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The Most Important Things to Know Before You Plan Your Move
Lists and Resources
When people ask me about moving to Portugal, most of the time their questions are far too vague. They want to know where it’s affordable to live, which is not cut and dry. They want to know which cute town near Lisbon or Porto I would recommend. And so on...
I always respond with this... "what are your musts?"
Let me explain.
We all have a list, whether we’ve written it down or not... of what we can’t live without and another list of these “would be nice” to have. I had such a list before I moved here. I also had another list for what I wanted in an apartment (things I wouldn’t settle for) and what things would “be nice”.
Here are my lists which include both the location and the housing...
Housing must accept a dog.
I wanted to live in a city.
I wanted a coffee shop 1-3 blocks (max) from my apartment that I could walk to.
The weather had to be cooler in the summer especially, not over 80 degrees (ideally 72) and not too cold in the winter (not below 40).
No car needed.
No more than 30 minutes from an international airport.
A two bedroom apartment (minimum), for under €1,000 a month.
No more than a 30 minute walk to the city center.
A washing machine.
Direct sunlight for part of the day.
Can walk to a beach.
Would be nice to have, but not imperative.
AC and heating
Accessible parking IF I wanted to get a car.
A three bedroom, two bath apartment — also for under €1,000 a month.
Things I didn’t care about:
Furnished or unfurnished.
I encourage everyone to make their list.
First start with the city.
Here are the most important things to consider:
Proximity to an airport.
Size of the city - the largest is Lisbon, second largest is Porto and third is Braga.
Proximity to the ocean.
Weather: the north is cooler, the south is hotter. My California examples are this—Porto is similar in weather to San Francisco. Lisbon is similar to Los Angeles and the Algarve is similar to San Diego.
Then you can drill down to your housing:
A house or an apartment or a farm (I know someone who bought an actual farm because that’s what she wanted).
Proximity to town
Must buy a car to get around or don’t want a car?
Maybe you want to live a beach life on the Silver Coast (the area between Lisbon and Porto). If so, there are so many to choose from. Nazare, Espinho, Figueria da Foz, Aveiro to name a few. And north of Porto there’s Matosinhos and Vila do Conde. Maybe you want to live in the warmth all year round. Then the Algarve is for you. It’s absolutely stunning and Faro has an airport. A woman I know who lives in Lagos drives two and a half hours to Lisbon when she wants to travel.
Do you want to be beholden to trains and buses or buy a car? The one thing I heard about this before moving was that eventually, if you plan to travel in Portugal, you’ll probably want a car.
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But that seemed so daunting, especially after moving here. And then I used those trains and buses and had several terrible experiences. I know dozens of people who haven’t had such bad experiences and they still take the trains and buses. For me, it wasn’t feasible. Especially since the apartment I found has plenty of free parking. I will dedicate an upcoming episode to having a car in Portugal; it’s wonderful!
Most people, not me but everyone else I know, went on a scouting trip here before moving. Many rented cars and drove to all the areas they were considering. This is an absolute must if you’re buying a house and shipping all of your things over before you move. But there are dozens of ways to make a move work.
You could do what I did (only smarter) and come here without having a place to live, with one suitcase, travel throughout Portugal and figure out where to settle.
I arrived with no place to live, lugging two suitcases that were half my size, a hefty backpack, a dog and a dog carrier—I don’t recommend that. I ended up needing a storage unit (actually two) and that’s another story for another time.
Note: if you’re coming here on the D7 (passive income) visa, such as I did, you are supposed to have a year’s lease in advance. There is another way though, you can get a ToR. This stands for Terms of Responsibility (termo de responsibilidade) which basically says someone is responsible for you/sponsoring you until you find a place to live. This is what I did. However, I went through a company and while it worked and I did get my D7 to come here, they were duplicitous and canceled my accommodations a week before my flight. I was left hysterical and scrambling (with an old, sick dog) moving to a new country by myself that I’d never been to, without knowing anyone or speaking the language. I don’t recommend trusting a stranger with this but thankfully it eventually worked out.
So wherever you want to move, decide what your musts are, and then reach for the stars aka—put in the work to make it happen, which you’re doing right now!
The Silver Coast: https://www.globalcitizensolutions.com/silver-coast-in-portugal/
Visa information for Portugal and Elsewhere:
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For short, how-to, personal tidbits and informational vids on living in Portugal you can find me on TikTok.
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My old/er podcast (live your dream and how to travel full time) is on my website.
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