Portugal Cost of Living: How Much Does it Really Cost to Live Here?

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Published: August 2018 & Last Updated: July 2022

Portugal has long been marketed as a cheap place to live, or somewhere with a low cost of living, but is that really the case?

Getting an accurate answer is difficult. Search Google and you’ll find retirement magazines – most of which don’t seem to have any first-hand experience of Portugal – telling you that you can rent an apartment for a few hundred dollars per month. Search YouTube and you’ll find plenty of vloggers telling you how cheap a cup of coffee is or that how little they paid when they went to the hospital. Sites like Numbeo are great for comparing the cost of a litre of milk or a bottle of beer between two countries, but this is actually very misleading (as discussed below).

Another figure that’s thrown around is the Portuguese minimum wage which, as of 2022, is €705 per month. Based on that, it’s very easy to make an assumption that, seeing as people get paid less, everything must cost less.

Strangely, this generally isn’t the case and you’ll find that many things are more expensive than you would expect in Portugal, including some basic essentials like clothes. It’s also worth pointing out that many people on this wage live with family, don’t live well, and other may pick up additional cash in hand jobs which may skew the figures.

The exact answer is a little more complicated. These days, you’ll struggle to find a cheap apartment for a few hundred euros a month – before Portugal became the place to move to you could find an apartment in Lisbon for around €250 per month, but these days you can add €1000 – however, you can still eat a three-course lunch with wine for less than €10 in most parts of the country. And, yes, healthcare is free for the most part, with some small additional payments (e.g. a few euros for supplies).

So, Portugal is cheap for some things but expensive for others. If you’re moving from somewhere that isn’t particularly expensive (and this is subjective), you may find that your cost of living is more or less the same. If you’re moving from somewhere like London or San Francisco, you’ll probably still think everything is a bargain – even more so when you throw in access to public healthcare and being able to live within the EU.

It’s still affordable for what it is

There are cheaper places in the world, even in Europe. Eastern Europe, in particular, is a lot more affordable. But, even though you could live in Bulgaria, Romania, Mexico or anywhere else for less, you would miss out on:

  • Up to 300 days of sunshine per year (particularly the Algarve)
  • Portugal’s beaches, many of which are considered the best in the world
  • The general sense of safety in Portugal
  • The possibility of being able to apply for Portuguese citizenship after five years
  • Access to Portugal’s public healthcare system
  • Freedom to travel within the Schengen Area

Basically, it’s about lifestyle and quality of life. It would cost you a small fortune to live near the beach in California, which is said to have a similar climate, but much less in Portugal. You can get a similar Southern European vibe in Italy, but it’ll cost you at least twice as much.

And, some things are cheap

Want to eat out in Portugal? As mentioned, you can get a three-course lunch at a traditional restaurant for around €10 or less. A glass of beer or wine can cost as little as €1, and sometimes less, and the cost of certain produce, particularly fish, is much more affordable than many other countries. An everyday bottle of wine costs around €5 and you don’t have to spend much more to find something special.

These are the sort of purchases that people make when they visit Portugal, leading them to think Portugal is cheap. They don’t typically spend money on utilities (gas and electricity), cars, and rent, although they may spend money on fuel, toiletries, and branded products, all of which are expensive.

There was a time (not too long ago) when it was much cheaper to buy and rent a property in Portugal. Property rental and purchase prices have increased significantly over the past few years, particularly in places like Lisbon and the Algarve. While parts of Lisbon and parts of the Algarve were always expensive, it used to be the case that you could find cheaper options if you moved further out. That’s becoming less and less the case.

It’s all subjective

Portugal attracts all kinds of people, from people moving to work on minimum wage to those retiring on million-dollar pensions, and everything in between. And peoples’ spending varies considerably.

Some people are very happy eating in traditional restaurants and pastelarias, living in what might be considered a basic apartment, and shopping at cheaper supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi. Others, find themselves wanting international cuisine, a decent car, an apartment that isn’t like a fridge in winter and a sauna in summer, and products that they’re used to. So, they end up spending a lot more. However, if they come from somewhere that’s already expensive, like London or New York, they may still find Portugal very affordable.

Working out Your cost of living

Rather than relying on what it costs someone else to live in Portugal, the trick is to estimate how much it will cost you to live in Portugal – and then maybe add at least 20% as most people tend to underestimate these costs.

Income

The first step is to work out how much income you’ll have whether that’s from a pension, salary, or savings. Don’t forget to factor in taxes, which may require you to speak to an accountant to get an estimate first.

Property

The biggest cost for most people is property, whether that’s buying or renting a place. You can get an estimate of rental and purchase prices by browsing the listings on Idealista to see what’s available in the areas you’re considering. If buying, don’t forget to factor in an average of 6-8% additional purchasing costs.

Food & Drink

This is a difficult one to estimate, but it probably won’t be your biggest expense. If you really want to be accurate, take your weekly grocery shop and put it into the online shopping cart at a Portuguese supermarket like Continente.

Cars

Cars, including second-hand cars, are more expensive in Portugal. You can estimate prices by looking at StandVirtual, the Portuguese equivalent of AutoTrader, and comparing the prices to the same car in your country. To estimate fuel prices, take a look at https://precoscombustiveis.dgeg.gov.pt.

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Comments

  1. Hello James, Many thanks and love the site for the financial, housing, etc. information/resources shared for moving to Portugal. However, finding little about securing employment i.e. applying and interviewing for jobs before and/or after you move. I know the basics apply on Indeed, LinkedIn, and Portugal recruiting sites Hays, Learn4good, and Sapoemprego, challenges of not speaking Portuguese, 13,000-24,000 Euros average salaries, Call Center, Tourism/Hospitality, Textiles, and Construction key sectors, etc. Just not sure if I should keep applying for jobs (seasoned sales/marketing professional with diversified skill set creating and executing digital/multi-platform campaigns and programs in corporate/media and entrepreneur/for/nonprofit roles) online and employers are open to virtual interviews before I move in January/Q1 2023 OR employers prefer in person interviews/with decreased COVID cases/restrictions and know that you currently live in Portugal versus planning to move there. I have secured housing at a friend's home (put address on my CV), applying for temporary/3+-12 month Visa, and note this information along with my move date in cover letters. Greatly appreciate any thoughts and recommendations you can share and/or guests can. Best, Jill

    Reply
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  3. Hello James. I follow your site for a wile now and i like it very much. Of course, not everything can be covert.So hear my 1st. time contacting U. I'm a retired+disability Expat from Switzerland, lived in Ecuador,Colombia and now in Thailand since many years but it's just too much crazy,unstable,unsafe here, i want to leave next year maybe around April 2022. The Algarve it has to be, because of the climate. Too hot in Thailand (24h AC-100euro month) too cold+wet in Switzerland and cost of living. Outside Faro or Tavira in a modern T1,with good Medical services near by would be great. I also need a Car.As i figured out i will have to pay 10% flat tax for my income.I pay no income taxes in Thailand,
    but every year 470 euro for Visa alone and the flights home to Switzerland once a year r about 2000 euro, so with saving that i can pay the 10% taxes in Portugal.I pay about 1100Euro for my Health insurance+about 400euro separate for Type2 Diabetes medication a year. Now , for about 1800 Euro, can i have a good quality life there? What about Car costs, lets say for a new Suzuki Swift 1.2 Automatic . Full cover Insurance and taxes over a year, or for a 10year old Honda Accord 2.4 AT ? A Car is essential for me. Thank U

    Reply
    • Hi Benno,

      Take a look https://www.standvirtual.com/ or https://www.olx.pt/carros-motos-e-barcos/carros/ to get an idea of car prices.

      It's a little harder to estimate car insurance prices, but you could try using a price comparison tool like https://www.deco.proteste.pt/auto/seguro-automovel . Most of these are in Portuguese only, but you can put the URL into Google Translate (like so) to get a good idea of what's being asked for.

      Reply
  4. Hello,

    Hope it is ok to ask but are the Portuguese trustworthy in their appointments? For example if you have an appointment with a builder at monday 11.00 He will arrive that time and not 3 weeks later after several phonecalls. I ask because if I need something build I want it on the agreed time. Are Portuguese different in this? Than I have to keep this in mind when
    I make my move to Portugal.

    Reply
    • Hi Erica,

      Hopefully someone else will answer this for you as I don't have enough personal experience to say.

      Generally, in Portugal, there seems to be an expectation that you mightn't turn up for an appointment. For example: if you make an appointment to go to the dentist, you'll get a phonecall the day before to confirm that you're going. The same will happen if you book your car into the garage, book an appointment with the hairdresser, etc. In most other countries, in comparison, if you book an appointment, people assume you'll show up for it (unless you phone to cancel).

      I would probably copy what everyone else does and phone up the day before to confirm.


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      Reply
  5. Moving to Portugal Made Simple is now available on Amazon
  6. Considering relocating to Portugal, but can't seem to nail down utility costs for heat/AC/water for a house. If a house was 2500 to 3000 sqft (250-285 m2) do you have any idea what the costs might be?

    Reply
    • Hi Michael,

      I'm not sure. It's possible to get the cost per unit (I think 0.24c according to https://algarvedailynews.com/news/14818-rip-off-portugal-electricity-and-gas-prices-the-third-highest-in-europe ) but there are a lot of other factors to take into account.

      It's a good question, though. I would like to see if there's some way of working this out.


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      Reply
  7. Hi James, thanks for the wonderful article. I may be required to raise a long term work visa/ residence permit via my existing IT employer for working in Portugal. My dependent wife would be travelling with me. I wanted to know can she work legally in Portugal on a dependent/ spouse visa?
    PS: We are in India and both of us are working.

    Reply
  8. Please inform on cost of living per month for a retired couple in Lisbon (middle-class area). T1 apartment and average (not extravagant) life-style.

    Any suggestion on safe and central areas for retired couple?

    Regards
    Johan

    Reply
  9. We are thinking of relocating to Portugal, my husband is Portuguese and we would hopefully go round Castelo Branco and buy outright (we have a property here to sell with a large amount of equity). I have my own online business which makes between 500 pounds on a quiet month to 1000 pounds plus on a good one, my husband would also try to make money online and through seasonal work etc plus we would have money left from sale of house. We are looking at house with land to grow stuff etc and I will also paint/sell art too. Would we be able to get by frugally each month? My mother in law thinks so. We are couple with 1 child.

    Reply
    • Hi Zoe,

      It's hard to say as everyone has different expenses. I've lived in Portugal as a couple on around £1000 per month or less (no children). That was living moderately frugally, and mainly cooking at home rather than eating out.

      I think you need to be very conservative with your earnings estimates when planning something like this. You already know how much you can earn from your online business but, since your husband doesn't have an established online business, I would be very cautious with my estimations here. You also need to consider what would happen if something happened to your earnings.

      Castelo Branco is a very cheap place to live in terms of property, but would there be work there to fall back on if you needed it?


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      Reply
  10. Moving to Portugal Made Simple is now available on Amazon
  11. Can you tell about tax rate for rental income from DTA country(republic of Georgia)?
    I hear that NHR can be remove in the future so please say without NHR.

    Georgia have 5% rental income tax for residential property and 20% rental income tax for commercial property.

    Reply
  12. Can I still live better than other local portuguese citizen with €1000?(without rent)
    and can you tell me difference between T1 and T2?

    Reply
    • Hi Jaehyeon,

      T0 = studio apartment
      t1 = 1-bedroom apartment
      t2 = 2-bedroom apartment

      Yes, you would live better than most - especially if you're planning on living outside of Lisbon. Most people in Portugal live on around €1000 (including rent) so only a few hundred Euros to spend per month on food and other expenses.


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      Reply
  13. Hi I live in South Korea and I am interested about moving to Portugal.I want to live in setubal.
    Can 1 person live €1200 without rent?
    -I will eat outside 10~15 time a month.Also,not expensive restaurant.
    -And I like to eat meat at home.I like pork belly and steak to eat.
    -I will go gym
    -I want to buy unlimited pass for lisbon-setubal.
    -I don’t smoking.
    And can I buy one or two room apartment inside €100,000 with tax in setubal?

    Reply
    • Hi Jaehyeon,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes, €1200 without rent in Setúbal should be more than enough. I imagine a lot of people living in Setúbal earn less than €1200 and those wages have to cover everything (incl rent).

      You didn't mentioned what type of property you would want to rent, but a quick look at OLX.pt suggests that a T1 or T2 will cost around €500-700 per month. A room will be even less.

      Eating out can cost less than €10 per meal in an inexpensive restaurant, especially at lunchtime.

      Pork is plentiful in Portugal. The beef in Portugal isn't great quality, so you may find yourself eating a lot more pork.

      There are properties for less than €100,000 in Setúbal. I'd recommend looking at OLX.pt and Idealista to see what sort of properties you can expect to get for that money.


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      Reply
      • This is other question but can you answer to me?
        When did passive income visa program started?And do you think program will keep available after few years ~ a decade?

        Reply
        • It's very difficult to know what'll happen to visas etc in the future.

          Up until now, though, Portuguese immigration has been very positive towards people who can support themselves (e.g. you have a pension or some kind of income). I imagine that'll continue, but it's impossible to predict.

          You could think about staying here until you're eligible for Portuguese citizenship. If you were to get that, you would be able to continue to live in Portugal regardless of what happens to visas in the future.


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          Reply
  14. Hi James,

    I wasnot able to find the cost of living info about Fundão anywhere but Castelo Branco seems to be available. Thank you 😊.

    Regards,
    Nik

    Reply
  15. Moving to Portugal Made Simple is now available on Amazon
  16. Hi James,

    Wonderful articles. Thanks for giving such a beautiful overview of the country.

    May I ask what are your thoughts on cost of living in Fundão for a couple and their 1 year old kid? Do you think 1600 € is a sufficient amount to live comfortably and then save some?

    Thanks and regards,
    Nik

    Reply
    • Hi Nik,

      Thanks for the kind words about the site.

      I think so, yes. Accommodation in Castelo Branco is fairly affordable and, if you don't have many other outgoings, it's doable. It really depends from person to person, though: everyone has a different definition of comfortable.

      I'd recommend working out what your outgoings will be e.g. rent, utilities, groceries, car, etc and then trying to price it up. It isn't possible to get prices for everything, but you can usually get enough to give you a good estimate.


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      Reply
  17. I am planning to move to Portugal and trying to collect all the inputs i need before i make up my mind for the move. could you please help me to get some idea.
    1) I will have the company in Amadora so what can be monthly rent for 2 bedroom furnished apartment.
    2). what will be the yearly cost if i go for an International school for my 6 yr old daughter
    3). How much salary i should seek as gross to have some saving after rent and school cost (I know it's very difficult, but if you give nay idea then it will be a great help).
    4). i saw in some sites these figures in Euros for family of 3 in euros.
    rent: 600
    electricity and utility: 150
    International school: 600 (monthly)
    grosser y: 400
    Insurance: 250
    others: 200

    Total 2200 Euro per month.

    could you please share your valuable input and can i get close to Euro 3000 a month (net salary) in Amadora

    Reply
    • Hi Shravan,

      The average salary in Portugal is less than €1,000, so this should give you an idea of what living costs are here. I don't know what you do for work or your professional level in that field, so I can't really tell you what kind of salary you can expect. I would recommend looking at job sites to get an idea of the typical salaries for your profession.

      Amadora is not a particularly affluent area, so I wouldn't expect to find many companies paying €3,000 per month salaries there. Of course, it depends on what you do.

      I think your estimate for groceries is probably quite high. I would take a look at one of the supermarket websites here (Pingo Doce, Lidl, etc) so that you can get an idea of what a weekly shop might cost.

      Insurance may also be high, although I don't know what you're insuring and how many people as well. Remember: if you're living in Portugal, you will have access to the public health service here.


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      Reply
  18. We are moving to Lisbon for a year in Oct 2019. We had hoped to book a furnished apartment for the year in advance but are having trouble. None of the sites are getting back to us. Any suggestions? Thanks, Marilyn

    Reply
      • Hi James
        We are experiencing exactly the same problem Marilyn mentioned. We contacted several realtors in Lisbon and Cascais and as far away as Peniche (North) and Lagos and Tavira (Algarve) directly. I don't want to mention specific names but the suffice to say the 3 "big ones". Also several rental agencies and even landlords. We only received replies in AIRBNB which also happens to be, relatively speaking, the most expensive. Apparently, business in PT is too good to care about the smaller fish. PT must be having an economic boom....

        Reply
        • Hi Dan,

          Nothing to do with you being a big fish or a small fish or anything to do with the state of Portugal's economy, it's just how things are here sometimes. Many businesses (not just realtors) don't respond to emails or not your first email anyway. It's strange but, even though you're the one handing over the money, often you need to be the one doing the chasing.

          That said, when it comes to renting a house I need to feel confident that the landlord would respond to any problems I might have in the future. I would probably not chase in this instance and keep looking until I found someone I was happy with. That's just my personal take though.

          Tip: Sometimes it's also better to just go into the shops and speak to people rather than sending multiple emails. Not something you can do if you're not in Portugal, but something to know for the future. Face-to-face works a lot better.


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