Portugal has become a hot spot for expats, and it’s easy to see why. Pristine beaches, historic cities, a mild climate, welcoming communities, and a laid-back culture make this country a wonderful place for those seeking an adventure abroad.
Portugal is also famously affordable. The cost of living here is lower than in many other European countries and dramatically more affordable than in the United States.
If you’re looking to retire, become a digital nomad, or just escape your regular life, Portugal might be the perfect place for you. Find out what it takes to live on a budget as an expat in this vibrant country, including a few inside tips on cutting costs.
The Cost of Living in Portugal
For those considering living in Portugal, the good news is that the country is known for its affordability. When compared to the United States, Portugal’s cost of living is, on average, 36.7% lower. And on a global scale, Portugal is cheaper than 49% of countries in the world.
One of the biggest areas of savings is found in accommodations. Rent is 52.9% lower than in the U.S. Small apartments in the interior of the country can be found for as little as USD $400 per month.
Portugal also offers expats the chance to save money on transportation, food, and entertainment. A single person’s estimated monthly costs are roughly USD $617 — not including rent. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant is around USD $9, and a pint of domestic beer is only USD $2. Shopping at the local markets allows you to snag incredibly low prices on groceries, and local transportation costs are as little as USD $1.50 per ticket.
Calculating Your Own Costs
As is true with any country you consider making your home, the total cost of living will depend a lot on your own personal needs, preferences, and tastes. To put together a budget for your new life in Portugal, consider each of the following categories:
- Accommodation: This is usually the most significant expense for expats moving to Portugal. To estimate how much you’ll spend on accommodations, research the cost of rent or the cost of purchasing a property in the specific city or region where you plan to live. Check out some other nearby areas as well; your new home sweet home could be just around the corner.
- Food and drink: Do you plan to eat most meals out? Do you like to cook at home? Consider your eating and drinking habits as you estimate your monthly budget.
- Transportation: Depending on where you choose to live in Portugal, you might need to factor in the cost of owning a vehicle. However, in many areas, you can rely on mass transit for your needs, which can be a cost-saving option.
- Healthcare: Portugal has free healthcare for all citizens and legal residents. As an expat, you can receive health insurance from the state in certain cases. However, the Servico Nacional de Saude (SNS) only provides essential medical services for free, and other services may require a fee. Research your options carefully before making the move, and consider investing in an international health insurance plan that will provide you with proper medical care without a major expense.
- Entertainment and leisure: Another important category to consider when building your budget is how much you plan to attend events or invest in hobbies. This category will vary dramatically based on your own lifestyle and goals.
Tips for Saving Money as an Expat in Portugal
With the low cost of living in Portugal, it is easy for most expats to live comfortably on a relatively small budget. If you are looking to be extra frugal, try a few of the following tips to help you slash living costs further.
Portugal is a popular destination for expats looking to live a comfortable lifestyle on a small budget. With the cost of living in Portugal being relatively low, there are plenty of ways to save money and stretch your budget even further. If you’re looking to live extra frugally, there are a number of tips that you can follow to help you slash living costs. By being strategic about your living expenses, you can easily live a comfortable lifestyle in Portugal without breaking the bank.
#1: Research different areas.
Before you get your heart set on one location in Portugal, spend some time comparing the cost of living in each region. The interior of the country tends to be the most affordable, while big cities, such as Lisbon and Porto, tend to be more expensive. If you are willing to be flexible, you can cut down on your cost of living dramatically.
#2: Shop at local markets.
Rather than heading to the supermarket for all your produce and goods, take the time to explore the local markets. Street vendors, farmers’ markets, and organic food markets can all help you save money on your monthly bills. When it comes to household items and clothes, consider shopping second-hand.
#3: Embrace the local cuisine.
The best way to keep your food costs low is to eat the way the locals do. Rather than relying on food products from home, learn how to cook local dishes. Portuguese food is delicious, affordable, and healthy. Book a cooking class, and save by sourcing your ingredients from local markets.
Here are some additional ideas on how to save money as the locals do in Portugal.
- Eat out at lunchtime may seem counterintuitive for sure. But if you are really starving you may want to do this to get your stomach all happy. In Portugal, it’s common for restaurants to offer a “prato do dia” (dish of the day) at lunchtime, which is usually a complete meal that includes a main dish, sides, bread, and sometimes dessert or coffee. These meals are often very affordable, ranging from 5 to 10 euros, and are a great way to enjoy a hearty and delicious lunch without breaking the bank.
- Shop at local (farmer type) markets: Portugal is home to a number of vibrant local markets where you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood at affordable prices. Locals often shop at these markets to save money on groceries and to support local farmers and producers.
- Cook at home: Cooking at home is usually the best way to save money. Locals in Portugal often prepare simple but delicious meals that feature fresh ingredients, such as grilled fish or meat, salads, and soups. Many Portuguese households also make their own bread, which is a staple of the local cuisine.
- Share meals with friends and family: In Portugal, it’s common for friends and family to share meals together, especially on special occasions or holidays. This is a great way to enjoy a delicious meal while also saving money on food.
- Take advantage of happy hour and “petiscos”: Many bars and restaurants in Portugal offer “happy hour” specials on drinks and “petiscos”, which are small plates of food that are perfect for sharing. This is a great way to enjoy a night out with friends while also saving money on food and drinks.
#4: Use public transit.
Owning a vehicle can be costly in Portugal. To save money, consider using public transit instead. Portugal has an expansive and efficient public transit system that makes it easy to get around the country without your own vehicle. The rail network links almost all major cities and towns, and buses make up any gaps. In large cities, you’ll find metro systems, subways, tram networks, and local bus services. Fares are reasonable, making this a budget-friendly option for expats.
Public transportation in Portugal is generally reliable, affordable, and extensive, making it a popular choice for locals and tourists alike. The country has a well-developed network of buses, trains, and metros that cover most major cities and towns.
In Lisbon and Porto, the two largest cities in Portugal, the metro system is an efficient way to get around. Both cities also have a comprehensive bus network that covers the entire metropolitan area, as well as trams and funiculars in some areas.
- Tickets and fares: In Lisbon and Porto, you can purchase tickets for the metro, bus, and tram at vending machines in the stations or directly from the driver. In other cities and towns, tickets are usually sold at the bus or train station. Fares vary depending on the mode of transportation and the distance traveled. You can save money by buying a rechargeable card, such as the Viva Viagem card in Lisbon or the Andante card in Porto, which offers discounted fares.
- Schedules and timetables: Most public transportation in Portugal operates on a fixed schedule, with buses and trains departing at regular intervals throughout the day. You can find schedules and timetables online or at the station. Be sure to check the schedule ahead of time, as some routes may have reduced service on weekends or holidays.
- Safety and security: Public transportation in Portugal is generally safe and reliable, but like any city, it’s important to take precautions when traveling. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas, and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid traveling alone late at night, especially in less well-lit or less crowded areas.
- Accessibility: Many metro stations, buses, and trains in Portugal are equipped with ramps or elevators for wheelchair accessibility. Some buses and trains also have designated seating areas for people with disabilities. If you require special assistance, be sure to contact the transportation company ahead of time to make arrangements.
Outside of the major cities, trains and buses are the most common modes of transportation. Portugal’s national railway company, Comboios de Portugal (CP), operates trains that connect most major cities and towns. Buses are operated by a variety of companies and are often the only option for getting to smaller towns and villages.
#5: Prepare for the unexpected with an overseas insurance plan.
One of the best ways to protect your budget against unexpected costs while living abroad is by purchasing a global insurance plan. At Good Neighbor Insurance, we believe insurance doesn’t need to be complicated. Our goal is to protect you as you move overseas.
Good Neighbor Insurance offers several great expat medical insurance plans that will protect you and your loved ones. Get in touch with us, and we will help you find the best plan for your specific situation.
At Good Neighbor Insurance, we serve and protect our clients by offering the best, most affordable health insurance to fit each client’s needs. Whether you are a traveler, living overseas, a non-profit worker or on international business, we keep you and your family or staff safe.
We offer a wide variety of insurance products for non-profit staff, expatriates (check out our expatriate question and answer videos), tourists, businesses operating abroad, newlyweds on honeymoon, parents adopting internationally, faith-based and church-based short-term teams, volunteers and music groups on tour overseas. Good Neighbor Insurance is here to meet every need and to make sure your insurance policy “fits” and protects you.