Moving to Porto
Source: Flickr | Guillén Pérez
Nestled on the northeast coast, the bustling waterfront hub of Porto is Portugal’s second-largest metropolitan area. A beautiful city of contrasts, Porto brings together modernity and tradition to perfection. This is a place where historical monuments and contemporary architectural edifices are juxtaposed one against the other, effortlessly combining to create a single, fluid style whether on the waterfront, in the old town or in the outskirts that lead away to the rolling green hills of the Douro river valley.
Porto’s climate makes it a favourable option for year-round living, with a relatively mild winter and deliciously warm summer. Inset just slightly from the Atlantic coast, there is plenty of opportunity for enjoying the outdoor lifestyle on the beach, on the river or in the hills that form the city’s picturesque backdrop.
While unmistakeably Portuguese, Porto has an international vibe that ensures it is eternally popular with residents and visitors alike. Home to the thriving port wine industry, it offers bodegas aplenty in which to sample the delights of this fortified nectar, together with a lively cultural scene that spans sport, live music, art and literature.
The job market
While parts of the country remain in the economic doldrums, Porto has a thriving economy spanning diverse commercial sectors, making it a popular relocation destination for Portuguese workers and expats alike. Some of the most active commercial sectors include manufacturing, canning and packing, cotton production and IT. As a university city, research and lecturing opportunities also exist.
Average annual salaries in the city are currently in the region of 32,000 – 73,000 Euros for an operations director, 51,000 Euros for a construction project manager, 24,000 – 45,000 Euros for a marketing manager, 30,000 Euros for an IT project manager or HR manager, 21,000 Euros for an account manager and 15,000 Euros for a retail store manager. If you are planning to work in Porto you will need an excellent command of Portuguese, particularly if you are working in any sector other than hospitality or English-language teaching.
Jobs are advertised via online job boards and in the local press, but do bear in mind that networking plays a key role in the city’s commercial world. Aim to build up a pool of contacts in your chosen field and don’t be afraid to make direct approaches to companies that you have identified as suitable employers.
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Living costs in Porto are more or less on parity with other major Portuguese towns, although the main tourist areas unsurprisingly tend to be more expensive. Nevertheless, it is certainly possible to enjoy a meal at an inexpensive restaurant for around 6 Euros or a three-course meal for two at a mid-range eatery for 30 Euros.
Although a great nation of coffee drinkers, the Portuguese do not pay excessively for the privilege, with a regular cappuccino costing on average just 89 cents in the city, best savoured al fresco at a bistro table outside one of the many cafés that pepper the narrow streets of the old town. Travelling around the city is inexpensive and easy, with a one-way bus ticket costing on average 1.50 Euros and fuel costing 1.43 Euros per litre at the time of writing.
Costs for an average 85 m2 apartment are around 94 Euros per month for basic utilities, with rent for a city-centre apartment at approximately 350 Euros per month for a one-bedroom property, rising to just under 640 Euros for a three-bedroom property in the same location. Rents outside the city centre are lower, averaging 262 Euros and 475 Euros per month for a one or three-bedroom apartment respectively.
Accommodation in Porto is sought after but somewhat easier to secure than in the capital, Lisbon. There is a range of suitable accommodation available to expats in central Porto as well as over the river in the ‘new quarter’ at Vila Nova da Gaia. Those who prefer a more rural setting can choose to base themselves slightly deeper into the Douro valley or in the seafront settlements of Lavadores or Madalena.
If you are intending to rent in Porto you will usually be required to pay two or three months’ rent in advance, so you should factor this into your relocation budget. If you do not have an employment contract in place, you may also be required to demonstrate proof of your ability to sustain yourself for a longer period of time, or present a ‘fiador’, or guarantor, to secure the property.
Prices are on the rise in Porto, with average prices rising by 2.59% during the year to March 2015. In fact, Vila Nova de Gaia, the ‘new’ city on the south side of the Douro, enjoyed Portugal’s highest price increases during the course of 2014-2015, rising by 7.67%. Average purchase prices in the city now stand at 951 Euros per square metre, although of course this varies considerably from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
- Family friendly: Campanha is a leafy suburb to the inland west of the city, with a population of some 40,000. Just outside the main ring road, it offers easy access to the city centre with plenty of parks and green spaces on your doorstep, perfect for whiling away relaxing weekends with the little ones.
- Upmarket: Foz do Douro is the area to the west of Porto where the Douro river opens up to the rolling turquoise expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. For those in search of an upmarket beach lifestyle just a stone’s throw from a dynamic urban setting this is the place to see and be seen – as long as you have a budget to match your aspirations.
- Hip & Trendy: The UNESCO World Heritage areas of Ribeira, right in the city centre, is one of Porto’s most happening neighbourhoods. A veritable labyrinth of cobbled streets and higgledy-piggledy ancient houses, the area is bursting with bars, clubs, eateries and boutiques.
- Up & Coming: As Porto has expanded, Ramalde has been transformed from an agricultural area into a thriving urban neighbourhood. While prices have already risen commensurately, the real estate market continues to boom, with hopeful investors still keen to see a piece of the action.
Cost of moving
When moving to another country it is important to give careful consideration to which of your possessions you will take with you and which you will leave behind. Cars and furniture are expensive in Portugal in comparison with, for instance, the United Kingdom, so if you are shipping from a UK address it is well worth considering shipping your belongings ‘en masse’, as overland truck transport is relatively cost effective. If, on the other hand, you are shipping from further afield you should work out your budget carefully in order to help you reach a decision.
If you are shipping from outside the EU, do be sure to check what customs clearance, if any, is required for your consignment, as well as any restrictions that you will need to abide by. Typically, the cost of a 20 ft container load will cost between 4,000 Euros and 8,000 Euros depending on where you ship from, plus of course you will need to check that any quote you receive includes insurance, brokerage fees and any other costs required at customs.
Schools and Education
Education in Portugal is compulsory until the age of 18 and the state system is free of charge to Portuguese nationals and residents. Those with means sometimes choose to send their children to private schools for the smaller class sizes and greater facilities. Porto offers a good selection of both state and private schools, many of which feature at the top of the educational rankings. Indeed, the city boasts three of the four top-ranked schools in the country, all of which are private, while the state-funded Escola Basica e Secundaria Clara de Resende is ranked at 25.
For those in search of an international education, the Oporto British School is a popular option, providing IGCSE and IB programmes within an English-language curriculum.
Higher education options in Porto include the University of Porto, Portugal’s largest university and one of the country’s leading research institutions. The QS World University Rankings rate it as 293rd in the world and number one in Portugal. For more technical and/or vocational subjects, the Polytechnic Institute of Porto is also a popular choice.
Residents of Porto enjoy a high quality of life in comparison with many worldwide destinations. The standards of health care are high, consumer costs are low and commuting time is short thanks to the compact nature of the city. Rent, eating out and groceries are all cheaper in Porto than, for instance, in Faro on Portugal’s Algarve, or other European cities such as Belfast and Lyon.
While not a huge city, Porto does boast a good-sized expat community which, together with a steady stream of tourists, lend it an international flavour.
A day in the life
Porto’s location at the mouth of the Douro river ensures that it offers something for everyone, from urban living to beachside fun, and from river cruising to outdoor adventure sports. Weekends can be spent enjoying shopping at high-street stores, lunching on the Ribeira, whiling away an afternoon to the sounds of the Atlantic rollers and dining with fine wines in Vila Nova da Gaia.
With parks aplenty, leisure facilities in abundance and the majestic Estadio do Dragao offering world-class football and all manner of open-air music concerts, there is never a dull moment in Porto.