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Seriously - likely - to retire to Portugal

We've never been, but planning two weeks end of April into early May. Want to concentrate on towns with English speaking ex-pats, but plan to learn language beginning now and continuing. We would rent short term (likely a year) then plan to buy. Possibly small business with nice space for wife ESL tutoring and other in English (but she picks up languages quickly, has tutored Koreans and Vietnamese, and Chinese.) And I might be running a small consulting practice, with office in same space. Could be near housing, or even same building, so I hope this gives a picture for your consideration.

Currently, working itinerary is Lisbon 3 nights, Porto 3 nights, Coimbra 2 nights, Navarre - Tomar area 2 nights, and back to Lisbon for 2 nights in Cascais. We wiill skip Algarve, as I understand it is wonderful, but I don't care to live in an area that has too many tourists and vacationers. We can always vacation there later.

Any comments or other areas to consider? Want towns - where we won't need a car, and with markets we can walk to or ride bikes. Transit or taxis for slightly longer.

Thank you, David

Posted by
6 posts

Oh, I guess I need to add, we are not looking specifically at rentals in that 13 days, I will return to Portugal later in 2017 or early 2018 after we have returned to US and considered where we want to live.

Posted by
433 posts

Have you started your application for a Visa? Without a long-stay visa you can only stay for 90 days in the Schengan zone.

Enjoy the planning and the trip!

Posted by
6543 posts

My niece had a condo outside of Farro in the Algarve, and it was lovely. The weather's also very good down there.

How are you going to get around the Schengen Agreement--90 days maximum out of every 180 days in most of Europe?

Posted by
8889 posts

David, "ESL tutoring and .... running a small consulting practice" - That is working. You can stay 90 days in the Schengen Area, which includes Portugal, as a tourist. If you want to stay over 90 days or to work you and your wife need a visa<. Unless you are an EU citizens, are you?
As Helena said, the only area with a large English-speaking community is the Algarve. You don't specify what your "consulting practice" is. You will need to speak Portuguese unless you want to restrict yourself to English speaking clients. If you have any (non-EU) professional qualifications, you need to check if they are recognised in Portugal.
Your trip round Portugal sounds good.

Posted by
95 posts

Please view this web site as this couple did just what you want to do, They are a retired couple from the USA who finally settled in Portugal and got a residency visa and were/are taking Portuguese language lessons. Hopefully, they can answer all your questions.

Posted by
921 posts

I'm not certain where some of other posters obtained their info but it's not all accurate!
If you want to retire here, you start with a Schegen visa which is good for four months. After you arrive with the Schegen visa, you have to obtain your Residence card to stay for one year. The Schegen visa is obtained through the Portuguese embassy in the U.S. and depends on where you live as to which embassy you work with.
I went theough the process and have now been here almost a year. The visa did not provide for me to work in Portugal but as I am retired that wasn't an issue. Cascais is a thriving expat community with many English speaking people. I do not have a car and use public transport very easily. There is a large amount of info on moving here but not readily obtained on this site. Expat Forum, Anglo Info, Expat Exchange are all good sites for moving the Portugal. The Portuguese Embassy site gives good information on the visa process.
I know of a few expats in Tomar and Porto but the main communities are in the Lisbon area and Algarve. For your scouting trip, you might want to concentrate more heavily on the Lisbon area. BTW - Portugal is an amazing place to retire!

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all for your replies to this point. They are very helpful. If we like it, we will begin the Residency process when we return. The Schwengen Visa process (or whatever the spelling) I have read about, and would leave ample time.

The consultancy I am considering setting up would be for Americans now, and British after they leave EU. I have worked 40 years in all aspects of healthcare as an analyst, a manager, an economist and a consultant. I now look at unit pricing for one of the US largest health care companies. And I would consult on insurance, out of pocket costs for travelers, companies, expats retirees. I already know quite a bit about this, and as they say, I have some skin in the game to learn a lot more. In fact, until I was a Portuguese entity and paying the Portuguese government their social security bite, health insurance looks like it would be one of the major costs.

With our savings, and 401ks and social security, as well as the equity we have in our current house in LA, we could live without working. But I am quite excited at the prospects and possibilities.

Posted by
3286 posts

I hope you do very carefully read the linked information about all you need to do to make Portugal your home -- I thought these folks did a great job describing in detail all the parts of the process they went through. I was surprised to learn that the extended stay visa only added 30 days to the 90 day Schengen limits, but they were well organized and prepared to deal with that total 120 day limit for getting their one year residency visa.

They got an attorney to help them, and they are retired, not attempting to work in any way, shape or form. I'd guess that if you two want to work, getting a work visa will be more complicated than what they went through and you might need even more legal guidance than they did.

Good luck with reaching your goals and keep us informed about how it goes.

Posted by
110 posts

There are English speaking ex-pats all over Portugal, but if you want to be part of a substantial ex-pat community, you primary choices would be the Algarve, Cascais/Lisbon, or Porto. In my opinion, a two week visit would not be enough to assess how suitable an area might be. Your statement about the Algarve, which you have not visited, shows that you would benefit from a lot more research.

Posted by
6 posts

We would love to stay longer than two weeks and scout more sites than the present working itinerary. But both my wife and I are still working, and two weeks is the longest the two of us can manage. I may make some return trips if I have made some potential business connections, and can work out the legalities of that. I accrue about twice as much PTO as my wife.

Original plan was to rent for six months to year, and begin to look at buying. It sounds like to get a better sense of the Algarve and other, maybe a year would be better, while making more expeditions. What about Madeira? A web magazine that sends me updates says that is very cheap, very nice.

Thanks for all of the replies.

Posted by
16996 posts

Madeira is gorgeous--one of the prettiest places I've seen. A lot of variety in a small area. A very small area. And it's isolated. I can't imagine retiring or semi-retiring to such a place. But I'd sure like to go back for a week or so.

I'm not sure about the cost of living there. There are some very reasonably priced budget accommodations, and the land (though steep) is fertile, so there is some local produce, including bananas. But still, I imagine a lot of things must be shipped in, and I'd expect that to run up the cost of many goods.

Posted by
409 posts

Hi David,

Since you mentioned Madeira...I will throw another option into the mix...Ponta Delgada, Azores! I have been there about 15 times now as we have family in the Azores on 4 of the islands. It is a compact town, easy connections to the USA, Toronto, and Lisbon as well as a few other cities in Europe. Low cost of living, and between April and November it is a paradise! Winters can be chilly, wet and raw, and a good time to visit warmer and dryer climates. Lots of things to see and do on historical Sao Miguel, and the ability to visit the other Azorean islands at a whim. And no need for a car either! Fresh, inexpensive food everywhere. Great restaurants markets abound, and lots of cafes. Sao Miguel is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. Just about everyone living there speaks English and probably 2 or 3 other languages. And they all have relatives here in the United States and lots in me.

Watch some YouTube videos of Ponta Delgada and Sao Miguel, and even Azores, to get a taste. I have been to Madeira and can make an honest comparison to the Azores and Lisbon. It is nice to visit, but way too touristy for me and more expensive as well. Lots of steep hills and over 100 tunnels. No grazing animals either, whereas Sao Miguel, Azores has it all!

PM me if you have specific questions or want further info! Azores is going to be my semi-retirement option one day.

Good Luck,

Posted by
110 posts

From what you have posted, I recommend taking a close look at the communities between Cascais and Oeiras. Although not cheap by local standards, the cost of living is lower than in the U.S., and there is a substantial international community with enough resources to afford your services.
You may have underestimated the difficulty of learning to speak Portuguese.
If you have not already done so, I suggest that you check out "The Portugal News", an English language newspaper. Although focused mostly on the UK expats in the Algarve, they also cover the entire country.

Posted by
3 posts

My husband and I spent a month in Lisbon earlier this year. Nearly everyone under the age of about 30 seems to speak decent English. I understand they learn it in school, and many of the television programs there are in English with Portuguese subtitles. When we were there, and where we spent most of our time, we didn't see a lot of Americans; however, there were many, many people from other parts of Europe, and English was the common language. For the most part, Lisbon was quite inexpensive compared to where we live in the San Francisco Bay Area. The people in the city were energetic and optimistic and kind and friendly. The economy isn't especially good, however. On the other hand, there are many young people who might want additional ESL tutoring. It's a lively city and we had a great time there.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all for your replies. I may be trying to contact you via this website within the next year. Just ignore me if you wish, but continuing conversation will be very much appreciated.

Question; I'm looking at some of the online or CD "Learn Portuguese." One of the more famous ones (I'm not sure that Rick Steve's Europe would appreciate specific names.) But if I learned Brazilian Portuguese, would that be a serious handicap? Even if I get to the point where I could hold up one side of a conversation, I realize I would always retain an "American" accent. But could I be understood, and could I understand what was being said to me?



Posted by
11158 posts

PImsleur is one language teaching company offering European Portuguese:

I'm also a big fan of the Pimsleur method, where you learn how words sound before you learn to read or write them. This helps avoid mistakes where you "anglicize" words you've seen but not heard.

Posted by
409 posts

Hi Dave,

As Helena said, learn European Portuguese, not Brazilian Portuguese. It is very different. There are regional dialects all over Portugal, and even in the Azores there are island to island dialects and even village to village has unique dialects. But overall, all are recognizable vs Brazilian Portuguese.

Posted by
4238 posts

We visited Portugal last May (second time for me) and just loved it. The people are wonderful.

Porto was our favorite city.
I strongly recommend the InPatio Guesthouse in Porto. Fantastic B and B, in fact the best we have ever stayed in.

Posted by
414 posts

Please learn Portuguese as it is spoken in Portugal and not Brazil. I am fortunate to live in a city where there is a Portuguese consulate and have been able to take lessons from a native of Portugal. Upon speaking my limited Portuguese in Portugal, most people commented positively on the fact that I was speaking Portuguese and not the Brazilian kind. There is a difference in pronunciation and in some cases, grammar. BBC online language might be helpful as I think it is the right type for you and also I think Duolingo has the right variety, but only on the Apple ap not on the PC version. I would not underestimate the challenge of learning to speak this language. I've learned French, Italian and Portuguese - Portuguese has been the most challenging of the three.

As previously mentioned, most of the young people speak very good English in Portugal. Most of the imported tv shows from the English speaking countries are shown in English with Portuguese subtitles which has certainly helped people learn English, and I understand it is now taught from a very early age in the school system.

Porto is a great city, as is Lisbon. I don't think there are many expats in Aveiro, but it is another town that might be interesting for you.

Posted by
6 posts

We have my wife set to retire in April, so now we can spend three weeks in Portugal, scouting. I may do a short trip of a week or so ahead of that longer spring trip if I can make some potential contacts for the Health care cost consulting I am contemplating.

I think somewhere there was mention or a post from a woman doing marketing and web-sites in English from the Algarve. Anyone know anyone in that vocational area?

Also, while I am trying to set meetings with people who would be passably fluent in English, has anyone ever used the services of a translator? What are the approximate hourly/ daily rates?

Thank you all very much, and sorry for the sometimes belabored English syntax in some of my sentences above. :)


Posted by
73 posts

About Brasilian Portugues in Portugal

I grew up in Brasil, going to Brasilian schools and basically growing up as a Brasilian kid

I did not have many problems with Portuguese in Portugal - but they do talk little funny :)

Several people told me that they did not have trouble understanding Brasilians, but that Brasileiros had trouble understanding them

It all worked out fine

Posted by
27 posts

I would not underestimate the challenge of learning to speak this language. I've learned French, Italian and Portuguese - Portuguese has been the most challenging of the three.

If you don't mind, I'd like to know why it was the most challenging. On the plus side, they're all Romance languages, so the common root helps. I've read in a few places that learning the pronunciation is difficult for native English speakers, though they didn't elaborate why.

I'm visiting Portugal this Spring partly as travel, partly to evaluate as a country in which to reside. Even if I wouldn't need to learn the language, I'd intend to make the effort.

Posted by
13 posts

I have some familiarity with other Romance languages but while Portuguese IS a Romance language, the pronunciations are a challenge - especially the "s" sounds which often sound like "ssh" or even "ssch"(example Lisboa is pronounced Lischboa). Also yes is sim and no is nao but pronounces rather like "sing" and "noing" (was hard to kick the habit of si and no). I'm sure there are other challenges for primarily English speakers that speak "some" French, Italian, or Spanish but these were the particular challenges that I really struggled with (and so did my husband although he is quite conversational in the other Romance languages).

Posted by
244 posts

I am "learning" Português right now in preparation for our vacation in September.
I have found this to be very good. It provides both written and oral words/phrases.
This is another excellent learning website, but a bit too advanced for me at this time.

Do not learn Português do Brasil. The pronunciations are not very close. I was discussing the language with a young man from São Paulo, Brasil and he and I agree the languages are cousins and not siblings.