The second-oldest capital in Europe, once home to the world’s greatest explorers, is now home to a simmering tech scene.
This gorgeous city has the whole package — an affordable lifestyle and a work-life balance you can rarely find with a concurrent historic and contemporary backdrop.
Cost of living
The reasonable cost of living in Portugal is what most attracts expats from around the world. Naturally, being the capital, Lisbon is the most expensive city in the country.
One of the factors that definitely makes Portugal stand out from other European countries is food prices. You can have a complete and decent meal for €6-7 (and employees are usually entitled to a €6,83-meal allowance a day), and less than a third of the average salary is enough for grocery shopping for two adults.
Not forgetting one of the most essential goods of all, the almighty wi-fi. Over here, you usually get a four-in-one kind of deal: internet, TV, landline phone, and mobile phone (some of the more expensive ones also include mobile wi-fi). Prices can go from €26.90 to €72.99, depending on the provider, features, and internet speed (the fastest being 200Mbps).
You can move in and around Lisbon easily with public transportation, with prices being more affordable than in other European cities.
The quickest way is the Lisbon Metro, easily found by the red “M” signs, running from 6.30am to 1am. The yellow buses cover the entire city and also have an extensive, more internal network.
If you can’t stand the rush hour, there are several apps that can save you, from the common Uber to the traditional taxi. If you like your own hands on the wheel, note that fuel prices in Portugal are some of the highest in Europe!
Things move slowly in Portugal. Prepare to grow old while waiting in line to get things done, some appointments are made to be broken, and an hour and a half lunchtime is perfectly acceptable — as is leaving the office to grab a bite at a nearby restaurant or esplanada.
The common greeting is your typical shaking of hands, but it’s also very common to kiss on both cheeks before and/or after business meetings (just not between men). The Portuguese also appreciate and love it when you make the effort to try to speak their native language, but on a business level, most people can hold fluent conversations in English.
Large apartment $932.39 Medium apartment $760.77 Small apartment $589.15
- Cost of Living7
5km taxi ride $8.50 A Cappuccino $2.20 A beer $1.30 A kilogram of Apples $1.50 Bread $0.46 Inflation [score] 0.71 Lunch $9.10 Monthly fitness club membership $45.00 Monthly public transport $40.00 Movie ticket $7.20 Price of a meal at a restaurant $46.00
Average monthly increase in number of startups 18.0 Average monthly increase in number of startups [score] 0.55 Coworking spaces [score] 0.60 Coworking spaces on WorkFrom.co 36 Meetups [score] 0.32 Meetups groups 81 Meetups members 21441 Number of investors 35 Number of startup events in the last 12 months 222 Number of upcoming meetup events 20 Startup climate scene [score] 0.62 Startup events 26.0 Startup events 37.0 Startup events [score] 0.52 Startups [score] 0.72 Total number of startups 175
- Venture Capital3
Venture capital [score] 0.34
- Travel Connectivity4
Airport hub 103 Airport hub [score] 0.48 Intercity train connectivity [score] 0.38
Traffic handling [score] 0.70
- Business Freedom8
Business freedom 85.30 Business freedom [score] 0.87 Freedom from corruption 63.00 Freedom from corruption [score] 0.63 Lack of labor restrictions 43.50 Lack of labor restrictions [score] 0.17 Time to open a business 2.50 Time to open a business [score] 0.99
Crime rate [score] 0.70 Gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents per year 1.58 Guns per 100 residents 8.5 Lack of gun related deaths [score] 0.96 Lack of guns [score] 0.96 Lack of guns and gun-related deaths [score] 0.96
Healthcare expenditure [score] 0.70 Life expectancy (years) 81.14 Life expectancy [score] 0.87
Best university in ranking Instituto Superior Técnico Lisboa Best university ranking 375 Country mean scores in PISA math test 481.44 Country mean scores in PISA reading test 487.76 Country mean scores in PISA science test 489.27 PISA math ranking (high school) 27 PISA ranking 29 PISA ranking (high school) [score] 0.81 PISA reading (high school) 29 PISA science (high school) 32 Percent of happy students 0.85% Percent of low performers in PISA math test 0.25% Percent of low performers in PISA reading test 0.19% Percent of low performers in PISA science test 0.19% Percent of top performers in PISA math test 0.11% Percent of top performers in PISA reading test 0.06% Percent of top performers in PISA science test 0.05% University quality [score] 0.11
- Environmental Quality7
Air quality [score] 0.72 Cleanliness [score] 0.60 Drinking water quality [score] 0.79 Urban greenery [score] 0.67
Currency for urban area EUR GDP growth rate 0.01% GDP growth rate [score] 0.26 GDP per capita $26,974.63 GDP per capita [score] 0.47
Effective company profit tax rate on payouts as dividends [score] 0.59 Income tax level [score] 0.10 Profit tax (% of profit) 0.14% Time overhead to file company taxes 275.0
- Internet Access6
Download speed (Mbps) 42.24 Internet access (download) [score] 0.73 Internet access (upload) [score] 0.45 Upload speed (Mbps) 8.72
- Leisure & Culture8
Art galleries 97 Art galleries [score] 0.76 Cinemas 49 Cinemas [score] 0.49 Comedy clubs 18 Comedy clubs [score] 0.55 Concert venues 117 Concerts [score] 0.59 Historical sites 153 Historical sites [score] 0.79 Museums 105 Museums [score] 0.77 Performing art venues 72 Performing arts [score] 0.61 Sport venues 80 Sports [score] 0.72 Zoos 2 Zoos [score] 0.77
LGBT Equality Index 95.36 LGBT Equality Index [score] 0.98 LGBT adoption rights ✔ Legal LGBT age of consent ✔ Equal LGBT blood donation regulations ✔ Legal LGBT conversion therapy regulations ✖ Not banned LGBT discrimination legality ✔ Illegal LGBT employment discrimination legality ✔ Sexual orientation and gender identity LGBT gender changing rights ✔ Legal, but requires surgery LGBT homosexuality rights ✔ Legal LGBT housing discrimination legality ✔ Sexual orientation and gender identity LGBT marriage rights ✔ Legal Tolerance towards minorities [score] 0.90
Elevation (hills or mountains) [score] 0.17 Median peak in meters 255.04 Presence of hills in city 1.00 Seaside access 1.00 Urban area elevation (meters) 29.00 Water access [score] 0.97
Visa & permits
European Union citizens can freely live in Portugal and don’t need a work permit/visa. Non-EU nationals can only obtain a work permit for Portugal if offered a secure job contract by a formal employer (be warned; it may take a while!). A permit is renewable and valid for 5 years.
There is a wide variety of neighbourhoods in Lisbon. If you want to stay within the historic part of the Lisbon county, places such as Avenidas Novas and Campo de Ourique are great places to land in. If you’re into something a bit louder and more bohemian, the famous Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré will make you happy. The biggest and youngest chunk of the population resides in neighbourhoods such as Benfica, Campolide, Telheiras, and Lumiar.
In the centre of the city, rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is usually around €700, while a 3-bedroom apartment goes for around €1100.
If you’re crazy for startups and want to take a look for yourself before deciding, there’s a temporary solution: CASA Startup Lisboa, Lisbon’s top incubator, offers a short-term accommodation for up to 3 months for entrepreneurs who work within the Lisbon startup community.
Taxes + Salaries
Portugal has a different way of spreading employees’ annual income, usually on a 14-month frame, which includes summer holiday and Christmas subsidies (optionally paid in full or in twelfths along the year). Resident expats working for an employer will have their income tax automatically deducted from their salary, as well as an 11% social security tax.
First things first: you need to get a NIF, your very own tax ID number. You can do so by spending a ridiculous amount of time queueing at the “finanças”, the local finance offices. After you go through that, opening a bank account is fairly straightforward; simply visit a bank branch with the usual documents (ID, NIF, proof of residence, etc.). Online banking is now a standard feature with all accounts.
All Portuguese banks are part of a national grouping of banks called Multibanco — one of its most notable characteristics is the wide range of services you’re allowed to do through its ATM machines: pay certain utility bills, top up mobile phones and transport cards, pay income tax and value-added tax, and much more.
Both public and private healthcare options are available in Portugal. The public healthcare system, although open to all for very low prices, is known for its slow pace. However, private healthcare is the best option for those who can afford it at a relatively low-cost health insurance policy (and crowded waiting rooms are rarely seen in private health clinics).