anything that’s grown or caught in Portugal.
Brand name products are usually more expensive than other countries. Cereals, for example, along with international brand name household cleaning products are much more expensive than in countries like the UK, Germany, and USA.
Alcohol is very affordable in Portugal, both in supermarkets and in restaurants and cafés. A drinkable bottle of wine starts at around €3 in the supermarket, and averages at around €5-7. For many people that move to Portugal, this is perfectly adequate. Portugal has wines to suit every budget, though, and you can find plenty for €20-50 and for as much as several thousand Euros.
Wine in cafés is also affordable and can cost less than €1 per glass, but usually costs somewhere between €1 and €4.
Naturally, Port wine is also affordable, and a bottle of Port starts at around €3-6. As with wine, there are ports to suit every palette and budget and there are plenty of medium-priced ports (€10-50) as well as those in the expensive category.
Beer is also affordable, especially if you stick to Portuguese beers like Super Bock and Sagres, and a beer in a café typically costs €1-2.
Transportation costs in Portugal
Transportation costs are affordable in Portugal. A metro ticket in Lisbon costs €1.45, and starts from €1.20 in Porto.
Taxis are affordable in Portugal, and taxi apps like Uber, Cabify, and MyTaxi are even more affordable although these taxi services aren’t available everywhere in Portugal.
Intercity train travel is also cheap in comparison to other countries. It’s possible to get a return ticket from Lisbon to Faro in the Algarve for around €20, for example, which is a very affordable for a 3-hour journey. Intercity bus travel is also very affordable.
Outside of cities like Lisbon and Porto, you’ll probably want to have a car which will add to your monthly outgoings. While car insurance is not particularly expensive in Portugal, buying a car in Portugal is. Secondhand cars, in particular, are much more expensive than they are in other European countries like the UK. Fuel is also expensive, and many people who live on the border fill up in Spain where it’s cheaper.
Electricity & Utilities costs
Electricity costs in Portugal can be expensive, particularly if you run the aircon constantly. For a small apartment, you should expect to pay €100-150 per month for utilities.
One thing it’s worth mentioning is that houses tend to be cold in the winter, even in warmer regions like the Algarve. Although Portugal can have cold and damp winters, especially in the North of Portugal, the houses are designed for the months of the year when it’s warm – namely the expel heat rather than retain it.
Some aircon units have a heating function, but these don’t heat the room effectively. You can get central heating installed, but this is quite expensive. Fires and wood stoves tend to be popular, particular in rural areas, and are some of the most effective ways of keeping a house warm in the winter.
Phone and internet packages vary from between €20 and €60 per month on average. Some of these bundles will include a mobile phone contract, or you can this out separately instead either as prepaid (PAYG) or on a monthly contract.
Other costs to consider
Health insurance & Healthcare
Many expats who move to Portugal choose to take out private health insurance rather than rely solely on the Portuguese national health service. Others find the public health service to be perfectly adequate, while others again primarily use the public health service but pay for some treatments privately out of their own pocket.
Health insurance costs vary from person to person and can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand Euro per year. One-off visits to a private doctor vary considerably, and are very difficult to average.
If you’re living in Portugal, you’ll need some level of Portuguese. The level you’ll need will depend a lot on where you’re living: less in the more touristy parts of Portugal and more in the less touristy parts.
It’s a good idea to learn as much Portuguese as you can, however. While a lot of Portuguese people speak fantastic English, not everyone does and you’ll often find yourself in situations where you need to speak Portuguese: going to the hospital and visiting the local council are two such examples.
Language classes vary in price depending on factors like whether you’re learning as part of a group or one-on-one or whether you’re taking classes at a language school or privately. A group class can cost as little as €5 per person, while one-on-one lessons range from around €10-40 per hour.
Shopping (clothes etc.)
As well as groceries, you’ll have others things that you need to buy like clothes, electronics, appliances, etc. These may be more one-off purchases, rather than regular purchases, but it’s a good idea to factor in some spending money for these things.
it’s worth mentioning that online shopping in Portugal is fairly underdeveloped, at least in comparison to countries like Germany, the UK, and USA. Most of the online shopping that takes place in Portugal is with non-Portuguese companies like Amazon, Zalando, and Asos. These companies deliver to Portugal, but the delivery times are usually around 1-2 weeks.
Bank accounts & currency transfers
If you plan to live in Portugal long-term, either as a resident or non-resident, you’ll probably need to open a Portuguese bank account to pay bills such as utilities. It can also be useful for withdrawing cash in Portugal, especially if your current bank charges you fees for doing so.
Portuguese banks typically charge a small monthly fee (around €5-10) for their bank accounts, so you’ll to factor this into your costs.
If you normal bank accounts are in another currency, it’s worth using a service like Transferwise or a currency broker (for really large amounts) to convert your money into Euros.
Do you live in Portugal? Are you moving there? How do you find the cost of living? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.