What To Bring When Moving to Portugal

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Written by: | Last updated on February 29, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

If you’re thinking about moving to Portugal, you’ll get different advice on what to bring. Most people will tell you to come with as little as possible and avoid the challenges and costs of shipping your stuff. However, re-buying everything is expensive, particularly in Portugal, so there’s definitely an argument for at least thinking about shipping your stuff. 

There are some things you probably shouldn’t bring, particularly if you’re coming from outside Europe. This includes electronics that won’t work here (such as kitchen appliances), beds where it’ll be hard to get the right size sheets and covers, and American-size cars that would be expensive to run and would be a challenge in many small Portuguese towns. Similarly, Portuguese homes are smaller than North American properties, so you may not have space for everything you own. 

The reality is that you should probably bring some things, but not everything. If you can bring it over in multiple suitcases, possibly over several trips, then this is much easier than dealing with shipping and Portuguese customs, even if you are allowed to ship your stuff as a new resident. If you can’t, shipping can be worthwhile but you do need to be selective about what you bring. 

Things to Consider Bringing

  • Paperwork – Bring whatever paperwork you have, especially birth and marriage certificates, school reports, and anything else you can think of. At some point, you will probably be asked for it. 
  • Anything Sentimental – There are some things you can’t replace, like family photos, artwork, antiques, and gifts. Be sure to bring these. 
  • Tools – Tools are often more expensive and not made to the same quality as in other countries, so many people, particularly those renovating a property, bring their own tools with them. 
  • Medications – You can get most medications or their equivalents in Portugal, but it’s definitely a good idea to bring a big supply of all your essential medications until you have registered with a doctor and got your necessary prescriptions. Over the counter medications (e.g. painkillers) are often more expensive and some medications (e.g. melatonin) that are very common in other countries aren’t as common in Portugal.  
  • Spices – Many expats struggle to find certain spices, and especially certain spice blends that they’re used to. Thankfully, there are now a few online shops in Portugal and the rest of Europe that deliver, but you may want to bring some things to get you started. 
  • Clothes – Portugal has clothes shops, of course, but clothes are often more expensive here and if you have something you like, there’s little point leaving it behind. Taller people or those with large feet sometimes struggle to find clothes that fit them in Portugal. However, if you have winter clothes for very cold climates, you could consider leaving these behind. 
  • Laptops & mobile phones – Electronics are generally considered expensive in Portugal and if you’re already thinking about getting a new phone or laptop, you may want to consider getting it before coming to Portugal. 
  • A Kindle/E-Reader – English and other foreign language books are sometimes difficult to find in Portugal and if you do find them, they’re usually more expensive. Having a Kindle or e-reader will give you access to a lot of books, much more so than you’ll be able to get in Portugal. In some countries (e.g. the US and UK) you can access e-books from your local library through Overdrive or other services, so it’s worth setting this up in advance. You could also consider bringing some of your favourite books, although due to the weight, you may need to be very selective. 
  • Food items – Whether it’s ingredients for making Mexican food, strong tea bags, or vegemite, expats from all over the world have food products that they miss (here are examples for British and American expats). You won’t be able to bring everything due to restrictions and safety issues, but you will be able to bring some things. 
  • Cooking utensils – While you might be leaving your kitchen appliances behind, if you have good quality knives, pans, and any other utensils or equipment that you love, be sure to pack them. There’s no point in buying them again if you can easily ship them. 
  • Measuring tools – You can get these on Amazon, but if you’re moving from North America and you have some space, it’s a good idea to pack measuring cups and spoons. In Europe, the measurements are different but if your favourite recipes are in cups, you may find it difficult to switch over. 

Note: If you’re shipping your stuff and it is going through customs, you will need to have owned each item for at least 6 months. Otherwise, you could be charged import duties. 

Things to Consider Leaving

  • Electrical Appliances – If your electronics (e.g. kitchen appliances) are from outside the EU or UK, it’s probably not worth bringing them. Voltages are different in Europe and the US, for example, and many people spend a lot of time and money bringing over their KitchenAids and Instant Pots only for the difference in voltage to fry the electronics. Better to sell up and buy new ones. (Note: this doesn’t usually apply to computers and phones). 
  • Vehicles – Yes, cars are more expensive in Portugal and you can import vehicles into Portugal but the bureaucracy is challenging. It’s also worth noting that vehicles are smaller and more fuel efficient in Portugal compared to North America, and you probably want a similar type of vehicle. 
  • Odd-sized Beds and Mattresses – Bed and mattress sizes are different in Europe and although it can sometimes make financial sense to bring a good quality bed or mattress, you may struggle to get the bedsheets and covers that you need for it. 
  • Furniture – You can’t pack furniture into a suitcase, which means that you need to ship it and that means costs (and potentially bureaucracy). Deciding whether or not to bring furniture is mainly a financial decision – working out whether it’ll cost more to ship everything or buy again – but it is also a personal decision. You may not get the same selection or style of furniture in Portugal, 

How to ship your stuff to Portugal

From sending boxes or filling up a shipping container to bringing everything in suitcases, there are different ways to bring your belongings to Portugal. Each option has its pros and cons and is an article in itself. 

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.