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Guide to moving to Portugal with a family

Guide to moving to Portugal with a family

Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about moving to Portugal as a family, from work and school to daily life and play.

Moving to a new place can feel like starting a whole new life, and there’s no bigger step than moving to an entirely different country.


Portugal is one of the best countries to move to for families dreaming of a more relaxed lifestyle with the gorgeous scenery and climate of the Mediterranean.


Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about moving to Portugal as a family, from work and school to daily life and play.


Family life in Portugal

Living in Portugal is easy for families who can embrace the pleasant weather and a slower-paced culture that focuses heavily on community.


The warmer climate and abundance of nature and beaches means spending a lot of time outdoors, with plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy all year round.


Even Portugal in winter is relatively mild compared to colder countries further north.


Families and children are encouraged to get out and about and go to communal gatherings instead of being stuck behind a screen all the time.


Portugal is a largely Catholic country which values tradition - the people are very friendly, but treating each other and especially elders with courtesy is expected.


Continental dining manners are particularly important in Portugal, where they typically eat four meals a day.


There’s plenty of choice for delicious food, with a focus on healthy Mediterranean cuisine.


Church and sports groups offer opportunities to make friends and be welcomed into the community.


It’s a great place to raise children to be respectful, discover local art and history, and learn another language.


Cost of living in Portugal

It’s possible for a family to live very well in Portugal, depending on location and lifestyle.


According to Numbeo, Portugal is a cheaper place to live than the UK by 27.91%, with rent being 33.41% cheaper on average.


There’s no equivalent to council tax for renters in Portugal, as you only have to pay a property tax if you purchase and own it.


The average cost of buying a home in Portugal is also cheaper, though properties in popular coastal areas like the Algarve and major cities like Lisbon can get expensive.


The latest data from Portugal’s National Institute of Statistics reveals that the average cost per square metre is 1868€, ranging from 1012€ in Braga to 3375€ in Lisbon.


According to Get Golden Visa, Portuguese banks are happy to give foreigners mortgages ranging from 30-70% of the property value.


Utilities and monthly bills like phones, television, and internet will depend on your usage, but on average they’re also cheaper in Portugal than in the UK.


Public transport is also very affordable, making it easy to get around for young people or anyone who doesn’t drive.


There are plenty of places for shopping, though imported goods come at a higher price in Portugal.


You can save money on groceries by purchasing fresh raw ingredients and locally sourced produce at traditional markets.


People love to dine out in Portugal, and lunch and coffee is especially cheap.


Other costs you can expect when living in Portugal include healthcare insurance to access state benefits and education fees if students go to private schools.


Anyone earning income or owning a property in Portugal will also have to pay taxes on a progressive scale.


Work in Portugal

You’ll need a visa to live and work in Portugal, which can cost around 150€ per adult.


While living in Portugal is generally quite affordable, wages tend to be quite low compared to what people might be used to in other countries.


It’s best to secure work in Portugal in advance to make sure you can support your family if you don’t have another source of income to rely on.


If you don’t speak Portuguese, it’s better to move to one of the main cities in Portugal where you’re more likely to find an English-speaking job.


Since Portugal has a large tourism industry, it’s often easy to find jobs in hospitality.


Other growing industries in Portugal include agriculture, education, telecommunications, and IT.


Portugal has a hierarchical business culture with a preference for more formal dress and face-to-face meetings.


Standard business hours are 8.30am to 6pm, with a statutory maximum of 8 hours a day/40 hours a week, so your work life is guaranteed not to take you away from your family too much.


Education in Portugal

One of the main concerns when moving to Portugal with children is their schooling.


Education is compulsory in Portugal for children from ages 6 to 18, with optional preschool beginning at age 3.


Nurseries are also available for young babies if family members are unable to look after them during the day, but can be harder to find.


Though many people in Portugal do speak English, the primary language lessons are taught in will be Portuguese.


The younger your children are, the more likely they are to pick up the language and customs of the Portuguese system.


It might be difficult for older children to integrate, so it’s often easier to send them to English-speaking private schools.


While public schools are free for all Portuguese residents, private schools come with tuition fees, which can be expensive for international schools.


The majority of English-speaking schools that may also follow the UK curriculum are located near major expat centres like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve.


Some schools follow the Portuguese curriculum, which makes it easier for children to integrate with Portuguese students.


Private school fees can range from 4,000€ to 23,000€ a year per child depending on their age and the curriculum they follow, but this guarantees a high-quality education.


Higher education is much cheaper in Portugal, with public universities costing around 800€ a year and private universities around 3,000€ a year.


Choosing the most appropriate schools for your children is very important for their development as they grow up in Portugal, so this will affect which areas you should look in to find a home.


Healthcare in Portugal

If you’re used to free or affordable healthcare services, this might be a concern when moving to a new country.


Portugal has its own version of the NHS called the SNS (Serviço Nacional de Saúde).


Once you register with the local town hall and health centre, your family will be entitled to state healthcare.


This is mostly free, but you’ll have to pay a small fee of 5-20€ for services like GP appointments, emergency room visits, or requesting an ambulance.


Diagnostic exams can cost up to 40€, and you’ll have to pay a percentage of the cost for prescription medicines.


Overall, state healthcare in Portugal is high quality and very affordable.


Adults may prefer to spend more on private health insurance to guarantee faster treatment.


Most medical professionals in Portugal can speak English, so there shouldn’t be any communication issues.


Driving in Portugal

If you already have a family car, you might want to bring it to Portugal with you.


Many people prefer to do this because buying a new car in Portugal will be much more expensive.


However, you’ll need to move the steering wheel over to the left side of the car, as they drive on the right side of the road in Portugal. You’ll also have to find a Portuguese insurer to cover the vehicle.


Foreign residents must register with the IMT (Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes) within 60 days, where you can exchange a valid driving licence for a Portuguese licence for a small fee of 30€.


You must always have your licence, registration, and road tax documentation with you when driving in Portugal.


It’s best to familiarise yourself with the driving laws in Portugal before you move there.


You should also look into the Via Verde system for paying for motorway tolls.


Moving to Portugal with pets

Pets are members of the family, and it can be heartbreaking for children to have to leave their pets behind when moving to another country.


If you can safely transport your pet to Portugal, they can help the family settle in because it’ll feel more like home.


To legally bring pets to Portugal, each animal will need:


  • ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15-digit microchip
  • Rabies vaccination
  • EU Pet Passport or EU Health Certificate


Dogs also need to be treated for tapeworm before being brought into the country and have the documentation to prove this.


Bear in mind that your pets will need to adjust to the different climate and you should always provide them with shade, water, and treatments against insect bites.


Where to live in Portugal with kids

There are a lot of factors influencing where you should live in Portugal, from the type of lifestyle you want to where adults plan to work and where kids will go to school.


The most favourable locations for expats in Portugal are Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve, and Cascais.


Here are some of the most attractive places to move to outside of the main cities in Portugal:


  • Aveiro - a northwestern city south of Porto, close to the Atlantic Ocean with a major port
  • Braga - a northern inland city known for its beautiful historical religious buildings
  • Coimbra - a riverfront city in between Lisbon and Porto, home to the oldest university in Portugal
  • Lagos - a popular traditional Algarve town with a mix of historical and new developments
  • Leiria - a small city north of Lisbon, close to the west coast and an international school in nearby Marinha Grande
  • Oeiras - an economic hub in the metropolitan area of Lisbon, just west of the capital city
  • Tavira - a small coastal city east of Faro on the Gilão River, with natural parks, salt pans, and a sandy beach 
  • Vilamoura - a purpose-built resort in the Algarve with its own international school, only 30 minutes from Faro Airport


Of course, there are also plenty of wonderful places further inland in central Portugal if you’re looking for a more rural lifestyle.


If you’re thinking about moving to Portugal with your family, Ideal Homes Portugal can help you find the perfect area and property to call your new home.


Contact us today to get started with your family’s next adventure.