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Deciding between living in Portugal or the Netherlands is a tough one. Here’s a quick guide to make sure you get it right!

Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by Laila Oliveira

If you’re exploring options to live in Europe, you may be conflicted between Portugal or the Netherlands. Deciding between the two can’t be easy, so we’ve put together this guide for you. From the living costs and facilities to their unique charms, the article has got you covered! 

Regardless of your dream of sipping Port wine on the cliffs of the Algarve or wishing to cycle along picturesque canals in Amsterdam, the two countries promise an unforgettable experience for expats. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s embark on the journey of choosing either Portugal or the Netherlands. Happy reading!

portugal-or-the-netherlands

Portugal or the Netherlands? Why expats choose them

Portugal has become a popular destination due to its warm climate, stunning beaches, and low cost of living. Porto, Lisbon, and the Algarve are particularly popular among expats because of the quality of lifestyle offered there.

What makes it even more favorable is the tax system and the quality of healthcare being provided for all legal residents. And, of course, let’s not forget the welcoming local community that helps you feel like this is where you’re meant to be. 

Expats in the Netherlands also have a great time there. Thanks to their blend of history and modernity, cycling next to canals and stunning architecture is a treat. 

In terms of standard of living, the Dutch healthcare system is also known for its high-quality care, and the efficient transport system makes exploring the country a breeze. 

Doesn’t this make it even more challenging to decide between the two? Continue reading to know whether Portugal or the Netherlands is the destination for you!

Differences between the countries

Language, climate, and cost of living are some of the main differences between the two. Though English is widely used in both, it’s best you gradually learn the local languages for a more fluent experience. 

Similarly, you will find differences in the weather, the food, and even how the locals might interact with you! And that could be a big one; you might prefer one country over the other simply because of the locals. And it’s a fair decision to make. 

Keep reading to familiarize yourself with a complete comparison between culture, security, the labor market, and more! 

Cost of living in each country

The cost of living in Portugal or the Netherlands can really make or break your decision to reside in either. For many people, especially in recent times, the cost of living is a huge driving force to move out of a country they’ve lived in for a long time. 

The good news is that housing costs in Portugal are favorable for expats, with rent and property prices lower than in the Netherlands! But other living costs like groceries and other facilities, such as public transportation, are also relatively more cost-effective in Portugal. 

To give you an example, groceries are priced 45.6% higher in the Netherlands than in Portugal.

We want to give you a fair comparison so you can decide which fits your budget and lifestyle. There’s no denying that Portugal’s most attractive feature is the fact the cost of living for a high standard of living. 

Overall, a family of four can live a fairly decent life in Portugal for under €2,167, whereas in the Netherlands, they would need around €3,244.

Check out the table below to get a rough estimate of the differences:

ExpensePortugalNetherlands
Apartment Rent (1 bedroom) in the City Centre€804€1,212
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside City Centre€615€956
Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage)€108€213
Groceries€220€350
International Primary School (Yearly for 1 Child)€7,644€7,203

All price estimates are from Numbeo (as of October 2023). 

Renting a property in Portugal or the Netherlands

Portugal’s lower cost of living is majorly because of the low cost of rent. You would’ve probably noticed that above, but we just wanted to elaborate more on that. 

Only in Lisbon, Porto, or the Algarve will you find rentals priced a bit higher. And that is because these regions are tourist hotspots and widely loved by expats. This isn’t to say that there aren’t cheap rentals available. 

Many expats prefer less famous cities and small towns to live a life of peace. Similarly, you will notice the same trend in the Netherlands. The only difference is that less expensive regions are still a little pricier than the most expensive ones in Portugal.

Both countries offer a wide range of property options, and the prices vary depending on location and size. As an expat, choosing between renting in Portugal or the Netherlands will ultimately depend on your preferences and financial situation.

To get the best deals, it’s recommended that you get in touch with a reputable real estate agent who can guide you through the process and help you find the right property. Viv Europe also provides its real estate services so you can get the house/apartment of your dreams with minimal hassle. 

For some estimates, we’ve compiled some popular neighborhoods among expats and their rents for both countries:

Municipality Rent per m2
Lisbon – Portugal €19.2
Porto – Portugal€14.7
Algarve – Portugal€13.6
Amsterdam – Netherlands€24.2
Utrecht – Netherlands€21.04
Rotterdam – Netherlands€20.61

Estimates were taken from Idealista and RentSlam (as of October 2023).

Labor market in Portugal and the Netherlands

While Portugal’s job market is steadily growing, the Netherlands already has a strong one with commendable prospects in engineering, finance, healthcare, and technology.

Portugal does have diverse job opportunities in tourism, tech, and renewable energy. Lisbon and Porto are specifically flourishing with startups and IT companies and offer competitive salaries for professionals.

Overall, the salaries vary according to the industry and individual expertise. But the average base salary in the country is €29,000 a year. And regardless of competitive wages in the thriving sectors, salaries in Portugal are generally lower than in the Netherlands.

For example, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Eindhoven are international hubs for business and innovation. In Amsterdam, the yearly average salary is near €50,000.

Though the wage difference is evident, it is balanced out with the living expenditures in both destinations. So, the choice between the two ultimately depends on your career goals and lifestyle preferences. 

aveiro-is-like-the-netherlands-for-expats

Transport

Here’s a difference that you might ponder over as well. 

The Netherlands has a better local public transportation system compared to Portugal. Netherlands’ transport network is reliable and efficient, with the subway, buses, and taxis being a convenient means for routine travel. There’s also the option of ferries, public bikes, and the very popular option of cycling to get around.

Portugal’s public transport is also very well-connected and reliable. It may not be the most reliable in rural areas, but metros and buses are heavily relied upon in larger cities. Plus, the train’s affordability and reliability are perfect for long-distance city-to-city travel.

People living in Lisbon often don’t feel the need to buy a car to get around because public transport is super convenient. 

Check out the breakdown below:

TransportPortugalNetherlands
One-way Ticket €1.75 €3.40 
Regular Monthly Pass€40.00€80.00
Taxi Start + 1km (Normal Tariff)€4.21€6.00
Gasoline (1 liter)€1.87€2.02

Climate 

The climate you live in can also greatly impact your well-being and mood. People who have lived in cold climates for the majority of their lives often wish to relocate to a place that has more sunshine. 

Portugal is one of those European countries that have a warmer and sunnier climate throughout the year. The summer season is particularly attractive, with average temperatures ranging from 15-25°C. This Mediterranean lifestyle attracts many expats and tourists who wish to feel energized.

On the other hand, the Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate, with pleasant summers and cold winters. But the heavy and unpredictable rain may make or break your experience depending on your feelings about downpours. Overall, the Netherlands is definitely much colder.

Here’s a summary of what temperatures you’ll find throughout the year.

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) 
The Netherlands6.1 ºC
(43 ºF) 
18 ºC
(64.3 ºF) 
11.8 ºC
(53.2 ºF) 
3.9 ºC
(39.1 ºF) 

Data from the Climate Data website.

Culture 

Portuguese are known for being friendly and welcoming to expats, making settling in easier. It may help to know they like to socialize over food, so it’s best to have some knowledge about their cuisines or food in general. The cuisines are known for fresh seafood, grilled meats, and delicious pastries. You’ll fall in love in no time! 

Just like in Portugal, casual gatherings at home, local pubs, or outdoors are popular in the Netherlands. Just know that directness is at the core of Dutch culture, so don’t be taken aback by frank conversations. 

Also, learning the language and engaging in local events may help in expanding your social network. 

Apart from that, both cultures have traditional values that they take pride in. This carries onto cultural holidays that are celebrated with joy and excitement, like King’s Day in the Netherlands and Santos Populares in Portugal! 

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Health

Whether you’re tilted towards Portugal or the Netherlands, you must be curious about the healthcare facilities in both.

You simply need your Social Security number to be registered with your local health center to access the Portuguese public health system. The free healthcare covers emergency care, hospitalizations, and prescribed medications. 

Some medical services, such as dental care and elective procedures, may require additional fees or private insurance coverage. Central Lisbon Hospital Center is one of the top hospitals in the country, while Amsterdam UMC takes the lead in the Netherlands.

Dutch healthcare is also known for its excellent services. You need to invest in their health insurance to access public healthcare. Insurance can be obtained through private insurance providers or the government-regulated healthcare system. 

The Netherlands’ average monthly insurance is €135, while Portuguese health insurance averages between €40 and €100 monthly. 

Education 

Public education is free up to a certain level, with a standard curriculum followed nationally in Portugal. The country also has excellent international schools with English curriculums for the ease of international students.

The Netherlands flaunts a well-regarded public education system, with many international schools offering English-taught programs. While the Netherlands may offer better educational opportunities, the living costs and tuition fees are higher. 

Let’s give you an example. The monthly fee for private preschool is €358 in Portugal but €1,516 in the Netherlands. It’s a significant difference! 

So, the decision depends on your preferences for curriculum and costs. But rest assured that your child will receive a good education in both countries. 

Security 

Portugal is a safe country with a low crime rate of 27.05, and violent crime is uncommon. In fact, Portugal is ranked as the 7th safest country in the world on the Global Peace Index 2023. 

The Netherlands does not lag in safety either, with the GPI ranking as the 16th safest, which is lower than Portugal but still safe. Its level of crime is at a low of 25.72

Also, physical attacks because of skin color, ethnicity, gender, or religion are at low levels of 18.37 and 15.55 in the Netherlands and Portugal. 

You can walk peacefully on the streets without facing uncomfortable encounters that make you question your safety. But we recommend staying alert when in crowded areas or an unfamiliar place.

quality-of-life-in-portugal-or-the-netherlands

Immigration Law 

Be it Portugal or the Netherlands, both have their set of immigration laws for you to follow. There are plenty of visa options available for expats in Portugal. 

The most famous ones for families and adults are the D1 Work Visa, D2 Business Visa, D4 Study Visa, D7 Passive Income Visa, Digital Nomad Visa, and the Golden Visa.

Different residence visas require specific documents, but generally, you’ll need the following to apply for any:

  • Valid Passport;
  • Visa application form;
  • Proof of accommodation;
  • Financial statements;
  • Health insurance;
  • Criminal record certificate.

EU Blue Card and Dutch Citizenship might be good visa options to explore for the Netherlands. The former is a special work permit for highly skilled non-EU nationals. It offers certain benefits, like faster access to permanent residency. 

You can apply for the latter after five years of legal residence. Do note that it is best to consult an Embassy for up-to-date information and to select the visa that best suits you. You can even consult your representative at Viv Europe for a hassle-free experience.  

Taxes

In Portugal, expats can benefit from the Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) regime. The NHR offers a flat tax rate of 20% on certain foreign income for ten years. This includes pensions, capital gains, and rental income!

But you must be a resident to be eligible for this regime. See the list of documents you’ll need to apply:

  • Proof of residency;
  • Tax residency certificate;
  • Passport and identification;
  • Income documentation;
  • Taxpayer number (your NIF);
  • Bank statements;
  • Application form.

The NHR Regime has been a favorite for many years! Unfortunately, 2023 is the last year that expats can apply for this to receive years of tax incentives. 

Expats in the Netherlands have to pay Dutch taxes on their worldwide income. But you might be eligible for the 30% ruling, which allows a tax-free reimbursement of up to 30% of your gross salary. 

Bottom Line: Portugal or the Netherlands?

This is truly a decision that you must make on your own. Living in Portugal or the Netherlands depends on what you’re looking for and what matters to you. For some, the low cost of living is the only deciding factor that pushes them to make their relocation dream come true! 

If you’re looking to get some more clarity, we recommend joining our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. Ask questions, read stories, and get inspiration from other people who have made the same decision you’re about to make. 

When you’re ready to get started, book a consultation with Viv Europe’s experts and get step-by-step guidance on what to do. Our professionals make the process almost seamless for you; see you soon! 

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