Yes. No. Maybe…
Having visited Lisbon, I can personally vouch for the charm of Portugal that you've so beautifully described. This article truly evokes the serene, relaxed, and joyous lifestyle Portugal offers.
Thank you for sharing your journey!
An excellent article! Thankyou
Such a relatable story - even though my wife and I moved from the Netherlands (= EU) to stay in the EU in Portugal, so there are differences, the most obvious one being the absence of visa requirements. That said, though, getting there, acquiring a house and getting settled was costly nonetheless.
First off, I don’t want to complain: life in Portugal is less expensive than in the Netherlands. Also, the amount of rain versus the amount of sun both fall in favor of our new country and it’s not even a contest. Secondly, we’re not pensioners: we’re just over and just under 40, with a lot of working years ahead. So there’s a difference, too.
That being said, the cost of moving our furniture was less than buying everything new, but still: almost 10K. We brought two cars here, not a cheap drive with European gas- and toll prices. Thankfully, no import taxes but there are stamp duties to be paid, and we pay about 800 euros each for help with the incredibly complicated process of acquiring Portuguese plates on Dutch cars.
Getting NIFs, social security and healthcare as well as applying for the NHR scheme also took a big bite of the budget. You /could/ try to do it yourself, but there’s just so much paperwork that for us (as fulltime workers who don’t have that much spare time to figure it all out), paying people to help was paramount to get the process completed in a timely fashion.
Housing: friends who have been living here (both full- and part-time) for a decade or longer, tell us the housing market went up hugely since the 2008 crisis. We were lucky enough that we could sell a house in the Amsterdam area, where prices compete with the highest markets in Europe, so we had some wiggle room, but still: there seem to be not many cheap stacks of stone left in Western or Southern coastal regions. Also, the purchase process comes with a wholly different set of rules and regulations compared to the Netherlands, and much higher taxes as well. The sticker price in the realtor’s window is far from the full amount. Also: use a lawyer. Another out of pocket price tag, but you could really regret skipping this spend.
One of our “Dutch” cars is a classic, not meant for daily driving, so I too went looking for a used car. I’m used to high priced (second hand) vehicles in the NL, where car taxes are bordering on the absurd, but here, the car market is crazy. One advantage of buying used: no IVA (or VAT). And road tax is rather cheap too, at least compared to the Netherland. I bought an older diesel that would cost me over 200 euros per month in the NL while here, it’s only 170 for a full year. Gas is somewhat cheaper compared to the NL, too, although in the US it’s /a lot/ less.
When it comes to out of pocket costs, please be advised to have a good amount set aside, ‘cause you’ll need it. Those many stamps don’t move to any papers without the proper payment of all kinds of dues. But all in all, we landed good & well and we’re really happy we made the jump a year ago. Great house, still more square meters for the money than back in Amsterdam, especially in outside space, and the Portuguese people are patient, helpful and very kind. And now that the big costs and one-offs of moving are behind us, we can enjoy free sunshine almost every day, with cheap beers during more than affordable lunches and dinners.
Anyway, thanks for an article that made me go “Yes, this, yes, and that as well and yes, yes, and yes to that, too” in recognition :)
Best wishes from Moncarapacho, Algarve!
That is some great book keeping you did, Your organization skills are very impressive and serve to help so many through your blog. We have not added everything up, and it was quite a shock to see how high yours ended up being. We also have added costs of visa lawyers and TIE (Spain) lawyers, so I imagine we're right with you or higher. But it's so very worth it, isn't it? How fortunate we are to be living here on this beautiful peninsula.
Thank you for writing this with clarity and candor. We are not big metropolis people but not tiny farm town people either and are excited to be in the center of the country, shooting out in either direction for the main events 😉. It will be such a massive undertaking but sometimes the challenges make it sweeter.
I really appreciate all your real world insights into everyday life as an expat! As I learn more, I’m not sure we could afford all the peripheral expenses in moving abroad, and I know my husband would really miss his siblings. Maybe an extended vacation will work out better for us. Thanks for sharing!
These details are so helpful. Thank you.
Thanks for another great article. Very informative....there are always a lot of "hidden" costs that people don't think about. This definitely clarifies that moving to Portugal is not necessarily cheap.
If you don't mind sharing...could you let us know what Relocation Assistance Service you used? It sounds like you had a good experience with them.
Another thing people don't consider is tax implications. While the 10 year NHR benefit limits taxes on pensions (Social Security, IRA/401k distributions) to 10% once that 10 years has expired taxes on these sources of income go up to over 30%. Additionally capital gains, including those accrued in the U.S, are subject to a 28% tax. In the U.S., if you're married filing jointly, the first $83,350 long term capital gain are exempt from taxes.
The voice of experience here should not be ignored.
Thank you for laying out your experience in detail. It really helps to have such a reality check. We plan to “keep one foot” in the US until we’re past the honeymoon phase. The tough part is deciding what the bring (kitchen essentials) and when to bring it (time limitations on importing personal belongings tax free). To your point, you don’t want to move it twice. We’re also taking a flexible mindset to apartment hunting. We are about 18 months out - probably a good time to plot a timeline and make sure income projections allow for surprises.
Thank you for helping us save time
Thank you for taking the time to write a lengthy article with links for more info.
Fantastic piece, Carol. What an excellent job you've done in summing up an experience that so many people question! May we publish it in Portugal Living Magazine? Yes. No. Maybe ...
Well summarized and with many helpful resources. You might consider cross-posting this to the very Facebook group you mention as there are quite a few people there who would benefit from seeing it.
Excellent article and very consistent with our experiences so far. Especially the added expenses involved with moving a pet and the ‘start up’ costs of furnishing a home.
While we are definitely seeing cost savings in certain areas (living in central Lisbon means not needing a car, and our private health insurance costs a fraction of our old ACA plan), it certainly has not been cheap.
People need to come with realistic expectations and this article should help them do that. Well done!