New expats in Portugal really benefit from having a strong support network, This article discusses the key people to get in touch with to make your move easier: the ten best new friends when you move to Portugal.
With plenty of established expats in Portugal, settling in is usually quite straightforward, and a rather fun adventure. That said, it’s an adventure where having support from the right contacts can really make a difference.
It’s always helpful to be able to tap into local knowledge, avoid unnecessary delays and frustrations, and know you’re doing things right – both procedurally and culturally! With that in mind, this article rounds up ten essential contacts who will smooth the path of your new life in southern Europe.
Love to buy in Portugal but think you can’t afford to? Check out all your finance options with our free guide, How to Pay for a Property in Portugal.
The list is divided into two halves, and covers contacts it’s wise to make before you move, as well as those who will be a tremendous help once you arrive.
Contacts for Expats in Portugal: Before you Move
You can start to establish some contacts in Portugal as soon as you start to think about moving there. The right people can help you with your property search and provide quick answers to queries that would otherwise require lots of research. They can also answer those all-important questions about everything from TV channels to which shops sell Marmite!
1. Somebody who Already Lives in Portugal
There’s no substitute for being in contact with somebody already “on the ground” in Portugal, especially if they’ve been there a while and know the country well.
There are so many ways that someone like this can help. They’ll be able to give you an overview of areas you may be considering, and introduce you to other contacts and companies they’ve had a positive experience with. They may even go one step further for you and drive past a property you’ve been looking at online, or go ahead as a scout party and take some photos and video clips.
Obviously it helps if you already have a good friend in Portugal, but if you don’t, there’s nothing to say you can’t meet a suitable person – either online or while you’re over on a viewing trip.
2. A Local Lawyer or Settlement Agent
There’s no getting away from the fact that Portugal can be rather a bureaucratic country. Once you live there, you will quickly become used to taking lots of paperwork to different government departments!
A good lawyer or settlement agent can make a huge difference. They can collect and arrange paperwork on your behalf. If you feel comfortable giving some level of power of attorney, they may even be able to complete certain procedures for you. If you can’t yet speak Portuguese, this can be a HUGE help.
A bad lawyer can cause numerous issues – but a good one’s worth their weight in gold. Get in touch with one of our carefully selected legal partners today.
3. An Estate Agent
Getting friendly with one or more local estate agents can certainly pay dividends. Although Portugal is becoming an increasingly “web savvy” country, it’s still fair to say that local agencies aren’t always fantastic about uploading newly-available homes to websites and portals.
As such, if local estate agents know what you’re looking for, you could find they bring you opportunities that you wouldn’t have found on Google.
4. A currency specialist
When is the best time to find a currency specialist? As soon as possible! Many buyers in Portugal only think about currency when they make an offer. There are two problems with this. The first is that many websites only show the “interbank” rate of exchange. This is only available to large financial institutions and as a property buyer you’ll get a percentage or two below that, which you need to budget for.
More importantly, the rate changes every day, often by a percentage point or more on one day. Over the course of the buying process you could find your pounds have lost 5, 10 or even 20% of their value before you come to buy (as happened between the spring ad summer of 2019, 2017 and 2016 respectively), sending the price of your property sky high. Talk to our currency partner Smart Currency Exchange about a simple tool that prevents that happening.
It’s vital that you protect your budget from moving exchange rates – or you could find yourself losing thousands of pounds. Find out what you need to do in the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.
5. An Insurance Broker
Whether you’re looking at insuring the contents of your new home, arranging private medical cover, or ensuring you can legally drive your British car into the country, a good insurance broker can be a tremendous help.
Insurance is one of those things that can get really complicated. Add on a language barrier and it can feel impenetrable. It’s therefore well worth sticking your head around the door of a broker or two. Have a quick chat, and establish contact with somebody you can phone when needed.
6. The Local Online Groups
There are loads of Facebook and MeetUp groups for expats in Portugal, including those for individual towns, and larger ones covering the whole country. It’s well worth getting established on some. You’ll learn a huge amount just from lurking and reading threads, and also be able to ask specific questions. In addition, don’t forget the more “old fashioned” forum sites such as British Expats and Expat Forum.
Just a few words of caution: Firstly, don’t use forums as a place for legal or financial advice – you’ll find plenty of strong opinions but they don’t always align with facts. You’ll also probably encounter occasional cliques, arguments and trolls, as with anywhere online. Don’t let these hazards put you off, however. There’s lots of knowledge to be gained from these digital environments.
Contacts for After you Arrive
The contacts listed above will continue to be a great support once you’ve moved. However, once you get to Portugal, there are others it’s well worth making contact with.
1. Your Neighbours
There are SO many reasons why it’s wise to get to know your neighbours in Portugal. The locals are usually hugely welcoming, so don’t be surprised if they’re soon bringing you bags of oranges or olives, kicking off a cycle of reciprocity that will soon evolve into friendship.
If you live in an area that’s populated mainly by expats, there are other important reasons to befriend the neighbours. It’s no bad thing, for example, to know who’s a permanent resident, who has a holiday home, and who runs an Airbnb. It will help you know what “comings and goings” to expect, so that you can all look out for each other.
2. The Local Bar Staff
Bar staff tend to know everything that’s going on in an area, and can be a great source of information. Whether you’re looking for a window cleaner or trying to find out where to buy a specific food item from “back home,” they’ll probably know the answer. The chances are you’ll thoroughly enjoy popping in to ask the questions too!
3. A Reliable Accountant
Expats in Portugal often find they can hit a fantastic “sweet spot,” with a low cost of living and low tax, thanks to initiatives such as the non-habitual resident tax scheme. Finding a knowledgeable and reliable accountant is key to making the best of these things.
This is one area where it’s worth asking for lots of recommendations. Try to find people in a similar financial situation to you. An accountant delivering a great service to retirees may not necessarily be the best fit if you’re starting a business, for example.
4. Your New Doctor
New expats in Portugal are typically excited about the beach and the golf course, and don’t want to give much thought to being unwell. However, it makes life a lot less stressful to know where you go and who you see when you do experience ill-health.
This may mean signing up at the local state health centre (centro do saude.) Keep in mind, also, that there are private doctor’s surgeries in most Portuguese towns. Lots of Portuguese residents opt to pay a small fee (typically around €40) to visit private GPs and avoid waits at state surgeries.
If you’re worried about getting good, affordable healthcare in Portugal, read our free Guide to Healthcare to find out about accessing medical care overseas.
5. Someone in the Junta or Camara
The parish hall (Junta de Freguesia) or town hall (Camara), is a key part of Portuguese life. You will often need to visit one if you need a specific piece of paperwork. As such, it makes sense to be incredibly polite and show off your best Portuguese whenever you visit. There is an element of “who you know” in Portugal, so it’s definitely worthwhile to befriend someone who will help you rather than hinder you in the future!
Check out this article for lots more information on settling in to life in Portugal.