Written by Ben Taylor,
Last Modified: 30th November 2021

More sunshine than California. A café duplo for less than a pound. A climate that practically begs you to go outside and be active all year. Cheap and easy to reach from the UK. Tax incentives. The sunrises over those beaches…! Who wouldn’t want to retire to Portugal? So how do you do it successfully?

Why retire in Portugal?

People have been choosing to retire in Portugal for decades and its popularity shows no sign of waning. The climate is just one of the attractions. The country is friendly and welcoming, and it’s easy to make friends in both the local and expat communities. People often bond over mutually-enjoyed activities, and there’s certainly no shortage of them to choose from.

If you need a help raising money to buy in Portugal, read our new guide, How to pay for a Portuguese property.

Maybe you enjoy regular rounds of golf, boating or fishing. Or perhaps relaxed strolls around historic towns prior to long, indulgent lunches, Portugal can tick all those boxes and plenty more. Whether you have plans for an active retirement or something more laid-back, you’ll find the environment and the amenities to facilitate it.

Furthermore, retirement in Portugal could even mean living longer. Studies frequently prove that more (careful) exposure to sunlight and a healthy Mediterranean diet can have tremendous effects on longevity and quality of life. In addition, a mild year-round climate coupled with a far longer summer means much more opportunity to get out and about. This means more exercise and more outdoor activities.

Studies frequently prove that more (careful) exposure to sunlight and a healthy Mediterranean diet can have tremendous effects on longevity and quality of life.

Again, you can tailor this to what most appeals to you. For some, it means playing sports regularly (or meeting up with friends to watch them!). For others it involves long, warm days tending a garden – or even an orchard filled with olive and orange trees.


Could you retire in Portugal? Long summers and a relaxed lifestyle could well persuade you.

Could you retire in Portugal? Long summers and a relaxed lifestyle could well persuade you.


The practical benefits of life in Portugal

Choosing to retire in Portugal isn’t just about pleasures and indulgences. There are plenty of practical benefits too.

There are Initiatives such as the Non-Habitual Resident scheme and Portugal’s Golden Visa. These serve to illustrate how keen the Portuguese government is to attract people to the country. In the case of the Non-Habitual Resident scheme, this can mean the potential to keep more of your pension income than you would be able to at “home.” (It’s always worth speaking to an independent financial advisor to find out the specificities).

A good property lawyer is essential, especially when buying in rural areas. Get in touch with one of our carefully selected legal partners today.

And it’s not just about keeping more of your money. The likelihood is that you’ll find it goes much further too. As an example, a Numbeo comparison between Britain’s South Coast and the Algarve shows consumer prices (including rent) being around 65% lower in Portugal.

There’s no doubt you’ll get more home for your money in Portugal, but there are some other appealing specifics too. For example, restaurant prices are typically over 75% cheaper in Portugal. This is something that turns rare treats into regular parts of life.

Earning money when you retire in Portugal

Not everyone wants to completely eliminate work when they retire. Whether you want to supplement your pension income, stay active, or work on a completely new career, you have options.

Thanks to a refined Internet infrastructure, it’s perfectly possible to run a web-based business from Portugal. Or, you can take advantage of the growing number of online freelancing opportunities. Many expats in Portugal and elsewhere also enjoy running blogs about various aspects of life in their new countries.

But there’s no need to involve computers if you’d rather not! You can follow in the footsteps of plenty of other overseas residents and carve out a niche in villa management, cuisine, crafts, or numerous other things. There are plenty of things you can try. Many of them lend themselves well to working as little or as much as you choose.

It’s vital that you protect your budget from moving exchange rates. Find out what you need to do in the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.

Choosing the right property

The choices are endless when it comes to property in Portugal. The obvious option is to head to the Algarve, for a villa with a pool and access to the trinity of sun, sand and sea. However, plenty of expats instead choose a sprawling country home with lots of land, or somewhere in amongst (or within reach of) the culture of one of Portugal’s cities.

Here are a few of the many options to whet your appetite:

Beach life

The West Algarve town of Lagos is a great base. It’s a vibrant place with a good mixture of people. Best of all, it feels like a working town all year round. While things undoubtedly “slow down” in the winter months, Lagos never feels “closed” like some purpose-built resorts.


Lagos is a popular place to retire in Portugal.

Lagos is a popular place to retire in Portugal.


The amenities are fantastic and include great shopping, sports facilities of all kinds, and a wide variety of beaches. These include the huge, windswept Meia Praia, and a selection of picture-postcard coves.

Lagos also excels in its choice of property. There are modern villas and townhouses, traditional homes, and apartments on complexes. These tend to have their own facilities and sometimes even their own social scene. While such complexes may not immediately appeal to everyone, they can come into their own for people who run into issues with reduced mobility.

Read our guide, How to Negotiate Abroad, for essential tips on how get a better house for your money.

Out in the country

Countryside life is easy to find in Portugal. This is even the case close to major cities. Alternatively, you can find rustic villages just a few kilometres back from many of the coastal resorts.

However, Central Portugal is definitely worth a place on your shortlist if you wish for space, peace, and plenty of property for your money. Villages between Leiria and Tomar are popular with overseas residents. Both towns act as convenient hubs for these expats to get together.

Central Portugal can come as quite a surprise to those who’ve only previously visited the coast. The scenery is breathtaking – and steep and mountainous!

This part of Portugal can come as quite a surprise to those who’ve only previously visited the coast. The scenery is breathtaking – and steep and mountainous! River beaches dot the area, as do vineyards and rustic bars and restaurants. This truly is a place where you can leave the TV off and forget the outside world exists.

City living

If you’d rather bathe in Portugal’s culture than at a river beach, there’s nothing to say you can’t retire in Portugal by heading straight for a city.

If this appeals to you, be sure to check out Porto as well as Lisbon. There are also smaller options such as Coimbra and even the Algarve’s “capital” of Faro. But let’s focus on Lisbon for now.

Lisbon has truly come into its own over recent years. The city has won a host of prestigious tourism awards and is truly thriving. However, it maintains a relaxed vibe. Lisbon rarely crosses the line into feeling too busy. The city also remains inexpensive by European standards, despite offering world-class food and facilities.

Why not share the cost and fun of finding your Portuguese home? Explore our guide, Buying Abroad with Family

Out on the islands

The Portuguese islands enjoy a famously mild climate, with gentle winters and not-too-hot summers. Madeira boasts stunning countryside, much more mountainous than much of the Algarve, for instance. They’re a paradise for those who like the outdoors.

Pensions and practicalities

If you plan to retire in Portugal, it’s obviously important to do some detailed research so you’re prepared for every eventuality. At the time of writing, it’s not entirely clear how Brexit will affect retirement abroad. However, the fact that Portugal’s authorities actively launch initiatives to attract retirees is surely a good sign.

Healthcare in Portugal

State healthcare in Portugal is generally of a good standard. That said, there can be some regional variations in quality. In this regard, Portugal is little different to the UK. Access to state healthcare is residency-based. The general rule is that you qualify if you are legally resident in the country. However, be sure to check you have this entitlement.

There are also plenty of private healthcare options in Portugal. Plenty of expats and locals alike choose to visit private GPs, for example. These are accessible at a lower cost than in the UK. Using them can help to circumvent waiting times (or language barrier issues!)

Pensions in Portugal

Accessing your pension(s) in Portugal shouldn’t pose any problem. As previously stated, you may even find that you are able to keep more of your money without being taxed, compared to the situation back “home.”

At the time of writing, UK government pensions rise each year for those who live in the European Economic Area or a country with a social security agreement with the UK. Brexit could have an impact on this dependent on the outcome of negotiations.

You have various options when it comes to the practicalities of drawing your pension. It makes good sense to involve a currency exchange specialist such as Smart Currency Exchange. The will help you make sure you move money to Portugal in the most cost-effective way possible. As well as ensuring you don’t pay excessive charges and fees, a specialist can help you to forward-purchase your money. This can smooth the way around currency fluctuations.

Finally, make sure you check out our own top tips for settling into life in Portugal.

Download your free Portugal Buying Guide

The Portugal Buying Guide is designed to support you through each stage of buying property in Portugal, providing relevant, up-to-date information and tips from Portugal property experts and expats who have been through the process themselves. It helps you to:

  Impact of Brexit
  Find your property
  Ask the right questions
  Avoid losing money
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Move in successfully

Download your free guide to buying abroad

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