The lower cost of living is, for many of us, one of the main reasons to move to Portugal. Towards the end of every year we conduct the Cost of Living Index across 12 countries. It compares the prices of a basic supermarket shop and other everyday living costs, especially geared to expatriates. So how does the Portuguese cost of living compare to the UK?

The cost of living in Portugal often seems notably low, and it’s clear that many everyday food items remain much cheaper than they are in the UK. Overall, our “shopping basket” was 20% cheaper in Portugal than in the UK, but with a careful shopping, life in Portugal can be even less expensive.

Prices are just half the story. To accurately budget for your move abroad, read The Currency Guide to Emigration, free to download.

Prices really do vary from place to place. You can find vast differences in price from supermarket to supermarket, and from market stall to market stall. The differences are most stark when you compare businesses aimed at tourists with those for locals. It’s quite possible to find yourself spending between 80 cents and €3.50 for the same bottle of beer – depending on whether you are ordering it at a small locals’ snack bar or glitzy beach front restaurant.

The Portugal cost of Living Index

Continente supermarket, in the Algarve (insideportugal / Shutterstock.com)

As is the case in many small countries, many products are imported, which results in some interesting price disparities. Cosmetics, for example, are often more expensive than they are in Spain, because they’re imported from there. In addition, anyone who insists on having lots of UK products on hand will pay a heavy price, as these imported products don’t come cheap. Many people actually use shipping services to bring these items over in bulk from UK supermarkets.

So it really does pay dividends to get to know local shop and stall owners. You won’t just enjoy better prices – you’ll enjoy the best of the produce too – so get out there and put your Portuguese language skills to the test.

In the supermarket

Firstly, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying fresh produce and seasonal fruit and vegetables at a supermarket. Many local markets are both cheaper and offer better quality. But for the sake of comparison we have stuck with supermarkets (just like most Portuguese people. Like the UK, this is a hardworking culture where we don’t always have the time to look around markets!)

You will pay a substantial premium for insisting on Heinz, Kingsmill and cheddar!

Above all, the one thing certain to increase the cost of living in Portugal is a refusal to adapt to local products. Imported British brands are easy to find, especially in Lisbon and the Algarve. However, you will pay a substantial premium for insisting on Heinz, Kingsmill and cheddar! There are fantastic local equivalents, and it just takes a little experimentation to find them. For example, Ilha cheese from the Azores is a perfect substitute for cheddar. For fish, we chose the local salt cod, bacalhau, which is very popular in Portugal,

The prices here are from Tesco in the United Kingdom and from the Continente supermarket in Portugal. You will find these all over the country.

We used the exchange rate averaged across all of 2019, with £1 worth €1.133.

In the supermarket UK Prices £ Portugal in € Portugal in £ More/less expensive in Portugal?
Large, wholemeal sliced loaf of bread (800g) £1.10 1.70 £1.50  + 36%
Pack of butter (250g) £1.50 1.39 £1.23  – 18%
Milk (I litre) £0.80 0.51 £0.45  – 44%
6 eggs, large free range £1 0.85 £0.75  – 25%
Iceberg lettuce £0.70 0.95 £0.84  + 20%
Teabags (per 100) £2.50 6.87 £6.06  + 143%
Fresh pineapple (whole) £1 1.99 £1.76  + 76%
Fresh tomatoes (1 kilo) £2.50 1.59 £1.40  – 44%
Fresh chicken for roasting (regular) £3.40 2.79 £2.46  – 28%
Fresh chicken for roasting (free-range/organic/corn-fed) £7.50 4.99 £4.40  – 41%
Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream (500ml) £4.20 6.79 £6  + 43%
fresh white fish, cod type  (1 kilo) £13.50 9.00 £7.94  – 41%
Jar of mayonnaise (600g) £2.50 3.39 £3  + 20%
Heinz cream of tomato soup (400g) £0.95 1.99 £1.76  + 85%
Coca-cola zero (2 litre) £1.95 1.93 £1.70  – 13%
Bottle of whisky (blended) 70cl £15.00 16.49 £14.55  – 3%
Dark chocolate bar (Green & Black type, 90/100g) £2 2.59 £2.29  + 14%
Complete dog food, dry (5 kilo) £10 13.99 £12.35  + 23%
Laundry detergent (40 washes) £4.50 4.29 £3.79  – 16%
Nappies, medium-sized, Pampers-type (each) £0.10 0.09 £0.08  – 21%
Kitchen roll, 4-pack £2.20 1.99 £1.76  – 20%

Travel

Moving from food to motoring, you will notice that Portugal is one of those rare places where fuel is actually more expensive than it is in the UK. In fact, Portuguese residents close to the border often drive to Spain to fill up, which saves some money.

Driving in general is an expensive business in Portugal. The cost of vehicles themselves is often a big shock to new arrivals. Cars hold their value, and the Portuguese climate cuts right down on damaging rust. It’s far from unusual to see cars on sale with several hundred thousand kilometres on the clock – and that’s simply because they last.

For the train fare we chose the fare from Faro to Lagos return.

UK Prices £ Portugal in € Portugal in £ More/less expensive in Portugal?
1 litre petrol (unleaded) 1.3 1.55 £1.37  + 5%
Car hire, small car, 1 week £124 67.00 £59.14  – 52%
Return train fare, London to Brighton equivalent (about one hour), off peak, adult, booked that morning. £26 7.40 £6.53  – 75%
Car tax, electric/hybrid, 1 year £140 146.00 £128.86  – 8%

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In the home

When you come to decorate your home, you may find yourself joining the Portuguese people in being very critical of local paint. For deliveries, although Amazon don’t deliver to Portugal, you can buy an Alexa from Spain and use it for all the other tasks it helps with, such as the weather. “Alexa, will it be sunny again today?” “Yes of course it will Ben, we’re in the Algarve.”

There are several IKEA in Portugal, including in the Algarve.

UK Prices £ Portugal in € Portugal in £ More/less expensive in Portugal?
Paying a domestic cleaner – per hour £12.50 7.00 £6.18  – 51%
White Dulux emulsion, or equivalent (2.5 litre) £14 16.99 £15  + 7%
Ikea “Billy” bookcase (80x28x202 cm) £35 39.00 £34.42  – 2%
Samsung TV, 55” £549 480.00 £423.65  – 23%
Alexa echo dot £35 50.00 £44.13  + 26%
Electricity (per kilowatt hour) £0.13 0.15 £0.14  + 5%
Home broadband, no data limit (per month) £23 29.00 £25.60  + 11%

Leisure

One of the best things about life in Portugal is the comparatively low cost of every day “luxuries.” A life built around bottles of good wine, excellent coffee in friendly cafés and affordable set lunch menus is still possible on a real budget – and the sunny weather is always free!

Leisure UK Prices £ Portugal in € Portugal in £ More/less expensive in Portugal?
Cappuccino in local café £2.80 1.20 £1.06  – 62%
Bottle of Coke Zero from local shop (500ml) £1.50 1.50 £1.32  – 12%
Pain au chocolat in café £1.90 1.00 £0.88  – 54%
Big Mac/quarter pounder cheeseburger £3.09 4.00 £3.53  + 14%
Bottle of house wine in local mid-range restaurant £17.95 10.00 £8.83  – 51%
Draft beer in bar (500ml) £2.20 2.00 £1.77  – 20%
3 course meal in mid-range restaurant (ex drinks) £27 18.00 £15.89  – 41%
Tip for meal (above) £3 1.80 £1.59  – 47%
Cinema ticket (one) £11 6.95 £6.13  – 44%
Spotify Premium subscription, per month £10 6.99 £6.17  – 38%
Daily Newspaper (equivalent to Times) £1.80 1.60 £1.41  – 22%
Women’s Running shoes, mid-range, Nike £105 120.00 £105.91  + 1%
Paperback fiction book £9 12.00 £10.59  + 18%
SuperMario Kart for Nintendo Switch £43 49.99 £44.12  + 3%
Children’s swim at local pool £3 2.50 £2.21  – 26%

Healthcare

For now, and possibly until the end of the Brexit transition period, an EHIC will cover your basic and emergency healthcare. While an EHIC does not cover your dental care, if you are paying into the tax system you should get your initial examination free. Hence we have said it is free. However, like in the UK, any extra treatment will need to be paid for.

Healthcare UK Prices £ Portugal in € Portugal in £ More/less expensive in Portugal?
Dentist – basic NHS check up, no other work £22.70 0 0  – 100%
16 paracetamol tablets (generic) £0.68 1.00 £0.88  + 30%
Prescription charge (working person) £9 4.50 £3.97  – 56%

Other

Other UK Prices £ Portugal in € Portugal in £ More/less expensive in Portugal?
Women’s jeans – mid- range, Zara or equivalent £26 39.00 £34.42  + 32%
One midweek night in a mid-range city hotel, Premier Inn/Ibis equivalent £72 70.00 £61.78  – 14%
Finance – cost of a basic bank account, no overdraft facility. £6 4.00 £3.53  – 41%
Men’s haircut, old fashioned type barber £12 10.00 £8.83  – 26%
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  Understand Brexit
  Find your property
  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

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