Where To Move as a Digital Nomad: Spain or Portugal
We receive tons of questions from expats all around the world, asking for recommendations in regards to where to move in Europe. They’re looking for a place where it’s cheaper, sunnier, and digital-nomad friendly. They also want to travel within Europe so they’re looking for a base where it’s easy to travel from.
They’re usually able to narrow their choices to Spain and Portugal. But they can’t decide which country would suit their needs mosts. If you’re in the same dilemma, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ve tried to do a fair comparison between the two countries and give you a perspective. Let’s start!
Both Spain and Portugal have good infrastructure systems. There is a large train network in Portugal, which is very affordable. The government has also announced that they’ve revived their plans for a high-speed railway line connecting Porto to Lisbon. Spain’s high-speed train network is quite efficient, too. It runs between all major Spanish cities. In both countries, there are bus systems that run smoothly.
According to the data by the World Economic Forum, Portugal ranks fourth in Europe in the quality of roads. Spain comes in fifth. However, when air transport infrastructure is compared, Spain ranks 11th, while Portugal comes in 22nd.
Cost of Living
Portugal has the lowest cost of living when compared to other countries in Western Europe. Food, utilities, and healthcare are more affordable in Portugal. When compared to Spain, Portugal is six percent cheaper.
Here is a quick chart for you to see the average costs:
|Bread (500 gr)||€0.90||€1.90|
|Milk (one liter)|
Banana (one kg)
Local cheese (1 kg)
Meal for two (mid-range restaurant)
Taxi fare (1 km)
Internet fees (p/m)
Public transport fares in both countries are almost the same. If you’re planning to buy a car, note that it’s cheaper in Spain.
Thanks to the Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) program, Portugal has succeeded in attracting many expats, entrepreneurs, and digital nomads into the country. With NHR, you can be exempt from certain taxes. Check our comprehensive guide on NHR for further reading.
Plus, Portugal is a crypto friendly country. If you’re a crypto trader, you’re going to enjoy the tax benefits Portugal offers.
Spain has a similar program for non-residents. If you’re planning to stay in Spain for more than 183 days, you’re considered a tax resident. With this scheme, your income in Spain is taxed at a rate of 24 percent. This is 20 percent in Portugal with NHR.
Before you plan your move to either country, we recommend that you speak with a tax advisor. There might be some issues you’re required to handle.
Both countries offer coliving spaces where you can live among fellow digital nomads. The good thing is they’re not limited to the capital cities. You can find a coliving space in a coastal town either in Portugal or Spain. You can also stay in a rural villa with a swimming pool, a beachfront house, or a farmhouse. You’ll notice that coliving opportunities in both countries make life way easier for you. Before choosing a coliving space, read our Coliving Spaces Guide.
If you’re not into coliving, you can look for apartments. Make sure you do this via a real estate agency. Also, note that you might need a translator during the process. Sometimes real estate agencies in both countries provide this service.
One thing you should consider is that it’s a bit difficult to find heating in rental homes in Portugal.
Finding a coworking space in both Spain and Portugal is easy. As both countries are home to many digital nomads, coworking spaces have seen a rapid increase. These coworking spaces aren’t limited to either Lisbon or Barcelona. You can find a coworking space for your liking even in other minor cities.
Both countries offer a leisure lifestyle. Thanks to this, there are many great coffee shops and places where you can also work and socialize with locals.
The average price for a monthly hot desk membership is €250 in Barcelona. In Lisbon, it’s around €225.
When compared to the rest of Europe, both countries have a mild climate. However, in Spain, it’s colder in winter. You can even expect snow in some cities. In Portugal, the climate is more stable and you’ll rarely see minus degrees.
Visas and Entry Requirements
Both countries are part of the European Union and Schengen Zone. If you’re from any country outside the EU, you’ll need a visa to live either in Portugal or Spain. It’s good to check your visa requirements with your consulate before you make a commitment.
Both countries offer the Golden Visa scheme which is highly favorable among expats. The program allows residency in return for investment. If you want to eliminate bureaucracy and enjoy your stay in Europe without any hassle, getting a Golden Visa might be ideal for you. If you’re also looking for European citizenship, Portugal offers a quicker route than Spain. If you stay in Portugal for seven days on average every year, you might be eligible to get Portuguese citizenship at the end of five years. This is 10 years for the Spanish passport.
Check out our Portugal Golden Visa guide for further reading. It’s been written by one of community members so you’re going to get first-hand insights.
Some Spanish cities such as Barcelona and Madrid are notorious for pickpocketing. In other cities, it’s usually fine and safe. You can walk the street alone, even at night. Still, it’ll be wise to watch out.
Portugal, on the other hand, is famous for its safe environment. In big cities, beach towns, or small villages, you’ll feel safe. The country ranks third in the Global Peace Index 2020 while Spain ranks 38th.
Both countries boast a rich food culture. In both countries, you can munch on tasty wines, fresh seafood, and unique desserts. So, if you consider yourself a foodie, you’ll have a great experience in both countries.
We’ve tried to give you an outline to help you choose your next destination as a digital nomad.
If you still can’t decide and have further questions, please let us know. We’ll be happy to respond. If you’ve lived in both countries, let us know about your experience…