Moving to Portugal from the US

A lot of European countries take more than their fair share of the attention. Everyone knows about delicious Italian food, historic French culture, and lovely Spanish weather. But countries like Portugal deserve some loving too!

If you agree and are looking to move to Portugal for any reason, this is the article for you. We’ll talk about how you’ll get there, and what it’ll be like to settle down. If that’s something you’re eager to know, read on!

If you’re already headed there and looking for a way to get your stuff over there with you, fill out our form and get some free quotes from shipping companies.


Lisbon has some of the best weather this side of the Atlantic, as well as some fun trams

Cost of shipping to Portugal from the US

You probably have a decent amount of stuff to ship to Portugal. But how long will it take, and how much will it cost? Let’s estimate that your belongings fall around the average cost of the contents of a three-bedroom household, which, according to Admiral Insurance, is around $53,000.

The shipping rates themselves are from World Freight Rates, based off the sea freight rates for a 20ft container of used furniture. The duration of the trip is sourced from SeaRates.

OriginDestination20ft Container CostDuration
New York City, USALisbon, Portugal$1,229.1114 days
New York City, USAFigueira Da Foz, Portugal$1,297.9814 days
Los Angeles, USALisbon, Portugal$2,993.4127 days
Los Angeles, USAFigueira Da Foz, Portugal$3,161.2128 days

Data updated as of August 2020

Cost of flying goods to Portugal from the US

There are some cases where speed can be a factor. If you want/need your belongings as soon as possible, you might want to consider using a flight service instead of shipping. While this is faster, it’s also considerably more expensive. Sometimes it can be up to 18x moreso.

We’ll only look at the cost of flying to Lisbon, as no matter where you’re landing, the cost of flying is almost identical. These estimates are based on a single meter-cubed 250kg container of household goods. Keep in mind, it’s a lot harder to transport a heavier shipment by air than by sea.

New York, USALisbon, Portugal$2,705.42
Los Angeles, USALisbon, Portugal$2,705.42

Data updated as of August 2020

Healthcare in Portugal

Portugal has a well funded government healthcare program. It isn’t entirely free, but you won’t be going into debt to pay any medical fees. As far as quality goes, it’s ranked 13th in Europe, above the UK, Spain, and Italy.

Firstly, children and seniors do have free medical care. Under 18s and over 65s are covered with whatever procedure they need. Everyone in between may find themselves spending a bit here or there, but it will all be fairly priced and subsidized by the National Health Service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde, SNS).

Cost of living in Portugal

It’s nice to get a feel of the cost of shipping and healthcare, but spend enough time in a country, and the bulk of your spending will come from the day-to-day expenditure. Let’s compare the prices of some basic amenities in the US and Portugal to see how the cost of living measures up.

Basic groceries (milk, bread, eggs, cheese)$12.12$20.01
Basic restaurant meal$8.85$15.00
Single beer$2.36$2.84
Movie ticket$8.26$12.00
Monthly gym membership$38.41$36.11

Data from Numbeo. Updated as of August 2020

As you can see, the cost of living in Portugal is significantly lower than America. Almost everything is far cheaper on average, so it’s a great place to move to as an expat with a lot of savings. However, if you’re working, this will be slightly offset by Portugal’s low average salary, discussed below.


If you've ever had one of these, you might not know that they're a Portuguese pastel de nata, and they'll be at their best in their land of origin

Transferring money to Portugal from the US

If you’re thinking of moving to Portugal, you’ll probably need to convert some of your American dollars into euros.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Wise, an easy-to-use online international money transfer service which uses the real exchange rate, and charges low fees.

How much could you save? Well, its service can be up to 8x cheaper than high street banks.

Join more than 7 million people and start using Wise today.

Working in Portugal

Portugal would be a beautiful place to live out your life gazing over the Atlantic Ocean, dipping in and out of vineyards to indulge on some wine, and feeling the breeze blow your worries away.

The reality of our cold harsh world is that you’ll need some form of income. And traditionally, the easiest way to get an income is to get a job.

Getting a work visa for Portugal

If you’re not a European citizen, you’ll need a work visa to be able to work in Portugal. If you’re moving to Portugal specifically for your job, you’ll have been sponsored by your company and they’ll cover all the paperwork.

But if you’re waiting to get there to get a job, you’ll need to secure a work visa. Provided you find a job, it’s actually not too hard to enroll for a visa. As of last year, you can even apply online. As long as you aren’t an active outlaw and have your potential workplace vouch for you, you’ll be in the clear.

As far as vouching goes, as long as you’re not looking for an easily replaceable position, like a waiter or bartender, a company will most likely take the time to stick up for you.

Average salary in Portugal

Portugal’s minimum wage is €4.38 an hour, hitting a monthly €700 on a 40-hour work week. However, the country-wide average clocks in at around €25,000.

Income tax in Portugal

Like most countries, income tax in Portugal is not a flat rate. The more you earn, the higher your percentage of income goes back to the country.

The starting tax rate is 14.5% (covering all salaries up to €7,112), while the highest tax rate is 48%, imposed on anyone who makes over €80,882.

Job-hunting in Portugal

The first thing you’ll want to do when trying to land a job in Portugal is to learn Portuguese. Beyond that, tools you’d normally use in America, like LinkedIn or Indeed, are just as useful in Portugal.

If you’re not looking for a particularly skilled job, Portugal is always on the lookout for anyone who can fill hospitality jobs, like hotel or restaurant staff. Your English would definitely help you land one of these.

Climate in Portugal

If you’re moving to Portugal, the weather might have already been something to draw you in. It’s just barely on the Mediterranean Sea, but still gets all the weather you’d want from a country like Italy or Greece, with warm sunlight and cool ocean breezes.

Does it snow in Portugal?

Typically no, Portugal isn’t privy to much snow. It’s quite close to the equator – and only a couple hundred miles from Africa, so you can see how it might struggle to produce much snow.

However, up in the North, you might catch a tiny bit. And the further north you go, the more your winters could transition from chilly to cold.

The best places to live in Portugal

Portugal isn’t a massive country, so you only have a handful of options when compared to other European countries. However, these options are great, and offer a great variety of Portuguese lifestyles.

Lisbon: Best for city life

The country’s capital, Lisbon serves as the hub for a large portion of the country’s financial and international goings on. In fact, Lisbon is recognized as an alpha-level global city due to its impact on the world’s commerce and arts.


This heart-shaped island is an extinct volcano just off the coast. Doesn't get cooler than that

Cascais: Best for beach life

If Portugal was severed from Spain, it would be an island, so it’s not hard to imagine there being a massive amount of beaches. There are a lot of places we could have picked to represent Portugal’s beach life, but we went with Cascais. White sand, clear water, and that near-the-equator heat, these are some of the best beaches in the world.

7 quick facts about Portugal

Now for some quick fire fun:

  • Despite its relatively small size, Portugal used to “own” a massive percentage of the world. Their “empire” ran from around 1415 to the mid 1800s, and is the reason Brazil speaks Portuguese
  • Portugal produces 50% of the world’s cork supply. If you’ve popped your fair share of wine, you’ve probably touched a Portuguese cork!
  • Livraria Bertrand, the world’s oldest bookstore, is found in Lisbon
  • Famous Portugese explorer Magellan was the first person to circumnavigate the globe
  • Portugal is Europe’s most Western point
  • The biggest wave ever surfed was just off a Portuguese beach. It was 80 feet tall!
  • Portugal is part of the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world, becoming England’s ally in 1373

Next steps

Portugal is often overlooked as a European country in favour of Spain or France, but it has loads to offer. Despite its size, there’s a lot to see and do, and its impact on the world, both past and present, cannot be overlooked.

Don’t forget, if you use our free form you’ll be able to get shipping quotes specific to you and your belongings.