Living In Portugal
Moving to another country can lengthen your life
Many of us at Portugal Property Hub are expats. We have been in your shoes when making the move to Portugal – although when most of us moved over here there were not as many real estate agents in Portugal as there are today and we ended up learning the hard way of how moving to another country can be a stressful and sometimes lonely experience to start with. We remember that slightly scared feeling that accompanies you when you drive up to your new property and set foot in it as its new owner. We all remember thinking, we’ve made it – now what? Who do I speak to? Who can I speak to as I haven’t quite yet masted Portuguese? How do I sort everything out? What do I sort out first and where do I go to sort it out?!
As we have been there and know how daunting it can be, we vowed not to let our clients go through the same experience. When you buy through us we don’t abandon you when the deeds have been signed, we will provide you with help and assistance way beyond simply buying a property. If you want us to we will guide you through the red tape, how to register for utilities, find tradesmen that are punctual and efficient and help with healthcare options and schools. We have gone through the same process, we understand that a little hand-holding can go a long way. We love the fact that many of our clients become friends and, in turn, also become our best advert by referring us to their friends who are starting the process back home.
The expat community in Portugal is growing day by day and so it’s not just us that will be there to help you along the way. You’ll find plenty of people ready to help, from expats already based on your street or development, to various societies, clubs and forums.
In the Algarve it’s the outdoor lifestyle which fuels most of the activities where meeting people is easy and fun. If you play golf, you’ll quickly find yourself part of a lively expat social scene. There are also weekly bike rides, walking clubs, running clubs, tennis clubs and bowls to enjoy as well as theatre groups, social clubs and charity organisations. Most of these are all advertised in the two English language newspapers – the Portugal News and the Portugal Resident. Both of these papers have websites and Facebook pages, check them out to see the kind of things on offer that you would enjoy doing.
Social media also provides a great way of getting to know people and also getting to know how to sort out problems or ask for advice. There are a number of groups set up on Facebook which deal with all things expat, from buying a car or kitchen to finding out the number for the local bombeiros, anything and everything you need you can find one way or another.
Cost of living
One of the most appealing aspects to spending time in Portugal is its affordability. Whether it’s buying a coffee, a beer or a prato do día (menu of the day) you’ll find that day to day living is cheaper than most European counties.
There are a host of supermarkets throughout the country. Aldi, Lidl, Continente, Modelo, Jumbo, Intermarche and Apolonia are the main ones and the selection of products you can get is pretty comprehensive. There are also smaller local shops in most towns and villages. If you buy what the locals buy then prices are relatively good, if you go for the food you miss from back home or more niche products then prices can start to rise. Every now and again we go to the local farmers markets – not only does this help with our Portuguese but the food you can buy there is organic however don’t expect it to be cheaper than the main supermarkets.
Eating out can actually be cheaper than eating in here in the Algarve. In many countryside towns and villages you can have a three course meal for lunch for €10. Known as Prato do Dia you can enjoy bread, cheese and olives to start, a main course, delicious pudding and a coffee or tea to finish. Eating out in the evening is more expensive and if you are on the coast, in a tourist area or in Lisbon then dining in these areas is inevitably more expensive.
Public transport links are cheap, efficient and taxis are easy to order, but if you are living here then the independence of driving is pretty important. Buying a car, even a second-hand one in Portugal is one of the areas which really goes against the country’s affordability score. Cars are expensive to buy and run and this can be a big shock when looking around. From experience, buying cars in the north of the country – as far up as Porto – can knock thousands off the price, however if this seems a bit of a trek then there are a multitude of second-hand car dealerships across the Algarve as well as dealerships in the main cities selling new cars to choose from. Fuel costs are considerably expensive in contrast to many other parts of Portuguese life (and there are toll fees on motorways).
Other costs that come into play each year are those associated with your property. As well as annual property tax, IMI (calculated between 0.3%-0.8% of the fiscal value of your property) you will also need to pay condominium charges if you live on a development with common areas that need to be maintained – such as gardens, pool, elevators, security. As a rule of thumb in these condominiums wherever you are, the more facilities there are, the higher the charges.
If you look after your own private swimming pool this will incur extra costs, but the cost of household help (gardeners and cleaners) tends to be low (if you are outside of Lisbon). Buildings insurance and contents insurance tend to be similar to those in other European countries, and utility and broadband bills tend to be roughly the same, or a little cheaper.
Climate & Seasonality
Portugal’s climate is similar to that of Spain’s. Generally the temperature is warm but the winter months are notably wetter and cooler.
From October through to April, Portugal experiences an average of five to six hours of sunshine per day with an average daytime maximum of about 16°C (61°F). Winter months can be chilly and wet so it’s important when you choose your property that you take into account how you will heat it and keep it warm during this time. So many clients only look for air conditioning to make sure they are cool in the summer, but heating is just as important because many Portuguese homes, especially the older ones, are constructed to keep you cool in the summer, not necessarily warm in the winter.
During the summer months, Portugal is hot and over the past few years is getting hotter. With an average daytime temperature of 25-30°C (77-86°F) and 11-12 hours of sunshine per day it is no wonder people love the summer here. In the Algarve temperatures are on the cooler end of the scale the further west you go, the further inland then the lovely sea breeze dies down and you can experience the real heat of the Algarve sunshine. Up in Lisbon temperatures tend to be slightly down on those of the Algarve, but as with all cities the proximity and height of the buildings means that summer days in the capital can feel pretty toasty.
Coming from the UK where there are defined seasons it was quite strange to go from summer to winter and then back to summer again. Spring and Autumn don’t seem to really feature in Portugal, you tend to go from a cold, rainy day in April to brilliant sunshine in May and then straight into summer. With over 300 days of sunshine each year it is no wonder that summer is the overpowering season here – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Food & Language
When you think of food or fine dining, Portugal and its cuisine probably doesn’t spring to mind. French or Italian cooking or the delights of Asian gastronomy normally steal the headlines. However Portuguese food is not to be sniffed at.
The recipes passed down through the generations involve ingredients found within and around the country. Fresh fish – normally served grilled – is available in abundance, octopus, squid and cuttle fish all are staples on dining tables, but pride of place is Bacalhau. Bacalhau – salted cod, can be considered the iconic ingredient of Portuguese cuisine and ironically is the only fish that is not consumed fresh in this fish loving country. Apparently there are over 1,000 recipes for Bacalhau – we haven’t tried them all yet – and it is the traditional Christmas Eve meal in some parts of the country.
Meat and poultry dishes are also popular. If you love Nando’s then make sure to give piri piri chicken a try over here. Other favourites are Porco Preto – black pig, Carne de Porco Alentejana – pork and clams, Cozido à Portuguesa – traditional meat stew and for a sweet treat don’t forget to have a Pastel de Nata, you’ll never look at a custard tart in the same way again.
Portuguese is currently the fifth most spoken language in the world and an official language of countries as varied as Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique and of course Portugal. If you’re looking to learn the lingo there are plenty of local schools, courses and private teachers to enhance your skills. An excuse many of us use when it comes to speaking Portuguese, or lack of, is that it is a hard language to master, and we’re not wrong, even our Portuguese friends agree! Be prepared to revisit those verb tables from French lessons in school as there is a lot to get your head around.
However, since living here we have found that as long as you give speaking Portuguese a go with a smile and good humour you are able to get by. There have been times when we have gone into the supermarket and asked for 10 slices of cheese at the delicatessen only to be presented with half a kilo of sliced chorizo, but you learn from these mistakes! All joking aside, when you need to be understood – for example at the doctors, hospital, with the police or fire service – there is no problem. 99% of these professions speak perfect English as well as French and in some cases Spanish and Italian as well. As the Algarve is such a hot spot for tourists all along the coast the Portuguese locals speak excellent English, further back from the coast and in Lisbon this is still the case, however if you are planning to buy in the Alentejo or Silver Coast then get ready for those Portuguese lessons as just over a third of Portuguese nationals here can speak and understand English.
Various studies have shown that people who emigrate or retire to new countries live longer, richer, healthier lives. Even those who just buy a holiday home can benefit from warmer weather abroad, a healthier diet and a more adventurous outlook on life. Even if you don’t actually live longer, it has long been established that filling your life with new experiences, locations, tastes, aromas and interesting new people slows down time and helps you enjoy life to the full and hold off the ageing process. The Portuguese themselves live long lives, averaging 81 years.
The Portuguese health system, Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), is a similar service to that of the NHS in the UK, providing hospital and local health centre services. The SNS is generally excellent, and English is widely used. The World Health Organisation ranks it number 12 (the UK is number 18). The main difference between the SNS and NHS is that in Portugal all citizens must pay nominal charges for everything from blood tests to GP visits.
The hospital network consists of modern and well-equipped units throughout the country. The superb Integrated Medical Emergency System offers rapid-response times – an average of seven seconds.
If you are an EU national or from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you must show your European Health Insurance Card or EHIC (issued in your country of origin) and your passport or identification document in order to gain access to the low-cost healthcare referred to above.
Overseas citizens holding Portuguese residency permits must be registered at a health centre and must hold a medical card/number, which can obtained by presenting a document showing proof of residence at your local health centre. Non-EU expats will also need to provide a social security card.
There are also plenty of private clinics all over Portugal that typically charge around €40 for an appointment with a GP. Many people pay to make use of these facilities to avoid waiting in state doctor’s surgeries, and this is an option for those without any other form of cover. All the private medical centres and hospitals work with international private medical insurance companies and there are reciprocal agreements in place with UK insurers such as BUPA.