Retiring in Portugal:
The Definitive Guide
Retiring in Portugal:
The Definitive Guide
You’ve worked hard all your life, paid your debts, and achieved financial independence. Now comes the sweet time to reap the benefits of your hard work: Retirement.
Often when you retire, you want to retire abroad. Perhaps somewhere that can offer you a high quality of life. You want somewhere with nice warm weather, some pristine beaches, and the best healthcare quality.
So, you go online, and you search “best places to retire,” and you’ll always find Portugal on any of those lists.
Well, Portugal offers precisely what every retiree is looking for. Amazing beaches, friendly locals, excellent cuisine, and that old world charm mixed with the modern amenities of Western Europe. Plus, life in Portugal is slow and breezy, which is simply excellent for retirement.
When expats chose to retire in Portugal, they often flood to The Algarve. This coastline in Portugal is called “The Golden Coast.” Both CNN and Forbes published articles in 2020, praising The Algarve as the ideal location for retirement. Portugal was also the recent winner of the 2020 Annual Global Retirement Index.
Having such a high quality of life has to be expensive, right? Not in Portugal. Luckily, a couple can comfortably live in a small town in Portugal on €1500-1700 a month. Of course, if you live in larger cities, like Lisbon or Porto, you’ll need about €1700-1900 a month.
In short, if you’re looking for somewhere warm and quiet to live out your retirement in peace, we’d like to introduce you to Portugal.
In this guide, we will go through all the details you need to know about retiring to Portugal, including costs, best places to retire, taxes, and much more.
The Portuguese government makes retiring in Portugal relatively easy. The Algarve region alone is home to over 100,000 retirees as of 2020. Quite a large number of those retirees are UK citizens.
When moving to Portugal, much like anywhere else, you might need a visa and a residence permit. The requirements differ depending on your country of origin. Keep in mind that you should have a clean criminal record, as the Portuguese government will run a criminal background check.
It’s relatively easy for EU (European Union) citizens to retire to Portugal. All you need to do is apply for residency in Portugal, and you can have the same benefits a Portuguese citizen has.
After arriving in Portugal, you should go to a SEF (Servico de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) office. SEF is the official immigration service office of the Portuguese government. There, you can apply for residency, and your work is done.
US citizens can apply for a 120-day stay visa in Portugal. You need to provide proof of income, showing at least $1,070 monthly for the duration of your stay.
When you get to Portugal, you can then apply for a one-year residence permit. You might have to provide some documents for this, such as proof of residence. After this one-year permit, you can renew your permit for two-years successively.
Finally, if you successfully reside in Portugal for five years, you will become eligible to apply for permanent residency.
If you have Jewish ancestry and you can prove it, Portugal grants you citizenship. To do that, you need to submit the necessary documentation.
Keep in mind that Portugal allows dual citizenship. This means that you can keep your original citizenship and receive Portuguese citizenship. Of course, your country of origin has to allow dual citizenship. Otherwise, you might need to drop the citizenship from your country of origin.
For non-EU citizens, the process for a Portugal visa might be a little more involved. Before moving to Portugal, you’ll need to apply for a residence permit at the Portuguese consular office in your country of residence. For this, you’ll need the following documents:
You’ll receive a temporary permit after submitting the proper documents, which is typically valid for five years. After that, you’ll need to apply for a permanent residence.
A largely popular way to gain residence in Portugal is through The Portugal Golden Visa.
The Portugal Golden Visa is a residency by investment scheme, which can eventually lead to citizenship. The Portuguese government introduced this program in 2012 to draw foreign investors into Portugal. This program has been an astounding success, bringing over €5.5 Billion worth of investment since its inception in 2012, and granting more than 15,500 residency visas.
To qualify for this program, you need to make one of the following investments:
The Golden Visa gives you a residence permit for two years, which you can renew provided that you spend at least seven days in Portugal per year. After five years, you become eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship. This is why this option to gain residency is very popular among expat retirees. Keep in mind that when you have this visa, you have the right to visa-free travel around EU countries.
For a comprehensive understanding of the program, you can read our Portugal Golden Visa guide.
The Portuguese government changed many of the country’s retirement laws in 2009. The purpose of those changes is to make the country more attractive to foreign retirees.
Expats who retire in Portugal can enjoy the benefits of the Non-Habitual Resident Regime (NHR). The NHR allows non-residents to benefit from a discounted income tax rate instead of the standard Portuguese rate, which can go up to 48%.
You can become an NHR resident if you weren’t a tax resident in Portugal for the last five years before your application. The NHR status exempts you from taxes for ten years on your following international incomes:
Furthermore, you are also exempt from taxes on your wealth during this period. Any income earned in Portugal will be taxed at a flat 20% rate, instead of the regular income tax, which can be as high as 48%.
Moreover, tax residents in Portugal must pay taxes on their worldwide income. You become a tax resident in Portugal if you live there for more than 183 days in any tax year. Additionally, all tax residents need to fill out their annual tax return, which declares their income.
Finally, Portugal has Double Taxation Agreements (DTA) with all EU countries and many non-EU countries. The DTA prevents an individual from being taxed on their income in two countries. Check out the FAQ section for a list of countries that have a DTA with Portugal.
Luckily, there is no inheritance tax on any real estate in Portugal. However, there is a stamp duty, which is at a flat rate of 10%. Unless otherwise specified, descendants and spouses are exempt from this payment.
Additionally, you might need to pay some small administrative fees while completing the inheritance process. Also, the Portuguese civic code states that “Any inheritance process shall be governed by the laws of the home country of the deceased.”
Inheritance laws can get a bit complicated. For example, if both spouses are from the same country, then the laws of that country will apply. Yet, if the spouses are from different countries, then Portuguese law may apply if the remaining spouse has a permanent residence in Portugal. This can be avoided by specifying so in the will.
Finally, it’s always advisable to hire a professional to help you with your will. They can ensure that you and your family will get the best treatment according to the tax law.
The retirement age in Portugal is 66 years and five months as of 2020. If you are a resident there and have at least 15 years of social security contribution under Portuguese employment, you may claim a pension in Portugal. Private pensions in Portugal are also common.
If they choose to retire in Portugal, EU citizens can transfer their contribution to Portugal from any EU country with ease. Their transferred contribution will count towards their Portuguese state pension.
On the other hand, other citizens should check with their local state pension service for the process of transferring their pension. Many non-EU countries have tax and social security agreements with Portugal, which can ease this process.
Finally, as stated above, residents in Portugal are taxed on their worldwide income. This means that your internationally paid pension might be subject to taxation in Portugal. However, this taxation might be avoided, or reduced, under the NHR regime.
Here comes the big question, “How much money do you need to retire in Portugal?”
Well, Despite the high-quality living standards, Portugal shines as one of the most affordable European countries. As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the cost of living in Portugal for a couple should be about €1500-1700 a month somewhere in the countryside. In a bigger city like Lisbon or Porto, this becomes about €1700-1900.
Rental prices vary dramatically depending on location. Lisbon is the most expensive city of course, so here is a table with the average rental prices in Lisbon:
|Apartment Size||Location||Average price|
|One-Bedroom||Outside City Center||300-800€|
|Three-Bedroom||Outside City Center||500-1500€|
Keep in mind that in some neighborhoods in Lisbon, such as Avenida da Liberdade, Lapa, and Baixa Chiado, the prices are much higher than in other places due to high demand.
Some expats who retire to Portugal decide to buy a second home. Below you’ll find a table of the average property prices in various cities and districts in Portugal:
|City||District||Average Price per m²|
|Lisbon||Baixa and Chiado||€6650|
|Lapa and Santos||€5075|
|Campo de Ourique||€4440|
|Porto||Ribeira, Miragaia, and Baixa||€3875|
|Cascais||Cascais and Estoril||€4025|
|Carcavelos and Parede||€3245|
Food tends to be very affordable in Portugal, especially fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat. This takes some pressure off of the cost of living, as groceries are a common cost everywhere.
You should budget about €200-300 for groceries. Here is a table depicting the prices of various grocery items, according to Numbeo:
|Apple (one kg)||€1.50|
|Banana (one kg)||€1.10|
|Chicken (one kg)||€5.20|
|A dozen eggs||€1.70|
|A loaf of bread (500 g)||€1.10|
|Local Cheese (one kg)||€7.10|
|Milk (one liter)||€0.60|
|Onions (one kg)||€0.95|
|Potatoes (one kg)||€0.85|
|Rice (one kg)||€0.95|
|Water bottle (1.5 liters)||€0.50|
Moreover, a good bottle of wine in Portugal should cost you about €10. You might also find some extremely rare wines costing several thousand euros if you’re a wine collector.
If you enjoy a meal at a decent restaurant, the good news is that eating out in Portugal is quite affordable. Here is a table showing the average prices of eating out:
|Meal at an inexpensive restaurant||€8|
|Meal for two at a mid-range restaurant||€30|
|Meal at a fast-food chain||€6|
Utilities in Portugal also tend to be reasonably cheap. On average, expect to pay about €100-150 a month for utilities. Keep in mind, of course, that this depends on the size of your house, the season, and your usage.
As for the internet, then a 60Mbps connection should run you about €35.
Portugal has an impressive network of public transportation modes. The most common one being the busses. The cost of a single bus ticket is about €1-5. There are many intercity buses available as well.
Furthermore, in Lisbon and Porto, you can find metro lines. These networks connect city centers to various neighborhoods and municipalities. There is also a famous tram line in these two cities. Most metro tickets cost around €1.20-5, and you can get a monthly pass for €20-40.
Finally, Portugal’s taxi fees are quite cheap, starting at €3 and increasing at a rate of €0.50 per km.
If you retire to Portugal and live in a big city like Lisbon, Cascais, or Porto, then you probably won’t need a personal car. Actually, finding parking in Lisbon is tough if you own a car.
However, if you’re living somewhere outside of these large cities, it’s recommended that you have a car. There are some requirements from car drivers in Portugal, such as:
If the police stop you, they can ask to see any of the above items. You will be fined if one or more of the above items is missing.
Gas costs around €1.50 per liter, which is around €5.5 per gallon. LPG and Diesel are less expensive.
Finally, you may also choose to rent a car, which can cost around €30 a day. Keep in mind that highway tolls in Portugal are not cheap. For example, driving between Porto and Lisbon costs about €30.
Public healthcare in Portugal only covers foreigners if they have a permanent residence. This means that until you get your permanent residence, you’ll need private health care.
Additionally, public healthcare is free for those over 65 or under 18. So if you’re going to retire in Portugal, you’ll probably be covered by their public health insurance, which is a plus. However, if you don’t qualify for public healthcare, you need private healthcare.
Luckily, private insurance in Portugal is fairly cheap. A basic insurance package can cost between €19-45 per month, while a more comprehensive insurance package can cost about €75-95 a month. It’s important to note here that it’s easier to find English speaking staff in private health institutions than in public ones. Keep in mind that it’s sometimes possible to extend your insurance in your home country to cover you in Portugal.
The public healthcare system in Portugal is called Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS). This system provides healthcare for free or at a minimal cost. There’s a collection of publicly funded hospitals and health centers under this system.
Portugal has an excellent banking system, boasting over 150 banks in the country. There are private and public banks in Portugal, most of them belong to the Portuguese Banking Association.
We recommend that you open a bank account in Portugal if you’re planning your retirement there. Having a Portuguese bank account will make day to day activities, such as paying the bills, much easier. Additionally, if you work with international banking for everyday activities, you’ll spend a lot of money in transfer fees and currency exchange. This can be a lot of money wasted depending on the exchange rate between Portugal and your home country.
Before you open a bank account, you’ll need a NIF number.
The NIF number is basically a tax number that you need for any fiscal activities in Portugal. It will come in handy when opening utility bills, getting a phone number, buying properties, or any other official activities.
It’s actually quite simple to get a NIF number. All you need to do is go to the nearest tax office (Finanças) and provide them with the following documents:
After you obtain your NIF number, you can head to your preferred bank and give them the following documentation:
Keep in mind that some banks might ask for different documents, so it’s always a good idea to check on their website.
Some popular private banks in Portugal are:
Portugal boasts a variety of regions and cities, each with its unique style and allure. Let’s take a deep dive into some popular retirement destinations in Portugal.
You simply can’t find a list of “best places to retire” that doesn’t mention The Algarve. The Algarve region is situated in southern Portugal, and it boasts more than a dozen towns and villages. The most popular amongst these villages are Lagoa, Faro, Albufeira, and Tavira. If you move further inland, Silves and Alvor will greet you with open arms.
Forbes magazine rated The Algarve as one of the top places to retire in Europe in 2020, and why not? This region has pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, sunny weather all year round, and as a bonus, a massive collection of golf courses.
Finally, there are many expats in the region, and most locals have adapted to this, so you can easily get by on English alone. All of the above makes the Algarve amongst the top places to live in Portugal as an expat.
Americans moving to Portugal often choose Porto as their destination. Porto is the second-largest city of Portugal, and it’s unique in its traditional charm. Being a fishing town, Porto has an excellent seafood cuisine, which provides you with a healthy and balanced diet. Additionally, Porto has that free old-world charm, making it an excellent choice for retirement.
Furthermore, Porto has a large number of expats, which means many events are in English. It’s also easy to make friends and establish social connections there. Porto’s only downside is that the winters can get a bit gloomy with lots of rain.
Most expats who move to Portugal turn their gaze to Lisbon. Lisbon is the beating heart of Portugal. This metropolitan city mixes all sorts of cultures seamlessly, like nowhere else in the world. Visitors, tourists, and expats flood into this city to live, work, study, or retire.
If you’re after the bustling life of a big city, then Lisbon is one of the best cities for that. It welcomes thrill-seekers in its lively neighborhoods boasting many bars and clubs. The quieter residential neighborhoods offer you a nice place to retire with your family if that’s what you’re looking for.
The number of Lisbon neighborhoods is endless, and you can always discover new charming little places to visit.
Finally, you can definitely get by in Lisbon with English alone, as it’s basically the New York of Portugal. Some popular neighborhoods in Lisbon are Baixa, Chiado, Principe Real, Bairro Alto, and Campo de Ourique.
Cascais and Estoril are both coastal towns about half an hour’s drive from Lisbon. They’re just close enough to the big city to have modern amenities and just far enough to be peaceful and quiet. They can offer magnificent natural scenery and serene quiet beaches away from the hustle of the modern world.
As they are close to the capital, especially Lisbon’s airport, they are very well equipped with the best public services. It’s important to mention here that the property prices in these two towns have been climbing at a steady rate. This is why if you’re retiring in Portugal, you might want to grab your opportunity there sooner rather than later.
You know the old adage, “Every rose has its thorns.” Portugal is definitely a rose when it comes to retiring, but it doesn’t come without a few thorns. Here are the pros and cons of retiring in Portugal:
Portugal is an excellent country with one of the best standards of living at a low price. You can find whatever you’re looking for there, thanks to its variety of cultures, cuisine, and natural beauty. Both CNN and Forbes published articles in 2020, praising The Algarve as the ideal location for retirement. Additionally, Portugal is the winner of the 2020 Annual Global Retirement Index.
So, if you’re looking to retire somewhere abroad, you might want to choose to retire in Portugal.
Is Healthcare Free for Expats in Portugal?
Healthcare is free for permanent residents in Portugal. It’s also free for seniors over the age of 65 and juniors and the age of 18. However, If you have a temporary residence in Portugal, you need private health insurance. Luckily, Portugal’s private health insurance is cheap and can cost as low as $450 a year for a basic package.
Can You Retire in Portugal with $200,000 of Savings?
Portugal has a very low cost of living. This means that your retirement should be comfortable in Portugal with that much savings. A retired couple can live comfortably in Portugal with $1500-2000 per month.
Can Foreigners Buy Property in Portugal?
Yes, the Portuguese government has no restrictions on foreigners buying a home in Portugal.
Do foreigners Pay Taxes in Portugal?
If you live in Portugal for more than 183 in any tax year, you become a tax resident and have to pay taxes there. However, you can get many tax benefits from the NHR regime and pay fewer taxes as an expat.
Which Countries Have a DTA With Portugal?
Find the list of countries that have DTA with Portugal below:
|Countries That Have a DTA with Portugal|
|São Tomé and Principe||Saudi Arabia||Senegal|
|South Africa||South Korea||Spain|
|Tunisia||Turkey||United Arab Emirates|
|United States of America||United Kingdom||Ukraine|