Moving abroad to work in a country like Portugal can be one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do. There’s the fantastic weather to look forward to, new people to meet, great cuisine and untold adventures. It’s a whole new lifestyle but only a few hours away from Britain by plane.
If you’ve decided to pack up and go, or your employer is offering you a transfer to work in Portugal, you must consider your options carefully to ensure everything goes without a hitch. But, with good planning, you’ll be enjoying your new life under the sun in no time at all.
In this guide, we’ll look at just some of the things to think about instead of daydreaming about living abroad by the beach or the golf course.
Living abroad in Portugal, but where?
You might have a fair idea of where you want to go, be it by the sea, or inland near a golf course or vineyard. Perhaps you want city life in Lisbon or a rustic smallholding in the countryside. You have two big decisions to make: where to live, and whether to buy or to rent. And all of that will depend on your budget.
It pays to visit Portugal several times, if possible, in different seasons, to get a good idea of what life will be like year-round, as opposed to just during the holidays. You won’t be living there as a tourist after all, but a resident.
Assuming you’ve narrowed down your geographical search, then spend many happy hours online trawling through available properties. There are many familiar websites you can use, like the international section of Rightmove, but it also pays to find Portuguese estate agents on the internet to see what they’ve got on offer. With a shortlist of targets drawn up, head over to Portugal for viewings. Most of the serious agents there will have English speakers, so it’s not as daunting as it sounds.
If you’re ready to put in an offer, you’ll need to hire a local lawyer to represent you. Your estate agent might be able to help, but it’s a good idea to find an expat community online (there are various forums) where you can ask for some advice from Brits who have already gone through it all.
Your lawyer and estate agent will then advise you about the property-buying process, which is not too complicated, but you must follow the rules.
Banking, taxes and finances while living in Portugal
If you’re buying property in Portugal and intending to work there, you need to open a local bank account and register with the local tax authorities.
The largest local banks are networked in the Multibanco system, allowing you to use any of their ATMs for cash withdrawals, transfers and even to make tax or social security payments. It’s simple for a foreigner to open an account – you’ll need a couple of forms of ID, so check before you arrive.
You might also want to check which of the banks will make transfers to and from the UK easily since you’ll be doing this a lot at first.
Having registered with the relevant authorities to purchase your property, you can do so for your local tax payments. If you have an employer, they can advise on your best course of action. If you’re self-employed, you may have to file your own personal and corporate tax returns.
Remember to sort out home insurance for your Portuguese property, and ensure you are set up to pay local property taxes, including the Imposto Municipal sobre Imóveis (IMI), which is the local equivalent of the council tax here in the UK.
The Portuguese healthcare system
It’s easy to rely on the National Health Service back in the UK, but things are a little different. As a UK citizen, you currently have the right to free healthcare in Portugal, but it’s relatively basic, and locals, as well as visitors, are expected to pay small amounts towards common procedures and medicines.
Certainly, you should register at the local medical centre as soon as you move in. This is like becoming a patient at your local doctors’ surgery.
It’s also advisable, presuming you can afford to do so, to take out some form of health insurance to ensure you’re fully covered should the worst happen. If you’re working for an employer, you might find this is already part of your employment package.
Getting ready to move to Portugal
Moving day will come around much sooner than you imagine. There is a lot to do, so make sure you get organised as soon as possible to reduce the stress before you go.
Here’s a checklist of just some of the things to take care of:
- Confirm your moving day and book an international removals company, should you require one. If you intend to go with just a suitcase, then fine, but chances are you’ll be shipping out your possessions, furniture, clothes and all those keepsakes that will remind you of home.
- Sort through all your possessions early. Arrange to sell those you can live without (go to a boot sale or sell online), or inquire about storage facilities for those things you want to keep but don’t want to take to Portugal.
- While you should already have nailed down what your tax requirements will be in Portugal, make sure the HMRC here is updated about your move (you may still have tax obligations here, such as rental properties or investments).
- Make a list of your long-term contracts and cancel them for your move date. Things like gym memberships, mobile phone contracts, personal lease cars etc.
- Arrange to cancel your utilities and sort out mail forwarding with the Royal Mail.
- If you’re taking a pet, ensure it has the correct pet passport and vaccinations.
- Stock up on medications in case there is a delay receiving them abroad.
The final days before moving to Portugal
Arrange a farewell party and make some special memories with your friends, family and loved ones before heading off for your new adventure.
Grab some local currency, so you have some handy for your arrival. Pack what you need to take with you (i.e. a few clothes, laptop, chargers, including adaptors, washing things etc.), and include a folder with all your necessary travel and moving documents kept neatly together.
And you’re off!
All being well, you’ve made it to moving day, and everything has gone to plan. Now, make the short hop to Portugal, meet up with your removals company and move into your new home in the sun.
Enjoy a few free days to unpack and acclimatise, and then get to work. Because you should never forget that’s why you’re moving abroad in the first place!
For assistance with planning your move abroad, try downloading our moving abroad checklist!