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Are you having a difficult time deciding whether to move to Portugal or Ireland? Here’s a detailed comparison of the two countries.

Last Updated on June 18, 2023 by Laila Oliveira

Undoubtedly, both Portugal and Ireland are great destinations for expats. However, when you have to choose between these two countries, would you go for Portugal or Ireland? Although these two nations are in Europe, they’re often more different than similar. Nonetheless, they offer expats unique experiences altogether. 

What makes these two countries unique is the fact that they have so much to offer in the way of culture, diversity, and general quality of life. So, if you cannot quite make a choice, here’s a quick guide to help unravel the differences and similarities between these two European countries.

portugal-or-ireland

Portugal or Ireland? Why expats choose them

For many reasons, expats choose to move from their home country to a totally different place. For some, it is to satisfy their wanderlust. For others, it is to look for better opportunities elsewhere. Regardless of the reasons, choosing to move to either Portugal or Ireland is a great decision. 

Right off the bat, both countries have a deep cultural heritage. Portugal is known for its Fado music, traditional cuisine, and historical landmarks such as the Tower of Belém. Ireland is renowned for its rich literary tradition, folklore, traditional music (Irish music), and ancient sites like the Cliffs of Moher.

But that is not everything. What expats often love about these two countries is the overall quality of life. Both nations are generally smaller and have a cheaper cost of living than other first-world countries in Europe or beyond. They both present a unique combination of economic, social, and climatic factors you cannot find anywhere.

Differences between the countries

As mentioned earlier, both Portugal and Ireland are quite different, and the main differentiating factor is their geographical location. Portugal is located in the southern part of the continent, while Ireland is an island in the northwestern part of Europe. 

Location aside, other common differences between these two nations include the local language, way of life, and culture.

So, if you’re seriously considering moving to either of these two countries, understanding the main differences will help you decide which country to immigrate to. Let’s take a look at other key differences that you should put in mind before making up your mind.

Cost of living in each country

Let’s face it, one of the main concerns when thinking about moving to a different country is the cost of living. 

In fact, one of the main reasons expats choose to move to a new destination has something to do with the cost of living. So how does the cost of living in these two countries compare? To begin, it is worth mentioning that Portugal is way cheaper compared to Ireland.

You will be surprised to find out that despite Ireland being significantly smaller in geographical size, the cost of living in this country is relatively high compared to Portugal.  To put this into perspective, Ireland is approximately 60% more expensive compared to Portugal. 

Data from Numbeo shows that consumer prices, including rent in Portugal, are 39.5% lower than in Ireland.

Also, the Rent Prices in Portugal are 49.1% lower than in Ireland. Based on the data above, it goes without saying that, indeed, Ireland is significantly more expensive than Portugal. 

However, your individual spending will always determine how much you spend monthly. By choosing to be mindful of your spending, you will definitely cut costs regardless of where you choose to live. 

If you don’t have much to splurge, consider living in smaller cities with little foreign influence. The purchasing power is often lower, and consequently, the cost of everyday commodities and services is also lower.

portugal-is-safe-just-like-ireland

Renting a property in Portugal or Ireland

If you’re considering moving to Portugal or Ireland, the first order of business is to find a place to call home. Regardless of where you choose to live, you have two options when it comes to finding accommodation, renting or buying a house. 

If you don’t have the necessary funds to buy your home, the next best solution is to look for a lovely apartment for rent. There is no fixed cost when it comes to renting. However much you will have to pay will depend on a few factors, like the size of the rental, the specific neighborhood where it is located, and the apartment’s current condition. 

The good news is that whether you choose to move to Portugal or Ireland, there are different types of accommodations depending on your budget. 

That said, take a look at the comparison when it comes to rental between these two destinations.

TypeRent in PortugalRent in Ireland
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre€775€1,429
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre€1,312€2,500
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre€591€1,253
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre€969€1,987

Estimates are from Numbeo (as of June 2023).

Labor market in Portugal and Ireland

Another significant difference between Portugal and Ireland is the labor market. To begin, it is worth mentioning that Portugal has a relatively higher unemployment rate compared to Ireland. 

As of recent data, the current unemployment rate is about 5.8% in Portugal and 4.4% in Ireland. The Portuguese job market has been improving in recent years, particularly in sectors such as tourism, information technology, renewable energy, and services. 

Lisbon and Porto are the main employment hubs. On the other hand, Ireland has a robust job market, particularly in sectors like technology, pharmaceuticals, financial services, and research and development.

Dublin, the capital, is a major center for multinational companies. Portugal’s average income also tends to be lower than in Ireland. 

However, the cost of living in Portugal is also significantly lower than in Ireland, making most things affordable. The average net salary in Portugal after tax is €998, and €2,709 in Ireland.

Transport

The road network in both Portugal and Ireland is good, allowing transit by bus or personal vehicle quite efficiently most times. Portugal has a well-maintained network of roads and highways. 

The A1 highway connects Lisbon and Porto, serving as a central transportation corridor. Toll roads are common in Portugal, and electronic toll collection systems are in place. 

Ireland, on the other hand, is not so different. It has a network of national primary and secondary roads connecting different regions.

The M50 motorway encircles Dublin and is a key route for commuting and transportation within the Greater Dublin Area. Toll roads exist in Ireland as well, including the M50. 

Another thing worth mentioning is that the public transport network is excellent in both countries. The main types of public transport include trains, buses, and trams.  Portugal has an extensive public transportation system, particularly in urban areas.

Major cities like Lisbon and Porto have well-developed metro, bus, and tram networks. The national railway company, Comboios de Portugal (CP), operates trains connecting different regions of the country. 

Ireland also has a reliable public transportation system. Dublin, the capital, has an extensive bus and tram network operated by Dublin Bus and Luas, respectively. Irish Rail operates intercity train services connecting major cities, and Bus Éireann provides bus services across the country.

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Climate

Although the climate in these two destinations is not the same, the one unifying factor is that winters are not as dramatic as in other European countries. 

In the case of Portugal, by virtue of its location, it experiences a Mediterranean climate characterized by cool, rainy winters and hot and dry summers. The inland regions of Portugal tend to be hotter during summer compared to their coastal counterparts.

Here’s a table to show you what each season can look like, temperature-wise. 

CountrySpringSummerAutumnWinter
Portugal15.4 ºC
(59.72 ºF) 
22.4 ºC
(70.52 ºF) 
18.1 ºC
(64.58 ºF) 
11.8 ºC
(53.24 ºF) 
Ireland5.9 ºC
(42.6 ºF) 
15.2 ºC
(59.3 ºF) 
10.3 ºC
(50.5 ºF) 
4.7 ºC
(40.5 ºF) 

Data from the Climate Data website.

The northern region of Portugal tends to be cooler and also experiences more rainfall during winters than any other region. On the other hand, Ireland experiences a temperate maritime climate characterized by cold winters and cool summers, thanks to its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Culture

Culturally, these two countries are quite different. To begin, the national language of Portugal is Portuguese, while Ireland is English. Language differences, of course, influence many aspects of cultural expression. 

When it comes to festivals and ceremonies, both nations are popular on this particular front. In Portugal, festivals like Santo António in Lisbon, São João in Porto, and Carnaval are widely celebrated with music, dancing, and traditional customs. 

On the other hand, Ireland celebrates the popular St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, marked by parades, green attire, and cultural events. 

Catholicism has predominantly influenced both Ireland and Portugal as a religion still practiced by a majority in both countries. When it comes to social etiquette, the Irish community is known to have a fun time socializing around pubs and having friendly banter. 

The Portuguese, on the other hand, are initially pretty reserved but open up when you get to know them well. Also, family and friendship are essential aspects of culture in the Portuguese tradition.

Security

The one common thing that is shared between these two nations is security. On a worldwide basis, both countries are generally safe to live in. 

When you put these two nations side by side, according to the Global Peace Index, Portugal ranks sixth in the world, while Ireland ranks third. Thus concluding that both countries take security as a top priority.

Generally, both Portugal and Ireland have relatively low crime rates compared to many other countries. The local population in Ireland and Portugal are quite tolerant of people of all cultures and ethnicities, limiting discrimination-based crimes and offenses. 

However, you should also keep in mind that there is no country in the world free from crime. Therefore, you should always take responsibility for your personal safety. You should know that petty crime is prevalent in bigger towns and touristy locations. 

Be sure to safely keep your personal belongings, for instance, your mobile phone, cameras, and any other small electronic device. Also, be sure not to wander off into streets that you are not familiar with, especially without a local guide.

Immigration Law

It’s vital that you learn about the immigration laws for both countries before you decide to move. In Portugal, EU citizens can come without the need for a Visa. 

As a non-EU expat, you would need to obtain a Visa or residency permit to stay in Portugal for a long period. This process can take some time and requires documentation such as proof of income and health insurance.

For individuals seeking to reside in Ireland for an extended period, residence permits are required. Ireland offers different types of residence permits, including work permits, study permits, and family reunification permits. 

Keep in mind that Ireland is not within the Schengen zone. Therefore, you will be required to produce a visa every time you need to enter this country, especially if you are a non-EU citizen.

Taxes

Let’s talk about the biggest concern for expats to choose between Portugal and Ireland, that is, without a doubt, taxes. When discussing tax issues, there are several aspects of taxes that are important for any immigrant. Let’s begin with personal income tax. 

Both Portugal and Ireland have a progressive income tax system where the more you earn, the more you are taxed. However, on this particular front, Ireland is known to have lower rates than Portugal, currently ranging from 20% to 40% and 14.5% to 48%, respectively.

The other aspect of taxation is corporate tax. This type of tax is also lower in Ireland, currently at 12.5%, while Portugal is slightly higher, deducing a total of 21%.

However, you should keep in mind that Portugal offers excellent tax benefits for expats by exempting them from paying tax for the first 10 years of residence and then paying tax on 20% flat on their Portuguese income, thanks to the Non-Habitual Tax Regime.

Bottom Line: Portugal or Ireland?

There you have it, a detailed comparison between Portugal and Ireland. Now that you have gotten this far, what do you think about these two countries? We would like to know your opinion in the comment section. 

These two nations are clearly more different than similar in multiple ways. So if you want to move to a country with a relatively slow-paced type of life and lower cost of living, then Portugal would be ideal. 

However, Ireland beckons if you fancy the urban lifestyle and don’t mind paying a little more for most things. If you’re still conflicted, take help from experts at Viv Europe, who’ve helped many others through this tiring decision-making process. 

And join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats, to interact with other expats who are currently living in Portugal and beyond.

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