Out of all the countries in the world, why move to Portugal?
Disclaimer: The thoughts, experiences, choices, and opinions written here are strictly our own. You may not agree with them, and that’s okay. We’re not trying to influence or judge – we’re simply providing information on how and why we decided to take this journey. So, here it goes…
For many years, we subscribed to International Living (IL) magazine. International Living is a media company that focuses on expat living in different countries.
Note: I’m not endorsing International Living here nor suggesting that you subscribe to it or any other publication for expats. This was the resource we first used many years ago when we didn’t know much about expat living, to start exploring the possibility of moving to another country. IL is a good overview publication and there are many other resources available out there. In upcoming posts, I’ll provide a variety of resources you can use when considering a move to Portugal.
Each month, we would eagerly flip through the pages and read all the stories about living a comfortable life in another country on an affordable budget. Realistically, we both knew that this could only be partially true and that there would certainly have to be compromises, but the magazine provided us with pretty pictures and plenty of inspiration, and it was a good start to help us drill down where we might want to live in retirement in the future.
In 2018, we decided to spend the money to attend the IL Retire Overseas Bootcamp conference held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The purpose of the 3-day Bootcamp was to expose you to several different countries that were currently attractive for expats both in quality of life and value – whether you wanted to retire to another country, retire early and live affordably, live overseas part-time, work remotely in another country – or just wanted to explore different countries and cultures.
For each country, there was a “boots-on-the-ground” correspondent – someone who lived in that country and knew all the details of expat life there. Several countries were highlighted including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, Belize, Malaysia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Throughout the 3 days of intense presentations, we and several hundred other people were immersed in information about living abroad.
On the first day, while sitting in a huge auditorium with all these attendees, what struck us most, were the diverse types of people at this conference! There were old people, young people, LGBTQ people, straight people, retired people, working people, people in wheelchairs or using canes or walkers, couples, and single people. Some were obviously affluent while others appeared to be on very tight budgets. For me, it said something – people were searching – looking for something different. It was exciting to be with this group! There was so much positive, hopeful energy! For Paul and me, we were hoping to find a sense of direction to help us formulate a plan for next chapter of our lives.
Going into this conference, we thought the top countries to consider would be Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador, Italy, and Portugal. Since we already had friends living in and enjoying their retirement in Costa Rica, we thought that country might be “the one.” After all, we already knew people there and it was close enough to the U.S. to get back to the east coast if we had to. But, by the end of the conference, our choices narrowed down to not only Costa Rica but also Portugal, with Portugal edging closer to the top. Here are a few reasons why we ultimately decided to move to Portugal:
Portugal is safe – according to this resource, the Global Peace Index ranks Portugal number 3 in worldwide safety. The United States was ranked at 121. Portugal is a tiny country compared to the United States, but still….
Portugal is a coastal country – No offense to those who live in the desert, the jungle, or in the mountains, but we wanted to return to living closer to the ocean. Portugal has miles of beautiful beaches.
English – Widely spoken in Portugal – especially in larger urban areas.
First-world country - Portugal is one of the poorest countries in the European Union, but it is not a third-world country. Other countries we considered were third-world countries next to countries with a lot of conflict. We wanted something more established and stable.
Government – According to this resource, since the Revolution of the Carnations on April 25, 1974, Portugal has had a democratic republic.
Cost of Living - Portugal is affordable for many American retirees. Of course, everything depends on what you consider to be affordable. Consumer prices in Portugal overall are about 25 percent lower than in the United States. Our research showed that on an all-in budget of about $3,000 USD per month for two people, you could live a solid middle-class lifestyle. Note: This figure is subjective. It also assumes that you have no debt other than monthly expenses and that your living space in Portugal is comfortable but not extravagant. You may personally find that $3,000 USD per month is too little or too much.
Healthcare – as of 2021, Portugal ranked 17th in the World Index of Healthcare Innovation. As in other European countries, Portugal offers citizens and residents access to both public and private healthcare systems.
Lifestyle – Portugal is an attractive country for expats due to the temperate climate, impressive architecture, history, villages and cities, good public transportation, delicious fresh food and wine, clean air, friendly Portuguese people and beautiful beaches.
Residency requirements – compared to other countries, Portugal has easier residency requirements.
Tax incentives – Portugal’s Non-Habitual Residence program (NHR) provides tax breaks for people who establish their residence in Portugal. We found this an attractive benefit.
Proximity and accessibility to other European countries – it is easy and inexpensive to hop on a train or take a short flight to other European countries from Portugal.
Not much further in distance from Arizona to the east coast – when we lived in Arizona, it took us anywhere between 5 and 6 hours to get to the east coast depending on where we were going. From Lisbon to New York, it’s a 7-hour direct flight.
My Portuguese heritage – my grandparents were born in Portugal – some near Lisbon and others in the Azores. They all emigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s and I don’t know that much about their lives or the families they left behind in Portugal. Part of my personal Portugal journey is to find out more about my Portuguese heritage. Maybe I’ll even meet some distant relatives!
Until next time…
Next up…Why we decided to move from the U.S. to Portugal in 2021…