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Moving to Portugal

A Beach in Portugal

As Europe's oldest nation-state, Portugal has a long and diverse history and its empire, spanning almost 600 years, was the longest-lived modern European colonial power. Because of this, Portugal has contributed to the cultural make-up of numerous other countries, including Brazil and Africa. Did you know that the world-famous barbeque chicken outlet Nando's is a product of the Portugese presence in Mozambique? These days, Portugal has become famous for its football, but even if you're not a sports fan this country still has plenty to offer.

Planning Your Move

Moving abroad is a big step, so it's important to make sure it's definitely the right choice for you and your family. Here are some suggestions to help prepare you for the decision

  • Rent before you buy. Renting an apartment for a few months in Portugal can give you invaluable experience of living there without making a big commitment. You can also use your time in Portugal to look for potential employment options and acquaint yourself with the local language and customs. The Algarve is one of the world's most popular expat destinations so be prepared for property to be in high demand.
  • Take part in a home exchange. These programs allow you to swap homes for an agreed period of time with a Portugese family. Visit, and for information on how to sign up.
  • Make sure your chosen area is suited to your needs. Look for schools if you have children, a hospital if you or a member of your family has specific healthcare needs, good public transport links, and other social amenities that will make life easier.
  • If you are looking for a job in Portugal, make some trips before your final move to scope the job market and secure a position. If you are planning on running your own business, do some market research in your chosen area to make sure your business will be welcome and profitable.

View from a house in Portugal

Your New Home

When you arrive in your new home in Portugal you'll want to make sure that everything is set up ready for you to move in straight away. The complicated and often stressful process of buying or renting a house or flat is made all the more difficult when you have to travel long distances to view the property and are not always available to be on-site if problems should occur. Not only this, but if your Portugese is not good, negotiating with the Estate Agent may prove tricky. Here are some tips to help you get the best start in your new home.

  • Portugal's progressive green policies make it one of the most ecologically friendly countries in Europe. Because of this, many of Portugal's new-build properties are constructed with sustainable materials such as sun-baked clay bricks and feature advanced technologies such as wind turbines and geo-thermal generators to produce energy. Portugal is a great place to move to if you're passionate about saving the planet - but don't expect these new properties to come cheap.
  • Hire an independent notary to advise you on the buying process and consider hiring a solicitor in the UK to take care of your interests. Make sure that the Estate Agent you use is registered with the INCI and has a valid license from the government in order to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
  • Once the buying process has been initiated, a promissory contract (Contrato de Promessa de Compra e Venda) will be drawn up. This contract includes details of the conditions of sale and other agreements between you and the seller. This is a legally binding contract. A 10-30% deposit of the purchase price is usually agreed on and a purchase date is settled.
  • You will next have to get a municipal pay property tax (Imposto Municipal Sobre Transamissões, IMT). The transaction closes with the signing of the Escritura Publica de Compra e Venda, or Deed of Purchase and Sale. Once paid for, the property will be registered in your name at the Conservatoria de Registo Pedial.
  • Some useful terms you may need to learn when buying property in Portugal are: Conservatoria de Registo Predial (local land registry), Repartição de Finanças (Inland Revenue), Numero de Contribuinte (fiscal number).
  • Planning regulations are strict in Portugal, so if you are hoping to do any renovation or extension work on your property be sure to check with the local town hall before you enter into any legal contracts.

Moving Companies

Once you have chosen your new home, one of the first things to think about before leaving the UK is how best to transport your belongings to Portugal. Pickfords ( specialises in moving to Portugal, as do INTL Movers ( If you'd prefer to use a Portugal-based mover, AGS Lisbon offers international moving services and a multilingual website: Shop around to get the best deal.

The Practical Details

The excitement of moving abroad can easily eclipse the practical - and often boring - details, but these are vital for a smooth transition to a new country. Please check with the local authority of your region to make sure you have fulfilled all of your legal obligations.

  • EU citizens do not require a visa to enter Portugal, but you must obtain a residence card (Autorização de Residência) from the Portugese Immigration Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF). Permanent residence is available to EU nationals and nationals from countries where Portugese is the official language who have lived legally in Portugal for five years. Permanent residence permits must be renewed every five years.
  • You must apply for the Número de Indentificação Fiscal, NIF. You will need this in order to buy a house or car and to receive an income. You should apply for your NIF at the local Tax Office (finanças).
  • This website provides a list of useful links and contacts:
  • EU driving licenses are valid in Portugal, but obtaining an international driving permit/licence (IDP/L) will help avoid potential problems if you are planning on living in Portugal for more than a year. You must carry this permit with you at all times when driving. If you choose to use your UK licence you must inform IMTT (Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes Terrestres) within 30 days of obtaining your residence permit. Fines can be issued if you fail to register your vehicle with the Portugese authorities.

Gold Course in Portugal

Making the Most of your Move

  • Learn the language. This may take longer than you think and it's worth starting long before you move. Learning Portuguese will not only make all of the legal and official processes involved a lot easier, but it will help you integrate better with the natives and give you a greater sense of belonging to the community.
  • Family and close extended family is of primary importance to the Portuguese. Don't allow yourself to become isolated in your new home - accept all invitations from your neighbours!
  • Get in the festive spirit! Festivals are a big deal in Portugal, especially the Romarias (pilgrimages), which are local religious celebrations of patron saints.
  • Join an online ex-pat forum such as and There you can talk to people who have already made the move and get  invaluable advice on the benefits of living in Portugal as well as some of  the potential pitfalls.

Following the Rules

Portuguese laws differ subtly from UK ones so it is easy to accidentally get into trouble. Similarly, if you do not understand the local customs and  etiquette you run the risk of offending your new neighbours. Here is a quick list of things to watch out for.

  • It is compulsory to carry replacement headlamp bulbs, high-visibility jackets and a warning triangle in your car at all times.
  • The alcohol limit for driving is lower in Portugal than in the UK. You can be fined, lose your licence or face a prison sentence if you are caught driving over the limit. If in doubt, don't drive
  • It is illegal to discriminate against Portuguese citizens on the basis of gender and sexuality. In recent years Portugal has become one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world and their legal system promotes tolerance and support for all LGBT citizens.
  • The Portuguese tend to be very formal, especially when meeting new people. Ensure you are always polite and well-mannered when introducing yourself to your new neighbours! If you are invited to a Portuguese home for dinner, you will usually be expected to bring a gift of flowers or chocolates for the hostess.


Portugal is a wonderful country but you might find you miss some of the more unique quirks of living in the UK. Don't worry, The British Corner Shop ( delivers UK products all over Portugal. If you prefer not to shop online try the Food4Brits shop in Arganil (tel: (+351) 911 080 665). You can even find an Iceland in the Algarve (Lugar da Tavagueira, Tavagueira, 8200-425 GUIA ALBUFEIRA 00351 289561564).

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