Are you thinking of immigrating to the Azores in Portugal? Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of the Azores Islands.

Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Maryam Siddiqui

Think about living in a hidden gem right in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean while still enjoying the benefits and protection of the European Union member states. Exciting, right? This beautiful island in the Atlantic Ocean is beautiful and thriving, with an active and friendly local and expat population. That said, similar to any destination, there are pros and cons of the Azores.

Other than that, its stunning natural beauty has made the Azores Islands quite popular. In essence, the island of the Azores is ideal for anyone looking to live a rather quiet lifestyle away from the busy and chaotic city life. Living in the Azores comes with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Let’s evaluate some of the most common pros and cons.

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What is it like living in the Azores?

If you fancy a home in the middle of nature, then the Azores will give you exactly that. Imagine waking up to a beautiful view of the never-ending blue ocean and waves crashing on the nearby cliffs. Everything in the Azores is quite different. Especially when compared to inland Portugal, from the weather to the way of life to even the time.

As mentioned earlier, the Azores gives you the unique opportunity of living away from city life and as close to nature as possible. For anyone looking for a tranquil life, living here is quite appealing. 

Although, it can be a complete nightmare for those who love the buzz of the city. The Azores comprises nine islands that you can call home. In fact, you will find foreign nationals in almost all of them. However, the two most popular islands include São Miguel and Santa Maria.

Who lives in the Azores?

The entire island of the Azores spans an area of about 2,346 square kilometers, where all nine islands are located. Despite that, many people have not inhabited these islands for a long time. 

This is also true when it comes to foreign populations as well. According to the data provided by Pordata, the Azores have a population of about 236,440. With the expat presence making up only about 1.7%.

While that is true, this island is quite popular among tourists. And expats are now discovering the hidden beauty of the Azores. 

Today, the current expat population majorly dominates people from Brazil, Germany, China, America, Spain, Britain, Cape Verde, Italy, France, and Canada, as per the Association of Immigrants in the Azores.

Why are expats moving to the Azores?

One of the major draws to this island is the prospect of living a relatively cheaper life without necessarily compromising on the cost of living. Generally, living in Portugal is cheaper if you compare it to most countries in Europe. 

The rather slow-paced life also contributes greatly to the overall quality of life, not to mention the calm weather and beautiful environment to cap it off. One thing that is quite unique to the Azores island is the terrain.

Because of the volcanic activity that happened on this island, the terrain is rugged and ideal for anyone who loves hiking and adventures. It is also worth mentioning that, despite the Azores being an island, you have all the access and conveniences of modern-day life at your disposal.

However, if you want something that is not available, it is quite simple to get it from the mainland or even import it from another country. You will be surprised to find out that other European-based supermarkets and chain stores deliver to this island.

Pros of living in the Azores

By now, you are aware that the Azores is a beautiful region. However, there is more to this destination than its advantages. Wait till you read specifically about Santa Maria and the other 8 beautiful islands.

Let’s start with the pros and cons of the Azores Islands, which might persuade you to move to this destination permanently.

The perfect landscape

There is a reason why this destination is known as “Europe’s Hawaii with a touch of Iceland.” Also, the island of the Azores is often advertised as beautiful, but the reality on the ground is even more impressive. 

The island has been off the radar, and nature remains almost untouched, therefore maintaining its authenticity. This is one of the main reasons why sustainability and preservation are major parts of the Azores.

The local population understands the beauty that lies within the island. And they’re interested in protecting it as much as they would want to share it. That said, living in the Azores Islands will give you the luxury of experiencing life in the first archipelago to be declared the most sustainable tourism destination in the world. 

What’s more, this also presents a lot of fun activities that you can do, such as hiking the terrain, going caving, or even whale watching from specific spots on the island.

life-in-the-azores-is-relaxing

Lower cost of living

There is no denying that one of the major advantages of living in Portugal is the relatively lower cost of living compared to other nations in Europe. You will also be impressed by the fact that the Azores are relatively cheaper than most regions of mainland Portugal. As a case in point, the cost of living is about 21% cheaper in the Azores compared to Lisbon.

According to Numbeo, you will need about €3,700 in Lisbon to maintain the same lifestyle that you would otherwise have with €2,960 in Ponta Delgada. Another thing worth mentioning is that even VAT is relatively lower in the Azores compared to mainland Portugal (18% and 23%, respectively). 

Finally, the fact that there are no tolls and a lesser need to drive makes living in the Azores cheaper than in most regions inland.

Better quality of life

Moving to the Azores is often a breath of fresh air from the status quo that is common in modern-day cities. Instead of living in a concrete jungle, you get the opportunity to spend your days in a quiet environment surrounded by nature. The outlook seeps into other aspects of your life, allowing you to stay calm and relaxed, which is good for the mind and soul.

For anyone who is not familiar with such a lifestyle, it would mean a radical shift and an improvement in their overall quality of life. And that’s not all; the Azores Islands might also improve the quality of your life by presenting new business and investment opportunities that you would otherwise not be privy to.

Just enjoying the beach or surfing and bodyboarding are very popular on the islands, as are other activities such as diving or fishing. The timezone is one hour behind mainland Portugal, which can leave people feeling very happy or very displeased.

But another advantage the Azores have over mainland Portugal is that VAT is relatively lower in the Azores, 18% versus 23%. Finally, the fact that there are no tolls and a lesser need to drive makes living in the Azores Islands cheaper.

Relaxed lifestyle

Next up on the list of pros and cons of the Azores Islands, we’ll talk about the relaxed lifestyle! This is one of the most compelling factors for expats when they’re looking to relocate.

Compared to other cities in Europe or regions on mainland Portugal, life on the Azores Island is relaxed. Think about basking in the goodness of all the natural surroundings without the nuisance of noise or over-tourism in popular cities in Portugal. You will also marvel at the fact that there are no mosquitoes on the island, and you will never have to deal with traffic again.

Relatively easy access

The Azores Islands might be an island, but making your way in or out of this region is a breeze because it’s a developed island. You will be delighted to find out that major airports service this entire region.

  • João Paulo II Airport, named after Pope John Paul II, on São Miguel
  • Horta Airport, located in Faial
  • Lajes Airport, found on Terceira Island

The beauty of it all is that you can book your flight to cities in Europe, Canada, and the USA right from the island. These flights are regular, meaning you don’t have to worry about traveling out of the island. 

Faial has plenty to offer and is also just a 30-minute ferry ride from Pico Island. So living on either Pico Island or Faial Island would mean easy access to the other.

During the peak summer months, major airlines, for instance, Swiss Air Lines, Lufthansa, and Iberia, also operate this route regularly. But what about traveling between the nine islands? Moving from one island to the next is done via ferries that are regular and available all year.

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Strong sense of community

Generally, the local population in Portugal is friendly and welcoming, and the Azores is also no different. The existing local and expat community is quite accommodating, which makes it easy for you to fit in and find your footing faster. 

The hospitality allows you to integrate and find your space in the community. This is regardless of whether you speak the local dialect or not.

You will love the Portuguese culture that has a strong foundation in family and friendship bonded over delicious home-cooked meals. The other aspects of the local culture you ought to explore are the festivals and music that many expats find quite entertaining.

Mild subtropical climate

Although the climate in the Azores might not be as hot as inland Portugal, it is still better than other nations in Europe or Northern America. The weather here includes plenty of rainfall all year round, hence the lush green terrain.

During winter, temperature ranges from 13.6 ºC to 15.7 ºC, while during the summer, it rises all the way to 21.6 ºC according to Climate Data. The temperature is still suitable for both indoor and outdoor activities. You will have no use for the heavy winter coats or the extra money for your house’s air conditioning.

Cons of living in the Azores

Like any other place in the world, the Azores also has its fair share of shortcomings that you must be aware of. Now that you are aware of all the advantages, here are some of the cons of living in the Azores Islands.

Learning Portuguese

One of the main challenges of moving to any city in Portugal is the language barrier. There are people who can communicate in English thanks to the NATO base in Terceira. But you will still have trouble navigating the public service. 

Remember that the national language is Portuguese, and most public service offices use it for communication. The same is also true when it comes to the government documents that you will encounter. 

You can get away with not learning the language if you have someone to help you. But speaking Portuguese will make your life a lot easier.

Bureaucracy

Unfortunately, the slow-paced life has trickled down to everything, including the public system. Formal processes that are often quite fast in other countries are frustratingly slow for most people who are not familiar with them. Services like opening a bank account or even registering for permanent residence often take longer than expected.

However, the government is making major improvements. In fact, you can apply for the NIF Number long before stepping foot in the country. The NIF number is the most important document for locals and expats. You can get in touch with Viv Europe to help you with your NIF!

Among the list of pros and cons of the Azores, bureaucracy can be a con that makes you think about your move.

It can be too isolating

Life on an island far from the capital is certainly only for some, especially for expats accustomed to the city’s fast-paced life. It can get even lonelier, especially if you don’t speak the local language. It will be more challenging to talk, make friends, and integrate into the community, which can be very frustrating.

living-in-the-azores-can-be-isolating-sometimes

Unstable weather

You might be wondering why weather is among the pros and cons of the Azores in this article. Let’s tell you why!

Although the temperature might not be as erratic as in other nations in Europe and beyond, the weather patterns can be quite unpredictable. Within a single day, it is possible to get multiple episodes of sunshine and rainfall. It can also get quite cloudy in Santa Maria. That can be quite annoying if you have planned outdoor activities.

Be sure to carry an umbrella with you because of the unexpected rain. Nonetheless, the longer you live on this island, the more you will adapt to the unstable weather conditions.

Limited healthcare in some of the islands

Despite the bureaucracy, the public system in Portugal is sound. Public healthcare is free for the local population and expats living in the country legally. That said, the Azores has several public and private healthcare facilities. However, some smaller islands might not have quite as many hospitals as you would typically find in the major cities of mainland Portugal.

Limited job opportunities

Another major drawback of living in the Azores Islands is limited job opportunities. As mentioned earlier, the Azores has not been receiving much attention. Therefore, major companies have not yet set up shops on the island. This makes it relatively more difficult for anyone looking for active employment in the corporate world to secure a position.

What do you think of the pros and cons of the Azores?

There you have it, a detailed breakdown of the pros and cons. Despite the few challenges, it is quite evident that there is so much this developed island has to offer. Whether it is a life of peace and tranquillity or the opportunity to experience life in the middle of nature, there is something for everyone on this island. 

With that in mind, when are you moving to this island? We understand that taking this plunge is often a tall order, especially if it is your first time. Book a consultation with experts at Viv Europe to get help all along your transition journey!

Reach out whenever you are ready. For further questions and concerns, be sure to join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats. A community of Portugal enthusiasts is waiting to help you out!

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