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Things to Consider Before Moving to Portugal

Updated: Mar 1

If you are considering moving to Portugal, it's important that you understand exactly how life works over there. It's bound to be different from your current life, but for many people, it is a dream destination, and it has plenty of history and culture that make it incredibly appealing.


If you are looking to move your personal belongings to Portugal, make sure to contact our team today, and we will be more than happy to help you. Now, here are the things to consider before moving to Portugal.


You May Encounter a Language Barrier


It's a good idea to prepare by learning the basics of Portuguese. Across the world, there are around 220 million speakers, which puts it at 6th place in the most popular languages spoken worldwide. In smaller towns and villages you will also find that the older population have no English skills at all so it definitely will make your life easier.


It is fairly similar to Spanish, so you might get a bit of a head start if you speak it reasonably well; however, it has distinct differences.



The Healthcare System is Outstanding


Good news if you are planning to start a new life in Portugal! They have a system similar to the NHS called The Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS). If you are a Portuguese citizen, treatment is free for children under 18 and people over 65, while everyone else can access it on a heavily subsidized basis.


They also do not exclude noncitizens; the prices paid are slightly more expensive than nationals but provided you have your social security number and you are legally registered as a resident, you can take advantage of the system. Across the globe, there are 195 countries with a National Health system.


A study published recently by The Lancet ranked Portugal as 32nd for excellent provision. When you think about the numbers, this is certainly not a bad tool, and it's in the top quarter.


Don’t Expect Central Heating


Central heating is quite common in the UK, and most houses have some form of adequate heating installed full stock. Portugal is quite a warm country, and this tends to last most of the year; however, in winter, the nights can get cold.


Central heating is not a thing. You will soon realize when you start looking around houses either to rent or purchase that you won't see central heating systems.


Electric heaters plugged into the wall are the most common way to provide heat, and the locals are so used to it that they generally stick on another jumper or snuggle up under a blanket in the evenings.


Locals are very laidback with dinner plans


If you are a stickler for timekeeping, this may not be the country for you. It operates at a much slower pace of life, and punctuality is not that important. Dinner plans for seven might get underway by half seven, and it's not because anybody's being rude; it's simply the way it works. If it bothers you, it's a good idea to get them to text when they're leaving home so that you know what time to be ready.


Businesses and shops also operate on quite a lax timing basis. You might find that the online hours suggest the shop is open on a Wednesday, but when you get there, the sign says closed.


Shopkeepers are quite friendly, and they do tend to leave a note explaining why they have not opened when they said they were going to. It tends to be a delayed weekend, with most shops closed on Sundays and Mondays, and this also applies to most restaurants.


Buy, Not Rent, if Possible


When you first arrive in Portugal, renting isn't a bad idea. You need to get to know the area and figure out where you would prefer to live. However, after that, it is much better to purchase a house if at all possible. Expats who purchased property in Portugal can qualify for the Portuguese golden visa which was created in 2012.


It's one of the most attractive visa systems in the world and offers the chance of citizenship to people who are non-EU citizens due to their ability to invest. One such qualifying investment is property provided that the property is worth over 500,000 unless you are in one of the lower populated areas of Portugal, where it drops to 400,000.


In an urban rehabilitation area, if the property is over 30 years old and you're going to renovate it, the minimum spend is 350,000. Getting a Portuguese golden visa is considered highly prestigious and has many benefits, including travel in the area and reunification of families. If you then stay in Portugal for a further six years after you've obtained a golden visa, you can apply for Portuguese citizenship.


Salaries Are Fairly Low


Although it is relative because of the lower cost of living, salaries in Portugal are not the best. The average annual salary is around €18,000 a year. This equates to just €1314.00 a month, and their minimum wage before tax is 705 euros. This is for people working under Portuguese employers, and higher-paid positions can be found further up companies.


Of course, you can work remotely if you live in Portugal, and you could freelance or work for a company that operates elsewhere to get a better salary. Proportionately renting can be quite expensive, especially in Lisbon, where the average apartment is around €1000 a month, which makes it very difficult for people to live alone.


It may well seem a reasonable rent compared to what you are used to, but based on the salary, it's not that good. Housing prices have also been pushed up a little from what they were due to the influx of people coming into the area and purchasing properties to rent out.


For many locals, owning a home is an impossible dream and never likely to happen. It is fair to say that someone coming into Portugal may consider €150,000 cheap to purchase a property, but it would be exceedingly bad manners to point this out as this can seem very privileged to locals.


International Schooling is Expensive


If you are moving to Portugal with children, you will naturally want them to continue their education. You are very welcome to enrol them at a local school but bear in mind that they will be taught predominantly in Portuguese, which can be very tricky if they are used to being educated in English.


Children of expats often attend international schools where they can be taught in their native tongue, but it's worth considering the expense in Portugal. They have a reputation for having some of the best international schools in the world, but this comes at a cost.


It can cost upwards of 7,000 to around €20,000 per year depending on the school you choose and what grade your child is in. This is the charge for education and does not include things like after-school activities, field trips, lunches, and other extras.


Bureaucracy is a Nightmare


This one may or may not bother you because bureaucracy is generally a nightmare wherever you go. However, when it comes to things like getting your visa, setting up a new water contract, or applying for other services in the public sector, you need to learn to be very patient.


Remember, we already mentioned that there is a laid-back ethos in the country, so waiting around is quite common. Very friendly, and the admin staff dealing with your requests are probably equally frustrated by the amount of bureaucracy there is to wade through, so try and be polite because they will always treat you in a friendly manner.


Cold Water Swimmers


Another common issue that catches people out is the temperature of the seawater. People assume that because Portugal is hot for much of the summer, the water temperature in the sea will be tropical, but this is not the case.


It's very refreshing on a baking hot day to take a dip in a cool sea, but it does catch people unawares. The north beaches have particularly cold water, and this can even apply in the South.


The warmest temperatures are found in the Algarve, where you will see around 21.7°C in August. If you enjoy cold water swimming, this is a great location to take advantage of lots of different stretches of the coastline.


Portugal Favours Cash


While much of the world is becoming cashless, Portugal is still determined to keep physical money alive. This means that in many places, including restaurants and shops, cash is the only way to pay. The same applies to bus tickets and train tickets in certain places, so it pays to carry cash.


In big cities like Porto and Lisbon, you will find many more places that accept card payments, but it's still worthwhile to carry cash because smaller establishments often favour this method of payment. It's actually quite nice to see a society not looking to make cash obsolete.


Energy Bills Are High

This one is not such good news. Portugal overall has a good, affordable cost of living, but the energy bills are high. Comparatively, they come out as some of the most expensive across Europe. This means that locals are very good at watching what they consume and reducing their bills by making sure lights aren't left on and they heat their properties conservatively, instead opting for extra clothing and blankets.


The average energy bill is around €150 per month, depending on how big the property is. Remember, though, that their temperatures are higher for more of the year than the UK, so you do not need to worry too much about heating and being cold. Once you've been there for a while, it becomes second nature, and you get used to things; the energy bills pretty much balance out because other things are substantially cheaper.


Portugal is a lovely country, and it has a strong expat community, proving that plenty of people have successfully transitioned to a new life and love it there. It is family-friendly, and the locals are very welcoming, so you will soon feel like you have been there all your life. It's not hard to find expat communities to fit into if you want to spend your time with other people who speak English full-time.


The Takeaway


If you are looking to make a move to Portugal we can provide help and guidance on the removal process and provide you with a no-obligation quote. Here at Pinnacle Removals & Storage, our staff are very experienced with European moves and understand all the processes you will need to go through.


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