Moving to Portugal can still be a fascinating experience for expats, even in these times of crisis. As the home of two of the most beautiful and well-known cities of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal has much more in store for you than the wine and sunshine that made the country famous.

Portugal: A Country Overview

After moving to Portugal, you will find yourself in Europe’s westernmost country, bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north and east by Spain, and to the south — in the Algarve region, a popular place both for tourists and expats — by the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the northern and eastern part of the elongated country, fairly evenly split in the middle by the Tagus River, is rather mountainous terrain.

As most of the population is concentrated in a densely populated stretch in the northwest, chances are that you might also want to move to Portugal’s Atlantic coast. Seeing how the two largest expat magnets and most significant cities of Portugal, namely Porto and Lisbon, are also located in this area, it has been the prime choice of most expats. You can find an overview of both cities below.

Portugal Islands

Two archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean are also part of the national territory of Portugal, namely Madeira and the Azores. Both are fascinating destinations in their own right and world-renowned tourist magnets, but not exactly the first thing that pops into an expat’s mind when thinking of moving to Portugal. Thus, our article series on Portugal focuses solely on the mainland on the Iberian Peninsula.

Lisbon — The City of Seven Hills

Portugal’s capital Lisbon has long been among the best options for expats. While the actual municipality of Lisbon is rather small in size — less than 600,000 inhabitants as of 2011 — you should not forget that you will be moving to Portugal’s largest metropolitan area with a population that borders on 3 million. With the city’s extensive public transportation system, spanning buses, a metro system, and trams, those of you who opt against moving directly to the capital but would rather settle in its periphery should not have any problems getting to work and back again without much hassle.

Unsurprisingly, chances are that expatriates moving to Portugal will probably take up employment in the tertiary sector — Lisbon’s main economic driving force and also one of the main factors that helped make the region the wealthiest of the entire nation. Apart from economic considerations, there is, of course, also a cultural side to your move to Portugal. Apart from a wealth of museums, parks, and monuments, Lisbon exudes an aura of history. This is apparent in the beautiful architecture of the city, which combines elements of various schools and epochs, from baroque to postmodern.

Porto — It Has More than Just Wine

Porto, frequently and incorrectly also called Oporto, is probably the first city that springs to mind not only for tourists, but also a large number of people who could imagine moving to Portugal. Little wonder, as one of the nation’s most famous exports, port wine, originated in the area. Needless to say, however, that the city has a lot more in store than fortified wine.

Just like Lisbon, the actual city area and population numbers of Porto are relatively small. Again, just like Lisbon, Porto compensates for this fact with a huge metropolitan area, the second largest in the entire country. The city and its surroundings may even be the most interesting places for expats interested in moving to Portugal, as the economy in the northern part of the country, where Porto is located, arguably has the most diverse economic profile in terms of sectors, companies, and products.

In the end, which city you move to will largely depend on the employment opportunities available to you, and less on personal preference. But, as expats who have made the move to Portugal before you will surely attest to, both Porto and Lisbon are global cities of world renown and will both make an equally great home away from home for expats!

What Should You Take Care Of when Moving to Portugal?

Entry Visas for Portugal

Portugal is part of the borderless inner-European Schengen Area of currently 26 European countries. If you hail from one of the member countries of this area, you won’t need an entry visa for visits or business trips to Portugal that do not exceed 3 months. If you are not a citizen or resident of a country within the Schengen Area, please check whether or not your country has signed a visa exemption agreement with Portugal.

If neither of the two abovementioned options applies to you, you need to apply for a short-stay visa at the Portuguese mission in your country of origin. The process is fairly uncomplicated and short; along with the visa application and your passport, you need to send proof as to your means of subsistence during your stay as well as an outline of the purpose of your trip to Portugal. Furthermore, you must be in possession of travel insurance and a ticket that ensures your return travel.

If you should decide to skip the fact-finding trip before your actual relocation to Portugal and opt to apply for a temporary stay visa or a residency visa, you will obviously no longer need to apply for a separate entry visa. We have taken a detailed look at the specifics of the purpose, requirements, and application process of both visas mentioned above in our article on working in Portugal.

Pre-Departure Health Tips

Luckily, there is no need to get any special type of vaccination before traveling to Portugal, although people who will be in contact with bats during their stay should get their rabies vaccination refreshed before departure. The overwhelming majority of expats, however, will not need to take special precaution before taking off to their new life in Europe’s westernmost country — getting your routine vaccinations checked up and renewed, if necessary, will be enough. We have compiled further info on the healthcare infrastructure in the country in our article on living in Portugal.

Finding a Place to Live

Due to the continued bad shape the Portuguese economy unfortunately finds itself in, the prices on the housing market however have improved in the past months after being low over the past few years. As there is no limitation as to foreign ownership of Portuguese property, well-to-do expats could opt to buy housing in Portugal, instead of renting. Obviously, this would only benefit those with long-term plans of staying in the country. At the moment, there are probably wiser ideas than buying property as an investment, as there is no say as to when the market will stabilize again.

Apartments for rent are easily found via the usual channels such as the internet and local newspapers. However, apartments are often rather scarce in the various parts of Portugal which are most attractive for expats, and are thus much sought-after. Monthly rents are often not exactly cheap for a country with a relatively low — from an EU point of view — per capita income, especially in the two metro regions of the country, but should be manageable for expats.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.