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The Complete Guide to Retiring in Portugal

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Last updated on December 27, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes

Sunshine, a lower cost of living, and a laid-back way of life – with all of these selling points, it’s no wonder that Portugal is one of the most popular places to retire to in Portugal.

Portugal attracts retirees from all over the world but is particularly popular with those from countries like the UK, USA, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, Canada, and Brazil. 

Pros & Cons of Portugal as a retirement destination

The following are some of the main upsides and downsides to retiring in Portugal. 

Pros

  • Attainable residency visas – Portugal has a number of residency visas that are suitable for retirees (discussed below). 
  • Warm weather – Portugal has some of the best weather in Europe, particularly during winter when the weather is mild, especially in southern regions like the Algarve. 
  • Low-er cost of living – Portugal can be very affordable, particularly when it comes to costs like eating out and shopping.
  • Large expat community – You’ll find a large expat community in Portugal, which makes it easier to make friends, settle in, and get information from others who’ve likely had the same questions before. 
  • Affordable healthcare – Like many European countries, Portugal has both a public and private healthcare system. And while the public system can be a bit slow at times (like many European countries) private healthcare is thankfully affordable, especially if you have private health insurance. 
  • English is widely spoken – Although it’s recommended that you learn Portuguese, English is widely spoken – much more than in neighbouring Spain or France – which makes moving to a foreign country that little bit less daunting. 

Cons

  • Bureaucracy – Regardless of whether you’re a retiree or not, one of the downsides that everyone moving to Portugal faces is bureaucracy. 
  • Hilly terrain – Portugal is an incredibly hilly country. There are some towns and cities that are flat, but if you’re looking to avoid hills, you will find your options are a little more limited. 

Read more about the pros & cons of moving to Portugal

Requirements for Retiring in Portugal

The requirements vary, and typically depend on the citizenship that you hold. Most EU citizens can obtain their CRUE or residency permit simply by registering at their local câmara municipal (town hall). If one person in a couple holds citizenship from an EU country, it’s relatively straightforward for the non-EU partner to obtain residency

Those from the rest of the world will typically need to meet the requirements for a particular visa and the requirements vary from visa to visa. The D7 and digital nomad visas, for example, require a regular income whereas the golden visa requires a cash investment. The golden visa only requires you to spend an average of 7 days per year in Portugal whereas most other residency visas expect you to spend 6+ months per year here. 

In short, the requirements vary depending on how you are obtaining residency. 

Visas for Moving to Portugal

One of the main reasons that Portugal has become so popular is that non-EU citizens, particularly those from the US and UK, can move there relatively easily. For retirees, the two most popular residency visas are probably the D7 and the golden visa. 

  • The D7 is aimed at those with a passive income, such as a pension or social security, or income from a rental property. That income must amount to more than the Portuguese minimum wage, but since this is one of the lowest in Europe, many retirees from wealthier countries like the UK, US, or Canada have found it easy to meet the requirements. 
  • The Golden Visa offers residency in Portugal in return for making an investment in the country – and that investment could be as simple as investing in a qualifying fund (typically starting from €500,000). Unlike other residency visas, golden visa residents only need to spend an average of 7 days per year in Portugal to meet their physical stay requirements. It’s perfect for those that want residency, but want the freedom to travel as and when they please. 
  • The digital nomad visa is aimed at those that are still working and have a regular income from a job outside of Portugal, such as a remote job or freelance income from non-Portuguese clients. 

Read more about residency visas for retirees

While you can move anywhere in Portugal, including the Azores islands or Madeira, there are a few locations that tend to attract a lot of retirees. 

  • Algarve – Thanks to its mild winters and beautiful beaches, the Algarve is a popular destination for all expats but particularly retirees. 
  • Silver Coast – It doesn’t have quite as good weather as the Algarve, but the Silver Coast is a more affordable and more authentic Algarve alternative. 
  • Cascais – Situated just outside of Lisbon, Cascais combines all the benefits of living by the coast with proximity to Lisbon. 
  • Setúbal – The small fishing village of Setúbal is growing in popularity thanks to its beautiful nearby beaches and location close to Lisbon. 
  • Madeira – Famous for its fauna and year-round mild weather, the Portuguese island of Madeira off the coast of Africa has long been a popular destination for retirees. 

Healthcare

Portugal has both a public and private healthcare system. The public system is the main, and larger, system and this is where you’ll be treated in most situations unless you decide to go to a private hospital. There are some fees, but they are usually small – as little as €1-2 for a bandage – and the hospitals are funded through taxes. 

Many retirees use the private hospitals as and when they need to, particularly for smaller problems. These are payo-to-use hospitals and you can either pay in full or take out a health insurance policy, which will typically cover a large portion of the cost. In comparison to many other countries, and in particular the US, health insurance in Portugal is considered to be very affordable. 

Read more about Portugal’s healthcare system

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Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.