If you have questions related to living in Portugal as an expat, this article was made for you. We answer the most popular question to help expats in Portugal.

Last Updated on July 14, 2023 by Victor Queiroz

In this FAQ, we will address some of the most popular questions that Viv Europe receives, all related to moving to Portugal.

So, What do expats need to know about Portugal?

Following our guidance, we hope your relocation process will be easier and less time-consuming.

Without further ado, let’s jump to the questions.

What is the adaptation process for an expat?

We could write a book to answer this question, but we’ll be as specific as possible.

First, depending on your country of origin, you may have a different perception of Portugal.

Regarding ease of adaptation, let’s just say that Portugal is a country that internalizes what is known about European Lifestyle.

In other words, Portuguese people are hard workers, but they also like to enjoy life, and most of them don’t want to wait for retirement to appreciate the “good things in life.”

This type of attitude is reflected in Portugal (the country) itself.

That is why in Portugal, we can always feel a sense of tranquility wherever we are.

Getting rich is not that important over here as long as you have good food on the table, places to stay with your beloved ones, beautiful landscapes to fall in love with, and, obviously, a stress-free environment.

Overall, that’s what you will find in Portugal.

People are generally very welcoming in Portugal; they love being close to others and celebrating everything that is worth it.

Portugal also offers:

  • This country has a great selection of delicious national meat, fish, and sweets available in supermarkets like Pingo Doce, Continente, and Jumbo. In addition, there are excellent imported foods from neighboring countries like Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. Each of these countries has a “main” supermarket, such as Mercadona for Spain, Froiz for Spain, Spar for France, Lidl for Germany, and Aldi for Germany.
  • Portugal has a reliable public transport system that can take you to almost any destination via train and metro in the major cities
  • A good Public Healthcare and Educational system will be better addressed later in this article.
  • A lot of green places, especially for those who want to chill out and relax.

I received my Residence Permit in Portugal, so what should I do next?

This will be the only question related to the document procedure, but it should be addressed here as this one is so popular.

After receiving the Residence Permit, the expat shall:

  • Request the Tax Number (NIF) at Finance, as this number will be required for almost every situation in Portugal.
  • Request the Utente Number at a local health post to use Public Health System.
  • Register at the Social Security (Segurança Social), and obtain the NISS (Social Security Registration Number), especially if you intend to work in Portugal.
  • If you work as a freelance, you must open an activity in Finance.

Some of these procedures can be performed even before the applicant receives the Residence Permit, such as obtaining the NIF.

That’s because having a NIF can be useful for opening a Portuguese bank account, renting an apartment, and other essential activities.

For an in-depth analysis of documents needed in Portugal, check out our article on getting legal in Portugal.

Should I move to Portugal if I don’t speak Portuguese?

Depending on where you intend to live in Portugal, your experience in relation to communication can change.

If you intend to move to a small city with a more traditional environment, you’ll maybe struggle a little to understand and to be understood at the beginning.

The good news is that, in medium and large cities, English is widely spoken. Thus you won’t have problems communicating in some areas, such as Lisbon, Porto, and Algarve, for example.

These are touristic cities that rely on English to attract people from all over the world.

Also, more and more, English is taught in schools as a second language. Therefore those Portuguese citizens who are younger than 30 will probably have no problem communicating in this language.

Even though English is widely spoken, if you’re planning to live in Portugal, it’s always advisable to enroll in a Portuguese course, especially to understand the basics.

There are many Portuguese courses available online, and some are even free. Here are some examples:

How good is the Public Healthcare System in Portugal?

NHS (National Health System) is responsible for providing basic health care services to people and expats living in Portugal.

The quality of the healthcare service is simply excellent!

I usually have a complete checkup of my health conditions twice a year, and the way this service is performed is simply remarkable.

According to the 2018 Euro Health Consumer Index, Portugal was ranked 13th for the quality of its health system.

It is important to note that Public Healthcare in Portugal is not 100% free, as you will have to pay a small amount to be consulted, but it probably won’t exceed 15€.

If you’re an expat, you won’t have a problem registering at the Local Health Post (Posto de Saúde) in order to obtain your Utente Number and start using the Portuguese Public Health Service.

A Residency Certificate and NIF number will be required for this registration.

How good is the Public School in Portugal?

The Portuguese education system is divided into three levels, which are: basic, secondary, and higher education.

Public education certainly attracts more students than private schools, that’s because, in addition to being free, they are very good in terms of teaching quality.

According to DGEEC – General for Education and Science Statistics, in 2020, there were 1,291,925 students enrolled in public schools, against 321,409 in private schools.

Obviously, you can find benefits when enrolling in a private institution, such as studying in an English-spoken school.

Overall, both public and private schools are excellent.

Just keep in mind that the school tuition for private institutions can vary a lot in Portugal.

Many factors can influence prices, such as the aforementioned bilingual approach.

Private school fees can reach up to almost 5,000€ per year, but most institutions won’t charge more than 4,500€.

In 2020, Observador Portal ranked the best schools based on the 9th and 12th exams and the students’ progression. Here are the results:

  1. Instituição Nossa Senhora do Rosário – Porto
  2. Colégio Moderno – Lisbon
  3. Colégio D. Diogo de Sousa – Braga
  4. Salesianos de Lisboa – Lisbon
  5. Colégio Luso-Francês – Porto
  6. Colegio do Sagrado Coração de Maria – Lisbon
  7. Colégio da Rainha Santa Isabel – Coimbra
  8. Colégio St. Peter’s School – Palmela
  9. Colégio Manuel Bernardes – Lisbon
  10. Salesianos do Estorial Escola – Cascais

Lisbon and Porto’s regions have the highest-rated schools.

How safe is Portugal from the expat’s point of view?

Maybe you’re choosing Portugal as this is a safe country.

Portugal is considered the safest country in the European Union and the 4th globally. That’s indeed something to consider when choosing a country to spend your life with your loved ones.

In 2014, Portugal ranked 18th position in the Safety Index and climbed to the third position in 2019, and maintained this same position for 3 consecutive years.

Here is the list of the safest countries in 2021:

https://viveurope.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Safest-Countries-in-2021.jpg.webp

There is not so much to talk about on this subject, as the numbers speak for themselves.

Just be sure that walking on the streets at night will no longer be a distressing situation.

What’s the best region to live in in Portugal?

This is such a subjective question.

Depending on your lifestyle, different regions may suit your needs.

If you are looking for a more lively city with many restaurant options, cafes, parks, shopping centers,and even job offers, Lisbon or Porto will certainly be at the top of your list.

On the other hand, if you are looking for peace, a place to relax without many tourists, and live a peaceful and quiet life, you can choose Coimbra, Évora, Guimarães, Braga, or even Aveiro.

If you seek beautiful beaches, parties, and splendid landscapes, any city in Algarve will be ideal for you.

As you can see, despite being a small country, Portugal offers a wide variety of attractions for those looking to live here.

Is it easy to buy goods from abroad when living in Portugal?

Being a member of the European Union certainly makes it easier to buy goods in Portugal.

If we consider e-commerce for example, we can find almost anything on some well-known Portuguese websites, such as:

  • Worten, FNAC and MediaMarkt (for eletronics and more)
  • Mercadão, Continente and Auchan (for groceries)
  • IKEA and JOM (for house utensils)

But we can also expand our options by searching some other EU countries’ e-commerce websites, such as those from Spain, France, Italy, or even Germany.

The most famous website in this regard is certainly Amazon. So amazon.esamazon.framazon.it, and amazon.de are all available for you in Portugal.

Asian e-commerce is also very popular here in Portugal. Some examples are AliExpress, BangGood, and Lightinthebox.

Is it easy to transfer money from my bank account (located in another country) to Portugal?

Yes, nowadays, it’s easy and also not expensive to transfer money to your Portuguese bank account.

There are many companies, some of them 100% digital, that can help you transfer your money (including currency exchange) from anywhere to Portugal, easy peasy.

Below are some of these companies:

Obviously, you can use your own bank or some traditional services like Western Union or MoneyGram to proceed with this banking transaction, but they are usually a more expensive service.

It will probably take around three days for your money to arrive in your Portuguese bank.

Is it easy to travel to other European countries from Portugal?

This is one of the main advantages of living in Portugal: Being able to travel to other European countries quickly and cheaply.

If you’re a Portugal resident and want to spend a weekend in France, Germany or even Greece, you just have to choose the best flight from a couple of airline companies, and done!

And yes, there are a lot of airline companies that can carry you anywhere in Europe. Some are very low-cost, e.g.:

Sometimes the price you pay for the flight is cheaper than the taxi you’ll take for your hotel. It’s that advantageous.

How can I live as an employee if the minimum wage in Portugal is so low?

First of all, living in Portugal as an employee does not mean that you will receive the minimum wage.

Many companies pay more than this amount, especially in Lisbon and Porto region.

In addition to the salary, some companies (especially the big ones) offer food and transportation tickets, and health insurance, among other benefits.

But, in any case, you probably won’t receive much more than 1,500€ if you intend to work for a Portuguese company as an employee, and this can be very frustrating (which is why many Portuguese emigrate so often to other European countries in order to find better working conditions).

But looking on the bright side, the cost of living in Portugal is very attractive. You won’t spend that much money living in a Portuguese city, especially if you decide not to live in the big cities.

The best case scenario would be live in Portugal and work remotely for a foreign company, as your salary will be associated with that company’s country, without considering tax, of course.

If you want to have access to a group of expats that have the same interest in living in Portugal, join our Facebook group by clicking here.

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