Why Retire To Portugal?
Portugal has been attracting visitors from European countries for more than twenty years. Recently, baby boomers from North America have discovered Portugal’s growing reputation as a favorable country to which to retire. Located on the Iberian Peninsula in the southwestern part of Europe, Portugal borders Spain and the North Atlantic Ocean. Its territory includes the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores (although these are considered to be independent nations).
Portugal is also a great home base for retirees who wish to travel to other parts of Europe. The Eurail Portugal-Spain Pass allows travelers to journey the Iberian Peninsula by train. Trains also take travelers to other parts of Europe, making intercontinental travel easy for baby boomer retirees who wish to see the rest of the continent.
The country is also renowned for its safety, with violent crime rare and petty crime not as common as in other areas of Europe. Portugal’s mild climate, small size, affordable cost of living, accessible culture and beautiful countryside are just a few of the reasons that many baby boomer retirees have chosen to join Portugal’s 10 million residents and move there.
Regions of Portugal
Portugal’s landscape is attractive to baby boomers looking for diversity when they retire. Beaches, castles, vineyards, cities and farms are packed into the small nation just over 35,000 square miles in area. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, is attractive to many retirees for offering one of the lowest costs of living in the country, even though it is the wealthiest area in Portugal. The city sits on seven hills, each offering breathtaking views. Additionally, Lisbon is known for having one of the lowest crime rates in the entire continent of Europe. As the oldest city in Western Europe, Lisbon’s old-world charm is mixed in with modern architecture. Accommodations for retirees are available on the beaches, in downtown townhouses, and in villas in Lisbon’s countryside.
Another popular area in which retirees settle in Portugal is known as the Algarve. Located in the southewesternmost region of the country, the Algarve is home to 100,000 expatriates and has been described as having an “African feel.” It is renowned for its safety, easy lifestyle, availability of cultural and entertainment attractions, and busy airport. Parts of the Algarve include the beach area known as Lagoa and the valley area called Silves.
Portugal’s Silver Coast is yet another attractive region for baby boomer retirees looking to live on the beach. This 150-mile stretch along the coast to the north of Lisbon is seen by some as being more “authentically Portugal” than the city areas. The Silver Coast is home to modest farms as well as luxury resorts catering to foreign visitors.
Located in Northwest Portugal, Porto is the country’s second largest city. Its historic center, called the Ribeira district, is a UNESCO world heritage center. Porto is filled with Portuguese culture and history and appeals to many baby boomer retirees who wish to immerse themselves in the city’s historical architecture and traditional Portuguese culture.
Climate in Portugal differs depending upon where one settles but is generally described as Mediterranean. This type of climate is mainly temperate without hot or cold extremes. Portugal’s winter runs from December to February, and summer from May to September. Portugal’s climate is typically Mediterranean: winters tend to be cooler and wetter, with an average of six hours of sunshine per day, and summers are warmer and drier, with up to 12 hours of sunshine daily.
Baby boomer retirees who move to Portugal settle in different areas, of course, but some areas are more popular than others. In the Algarve region of Portugal, residents and visitors enjoy an astounding 3300 hours of sunshine annually, more than just about any other area in Europe. That makes this region quite popular with baby boomer retirees.
Temperatures along Portugal’s Sliver Coast range about five to seven degrees lower, on average, than temperatures in the Algarve. However, for adventurous retirees who love water sports and the outdoors, the Silver Coast is the best bet.
Mountainous interior areas of Portugal experience quite lower average temperatures, in the 45- to 55-degree Fahrenheit range; while valleys throughout the country may rise to the 70-degree Fahrenheit range. Extreme southern portions of Portugal can see temperatures in the 100- degree Fahrenheit range in the summer months.
If rain is a primary concern as a retiree considering settling in Portugal, it’s important to know that northern parts of Portugal experience more rain per year than the southern areas. While Portugal’s countrywide average amount of rain annually is 25 inches, northern parts of the country may see 100 or more inches of rain annually, while southern parts may experience just 25 inches of rain per year. Mountainous areas of Portugal also may see snow between October and May.
Quality of Life in Portugal
Although Portuguese is the official language of the country, English is widely spoken throughout Portugal and expatriates are welcomed. This makes Portugal quite attractive to baby boomer retirees from North America.
Portugal’s health care system is a bit different from other countries. Those who are already citizens of the European Union and are legally working in Portugal and therefore contributing to its social security system are automatically entitled to use its public health system for free, with small co-payments. Retirees who are United States or other non-European Union country citizens and wish to move to Portugal must first provide a letter from their physician stating that the are in good health and communicable disease-free, as well as provide proof of health insurance. Most non-E.U. retirees must access Portugal’s private health care system, requiring upfront payment for treatment.
Obtaining Residency in Portugal
The residency process in Portugal can be confusing to some. Non-E.U. citizen baby boomer retirees who wish to obtain a residency permit in Portugal must first apply for a Type 1 Resident Visa in their native home country. This application must be submitted three months before one plans to move to Portugal. After moving to Portugal, a visa-holder has six months in which he or she must apply for a Resident Permit.
Upon arriving in Portugal, one must submit a Schengen Visa application at the Portuguese consulate. Information that must be presented includes (but is not limited to): proof of financial means, a criminal record certificate (which must be obtained from the FBI while still in one’s home country), marriage certificate copies, notarized copies of passport photo pages, the letter from the doctor and proof of health insurance, and proof of accommodations (rental contract, property agreement or hotel receipt).
The Residency Visa is good for six months and allows a holder to stay for 90 of every 180 days in the country of Portugal, basically living part-time in the country. For those wishing a more long-term, permanent move to Portugal, a Resident Permit may be applied for after five years of holding a Residency Visa. This permit will also allow a person to get a financial identification number which is necessary for transactions like buying automobiles or opening bank accounts.
Baby boomer retirees who have a bit of money saved may wish to consider the country’s Golden Visa program. This program, designed to attract investors from non-European Union countries, allows an easier entrance into Portugal for those who spend certain amounts of money in the country: purchasing real estate valued at least 350,000 Euros with plans to refurbish it; purchasing real estate valued at 500,000 or more Euros; making a capital transfer of 1 million or more Euros; making a capital investment of 350,000 or more Euros into public or private research; creating at least 10 jobs in Portugal; transferring 250,000 or more Euros to support Portugal’s arts or national heritage; or making a capital investment of 500,000 or more Euros into investment funds or venture capital for small and medium-sized Portuguese companies. The Golden Visa provides the holder a residence visa waiver and a more easily obtainable permit to live and work in Portugal.
Cost of Living in Portugal
The cost of living is one of Portugal’s biggest draws to baby boomer retirees from North America and other parts of Europe. Portugal’s cost of living is about 30 percent lower, on average, than other countries in the region. It has been estimated that a retired couple can live comfortably in Portugal on an average of $1700 to $2200 per month.
Property is inexpensive in Portugal as well. Rent in some of Portugal’s smaller cities averages about $400 per month. Longer-term rentals are more inexpensive than short-term rentals, of course. Purchasing a home in Portugal is fairly inexpensive, and if a foreigner buys a property for over 500,000 Euros, he may be entitled to a Golden Visa, guaranteeing up to five years’ residency in the country.
Culture of Portugal
One of the main attractions to baby boomer retirees considering a move to Portugal is the country’s rich heritage and culture. Throughout the country, old-world charm and history mixes with modern-day architecture. Art, literature and theatre are popular across Portugal. Folk music and fado are the two most common forms of musical expression in the country. Futebol, or soccer, fans won’t be disappointed, as futebol is Portugal’s most popular sport. Bullfighting is also still somewhat popular in certain regions of the country. Additionally, Portuguese food, especially seafood, is renowned as some of the best in the world. Cafes may be found along the city streets in Portugal, and many of them stay open late into the night.
Portugal is an intriguing option for baby boomer retirees wishing to settle in another country. One can live quite well in the country for little money. For those with money to invest, the Golden Visa program is quite beneficial. The country’s Mediterranean climate and generally favorable year-round weather patterns also attract many expat retirees into calling Portugal home.