Portugal, March 2018

We had an ulterior motive for visiting Portugal.  We are considering retiring there. Our trip included meetings with an immigration attorney and a solicitor who has experience with helping expats immigrate to Portugal, but most of our time was exploring the country and trying to get a feel of what it’s like to live there.

There’s a lot to recommend a retirement in Portugal.  First, let’s get the basics out of the way.  Portugal is inexpensive.  According to Numbeo, a website that compares cost of living data from around the world, the cost of living in Portugal is over 30% less than the United States.  Our retirement nest egg will go much farther in Portugal than in the United States.

Healthcare in Portugal is good yet inexpensive.  Citizens and residents can take advantage of the national healthcare system at little or no cost.  In addition, there is private healthcare and insurance for those who choose this option.  I received a quote for private health insurance in Portugal.  By comparison, the cost for my wife and myself was about $1,400 per year.  That’s about what we would pay for health insurance in the United States per month.  I could never afford to retire in the United States, but with the national health system and private health insurance in Portugal, retirement becomes a possibility.

Portugal is quite safe as well.  Violent crime is very low in the country.  They’re ranked number three on the Global Peace Index.

Now for the good stuff.  Portugal is a beautiful country, full of historical and cultural places to explore.  Their history goes back many thousands of years and everywhere you look there are monuments and museums honoring their history.  From cave paintings to Celtiberian ruins to Roman bridges, history is everywhere.  A beautiful example of this is the Carmo Convent in Lisbon, built in the 14th century.

Carmo Convent
Carmo Convent, as seen from the Santa Justa Lift.

The convent was heavily damaged in the earthquake of 1755, which destroyed much of Lisbon.  Rather than tear the convent down and build a replacement, portions of the structure were rebuilt, with the arches left as a monument to the earthquake.  Today the convent houses an archeological museum and the arches are evidence of the earthquake.

Art is everywhere.  In Portugal, you don’t have to visit a museum to see a beautiful work of art.  Whether it’s a statue in a roundabout, azulejos on the side of a building, the painted prows of Aveiro’s moliceiros or even graffiti on an old wall, the Portuguese people value art.

Santa Joanna Statue
Santa Joana statue, Aveiro

The weather is very good.  While it rains a lot in the north of Portugal during the winter, we still enjoyed the weather.  Temperatures were in the 50s day and night and about half the days were rain free, with most of the remaining days experienced intermittent rain.  By comparison, lows in North Carolina were in the 20s and 30s, and it actually snowed one day.

The food in Portugal is great.  Half of Portugal’s border is coastline so, naturally, seafood is a big part of the national cuisine but no matter where you are you’ll find excellent food in Portugal. .  Each region has its specialties- ovos moles in Aveiro or francesinhas in Porto, for example.  Fresh fish, meat and vegetables can be had at the groceries or markets and wine is exceptional and inexpensive.

Francesinha AM
Porto’s famous Francesinha

The one negative, I guess, is that gasoline is very expensive.  That cost can be offset by the fact that most of the cities we visited were very walker friendly or had excellent public transportation.  Portugal also has an extensive train and bus system, so you can get anywhere in the country at a reasonable price using public transportation.

Portugal has been singled out as a great place to retire by International Living, Forbes and AARP, as well as many other organizations and publications.  There’s a lot of information available on the Internet; we did a lot of research prior to our visit, so we had an idea of what to expect.  We also had an idea of where we wanted to look and what we were looking for.

We were not interested in Lisbon because it’s much larger than what we’re looking for and it’s very expensive.  We also eliminated the Algarve because it’s a very popular vacation spot, which meant that the summers would be crowded.  We wanted a more peaceful place to spend our retirement years.  So we limited our search to towns and cities north of Lisbon, along the Silver Coast and north to the Green Coast.  We found many things to enjoy about each of the cities and we have a lot to discuss, but we were able to determine one thing.  We want to retire to Portugal.

Author: Don Baker

My wife says I make stuff up. While that's probably true I'm going to stick to stuff that's mostly true.

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