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Pros and cons of living in Portugal

If we open the statistics of queries related to the country of Portugal on Google, the top topics that users are interested in, we see (besides football):

How to legalize as a digital nomad? How expensive is life in Portugal and is it worth going there with children?

What are the advantages that attract people from all over the world to Portugal?

What are the disadvantages that you should find out about before settling in this country?

This is what we will talk about in this article.

Portugal was seen as a place where you can quickly legalize, you can buy relatively inexpensive real estate, put your children in a local school with a clear educational programme and develop your business.

Peculiarities of life in Portugal


Portugal is one of Europe’s warmest countries, with warm dry summers and mild rainy winters on the coast along with a ski season in the Serra de Estrela in the north-east of the country. Snow on the coast falls rarely, melts quickly and is seen as nothing short of a miracle. By the way, the last time it was seen was in 2009, in the city of Evora, in the south of Portugal. In other years, the winter temperature has never fallen below +3 degrees Celsius.

The hottest summer months are July and August, but even here the temperature rarely rises above +35/37 degrees Celsius and there is almost never a debilitating heat wave. The disadvantage of this climate is a rather short bathing season (from the end of May to mid-September). The reason for this is that Portugal is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the water off the coast rarely warms up to +23 degrees Celsius.

Locals claim that the period for swimming in their country actually runs from March to November, but the ocean water temperature in March does not exceed the 15 degree mark.

Officially, the tourist season in Portugal starts on 15 June and lasts until 15 September, but there is a large category of tourists who try to arrive in the country a little earlier to avoid the crowds, enjoy the ocean and save money. If you come to Portugal for permanent residence, it is in the non-tourist season that the cost of renting accommodation will be minimal.


Within the European Union, you can reach Portugal conveniently and inexpensively. A direct flight from Lisbon to Paris costs only 3 euros. And traveling to Madrid will cost you 4 euros.

Apart from airplanes, there is a developed railway network between the countries of the European Union. The only disadvantage is the price. A train to Madrid can cost 51 euros one-way, while a train to Paris costs about 200 euros.

Buses can compete with airplanes in terms of ticket prices. Locals often use them when it comes to journeys no longer than 4-5 hours. Ticket prices to neighboring countries start from 29 euros, and the journey time to Madrid (which is almost 700 km) takes 5.5 hours.

A tangible disadvantage, apart from the cost of train and bus tickets, is the fact that trains are occasionally late and there are regular complaints about the cleanliness of bus cabins.

Educating the children

The problem of school education is one of the most acute. New language environment, unfamiliar for the majority teaching system, bring difficulties in adaptation of new citizens of the country.

Children start school at the age of 6 and study until they are 18. In 12 years they go through two stages of education: basic and secondary. Basic education lasts 9 years and is compulsory for all. From 15 to 18 years of age, children receive secondary education and only then can take examinations and enter higher education.

To enrol a child in school, a foreign citizen does not need a large number of documents. Copies of the parents’ and child’s passports, two photographs for the personal file (which will be kept in the school where the child is currently studying), a medical certificate with vaccination information translated into Portuguese, proof of residence (a rental agreement will do) and the TIN of one of the parents are sufficient. All documents must be submitted electronically.

If the parents have a Portuguese residence permit, the child has the right to enrol in a public school on a general basis.

In addition, a big advantage of the Portuguese educational system is that with a school diploma issued in this country, it is possible to enter other European countries.

Apart from the important and obvious pluses, there are also some very noticeable minuses to the Portuguese education system:

  1. Education in Portuguese. For many people, this is the decisive factor in choosing whether to send their child to an international school or a local one. The fact is that the Portuguese language, although similar to Spanish, has its own peculiarities. And children educated in Portuguese can hardly continue their education in Spanish;

  2. There are many public schools teaching in English and awarding an international diploma, but they are all expensive. The top schools are regularly published by international analytical agencies and they do not change much over the years:

    • St. James’ Primary School;
    • Park International School;
    • Redbridge School;
    • International Sharing School Taguspark;
    • Aprendizes;
    • Carlucci American International School;
    • International Preparatory School;
    • King’s College School Cascais;
    • United Lisbon International School;
    • Prime School;
    • St. Julian’s School;
    • St. Dominic’s International School;
    • Oeiras International School;
    • TASIS Portugal;
    • British School of Lisbon;
    • Santo António International School.

The cost of education in these schools starts from 7 thousand euros per year for primary level (average price 9 – 10 thousand euros) and from 11 thousand euros per year for secondary level.

In primary school (grades 1-4) there are only four main subjects (excluding physical education, drawing and music): maths, English and Portuguese and science. In secondary school (grades 5-10) the subjects are added, there is another foreign language (more often German), physics, chemistry, algebra and an analogue of geometry. High school (the last two years) is specialised and the pupil has the opportunity to choose one of four directions:

  • Maths and chemistry;

  • Historical and linguistic;

  • Artistic;

  • Economic.

Higher education in Portugal is free of charge, but to be able to get it, you need to be either a Portuguese citizen or a citizen of one of the European Union countries, or have a Portuguese residence permit and live in the country for more than 2 years.

If all the requirements are met, you can enter university free of charge and on a general basis by submitting your school certificate with grades (and its translation into Portuguese if necessary) and passing the necessary entrance examinations and tests. The exams depend on the speciality chosen, but for all universities you will need to provide an English language certificate (usually TOEFL), a certificate of proficiency in Spanish (DIPLE) and a letter of motivation.

At the moment, IT, medicine, psychology, chemistry and law are in great demand among applicants. These faculties have had the biggest competition in recent years.

Teaching is mainly in Portuguese. Portuguese is not identical to Spanish and is not as popular as English. Again, this is the disadvantage that stops a significant percentage of applicants from applying to universities in this country. Some universities in Portugal do have English programmes, but not many. The good news is that you don’t need a high level of Portuguese language skills or high-profile achievements to get in. Many universities accept students with a basic knowledge of the language if they have attended special language courses. Universities are open to students who speak other languages, even if they do not know Portuguese well at first, but are willing to learn it actively.

If you can’t get a free place, you can always get a paid education. But you should not forget that there is a competition for these places too. Every year the number of applicants for one place varies, but rarely falls below 5 people per place.

The minimum tuition fee for bachelor’s specialities starts from 2,000 euros per year (such prices at Minyu University, which trains teachers, nurses and psychologists). For more popular specialities, you will have to pay from 3.5 to 7.5 thousand euros per year.

It is also worth mentioning the fact that no Portuguese university is currently in the top 100 best universities in the world. The highest in the ranking is the University of Porto (ranked 274th), which trains specialists in 12 specialities: from computer technology, mechanical engineering and geology, to medicine, biology and chemistry.


For a large number of people choosing Portugal as a place of permanent residence, medicine is hardly the first point of importance.

Portugal’s healthcare system is ranked 12th in the world. And this is a very good ranking. In comparison, Spanish medicine overtakes Portuguese medicine by 2 points and is in 9th place.

Local residents rate the level of medical care very highly, which is confirmed, first of all, by the low percentage of citizens who prefer to be treated abroad.

There are both private and public clinics in Portugal. However, they hardly differ from each other in terms of the quality of medical care. It is more about the speed of medical services. In a private hospital you can get an appointment the next day, while in a state hospital you will have to wait from several days to several months. This rule does not apply to emergencies. It is important to know that health insurance is a prerequisite for living in Portugal.

The cost of medical services, as in most countries, is highly dependent on the amount of medical care:

  • Annual insurance from 30 euros per month for the minimum package;

  • Consultation with a doctor in a private clinic from 80 euros;

  • Consultation with a doctor at a public clinic from 5 euros (often additional analyses are charged);

  • Ultrasound from 130 euros;

  • Dental consultation in a private clinic from 70 euros (if treatment is needed, it is extra);

  • Computed tomography from 250 euros.

Wages and prices

It is known that the standard of living of a state is determined by its minimum wage. The higher it is, the higher the quality of life of the population. Therefore, before we talk about the cost of food and rent, let’s look at these figures, comparing them with indicators in other European countries. So, the minimum wage in the country in 2023 is 760 euros. By comparison, in Spain it is €1,080 and in France it is €1,700. Portugal clearly loses on these indicators and is in the wage ranking next to such countries as Poland and the Czech Republic.

The minimum wage shows how a country is doing in terms of poverty and social inequality. In simple terms, the higher the minimum wage, the better off the population of a given country is. Portugal is by no means in the lead in this indicator. However, in absolute terms, the figure of 760 euros is high and is an indicator of a stable developing economy. According to economists, Portugal is expected to experience a strong economic recovery in the next 10 years.

Food prices in Portugal are lower than in neighboring France and Spain:

  • Seafood — prices start at €7 per kilo;

  • Beef — 10 euros per kilo;

  • Pork and lamb — 8 euros per kilo;

  • Cheeses have the biggest price range, from €3 to €80-100 for premium cheeses;

  • Wines start at €4 per bottle.

Clothing and footwear in Portugal is renowned for its good quality. The abundance of local brands makes this country attractive for international shopping.

Thus, the average price of shoes here is 60 euros. The price of jeans ranges from 80-90 euros. T-shirts and shirts will cost you an average of 20 euros, and for trainers you will have to pay an average of 80 euros.

This range of prices is considered by many to be a big disadvantage for Portugal. However, it should not be forgotten that Portugal has many large shopping centers with regular sales, so you can buy out-of-season clothes at much more attractive prices.

Long-term rentals in Portugal depend on proximity to the coast. Prices traditionally increase in April and decrease in October with the end of the tourist season. The average price for a one-bedroom flat with an area of 60 meters in Portimão starts from 850 euros. Two and more bedrooms (60-90 meters) cost about 1200-1400 euros. Cottages away from the coast (where locals prefer to spend the winter) cost on average 2.2-3 thousand euros.

Nature and attractions

Portugal is a world-famous tourist country with a rich history and an abundance of attractions. This makes it one of the most attractive destinations both as a tourist holiday and as a permanent residence.

Surely, when choosing a country to live in, not everyone has a point about its beauty and attractions in the first place. But as numerous practices show, it is quite important at first. During the period of adaptation (as a rule, it is the first year of life in the country) it is important to “like” the country. That is why in our article there is a section on what Portugal can be interesting.

Despite the fact that this country does not have the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or the London Eye, the top 100 interesting places on earth regularly include the “Spanish pearl” — the Benagil Cave in the Algarve region and the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon. Places of interest to visit certainly include the Pena Palace (in the city of Sintra), the Torri de Belém Tower (in Lisbon), the museum city of Évora and others. These places are recommended by locals for exploring the country.

These sights (with the exception of the bridge) are best visited during the “non-tourist” season. The period from October to April is the time when locals are traveling around the country. Prices drop and tourist flows decrease by multiples. The price of car hire is also reduced.

If in season to rent a sedan with automatic transmission will cost 45-50 euros per day, then from autumn to spring the same car can cost 27-30 euros per day. Long-term car hire is also possible. Its cost starts from 500 euros per month + insurance.

List of documents required to rent a car in Portugal:

  • Driver’s licence;

  • A passport;

  • The voucher for the rented car (it is important that it states the amount of deposit left);

  • Car Insurance.


Portugal has recently been talked about in the context of the opening of a digital nomad programme in the country. Startup visas and digital nomad visas have become the most sought-after.

The portugal digital nomad visa entitles the holder to obtain a residence card (residence permit) for 2 years with a further extension for 3 years and the possibility to apply for citizenship after 5 years. With this visa you can bring your family, which will have the same rights as a nomad who has received a residence permit. This type of visa is ideal for those who are not working in Portugal and have a regular income (working on a contract).

The significant disadvantage of this visa is that it must be applied for either in the country of which the traveller is a citizen or where he or she has a residence permit. To do this, you need to make an appointment at the Consulate or visa centre of Portugal, pay the visa fee of 90 euros and be ready to wait 60 days for a decision on the visa. By the way, the validity of the visa is 4 months, before the expiry of which you can apply for a residence permit for 2 years.

Here are the requirements for an applicant for a digital nomad visa:

  • It is mandatory to have a monthly income, confirmed by a bank statement, of at least 3040 euros per family (based on 760 euros per person);

  • The existence of an employment contract with the employer with the salary stipulated in it;

  • Confirmation of sufficient funds in the bank account (about 9 thousand euros per person).

In addition, it is necessary to bring your passport and health insurance (for a year), a certificate of criminal record for all adult applicants, a 12-month rental agreement for housing in Portugal, with mandatory registration with the tax authority.

Start-up visa is slightly different from digital nomad visa on the following points:

  • Obligatory approval of a full business plan (priority is given to start-ups focused on manufacturing, technology and innovation), after which the applicant will be asked for a bank statement with funds in an account of at least €5150 per person;

  • No more than 5 participants in the project, and the main applicant must not be from a European Union country;

  • Mandatory contract with one of the business incubators in Portugal.

The visa fee, visa decision time and the list of accompanying documents such as a criminal record certificate, rental agreement and health insurance are identical to the digital nomad visa.

Our specialists can tell you more about all the ways of legalisation in Portugal. Imperial & Legal lawyers have a solid experience of working with all currently existing immigration programmes. Every day our specialists provide legal support to people wishing to obtain a second passport, residence permit or citizenship of another country. Contact us now to discuss your situation.

Is it possible to get by without a car when living in one of Portugal's major cities?

The city’s transport network is quite well developed, and you can comfortably live without your own car in any major city. In addition, Lisbon has a well-developed metro network, which makes travelling around the city fast and comfortable. However, travelling outside the city requires a car, especially since its cost will be approximately equal to the cost of a bus fare.

Is it worth learning Portuguese if I'm only moving to the country for a few years?

English is not understood in all parts of the country. The further away you are from the major cities, the less likely you are to meet English-speaking people. Knowing Portuguese will also make it easier to communicate with the locals, who are very respectful of people who learn their language. There’s no need to fear ridicule — you’ll be happy to get help with pronunciation and vocabulary. If you decide to communicate in Spanish, your interlocutors will be able to understand a maximum of 40% of your speech. Although Spanish is close to Portuguese, it is not equal to it.

What's the situation with marketplaces?

All international online shops operate in Portugal. However, delivery times can take up to a month or more, and the duties charged can exceed the cost of the goods themselves. When ordering, you should carefully study the amount of duties and divide the parcel into parts, so that the value of each (if possible) does not exceed 20-30 euros.

What other category of expenses should be included in budget planning?

In addition to budgeting for medical emergencies and other contingencies, it is worth setting aside extra money for utility bills (Portugal has no central heating and electricity costs will inevitably rise in the winter months), dehumidifiers (better to buy them in advance as they are more expensive in winter) and cash withdrawal fees. Portugal is a country where not everywhere accepts card payments and there is a fee for cash withdrawals (especially if you do not have a Portuguese bank card).

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