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Viv Europe receives on a daily-basis questions (which really should be asked) related to the living in Portugal as an expat.

Some of these questions are not related to requirements, documents, procedures or anything related to bureaucratic procedures.

They are actually related to (what’s like to) living in a new country, with different habits, culture and language.

In this FAQ we will address some of these questions (and their answers) in order to make it easier for an expat to comfortably live a good life in Portugal (after all, this is what most expats look for when moving to Portugal).

So, without further ado, let’s jump to the questions.

How is the adaptation process for an expat?

We started this article with the most popular (and broad) topic: The adaptation process.

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

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

In terms of ease of adaptation, 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 do not 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 you are.

Getting rich is not that important over here, as long as you have good food on the table, places to have fun 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.

In general, people are very welcoming in Portugal (specially in the north region), they love being close to others and celebrate everything that can be celebrated (unfortunately, Covid changed this scenario a bit).

Portugal also offers:

  • Good food in the supermarket (eg. Pingo Doce, Continente and Jumbo), as this country dispose delicious national meat, fish and sweets. Also, extraordinary food are also imported from its neighbors countries, such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany (there is actually one “main” supermarket for each of these countries, eg. Mercadona, Froiz,  Spar, Lidl and Aldi)
  • Good public transport system. You can go almost anywhere in Portugal by train and move using the metro in the biggest cities.
  • A good Public Healthcare and Educational system, as it will be better addressed later in this article.
  • A lot of green places, specially for those who want to chill out and relax.
Quinta da Regaleira Picture

I received my Residence Permit in Portugal. What should I do next?

This will be the only question here that is related to documents procedure.

But as this question is so popular (since this topic is very important for expats), it should to be addressed this article.

After receiving the Residence Permit, the expat shall:

  • Request the Tax Number (NIF) at Finance, as this number will be requested for almost every situation in Portugal.
  • Request the Utente Number at a local health post in order to use Public Health System.
  • Register at the Social Security (Segurança Social), and obtain the NISS (Social Security Registration Number) – specially if you intend to work in Portugal.
  • If the expat decides to work as a self-employer, he / she will need to open a activity in Finance.

Some of these procedure 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 for other important activities.

For a in-depth analysis of documents needed in Portugal, check out our article related to getting legal in Portugal.

Will I have difficulties in Portugal if I don't speak Portuguese?

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

If you intend to move to a small city, with a more traditional appeal, you’ll probably 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, probably, you won’t have a hard time communicating in Lisbon, Porto, Algarve and even in Braga, Coimbra and Setubal, for example.

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

Also, more and more, English is taught in school as a second language, therefore those Portuguese citizens who are younger that 30 will probably have no problem in communicating with this second language.

Even tough English is widely spoken, if you’re planning to live in Portugal, it’s always advisable to enroll in a Portuguese course, specially 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, myself, like to 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 its 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 problem registering at the Local Health Post (Posto de Saúde) in order to obtain your Utente Number and start using 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 a study taught mainly in English.

Overall, both public and private institutions are excellent.

The amounts to be paid for private schools can vary 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 another the students’ progression. Here are the results:

  1. Colégio 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 regions have the highest rated schools.

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

Maybe you’re considering choose Portugal because this is a safe country.

Portugal is considered the safest country in the European Union and the 3rd 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 2020:

  1. Iceland
  2. New Zealand
  3. Portugal
  4. Austria
  5. Denmark
  6. Canada
  7. Singapore
  8. Slovenia
  9. Japan
  10. Czech Republic

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 Portugal?

This is such a subjective question.

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

If you are looking for a more lively city with many options of restaurants, cafes, parks, shopping centers and even job offers, Lisbon and 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, splendid landscapes and a not so costly region, 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 the e-commerce for example, we can find almost anything in some well-knows 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 in 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.es, amazon.fr, amazon.it and amazon.de are all available for you in Portugal, and no VAT included.

Asians e-commerce are 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) 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 this banking transaction, but they are usually a more expensive service.

It will probably take around 3 days for you 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 quick and cheap.

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 airlines 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.

Of course, due to Covid, flights are less frequent and cities are not so “tourist friendly”, but as soon as this pandemic situation passes, you will be able to know all of Europe in an easy way.

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 (specially the big ones) offer food and transportation tickets, 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 will certainly not spend that much money living in a Portuguese city, especially those not touristic.

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

For an in-depth analysis of the cost of living in Portugal, you can consult this article.

That’s all for now.

We’ll keep adding new questions as soon as they arise.

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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