It’s bright, relaxed and colourful — and therefore it’s no surprise that more and more people are looking to relocate to Lisbon. Whether you’ve been there before or haven’t, you’ve undoubtedly heard speak of the kind locals, fresh seafood and great weather. But before buying your one-way ticket, there are essential things to know and consider to help make your new start in Portugal as smooth as possible.
From applying for a visa to setting up an account in Lisbon, Monesers working out of our Lisbon office (many of whom are foreigners themselves) share their insight to help you on your exciting expat adventure.
- Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world — older than Paris, London, and Rome.
- It hasn’t always been the Portuguese capital. Before Lisbon came Guimarães, Coimbra... and Rio de Janeiro!
- The city was subject to one of the deadliest earthquakes in history: the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755.
- The timezone in Lisbon is Western European Standard Time (WET), same timezone as the UK.
- Lisbon has a subtropical, typical Mediterranean climate, with an average annual daytime temperature of more than 20°C!
Cost of living
It’s crucial to have a general sense of what the cost of living is like in Lisbon before moving. This way, you know how much to save and budget for before jetting off. Lisbon is known for being an ideal tourist and expat destination thanks to its rather low prices. For example, you can get an espresso (colloquially known as a bica in Lisbon) for less than €1 and a nice meal for two for around €35. That’s two times less than what you’d typically pay in London or Paris. But while cheap, you must also remember that the average salary in Lisbon is just €860.
Björn from Sweden: “An awesome trick to reduce your costs is to buy groceries during promotions and discounts. Every week, various supermarkets offer different promotions with up to 50% discount, so be on the lookout for those”.
Apply for a visa
You’ll first need to check if you need a visa to move to Lisbon. Portugal is a member state of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). This means all EU/EEA nationals are welcome to enter the country with only their national ID cards. You will, however, need a residence certificate if you’re planning to stay longer than three months.
Additionally, the country’s immigration policy also includes several international agreements with non-EU countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada and the US. These agreements allow citizens from these countries to enter and stay in Portugal for up to 90 days. If you don’t come from one of the countries with an agreement, you’ll most likely need a residence visa and, depending on your situation, other documents, including:
- an acceptance letter from educational institute if you want to study in Lisbon
- a contract of employment if you’re going to work or conduct research in Lisbon
Marina from Brazil: “I came to Lisbon on a student visa first. Once I found a job with a working contract, I became eligible for a residence permit. To apply for your visa or residence permit, be organised well in advance with the documents you’ll need to present at SEF, Portugal’s immigration service. You’ll want to book your appointment at SEF as early as possible as slots fill up fairly quickly”.
Get a NIF
If you’re planning on living and working in Lisbon, one of the first things you’ll need to obtain is a NIF. This is a tax identification number which you will need to legally work, rent an apartment, pay utility bills or even get a phone subscription. You’ll need to go to the nearest Finanças with your ID and proof of address (either from Portugal or your home country). Keep in mind that if you’re deemed a non-resident or from outside the EU, you’ll likely need to appoint a fiscal representative who you should bring with you. After you successfully get your NIF, you’ll be able to start enjoying the benefits of being an officially recognised taxpayer in Portugal.
Melissa (your humble author) from Canada: “After obtaining your NIF, be sure to apply for the non-habitual resident tax regime on the Finanças online portal if eligible. Highly skilled expats can receive a flat 20% income tax rate for ten years! Be sure to apply on time as well. You have until March 31”.
Lisbon is one of the most popular destinations for expats. With a surge of tourists and foreign investors, it’ll be tricky to find long-term accommodation straight away. This is true not only in the city centre, but the suburbs as well. With that in mind, you might want to book a short-term rental for the first several weeks of your stay. This way, you can start looking for a more permanent apartment once you’ve arrived in Lisbon and have had a chance to visit places in person.
Many estate agents and private landlords operate on a first-come, first-served basis. To help with your search, try popular websites such as imovirtual, Casa Sapo, Idealista or BQuarto as well as Facebook groups. Don’t be shy about calling instead of emailing! Be aware that fraudsters and scammers have also been trying to capitalise on the popularity of the Portuguese city. Therefore, proceed with caution and be wary of anything that seems too good to be true.
Mathilde from France: “Living in the Portuguese capital is lovely but be prepared for a cold house during winter months. Most apartments in Lisbon don’t have heaters, so adjusting to a cold house is something that newcomers may find difficult. In the end, I did manage to convince my landlord to get me an air conditioner that doubles as a heater, so it’s worth asking”!
Work in Lisbon
While finding an apartment may be difficult, landing a job shouldn’t be! Lisbon has been one of the most popular and fastest-growing tech hubs over the past several years. It’s no surprise many startups decide to make the Portuguese capital home to their headquarters. Along with Facebook groups and LinkedIn, there are plenty of other sites listing job openings:
We wouldn’t mind if you had a look at our own job listings here. Apply to one of the open positions at Monese and join us on our mission to give people the financial freedom to thrive anywhere!
If you are a digital nomad or entrepreneur and need a place to work remotely - fear not. As a well-established business hub, you’ll find several comfortable spaces to work around Lisbon. You can choose between several lovely cafes or coworking spaces. Take time to visit a few places to see what suits you best! Working around the city can also help you meet new people and build a professional network faster.
Set up an account
Your local bank account might turn out to be less cost-effective during your stay in Lisbon simply because many banks charge you for maintaining an account. So what can you do if you do need a bank account and somewhere safe to keep your money? Join Monese! With Monese, you can easily open an account even before you move, provided you’re moving from another EEA country. This way you don’t need to carry excess amounts of cash with you. With Monese, you can receive your salary, use it to pay both online and in-store and send money back home. If family members and friends join Monese, they’ll receive fee-free transfers from you instantly and vice versa!
Karolina from Poland: “Opening an account with a traditional Portuguese bank was a challenge for me. There were a lot of documents I needed to provide them with, including proof of employment, a NIF plus a €200 deposit to even open an account. Monese was the easiest and best solution for me”!
No matter if you’re lucky enough to find an apartment in the city centre or something in the suburbs, you likely won’t need a car. Streets in Lisbon are both incredibly challenging to drive on and crowded anyway due to them being quite narrow. Luckily, public transportation is well-developed, which makes commuting to work easy and convenient, even if you live on the other side of the river or on the outskirts. You can choose from several metro lines, buses, trains, as well as ferries and trams. We do recommend leaving the latter for tourists as trams can get considerably crowded. You can use the same monthly pass to commute to work each morning and get to the beach on the weekend!
Leaving loved ones behind is never easy, and being on your own in a new country is daunting. But there’s no need to worry! There are a few Facebook groups, other online communities and meetup groups for expats who have just moved to Lisbon. Making friends is made easier thanks to our referral programme, which allows you to invite new contacts to join Monese - and you both get rewarded!
If you still feel like you could use more information, there are plenty of bloggers living and working in Lisbon, so do make sure to look up some of their sites! Joanna of The Blond Travels writes about living in Lisbon from her own unique perspective (she’s a happy Monese customer as well). You can also leave us a message on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or write to us at email@example.com, and share any tips you may have for moving to Lisbon!