22 Downsides to Living in Portugal

Let’s face it, nowhere is perfect.

There are a lot of pros to life in Portugal: the weather is great, the cost of living is low, the beaches are beautiful…I could go on. This website has hundreds of articles, and almost all the articles except for this one focus on the pros of living in Portugal. But, it’s not all pros. There are a few cons too.

If you read other articles about moving to Portugal, or if you speak to a real estate agent, they never mention the downsides — just the upsides. But, it’s important to get the full picture before you move somewhere which is why this list exists. That way, if you read this and still decide to move to Portugal, you’ll have appropriate expectations.

It’s also important to point out that this is a list of the downsides of Portugal primarily from the point of view of an outsider (although Portuguese people often agree with many of the things on this list). It’s also not a list of things that Portuguese should change, and it’s definitely not a list of things that Portugal will change.

Portugal is Portugal, and you shouldn’t come here hoping for change or expecting change. Moving to any country and wishing it was different is just a recipe for disappointment. Instead, weigh up the pros against the cons and then, being honest with yourself, decide if Portugal is right for you.

In no particular order, here are some of the downsides to life in Portugal. (A special thanks goes out to all of the Portugalist readers who submitted their grievances to this list).

So, So Much Paperwork!

files

Try to get anything done in Portugal, whether it’s starting a business or applying for planning permission, and you’ll run into a little thing called “bureaucracy.” There’s a lot of it in Portugal.

The hardest part of bureaucracy isn’t the bureaucracy itself. Most people know that bureaucracy exists in Portugal, and aren’t surprised when they come up against it. The hardest part is that you never know which form you need or which person you need to speak to. And, it’s quite rare that anyone ever tells you. You normally have to figure these things out for yourself.

Thankfully, there are a lot of Facebook groups and forums where you can ask questions and hopefully speak to other people who’ve had a similar issue.

This isn’t unique to Portugal, but Portugal does take bureaucracy to a new level. One solution to avoiding Portuguese bureaucracy is simply to pay someone else to do it for you. Whether it’s taxes, NIFs, visas, or anything else, there are companies out there than can help.

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Cold, Grey, Damp Winters (In Places)

Aveiro in winter

Although most people associate Portugal with beaches and sunshine, a lot of Northern Portugal can be very damp and wet in the winter. Some even say that the North of Portugal has worse weather than Ireland in the winter, and that’s saying a lot!

Portugal is a long country and regions like the Algarve and Alentejo have different climates. Even Lisbon can be quite mild in the winter, and it’s not unusual for the South of Portugal to get temperatures in the high teens and occasionally even hit above the low twenties.

That’s outside, of course! In the house is another matter entirely.

This isn’t unique to Portugal. Most of Europe is cold in the winter – much, much colder than Portugal.

But Baby it’s cold INSIDE!

Portuguese houses can be extremely cold in the winter. Most properties don’t have central heating, or sometimes heating of any kind, and so you may find yourself wearing a jacket and gloves inside to keep warm. That’s not an exaggeration.

You can find warm properties. Some are lucky that they catch the winter sun and stay warm. Others have a fire of maybe even have a heating system of some kind. But many are just cold.

This is because Portuguese houses are designed with summer in mind: they’re designed to stay cool rather than warm up. Many properties are also build quite cheaply, particularly apartments.

And just because you’ve bought a cold house, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be cold forever. You can improve the insulation or install something like gas central heating or an effective pellet heater. All of that costs money, obviously, but it’s almost definitely be worth it.

This isn’t unique to Portugal, and it’s quite common across Southern Europe. Houses here are more designed for summer rather than winter. Thankfully, there are one or two things you can do to stay warm inside.

Making Friends is Hard

In Portugal, the Portuguese and non-Portuguese often run in different circles. Even people who have lived in Portugal for years will usually be able to count the number of close Portuguese friends they have on one hand.

It takes two to tango, though. While the Portuguese can be quite closed, even to people from other parts of Portugal, very few expats bother to learn Portuguese which really is essential for integrating into Portugal. It’s quite likely that a lot of Portuguese assume that these expats don’t want to integrate, and so it all becomes a bit of a vicious cycle.

But, even ignoring the language aspect, many people who’ve lived in other countries prior to Portugal would say that integrating can be difficult.

This isn’t unique to Portugal. People who’ve moved to other Southern European countries like Spain and Italy, to Scandinavia, or to Eastern Europe often report the same experiences.

Some Things are Expensive

A lot of people think that just because food and wine are cheap in Portugal, everything else is. Unfortunately, that’s not true.

Electricity and petrol are two good examples of things that are really expensive in Portugal. Per kilowatt, Portugal is one of the most expensive countries in Europe. It’s also one of the most expensive countries for fuel, which leads to a lot of people who living near the Spanish border driving across to fill up.

Other things that are expensive include anything second hand, cars, furniture, electronic appliances, books, banking, branded international foods and household products (e.g. cereals), and cosmetics and toiletries.

Taxes

Portuguese taxes, particularly when combined with social security payments, are high — at least in their simplest form. Portugal doesn’t have the highest taxes in Europe, but it definitely doesn’t have the lowest taxes either.

That said, the Portuguese government does have several tax regimes and schemes which are designed to simplify tax payments and to make Portugal more appealing to outsiders. The most famous is the NHR scheme, which currently allows pensioners to receive their pensions in Portugal and pay a flatrate of 10% tax.

It also allows those with certain professions to pay a flatrate of 20% tax, which could be particularly appealing if you’re normally a higher-rate tax payer in your home country.

But, even if you don’t have a high value profession, you could still significantly reduce your tax bill as a self-employed person by opting for the Simplified Regime, which allows you to only be taxed on a proportion of your income.

Workplace Culture

Sexism, micromanaging, not being allowed to show any initiative — talk to a Portuguese person about the downsides of living in Portugal and one of the main things they’ll mention is workplace culture. It’s not every company, obviously, but it is something that gets mentioned frequently.

It’s a downside that many foreigners moving to Portugal get to avoid as many bring their own jobs here, work for a foreign company, or move to Portugal for retirement.

Learning Portuguese Language is Challenging

For some people having to learn Portuguese to live in Portugal is a fact of life. To others, it’s a big downside.

It isn’t so much that people don’t want to learn Portuguese (although some don’t), but rather that it’s a big stumbling block that prevents you from integrating into Portugal. It doesn’t take too long to learn enough Portuguese to get by in daily life, and even in more difficult bureaucratic situations, but it does take a long time to learn enough Portuguese to really integrate.

Portuguese is nowhere near as difficult as Chinese or Arabic, or maybe even German, but it’s one of the most difficult romance languages.

This is obviously unique to Portugal in that Portuguese is seen as harder than some other European languages, particularly Spanish. That said, it’s probably not any more difficult than German.

Dogs

Depending on where you’re living in Portugal, dogs can cause problems.

Poop is the most common problem, followed by noise. In the countryside, dogs barking through the night can be an issue and, even in residential areas, it’s not unusual for people to leave their dogs on their apartment balconies during the day.

This isn’t unique to Portugal, and it common in some neighbouring countries like Spain.

Corruption is (Unfortunately) a Fact of Life

Ask a Portuguese person what the biggest downside to life in Portugal is and almost all will say corruption.

Backhanders can permeate every area of life, from your local council right up to the higher echelons of government. It’s just seen as a part of life or a tax for getting around bureaucracy.

According to Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, Portugal was ranked 30th out of 198 countries for corruption.

This isn’t unique to Portugal.

The Slow Pace of Life

The slow pace of life is one of the main reasons that people move to Portugal, but that slow pace of life can also be a downside. When you have something that needs doing, suddenly you find yourself wishing that slow pace of life wasn’t a thing in Portugal.

Even in simple tasks like going to the supermarket, you’ll find yourself queuing for a lot longer than you would in countries that don’t have a slow pace of life. It all depends which you value more: the slow pace of life (for when you do want it) or constant efficiency.

This isn’t unique to Portugal, but common across most Southern European or Mediterranean countries.

The “Glass Half Empty” Mentality

The Portuguese mentality can be frustrating for a lot of people, particularly for entrepreneurs and go-getters. If America has a “can do” attitude, Portugal often sits at the other side of the spectrum with a “can’t do” attitude.

There are a lot of reasons for this difference, particularly historical and cultural reasons, but regardless of them, some people will still find it hard to deal with.

This isn’t completely unique to Portugal, but it does seem to be more common in Portugal than in neighbouring European countries.

The Lack of Customer Service

Customer service, the art of solving customers’ problems and keeping them happy, is an artform but it’s not an artform that’s particularly popular in Portugal.

You may not like the American model of customer service where everyone is overly nice, smiley, and helpful. You might think it’s fake and, being honest, it is. But, when you’re trying to get a problem solved, you’ll wish that Portugal had adopted this approach.

This isn’t unique to Portugal. Many readers living in countries like France, Germany, and Spain have said the same thing.

The Job Market

Portugal traditionally attracts much older expats, particularly retirees. There’s a reason for that, and that’s that people don’t usually come to Portugal to work: salaries are low by European standards, and there are a limited number of jobs here.

The good news is that, even though salaries are still a long way from catching up with other Western European countries, there are an increasing number of job opportunities in Portugal. Many people also bring their work with them — either starting a business here or working remotely for clients outside of Portugal.

This isn’t totally unique to Portugal: Across Southern Europe, job opportunities are fewer and salaries are lower when compared to Northern Europe. That said, Portugal does have some of the lowest salaries in Western Europe.

The “Who You Know” Attitude to Business

To get ahead in a lot of industries in Portugal, it’s all about who you know. This maxim is true in a lot of countries, of course, but it’s especially true in Portugal.

In a lot of English-speaking countries, like the UK and US, who you know opens doors but it doesn’t make it impossible to break into certain industries. In Portugal, not knowing the right people can make it impossible to do business in a lot of industries that you could break into in other countries.

This isn’t unique to Portugal, and is quite common across most of Europe.

The Driving

Whether it’s people flashing their lights because they’re desperate to overtake, drink driving, or only leaving a gap of about an inch between your car and their’s, driving in Portugal is bad.

Indicators are rarely used, touch parking is common in the cities, and in rural parts of Portugal people often park diagonally across two or three spaces.

Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things about Portuguese life that you have to get used to.

Read more about driving in Portugal

This isn’t unique to Portugal. According to Statista, in 2018, there were more road accident fatalities in 10 other European countries like Romania, Greece, and Luxembourg. However, Portugal faired worse than neighbouring countries like Spain, France, and Italy.

The Rising Cost of Living

The cost of living in Portugal is on the rise, particularly when it comes to property prices. This is obviously more of a downside for the Portuguese living in Portugal who typically have less buying power on average, but it’s still a downside for expats as well.

House prices are rising throughout Portugal, but particularly in Lisbon and Porto and the Algarve.

The Cold Ocean

A lot of people move to Portugal for the beaches and are surprised by just how cold the water is. Yes, it can be very cold because it’s not the Mediterranean Sea, it’s the Atlantic Ocean.

It isn’t a big deal for a lot of people, as most only go to the beach in summer, but it can make a difference if you were expecting to spend a lot of time in the water.

This is unique to Portugal. Other Southern European countries like Spain, Greece, Italy, and Cyprus are all on the Mediterranean Sea so usually have warmer waters. France

The Overtourism

queues at pasteis de belem
Queues for Pastéis de Belém regularly extend into the hundreds

In the past few years, tourism has boomed in Portugal. Lisbon, in particular, has become one of the hottest destinations to visit and it has attracted millions of tourists from all over the world. Porto, and the Algarve, likewise, have seen a huge increase in tourism as well.

Unfortunately, Lisbon and Porto are much too small to handle the sheer volume of tourists that are visiting. The streets are narrow, and the cities themselves are quite compact and small. Historical attractions like the Torre de Belém in Lisbon or the Clérigos Tower just weren’t designed to cope with queues of hundreds of tourists.

It’s also led to other problems in the local housing market, and put a strain on public transport and other services. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like over tourism is going to decrease anytime soon and, with no real solutions to the problem, it may just become something that people have to accept. There’s that Portuguese “can’t do” attitude creeping in!

This isn’t completely unique to Portugal. Lots of other cities like Barcelona and Amsterdam are struggling with overtourism.

Getting things delivered

Many people who move to Portugal come from countries where online shopping is extremely developed, to the point where they can get their orders the same day. That’s not the case in Portugal, especially as most online shopping is done with international companies.

As an example, if you want to shop at Amazon from Portugal, you normally shop at Amazon Spain or perhaps Amazon Germany. If you shop from outside the EU, for example at a US store, expect to pay lots of money in customs charges (and for your delivery to be held up).

The challenge of getting things delivered, whether an online shopping order or a letter from overseas, is a constant complaint amount expats. It is something you get used to, though, and, like many of the other things in this list, is a small price to pay for what you get in return.

Noise levels

If you live in an apartment in Portugal, it’s not unusual to hear your neighbours watching TV, talking or arguing, listening to music, or just about everything else. And, if they live above you, you’ll probably hear them walking around as well.

Noise levels in Portugal are nowhere near as high as in neighbouring Spain where everyone seems to walk around their apartments in clogs, but it will take some getting used to if you’re from a country where things are a little bit quieter.

Not all apartments have noise issues, especially the more modern ones, and you can insulate an apartment to reduce noise levels, but it is something to be aware of.

The Smoking

While smoking is on the way out in many countries, smoking is still quite common in Portugal. It’s something that you will get used to with time.

But, even though you’ll get used to walking into a cloud of smoke every now and then, there are definitely times when it can be a downside.

Portugal definitely isn’t the only European country where smoking is common. It’s similar in France, Spain, and Germany.

Comments Policy: This article attracts a mixture of comments: some people who believe the pros of living in Portugal outweigh the cons and others who are frustrated with life in Portugal and want to vent their anger. While comments pointing out the negative sides of Portugal are allowed, there’s a diplomatic and a constructive way of doing this and there’s a way that’s unhelpful and simply negative. Comments that are negative and without any substance will be removed.

308 thoughts on “22 Downsides to Living in Portugal”

  1. Good God, thank you very much to the person who initiated this blog. You have certainly opened my eyes. I had been doing a lot of research on line regarding living in Portugal (6 mo of the year) and the other 6 mo at my home in the USA. I even looked into learning the basics of the Portuguese language before traveling later this year on a “exploratory/vacation” trip to Portugal. After reading most of the posts, I’ve realized two things;
    1. I’m almost certain that all the positive reviews I’d read on the internet about Portugal, their people, climate, etc. come from biased tourists oriented adv. companies in order to promote their agenda and enrich their pockets. (I’m not saying that it is a horrible place to live, is just that these companies do NOT voluntarily provide the real “cons” of living in any of the countries they promote on their websites.
    2. Retiree from the state of California, I relocated to Texas at the early age of 59 1/2. I can deal with utilities being expensive, homes having poor insulation, etc in Portugal; but the issues I’ll will certainly NOT tolerate are the people “can’t do” attitude, total disregard for the quiet and comfort of your neighbors, utter disregard from communications companies, banking sector and government offices in providing efficient, prompt and courteous customer service.
    At 63 years old, I’m going back to my original plans. Stay in Houston (where cost of living is a 1/4 of what it is in California and access to excellent medical care) and just travel around the world just a little bit at a time once this Covid 19 lightens up. I’m sure Portugal just like the rest of Europe is a wonderful place to visit but I rather take any aggravations here at home where I can resolve them in a more satisfactory manner.

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  2. In Portugal during rainy and windy days the DSL internet and telephone connection is frequently lost. Some days internet is on and off within a couple minutes all day long. Opening a support ticket does not help since technicians are not well trained and are unable to repair the problem, which lasts for months and years at a time. Internet speed is sadly slow whenever internet connection works. Yet crediting the lost time or refund is not on the cards for the Portuguese internet telephone companies.

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  3. I’m glad to read this because a lot of ties in with my experience and I’ve not seen much else published that concurs.

    I hear a lot of people saying the Portuguese are friendly. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade; if an immigrant has a positive outlook of their host community then that’s got to be good. But I do feel many times I hear this view, it’s poorly considered or poorly formed.
    In my experience, this view comes from people who:

    Are Portuguese. They can’t give an immigrant’s perspective.
    Have been here on holiday. They don’t know what it’s like to live here and their opinion is based on the hospitality industry. People who are friendly because it’s their job might not be proof of a friendly populace overall.
    Live here but can afford to pay to have all the bureaucracy etc done, and/or mix in exclusively well-off immigrant communities. They also don’t really have great sources for their views.

    I’m rarely presented with solid evidence of why the Portuguese are friendly.

    I’ve lived and worked in 8 different countries and travelled in 50+ more, covering 4 continents. I have friends from host communities of most places I’ve lived. I make friends where I go. I’ve been in Portugal for 4&1/2 years and I don’t have Portuguese friends.

    I have a circle of immigrant friends here from a range of countries. We’re all happy to make friends regardless of nationality, but the Portuguese don’t want to be friends with us.
    When we speak Portuguese in shops, they reply in English – even direct responses that prove they’ve understood us. Why? I think it’s because they see us as outsiders. They don’t smile. They don’t make much effort to help. They don’t reply to messages and mails. Some of these may be just the “can’t do attitude” mentioned often on this page, but it still shows the host community aren’t friendly by nature. Of course, by their own norms, some of these behaviours may be fine, but by global indices, it’s not friendly, and it needs to be global indices by which a nationality is judged.

    Does any of this matter? That depends. I have to live here for family reasons and that ranks more than any lack of host friendliness. It is what it is – if you don’t like it, leave, and if you can’t leave, deal with it. There’s no obligation on the host community to adapt for immigrants. But I do think it’s important for people to know there are views out there other than the brochures, or if they’re here and they’re feeling some negativity, it might not be all their own doing.

    I’m not saying the Portuguese are bad people. They’re not fighting in the streets or smashing places up.. The cops aren’t routinely killing people of different ethnicities. You’ll be OK here. Just don’t believe the hype! In my experience, in other places the people are more polite, more welcoming, more inclusive, more helpful, much more friendly.

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    • I second that. Locals are served first in the shops often, even if they came in after us. We are made to wait a long time. Many enterprises including health are especially openly discriminating, but not everyone is like that. We have donated things and money to the locals and organizations. We did have make a friend or two, who are from Lisbon or from Cabo Verde. There are other friendly people here who invite us for a chat. It’s not that bad, but there are not so nice people everywhere in the world. We are planning to donate our property to local parks and organizations once we are done in this life. There is no point to let anyone else inherit it.

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    • Thank you Steve, this is very interesting. Would you mind sharing which countries you have found to be the best in terms of friendliness, helpfulness, politeness, inclusiveness and being welcoming?

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  4. My husband and I were planning on retiring in Portugal with out 2 dogs. One reason was safety, affordability and lower taxes. Now I wonder if we should. I dont like the way they apparently treat their animals. I also dont think I could stand the constant negativity. We looked at France but everyone says the taxes are high there as well. Also Italy.
    We receive US social security and US pensions plus savings. I heard Italy charges 43% and France 25% tax.
    Now I’m totally confused as to where to go.

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    • Hi Alison,

      European taxes are high, especially compared to the US. It’s just a fact of life, unfortunately, although you do have to factor in things like healthcare into the equation – here it’s paid by your taxes, which may end up being quite low on a pension.

      I would recommend speaking to an actual expert (which I definitely am not) but the NHR scheme here is designed to lower the amount of taxes you pay. On pensions and US SS it should be 10%.

      The things you mention (negativity, treatment of animals) vary, and I would also say they’re common in a lot of other European countries. I’ve lived in France for a little bit, for example, and people aren’t always particularly friendly there. Can’t really speak to Italy.

      Ultimately, if you want to live in a European country like Portugal, Italy, or France, I think you need to come and experience each culture and decide which one you feel you could live in. That country will have cons as well as pros, but that’s just a part of life.

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      • Hi James, We have spoken with you in the past…primarily about Portugal taxation of USA Social Security. This is an ongoing discussion for last few years on many blogs and websites…We agreed that the answer is hard to find…without actually paying some legal or accounting consultant to get the info and even then you cant be sure. Last we heard is that Portugal legislature last year passed a law eliminating NHR program Is that true? anyway, if I relocate to Portugal and do not work and have ONLY USA Social Security, is Portugal gonna tax it? and if so, at what rate? the sticking pint seems to be whether Portugal considers SS as a private pension or public (government) pension…which it is.
        Could you possibly private message me on this to my personal email?

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  5. One very nasty downside developed in the past year in Portugal. Not exactly in the past year but over the past 2-3 years. The international inbound mail delivery used to arrive at Lisbon and then was distributed across Portugal and the islands within a week’s time. That week turned into 2 weeks and then into3-4 weeks. So for an Azores or Madeira resident a registered letter from say Germany took about 2 to 4 weeks from Germany to Lisbon alone, sometimes faster, but then another month is to wait to receive the mail from Lisbon to the Azores or Madeira. But now quite often one has to wait up to 2 months just to have the mail take the route from Lisbon to the islands! Which is excruciatingly slow and is absolutely unacceptable. Many people are complaining, even the Portuguese, that are used to dictatorship and fascism, themselves are complaining on the internet about the slow delivery of mail and an occasional event when their mail arrives cut open and inspected by the unknown unprofessional entity, sometimes resealed and sometimes wide open. Without any professional seal, signature or even an identifying tape. Resident in Madeira? Prepare to wait at least 2-3 month for your mail to arrive, even from Spain! It takes on average 6 months for ordered goods from China to arrive in the islands. Back to the stone age! This is the XXI century.

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  6. In Portugal many (most?) companies and services are unprofessional, lazy, careless, unreliable. They don’t have this or that and they are unwilling to order them for you. If they do, you may receive wrong ones or wrong colour, or broken, bent ones, damaged goods, ugly design, low quality. As it seems Portugal is a dumping ground for lowest cheapest quality goods made by unmarked companies without any brand name and warranty is not respected. Beware oif dentists and their low quality workmanship which can infect you intentionally or ot with a variety of viruses and diseases. Private property is not respected and the neighbours are extremely nosy, can enter your property for any reason or no reason without asking you and take anything they want from it. Primitive and backward society. Seem “friendly” on the surface, but something else deep inside. Thieves and crooks mostly, with a few honest individuals in between. Dishonest and not caring and very selfish indeed.

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  7. Portuguese people often cut in line and are not ashamed to do it. When confronted they act innocent or they act as if they don’t understand what the problem is?

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  8. Very salient points. I’ve lived here for 5 years now. I built and renovated houses in the UK so built my own eco house here with the help of a Romanian firm. Locals did the foundations but from the first truck arriving from Romania I moved in 50 days later. That speed is unheard of here and it isn’t damp or mouldy. I couldn’t live in any of the Portuguese houses I viewed.

    The other biggy for me is animal welfare. I hoped to develop a thicker skin, I haven’t. So I set up a small charity helping old and abandoned dogs. It helps me think I’m making a difference, however small. Attitudes are changing towards animals but it will take time. Having recently spent 4 day in London and the SE I couldn’t wait to get back to the Silver Coast – wet winters and all.

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    • They do poison everyone’s cats here, but we did not catch who is doing this. There are plenty of thieves in the neighbourhood who even steal things of low value such as flower pots, ornaments. Everything we had unattached in our front yard is gone now to the thieves and their kids. Once my neighbour complained that their cats have been poisoned and they seemed to suspect… who? Me! So I offered them to provide our newly born kittens to them once they hit a month’s age. We always donate something to the locals and are nice to them, give them jobs, the money etc. Many people are genuinely nice and polite, others are quite rude, but it’s okay. You never know what’s going on inside of someone’s heart or mind.

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      • Hi Hugo and thank you, what do you mean they ? meaning most people or some bad people that hate cats? We want to bring our 6 cats with us we were thinking how will travel across Europe from Romania with six cats and now I read they poison cats its really bad, I hope it’s just one case. Do people are so cruel with animals back there? thats such disappointment.

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    • Hi Gillian, thank you for your story it’s very inspiring.
      We also want to relocate, we are from Romania, I lived in UK for 10 years I loved it and now I miss it so much, I had to come back to Romania for my family and now we want to relocate to Portugalia because of the weather, latin roots and swimming.
      I am curios to know about the prices they ask if you want to build an eco house not very big and in Algarve. Wanted to know about the Romanian firm may I know the name so we can find out if its a convenient option for us.
      Also what do you think it’s better to buy an apartment renovate it and then rent it and then buy a house or build it ? Regarding the taxes its still unclear whats bthe best option if you want to live and also invest so you cover all the bills plus living costs. Looking forward hearing your input, until then greetings from Romania.

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    • Hi Gillian, would love to hear what company you used in Romania for your home. If you wouldn’t mind sharing? We are busy researching options for our own build as well, that is eco.
      Do you mind if I also ask how long it took you to get planning permission to build your house?
      And what company here in Portugal did your foundations for you?
      Would be interested to know to help aid us in our research, if you don’t mind sharing?
      And thank you for the work you are doing helping animals. I am a huge animal lover too.
      Thanks so much, Sam

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  9. Similar complaints from expats about living Spain. Some are valid points and to some extent true, not deal breakers though. However, my observation about the expats from the western countries like UK or Germany – they often try to escape serious problems and bring them from one country to another. Not willing to learn about the culture or language, most giving up after one lesson and going back to their Biergarten or Pub. Then after years, mostly when their silly business idea falls apart or their savings are gone, they got really mad and are forced to return. And then there is this arrogant “they have to live like us” attitude, why should they? Their standards of living are very high.

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  10. Just a quick thank you to James for setting up this site and facilitating such useful conversation about the reality of living in Portugal. The cons are daunting, but I’d like to think a place is what you make of it. And I agree a long term “living” (not tourist) trial is key. Thanks to everyone for your honesty.

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  11. Great summary James, very accurate from my perspective after living in the Algarve for two years now. Previously in the USA for 23 years. Most of the items do become normalized after a while but the over tourism is a real show stopper, particularly in the coastal areas. So much so the joke among some friends is that it is a bit like visiting a “Portugal World” at a Disney resort with a few Portuguese thrown in for local color and “authenticity”! The other thing we find hard is the lack of localization due to the single tourist economy. The small town we live in, and medium sized ones surrounding us, have very few amenities which mean by default you have to go to the larger tourist areas for shops, entertainment, better restaurants, sports etc. where there is no differentiation between you as a resident and a Brit or Northern European on a package deal. This does make it harder to feel integrated and part of a community, not to mention gouged rotten for mediocre service. We do miss the sense of ‘home’ we had back in the US whether in downtown Chicago or suburban Oklahoma!

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  12. I appreciate the Candid coverage of Portugal, and the supporting comments to that end. I’m trying to escape the bureaucracy Of America, but may have to change my mind on Portugal. And Mold, big problem.

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    • I would have thought the USA would be less bureaucratic than most places in Europe. Most of Southern Europe and even places like Germany have extremely high levels of bureaucracy.

      Mold, it depends. For me it’s mainly unsightly but for others it’s a health hazard. You can keep on top of it with bleach or white vinegar though.

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    • I wouldn’t change your mind on Portugal after reading these comments. I just moved to Portugal from California a month ago. So far there isn’t anything that would change my mind. It also depends on why you are moving here. I would not come here for work. The taxes and wages, compared to the US, offset the positives. I am semi-retired, but at the moment I still have my IT job from CA. Portugal offers a nice tax incentive for foreigners (NHR… nonhabitual resident), which allows you to not pay tax on any foreign sourced income for 10 years. When one is retired it matters less how long things take to get done and bureaucracy, although still annoying, is not really a showstopper.
      If you are moving here with some money in the bank, many downsides can be mitigated. I paid a couple thousand dollars for an immigration services company to help with some of the bureaucracy and it is worth it. I moved into an apartment in Lisbon, but I specifically chose to live in a newer area (Parque das Nações). It is one of the more expensive areas of Lisbon, but I have central heating/AC, a dishwasher, a clothes washer/dryer and a parking spot in a secure garage. The building is maybe 20 years old. No issues with mold or anything like that. The rent is €1050 for a 1 bd/1ba. I live 1 block from the marina/tejo river. The nearest metro (and mall) is less than 15 mins by foot. Some things I’ve noticed though.

      1. The winters are colder than I thought, but similar to the San Francisco Bay Area in CA.
      Again, living in a newer apartment with central heating is a MAJOR plus.

      2. Although some people are helpful, a lack of knowledge can cause issues. Examples:
      A. I signed 2 contracts with Vodafone to install internet/tv svc. The first one they cancelled
      when I was out of the country for a couple weeks before they could install the service.
      When I attempted to resign the contract, they said service wasn’t available in my
      building. I then confirmed that other tenants had service. Then they said they could
      install service in 1 week. 10 days later I was informed they could not install service
      because of insufficient capacity. So 5 weeks after moving in I gave up and signed up for
      service with MEO. They are scheduled to install this week
      B. The immigration service helping with the residence permit said we would have to wait 3
      weeks for an appointment, but it turns out we could schedule an appointment within a
      couple days. This turned out to be a major inconvenience because my wife had to return
      to the US before she could complete the interview.
      The point behind these two examples is that many people here may try to be helpful, but sometimes they just don’t know what they are talking about. Instead of saying I don’t know, or let me find out, they just say whatever they’ve heard through word of mouth, which can cause you headaches. Luckily, once residence is established and you have a place to live, these things become a non-issue.
      Besides a cost of living that has about half of CA, I have top of the line health insurance for about $100/month, with no deductible. My crappy insurance with my employer in CA costs about $1500/month and has a high deductible. This is a huge plus for living in PT. Also, I moved here because I really like the language, so learning it is a positive for me… but English is very prevalent unlike many other countries in Europe.
      My apologies for the long post, but if you are thinking about moving here from the US, I wouldn’t be deterred, unless your purpose is to move here to work, apart from remote work.

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  13. I read through a lot of comments, but dont think I have come across a question that has been bothering me for about a week, since we made the decision to relocate to Portugal (Janes, your article helped understand downsides, but didn’t put us off from calling off the decision). We are US citizens with a young family, and 2 dogs. My wife and I work IT jobs and can work remote (although I prefer to retire), and are ready to make the 250k Euro investment to get the Golden Visa.
    The question I have is — there are a lot of websites available and vying for your business. Since this is the first article that seems to give me a dose of truth, rather than bland platitudes about Portugal, what has been the experience of others – who have moved. Did you guys use a firm, or apply online directly? If you used a firm, would you recommend them? What are the problems you have had?

    Reply
    • Ravi. I also work in IT and for now my employer is letting me work remotely. Once they change their mind I will quit. I moved to PT about a month ago, but it is only my wife and dog. As she is a EU citizen from another country, it is easy for us to establish residence. As I understand it the Golden Visa requires buying a property. I did not choose this option because I wanted to rent for a while to be sure I want to live here. I also prefer to keep my savings invested in the stock market as my returns have been very good. In order to navigate the bureaucracy and help with some of the red tape, we contacted EI imigrante (http://eimigrante.pt/en/). They have been pretty helpful. The cost was a couple thousand dollars, depending on the services/help you need. I’m not sure if they help with the Golden Visa, but they might be able to provide some direction.

      Reply
    • Hi Ravi, we used an AMAZING company that have been specialising in helping people immigrate to Portugal for many years. They are so professional and do a fantastic job.I’ve sent a few friends/contacts their way and they all have had great experiences with them too. Company is called Passport to Portugal, ask to speak to Chris and mention that I sent you – he always lets me know when someone has reached out and it feels good to help others go through the process of inmigrating here as smoothly as we’ve experienced. Couldn’t imagine doing it any other way really. Samantha

      Reply
  14. Who do you believe is my question? An Expat Insider Survey indicated two-thirds of 18,000 expat respondents said making local friends in Portugual was easy. Overall Portugal was rated in the top ten countries for expats to make friends.

    Reply
    • Hi Patrick,

      I’ve seen this survey too, but haven’t spoken to anyone who felt it was accurate. Would be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts.

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  15. This article really seems to have hit a nerve with a lot of expats living here. For me the key thing is the CANNOT DO attitude that people have… i simply do not understand it….call the plumber and he will give appointment after appointment till he actually arrives, email SEF and there is no response for week after week till you tear your hair out of frustration, ask vodafone to update your internet plan follow up after followup till something actually happens, message your bank for updating your account again follow up after followup till something happens, i have so many stories of delays for even the most basic things…. i just do not understand it… i can tolerate everything else mentioned in this list, but this extremely strong, frog in the well, if it does not affect me then it does not bother me attitude is simply incomprehensible….. This is why Portugal will never be the next sillicon valley or the next germany or the next spain for that matter, it is not lack of money or lack of locations or lack of talent, it is simply this insouciant attitude of not bothering to do the work in front of you or thinking that it is some one elses problem to solve and not yours.
    I hope someone high up reads this and starts an ad campaign OWN Your Work, Provide regular updates, start finishing and stop starting ……………jesus……even India was not so bad, you would call a help centre and at least someone would pick up and you could talk to a real person….

    Reply
    • haha, I was enjoying your detailing of your travails, Roland, I said to myself, this sounds like my travels thru India in the late 70s, then I got to your comment re India. Many thanks for the comparison – while I loved it back then in my early 30s, I couldn’t take the grind of it now, in a place like Portugal. So I was very happy to gain the insights of people like you who have had the first hand experiences. And the language does sound daunting.
      .
      Maybe I’ll just suck up to L.A. and hang here:0)
      Much appreciated your comments!

      Reply
      • haha, and I enjoyed reading your comment in response to Roland’s.
        Don’t give up on Portugal… personally, my experience of it has not been as acute as Roland’s and the positives hugely outweigh the negatives… especially compared to LA.

        I have to say, I have a sneaking suspicion we may have met: I lived in Venice Beach 1997 to end of 1999. I knew a Patricia who would have been about your age. We went hiking together once or twice in Malibu (La Jolla Canyon, Malibu, I think… long time ago now). That Patricia would have been the kind of person to have travelled in India, and to contemplate a move to Portugal!

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    • For this reason I could not live there…this would be detrimental to my health, causing high blood pressure from all the frustration. That would literally drive me insane!

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  16. Stumbled on your blog/site the other day, James.
    Glad I did, as I found it to be informative and accurate in an honest way.!
    This, based on my own experiences of a much shorter time living in Portugal.
    Only been here permanently for 6 years now.
    I had fun reading through the comments….but can not help asking myself the question that I have asked myself while living in S.E.Asia and in North America…in addition to Europe and a bit of South America…
    why is it that people that leave their own culture to experience a different one, want to immediately find groups of people to hang out with, which are from their own culture.?
    I think I have never been in any major town in the parts of the world that I have seen, where there was not an ‘Irish Pub’ or a “British Pub’ or a German ‘Biergarten’…
    It is baffling to me…
    My own decision to move to Portugal was based on the fact that I could not afford to live a decent retirement in my own country on the pension I am receiving, my distaste for endless amounts or snow or sweltering heat and my desire to live a more calm and peaceful life.
    This seems not to be in a lot of people minds, who commented… perhaps an age thing.?
    I moved to a tiny village in Central Portugal which had exactly one inhabitant…me.!
    The idea was to experience …less.!
    Many of the downsides you mention, I have experienced. There have been frustrations and annoyances. I have lost my calm many times…but found it again, when I walked in the woods or sat in the sun, looking over the valley.
    I do not speak Portuguese…gave up after a year, as my ears are too old and my mind is too scattered it seems. It is an impossible language because people ‘shusss ‘ all the time, and everybody speak a different dialect, so it seems.
    I did, however, plant flowers.
    And after a year or so, the summer-visitors, who of course were all ex-locals, decided to get over their anxiety and started to include me in the summer rites of a Portuguese village.
    They affirmed in me the believe that people will open themselves to you, given time and community can exist without common language or common cultural foundations.
    I do not know how it is in the big cities, but have live din enough big cities to know that it changes people.
    Here in the middle of nowhere, in the hills of Central Portugal, all is well… despite barking dogs.
    Thank you for your efforts,
    Mali

    Reply
    • Because when people move they do not realize that they may experience culture shock and miss their host culture. There is no set culture in the states so people do not think of this much. When people move to the states some do the same as well and comparatively speaking we accomodate people more than other places. I am not saying people should be accommodated to btw. I think we should all be kind to expats and immigrants in all places and not judge because judging just does not help.

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    • This is one of the most interesting self-aware comments I have read and the most thought provoking. As a 70+ year old American, it gives me pause and is making me think about what I really want. Thank you.

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    • Wow. Mali, you are really brave to go to a small village in Portugal without the language skills and I presume, not knowing anyone.

      I’m thinking of Portugal for the same reasons you did. I can live better there than where I am now with my pension in a few years. But also, I like the culture, and out of all the Southern European countries I could go to, I would prefer Portugal.

      I’d like to continue the conversation, if you like. It’s rare to hear about a single female retiree living in Portugal. Thanks, Joanna

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  17. Accident happened: car hit the stone wall of my house in Portugal: man seemed to be hurt and the car he drove was badly damaged. The driver broke the windshield of his car with his head upon impact and was bleeding from his cut open head… I ran quickly into the house to call 112. I spoke Portuguese to the operator as good as I could apologising for my weak Portuguese, yet the operator did not budge into English and continued arguing with me while I was telling him “Carrinha avaria, ambulanca po favor” (car accident, ambulance please at this address). He kept arguing telling me I have reached some kind of insurance agency (at 112 number, really?). It seemed like the 112 operator in Portugal was joking with me, arguing, wasting time while the man in the car accident may have needed medical help. Finally after much arguments the 112 operator hung up on me. I called 112 again and told them this is serious car accident and need poliuce and ambulance to help. The operator, already a different voice I think, was again telling me something about “segurança”, so I understood that I need to call the man’s car’s insurance company. But this was an emergency and I seemed to not be able to explain in my weak Portuguese or understand what he was saying, and he did not speak to me in English even if I tried. And then the operator hung up on me again. So I thought they are on the way, but hours later I realized that no one came. So we ended up helping the man, and also pushing his smashed car out of the way and into my yard for storage. What would happen if the man or me or my family member was dying in Portugal…. this is SCARY and this 112 (911 in the USA for comparison) seems to be useless.

    Reply
    • I forgot to mention that the driver of the car even if bleeding from his head he tried to start the car and to drive away from the place of the accident, so I called 112 not only for ambulance abut also for police since my property was also damaged. I am extremely disappointed in “112” “service” in Portugal and am thinking what to do now because I may need emergency services in the future and I saw how emergency came too late for my neighbour who received a stroke and died in pain taking long 6 months to die while emergency hospital could not help him. Is it possible to improve the 112 in Portugal somehow and how can I help?

      Reply
      • Hi Thomas!

        I can see you are a good, kind man… But the problem here was that you got completely lost in translation.

        “Carrinha avaria, ambulanca po favor”,
        does not mean:
        “car accident, ambulance please at this address).”
        It means:
        “The van broke down. Please at this address.”

        That’s why they were telling you to call your insurance company – it is legally mandatory to have car insurance – and probably thought that you were keeping the line busy, preventing those in need from getting help. Which is illegal. It made you sound like some sort of a prankster.

        I would humbly suggest that you either learn Portuguese or simpler. Just speak English. They will surely better understand you next time. Everyone speaks some English at that level in Portugal.

        My personal experience: every time I called an ambulance in Portugal – in different parts of the country and throughout different decades – it came in minutes. Even in busy periods such as holidays, Saturday nights and such. But, then again, I do speak Portuguese…

        In regards do the driver fleeing, most likely he had drunk too much and/or had some issue with his car and wanted to avoid the police.

        Again, don’t blame the 112 services for your lack of understanding of the Portuguese language. They work really good. Just speak English next time and you will be just fine.

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        • I did speak English too, in addition to my attempt speaking Portuguese: I said: “Car accident, man is hurt and is bleeding, ambulance please”. Also asking for “ambulança” in Portuguese means someone is hurt and not (only) a car accident.

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  18. This article provides a really useful counterpoint to the usual cheerleading. But it seems that most that is written about Portugal concerns the urban areas or the Algarve. How much does it apply to more rural areas, particularly in the north?
    We are looking at retiring to Portugal from (mountainous) western Colorado. We especially want an area with good scenic hiking and road biking. Cold in the winter is okay, but damp not so much. We’re used to dry and like it that way. We’ve always lived in rural areas and aren’t big socialites. Our area is simply beautiful, but politics and lack of civility weigh heavily.
    From what I read, the Minho area looks really nice–perhaps right up to the Spanish border. Farther west in that northern area also seems good. How do those more rural areas rate in terms of pros and cons?
    If we could move anywhere in the world, I think Switzerland would be first choice. That may give you an idea of our general preferences in terms of outdoor rec, people, rules, and governance. But high cost and difficulty of entry preclude that. Portugal has a lot to offer in terms of terrain, climate, and cost of living for those no longer working.
    Any comments will be welcome!

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    • Oops–meant “farther east” in the northern region, where it might be drier. The Peneda-Geres National Park is a big draw, so somewhere not too far from there.

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    • Hi, I have been living in the Porto area for 2 years – coming from Argentina-, and honestly, those 22 negative points are a sad reality. What affects us the most is the noise level – dogs and construction sites-. They never stopped working, drilling, or jack hammering during the Covid confinement… Lack of civility and negligence are rife here too…
      The Minho: Northern Portugal doesn’t look like Switzerland, but rather like Gaelic Scotland. Hilly and windy, wet in winter, but very hot in summer. You may want to consider a long term visit close to the Peneda Geres National Park to see if it is what you like. Closest town is Braga. Socializing and making friends amongst the locals is not obvious -they are very family orientated and do not invite you in even if you fluently speak Portuguese.
      Now I have to admit it is a question of perspective. For exemple, Brazilians love it here as it is very safe compared to Brazil. But coming from Argentina, I found Portugal tight, narrow minded, noisy, smelly, crowded. But yes it is safe and retirees are only taxed 10% if they can prove they have not been permanent residents for the last 5 years.
      Even outside big cities, electricity, gas, and buying a car are expensive, housing can be cheap inland but houses are often poorly insulated, poorly built, colder and damper inside than outside in winter, hot and stuffy in summer, especially inland. You will have to be ready to face quite a lot of revamping to make a local house comfortable.
      So if you like it dry and warm, Northern Portugal may not be a good choice.
      Southern Spain maybe?

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    • I appreciate very much your unbiased report and precise observations. Having lived in Portugal part-time for 26 years I can fully subscribe to each and every point on the list. I had a large quinta in rural Algarve which I left because of the cold and damp climate in winter, and the uneducated neighbourhood. And speaking the language did not make a big difference. Emigrating soon felt like a cultural and civil regression… Later I bought a house in Lagos, yet the cultural traits remain the same, also in urban Algarve. From my work in International Cooperation I know pretty well North African countries and the Arab mentality. For half a millenium Arabs ruled the greater part of Portugal, and Moroccan settlers arrived. This part of Portugal has been Arab for hundreds of years.
      After their defeat, the Arab rulers left, yet the population remained, converted to Catholicism. Whenever I returned from my work in Morroco to my Algarve home I noted a kind of continuum: the same people, the same attitude as over there – the main difference being that they speak Portuguese… And I’m not joking here.
      Today I can only recommend to anybody who reflects on emigrating to Portugal, in particular to the Algarve, to think twice.
      By the way: Germany has become the most attractive destination for migrants (after the US) world-wide. That might surprise some readers from the island whose media socialisation comprises the weekly dose of Nazi films on TV – yet, at present, there’s hardly a better place to live as a foreigner, because here you’re not „um estrangeiro“, you’re respected, it’s easy to make friends, you have a high level of living and public service. And much more diverse and beautiful geographical regions than Portugal – apart from its beaches – has to offer.

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    • Hi Dan, we are living in Aveiro, Portugal, for 4 years now and absolutely love it. It’s true, in the northern region and at the coast you have damp climate in winter, we need a humidifier to fight mold, but that happened the same way when we lived near Boston. It’s the downside of the Atlantic climate.
      You might be better off in the center region east of the Serra d’Estrela mountains or in Alentejo. We are in the process of buying a property near Castelo Branco. Be aware of the forest fires in the mountain and coastal region, where they grow a lot of Eucalyptus. This is causing trouble. We decided to buy in an area with Olive orchards with mountains within 30min teach. The eastern Alentejo region is absolutely beautiful, reminded us a bit of Tuscany, but it has more hills than mountains.
      If you have the chance, visit or at least take video tours of the property.
      As for bureaucracy it’s half as bad if you take a local with you and don’t tru to resolve things online. You need to talk to someone in person. It always worked. I found it sometimes worse in the US even though speaking English, as it gets harder and harder to speak to a human representative on the phone.
      However, making Portuguese friends is a bit harder than expected, even visiting a local Baptist Church, but the Brazilians or Angolans are very open and warm hearted, as most Portuguese already have their circle of friends and It’s not very common in the cities to open your house and invite people (might be still linked to the dictatorship which lasted until 1974).
      All in all, Portugal is beautiful, it offers amazing food and a lot of history. Regarding nature, Colorado is hard to beat, but Portugal has its charme, too.

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  19. I’ve lived in Évora for over a year now. For me the biggest problem is the noise from both neighbors and their dogs. They just don’t seem to care and are really oblivious to any kind of discomfort they might be creating. They leave their dogs chained up all day, barking incessantly. And this is not just a few people; it’s systematic. When they get together to drink in the street or on their terrace, they insist on shouting at each other even though they’re less than a meter apart. And this can go on all night. I’ve lived in a few different neighborhoods here and it’s the same everywhere. I thought that I’d get used to it but I am just getting angrier and angrier.

    Reply
    • You are so right about both the dogs barking and the fact that they shout when they`re close to each other. l stayed in a small town near Faro for 6 weeks and there are always dogs barking on balconies, dogs barking in the street and on one occassion l saw an owner with their small dog who she let bark non stop for over 5 minutes and didn`t even seem to notice. Even when it then tried to snap someone`s ankles she didn`t notice and was oblivious to a comment from a lady nearby. This mentality is just unbelievable and something l`ve never encountered either in the uk or Germany !!

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    • Hi Kyle, unfortunately you are not alone in this noisy mess, we are suffering from noise pollution too in Porto, not only from dogs but mostly from construction sites -never seen so many cranes in my life.
      During the Covid confinement, Portugal was one of the only European countries to allow construction sites to continue drilling and jack hammering 8 hours a day, driving people stuck inside their houses insane. All his because most politics have a foot in the construction business…
      So there, another aspect of Portuguese life…

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      • A lot of people have been complaining about construction during the lockdown period. I spoke to someone who’s had construction going in on a neighbouring apartment for four months now. As Odile says, construction seems to involve a lot of jackhammers and heavy machinery.

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      • The non-stop construction has also been a constant in the Netherlands throughout the partial lockdowns – including in apartment buildings. Absolute madness.

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    • This article is very good and eye opening. We were planning to move to Portugal in 2021, but this article, along with more research I did today, made us change our minds. I will find very difficult to tolerate a lot of things, but dog noise and their owners indifference is the last and biggest last straw that broke the camels back.

      In fact, I just read that today that yesterday, December 29, three people died in an altercation over a barking dog in a town 30 Km south of Lisbon (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34100488). I’ve been to countries where barking dogs is just normal, and those animals are treated as alarms rather than pets. Therefore, I understand that it’s a cultural problem in Portugal that won’t change any time soon.

      I just read other articles of people being driven to madness by barking dogs, while their owners are oblivious and impervious to it. My research tells me that Spain is about the same.

      We are very sensitive to noise, and living with constant dog barking will be living hell.

      Thanks for the article!

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      • I think it depends on where you live. I live in a newer apartment building in a newer (and more expensive part) of Lisbon (Parque das Nações). There are people here with dogs, but it is very quiet most of the time. People seem very civil and normal. The fact that 3 people died in an altercation over a barking dog shouldn’t be a deterrent. I was far more concerned from the level of violence in the US when I lived there. More and more the attitude of many Americans is self-centered and hostile (i.e. F.U., I will do what I want). You can see this in the current political climate and during protests. Portugal is far more civil and less hostile. Of course there is always isolated incidents which you see on the news, but you never hear about all the other situations where things are better.

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  20. Most of things James told us here are TRUE. We are a family of 3 and have been living in Lisbon for 5 years, from Vasco de Gama 1 year and moved to this privilege are of Santo António, just junto Av de Liberdade. We love the area and what this city can offer, from cheap Portuguese restaurants to top fancy restaurants, you name it, you get it all, within affordable price range!
    We love the old apartment we live in but noises of creaking on the ceiling while people walking, dogs barking for hours from a balcony that owners often leave them unaccompanied, noise noise!!;
    Without having a proper central system, winter is very cold in the house so I told my husband during winter season Portugal is colder than Switzerland (so get your own movable heaters);
    Most of apartments don’t have a lift so think twice if you want buy something here and your apartment is situated on the 3rd or 4th floor and you aren’t get any younger, and and … house pricing in Lisbon increase crazily over these past years;
    Cigarette buts are all over, internet+TV package are not only expensive but very slow (we started with MEO than moved to Vodafone: same service)… But with these all downsides, we decided to buy something (but not in Lisbon) instead in Sétubal and will soon move there, We don’t know if we will enjoy as much as we enjoy Lisbon 😬
    All the Best!

    Reply
    • Wishing you all the best but if things don`t work out l would recommend Spain ! Weather just as good as Portugals but house/appartment prices, both for renting and buying, so much cheaper, if you look on the idealista spain website you will find plentyin all areas !

      Reply
    • Hello,
      My wife and I are planning on moving to Portugal upon my retirement in a few months and Setubal is high on our list. If you ended up moving there any insight or suggestions would be appreciated. We plan on renting for a good while until we’re sure we want to settle. We’ve been looking through Idealista for rentals but there are any other resources you could recommend it would greatly be appreciated as well.

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      • Having visited Setúbal many times, I would say be careful about the area you live in. Some parts are a bit rough to say the least. It is a city, and has all that would be expected of a city. However, just up the road is Palmela. Nicer in my opinion and there is one guy in the Câmara who speaks English and is really nice. When we went to Setúbal Loja de Cidadão, we had a much harder time as no one spoke English.

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      • Having lived here for over a year now, I have come across nearly all the cons in the list and agree with them wholeheartedly. There are only 2 things which make me frustrated enough to consider leaving Portugal – cold houses and the incredibly slow and inefficient bureaucracy.
        I am sitting in my house with two blankets on me, and it is the middle of the day. My house is reasonably well insulated too. I didn’t move to Portugal to live like this!!
        We had an agent who messed up our NHR application and said we were resident in 2020 rather than 2019 so we were initially rejected. We appealed in July 2020 and are still waiting in January 2021 for a decision from the Finanças. So our tax status is very unsettled. We feel totally out of control of the situation. (Moral of this story, apply yourself, it is much easier than we thought)

        Apart from these two things we can put up with everything else so far. We haven’t had a lot of luck, and several things have gone badly wrong, but we have managed to get through it all with the help of Deepl translator and minimal Portuguese (not met many English speakers in officialdom here). So, I guess, plan for the worst, hope for the best is a good motto here.

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    • I would definitely not agree that tv/internet here is expensive. Near San Francisco, CA where I used to live, I paid about $160/month, without cell phone service. My mother lives in Southern CA and pays about $240/month… again without cell service. Now I pay €60 ($70) per month, for 200 channels of tv, 200mps internet service, and cell service with 20GB/month (this is with MEO). There’s no way that internet/tv is expensive here. Perhaps you are from another part of the US or another part of the world where this service is cheaper, but that is hard to imagine. Now electricity on the other hand, is quite expensive. I believe the rate is one of the highest in the EU.

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  21. Good list – I’ve only been here a month, but can agree on most things (haven’t seen winter yet, smoking hasn’t been an issue – though I was in Serbia last where indoor smoking is allowed and the vast majority of the adult population smokes, and bureaucracy hasn’t been so bad with the help of a “tax representative” to assist with my NIF, waiting to see what registering for social security during these times will bring, but I’ve been told it’s simpler than the NIF). I’m about to go hunt down some of the neighborhood dogs because there has been almost non-stop barking for going on three hours now from all sides of my apartment in Ovar (south of Porto). And the inner-noise is a thing… I am sensitive, and it’s a nuisance, but thankfully my neighbors upstairs don’t get too crazy. For others used to more insular environments in the US, though, it will be a change.

    People seem to keep talking about gas prices in California… I don’t think they realize it can still be nearly twice that in Portugal.

    Only other thing I’d add is how self-absorbed Portuguese can be, in a rather inconsiderate way. I would actually compare it to L.A., but no fakeness here. People do not give a FUCK about others, and it shows. I’ve already had it out with a couple people on the street for being brazenly rude and aggressive towards me for NO reason, simply walking down the sidewalk. I have no idea how Portugal has been ranked the “third most peaceful country on the planet.” It is filled with loud, self-absorbed assholes who will treat others with utter disrespect as though they live for it. That’s been the biggest culture shock for me here, really, is just how shitty the people can be. It’s not everyone, but….

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    • l have to agree that Portugal does have quite a few of those loud mouths around and the customer service, if you can call it that, leaves a lot to be desired, but if you`ve been to Spain, France or Germany l would be interested to hear how you found them !

      Reply
    • Thank you for this refreshingly honest critique Jack! And thank you James for this wonderful blog/forum. I’ve had it with societal aggression after witnessing the US insanity during Covid/2020 and while I was considering Portugal and specifically the Algarve region for shorter term winter stays (3-4 months) I am now reconsidering this idea. I live in Canada which is an especially friendly place (we say “sorry” a lot) where life is easy to navigate in all aspects (housing, banking, medical care, all amenities, language, etc) and in retirement I would prefer to avoid the challenges that have been detailed in this blog. When the world opens up again I think we will take a closer look at southern Italy/ Sicily instead for longer stays in retirement. I don’t think we could tolerate the noise, the inhumane treatment of animals (dogs) and the uncaring nature of the society in Portugal. We have always enjoyed our visits to Italy and the hospitable nature of the people. Language has never been an issue in Italy and most other European countries since many have at least a smattering or better of English, and when not there is at least an honest attempt to communicate two ways using our phone apps, our hands and facial expressions, etc. Southern Spain in the Seville area is another option to consider as we have also had good experiences there.

      Reply
      • Hi Rebecca,

        I’ve never lived in Italy but I’ve heard it’s challenging to integrate and there’s lot of bureaucracy. I have lived in Spain and it has a lot of the problems that I’ve seen in Portugal, but I would say it’s slightly easier to live there. I could be wrong, though, as I have spent a lot more time in Portugal than in Spain.

        If you’re only coming to Portugal/Spain/Italy for 3-4 months, and I assume that means not becoming resident here, you will avoid many of the challenges people living here face.

        The noise issues are often avoidable if you go for a house rather than an apartment. Well, sometimes. It can be a bit of a lottery.

        As to the uncaring nature of people, I think that’s a bit to do with where you’re coming from. The way people from Canada and other English-speaking countries interact with neighbours/strangers is quite different to how people in the rest of the world, including Southern Europe, interact. Although I prefer one way, I have to remind myself that’s just because of where I was raised.

        Reply
        • Where I live in Lisbon it is very quiet and civilized. I work California hours (9-5 Pacific time, 5pm-1am Portugal time), and I sleep in until 10 or 11am. In fact, some days I sleep later. I live in a newer apartment building with good insulation and double pane windows. The neighborhood is clean and I’m 1 block from the Tejo River in Parque das Nações. Although I’ve only lived here about a month, I have no complaints with dogs or any type of noise. This area does tend to be expensive though.

          Reply
  22. Corruption in politics and elsewhere is the norm , and there is total inefficiency , and lack of accountability in all government services , and almost all their procedures are outdated and slow .

    Reply
  23. Hi All,
    I’m an old Irish guy looking for a civilised place to spend the winters in,and possibly retire to. Portugal appears to have much of what I am looking for. However, I need fairly fast internet speed to help provide an income.
    I am looking to buy a modest apartment outside of Lisbon or Porto but near the sea. If anyone has useful information about internet quality, it would be much appreciated. I,also, don’t drive,so good public transport is important to me.
    Despite getting on a bit, I would like to be somewhere I can have an active,varied social life.
    Any suggestions.
    My Best Wishes,
    Brian

    Reply
    • Hi Brian,

      Lots of people live in Portugal and work online. It’s one of the most popular destinations, particularly Lisbon but increasingly also the Algarve. I would say speeds are good overall, and it usually isn’t too hard to find a café that you can work from as well. Cities and large urban areas are (naturally) more likely to have fibre broadband. Unless you require really amazing upload or download speeds, you shouldn’t struggle to find what you’re looking for.

      Public transport and a social life are probably the two bigger issues as both often require you to be close to somewhere like Lisbon or Porto, which means higher accommodation costs.

      A few places I would look into are Setúbal, Costa da Caparica, Cascais, Matosinhos, and some of the towns and cities on the Silver Coast which is becoming quite popular (particularly around Caldas da Rainha and Peniche).

      Start there, and let me know how you get on.

      Reply
      • James,
        Thank you for your prompt reply. I think Portugalist is a great resource of which you should rightly be very proud.
        When I firm up on plans for a visit I expect I will have a number of additional questions.
        Setubal has certainly interested me with its proximity to Lisbon. The property prices there seem reasonable for my modest budget. I suppose there is a good possibility of a decent rental income there too.
        I will certainly keep you in mind if it comes to needing professional services such as lawyers,accountant,etc,.
        Should I move to Portugal, I would be keen to involve myself in local charitable activities as a public-spirited contribution to my new community.
        I will continue my research.
        Thanks again. I look forward to our next exchange of words.
        Kind regards,
        Brian.

        Reply
        • Hi Brian I’m not there yet in Portugal but have similar questions
          Would like to be in touch
          I’m presently in India on my way to the UK in a week
          My email I’d is
          [email protected]
          Looking forward to having a conversation regards Zena

          Reply
          • Hi Zena,
            I live in London and would welcome exchanging views on Portugal with you–have been out of Ireland for many years but am a regular visitor home.
            With the current Covid 19 situation I have put back any plans to visit Portugal until winter at the earliest.
            Please contact me at [email protected].
            Best wishes,
            Brian.

            Reply
      • Hi James & everyone,

        What a phenomenal resource here!

        We are a couple (one retired, one working remotely in tech) from the SF bay area that are planning/researching a move to
        Portugal (areas of interest right now: Camp de Ourique, Faro, Coimbra).

        We do not speak any language other than english.

        Your 22 cons about Portugal was super helpful. To that point, house vs apt. from a noise standpoint is where we are headed as sleep is pretty important to us. Walkability to shops, produce markets is a pretty important thing for us as well.

        Healthcare: we would have our private int’l plan (Alianz? Cigna? some other provider?) and as my husband has had heart surgery in the past, a good hospital w/acute cardiology services is important.

        This is a lot to address, but your help (and others’ comments would be great).

        Thank you again for “telling like it is”!

        Julie & Phil

        Reply
        • We are a family trying to move from Princeton NJ to Portugal as well, and your question of “house vs apartment” resonated much, as I am trying to figure that out as well. I am hoping to get to Portugal by Summer 2021, and in case I get there before you, I will update this post. In case you get there before us, I would appreciate if you could let us know your thoughts / experiences.

          Reply
        • Hi Julie,

          Like you I live in the S.F bay area and my fiancé and I are planning a move to Portugal in the next 12-24 months. I’d love to get together and share information if you are interested.

          Thanks,
          Kandace

          [email protected]

          Reply
        • Hi Julie. I just moved to Lisbon from the SF Bay Area about a month ago. I moved to a a newer neighborhood in Portugal which is relatively expensive (Parque das Nações), but it is quiet. I pay €1050/month for a 1 bd/1ba. Everything was built within the last 20 years so the buildings all seem to have modern conveniences. I have my own parking place in a secure garage, washer/dryer, dishwasher and central heat/AC. I live within a 5-15 min walk to many restaurants, shops, a large mall (Vasco da Gama), and a metro/train station. It takes about 20 mins to get to the center of Lisbon and about 10 mins to the airport.
          I have seen a few negative responses being posted, but have not experienced any of this, except for some red tape and bureaucracy. I suspect one thing that might account for negative experiences depends not only on where you live, but how much you pay. In less expensive neighborhoods, buildings may be more noisy, less insulated and neighbors may have a different mentality. It is possible that in more expensive areas, people may be more respectful and might care about where they live. Where I live there is no trash on the ground and although lots of people have dogs, I rarely hear much barking or noise.

          In any case, I have no regrets about moving and apart from being a little lonely, I do enjoy being here. I also work in tech (remotely) but will likely retire if my employer revokes my work overseas privilege. One word of warning… depending on your age, you may have an issue getting private insurance. I am 47 yrs old and have health insurance through Medis. I pay for the top of the line policy, which is about $100/month. There are no deductibles and I think the policy is very good; however, from my understanding they might not offer a policy to NEW customers who are over 55. If you have the policy before you are that age, they won’t stop insuring you though. BEFORE YOU MOVE, I would verify that you can get health insurance, especially since your husband has heart issues.

          Reply
      • Hi James,
        Your suggestion of areas in which to look at properties has proved productive,even for the very modest budget I have available.
        I am concerned that I may not be able to visit Portugal for some months given the current public health situation throughout Europe including Britain. I have been living in London for many years. It had been my hope to to sample the winter weather but I cannot imagine travelling anywhere until Spring at the earliest.
        Other concerns are the cold inside buildings plus the noise. Spanish properties seem more varied and possibly of superior construction. It also appears that many of the Portuguese properties are old ones that have been recently renovated or they need considerable updating..
        On the Costa Del Sol I can get close to the coast and in the Canaries I can have both location and winter warmth.
        I have looked at property as north as Aveiro and as south as all along the Algarve coast. There seem to be places like Portimao where it might be possible to get a property of two or three bedrooms within walking distance of a beach. I might be satisfied with something like that.
        I am still unsure about the quality of internet connection for my business activity which is akin to but NOT trading in stocks and shares. I will be keen to try out the internet on my travels when I do make to Portugal.
        To have the possibility of having additional income, I will have to consider where there is likely to be demand for rental space through tourism and/or flatsharing–something I know very little about.
        James,you might know, how much demand there is likely to be for rental income if I bought in Setubal province in more obscure areas?
        Regarding viewing properties without a car will require careful planning and the help of Estate Agents. My rough plan is to spend around a week in the Algarve just to see if I can afford anything there. I would need at least a two bed flat. I further would like to spend about two weeks in Setubal province and the Lisbon coastal region.
        Any sensible suggestions will be appreciated.
        Best wishes and stay safe,
        Brian W

        Reply
        • Hi Brian,

          I would say that Spanish properties have similar issues to Portuguese properties, although it’s a bigger and slightly wealthier country so there might be some more variation there.

          As to internet quality, I really don’t think you’ll have a problem if you are able to get Fibre. Vodafone is probably the most recommended provider. There are thousands of people running online businesses in Portugal. Yes, I’ve stayed in some places with poor quality internet but you can get very fast internet if this is your priority.

          As for tourism, it’s difficult to say off-hand (especially now), but, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to pass your details into a buyer’s agent based in the Setúbal region who can answer those questions a little better.

          Reply
          • Hi James,
            I’m happy to talk to a buyer’s agent but disinclined to cotemplate paying the fee they may want. Whereas with the estate agents sharing commission I might be prepared to add a small fee for helping with viewings,etc,
            I will keep following the market and thinking of further questions to ask you.
            An adviser on all the financial side of a possible move might be a useful contact.
            Thanks again,
            Brian.

            Reply
            • Hi Brian,

              There are two types of buyer’s agents, but the majority in Portugal don’t charge a fee to the buyer – they split the commission with the seller. Both approaches have their pros and cons, but the no fee option is more appealing to most buyers for obvious reasons.

              I will have a think about advisors on the financial side.

              Reply
              • Having been a top producing Buyers Agent in South Carolina, USA, where fiduciary (representational) real estate is recognzed and scrupulously regulated, and having bought 4 properties in Northern Portual, I can say there is no concept of buyers agency here and there is no regulaton of real estate here. There may be a few individual agents who are ethical, but as a while it is a Wild West and Buyer Beware.

              • Hi Wendy,

                I don’t have experience of the US real estate market, but the Portuguese one is quite unregulated in comparison to many other countries. It’s very easy to get a real estate licence, and this means there are a lot of cowboys out there. You do need to do a lot of research here, and get whatever external help you can get – especially legal help.

                The term buyers agent is a new concept here and, yes, a lot of realtors are just using the phrase because it attracts buyers (esp from North America). There are some good ones out there, though – people who are trying to help you buy a good quality property and who aren’t simply in it to split commissions. If you can find them, these guys are worth their weight in gold.

    • Internet speeds are good in towns and cities, but you must pay for better quality services. As to an active and varies social life. This is not going to happen, even if you speak Portuguese. The Portuguese model for socialization is family and childhood friends with whom you maintain a lifelong relationship.

      Outsiders will be Superficially treated well because it is expected. They will generally not be included in the inner sphere.

      The above list of issues is UNDERSTATED but accurate. Each problem listed is THE NORM, not the exception.

      Reply
    • Aveiro, Vila Nova de Gaia or Espinho has decent internet speeds. Home office works for me, sometimes connection slows down, but video calls were possible with a few exceptions due to covid and everyone using video…

      Reply
    • Good point.

      This seems to mainly be a Lisbon issue, though. I’ve had it happen to me in Porto, the Algarve, and even over in the Azores, but it’s much more of a problem than a slight annoyance in Lisbon.

      Reply
      • And what about the lots of beggars asking from you money in every corner of the city? those who are professional and those who are really need it. I really like helping people and stock up with coins every day but in Lisbon it seems a little bit too much .

        Reply
        • Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to know who are the genuine beggars, the “professional” beggars, and those who are most likely to spend the money on drugs or something else. This is the case everywhere, though.

          It doesn’t answer your question directly, but one option would be to donate to food banks.

          Reply
        • We live in a village in Central Portugal and regularly have beggars knocking on our door. We gave them money at Christmas but not otherwise. You have to laugh at how quickly they learn the English for money. They are not aggressive though and one of the least annoyances about living in Portugal.

          Reply
  24. Animals are treated differently here. Dogs are for protection, cats are for catching mice. It’s a bit different in the cities but I don’t like the way animals are treated here. Lots of them abandoned. Very few charities to look after them. Sometimes lots of stray dogs wandering around.

    Reply
    • Animals are treated differently here, primarily because the owners see absolutely no need to take responsibility. I have a neighbor whose dogs howl and snarl at EVERY person who passes by, at ALL hours. Since they live 15 meters from a popular cafe, this means all day. The owner stands there and watches. Occasionally one will break out and attack passing dogs.

      Good, caring decent pet owners do exist, but the “what can I do, thats how it is” attitude stymies change.

      Reply
  25. This article on Portugal by James Cave was a breath of fresh air. Thorough and honest. Most companies involved in retiring overseas such as International Living list only the positive aspects of a country. Their descriptions give the impression that it’s paradise, which doesn’t exist anywhere in this world.

    I appreciated, in particular, the difficulty with the bureaucracy. It exists in every country to some degree but appears to be more prevalent in Portugal.

    Reply
    • Thanks Jim!

      I think it’s important to be realistic about these things. Every country is a mixture of pros and cons.

      Reply
      • I am glad I came across your article..we were thinking of retiring there and your honesty was a breath of fresh air as all we read was the wonderful aspects of living there. So thank you..we are so put out with the way the USA is turning out that we simply want to move to a safer place to retire..we are set money wise so where would you suggest? Any info is greatly appreciated

        Reply
          • I’m needing to flee Canada,Portugal is very high on my short list of places to move to. I’ve been to mainland portugal once,and the azores several times. My Portuguese( azores portuguese.lol) is quite good. The “cons” list concerns me a bit,but not enough to sway my decision much. Thanks for your input 😁

            Reply
        • Hello,
          I’m planning to retire and move to Portugal by the next year.
          I’m sick and tired of what is going on in my country.
          I’m going to sell my house in Pacifica, CA and buy house in Portugal.
          Please, if you find some good and “safe” place in Portugal or somewhere else, share with me.
          Thank you very much, Robert

          Reply
          • Hi Robert. I was also sick on the nonsense in the US. I also fled the SF Bay Area for Portugal. I would not buy a place here though until you’ve lived here a while, just to be sure you want to stay. I decided to rent and have been here about a month. So far so good. Most places here are much safer than in the US. Although Pacifica is very nice, except for that damn fog. If you don’t mind the same type of weather you can live in the north of Portugal. I don’t like the cold and decided to live in Lisbon… specifically Parque das Nações. It is very expensive for Portugal and one of the more expensive areas of Lisbon, but still about half the price (or less) of the Bay Area. The weather in Lisbon is about the same overall as the Bay Area.

            Reply
        • Nancy
          We, too, have been considering a relocation. And Portugal was one under consideration. Thanks to James’s honesty we are now scratching it off the list. These quality of life issues sound terrible so people who enjoy peace and quiet.

          There are many safe places in the USA. But finding nice year round weather is impossible.

          We seek warm but not hot, and dry but not desert. A place we can garden. As I’m sure most older people know cold and damp do not agree with age. Appreciate any ideas. We speak a little French and German.

          However sometimes it’s best to visit and to live where “there’s no place like home”. All the stress of learning new societal rules in retirement isn’t for everyone.

          Reply
          • Hi Jen and Jim,

            A lot of the peace and quiet issues are mainly for those that live in apartment blocks. The damp is definitely an issue and, yes, it doesn’t mix well with age or joint problems. There are heating solutions, such as pellet fires or underfloor heating, that help out a lot though.

            As for learning societal rules, there’s probably no getting around that one (although you can live in a very expat bubble here). Portugal has a different culture and sometimes, like you say, there’s no place like home.

            Reply
  26. It makes a big difference as to which countries you compare Portugal to. For example, Portugal would beat any African country hands down.

    Reply
    • Absolutely.

      For many reasons, I can’t compare it to every country in the world. I think it makes sense to draw comparisons between other European countries because people are often looking at living in Portugal VS Spain, for example. I also compare it to the other English-speaking and Northern European countries that I know well enough as this is where many Portugalist readers come from.

      I do hope to write some articles where I interview people from other parts of the world (e.g. South Africa) to get their insights into the differences between life here and their home country.

      Reply
      • Hello James,
        Thanks so much for administering this great blog. I have learned so much from the differant view points from the readers. We plan to visit for a few months next summer, hopefully the pandemic will be under control by then. We were hoping Portugal could become a new summer home and possibly a new full time place of residency. We are retired 73 and 68 respectively. We live in the USA in Arizona near Mexico. It is an active retirement community, 6,000 plus homes with HOA rules, which is not uncommon in the USA. In the summer when the heat becomes extreme we travel to the East Coast to the state of New Jersey where we have a condo with again HOA rules.
        My question is because of the HOA rules, we live in an envirement that is quiet/peaceful and that brings up a few problems that I have read here about noise and other things. We have nothing against dogs but their barking is not music to our ears. Dog pooh I guess we can expect but does it have to be in our neighborhood? At our age we are use to heat and air conditioning. Is this possible? Mold we don’t choose to have to deal with that. Our condo was built with cinder block and cememt slabs. Can’t hear anyone. Are any apt. or condos built like that?
        We can deal with a lot of he other issues that have been brought up. Language and bureaucracy we can deal with them.
        Any help anyone can give to a couple of old folks will be greatly appreciated.

        Reply
        • Hi Bruce,

          Issues like mold and barking dogs aren’t an issue everywhere in Portugal, but it is something to be aware of. Most issues like mold, noise insulation, etc are common in older Portuguese houses, or houses that were cheaply built, but you can definitely find modern (slightly more expensive) properties where these things aren’t an issue. It’s just something to be aware of when you’re house-hunting.

          Air conditioning is definitely possible. You shouldn’t have a problem getting it installed if the property you choose doesn’t already have it. Electricity is expensive here, by European standards, but it’s a price worth paying for many people. I would also think about heating as well.

          I would also think about where you might want to live in Portugal. If you’re looking for somewhere with a large retirement community, the Algarve, Cascais, or perhaps Madeira would all be places to look at. You’ll find retired expats in every part of Portugal, but those are some of the largest hotspots.

          Reply
          • “Air conditioning is definitely possible. You shouldn’t have a problem getting it installed if the property you choose doesn’t already have it.”

            The roof of most apartments are public space. Locating a unit on a roof is frequently problematic. Walls are concrete. retrofit-Installation can be problematic.

            Portable units are available and I have one. Portuguese will tell you “you don’t need central heat or air conditioning. It doesn’t get hot….It doesn’t get cold”…this is rubbish. Three years here and I assure you, apartments can be saunas and walk in freezers.

            If you want central heat or air, you will need to find an apartment with it already installed. Space heaters are ineffectual in uninsulated, concrete block buildings and cost a fortune to run.

            Reply
            • Hi Jonathan,

              This is good to know regarding the installation of air con. And, yes, it can definitely be the two extremes with regards to heat.

              Reply
              • James, you can always suggest for expats to consider moving to newer buildings with these amenities. I live in Parque das Nações in Lisbon and have no noise issues. I also have central heating/AC, washer/dryer, dishwasher, an elevator in the building and designated parking in a secure garage. Most of the buildings in this area are new and have similar amenities. Of course this is one of the more expensive areas of Lisbon, but it is about half the price of apartment in some areas of California. Usually you get what you pay for, and Portugal is no exception to this.

      • Hi James…. I’m a South African living in Tavira – please feel free to send me any questions you may have about living in SA. I left in 2000 but as I have a son and other family still living there, I visit at least once a year….. except of course, this year! There is no comparison between living in Portugal (I can only comment on the Algarve) and living in South Africa although I do have Portuguese family and friends who still love living there.

        Reply
    • Not really. Wouldn’t beat Senegal or Botswana. Have you been to Africa? Now, if you’re saying it would beat the US, the UK, Russia, Venezuela, well, you might have a point there.

      Reply
  27. Thanks – I think I am convinced to not move to Portugal but to partake in extended vacations. My company is bringing new jobs to the area and want me to move there. Not so sure I can handle it and I do not speak Portuguese. I think it will be shorter lived time in Portugal. Glad to know the beauty has an ugly side as well.

    Reply
    • Hi Saj,

      Perhaps start with extended vacations or even see if you can work remotely here and then decide if it’s for you?

      Some people get here and find that it’s not for them so it’s good you’re seeing that might be the case for you in advance. Lots of people love it, though, so do come and try it out.

      Reply
      • Hi
        We are planning to live in Cascais from June 2021.
        My daughter is going to start A levels at that time.
        At the moment she goes to a private school in Brighton
        There is any equivalent to A levels In Portugal?
        By the way,she is fluent in Portuguese from Brazil.

        Reply
        • Hi Juliana,

          There are several private schools in Portugal that teach the British A Levels rather than the Portuguese curriculum. If she’s already going to a private school in the UK, maybe it’s simplest for her to go to a private school in Portugal?

          Fluency in Portuguese will be a big help to her in many ways, especially integrating into Portuguese life here.

          Reply
  28. Hi James,

    Thank you! Lot’s of good info here. My partner and I are looking to move to Portugal from NY. I spent my summers in Aveiro (parents & grandparents are Portuguese). I’m torn on where to live as I would like a bit of property and a house to raise children and dogs in. We narrowed it down to Magoito, outskirts of Estremoz or Tavira. Any insight would be hugely grateful. Nadia is a Yoga Teacher and I an entrepreneur. The long term plan is to form a business around hospitality and Yoga. Short term would be to enjoy during the year as we continue living in the hustle and bustle of the states for another year or so.

    Thanks again,

    Reply
  29. Hello,
    My boyfriend and I are thinking about moving to Portugal, particularly one of the small rural villages bc his family already has a house there. And I’m worried bc I have epilepsy and I’ve read many articles that getting a specialist is very difficult. Can someone verify that for me?

    Reply
    • Sarah I would do more research about health insurance online before you go to Portugal especially if your boyfriend has a medical condition.

      Reply
    • I have only lived in Portugal since November 2019, and using the healthcare system has probably been one of our biggest hurdles, only due to the language barrier. We are lucky and get reciprocal rights. But we live south of Aveiro, and literally no administrator or receptionist speaks any English around here. We had to ask our Portuguese teacher to give us the vocabulary just to set up a doctor appointment! I am too scared to go to the doctor! It is probably much easier in the big cities or Algarve. I personally think it is a total myth that English is widely spoken in Portugal. In this area, more French is spoken, which is lucky because my husband is fluent. We have been saved twice from total destruction by local bureaucrats purely because of kindly, elderly Gentlemen who happened to have lived in France and were able to come to our rescue when our poor Portuguese and Google translate were not helping!

      Reply
  30. Hello!! I am Richie and planning to visit Madeira in 2020 hoping to research and see if it can become our chosen expat retirement home. I have read this entire thread. Having lived in 3 countries and visited about 45 of them, plus married to a Russian, I have experienced a thing or two.

    Our goal – live a simpler life – and for us – boring works just fine. I will be on pension and wife will work so our income/savings should be fine.

    My biggest questions are about the Madeira weather – since most homes do not have heating – what are best ways to cope with the winter/nights. Is a home with central heating a “must have”?? Here in the USA, we use a fireplace and propane gas heating plus electric blankets and its cozy enough despite colder and humid night temps.

    Next – health care. Can anyone please recommend a preferred private health carrier for those over 55 (and 65) that will provide care for diabetic patients? My BS is well managed with meds but I am still at risk.

    Lastly, integrating is not our type priority – we all have learned that having even a handful of friends in life is a great accomplishment – but we are friendly and outgoing and an interesting professional couple. If integrating is proving difficult for many – what icebreaking tips might be advised to fit into the community? Charitable service? Recommended networking??

    Also, your input on the PROS/CONS of life on Madeira and what areas are both affordable and offer the best value in terms of a quality life. We see interesting things both north and south.

    Looking forward to our future friendship!!
    Richie and Elena

    Reply
    • Hi we have lived in Madeira for just over a year now..be careful where you buy or rent in Madeira. The higher up in altitude the colder it gets and during the winter months the houses are very cold and huge amounts have damp problems, like serious damp issues…we have lived in east calheta and west machico and are now in funchal..which we have found to be warmer during the winter and not damp at all, but it does decide on the style of home you live in..we previously lived in algarve for 6 months, but didn’t like, but everyone has their own preferences…

      I think it’s fair to say that Madeira is an agricultural land and so the local people are from farming backgrounds, which makes them simple folk who are friendly…I agree with all of what is written in this piece about Portugal…we have been learning portugese for 18 months ..its an extremely difficult language, and every time you try to practise using what you’ve learned the people know immediately that you are English and just insist on speaking English to you…they are desperate to practise English, particularly along the south coast, because the island heavily relies on tourism…

      Every 100 mtr up the temp drops a degree (as a general example) so always know how high each home that you plan to settle in is, remembering that after about 450/500 you will need some heating..remember you will definitely climatise here..

      On the positive side, it’s a delight to live here as there is hardly any crime , the climate is a dream and lots of free things to pass the time of day…great walks and places to explore…I love it here and feel privileged to be here..our two cocker spaniels enjoy it very much. They came with us from UK and cause a stir wherever we go…
      Calheta probably has the most Brits outside of funchal, but Santa Cruz and gaula can be very reasonable to buy or rent, although the west is favoured above the east in terms of weather. Having lived on both sides I really like both. Machico is flat has two great supermarkets and a yellow sandy beach, but we found it damp and cold in winter (and we was in a new build, still had mould forming on shoes and clothes in closet) everything is about adapting and accepting a brand new lifestyle…but one thing is for sure, once you find your own peace of heaven, you will not be moved!

      Reply
    • 😁…. sounds exactly the way we feel…… boring (simple life style) is pretty ok….. safety, freedom of movement and warmth in winter. My eastern genes can’t handle the cold without the cozy 😁🎶.

      We unfortunately didn’t visit Madeira on our scouting trip during Nov 2019.

      Beulah & Willie

      Reply
    • Richie,

      I had private insurance for my first year here. “The best” insurance was $500 a month and in the entire year I had it, it covered NOT ONE THING. Labs, visits and meds were all uncovered. Honestly, I have no idea what it DID cover.

      If you cannot get status here, plan on buying the cheapest insurance and then just paying out of pocket for everything. Compared to the US it is cheap. Compared to the rest of the EU it is par.

      EU folks have no idea what high medical costs are. My Insulin was $1200 a month retail in the us, the same pens are 79 Euros here. They are mortified to ask for 79 Euros.

      Reply
  31. Great observations, I’m a tour guide in Iberia and Morocco, I fell in love with Lisbon many years ago so decided to leave London for Lisbon, bought property etc. I’ve tried so hard to settle to accept and to integrate but after 10 years and after a recent visit to southern Italy I decided to start planning a move. Main reasons are the negative attitude of the Portuguese in general, that can’t do attitude is hard to deal with and the thought of spending the rest of my years here has made me wake up and plan my new life.

    Reply
    • where in Italy are you looking to move to that has more of a ‘can do’ attitude and the other qualities of life you are looking for after having lived in and visited many varied places?

      Reply
  32. We moved here two years ago, having lived in South Africa, Cape Town for nearly 30 years. Born in the UK and traveled a lot it is a pleasure to walk the streets and feel totally safe, so relaxed, take life one day at a time, chat a little, drink a coffee, I love the attitude of the locals, what is the rush. Portugal has taught me to look at the beauty of the place, spend time with friends, we’ve made loads of great friends, we drink a little too much wine, long warm sunny Algarvian days just sitting in the square. After 40 years of always wanting more, doing things better, faster, saving money, board meetings, flights etc., what for, its about quality of life and Portugal offers that. I agree there are all the downsides you mention but thats a lot less then most countries I visited and I am glad I live here.

    Reply
    • Thanks for this wonderful and honest review.
      I am thinking about relocating from SA, and at this point, I have been applying for jobs at international companies, based in Portugal.
      Do you have any advice that you would like to share.

      Reply
    • Hi Sue, I am originally from Amsterdam and have been living in Cape Town for the last 20 years. We are looking at moving to Portugal as a family in the near future. I would love to get in touch with you! pls, can you email me on [email protected]? Thanks! San

      Reply
    • Wow Sue, I love your comment! We are considering moving to Portugal from South Africa, a family of four, two sons aged 13 and 11. Would you have any advice for me? My husband is a photographer and would ideally set up his own business. Any advice? Sorry a big ask, I know!

      Regards
      Kirsten

      Reply
    • Hi … we just got our passports and thinking of moving after this pandemic is at ease. I have 2 kids and we are currently in Dubai. How about schools and jobs? Thank you.

      Leah

      Reply
      • Hi Leah,

        In terms of schools, there are both Portuguese and international schools and, like everywhere else, they vary in quality. You’ll have more options if you’re in Lisbon or the Algarve but you’ll probably need to look at jobs first in order to know where you’ll be.

        As for jobs, generally speaking the job market isn’t great. Wages are low by European standards and there aren’t a huge number of jobs to begin with. This is a generalisation of course, and I’m sure there are some industries that pay well, but it’s something you need to be aware of. People come for the lifestyle more than the earning opportunities, which is probably a very different lifestyle to Dubai.

        Reply
      • Hi leah, I wouldn’t hesitate about bringing kids here, it’s a dream…so safe and children all grow up slowly and in their proper time..its the happiest I’ve seen children when together with friends or parents…its so family based and child have great respect for the family.

        Reply
    • Wow great to hear Sue
      I would like to stay in touch
      I’m from London lived in India nearly 40 years
      Heading to Portugal in a month looking for a change
      Regards Zena

      Reply
      • Hi Zena,
        We are a couple originally from India, currently living in US (citizens now), but exploring options to retire outside US. Portugal always rises to the top of our list because of weather, safety, cost, etc. Had heard good things about healthcare and people on other sites, but this list of cons gives me a pause. Wondering how things are going for you in your search and any impressions you have so far. Having been immigrants, we have already experienced many changes, but would like to make an informed decision. Thank you.

        Reply
  33. Hi Nelson,
    All I can tell you is about the Algarve where I am based!
    The chiropractors I know in this area are all fully booked! It is hard getting an appointment! Of course, here in the south the main client base will be the foreigners who live here plus the owners of holiday villas/apartments. These have the money to spend!
    The chiropractor I know charges 25€ per session of 30 minutes!
    I hope this is helpful to you.
    Good luck for the future.
    Jon

    Reply
  34. Hi,
    So I’ve been thinking of moving to Porto, and obviously first going to see the country but primarily the different areas to possibly live, knowing that there’s essential places near by, like markets, bakery, hospitals, and I’m looking for possible clinics there as well were I can possibly work in my profession until stabilizing myself business wise until I decide to either continue or open my own clinic. Any tips you can offer me?
    Obrigado

    Reply
  35. Hi James

    This information here is really spot on! I’ve lived in Porto for three years (and around the world my whole adult life) and will never assimilate to the level of service or pride of work I’ve experienced here. The insular and mediocrity mentality directly affects the countries economic potential and I have become quite impatient with any of my local acquaintances And friends talking about their low wages. In addition, the incessant defending of local culture… which I don’t find particularly interesting or exceptional (cuisine and the arts)… is what holds back progress. That said, Porto centre is the perfect scale city for me at this time in my life with good weather, great beauty and a vibrance that feels larger than its size. People are friendly on the surface (more so than Berlin, less so than Bali) but hard to know even with their exceptional language skills. There is a strange obsession with worrying about what other might think which is unusual in my experience for any countries major cities. Like anywhere, there is a lot to adjust to and some stuff you’re simply not prepared to accept which might make foreigners integration dependent on the culture they move to. It feels like Portugal is in its early stages of global interest and how it reacts to this will determine how well everyone does from this new interest. Personally, I find it all rather exciting.

    Reply
    • The reason most people move to Portugal is the conservative old european way of life as opposed to the progressist who are obcessed with making everything “Better”, I have lived 15 years in major cities around the world and got tired of the always more mentality. To live I need a roof, water and food. The rest is not necessary.

      Reply
    • That Portugal is ‘in its early stage of global interest’ is an interesting feeling to experience in a country that was one of the first to explore, conquer and settle less developed countries on the other side of the world, in the early modern period of global history. Perhaps you sense that the clocks there are gradually turning back into astrolabes?

      Reply
  36. You forgot to mention in your bit about cold houses….MOLD!
    I regularly do mold checks…found it in my shoes, on coats, furniture, walls!!

    Reply
    • That’s true! I’ll need to give the article an update.

      It is something you need to keep on top of, otherwise it spreads. I’ve only ever really had it on the walls, thankfully, usually in the bathroom or on a damp wall.

      It’s definitely not a problem that’s limited to Portugal. I’ve experienced it in France and Spain as well.

      Reply
      • It’s cos in Ireland (and I presume the UK too) there is a black mold species that can cause severe toxicity and is very hard to get rid of. It makes you very sick unfortunately… the damage can last for years 🙁

        Reply
        • Agree with Niamh about reason for mould obsession among inhabitants of the British Isles, and am convinced he’s right about the Emerald Isle as well. Airborne mould spores are a serious health hazard for various reasons that even casual research will rapidly confirm.

          Reply
  37. Hello David, I have been here for two years and everything you have pointed out is correct. I have learnt to adapt and keep positive and remember the traffic and pollution in the UK!
    I wish the women would be more assertive, as it is still a male dominated society here, in the centre of Portugal, something I fought against in the 70s and 80s in the UK.
    Thank you for this post.
    Rowena

    Reply
  38. Hi James,

    Thank you for the very detailed article.

    I am moving with my wife and 1-year-old son to Portugal at the end of the year for good. We do have a house by the beach in Lagos.

    We joined the Golden Visa program and we decided to move to Portugal for a better healthcare system and free education.

    We don’t speak Portuguese (English and Arabic).

    What advice can you give us and what can we expect?

    Is it safe, are schools and healthcare free, will I find a job easily (telecommunication graduate)?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Yes, Portugal is quite safe (see: http://www.portugalist.com/safety-portugal-guide/ ). Healthcare is also free (or mostly free) and schools are free as well.

      I don’t know much about that specific job industry, so I would advise you to continue looking into this. Obviously you’ve already committed to moving to Portugal, but it would be a good idea to get an idea of what job opportunities are available to you before getting here.

      Reply
    • Hi Ali, luso person here, portugal is a safe country but you have to take certain things into account.
      One of the things you need is to be respectful, just as long as you are respectful people will probably be respectfull to you.
      Another is dont try to speak spanish with us.
      Its best if you try to speak to us with either “broken Portuguese” or with English.
      in fact, despite many times we speak with someone foreign to Portugal in English as soon we recognize they arent portuguese, it will give you a reputation boost if you try to speak with us in our mother language even if you are not good at it.
      Trying to speak a native language of a country that is foreign to you while there is a sign of respect. So you can try to use any of those two and everything will be alright.

      Reply
      • Olá Miguel,
        I’ve been thinking of moving to Porto. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but my parents are Brazilian so I do speak Portuguese and have lived in Brazil, Salvador and Rio, and have lived in Costa Rica too. I work here in Los Angeles as a chiropractor (quiropraxista), and I’m curious as to how much are they utilized in Portugal? I was almost going to Espino in July with the USA Beach Volleyball team as there doctor until the coronavirus canceled everything.

        Reply
    • Hi Jody,

      No, not unusually. It depends on your situation, but if you’ve moved to Portugal that implies you have permission to stay there (either via a visa or maybe because you come from another EU country).

      You can technically stay up to six months without officially “moving there.”

      Reply
  39. Very interesting and true comments.
    We live in Madeira and it’s the same there too. My husband was born in Madeira so I’m lazy and let him do all the talking for official things etc. You can learn if you mix a lot with Portuguese and use what you learn otherwise it is difficult. Our son didn’t learn Portuguese as we lived in England. He married a Romanian and now speaks it perfectly but he uses it with their friends, family and congregation. Yes it is a Latin language so it then helps him understand a little Portuguese, as my husband can understand a few words of Romanian.
    Weather much better all year round in Madeira than mainland Portugal.
    However it costs more to travel back and forth here and the airport can sometimes have problems with landing due to the weather, wind!

    Reply
  40. Not the image I would portray of the Portuguese. Uncivilised. uneducated primitives who know little about honesty and integrity but are experts at confidence trickery. Bureaucracy is an uncontrolled madhouse. Justice is non-existent and a quick buck is the order of the day…especially if its a few thousand bucks. Concrete houses are bound to have toxic black algae…our health centre has it…which is harmful to Children, the Elderly and those with breathing difficulties. Good health care is an absolute myth. Fourteen months wait for a diabetes regular check-up. Poor quality medical advice is the norm, because education and training is abysmal. Professionals are anything but professionals, and again, poorly educated.

    Twelve years of reality not fuzzy impression.

    Reply
      • Or the country could evolve quickly and catch up with the rest of Western Europe which it has fallen 100 years behind? I’ve been here three years and although there is much that I enjoy about living here, the insular and low insight mentality is the hardest to handle along with the striking mediocrity. Slow doesn’t necessarily have to mean bad, but it does here in quality and pride of input. But I do believe that with more skilled and globally experienced people moving here, we will see a vast improvement in the coming decades and with the local propensity for languages, there might develop a broadened economy and higher standards of practice and openness.

        Reply
        • The problem with most foreigners living in Portugal is that they’re not skilled enough to understand the behaviour, not even interested in making an effort, and so they call it names like “mediocrity”, “uncivilised”. “uneducated”, enough of that. We’re not here to please you, to be changed by you, to serve you, to live like you. We’re here to live our lives the simple way we want and whoever wants to join without judgment is most welcome, otherwise you’re best catch the first plane and go back where you came from. Thank you.

          Reply
    • So true, but there are also some positive sides as well. Most people do not want to speak about it though being afraid of something…

      Reply
      • Hello you nasty minded quarter wit

        I am not English. Your ‘Anglo Mentality’ misconception is an excellent reflection on your national wonderful standard of education and pathological determination never to be wrong. Alexandre Soares de Santos, the second wealthiest businessman in grubby-minded Portugal was absolutely accurate.. He employed tens of thousands of your-fellows so he might be the odd man out in understanding how socio malperforming, behaviourally disordered thick-wits perform in reality. Keep your silly erroneous performance hidden. You look and sound like a pratt…never wrong and too stupid to understand just how stupid you are.

        Adopt local culture? I don’t want to be a lying, poorly educated, misfit with a sociopathic disorder. I care very much for decent honest people. I don’t care for fakes and morons.

        Reply
        • I am with you on everything you say……

          i live in the centre of Portugal for a long time now and it is totally controlled by the mafia, cannot get anything done, start to try and make money and they shut you down, i have just woken up these last few weeks i thought it was me but its not….

          Reply
    • Hi Lionel, taking the wax off the new car shine is the way I would characterize your post. And, much thanks for sharing that perspective, warts and all.

      As you have been there for 12 years, I would like to establish a relationship to discuss how to make the most of making things work in a bottom rung first world/high level third world country such as Portugal. I am American and lived in Germany and UK for 7 years total. My wife is Russian.

      I will retire on pensions – she will continue to work remotely. Integration is not our chief concern as we are independent types and self-reliant. We also go along to get along. Not looking to change things other than as it pertains to our own standards of lifestyle and enjoying being happy for each day as it unfolds. Your comments about healthcare, particularly diabetic care, are concerning.

      I have many questions and will appreciate your unvarnished input to help us make the best decisions on how to prepare for living in Madeira/Portugal and how you have found ways to turn lemons to lemonade.

      ALL: Please feel free to offer up a reply string on this post.

      Reply
      • Good morning Don R S

        Holding a discussion, or better, with someone with social awareness and intelligent application would indeed be a most welcome change. However, I have reservations about exposing my wife and I to the dangers of declaring my contact and location, in any public place.

        When we applied for a resident permit, we found no help on the internet, nor any of the supposed local governmental help centres.

        Having devoted three hours minimum, on three separate occasions, to achieve nothing, plagued by a crowd of loud critics and vociferous complainants, broken dangerous seating, broken refreshment machines and bureaucratic neglect, I wrote a letter to the irresponsible manager, with a copy to questionably motivated Costa the Prime Monster

        I have been subsequently accused of throwing chairs and assaulting the four liars who intimidated my wife and I when we asked for non racial assistance, and asked why we were being denied our lawful rights. The poisonous attitude of self righteousness was of singular importance to these despicable conspirators, who made a fabricated complaint to the police.

        Human Rights, freedom of speech and personal expression, are being denied with Court support or ignorance, in an increasing manner.
        The Law is being openly abused to satisfy the Pathological needs of inadequate bureaucrats who seem to have a tested formula to pervert by lying , cheating and conspiracy. Out of something like 2000 complaints made by ordinary folk, against bureaucrats the year before last, less than a quarter were investigated.
        I don’t believe that ‘investigation’ is a competent ability of those charged with fairness. Pursuit is the reality of their involvement. Bureaucrats win…fair minded people lose. That is typically how justice works in this land of ‘Brain Transplant Donors’.
        Behavioural and personality disorders are of alarming proportion. Both are diagnosed symptoms of mental illness. It is unrecognised and untreated.
        Crude pathological denial of any fault or error is of epidemic proportion. This is a sick nation being wrecked by sick people with sick administration and sick sociopathic practices.
        We have exhausted over seven years attempting to recover almost 100,000€ stolen by the Tax authorities contrary to EU Protocol. Undoubtedly jealous racist conspiracy by our accountant and his good friend, a senior tax official.

        I have the papers ready to send to the Court of Human Rights, when their conditional target date arrives.

        Three very wealthy friends have withdrawn their interest in investing in Portugal.
        I recommend any similarly motivated person to look elsewhere. We have lived on Crete, and foolishly returned to our building project in Portugal. We have lived in France, to where we will speedily return as soon as the thieving, corrupt Portuguese administration pay our claim of almost 130,000€ which includes interest and compensation…this sick regime will charge you interest but will never compensate you for maladministration losses. The Court in Strasbourg have alternative ideas of right and wrong.

        Justice, Reason, Fairness? Not a snowballs chance in Portugal!
        Theft, Corruption, Intellectual Bankruptcy? Every day occurrences in Portugal!

        Children are taught corruption, deception, lying and cheating. Teachers have to be reappointed annually for four years before then can apply for a permanent post. Headteachers exploit this vulnerability to coerce unrealistic assessments of student achievement. Don’t cheat and lie according to Headteacher requirement to fraudulently impress…then you don’t have a job at the end of the year. Children know all about this trickery, teachers despise the practice.
        That is a basic element of an education system that sets the foundation for the future of Portugal., and its people.

        I was employed in the UK to investigate, assess and recommend how Courts might prescribe treatment for convicted criminals. I know much about liars, cheats, connivers, thieves sociopathic affliction and Mental Disorder.
        I don’t lie, I assess and report.

        Reply
        • Given your past engagement with another domestic justice system, you will be aware that findings of the ECHR can be at quite a high level of generality; that ei qui affirmat, non ei qui negat incumbit probatio; that in EU HR law each state party to the HR Convention is allowed a significant degree of allowance for
          local conditions; and that in order to obtain an award of financial recompense you may need first to pursue proceedings within a system in which you have manifestly lost confidence, and to exhaust your appellate rights there. If your Portuguese experiences have been as wholly negative as you assert, I wish you well in your campaign. But you may need sound advice and representation on the legal questions and also to have your opinions on the national psyche validated or contradicted by a highly qualified social psychologist. Or else to have the good judgement to cut your losses and restart in a society you find more congenial.

          Reply
    • begging to everyone…nothing personel… and no harm want to apply to any one by any means…
      with these words….
      please do not…(evolve quickly)…i have lived and living in …(evolve quickly) places….
      again…. not trying to say portuqal is a third world country…and also …not really an expert of the country…just visited once a year for two week of vacation last 10-13 years …

      sometimes ..(evolve quickly) thinking , ruining our civilized minds:))

      Reply
    • what are you doing here then if that’s all you think about Portugal and the Portuguese? We don’t need rude pompous people in here, thank you very much and specially people who think they come over to change the country.
      For your information the Portuguese have had some of the best doctors, dig into that. All you write in here is totally insulting and not true so get one of your favourite airplanes and you won’t be missed.

      Reply
  41. Hi,

    I don’t mean to be contrary but I have to say I disagree with you about Portuguese being a difficult language, or it being any harder than other Romance languages. I would say Portuguese is the easiest Romance language for an English-speaker to acquire; the hardest is Romanian.

    I can hear all you monolinguals crying out that Spanish is easier but, sorry folks, it’s not. I speak both languages fluently, am a native English speaker and can assure you one and all that the entirely un-English-like syntax of Español combined with the Castilian penchant for reflexive-passive phrases and redundant pronouns conspire to make Spanish a far harder language to master than its Lusitanian neighbour.

    For some reason, all Portuguese speakers suffer from this misconception.

    Reply
    • Hi Fraser,

      That’s really interesting! I’m curious as to how you ended up learning both Spanish and Portuguese? Which came first? Also, did you learn Romanian as well?

      On a side note, I’ve found Romanians to be very good at picking up other languages including Portuguese. Many also speak Spanish fluently, and this is apparently because they get a lot of Spanish TV there.

      Reply
      • James,
        I’ve spoken at home since I was born, Portuguese with my brazilian parents, Spanish with baby sitters from Mexico, and English being born and raised in Los Angeles, California, speaking Spanish with different Spanish speakers from anywhere from Spain too Argentina, Chile, and any other Spanish speaking country in between, and I have not had a problem having to deal with other languages either of Latin origin, or languages that or completely the opposite of Latin origin, which could be a struggle but those from the non-Latin speaking countries do appreciate the fact that you are trying at least to communicate.

        Reply
    • l don`t think anyone can say they they disagree,or agree about any particular language being more difficult than another. That is obviously your PERSONAL OPINION but that`s all it is. Every person will find a language easy or difficult, one may find Spanish easier than Portugues, another may not, or find Portuguese easier. There are no hard and fast rules, we are ALL different and lean languages in our own way !!

      Reply
  42. Hello Portugalist. You seem to have hit all the downsides right on their heads. Well done.
    I’ve been living here for almost 7 years and have run into ALL the difficulties you described.
    I think one thing people have to keep in mind is that moving to Portugal (or Italy) requires a huge amount of patience.

    Reply
  43. Being born and educated in Portugal I agree 100 % with what you said. In addition I would like to comment that the mass tourism that we face now is destroying several aspects of the Portuguese traditional life. The restaurants in Lisbon downtown have become tourist traps with bad food and high prices. The Portuguese handycrafts are a joke compared with other countries and reflect a lack of culture and imagination which can be found also in the arts and cuisine. The country is corrupt, incompetent, and the constant changing of laws drive you crazy. A. Marques

    Reply
    • Olá A Marquês,
      So can you give me any feedback that you may have, or retrieve for someone wanting to work in Porto as a quiropraxista!?
      Obrigado

      Reply
  44. I just had a dutch carpenter come to see me looking for a job. He said as he was 50 now, he wanted a more to take it more easy now and have a more relaxed kind of life! He has 2 kids ,8 and 12 years old and a wife. As his kids don’t speak Portuguese he was thinking of putting them on the international school, and perhaps his wife could find a job in real estate!
    What a dream!
    Reality:- I had to inform him that he would have to work twice as hard and to earn a minimum of 2000€ a month to just survive! Sorry to burst your bubble! Kids international school? Forget it! 1000€ a month per kid and to tell you the truth, standard in Portuguese schools is higher! Cars,( you have to have one here), petrol, rent ,very expensive! If you don’t speak the language, you wont be able to earn enough to run a family! Only singles have a chance!
    Rent a place:- 2 bedroom simple app. Minimum of 650€ per month! Plus costs! ( also very hard to find long term rentals at this price)
    Buy a old driveable car,- min. 2000€!
    Jobs for foreigners @ 850€ p month! Do the maths!
    Unless you can go into real estate, which a hell of a lot of expats try and fail at! You better have a plan of self employment or bring a million!
    I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands come and go, leaving broke and completely disillusioned over the years!
    I’ve been living here for over 30 years, am self employed, never have to advertise, are fully booked 3 months ahead and have no rent to pay as I own my house! And still I have times I’m struggling!
    Be warned yes, Portugal is the best place to live in Europe, but there is a high price to pay for this privilege!
    Good luck, hope to meet you soon!

    Reply
    • Wow’! Thanks for the dose of reality. You don’t get much of this on the internet. The growing problems of industrial strength tourism seems like a global disease rather than economic development. May I ask what part of the country you live in?

      Reply
    • Hi Jon,

      What can you tell me about living there and working as a chiropractor (quiropraxista) in say, Porto!? I know from experience having lived in Brazil that it’s best to work for someone who already has an established clinic and hope to gradually make a name for ones self and either continue as is or hope for opening your own clinic!?
      Obrigado

      Reply
      • Probably the same as in Brazil. But don’t come now because we are infected with the virus up to our heads. mainly in Porto. You have may be a better chance in the town of Braga near Porto, and where about thirty five thousands Brazilians live.

        Reply
    • Jon,

      Thanks!! To put this in perspective, my wife and I are looking to retire in Europe. Fully 80% of our mutual bucket lists are in Europe or the Med.

      So just counting my wife’s retirement and my Social Security, that would be at least 6509€ per month. So, 640€+? 2000€ for a car? Hell, our current mortgage payment is at least 1,800€/month…

      We all come from disparate economic situations. My real big question is this…. Does Portugal get thunderstorms that don’t threaten to burn down the country? As a Navy Brat, I lived on the US East coast, mostly southern states, plus bella Napoli, where I learned to love thunderstorms….

      My next big question is will my medicos speak English, or can I easily find ones that do?

      Reply
      • €6k per month is a lot of money in Portugal, especially when you’re retired. You should be very comfortable here.

        Portugal gets some good thunderstorms every now and then, but I haven’t been to the East Coast to compare. Someone else might know.

        As for finding a doctor that speaks English, many do but the easiest way to guarantee it is to get private health insurance as the private hospitals all tend to have English-speaking doctors. The next best thing is to live in an area where a lot of English is spoken like Lisbon, the Algarve, or Madeira. A combination of both isn’t a bad idea as the private hospitals can’t always cover everything and you may have to use the public hospitals from time to time (although your private insurance will often bump you up the waiting lists).

        Reply
    • We live on around €500 a month two people, no rent, no property tax, own a house and are frugal, thus can make it with very little money. Grow our own fruits, vegetables, but also shop for food in the stores.

      Reply
  45. Thank you so much for this info. I’ve been thinking about somewhere warm to move to from the French alps. My Brazilian friends are encouraging me to consider Lisbon.

    Interestingly many of your pros & cons mirror my experience of moving to France from the UK.

    A big pro we do have in France is superb health care, but only available once you’ve negotiated the bureaucracy involved in accessing it. What is health care like in Portugal?

    Reply
    • Hey Nennie,

      You’re very welcome.

      I think France is particularly good for healthcare, if I remember correctly. Portugal is good, but not at the top of the charts (I wrote about it recently here: http://www.portugalist.com/living-in-portugal/ ).

      While Portugal may not have as a good healthcare as France, there are other benefits over France like a cheaper cost of living, lower taxes, English being more widely spoken, etc.

      Reply
    • Like most countries Northern Portugal is Rainier and averages about 5 degrees cooler in temperature. We chose to buy a home in the western Algarve area of Lagos. Almost everyone speaks English, the locals are very friendly and helpful, the real estate market is still a lot less expensive than the U.S. You can still purchase a 3 bedroom home 5 minutes from the beautiful beaches for about 200k. Freshest fish and heritage style vegetables, plus they are masters at bread making. Healthcare is about #14 in the world compared to the U S. at about 30+. Just do not whine and complain that “it is not like the U.S.” no way to live your life.

      Reply
        • Are you a dentist by chance and naturally want to protect your scheme? I live in Kazakhstan now and fix my teeth in the Czech Republic, which has top quality dentists. Portugal is a nice country, but Portuguese dentists are a disaster and very selfish (crooked, low quality, disrespectful to customer time and absolutely unreliable). I did not mean to insult the entire country. Portugal is a nice country.

          Reply
          • I second George’s comment on Portuguese Dentists, complete lack of ethics, including the dental board, what a joke.

            George, please tell us some good recommendations on Czech dentists, we are in desperate need to repair the damage done here by dental crooks/incompetents.

            Reply
        • I don’t get why people insist on telling someone ‘just to leave’ if they say anything negative about Portugal. What is up with that!??
          Honest input should be appreciated, and if you have a reason to disagree feel free to share.

          Just stop it with the ‘get out if you have anything negative to say’.

          Reply
  46. My friend who is Portuguese and lives in Cascais Lisbon.

    For someone like myself age 67 where would you recommend I live that is affordable for me. I have no pension only cash Euro 750,000 and this has to last me for the rest of my life, assuming I will live another 15 years. Should I buy or rent a property, do the have any affordable one bedroom apartments ? Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Dymphna,

      I’m definitely not qualified to answer any financial questions, and so I would really recommend speaking to someone who is as this is a very big decision to make.

      There are lots of places in Portugal that you could retire in, but they all have their pros and cons. Cascais, for example, is very nice and has a large community of other retirees but it’s also very expensive. There are more affordable locations near Lisbon and by the coast, Costa da Caparica, for example, but you don’t have the same community and public transport links aren’t as good. For beach locations, there are also plenty of other locations outside of Lisbon like the Algarve and Silver Coast that are worth considering.

      Ultimately, it’s both a personal choice and a financial choice. Hopefully, the information on Portugalist will give you some inspiration for the personal side of that choice but, for the financial questions, I really recommend speaking to a professional in this field.

      Reply
  47. Thank you for the truthful article on immigrating to a foreign country – a country where you’re not fluent in the language, you need to make a living, and perhaps raise a kid, too. It’s a journey not entirely filled with sunny beaches, and surfing and seafood and wine, like some bloggers portray. I moved to a Latin American country 20 years ago and started a business there. Same issues daily hassles and little inconveniences and frustrations you mention. It can be done successfully with perseverance. And if you really want it. Before you know it you are years into your business, and still dealing with the frustrating and confounding little daily hassles. But you are there and you are living it and tourists are telling you that you’re living their dream. Hah.
    Of everything, in the end it was integrating that was the biggest challenge, because of the language barrier.

    Reply
    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for commenting.

      Yes, I think integration is the hardest part. If you can make friends, you can learn to deal with things like bureaucracy, expensive utilities, and everything else. If you don’t have that sense of community, it’s much harder to deal with everything else.

      Reply
  48. Very useful stuff – thank you. I am contemplating semi-retirement in rural South West Alentejo with my horses, dogs, cats and geese. Any advice on single, middle aged women living on an edge of village environment?

    Reply
    • Hi Cruella,

      Obviously, being single and in a village environment is going to be challenging anywhere but, with the exception of the language and some cultural differences, I don’t think Portugal is going to be that much more challenging than anywhere else. It’s a safe country and very welcoming of expats.

      English is probably not going to be as widely spoken as it is in the Algarve or Lisbon, so you’ll really need to make an effort there. The other challenge will be finding ways to integrate. In the cities and the Algarve, there are usually plenty of meetups and social groups but you may struggle to find them in a village.

      Reply
    • The language is almost everything ma’am. Give Pimsleur Portuguese a spin, the audio course. There is a basic European Portuguese set, the rest is (or was) Brazilian but the pronunciation needs only a tweak to be understood. It may not be perfect, but the difference between this and having nothing is a million miles. If you can order a coffee at the local cafe, enquire about the health of the owners’ family and garden, that will do. Bear in mind you will need to be financially independant, and not need the favour of the local town hall for virtually anything. Beware very large building projects. Learn the language FIRST before you come. If it doesn’t take, pass, it really is make or break. Kind regards, R

      Reply
  49. Hi, great site, thank you for that! I am looking to move to Portugal with my wife (I’m American, she’s German) and we’re going there to work in an International School. Thing is, it’s in Albufeira. I don’t want to live near there, maybe up to 30min. away? I notice that most of the places that I am able to search for long term rental housing are always about short-term vacationers. Any suggestions where I can find real estate further out of the city in some of the neighboring cities? Perhaps a webpage or newspaper that would show locals trying to rent a home? Thanks again for your help!

    Reply
  50. James – thanks for shining a light on the things in Portugal that are a little less “happy-making”. I have been an immigrant in the US for over 30 years, so I know how to “make do”, but still appreciate the heads-up. We are planning to re-locate to Portugal in about 2 years. My husband has been better at actual applying himself to his language studies, but I feel learning a new language will probably be my biggest challenge – doesn’t come naturally to some people. On the other hand though, as older people I do see learning a new language as really good exercise for the grey matter:)
    I am still wanting to know if there are agencies that help people with their re-settling needs? Hope you can help.

    Reply
    • Hi Agatha,

      These agencies definitely still exist, but as I haven’t used one personally I can’t recommend one.

      As for the language, I would recommend starting before you get to Portugal. You might as well hit the ground running rather than starting from scratch when you get here.

      Thankfully, you can learn Portuguese from anywhere now thanks to the internet: http://www.portugalist.com/learn-portuguese-online/

      Reply
  51. Not sure if anyone here can help but we are moving to Portugal and bring all our belonging via ocean.
    I have done extensive research as far as rules and regulations on what to bring or not to Portugal and visited all sources. The most updated information is here and I learn that Import to Portugal is not that complicated.
    https://usgshipping.com/shipping-to-europe-from-usa/shipping-to-southern-europe/shipping-to-portugal-from-usa
    but since we are moving to an Island I could not find a company offering the door to door service. I am wondering if anyone here knows a good Customs Broker in Lisbon who can help with clearing our container and transporting it to our door?
    Your help will be greatly appreciated !

    Reply
    • Hi Samuel,
      I’ve never lived nor been to Portugal, but from my experience having lived in Brazil, I had my things sent by cargo plane which obviously arrived a lot sooner than if I had shipped it to Brazil, and was easier, not easy, but easier compared to a friend of mine who’s Brazilian and moved to Brazil with his wife and had shipped all his belongings and had 3-4 months of headaches to get all his belongings and deal with the customs of a port which can be more corrupt than dealing with one at the Cargo portion of the airport, but not as corrupt. Will it cost more, not ridiculously expensive but cheaper than dealing with a possible delay in your belongings and finding yourself having to buy replacements until yours do arrive and arrive at your place you’ll be living at.

      Reply
  52. Uau, you really got the whole picture. I lived in Portugal för 40 years and when it was time to decide the future of my kids, I chose to leave the country. You get ti nowhere there and I couldn’t risk it…even missing my family and friends. It’s like the country is made for a certain elite and even belonging to that elite one must work hard to get the favors….it works on pure kinship, unfortunately. Sometimes I even laugh of some episodes where politicians are caught… Hopeless and No one cares, after all, everyone is happy for having so many tourists, and selling houses… That’s pretty much it.

    Reply
    • I’ve been in Lisbon for 10 years and I have to agree with most of what has been said. It’s not been easy and I’m finally deciding it’s time to move on to a place where people are a bit more positive ( the negativity of the people drives me nuts) .

      Reply
  53. James, great article! My wife and I are moving to Cascais next year.

    I’m Brasilian and she’s Polish/British and reading all the comments above is clear the disparity of opinions, naturally (disregarding the ignorants and stupids) but I believe everything is a matter of perception, the moment in life, spirit and of course $$$$$. It seems that expats only want to make a lot of money, have an easy life in a warm, charming country seeking for “quality of life” and they forget that they have responsibilities as well.

    Before considering anywhere, how many of you though: how can I contribute to make that place better? To make people happier? To reduce the disparity of wages? Gender pay gap? To warm people dying on the streets because of the winter? It’s easy to get your wallet out and demand things that firstly you’re not offering and then sit behind your mobile or MacBook and bad mouth around the internet. You will find amazing things and terrible as well anywhere…some places more than the others, but I insist: what you’re gonna do about it?

    As you said James: when you “decide that the good outweighs the bad and this really is a place that’s worth staying in”. I would add “…staying in and contributing”.

    We have been living in Berlin, Germany for three years and even living comfortably, relative good wage, good public transport, speaking German, having german friends, working for a german company there’s no welcoming, warm conversations are rare and more than that, there’s a generalized lack of joy. Not mentioning the terrifying bureaucracy (everything is on paper and via post). It’s hard to get things done here as well…german efficiency? Hmmm not sure, but we’re here, we decided to be here and we do everything we can do in the best way possible.

    We’ve been to Cascais and we decided to move there next year because we want the “slow pace of life”, warm weather (even if it costs us a bit more to heat the place and stay comfortable). Coming from São Paulo, Brazil might make a bit easier for us (she lived there for 10 years despite all the problems) to deal with the cons. Maybe…but that’s not the point. Let unite to make the community better! Btw: any Facebook group as “English speakers in Portugal” or something similar? That could also help those seeking for help in finding an apartment/house. I’m quite experienced in real state as well 🙂 I would love to help others!

    Now keep in mind: we make the place good or bad for ourselves, we are responsible for that, not the Portuguese population, Portuguese government, companies, etc. It’s their home and if you want Portugal to be your home be ready to get out of your comfort zone and work hard to make it better and live with the cons 😉

    Happy days to y’all!

    Reply
    • Hi Philip,

      Great comment and yes, I agree, a place is what you make of it.

      I don’t know how to solve some of the big problems (wage disparity, for example) but it’s definitely possible to get involved in a charity like Re-Food and distribute food to the homeless. Sometimes it’s hard to find out about these initiatives and maybe you’ll have to start them yourself, but it’s definitely possible to contribute.

      Even smaller things, like starting local a local group (say a book club) can make a difference to a community and can bring both Portuguese and expats together.

      There are definitely a lot of opportunities to contribute.

      Also – yes, there are loads of Facebook groups for English speakers in Portugal e.g.

      https://www.facebook.com/groups/915501201927854/
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/expatsinportugal/?ref=br_rs
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/265570920476558/?ref=br_rs

      There’s also a good “expats and locals” meetup in Lisbon around once per week, and I know a few people come in from Cascais:

      https://www.meetup.com/en-AU/Lisbon-Expats-Locals/

      Reply
    • Olá Philip,
      Prazer! I was born and raised in Los Angeles California, and my parents are from Salvador Bahia where I’ve lived before as a child for two years, and in Rio, also two years, and and I know how it is as for being so accustomed to certain things and luxuries of how things work in the US verses in Brazil, especially in Salvador where life is slower than in Rio and even more than in São Paulo or Curitiba where my father lives, but that’s a choice one makes without being forced into that choice, so for one to make that move and complain when trying to compare Portugal or Brazil with where one came from is not going to help one at all. Like James said, you weigh the pros versus the cons, and then you except the cons, cause anywhere in the world there’s going to be pros and cons, including in the US, or else anyone who’s moved to Portugal, or planning to wouldn’t be making, nor had made there moves!
      As for a Facebook or even a website for some to go into too ask questions, chat with some who lives in Portugal, being from there, and having moved there from another country with different cultures and languages will definitely help one, and believe me, myself having lived in Brazil speaking the language, and living in Costa Rica, speaking the language, I still had to rely on locals or expats to give me certain advices and guidance once and awhile.

      Reply
  54. PAULO I have been reading all the comments… everyone is entitled
    to their opinions…but by far yours was the most ignorant and stupid of all….(all issues in Latin America come from the heritage of Portugal and Spain…) REALLY????? 🤔🤣🤣🤣

    Reply
  55. Tom and I are in our early 70’s and hope to retire to Porto in October of this year. Our situation is that we will have to sell everything, our home, cars, furniture, etc to make this possible with our limited retirement. So basically bringing our cloths and hopefully renting an apartment from new friends who are English and bought an apartment in a renovated building in Porto. Do not plan to buy a car but use public transportation.
    I guess my question would be, would it be possible to travel around Portugal and other areas of Europe by just relying on trains, buses, etc and be able to afford to do so. We are adventurous, can travel with backpacks, share our meals and want to see what life has to offer. Any experiences would be welcomed.

    Reply
    • Hi Diane,

      Yes, you can definitely get around by public transport and it’s very affordable as well. I bought a bus ticket from Lisbon to Porto recently, and I think it was €9. That was a special offer but, given that you’re over 65, you should be entitled to a discounted rate on trains and most buses anyway (50% on trains) so your transportation costs will be low.

      Food is also affordable here. The markets especially are very good value if you want to keep costs low and cook at home and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of restaurants that are affordable as well. You might have to look harder in a city like Porto, but they’re there.

      The biggest expense is going to be accommodation, again especially in a city like Porto. If you already have arranged your accommodation through friends of yours then you’re off to a great start. Otherwise, cities like Lisbon and Porto are expensive to rent in at the moment and may not be the best option for rent. That’s not to say it’s impossible, especially if you’re willing to live a little further out of the city centre, but there are definitely more affordable parts of the country.

      Keep me posted on the big move, and feel free to ask anymore questions.

      Reply
  56. I am a 64 yr old woman. I have decided to go to Portugal for a month and see if I want to relocate from the U.S. If things seem ok in that month I plan to move temporarily for a yr to see if I want to relocate for a longer period of time.
    One of the most attractive attributes is the number of British expats. I am learning the language but it would be great to be around English speaking people.
    I have no desire to live on the coast since I am currently living on a barrier island off FL. I love cold weather and find so much sunshine oppressive.
    Can anyone direct me to the part of Portugal which could could provide these things? And of course cheap is good. I will not be looking for any type of employment.
    One more question—is there a realtor who could help me find a place to stay for a month.
    Thanks.
    Shannon

    Reply
    • Hi Shannon,

      Most people don’t go to Portugal for the cold weather – especially British expats 🙂

      I don’t know if there’s any part of Portugal that isn’t warm in the summer, but the North of Portugal is quite cold and damp in the winter. It is similar to an Irish or Northern European climate and may be close to what you’re looking for. As mentioned, this isn’t what a lot of expats are looking for so the number of expats living there is going to be smaller but there are definitely more and more people moving to places like Porto, Coimbra, and Castelo Branco as well – including an increasing number of people from the US.

      With the exception of Porto, those places will be quite affordable. Castelo Branco is especially affordable.

      The South of Portugal e.g. Lisbon, the Alentejo, and the Algarve are all be very hot in the summer so you can probably rule there out – especially the Alentejo.

      Another place to consider would be the island of Madeira as it never gets too hot. It also doesn’t get too cold, though, so take a look at the month-to-month temperatures and see if it’s cold enough for you. There are lots of expats living there.

      As for the realtor, it may be better renting through Airbnb or something like that (anything over 28 days is considered long-term on Airbnb). Realtors tend to focus on rentals of six months or more. Not to say you won’t find one that’ll do a 1-month rental, but 1-month is usually too short for them.

      Here’s a guide to renting long-term with Airbnb: http://www.portugalist.com/airbnb-long-term-rentals/

      Reply
      • Castelo Branco is extremely hot in the summer. If you want cooler weather, move toward the Beira Littoral, where you get the Atlantic’s weather influence even 1 hour inland.

        Reply
        • Thanks Jude! I know Coimbra can get very hot in the summer, but maybe it’s better near the coast.

          Not sure if there’s anywhere in Portugal that doesn’t get hot in the summer.

          Reply
        • Too true, I was at the reservoir campsite at Idanha a Nova this August for 2 weeks. It was 38c mostly and dropped to 36c for a few days. We only survived by swimming in the reservoir and the campsite pool. So hot, but what an absolutely stunning place.

          Reply
  57. After four years in Costa Rica, all these things are pretty much the same here. I guess the Spanish and Portuguese exported much of their culture when they came here.

    Reply
    • Certainly the root of all issues in Latin America comes from the heritage of Portugal and Spain, hundreds of years (and a few generations) ago!

      Reply
  58. Hi I just have 4 weeks. And I’m living in Madeira the bureaucracy is incredible high . I was buying a car, the story is so long to tell here. the mentality of the people is negative. Some forums say life is slow and relax . I see more life is inefficient to do something . In Madeira bus stops are horrible designed . Seems like government here just give the leftover to people and steal money. I have a company in the United States . I was thinking expanding on Europe starting in Portugal because I have relatives here. I just quit the idea . I will go to Germany or uk instead . Now i understand no investment in Portugal

    Reply
  59. Great information; my wife and I are talking about retiring in Portugal. No real time table established yet. Sounds like a lot of research needs to take place as you would expect.

    Thanks again..

    Reply
    • Hi Joe,

      Definitely a good idea to do your research. In my opinion, the best research is to spend 6 months – 1 year here before committing to anything (if that’s possible for you).

      Reply
      • Hello , i just came across this site and been reading all comments, im from BC , been really thinking of moving to Portugal and im in the Hair and Fashion industry, any advice about opening a salon or working in one would help, i have never been to Portugal so need advice on which areas would be good, thanks!

        Reply
        • Hi Arif,

          Not an industry I know anything about, so unfortunately I won’t be able to give any specific advice.

          If you did move to Portugal, what are you looking for? If it’s a city, Lisbon or Porto are probably going to be the main places to focus on. If it’s beach, the Algarve should be your focus. If it’s something more of the beaten path, there’s a lot more of Portugal to look at.

          Reply
    • Yes, do a lot of research but the best research you can do is by living here.

      Living in a country is very different from being on holiday so don’t assume that somewhere you have spent time on holiday is somewhere you want to live.

      Come here in winter, rent a house away from tourist areas, and rent a car. Both cars and property are cheap to rent in the winter but very expensive in the tourist season.

      If you are thinking about the Algarve I would look east of Faro and anywhere (almost) up to the Spanish border. Here you will find a less touristy and more laid back Portugal.

      Reply
  60. Hai there! Or Ola😃
    Me and my family live in the Alentejo now for 4 months on a temporary bases. We ‘guard’ a baron land with a huge dog from not getting plundered.. It s that bad. I must say that I’ve loved Portugal since I was a kid. I’ve been here many years and then many not. Since then so much has changed…. The Portuguese I knew ‘left the building’. Those that stayed here near Grândola in the Serra are two kinds of people: or Tjernobyl Germans or depressed Portuguese that WILL scam you whenever or wherever they get the chance. And I do speak the language.

    What happened to you guys!? This ‘cannot do’ attitude towards life in general is killing you and your beautiful country. It seems it’s only about money to you!! There is so much going for you, if you were only able to understand. Usually I would leave Portugal with a pain in my heart, but now I’ll be glad…. And I am so very sorry.

    Ps the cost of living for food and drink isn’t ‘cheap’ it is just as expensive as it was in the Netherlands, only 7 months ago. Cheap is the meat. True. But the rest is just a insane as it is anywhere else, especially in and near Lisbon and in and near Setúbal. The area of Coimbra and Viseu is indeed very cheap.

    Reply
    • Sounds like another godless country with no real Christian standards, honesty, integrity, etc and therefore a no-can-do attitude and depressive people. Govt corruption will get worse. Will never leave third world status.

      Reply
  61. Hi Everyone,
    I have actually never left a comment anywhere online before, so here is a first. The article really resonated with me. I found every point accurate. I’ve been living in the Algarve for a year now, having physically moved from Toronto, Canada ( thou mentally still partly there) and have found many things challenging and frustrating, such as the bureaucracy, and the “can’t do” attitude as well as little cultural perspectives and ways of doing things. I will be running my own Paint Nights in Algarve business and am definitely feeling some intimidation and discouragement. I think integration is difficult and Id really like to find myself in an english speaking community with a lot more “can do” attitude. Luckily I do speak portuguese but I don’t really feel that I relate to the portuguese community. I could go on and on, but just wanted to say thank you for the post, helped validate my own observations and lighten my soul.

    Reply
    • Hi Maria,

      Thanks for commenting! Integration is definitely difficult, and it takes time.

      It’s exciting to hear that you’re launching a business on the Algarve. I hope it goes well, and you keep that “can do” attitude 🙂

      Reply
    • Maria, did you move there alone? I am also a female from TO but living in the US and am quite serious about moving to Portugal. I was wondering if you’d be willing to shoot a few emails back and forth with me about your experiences there, why you moved there, etc.

      Reply
    • Hi Maria

      We just moved to Portugal and I enjoyed reading your post. I was born and raised in Toronto and have always admired immigrants with respect to how brave they were to leave their comforts (language, culture..) behind and start over. All the best of luck in your adventures.

      Sandy

      Reply
    • It´s a unique place. Sort of a bottom first world/elite third world mix that most people aren´t prepared for. Most graduates want to leave (wages, job opportunities, lack of connections). If you have alot of money and come from another wealthier country it may or may not be to your liking. I think of it as Portugal is to the rest of Europe as Mexico/Latin America is to the US and Canada. Somewhere to get away from it all after you´ve made your nest egg. Definitely not somewhere to become a self made success.

      Good luck to those with the courage to come here. Make sure you keep something back home, alot of people end up not being able to leave because they left no anchor in their home countries.

      Reply
    • Hi Maria,

      i liked the lighten my soul, i have been here a long time and agree with all what your saying, where to go next and get out of this hell hole….

      Reply
    • Hi. My wife Donna, and I live in Mississauga and are contemplating our retirement. We are planning to visit Portugal for a month. What drew my attention to your story is your desire to be in a more english speaking community. That is our desire as well. I am willing to learn Portuguese, but to be fair, I am not a quick learner. How has your experience changed in the year that you have been there? Is the language still an issue? Thanks,

      Gerry

      Reply
  62. Hi there. Thanks for all the insider info. After 15 years living and working in the Bahamas, we are ready for retirement return to Europe. Having the Dutch nationality and experienced the Caribbean mentality we will probably not be shocked by the cons of moving to Portugal. How is the winter climate in the area around Porto?

    Reply
    • Hi Renate,

      It’s quite grey and damp, not unlike what you’d find in the North of Europe in terms of colour although it’s definitely milder. The problem isn’t so much the weather but the housing which tends to be very cold in winter. Central heating is rare here, but you can get it and I imagine that it would solve the problem. Alternatively, there are lots of different stoves that do quite a good job.

      Reply
  63. Ola friends and thank you for putting this resource together

    Is there a sight or a section where expats can look up vendors to use or avoid? I have been taken for a terrible ride by a construction company called Artys and want to be sure that no one else falls into that money pit. I love Lisbon but have learned many things the hard way- and also been pleasantly surprised. Perhaps we can all help one another and continue to build community as you have kindly helped to do!

    Best of luck everyone!

    Nirit

    Reply
  64. Great info. Moving to Porto from the US at the end of the year. The bureaucracy is something I’ve been reading about all over the internet. Although, currently living in Los Angeles, it sort of feels the same way. Most people end up doing construction to their homes on the weekends, here, to avoid getting asked about permits. The city makes it extremely difficult and the costs for permits is sometimes more expensive than the construction, itself. Also, fuel is insanely expensive (almost $5/gallon). I am surprised to read about the dog poop thing. I have a dog and have read in many places that Portugal isn’t very dog-friendly. I wonder if this is part of why, haha. Luckily, I always pick up after mine!

    Reply
    • Hi Blake,

      Bureaucracy is definitely an issue. It’s not so much having to fill in paperwork that’s the issue, it’s working out which paperwork that you need to fill in. In another language that gets even more difficult. Things just tend to stall.

      I guess you guys have more expensive fuel than the rest of the US. It’ll still be slightly more expensive here, but not as expensive as if you were coming from somewhere else in the US.

      Reply
      • Hi James, I too live in LA, and leaving to Portugal in a few weeks. I would very much like to speak with you. Not sure how this forum works but would be great if you read this and get in contact. I’m on the westside.

        Reply
        • Hi Carla,

          Pleased to meet you, and hope the move to Portugal goes well. Feel free to ask me any questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them or at least point you in the right direction.

          Reply
    • Hi Blake,

      I live in Los Angeles and I know what you mean in regards to gasoline here in comparison with the other states, it ridiculous. As for bureaucracy, I lived in Brazil and Costa Rica and there’s also bureaucracy there too, and Los Angeles like you said has its own form of bureaucracy as well, definitely not to the extent of Brazil, nor what I’ve read here in reference to Portugal, but I may be wrong but I still think it all comes to weighing the pros and cons, like living here in Los Angeles which definitely has its share of both!!

      Reply
  65. Had to go through 3 meetings with Camara Municipal to change kitchen floor and shower stall in my Lisbon apartment – and was still told that I needed to file a request online and it would take a year to get a permit….. and my architect casually mentioned that any foreigner who hires a contractor, electrician, plumber, painter in Lisbon usually is charged far more than a native client. Frustrating, but also understandable.

    Reply
    • I think this dual pricing for foreigners and locals is common in a lot of countries. Not everyone does it: it depends on the individual person/company.

      Reply
  66. You forget dog poop all o ver the floor and vandalism grafite covering even train Windows. I also do not agree in the Language matter. Chinese is easier than portuguese. At least to learn to speak.

    Reply
    • Hi Art,

      Definitely dog poop is a problem, although that seems to be common throughout a lot of Europe. Graffiti does seem to be unique to Portugal though.

      Also, interesting comment re: Chinese VS Portuguese.

      Reply
    • Portuguese is a Roman/Latin language, related to Spanish, French, Italian, and Catalan. I have a degree in Spanish and French and have traveled in the Latin countries a lot, so even though I’ve never studied Portuguese I can understand half of what I read, and I can easily speak common phrases like bom dia, muito obrigado, etc. It’s just ridiculous to say that Chinese is easier to speak. Non-Western languages like Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, etc. are NOT in any way, shape or form easier than Portuguese!!!

      Reply
  67. I lived in Uruguay for three years and your 14 points are almost identical descriptions of that country. While seeing the list prior to moving would not have kept me from relocating, my frustration level could have been reduced by a realistic understanding of what to expect! Every expat, and especially potential expats, should see these points. Great list…thanks!

    Reply
  68. Hi James, thank-you so much for sharing your experience. I have shared it on a group called “South Africans helping South Africans in Portugal ” because i am sure it will be of great help to those that are iether coming here or planning to.
    Would you please consider joining the group because I’m sure you will not only enjoy all the helpful posts and comments but you would surely be able to contribute immensely, seeing as you know Portugal so well. I’m sure our Group Admin, Steve Robinson would welcome someone like you with open arms. Stay well.

    Reply
  69. Coming from South Africa, most of these points are actually far better than what I’m used to. Lol, I guess you could call then all First World Problems!

    Reply
    • Hi Zane
      Lived in Cape Town a few year, now heading for Portugal to
      check out the country. Sure do miss Cape Town.

      Dwight Lurie
      Miami

      Reply
    • Zane, totally agree with you! I am Croatian living in South Africa and thinking about visiting/relocating to Portugal. Once you live in South Africa, you definitely learn to do your best with what you got in any situation…and Africa time is different too, so Portugal should be a smooth transition he he.

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  70. Coming to Portugal is a real shock coming from 11 years in Switzerland which punches well above its weight and has a can do attitude like the USA. Portugal however I have found has a very stratified social culture that is more like the Middle ages… The Aristocrats, the civil servants, the trades people and the serfs. Most portuguese refuse to take an active involvement in government, unlike Switzerland where people feel they are the Government. I live in Cascais, outside the city the land is poor for farming, in germany you would see millions of solar panels with 300 days of sunshine here thats a lot of electrical generation, but what do the portuguese do sell the electrical grid to the chinese how smart is that. There seems to be a national cultural complex of low level depression, which leads to your can’t do/ attitudes, what in psych;ology is called psychomotor slowing. You have a paradox of a Socialist Government but the real power resembles the south korean Chobo system where most of the GDP is concentrated in wealthy family business, often people dating back to the old aristocracy. A nurse with sub speciality training makes 1000 euro monthly, A pharmacist never more than 5000. I have a relatively nice life here but I don’t know if i want to live where there is such income disparity. Old People in lisbon last year were dying from the cold but you had to read about it in the Spanish newspapers. I suspect a lot of this passivity is left over from the dictatorship and some will argue there never was one! If this were France it would be man the barricades but in Portugal its man the football stadiums. I have found in this world its not what you ask for its what you demand. Portugal is a kind of pseudo social democracy.

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    • I have lived my whole life out of Portugal but I love the ” sit back ” approach . Can’t wait to retire in the top 3 safest country

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  71. I have been visiting Portugal for 10 years to visit my prima who moved there 14 years ago. From my experience and learning through her all of your downsides are very accurate and reasonable. Beaurocracy being the most difficult and nearly enough to just walk away from the country entirely! Really like your blog – it’s helpful! Leaving for Tavira again tomorrow, so looking forward to being back.

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