Moving to Portugal (2019) and very excited but also very apprehensive

Hi everyone,

My partner (Joe), 3 dogs and I are planning on moving to Portugal sometime this year and leaving cold Fife in Scotland behind.

We are planning on renting first so we can decide where we want to live. (Not beside the beach as dogs cant go on the beach I believe).

We wont be working but planning on getting  property that needs some renovation but must have land and preferably near a lake, shops, bars, gym and other people. i.e. not in isolation.

Does anyone have any tips or suggestions please.

Ps. Neither of us speak Portuguese.
Thanks in advance
Ali  :)

Hi Ali
Tomorrow will mark 3 months since my daughter and I left SA and joined my husband, who has now been here for 6 months. He's lived through the worst of that really hot summer and now this really cold winter.
I know it probably doesn't compare to Scotland's cold, BUT...what you do need to take into account is that Portugal, like South Africa, does not seem to think that their winter is cold enough (-1 deg here the other morning) or their summer hot enough (in the mid 40's last year) to guard against. Homes (at least the older ones) are not properly built and many are cold, damp and badly mouldy. In summer my husband really suffered with no ventilation, no aircon and not even overhead fans!
So, if you are planning on renovating/refurbing, depending on where and what you buy, just be aware that your renovations will have to be extensive to counter lack of dampproofing (our place looks like it suffers from rising damp) and lack of proper insulation, heating and/or cooling. I would also strongly advise you to go solar right from the start, as electricity costs here are quite high by all accounts.

Also: do yourselves a favour and learn some Portuguese before you get here. Basic phrases and translation apps will only get you so far. We have been extremely fortunate in finding really helpful people in Finance, Immigration and Social Security in our little country town who did their best to help us with their limited English, but it is still a really frustrating experience hardly understanding a word when they rattle off instructions for the red tape you have to get through and you feel like you just landed on Mars!

Good luck with your planning :)

Hi Janine,
Thank you so much for the info.
Takes a bit of a shine off moving there but something to think about.
I hope you and your family enjoy living in Portugal and it's every thing you want and more.
Thanks again.

Hi Ali
Yeah, sorry about that... :( but to be quite honest, I wish I had known some of these things before moving - especially the dire housing situation! It wouldn't have changed our minds at all, and it still would not change our minds now. But moving countries is a huge step and I think you need to be armed with as much info as possible. This is especially true if you plan to buy/build/renovate, I think. You might be able to prepare better on your side before landing here and saying, "oops...wish we'd known that before..."  ;)
The grass is never truly greener on the other side, but there are so many positives in this country, especially compared to where we come from! I am finding it a real "Yay! Aaahh..." situation though. Excellent public transport here, for example (Yay). But - they seem to strike over any public holiday that will give them about 3 days off! Living remotely, we had to literally cancel our Christmas last year because we had no buses, no trains and even the taxis didn't want to operate over Christmas, so we couldn't get into Lisbon to our lovely lunch we'd booked at a 4-star hotel. Even Uber doesn't operate this far out! We were all trapped and my daughter spent her Christmas alone in Lisbon, and we spent hours alone in the countryside..  (aaahh). Having just left home and family and friends behind, that was a major blow to us.
We thought we'd definitely be able to get by without a car. Turns out we can't if we don't live in Lisbon! Chalk that one up to experience. Next Christmas, we'll have a car!
You, of course, might be able to easily bring your car across. For us, it was an impossibility and giving up our beautiful X3 and the convenience of hopping in a car and going anywhere, anytime has been one of the most difficult things we've had to deal with.

I don't mean to put a negative spin on things at all, this is just the reality that we're finding out as we go. It's all these little details and finding or knowing ways around the obstacles that count towards making your move a positive and successful one :)

Hi Janine Im coming to Portugal in FEb from Italy where I own my house, Im orginally from the Cape.
will be nice to meet up whereabouts are you? I will be in Cascais/e mail *** thanks Amanda

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Hi Amanda, lovely :) We're very remote, but let's keep in touch (pm me with details) and see if we can make a plan closer to the time!

thanks will keep in touch

Hi Alireinolds67,

try to learn as much as you can before making any decision.
There are several sources apart from personal opinion: expat blogs, Facebook groups (for ex. we live in Tomar and online the group "I love Tomar" shares a lot of info) but if you would like to know the country you should learn a bit of Portuguese, otherwise sources may be biased and limited. 
Of course, each experience is unique, depending on what plans you have and what you are looking for. 

Portugal is a peripheral country in Europe, this means that many of the services and products you take for granted in your country may not be available or available only at times (I find this a bit unnerving). 

Portuguese people are very kind and go out of their way to help foreigners (although not their neighbors) but some of them will see you as a potential source of income: so they will offer services, help, typically language assistance, though you may discover their services are far from being professional or qualified.

Houses are poorly heated and this is not a hot country: actually it's very wet and cool in winter, and you definitely need a good heating system while aircon in summer is essential, despite what real estate agents claim.  On the other hand, summers are dry, dry, dry.
Buidings are also poorly mantained, actually mantainance is unknow around here.

You will want to take out a health insurance (average cost for under-65 is 65 Euros/month) to have access to doctors and private clinics; but again the better your Portuguese the better your experience.

Last thing: should you decide to move here, start learning Portuguese (not Brazialian) before you leave...and watch RTP online (national tv network) to practice your listening comprehension.

And cost of living is going up: fuels, cars and highway tolls are expensive and so is electricity, while basic food is inexpensive and finding a place to rent at reasonable prices is getting very hard (forget the concept of value for money).

Boa sorte e bom fim de semana,

I agreed with Pat regarding poor heating and AC system.

My condominium has a poor insulation. In fact the outside weather is warmer than the inside of my condominium. Heating unit is a must in every room.  Several real estates had told me that I don't need heat systems, that was incorrect. Currently we have air condition in the  living room, I will install air-condition/heat unit in the bedrooms and kitchen. I will find out about my utility and water bills for January (I heard the utility is expensive).

I do take some things for granted in the US. For example I hang dry my clothes because we don't have a dryer. I wish I have a gabage disposal. However I don't regret to move to Lisbon.

Hi Pat
I see we're on the same page with most things! However, I'm interested to know why you think private medical is important? My husband and I both need chronic meds - and in fact, I'm a diabetic, so I need a lot more medical care than most people - and we were told by our local pharmacy that once we got our NISS and registered with the local Centro de Saude to get scripts, we could then get our meds for free at the pharmacy.
We have done this - received NISS within two days; went to the health centre and were registered in the system in under half an hour and told to come back for prescriptions three days later! All I can say so far is "WOW".
No need to even see one of the doctors there! So, I have yet to experience the medical treatment and/or doctor's visits in Portugal, but what I am very grateful for, is the fact that you are not required to see a doctor every 6 months to tell you that you are still an insulin-dependent diabetic, and oh yes, guess what, I need to give you another prescription! To me, this was just a complete money-making racket back home. Every visit to a specialist or GP cost me the equivalent of about 32 euro (GP) and 100 euro (specialist). On top of that, we paid the equivalent of 230 euro a month for a medical insurance for 3 of us (which only covered hospital and my chronic).
I will need to see a few specialists for my annual check-ups before the year is out (Endocrinologist; Ophthalmologist; Cardiologist.... most of the "ologists" you can think of!) which is why I'm keen to hear your views on the need for private medical?

Kind regards

Hi there,

monitoring chronic deseases is part of preventive medicine and this is what some governments are cutting on. 
We all know that diabetes is a world epidemic (raise your hand if you don't have a diabetic in  the family) and I agree with you that the monitoring service should be improved (for instance by teaching patients how to stay fit and learn to manage their diet, fitness schedule, attitude towards the disease, etc.)  but it will not be improved because of budget cuts in the NHS. 
Having a comprehensive Plano Saude means that specialists visits (and I know diabetics need regular check-ups) are considerably cheaper -over 50% cheaper, dental care, tests and medical imaging are also quite inexpensive and oncology treatement at CUF and other private clinics - Champalimaud is no doubt the best- becomes very accessible, in some packages transport is included. 
However one of the most comprehensive healthcare plans costs on average 900 Euros/yr, and there is an age limit, is it worth it?  Only you can answer this question.
As usual, each case is different.

Don't know if this is of any help...

Have a good (and sunny) day!

Hi Pat
Thanks for your detailed reply :)
My idea is to try and get away from paying for private medical care. I've done it all my life and found that even with specialist visits/treatment, I ended up paying in far more every month than I actually used.
Are you saying that bottom line, I will not get the care I need at my local centro de saude?

Kind regards

Ladies, interested hearing your comments. My husband and I are hoping to move to Portugal this year from Canada. I too have a chronic condition ( Graves’ disease and all that comes with it) so I was keen to know about healthcare. At the movement we have tried the Portuguese consulate 3 times enquiring about the certificate de bagagem and had no reply’s yet. And interesting to hear about heat/air con as we had been told by realtors over there that heating is not such a requirement. It seems you are all from central Portugal. I am trying to teach myself Portuguese. Any more thoughts and comments would be gratefully received

You may wish to consider purchasing this book which gives many tips and advice on the move?  It is up to date and I used - and am using - to facilitate my own move, residency, tax registration into Portugal. Some companies are offering this service for $2000-4000.  There are sections on Inheritence taxation, NHR, Health, purchase of property, importing etc etc.
Ps. I was an IFA in UK but have absolutely no connection with Blevin Frank's other than being a prospective client.

Thank you. Will look into it

We bought a condo in Lisbon a few months ago. DO NOT listen to those idiots real estate agents!!! You will NEED Heat for the winter. We moved from Washington DC. Heat is a must!!!!

The houses or apartments in Portugal are not well insulated. I have looked at 70 apartments before purchasing our condo. We have heat in all the rooms except for the kitchen, bathrooms and hallway. It was very cold in those rooms without heat. Make sure the heat is powerful.

Hi dear,

YES!  You MUST have a heating system: winters are wet (really wet, there are exceptions, but this is the rule) and in the north are also cold. 
In addition, the temperature drops considerably at night and the air relative humidity rises to around 90% and this happens 9 months out of 12, so you definitely need some sort of heating.

The electricity is quite expensive so think twice before installing electric stoves/radiators and heating/cooling units.  For a two-storey house we have opted for renewable energy sources at least in part: our main source of heating are two pellet stoves (12 kW and 13 kW) plus a wood fireplace insert and 6 Sweedish independent electric heaters (low consumption) which we never use but are good to have.  However, we are considering installing fotovoltaic panels to cover some of the energy demand  during the day.
Now you may discover that installation and maintenance of these stoves may prove hard to get as there aren't many expert technicians around and most stoves are imported from Italy and Spain.  There  is one main distributor monopolizing the market.

So don't listen to realtors who mantain you don't need to heat your condo or house, unless you want to give up some basic comforts you know take for granted.

Thank you. Good to know we currently live in Canada and are used to very well insulated houses that can keep you warm in -40, but it is a dry cold over her, and I know whenever I have returned to Europe +2 in winter feel much colder because of humidity,
So that is really good to know and another thing on my list of must haves! I had heard electric was costly.
Would you mind if I asked you approx how much you pay monthly for utilities? We hope to get a 2/3 bed property , it would just give us an idea. Thank you Santi2

Hi @Dilys
My two cents worth on all of your queries... :)

1. Chronic condition/health: Since my previous post, I've now had my first consultation with the doctor at our Centro de Saude, who was very good, very thorough and caring. She also did her best to explain everything to me in English (or sign language, where that didn't work!) As a Diabetic patient, I don't pay the (only) 4.50 euros for a consult. My meds are free at any pharmacy of my choice. I haven't yet tested the system with any specialist visits. husband has recently become very, very ill. Centro de Saude doc diagnosed him with flu and conjunctivitis. The next day he lost the sight in both of his eyes. This was over 3 weeks ago. He has been steadily deteriorating since then. He has health insurance (Victoria) through his company, but when an Ophthalmologist wanted to admit him to a private hospital, it was authorized by Victoria but we had to pay 500 euros upfront! We couldn't do that, so we ended up at Santa Maria's emergency. The short story is that we have been back to the hospital 6 times for appointments with different specialists, trying to establish what's wrong with him; twice to emergency. About 10 specialists later, they're narrowing it down to a rare autoimmune disease he's contracted. We've been told by more than one person that the care at Santa Maria is the best, but I can tell you, it has not been a pleasant experience. Not speaking or understanding much Portuguese has also made it an absolute nightmare. And even when my husband was so ill and so weak the other day that he needed a wheelchair to get around the hospital from one specialist and test to the next, they still refused to admit him :( They've forced him to keep travelling in and out (an hour's travel each way) for appointments. I am frantic at this point, but I can't tell you honestly if he would have had better care privately. What I do know is that we would have been in for huge medical bills so far, even with health insurance, in the private system.

2. Heating and cooling: the only reason I can think of that estate agents would tell you this, is that they know that most of the properties in Portugal are badly insulated and they want a quick sale...  :(  As Pat and Suebowman say, you absolutely do need heating in winter (for warmth as well as to minimize the effects of the mould due to the extremely high humidity) and cooling in summer!

3. "certificate de bagagem" - I wish I'd known about this. I posted 14 boxes from South Africa to my husband who was already here. When we started to receive the CTT notices in Jan, I was so excited that they'd arrived that I jumped online and cleared them through customs on CTT's website. What a mistake. Their delivery service is so excellent, that within a few days, our boxes were being delivered! Right to our front door!  BUT - with customs duty attached to each one the exact equivalent of what I'd already paid back home to post them...  about 60 euro each :(  Then I found out from Alfandega (customs) that we were entitled to customs duty exemption if they were household goods we were moving to this country; if we provided my husband's residence card; and a copy of his passport - all of which we did. (CTT kept advising on their notices that we need proof from our embassy that the goods were used for 12 months before we moved).
Suffice it to say that after a battle of almost 3 months now, I've only been able to get 3 approved for exemption, and CTT International keeps passing the buck to Alfandega, who passes it right back to them, and there is currently no solution...
Anyone who can weigh in on this with some advice or other contacts for me, I'd be eternally grateful!

Omg you poor thing! Moving alone is stressful. Thank you for the follow up re healthcare and I hope your husband gets better very soon. We had heard some stuff with regard to problems re shipping. We are going to use an expediator and a shipping company, it may be more money but they say they sort the customs etc
Hope your hubby gets well quick

Thank you :) Hoping and praying...

I think that's a good idea. We used an agent to import our furboy because he told us that customs is very strict and very tricky... it worked perfectly with our dog and now I understand what he meant!

What is NISS?

Numero de Identificaçao de Segurança Social - your social security number 😉

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