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Moving to Portugal Made Simple

James Cave, founder of Portugalist.com, has written the essential guide for prospective expats who dream of a life in Portugal.

Moving to Portugal Made Simple book cover

Portugal has long been touted as an expat destination (especially for retirees), thanks to a benign climate and a relatively low cost of living. According to one estimate, Portugal has a more than 900,000 foreign immigrants out of a population of 10.3 million.

 The country is especially popular with Britons, who have flocked to Portugal since Brexit. The Portuguese Chamber of Commerce counted 46,231 British residents within Portugal in late 2021, and Portuguese immigration statistics showed a 34 percent increase in UK expats from 2019 to 2020 alone.

(Most residents from the UK live in the Algarve, where expats are about 10 percent of the population, but there are also sizeable British communities in Lisbon and Porto.)

With so many English-speaking people settling in Portugal, there's a very real need for practical advice in English on how to choose a place to live, obtain residency, and navigate the complexities of home rentals, property buying, taxes, healthcare, and other issues.

Fortunately, James Cave--an on-and-off resident of Portugal since early childhood--has come to the rescue with a tremendously useful book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. The book is complemented by Mr. Cave's Web site, Portugalist.com, which is billed as "everything you need to know about Portugal--from pastéis de nata to taxes and everything in between!"

(James Cave is also the co-author of a lively book about everyday life and culture in Germany, titled German Men Sit Down to Pee.)


Pasteis de Nata in Portuguese bakery window

If you're a fan of baked goods, Portugal is the place to go.


What the book includes:

The 326-page book is divided into 11 parts, each with a variety of subsections:

Part 1, "Initial Research," includes topics such as:

  • Why Portugal?

  • The culture

  • The food

  • The wine

  • The coffee

  • The weather

  • Safety

Part 2, "Where Should You Move to?" discusses the country and its regions in depth:

  • Deciding on an area

  • Northern Portugal

  • Central Portugal

  • Lisbon City Centre

  • Nearby Lisbon

  • The Alentejo

  • The Algarve

  • The Azores

  • Madeira

Part 3, "Deeper Research," deals with practical issues that range from monthly expenses to employment, bureaucratic hassles, housing, schools, and finding your place in Portuguese society:

  • The cost of living

  • Financing the dream

  • Digital nomads and remote workers

  • Healthcare

  • Taxes

  • The NHR tax regime

  • The NIF

  • Bank accounts

  • Transferring money

  • Cars and public transport

  • Schools

  • Challenging aspects of life in Portugal


Cheryl Imboden in Lisbon

Find the right location in Lisbon, and you'll have the city and the Tagus River at your feet.


Part 4, "Scouting Trips and Trial Runs," prepares you for the vital step of in-person research:

  • The scouting trip

  • The trial run

  • Useful travel resources

Part 5, "Learning Portuguese," discusses the local lingo from a prospective expat's point of view:

  • How much Portuguese will I need?

  • Tips for learning Portuguese

  • Courses and resources

Part 6, "Obtaining Residency," is packed with information on residency requirements, visas, etc. (The good news for non-Europeans: "Portugal's residency visas are attainable, especially compared to other EU countries.")

  • What is residency?

  • Residency for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens

  • Residency for the rest of the world

  • Do I need a lawyer?

  • The D7 visa

  • The golden visa

  • The D2 (entrepreneurship visa)

  • The D6 visa [for family members]

  • Before you apply...

  • Half-in, half-out [staying as a tourist]

Part 7, "Making the move," is just what the title would imply.

  • What to bring

  • Shipping your belongings

  • Bringing your pets

  • Bringing your car

Part 8, "First steps in a new land," has details on how to settle in as a new resident:

  • Welcome to Portugal

  • Obtaining your número de utente [healthcare number]

  • Getting a NISS (Social Security Number}

  • Exchanging your driving license

  • Making new friends

  • Getting a mobile number

  • Utilities

  • Buying a car

  • Internet

  • TV

  • Grocery shopping

  • Other shops

  • Online shopping

  • Pets

  • Making a will

Part 9, "Renting a property," points out that "mostpeople rent when they move to Portugal, even if it's just for the first few months while they get settled." Subtopics include:

Renting in Portugal

  • Where to find rentals

  • House shares

  • Contracts

  • Deposits


Cheryl Imboden in Lisbon, Portugal

Author James Cave points out that "home inspections aren't the norm in Portugal, but are becoming more common, particularly among expats."


Part 10, "Buying a property," will help you avoid pitfalls when you're ready to settle down with your own apartment or house:

  • A place to really call home

  • Challenges of buying in Portugal

  • Suggested timeline

  • Initial research

  • Rentals and holiday homes

  • Building and renovating

  • Working out your budget

  • Getting a mortgage

  • Lawyers and other services

  • Making a property wish list

  • Viewing properties

  • Additional viewings

  • Arranging an inspection

  • Raising issues

  • Making an offer

  • The promissory contract

  • Pre-signing

  • Signing the deeds

  • Next steps

  • Selling up

Part 11, "Permanent Residency & Portuguese Citizenship," is for expats who want to settle in Portugal for good. Subtopics include:

  • Obtaining permanent residency

  • Obtaining Portuguese citizenship

  • Leaving Portugal


Porto railroad station azulejo tiles

Azulejo tiles decorate a wall in Porto's central train station. (Porto is Portugal's second-largest city and has a thriving expat community.)


Part 12, "Next Steps," is the author's farewell and call to action. (If you've read that far, you're probably sold on the idea of Portuguese residency or at least a long-term sojourn.)

More about the book:

The outline above just scratches the surface of what you'll find in Moving to Portugal Made Simple. Here just a few random examples of things that I learned from reading James Cave's book:

  • Sometimes, buying a plot of land with an existing ruin, such as a tumbled-down cottage, will allow you to renovate or build without planning permission from the local council. (But not always, so check before you buy!)

  • When renting in Portugal, it can be hard to find a landlord who'll offer a written lease agreement, because many landlords prefer to hide their earnings from the tax authorities.

  • In apartments or urban areas, you're allowed to have up to three dogs or four cats (or even six pets, if you can get permission from the local town hall).

  • Some areas of Portugal have become hotbeds for international freelancers and other digital nomads, thanks to fiber broadband and free Wi-Fi.

  • Even in the sunny Algarve, winters in Portugal can be cold indoors due to a lack of central heating. (Tip: Bring sweaters, use space heaters, and buy a dehumidifier to prevent mold.)

The bottom line:

If you're even half serious about moving to Portugal as a retiree, employee, business owner, or "digital nomad"--or even if you're merely thinking of buying property in Portugal--James Cave's Moving to Portugal Made Simple is an essential handbook.

Moving to Portugal Made Simple book cover

You'll find the book on Amazon in two formats: Kindle e-book and paperback. See the book's Amazon.com page, visit the Amazon.co.uk page if you live in the United Kingdom, or search on "Moving to Portugal Made Simple" at sites such as Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, and Amazon.it.

While you're at it, take time to visit James Cave's helpful site for travelers and prospective expats, Portugalist.com.

Portugal photos copyright ©  Durant Imboden.