Moving to Lisbon


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Once a crumbling shrine to bygone times of glory, world domination and salt cod, two decades ago Lisbon was still crawling out from the shadows of Salazar’s authoritarian rule. A stint as the European Capital of Culture in 1994 was the driving force behind the city’s renaissance and the it has worked hard to build on its success ever since, evolving into a truly cosmopolitan destination.

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Tagus River with the Atlantic Ocean sweeping off in the direction of the New World beyond, Lisbon has always enjoyed one of the most dramatic settings of any European city. Few destinations in Europe can match it for its mix of history, urban charm and waterfront wonders, and it is to this enchanting mix that it owes its reputation as one of the most popular locations for expats looking to relocate to Portugal.

Lisbon’s subtropical climate ensures mild winters and warm, dry summers. Temperatures are at their hottest in the high summer months of July and August, although they rarely reach high into the thirties, and any daytime discomfort is offset by the fact that the city also boasts the mildest night time temperatures of anywhere on the European mainland, averaging a balmy 18.6˚ Celsius after nightfall during the summer months.

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The job market in Lisbon

Although the economy has been slow in recent years, as the wealthiest and largest city in Portugal, Lisbon offers more work opportunities than many other locations. There are certain opportunities in the tourist industry and English language teaching that do not require a fluent knowledge of Portuguese, but even in these sectors a good understanding of the language is an asset. For others arriving in search of work, it should be noted that it will not be easy without very good or fluent language skills.

Those seeking work in the media will be well placed in Lisbon, as the city is the central hub of the country’s media communications network. Most of the main broadcasters and print publications are located here. Other thriving sectors with opportunities for workers with the right skills and experience are the oil and steel industries, banking, private health, textiles and those that you would expect to be associated with the country’s largest seaport, such as fishing and boatbuilding. Several multinationals also have call centres located in the city, and this growth industry provides interesting possibilities for those with foreign language skills.

Countrywide the average salary in Portugal is 2,075 Euros per month, with many of those working in Lisbon enjoying salaries towards the upper end of the scale.

Lisbon living costs

Eating and drinking out in Lisbon tends to cost a little more than in smaller Portuguese towns, however the cost of living is still relatively low in comparison with other parts of the world and, indeed, of Europe. Expect to pay 7 Euros for a meal in an inexpensive restaurant, or an average of 30 Euros for a three-course meal for two in a mid-range eatery. A cappuccino or soft drink in a city café will usually cost in the region of 1.20-1.30 Euros.

Fresh produce is good value in Lisbon, with milk costing around 0.64 Euros per litre, a dozen eggs 1.83 Euros, a kilo of potatoes 63 cents and local cheese around 7 Euros per kilo. When it comes to leisure facilities, you should budget around 38.70 Euros for monthly adult membership at a fitness club, 9 Euros for an hour’s weekend tennis court booking and 6.50 Euros for a cinema ticket.

Utilities will cost in the region of 95 Euros per month for electricity, heating, water and refuse collection for an average 85 m2 apartment, while monthly rents in the centre are between 560 Euros and 1,000 for one and three-bedroom properties respectively, falling to between 360 and 660 Euros in the suburbs.

Transferring money to Lisbon

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Buying property in Lisbon

After several rather static years, the property market in the Portuguese capital is booming. Countrywide, house prices increased by 5.9% in the second quarter of 2014 and the trend has continued, fuelled both by the country’s domestic growth and by an influx of overseas property investors keen to buy at the bottom of the market and enjoy significant returns as prices climb.

Property in prime city-centre locations is still affordable here, unlike in many other major European capitals, though those wishing to get in on the action would be advised not to wait too long. Current costs per square metre stand at 6,000 Euros for a luxury city-centre apartment, compared to 25,000 Euros for the same quality build and location in Vienna. There are currently two programmes in place to incentivise overseas buyers to purchase Portuguese property, one aimed at European buyers (NHR programme) and the other at Chinese, Angolan and Brazilian buyers (GRP programme). Benefits include a range of tax reductions, exemptions and citizenship options, so they are well worth exploring if you feel they may apply to you.

Lisbon Neighbourhoods

  • Family-friendly: Campo de Ourique is the district of choice for families with a decent budget. Set slightly away from the city centre, it offers plenty of amenities and a real neighbourhood feel.
  • Upmarket: Located on top of a hill within walking distance of some of the best shopping in Lisbon is the achingly attractive neighbourhood of Principe Real. Already popular with fashion designers, architects and media companies, the area is home to a series of luxury developments that have set about transforming it into one of the most sought-after residential districts in the city.
  • Hip & Trendy: The Bairro Alto is the place to see and be seen at night, and for night owls it also makes a great base from which to enjoy the city on a daily basis. Set over a labyrinth of steep cobbled streets, this delightful spot is not for the elderly or infirm!
  • Up & Coming: Parque de Naçoes was the site of the 1998 Expo and has undergone a complete facelift over the course of the past two decades. Set away from the historic city centre, it offers plenty of modern, new development and a range of new amenities right on your doorstep.

Cost of moving

With no sea crossings to factor into the cost, relocating from mainland Europe to Lisbon offers excellent value for money. Indeed, if you are relocating from anywhere in the EU you will also have the right to transport your possessions without additional customs costs. Popular transportation methods include removal lorry for overland moves and containers for moves from further afield.

Expect to pay between 4,000 and 6,500 Euros for a 20 ft container depending on the town and country of origin plus customs fees if you are arriving from outside the EU. Do make sure your possessions are suitably insured as although damage or loss is rare it can nevertheless occur.

Schools and education

There is a wide choice of international schools in Lisbon. The Carlucci American International School of Lisbon offers English-language instruction in line with the American curriculum, while others such as St Julian’s International British School follow the English curriculum through GCSEs and the International Baccalaureate. French and German speakers are also well catered for at the Lyceé Français Charles Lepierre and the Deutsche Schule Lissabon respectively.

The Portuguese education system is state funded and free to all, with additional assistance for school meals, transport and textbooks for those who qualify. As the country’s capital city, Lisbon offers a wide range of schools from which to choose, although in practice most state school students attend a school that is located in their immediate vicinity.

How Lisbon compares to the rest of the world

Despite being a thriving capital the cost of Living in Lisbon is relatively low compared to many of its European counterparts. Lisboetas, as the city’s inhabitants are known, enjoy low rents, utility bills, food bills and transportation costs, although this is also reflected to some extent in the modest salaries on offer.

The overall quality of living in the capital is high, with residents claiming to feel safe and satisfied with their commute, health care and lack of pollution. The Mercer Quality of living survey places Lisbon 22nd in the world, only narrowly behind Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Barcelona and above Portland, Oslo and Brisbane.

A day in life of a Lisbonian

There are limitless opportunities at weekends for enjoying the Lisbon lifestyle both indoors and out. Begin your day with a cappuccino and pastel de nata (typical Portuguese baked custard tart) at an old-town café before boarding a tram to the shopping district to run some errands or indulge in a spot of serious retail therapy. The marina beckons for a leisurely lunch by the waterfront before returning home and preparing for a night on the tiles in the lively Bairro Alto district.

Thanks to its coastal location, Lisbon offers easy access to delightful sandy beaches, and those along the coast at Estoril are particularly popular during the summer months. Head to Cascais for an upmarket beach vibe in the company of well-heeled Lisboetas, or further west for a wilder, more relaxed experience.