Living in Portugal as an Expat: A Guide to Getting Settled

Portugal is a popular country for many people to move to. Around 7,000 Americans currently live there. If you’re looking for picturesque villages, gorgeous coastlines, and friendly people, you can’t go wrong with moving to Portugal.

Living in Portugal as an expat can be overwhelming at first. Many people decide not to move to a foreign country because of all the rules and regulations surrounding that type of move. However, living in a beautiful country like Portugal far outweighs any challenge you might encounter with the moving process.

This guide will go over the basics of moving to Portugal as an expat. Set yourself up for success by researching the process before getting started.

The Cost of Living in Portugal

One of the first things you should do before moving overseas is to prepare yourself financially. Portugal is one of the most affordable countries to live in Western Europe. The cost of living in Portugal tends to be less expensive when compared to major metropolitan areas in the United States.

One thing to keep in mind is moving costs, including shipping costs. The cost of shipping your belongings can vary depending on how much of your furniture and other items you want to ship.

Obtain the Right Visa

You will need to get a visa for living in Portugal as an expat. Certain visas are designed for people who want to stay in the country for more than 90 days and become a resident.

The three main categories of visas include:

  • Temporary Stay National Visas: You can stay for around one year
  • Schengen Visas: Short-stay visas for around 90 days
  • Long Stay National Visas: Residency visas for stays longer than one year

Americans in Portugal will need to get a visa before moving to Portugal. EU residents won’t need to get one. You can apply for a residency visa after you move to Portugal.

Find Employment

You’ll want to research employment opportunities before moving overseas. The goal would be to have a job lined up before you move to Portugal. However, you might not be able to easily schedule job interviews before you officially move.

There are many job opportunities for Europeans and Americans in Portugal. Many tech companies and start-ups are popping up throughout the country. Learning the national language will open up more opportunities for you than if you only spoke English.

Some of the most common jobs in Portugal include:

  • Architects
  • Doctors
  • Receptionists
  • Accountants
  • Hotel managers
  • Teachers
  • Web developers

Apply for a Bank Account

Setting up a bank account while living in Portugal is essential. Many visas require that you have a bank account in place with a certain amount of money in it before you can apply for a visa. You can easily set up your bank account online before or after you move.

Some of the things you’ll need to start your bank account include:

  • Proof of identification (like a national ID card or passport)
  • Tax number
  • Proof of address
  • Residency card

You might need $100-200 in cash or money transfer to open your bank account. While you can start the application process online, some banks might require you to come in person. Banks that are great options for expats include:

  • Banco CTT
  • Novobanco
  • CGD
  • Banco Best

Applicants could need a Portuguese phone number to open a bank account. Check with the bank you’re interested in verifying their requirements before you get started.

Get a Health Insurance Plan

Expats will find basic health insurance options when living in Portugal. The country has a state-funded healthcare system. It’s called Serviço Nacional de Saúde or SNS.

EU residents that have a European Health Insurance Card can access healthcare services for free. British citizens can also utilize their UK Global Health Insurance card while living in Portugal.

If you want a higher level of health insurance or if you don’t qualify for state healthcare, you can get an international healthcare plan. You can access specialized services with these types of health insurance plans, such as:

  • Dentistry
  • Maternity
  • Mental health

Most expats shouldn’t run into much difficulty when registering for the state healthcare plan. You can head to your local council to get started on the process.

Explore Your Local Community

Settling into living in a foreign country isn’t just about setting up your finances and finding healthcare. Finding new friends and exploring the local sights is a big part of the process. Community and connection to one another are important to those living in Portugal.


Most of the people living in Portugal are Catholics. You’ll find that the city streets are deserted on Sundays since most residents attend church. Holy events are also a big deal in Portugal. For example, Santa Semana, the week before Easter, is an important time of year.

Even though most people are Catholics, religious freedom is protected by the country’s constitution. Many residents identify as non-religious, Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish.


Portugal is well known for delectable food, beer, and wine. Some popular regional dishes include:

  • Piri-Piri chicken
  • Bacalhau
  • Pasteis de nata

Relaxed cafe culture and eating late into the evening are synonymous with the Portuguese lifestyle.

Gorgeous Cities and Neighborhoods

Portugal is home to rolling hills and breathtaking coastlines. You’ll find a neighborhood that fits your lifestyle.

If you’re looking for a quiet seaside town on the Riveria, you might want to explore Cascais. Porto is a traditional city that’s filled with history and outstanding architecture.

Find a Community When Living in Portugal as an Expat

Living in Portugal as an expat doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or difficult experience. Taking the time to research the process will prepare you and your loved ones for your upcoming move. There are thousands of expats living in Portugal, so you’re sure to find others in similar situations you can connect with.

At Expat Portugal, we’re an online community that’s here to bring people together. We offer a wide range of information and guides for those moving to Portugal. Sign up for a free online account to start exploring what we have to offer.


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