Living Abroad FAQs: Is Portugal Expensive for Expats?
Living Abroad FAQs: Is Portugal Expensive for Expats? Expat living in Portugal can be a fantastic option for those who want to live in a beautiful country with good weather, pristine beaches, delicious cuisine, a rich cultural history, and a laid-back way of life. However, many expats are understandably wary of the higher prices “back home” when they consider moving abroad. So how expensive is it in real, quantifiable terms?
While living costs in Portugal are similar to other European nations, you don’t have to spend much to maintain a comfortable life. You’ll be able to find cheaper accommodations than you would in other European countries such as France or Germany. For example, the average cost of living in Portugal is also about 38% lower than in Spain. That said, Morocco is approximately 35% less expensive than Portugal.
The cost of living in Portugal can vary greatly depending on where you live and what you spend your money on. The most expensive cities in Portugal are Lisbon and Porto, but these cities are still more affordable than similarly-populous cities across Western Europe. We’ll cover the cost of living in different regions around Portugal to help you estimate a fairly accurate budget in advance.
Daily Living Expenses in Portugal
Daily life in Portugal can be attractive to people from all walks of life. Not only will you enjoy superb food, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of warmth and sunshine, but the cost of daily living expenses in Portugal is considerably lower than in other attractive countries in Europe. According to Numbeo, a single person may only spend €568 per month on average for main living expenses like groceries, utilities, public transportation, and the occasional eating out. A family of four may spend €2,000 per month without rent on average to pay for the same.
Portugal is one of the cheapest places to buy groceries in Europe. Vibrant traditional farmer’s markets coexist with grocery store chains and supermarkets in every town and city throughout the country. Portuguese grocery chains include Pingo Doce, Auchan, and Continente, while discount supermarkets include Minipreço, Aldi, and Lidl. Unless you opt for imported groceries, your budget can go as low as €186 for a single person monthly and €400 for a family of four monthly.
Housing & Accommodation
Housing and accommodation is the highest expense you can expect as an expat, whether you rent or buy property. Rents in Portuguese cities start as low as €400 per month for a one-bedroom apartment outside the city’s center and €700 in the city center. Meanwhile, three-bedroom apartments are double that figure. Also, note that many apartments in Portugal may not have a heating system due to the generally warm weather. In case cold weather does show up, many people equip their homes with portable space heaters.
Dining & Entertainment
Dining is a common major expense for expats, but it doesn’t have to impact your wallet in a big way. Depending on the location and quality of the restaurant, you can have a complete sit-down meal for about €8 to €12 per person. Mid-range restaurants from a variety of cuisines can run as little as €40 for a dinner for two.
Portugal also has many entertainment options to keep you on your toes, such as theater, movies, museums, surfing, hiking, and much more. No doubt both the nightlife and daytime options are plentiful and you don’t need to spend a lot of money on the activities you love. For example, a movie ticket costs about €7 on average. Museum entrance fees may range from €2 to €5 and some are even free. Theater tickets cost €10 to €30 while tickets to concerts, operas, or ballets cost €15 to €75.
Utilities & Internet
Most of Portugal enjoys a mild climate, which will cause a significant lowering in your utility bills. According to Numbeo, you could spend, on average, €110 per month paying for electricity, water, gas, and heating for an apartment of 85 square meters (914 square feet). Portugal also has great internet coverage. Typically, internet, television, and telephone bills are packaged as one to the tune of €34 per month.
The Portugal utility market is liberalized, which means you can choose your gas and electricity provider as well as energy (electricity, gas, or a combination of both). For instance, water often comes locally from municipal companies, so you won’t have a choice there. You will likely choose between these Portuguese energy companies: EDP, Gold Energy, Simples Energy, and LUZiGAS. Although some leases may include utilities, you need to make sure. Many households don’t use gas for heating or have connections to the country’s main gas, the gas domicillio network.
When paying energy bills, most people pay directly from their Portuguese bank accounts. Some energy suppliers also allow you to use your foreign bank accounts, but setting this up could be a complicated process. Using your Portuguese bank account, you can pay bills automatically or by using the nearest Multibanco ATM.
Public & Private Transportation
Portugal has tons of public transportation options, including trains, planes, trams, buses, ferries, bikes, and subways. The public city transport includes trams and buses, which are quite affordable. Bus tickets may cost between €1 and €5. Porto and Lisbon also have metro systems, where tickets typically cost between €1.20 and €5 depending on the length of the ride. If you buy a monthly pass, it may cost as little as €40. Portugal also provides trains for traveling between cities which are cost-effective, and surprisingly comfortable. For example, you can use high-speed Alfa Pendular trains between the Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto. A typical one-way ticket from Lisbon to Porto costs from €24 to €46.
You can always take a taxi, with reasonable fares beginning from a base fee of €3.45 and an additional €0.47 per kilometer. But also note that taxi fares increase by 20% at night (9 pm to 6 am) to a base fee of €3.90 and €0.56 per kilometer. Popular ride-share services include Bolt and Uber. For trips into rural areas and national parks, consider renting a car. Portugal has 44 expressways covering over 3,000 km, so you can go almost anywhere. Bear in mind that gasoline was €1.95 per liter ($7.86 per gallon) as of December 2022.
Alcohol: Wine, Beer, and Spirits
Alcohol is more expensive in Portugal than in the UK but cheaper compared to the US. You get on average Portuguese beer (0.33-liter bottle) for about €2.00 while an average domestic beer in the US costs over €4.70. Imported beers may cost slightly more depending on their place of origin. A mid-range wine may cost you about €5.40 for a bottle. Meanwhile, spirits vary greatly in price depending on their characteristics, though they are of a similar cost to other European countries.
The Most Expensive Places to Live in Portugal
As we mentioned earlier, the cost of living in Portugal varies from one city or region to the next. The cost of groceries, eating out, entertainment, and other daily living expenses are mostly consistent throughout the country, but often slightly more expensive in the islands of Madeira and the Azores due to shipping costs. The main variations exist in rent and utilities. The most expensive areas in Portugal are Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve, the places that attract expats the most.
Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and largest city. It combines all the benefits of major city life alongside proximity to stunning beaches and other fascinating attractions. A single person may spend €643 without rent while a family of four may spend as much as €2,273 per month.
Popular areas among expats in Lisbon include Lapa, Alcântara, Campo De Ourique, Chiado, Belém, and Restelo. Other equally charming neighborhoods include Bairro Alto, and Baixa, Principe Real, and are relatively less touristy. Away from the center of Lisbon, you may love Parque Das Nações. Alfama and Graca are also great neighborhoods but not preferred by expats because of the smaller apartments and hilly maze of narrow medieval streets often impenetrable to vehicles. Avenidas is also a non-touristy area with spacious apartments but newer apartments here may be quite expensive.
Rent in Lisbon begins from €1,194 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center, while the same costs €772 outside the center. A three-bedroom apartment in the city center may cost about €2,074, while one outside the center may cost €1,278. Utilities cost on average €124 for the basics and approximately €34 for internet in Lisbon If you wish to enjoy an inexpensive meal at a restaurant in Lisbon, it might cost you about €12, while a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant costs €50 on average.
Porto, the country’s second-largest city, is known for its fantastic city life and nearby beaches as well as waterfalls, rivers, mountains, and lakes only a short trip away. A family of four in Porto can spend up to €2,135 per month, while a single person can spend up to €604 per month. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment costs about €768 in the city center and €600 outside the city center. Neighborhoods that expats love in Porto’s center include Ribeira, Baixa, Aliados & Bolhão. Others include Cedofeita, Miragaia, and Boavista, each away from Porto’s immediate center and the crowds. The cheaper neighborhoods outside Porto’s center that are just as stunning include Vila Nova de Gaia and Sé.
Rent for a three-bedroom apartment outside the city center costs about €933, while one in the city center may cost €1,347. Utilities cost on average €116 per month for electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage while the Internet costs €34. In addition, inexpensive restaurant meal options would cost about €9 per person, while a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant may cost about €40.
The Algarve is located in the southern region of Portugal and is known for its endless beaches and the warmest climate in the country. It is also home to thriving coastal towns like Faro, Albufeira, Lagos, and Portimão, alongside older municipalities like Silves. The cost of living around the Algarve varies from one town or city to the next. Fascinating expat/tourist destinations like Lagos often require that a family of four will spend €2,275 monthly without rent in Lagos, while a single person spends €634. Renting a one-bedroom furnished apartment in the city center costs about €838, and outside averages €680.
All around the Algarve, the more touristy hotspots like Lagos, Faro, Tavira, and Praia da Rocha show about €900 for a one-bedroom apartment while the cheaper regions in the inland may demand €600 on average. In the same vein, a three-bedroom apartment in the most expensive neighborhoods in the Algarve costs €2,300 while outside such regions costs €1,700. Considerably less touristy but still in the central Algarve is Quarteira. Towns and villages without the crowd to also find cheaper apartments include Portimão, Silves, Conceição de Tavira, Vila Nova de Cacela, and Moncarapacho.
Utilities are typically €100 monthly for heating, air conditioning, electricity, and water. Internet packages cost €32 on average monthly. Eating a meal at an inexpensive restaurant may cost about €12 per person, while a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range may cost about €38.
The Cheapest Places to Live in Portugal
There are many affordable places to live and these areas may also pique your interest. Many of these areas have a slower pace of life far away from the tourist droves. That said, even as rents in these regions cost less, some homes may require more expenses towards heating and cooling due to the age of the building. Some such areas include:
- Torres Vedras
Torres Vedras is an amazing location just about 50km away from Lisbon. Some people commute to the capital every day from their home base in Torres Vedras. In Torres Vedras, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about €500 and €617 outside the city center. In the same vein, a three-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about €1,033 and €825 outside the city center. The basic utilities cost about €125 and the internet costs about €33. An inexpensive meal costs about €6 while a meal for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant costs about €35.
Portimão is a beach town in the Algarve and, although this region tends to get quite crowded in the summer, it’s fairly cheap to live there. In Portimao, a one-bedroom apartment in the center costs about €600. In the same vein, a three-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about €913 and €850 outside. The basic utilities cost about €79 and the internet costs about €24. An inexpensive meal costs about €8 while a meal for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant costs about €43.
Viseu is a pretty city with tons of green spaces and a carefully preserved historic center. It is located in the Centro region and surrounded by mountains and rivers. In Viseu, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about €475 and €345 outside. In the same vein, a three-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about €950 and €650 outside. The basic utilities cost about €70 and the internet costs about €37. An inexpensive meal costs about €6 while a meal for 2 people at a mid-range restaurant costs about €24.
Make the Best Financial Decisions for Your Move to Portugal
Portugal isn’t the most expensive place to live, but it’s not the cheapest either. Still, it’s one of the most attractive expat destinations and our founder David living there in Porto is proof enough! Portugal offers everything expats look for, such as great quality of life, a lower cost of living, tax advantages, and an amazing climate. That said, making the right financial decisions as an expat is important for your success in a new country.
We recommend speaking to a relocation expert to help you get the best deals on housing and accommodation according to your unique situation. For instance, even as Portugal is more affordable in terms of real estate, what a good apartment means to you may be different from what it means to another. Are you concerned about amazing views from your windows or having amenities like air conditioners, dishwashers, heat, and full-sized refrigerators? Not all apartments come with these, no matter the location in Portugal.
Every expat, novice or experienced, can use the consulting services of Expat Empire to seize the advantage of “local” knowledge, pick the right accommodation in the right city, and plan your move down to the tiniest details. Our extensive partner network can also give you help on the ground where you need it. If you have questions or need more information about how far your unique budget can go when living in Portugal as an expat, consider our Consulting Services and schedule your Free Consultation Call today.