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Are you considering moving to southern Portugal? Discover the pros and cons of living in the Algarve as an expatriate and plan ahead.

Last Updated on November 8, 2023 by Maryam Siddiqui

Every year, thousands of people from around the world choose to move to the Algarve. This region is famous for being a fantastic beach holiday destination in southern Portugal. But what is it really like to live there? What are the pros and cons of living in the Algarve as an expatriate?

While Portugal has something for everyone, there’s no place you could call absolutely perfect. But certainly, there are numerous places very close to being perfect. The lifestyle in the Algarve has attracted millions of tourists every year, so what’s so special? 

To answer these questions, we’ve selected the top 5 pros and cons of living in the Algarve. Let’s talk about why expats choose this region and why others stay away from it. Happy reading!

Pros and cons of living in the Algarve

Pros of living in the Algarve as an expat

1. Sunny days all year round

Let’s start our list of pros and cons of living in the Algarve with one of the most favorite things people love about Portugal!

The southern Portuguese region is blessed with over 300 sunny days per year, hot summers, and not-so-cold winters. It is one of the nicest places in the country and most days enjoy blue skies, warm sun, and cool breeze.

You can notice that here in the Algarve, people do a lot of outdoor sports. Restaurants almost always have tables in the street, and you can wear shorts in February, even though it’s winter. Don’t forget your sunscreen and enjoy the Algarve all year round.

This pro is one of the many reasons why Portugal hosts millions of tourists every year, especially during summertime. People from colder regions in Europe come here to soak up the golden sun and make the most of the beautiful beaches in the Algarve.

2. Some of the lowest prices in Europe

One of the factors that impresses most expats in Portugal is the low cost of living.

This small country in southern Europe also has some of the lowest prices for groceries, rent, healthcare, and more.

To give an example, in the Algarve, you can buy a coffee, croissant, and natural orange juice for just €2.50. A typical lunch dish costs around €8, with a drink. And, for those interested, a large beer costs around €3. A much lower cost of living than other European countries.

Of course, you have to research prices and avoid areas that are too touristy if you want to save money, but in general, you live well by spending little in the Algarve.

Recent surges in tourism have contributed to an overall increase in prices, but expats still consider it pretty affordable compared to other regions with the same perks.

To give you some perspective, here’s the breakdown of the cost of living in the Algarve region: 

ExpensesCost
1-bedroom apartment rent in the city center€900
1-bedroom apartment rent outside of city center€600
Groceries€200
Utilities€101
Mobile internet and phone calls package€32
Public Transport Pass (Monthly)€50

Data is from Numbeo (as of November 2022).

3. Clean air and lush nature

The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, smaller and scattered urban centers, and natural scenery make the Algarve an ideal place to enjoy the quality of life.

Although it is a dry region and occasionally receives air from North Africa, the relative humidity of the air does not fall below 30%.

There is a lot of wind, but the beaches are mostly calm waters and few waves.

Expats in the Algarve enjoy great weather

Even better, the Algarve has stunning beaches, mountain ranges with their own microclimate, and even white sandbanks.

In other words, it is the place with the ideal conditions to have fun with mountain biking, running, bird watching, golfing, sailing, and kayaking. Sounds great, doesn’t it? 

It doesn’t only sound fantastic; it lives up to the expectations of everyone who lives here! 

4. Growing expatriate community

It is natural that, being a region with so many benefits, the south of Portugal attracts so many foreigners. Millions of tourists visit annually, and many decide to make this region their forever home. 

This safe and loving country is famous for its hospitality. Portuguese people are welcoming and inclusive, despite what nationality you have. 

According to official Pordata data, 698,536 expat citizens are living in Portugal with residence cards as of November 2022. Out of those, 105,137 are in the Algarve region alone. 

That’s 15.5% of the total number of residents, way above the national average of 5.7%.

The English, French, and German communities mainly have their centers with events, newspapers, and neighborhoods of their own in the Algarve.

Albufeira, Carvoeiro, Lagos, and Tavira are some of the favorite cities to live in the Algarve as an expat.

5. Most people speak English

Unlike other Portuguese regions, the Algarve is an area whose local population has always been in contact with foreigners.

The driving force of the Algarve economy is tourism, which means that most of the attendants in the place speak at least basic English.

Communicating here will be much easier, and the Portuguese people are, in general, very attentive and helpful.

For families, it is good to know that there are also some excellent International Schools in the Algarve that teach in both English and Portuguese. These institutes have well-rounded curricula that help expat children fit in better within the new community. 

The local population is increasingly globalized without ever losing security and tranquility.

Cons of living in the Algarve as an expat

1. The bureaucracy can hinder you a little

Well, we have to start by talking about the worst side of Portugal to any expatriate: The bureaucracy.

Dealing with Portuguese laws, which are often unnecessarily complicated, can be a big challenge. In this case, we have an exception to the sympathy rule.

In government services, the attendants do not always speak English, and worse, they are not the easiest to work with.

Thus, many people need to resort to outside help to resolve the simplest issues. Lawyers, consultants, or even translators may be your best friends in times like these.

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2. The real estate market is overvalued (some say)

Although the cost of living in the Algarve is not high by European standards, home prices have been following the interest of foreigners in real estate investment.

Small plots of land can cost much more in a village in the Algarve than around Porto, for example. 

Real estate investments have boomed recently, especially in the Algarve region, since it is a major tourist attraction. The Golden Visa has been subject to quite a bit of criticism but has also helped Portugal develop drastically. 

When investments are made into the real estate market, housing can often start to be overvalued. Understandably, it happens, but it’s still a negative point if you want to buy a house.

3. You need a car, you can’t depend on public transport

Adding to the rustic vibe of southern Portugal, the Algarve does not have an efficient, fast, and unified public transport system like Lisbon and Porto.

There is no subway in the Algarve, only buses and trains, but they are not exactly frequent.

To get around the main urban centers, for example, you need a car or at least several taxi rides. By the way, gasoline in Portugal can be expensive, just like in most places of the world. Also, buying a car in Portugal is often cheaper than importing vehicles from abroad.

The metros in Lisbon and Porto are extremely efficient and are one reason why people don’t feel the need to have their own cars. The Algarve, however, needs a little more time to be developed efficiently. 

Public transport in the Algarve is not great

4. The public health system is not the best

Forget the idea of relying only on public hospitals in the Algarve. Unlike Lisbon and Porto, the Algarve, unfortunately, is an example of poor hospital management with long waiting lines.

What most expatriates in the region do is have health insurance that gives them access to several Portuguese private hospitals.

Some return to their home country for annual check-up appointments, but this will depend on your needs. Although public healthcare is free for all legal residents in Portugal, if you’re someone who requires constant medical attention, you may want to consider health insurance. 

Waiting in line for public hospital facilities isn’t something that everyone can deal with, so you should know your best options beforehand. 

5. Finding a job is only easy if it’s in tourism

The labor market in Portugal is not the most promising; the minimum wage in 2022 is €705, and the young Portuguese population usually emigrates in search of opportunities.

The Algarve follows this rule but differs from the rest of the country for having an economy almost entirely focused on tourism and agriculture.

Travel agencies, restaurants, and hotels are among the most profitable in the region and make almost all of their annual profit between June and September (summer holidays).

Working in this area is good, but if you are looking for a job outside of that, it might not be the best idea to look in the Algarve.

However, remote workers are increasingly interested in working from the Algarve. After the region was labeled as the 4th best destination in the world for digital nomads, people started considering it as their temporary home. 

Conclusion on the pros and cons of living in the Algarve

After considering all these factors, you should already have an idea whether relocating to the Algarve is or is not the right choice for you. Despite all the cons, it is the perfect choice for a lot of people, including numerous retirees. 

If you’re looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, this region is your paradise! It makes you want to retire in the Algarve for good!

No wonder the Algarve has been voted the best place in the world to live your retirement several times.

The profiles that most love the Algarve, however, are not just retired people. They are also remote workers, families, and people with passive income.

Yes, it may require some adjustment period, but living in the Algarve is, without a doubt, a wonderful choice.

So, are you already getting ready to come live in Portugal?

Are you going to embark on this adventure? Relocating to a new country can be challenging, but with the right people, organization, and good advice, it all gets easier. Now that you know the pros and cons of living in the Algarve, it’ll be easier to reach a conclusion.

Viv Europe strives to make your relocation journey the easiest it can be! Get in touch today and kickstart your moving process to Portugal with the help of our experts. 

To talk to other expats living in the Algarve, join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats, and learn from others’ experiences. It’s never too late to embark on a life-changing journey! 

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