Picturesque town in Portugal next to the ocean

British And Moving To Portugal What To Expect

Thinking of moving to Portugal? Here's a helpful guide on what to expect in Portugal from traditions to food and even how to get around.

8 minute read

So, you have been lured by the promise of warm sunny beaches, chilled vino Verde and as much pastéis de nata as you can eat? We don't blame you. A short 3-hour flight from the UK, Portugal is one of those places that makes you wonder why you don't already live there. The most popular locations for expats are Porto, Lagos, Chaves and Lisbon, however for a relatively small country it has a selection of prime locations that are worlds apart in terms of lifestyle, access and scenery. Here is what you need to know about Portugal...before you pack your bags and leave.

What’s life like in Portugal?

If you have decided to settle in Portugal there are a few things to consider, one of them is the pace of life – particularly if you are moving from a busy UK town to one of the more rural areas of Portugal. This may not be a bad thing for those of you who are tired of commuting, burned out from long working hours or for those who are retiring and want more time to sniff the flowers and sip the Licor Beirão. However, for those who are neither used to nor keen on slowing down, you will have to offset the slower pace of public services with the warm beaches, delicious food, beautiful scenery, and stunning architecture – it could be well worth the trade.

Most Brits choose the Algarve for a second home, but if you are considering renting there is so much to choose from and the rent will be significantly less than what you would pay in the UK’s bigger cities.

How does the cost of living in Portugal compare to the UK?

Just like access to products and services, the cost of living will be dependent on where you decide to settle in Portugal. On average, the cost of living in Lisbon is said to be around 36% cheaper than of that in London. For those who are looking to live and work in the city, it’s true that the earnings will be lower and jobs harder to find. That said, the cost of living is also lower, which means you may not need to reduce your living standards very much at all. Even better, if you have amassed some extra money for your move, you may find yourself living a much better lifestyle than the one you left at home. For those of you who are remote workers, Portugal is an excellent option - if most of your clients are based in the UK, you will see great returns settling in Portugal. Working from the beach and getting more bang for your buck could become your reality. Again, for those who have retired, the lower cost of living will make your savings and pension go much further than in the UK.

*The cost of petrol and the cost of taxes for expats can be relatively expensive. It is worth doing a budget before you leave the UK, to find out how much you will need monthly to live a comfortable life in Portugal.

Can I still immigrate to Portugal from the UK despite Brexit?

As a British citizen and despite Brexit, you can still enjoy a Portuguese life for 90 days in any 6-month period. However, after that, if you intend to stay any longer you will need to apply for a Visa. Here a couple of options below.

The D7 Visa allows you to live in Portugal:

This is what you will need…

  • An income of a minimum €1,000 per month
  • You will be required to stay for at least 16 months during the first 2 year period
  • You will need to apply for the Visa BEFORE you leave, whilst you are in the UK
  • You will need proof of long-term accommodation
  • You will need basic documents

The Golden Visa allows you to live in Portugal and to become a Portuguese citizen at the end of 5 years:

You will need to fit at least one of the below criteria…

  • You will need to transfer capital of at least €1 million into Portugal
  • Create at least 10 jobs within Portugal
  • Buy property in Portugal worth at least €500,000
  • Acquire real estate in a Portuguese urban regeneration area that is at least 30 years old to the value of at least €350,000
  • Invest at least €350,000 into scientific research in Portugal
  • Invest €250,000 or more into Portuguese arts, culture, and heritage
  • Invest at least €500,000 in small- and medium-sized businesses in Portugal

If you do any of the above, this will grant you access to live and work in Portugal, provided you reside there for at least seven days in the first year and 14 days in each subsequent year. You will also be free to apply for a family reunion, meaning family members may get Portuguese residency and you will all have access to Portuguese healthcare and the education system.

  • As of January 2022, properties bought in Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve, and some coastal locations won’t qualify investors for a Golden Visa.

What’s the community and culture like in Portugal?

Ah, the slow life. Portugal truly is a country that appreciates a more laid-back pace – and it’s not just the speed of living, the people can be pretty laid back in character too. Maybe it’s the sun or the delicious food, but locals will linger on long walks at the beach and chat for hours over meals in a way that is rarely seen in the UK’s cities. In the winter it can almost come to a standstill in some of the more rural parts, especially as this is also off-peak for holiday makers.

Are the Portuguese family orientated?

The Portuguese are generally very family orientated, which is no surprise as Portugal is mostly Roman Catholic. Close family ethics are high on the agenda, which means meals are often taken together and include extended family too. With such a rich and varied food culture, it is quite right that most Portuguese events should happen around food.

What is the food like in Portugal?

If you are hoping to stay a while in any of Portugal’s beautiful locations, you may not need to learn the language (the majority of locals also speak English) but you will need to educate yourself on the different types of food and wines – that, or miss out on some of the best meals you will probably ever have. The most popular dishes are worth knowing about, here are a few that you will find in most restaurant and bars.

*You may get a warmer reception for knowing the correct Portuguese pronunciation, especially as most British expats do not learn the language before coming to live in the country. Attempting to speak the language, evenly badly, is not frowned upon in Portugal.

  • Pastel de nata – A delicious egg tart with a delicate flavour.
  • Bacalhau à brás – A tasty Cod fish dish, made with eggs, potatoes, onions, garlic and olives.
  • Francesinha – A hearty meat sandwich topped with cheese and soaked in a beer sauce.
  • Bifanas – A tasty, traditional Portuguese pork sandwiches.
  • Licor Beirão – A delicious Herbal liqueur, full of flavour.
  • Douro Port – A popular port wine form the Douro Valley.

These are just a few delicacies for you to try when you visit. When in doubt, you can always ask a local who will be happy to direct you to the nearest eatery and introduce you to the variety of Portuguese fair available.

That leads us nicely on to the subject of integration – namely, making friends. There is a large British expat community in Portugal, but it is actually quite rare for Brits to integrate fully with the local Portuguese community. Many have their own suggestions on why this is, but it is clear that the language barrier can be an issue. Even though a lot of Portuguese speak English, fewer British expats learn the Portuguese language – which can cause some Portuguese to think that the Brits are not interested in integrating at all. That’s not the only reason, making friends with the local community can be tricky as Portuguese people can be very much focused on their family and local community - In some ways making it harder for outsiders to feel welcome. Whatever the reason, if you want to mix with the locals, it is well worth taking Portuguese language lessons to make the process smoother.

Are public services slower in Portugal?

Portugal is known for its insane level of bureaucracy. This means that trying to get anything done quickly can be very hard indeed. If you don’t speak the language or you don’t have someone to ask, you may need to get as much done as you can from the UK. If you are trying to sort your Visa, taxes, your education, whatever it is – there are also companies who can help to do that for you. It may be worth paying for this type of service rather than trying to handle them yourself and taking weeks to solve issues that could be dealt with in days. There are also several online forums that can help to provide you with information and support.

How do I get around in Portugal?

The romance of jumping on a tram and riding through Lisbon or Porto has been well documented, so much so that it has become one of those ‘Instagram must-do’ experiences for those who come for a visit. If you are less concerned with your Instagram followers and much more concerned with getting from A to B as easily and efficiently as possible, you might want to opt for one of the other modes of transport available across the country. In fact, Portugal’s transport system is very well run, especially the train service, which is primarily provided by Comboios de Portugal. There are four main types of long-distance service:

  • The Regional – Slower trains that stop all over the country
  • The Interregional – Trains with less stops but a faster service
  • Intercidade – Trains that stop at bigger cities but are very fast (express)
  • Alfa Pendular Deluxe – The fastest of the 4, but expensive

If trains are not your bag, you could try a bus – yes, they are slower but they are also cheaper and are great for checking out the smaller towns. Bus services are not as regular on the weekends, but the Carreiras (slow service), Expressos Rapidas (fast buses that run more around specific regions) and the Alta Qualidade (faster, deluxe service) will probably be your main choices for this type of travel, and they are pretty reliable.

You could hire a car, a motorbike (around 30-60 euro per day), rent a bicycle or simply walk. There is lots of choice for getting around Portugal, the only thing you need to work out is which one of them fits both your budget and needs.

Should I move to Portugal?

Most of what is included in this guide to living in Portugal as an expat is positive, but the truth is everyone’s experience will be different and based on a variety of factors. Things that will make the transition of moving to Portugal much easier include: learning the language, learning about the food and culture, having enough money and getting to know the local community – especially when it comes to dealing with the bureaucracy. Like any move abroad, research is key and can be the difference between settling in well and integrating into a new way of like or struggling to adapt to a new country and eventually moving back home.

Research, research, research! Oh and don’t doubt that self-analysis should be part of it. Are you somebody who will really enjoy a slower way of life or will you become frustrated with the long queues and inability to get things done quickly? Are you someone who prefers their own company or will making friends with the locals be of upmost importance to you? Are you looking for work or are you established already or simply retiring? The answer to all of these questions should influence your decision on whether you decide to move to Portugal, where you decide to stay and lastly, how you intend to build your lifestyle there.

Good luck!

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Author: British Corner Shop
British Corner Shop is the online grocery store for British expats around the world. Whether you miss Marmite or crave crumpets, we can…