How to move to



Find A Job

The start of 2016 saw a higher unemployment rate to the latter part of the year with the number being 10.5%. The sectors which have seen the largest contribution to the improvement in the rate of unemployment are agriculture and tourism according to Portugal’s statistics institute (INE). With a year on year increase in tourism in places like the Algarve, this sector remains the biggest expanding income and job generator for the country. Other sectors performing well are hotels and catering, textiles, forestry and fisheries, property and business services, retail, wood and cork are sectors which create jobs and remain strong industries. Biotechnology has recently seen a growth in the sector as has IT and call centres. With new aim of all season tourism, it may be that Portugal can create more jobs in a variety of sectors all year round.

In terms of unemployment in the latter part of 2016, in the south the Algarve had the lowest unemployment rates of around 8.1%, with Alentejo amounting to around 13% and Centro having similar figures. Lisbon sees unemployment rates of around 12%, and the north area of Norte has a rate of around 13%. The Azores rates were just over 12% with Madeira seeing the highest unemployment rate of the country at just over 14%. Unfortunately youth unemployment is still a problem with those aged below 25 making up 28.9% of the total of those unemployed.

When searching for jobs, people use a variety of methods such as checking local print and online newspapers. A popular site is the English language Portugal Resident, plus Jornal de Notícias and the online job portal of As ever, particularly for local jobs word of mouth is always a useful tactic in discovering work opportunities. For the most part, job seekers have a look at job listing websites, and recruitment agency websites with some going into their offices to register in person.

Recruitment agencies

Take a look at the Portuguese Yellow Pages to find employment agencies near to the area you live in (section pessoal temporário and pessoal recrutamento e seleção.) Agencies will offer a range of contractual, temporary, seasonal, permanent, full time and part time jobs.

Adecco, Porto
Address: Rua Santa Catarina 1535, 4000-458 Porto
Tel: + 351 225074640

Michael Page International, Lisbon
Address: Avenida Liberdade 180-A, 1250-146, Lisbon
Tel: +351 21 041 91 00

EMA Partners, Lisbon
R. Rosa Araújo 30, 1250 Lisboa, Portugal
Email: online form
Tel: +351 21 351 38 90

Randstad, Faro
Rua Dr. Justino Cumanus, 358000-333
Tel: 289 887 660

Online job sites

Jobs in Lisbon - Jobs for English speakers in Lisbon.

Top language jobs - Site for speakers of other European languages such as German, French and English.

Reed - International online job portal.

Oneworld365 - Specialist in volunteering opportunities, courses, travel, jobs and courses.

Emprego - Online job site which has training and work listed for job seekers plus headhunting.

Learn4good - Job site listing English speaking jobs in many different sectors.

English Portuguese Jobs - Online job site for bilingual speakers of Portuguese and English

The Portuguese Public Employment Service (Instituto do Emprego) displays job vacancies as well as listing advice on finding work.

EURES Job Mobility Portal for EU workers

Remember when applying online please attach your CV and covering letter so that the documentation required of you will differ per company. For the interview, take original documentation, references, certificates and all forms of identification. European Higher Education Area qualifications are recognised but if you have qualifications outside of the EU it could be worth getting your certificates validated to work in Portugal via NARIC (the National Academic Recognition Information Centre.

Handing your CV to businesses face to face, electronically or in the post can help you to secure a local job especially, if you are able to speak Portuguese. For larger multinationals finding a person to send your CV and cover letter to unsolicited is a good way of making yourself known. Have a look at the Portuguese White Pages (Paginas Blancas) and the Portuguese Yellow Pages (Paginas Amarelas) and use them to look up a company’s details.

There are many large multinationals who regularly recruit English speakers. Well known examples are Portugal Telecom, Millennium PCP, Nokia, EDP, Samsung Media Capital, Accenture, Deloitte, and Critical Software. In previous years unless working for an international or multinational corporation, in tourism or teaching English it would have been a challenge to find work as a foreigner who does not speak the local language. However many more opportunities have opened up now with an influx of roles in tourism, call centres and real estate. To work in a Portuguese company and for more local jobs, the local language must be spoken.

As with undertaking work illegally in any EU country the same penalties apply. The worker could face fines, penalties and deportation or even a ban from the country they were illegally working in (depending on the circumstances). By working illegally the employer can face hefty fines and a criminal record. Under no circumstances should an individual consider working illegally in Portugal not only is it against the law but it is dangerous for the worker as they usually have little to no rights and can face exploitation.

Networking and business groups

British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce (Câmara de Comércio Luso-Britânica)
Networking and business official group for individuals plus small to large businesses.

Portuguese Confederation of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Confederação Portuguesa das Micro, Pequenas e Médias Empresas) CPPME
Networking and business group for individuals plus small to medium businesses.

Confederation of Portuguese business (Confederação Empresarial de Portugal)
Association of businesses in Portugal and abroad connecting trades associations and advising and representing the businesses interests.

Portugal Global (AICEP)
Government created agency specialising in foreign investment and trade with worldwide networking.

Professional Women’s Network Lisbon (Portugal) via PNW Global Professional women’s network
International one to one, online and group networking events and professional development for women.

Lisbon Female Entrepreneurs
Networking group for individual specialists with events and talks

You can find the regional business associations in Portugal here.

Apply For A Visa/Permit

Anyone travelling to Portugal should have passports which are valid for 6 months or more and have spare pages to allow for stamps if necessary. If available, individuals should also bring their Identity cards. If the individual is not from the EU, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland then it may be that they are asked for evidence of medical insurance, sufficient funds to return home, evidence of their stay in Portugal and proof of their return ticket. Non EU members must get a visa to travel to Portugal, once this is in place the individual can apply for their temporary residence permit if they plan on residing there.

It is worth noting that if you are travelling to Portugal from an infected area then you may need vaccinations, e.g Yellow Fever vaccination. Check with your local Portuguese Embassy.

Portugal is a member of the 1995 Schengen Agreement therein Citizens from the EU, Iceland ,Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland do not require a visa for a stay of 90 daysl. Outside of the EU, nationals of Slovenia, Switzerland, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Hungary, Israel, Korea (Rep. of), Lithuania, Mexico, Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, and Croatia do not require a visa for a stay of 90 days either.

EU/EAA nationals and nationals from Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland may remain in the country for 90 days to set up a business or find a job. If the individual desires to stay longer they must change their status by applying for a Certificado de Registo in the Câmara Municipal of the residence area within the next 30 days after the 90 days period is up.

Short stay visas

Schengen visa (90 days) This visa allows for nationals who wish to travel to Portugal for political, religious, sporting, cultural, professional, touristic or family reasons for the short stay length. Non EU nationals who require this visa are listed here. The individual must apply for the visa at least one month before travel from their local Portuguese embassy within their home country or from another embassy of a Schengen country. A variety of documents are required to apply for a Schengen visa so check with the Portuguese embassy about exactly what you require. Notarised written consent for a minor is necessary as signed for by a guardian or parent. The cost is 60.00 EUR.

Airport Transit Visa A (90 days)
For non EU/EAA nationals travelling through the Schengen area A category Airport Transit Visa is necessary to be used as the individual transitions from one flight to the next in the airport and they wait in the transit area. The individual will carry return or onward documentation too. Nationals from the countries listed herewill require this visa.

The Entry and Short stay visa C (90 days)
This visa is for non EU/EAA nationals travelling through a Schengen area temporarily to travel onto another Schengen area via the airport and are leaving the international transit area. Multiple transits are allowed in the period of time. The cost is 60.00 EUR.

Business visa (90 days)
Visas can be applied for by EU and non EU nationals who require to travel to Portugal for business purposes for no more than 90 days. A letter from your accountant, bank manager, solicitor or your local chamber of commerce may be necessary if you are self-employed. If you are employed, a letter from your employer may be requested and references should be included.

Temporary stay visa (90 days)
This visa permits non EU nationals to work temporarily in the country on short term contracts.

Temporary residence visa
A short-term residence permit is valid from 90 days to one year. They are renewable for periods of two years and the renewal must be sent at the latest 30 days before it expires. The three forms of temporary visa are those who are type 1 which is independent professionals, an independent business person, for independent living, retirement or pursuing investments. Other considerations are for those who are foreign relatives of a Portuguese relative who wishes to move there (type 2) or resettlement visas for those who are relatives of non Portuguese citizen who reside there.

Long stay visas (90+ days)
Apart from the individuals mentioned in the Schengen visa part 1 all foreign nationals who want to stay or permanently reside in Portugal must get a long stay visa. Reasons for long stay visas range from religious training, medical recovery, investment, work, investment, research, skilled work or teaching, study, professional training or medical treatment.

Work visas

EU nationals may work in Portugal without a work visa if they find a job within the first 6 months of their stay in Portugal or they are transferred by their current company to work there. The holder of this visa can stay in the country for 3 years with their professional activities. The individual needs a residence card (Cartão de Residência) for their employment to be formally recognised. The card can be applied for via the Portuguese Immigration Office (Serviços de Estrangeiros e Fronteiros). If the work is less than 3 months, a visa/permit isn’t required.

Non EU nationals can get a work permit if offered a formal job with contract by a genuine employer or they are married to a local. It is hard for non EU nationals to get work permits as they are overlooked as jobs are first assigned to local and EU workers.

Blue Card (Cartão Azul)
Permit for highly skilled EU employees with 5 years’ professional experience or a 3 year graduate diploma who has a genuine job offer and contract from a Portuguese company and will be paid 1.5 the gross average annual salary.

Residence visas

Residence Visa (Highly Qualified)
A visa for highly skilled employee with local contracts who will be in Portugal for no less than one year.

Residence visa
EU nationals only may apply for residence permits within Portugal and non EU residents must apply from their home country. If the individual is classed as the following: working in Portugal, a student, those living off savings, retired people, family member or self-employed individual then they may apply.

Student visas

EU students don’t need a student visa for degree courses which last in excess of 90 days. However, it may be necessary for EU nationals to have and show proof of having the necessary funds to support themselves financially throughout their stay. Non EU students need to get a study visa and show they have proof of enrolment in a Portuguese institution. Further information specific to students can be found here.

Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer "Moratorium" or is it "Full underwriting" and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property

Renting Property

Whether you need to rent an apartment, condo or villa in the city or outside there are many options available for tenants. With a large amount of interest from buy to let landlords able to enjoy affordable house prices and attractive gross rental yields in places like Lisbon. The rental market has sprung alive again with a wide array of budget and luxury properties. In Lisbon you can rent a 2 bed furnished apartment for 800-1200€ pcm or an unfurnished apartment of the same description for 700-100€ pcm. Prices are lower in other cities however, and you can rent a 1 bed apartment on average in a city centre for around 460€ pcm, or 300€ pcm outside of the city. As expected, renting a villa in the sought after sunny Algarve or an apartment in bustling Lisbon will be considerably more expensive.

Rent with the knowledge that it is very unlikely you’ll find anywhere with central heating in a country favouring air con. Whilst some rental apartments are older and filled with authentic charm they can have issues with electricity and leaking pipes. Newer apartments may have reliable aircon and regular water supply but are likely to cost more.

Once you find a property to rent, you may think the landlord is being rather casual about the procedure, but this is normal practice. The landlord may not ask for references or perform any kind of checks on you as a tenant. What you should ensure is that you both sign a tenancy agreement (contrato de arrendamento) so it is all officially recorded. It will be necessary for you to have your Portuguese fiscal number / tax number (Numero fiscal de contribuinte) to hand. Ensure that you have an English translation of the contract so that you understand what you are signing either supplied by the landlord, estate agent or tenant.

Check that the rental contract has a notice period for the tenant so you are aware of expectations. Also check when the contract needs to be reviewed. The contract must include the price of rent the tenant must pay monthly. The contract must have the tenant’s details including The Licence for Usage as a dwelling (Licença de utilização) with the public authority and number which granted the licence, Tenancy contracts are either fixed term or open ended so ensure if it is fixed term the expiry date is printed within the contract and what the consequences are for breaking the tenancy term. The contract must also have the entry from the Land Registry. By ensuring all of this information is within the contract you will align it with the New Law on Urban Rental (Novo Regime do Arrendamento Urbano - NRAU).

For the most part, leases are open ended. Leading up to the rental contract end, the tenant and landlord can discuss a renewal or termination of the contract. Open ended is favoured over fixed term because of problems landlords have had in the past due to pro tenant regulations under fixed term leases remaining in properties for longer than wished by the landlord.

Trends have shown that many expats relocating to Portugal buy straight away, or if not, rent for a short while whilst preparing to buy. It is possible to find long term rentals, that of 6 months to 5 years. In resort areas with short stays and holiday lets the idea of long term rental is an expensive notion and consequently, not often found. Long term rentals are usually unfurnished, particularly if they are larger properties. The tenants rental contract (contrato de arrendamento) and rights are of more weight if you do intend on long term rental give the pro tenant finer print.

More information about tenancy rental rights can be found here.

Short term rentals differ from long term in many ways. Short term rentals are furnished. They can range in time periods to a few weeks for a holiday let to a 3 months short stay. With shorter rentals, the tenants rights are less upheld than longer rentals so if going for short term rental, insist on a contrato de arrendamento. Short term rentals come in the shape of villas, cottages, townhouses, apartments and condos. Expect short term rentals to be more costly than long term per week or month, especially in resort areas. Long term rentals will usually be unfurnished, and a fixed rate per calendar month all year whereas short term rentals will vary due to season and demand. Whilst long term rentals probably don’t include utility bills, short term rentals will.

It is usual practice for the tenant to pay a month’s rent in advance and a deposit of one or two months. If utilities aren’t included in the contract, ask to see previous bills so you can estimate the costs each month. Electricity may well be metered.

It is more common to find rental properties which are furnished (mobiliado) than unfurnished (sem mobília). In resort areas, long term unfurnished rentals are hard to come by with properties generally being furnished for both long and short term leases. Furnished can usually mean white goods, kitchen utensils and cutlery, basic furniture, decorations and necessary things such as bed sheets. However, this can vary dependent on the landlord and the rental. Naturally, the higher the price the plusher the furnishings. Unfurnished generally means no white goods (though in some cases they are included), no furniture or decorations. If there are white goods or any furniture check who is responsible for the maintenance or replacement.

Rental websites

Chavetejo Era
KW Portugal
Casa Trovit
Marcela Propriedades

Buying Property

Portugal’s property market has displayed a resurgence of life in the last two years with 2016 seeing house prices rise by 2.78% (without inflation added). Urban areas such as Barcelos, Amadora, Lisboa, Xira and Porto have seen the greatest increase. With real interest from property investors and affordable prices for locals and foreigners the prospect of owning a property in Portugal is becoming more and more popular with expats in particular.

To be certified professionally and trade as an estate agent (agente do estado) agents must be certified by the Instituto da Construção e do Imobiliário (INCI). Once certified the agent will be assigned a license number from the Associação de Mediadores Imobiliários which can be checked by using the INCI website. Whether advertising, on their business card or on their website, the estate agent’s licence number should be easy to find and check. Make sure your agent is a member of a professional association such as Associação dos Mediadores do Algarve (AMA), the Associação de Mediadores Imobiliários (AMI) or Sociedade de Mediação Imobiliária. Ideally, the agent would be a member of the European Federation of Estate Agents for extra protection as Portugal estate agents are not regulated.

When it comes to agent fees their commission usually amounts to 5-10% of the agreed selling price. It may be that their fees have already been factored into the price. Make sure you find this out before you proceed. Estate agents list and sell properties only. The procedure after this point is handled by the lawyer (advogado). The agent may refer you to a lawyer but it’s up to you if you want to risk having a lawyer with a potential conflict of interest affiliated to the agency. It is useful to also research other lawyers.

In rural areas, word of mouth and recommendations over which local estate agents you should visit can be useful and somewhat necessary. You will find that face to face discussions with agents is the best way of accessing all of the properties available to you as they may be listed on their computer system rather than online. For urban properties which pop up in brochures or in resort areas newspapers,estate agents websites and properties websites are the way to go.

Property websites

Portugal Property - Extensive and regional list of properties for sale.

Casa - Detailed property website listing from apartments to houses to farms.

Rightmove - Internationally known property website with useful filters.

Zoopla" - Internationally known property website with useful filters.

A Place In The Sun - UK based website with advice and a list of properties on sale in Portugal.

Century 21 - Site for commercial and residential properties.

Portugal Property Experts - No.1 real estate agency in Portugal


The Portugal News - Popular online newspaper for English speakers.

DN - Local newspaper with English online translation.

CM Jornal - Local newspaper with English online translation.

Portugal Resident - Advice and information on buying with up to date reports.

Hey Portugal - Useful online information on buying and living in Portugal.

Some expats buying in Portugal do opt for buyer’s agents to take some of the stress out of the process. Buyer’s agents come with pros and cons. A pro is that the agent will represent your needs exclusively whilst being able to talk to the necessary professionals in the local language. A con is that they will incur higher fees than other professionals. Such an agent must retain the same training and qualifications of an estate agent.

Organisations for foreign property buyers

Association of International Property Professionals where buyers can check for rights and regulations surrounding purchasing a property in Portugal. The voluntary members are industry professionals.

Information on the Portuguese golden visa which allows for residency and the purchasing of property.

European public real estate association.

When looking to buy a property you should have copies of your passport set aside and your Fiscal Number (numero de identificação fiscal / NIF) from the Finanças department at the council offices (camara municipal). When you have a property in mind, go to the estate agent associated with the property and agree on a price to purchase the property which should see it taken off the market once the seller has agreed. If you have a buyer’s agent they would have been organising this purchasing process from the beginning of the sale.

Find a reputable solicitor or lawyer to represent you (generally they will speak English). The lawyer will carry out investigations and more in depth checks throughout the process (debt and tax for example) whilst the solicitor will carry out tasks in order to secure the purchase of the property. The lawyers check no one else is interested in the property, if they are or they have a claim on the land it must be settled before you can continue.

The following documents will be sourced to continue the purchase by the lawyer. The Certidão de Teor detailing the mortgage and debts of the property if any plus certifying the seller has the property title. The Licença de Utilização confirms the property has been described the same as the property being bought. The Ficha Tecnica de Habitação includes the materials used on the property, the suppliers and the builder; also the Caderneta Predial is necessary which authenticates the property’s location, the area of land associated with the property and the size of it. The notary (notário) ensures that all taxes are paid.

Now would come the typography survey so the land registry knows the boundaries of the property. After this it is The Promissory Contract (contrato de promessa de compra e venda) where the buyer pays a deposit of 10%. After this has been signed, there are expensive penalties if either side pulls out. Once the contract is completed the lawyer will have found out about debts, utilities, restrictions on the property etc and drawn up the Deed of Purchase and Sale (Escritura Publica de Compra e Venda). The notary witnesses the signing of the Escritura by both parties and a stamped copy of the Escritura is given by the notary to the buyer.

Next is the registering of the property with the Land Registry Conservatoria do Registo Predial) which are part of the Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado (Institute of Records and Notaries. The cost is around 0.75€ to 1€ per cent of the property’s value. This needs to be undertaken within 30 days of the Escritura being finalised. Once this is completed the buyer is then the official owner.

To work in law in Portugal, lawyers must have had their license issued through The Ordem dos Advogados (the Portuguese Bar Association). Their website allows for you to search for accredited lawyers and lawyer firms.

Details of land law, estate law and list of qualified Portuguese lawyers.

List of European law firms.

Most of the fees paid by the buyers are fiscal value (valor tributável) of the property or pre declared. Legal fees usually amount to 1%-2% of the purchase price. There is a minimum charge of 1,000€ and the total amount depends on how much work is undertaken and the nature of the work. Get agreed written confirmation of the fees before the lawyer begins. The notary fees are legally fixed in rates which amount to €153 per transaction with €1.25 amendment fees. Notary, administration and registration fees depend on how many documents were processed (Imposto de selo) and usually amount to 2.5% of the purchase price.

There will be mortgage fees too for valuation, an appraisal, an administration fee, a commitment fee and an arrangement fee (around 1% of the loan total). If you have a survey done on the property as is standard practice, depending on the type of survey it can range from 800€ for a full structural survey (more if the house is valued more than 200 000€) and around 500€ for a valuation for a property and home buyers survey (more if the house is valued more than 200 000€).

Occasionally, buyers have fallen into the trap of being conned by unlicensed estate agents who overcharge them badly. Furthermore, some buyers may get pressured into signing contracts which they do not understand and consequently sign over power or money unknowingly. Another pitfall can be using the lawyers recommended by the estate agents who may have somewhat vested interests. You need factual, unbiased advice from a legal professional so choose one yourself. Estate agent fees are almost always added to the price of the house but check very carefully that this hasn’t been done before you purchase and after as some sneaky cowboy agents try to rip off buyers by charging them twice.

Another problem about purchasing property would be untruthful sellers. Perhaps the sellers have debt connected with the property (known as subrogation) such as mortgages, community charges and taxes and these are therefore inherited by the buyer once the property is in the buyer’s name. This is why using lawyer (English speaking) can expose such situations and prevent you making a bad investment and losing money.

Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: Portugal health insurance

The emergency medical services (ambulância) for Portugal comes under the European common number of (free call) 112. Also included within this number is the police (polícia) the Security Police (Polícia Segurança Pública, PSP) and Local Police (Guarda Nacional Republicana, GNR) plus fire rescue. All regions including autonomous regions use this emergency EU number. For forest fires it is 117. Lisbon Sea Rescue (Centro de Busca e Salvamento Marítimo) can be found on 214 401 919. Lisbon Maritime Police is found on 210 911 100. For general health and medical advice, the number for Saúde 24 (Health Line 24) is 808 24 24 24 (English speaking).

The standard of healthcare is generally high in Portugal with more limited resources in rural areas. For the most part hospitals are large, clean and equipped with state of the art equipment and facilities. In both private and public institutions English is spoken by doctors and nurses. Healthcare is divided into the state funded Portuguese Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) hospitals plus health centres and and privately run hospitals.

State healthcare (Serviço Nacional de Saúde) in Portugal is paid for by social security contributions (segurança social) of those living and working in Portugal. Both employees and employers plus those who are self-employed contribute through their taxes with such payments covering pensions, disabilities and maternity whilst the Portuguese government pays for healthcare coverage. Old age pensioners receive subsidised prescriptions and those who have certain classifications do need to pay for non-essential medicines, other members of the public do. Dental treatment is provided by the SNS as well as treatment by GPs and consultants. The SNS is managed by the Ministry of Health who also develops health policies.

Public healthcare

Public hospitals provide emergency medical care and specialised consultations. For further care there are local family units as well as long-term care units which may be separate or attached to the main hospital. Secondary and consequently tertiary care is mostly provided in hospitals. There are limited resources for full care such as post-operative care, terminal illness or psychiatric treatment. Individuals will most probably be transferred to a more suitable unit. Public hospital treatment is useable by anyone in Portugal wherever they are from, but if without the SNS or medical insurance full payment will be necessary. Some consultations and vaccinations are free but others are not.


Private hospitals have higher standards of facilities, faster appointment and consultancy times and almost no waiting. They have skilled and English speaking staff and local specialists. Private healthcare will see those who have it still pay for prescriptions as they pay annual or monthly healthcare fees to their healthcare providers but for emergency and non emergency hospital treatment and specialists, private healthcare covers the costs. There are also private GP practices which are funded mostly by private insurance contributions. Those with the appropriate private healthcare can see such independant practices for consultations and references to specialists.

Health centres (centros de saúde)

Health centres are the most accessible places for healthcare all over the country. They provide outpatient care, specialist services, general practice care, care for children and maternity care and medical aid. Qualified nurses and doctors work within health centres. Locals and foreigners register here to be assigned their doctor with it being the go to place for doctors appointments and referrals to hospital if necessary.


The Portuguese Constitution states that all citizens are privy to receive global health care. Those able to access the SNS are stateless persons residing in Portugal, asylum seekers, foreign citizens residing in Portugal with regards to reciprocity, Portuguese citizens, EU member citizens. The unemployed, those with long term sickness, those on maternity leave and old age pensioners do not have to pay healthcare contributions and are able to access the SNS. A small charge is paid per appointment or treatment. Those who are relatives of people who have contributed to the Portuguese social security system can also register with the SNS.

To access the SNS both Non EU and EU individuals need a valid Portuguese residence permit. By visiting your local health centre and bringing a valid identity document, residence permit and social security beneficiary’s card you will be given an SNS card, with a doctor assigned to you.

EHIC(The European Health Insurance Card (Cartão Europeu de Seguro de Doença – CESD)

If you are an EU citizen make sure you have your EHIC with you so that any emergency treatment you need costs the same as that of a local person. Maternity care will be covered with this card plus ongoing treatment of a medical condition. If you’ve paid for treatments it may be that you can get reimbursed if you claim the costs to the Administracão Regional de Saúde where there are offices throughout the Azores, Madeira and Continental Portugal.

If you are a non EU citizen health insurance/private health care is necessary whilst you reside in Portugal. Once you begin employment and start paying social security contributions and become a Portuguese resident then you can use the permit to gain access to the SNS.

Any foreign visitor will be treated for emergency medical treatment. The costs will not be free- though private medical insurance for non EU members will cover the costs if they have it or holders of the EHIC will have discounted rates and perhaps some treatments for no cost. Other EU citizens who have an E111 document from their birth country can use this to cover their costs from their insurance company in their home residence.

Useful phrases

Gostaria de ver um medico - I would like to see a doctor
Chame uma ambulância - Call an ambulance
Gostaria de marcar uma consulta - I’d like to make an appointment
Estou doente - I don’t feel well/ feel ill

An individual must be 18 to buy or smoke tobacco products in Portugal with a ban on vending machine distributions. As of 2015 it is prohibited to use electronic cigarettes containing nicotine or smoking of any kind to occur in closed public spaces. It is not permitted for anyone to smoke in public places as listed on the Protection of Minors webpage under Portugal. Having previously been allowed to smoke in closed public spaces with adequate air extraction fitted, those who want to smoke have to redirect themselves to establishments such as bars or restaurants with blue stickers (smoking allowed). There are also red sticker (non-smoking) establishments. In restaurants there is usually a separate smoking room if they have a blue sticker so meals can be eaten in separate rooms. In bars, you can experience a fair amount of smokers inside particularly in places like Lisbon in the colder months, though they’ll head outside in the warming months.

As of 2016 the World Health Organisation released data representing the percentage of smokers aged over 15 in the country at 22.2%. Attitudes to smoking vary though due to the choice of blue and red sticker establishments, there is the choice to live life how you choose. Local smokers and some establishments are positively casual about the laws and have barely changed their approach. It depends where you visit, Oporto and Lisbon may appear to have a higher prevalence of smokers. The overall aim is to entirely restrict smoking in public places by 2020.

According to the 2015 figures from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation the life expectancy of a Portuguese male is nearly 78 years and for women it is nearly 84 years. The top causes of death in the Portuguese population are strokes, coronary heart disease and Influenza and pneumonia plus cancers. Common serious health issues are lung disease, heart disease and diabetes. As of 2014 a Eurostat survey on obesity found 16.6% of total adults in the population were categorised as obese though this figure is within the lower 50% of countries in the EU.

The following link from the Centre for Disease Control (U.S) is useful in highlighting potential vaccinations/immunisations before heading to Portugal or if you are coming from a country where Zika may be present.

There are a number of English speaking counselling services available:

Alcoholics Anonymous: (Alcoólicos Anónimos)
Tel: 217 162 969

Cancer Help Line: (Linha Contra o Cancro)
Tel: 808 255 255

Portuguese Anti-Alcohol Society: (Sociedade Anti-Alcoólica Portuguesa)
Tel: 213 571 483

Phone service- HIV/AIDS (Linha SIDA)
Tel: 800 266 666

Suicide/Crisis Line (SOS Vos Amiga)
Tel: 800 202 669

Befrienders worldwide hotline for suicide prevention (Voz De Apoio)
Tel: AM 351 966452204 // PM 351 225 50 60 70

Open A Bank Account

Banks in Portugal are currently imbedded in a somewhat volatile market. The history of state bail outs in 2014 and 2015, lingering debt, potential bank recapitalisation, reforms and post EU referendum uncertainty are negative influences on a recovering Portuguese banking system.This hasn’t deterred a steady flow of expats however from relocating and holidaying in Portugal, opening nonresident and resident bank accounts and even taking out mortgages without any bank related problems.

As a rule, anyone relocating to Portugal must open a Portuguese bank account (they are still able to keep their home country account if desired) because taxes and utilities need to come from a local account. The main local banks are Millennium BCP, Caixa Geral de Depósitos, BBVA amongst others. Banking in cities can be a fairly similar affair to your own country although that familiar bank name you recognise (for example Barclays) will have different services, features and procedures than those you are used to. When it comes to banking in more rural areas, you’ll be assigned a bank manager (gerente) who you can get to know over time as they often contact you directly. Don’t assume English will be spoken outside of cities, take your time to find the best bank and person of contact who you can communicate well with. As always, word of mouth can help expats to choose the best bank for their needs. Opening hours are generally 8.30am - 3pm from Monday to Friday. Smaller local banks and banks in rural locations may close during lunch hours.

Types of accounts:

Current accounts (conta corrente) everyday banking including debit cards and cheque book accounts, online banking and marginal if any interest. Must be 18 to open.

Deposit account (deposito a prazo) account to store money without direct access to funds. Higher interest on funds.

Savings account (caderneta de poupança) requires deposit to open, may be minimal withdrawal allowances, access to funds may be limited. Higher interest rates.

Credit account (conta de crédito) EU comparative interest rates, credit card statements and online banking.

Useful phrases:
Levantar dinheiro - withdraw funds
Extracto de conta - bank statement
Saldo da conta - bank balance
Cartões - cards

When opening a bank account in Portugal you need to go into a branch (sucursal) in person. If you need to, ask for a member of English speaking staff to assist you. As well as an application form new customers need to fill out a form about complying with the bank’s services and products (Dados de cliente e Adesão a Produtos) and the Terms and Conditions (Condicoes Gerais) of the bank document. Although bank dependant, EU citizens require their passport or identity card, their residency card, Fiscal number/card, proof of address such as utility bill or driving licence and tax return or payslip with National Insurance number/ Social Security number. Also required will be proof of your Fiscal Representative (firm of lawyers). Non EU members require the same documentation as well as proof of their home address from their home country, their contract of employment/company details/proof of profession.The identity documents with photos must be in colour. At minimum, a 250€ will be required as a deposit to start up your account. Once this is cleared you will receive cards, login details for online banking and statements to follow.

Foreign banks are Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch, Santander and Barclays. Expats tend to bank with Barclays, Santander, Millennium BCP and Montepio.

Santander Totta (site requires English translation)
Rua do Ouro, No. 88, 1100-063 Lisboa
Santander PT account
Able to transfer money to from UK and other countries to Portuguese account without international transfer charge. Must be resident with ID and proof of address. Minimum payment to current account per month.
Tel: +351 707 212 424
Information about necessary documents and procedure for opening the account in Euros

Barclays Bank PLC
WiZink Bank, SA - Sucursal em Portugal Av. Da Liberdade 131, 1st Floor ,1250-140 Lisbon
Barclaycard Flex Credit card
Gift card after first purchase, credit up to 50 days without interest, contactless technology. Must be 21 years + resident.
Tel: +351 707 780 808
Contact form

Millennium BCP (local bank)
English language website. Online banking in English, clients can open an American Express blue account, mortgages and services for non-residents and money bank transfers to a range of countries. Advice on finances and legal matters.
Millenium current account: minimum deposit 50€, enables operations in GPR, USD, clients can be residents or non-residents, overdraft facility. 5.30€ maintenance costs unless under 23 years of age. Debit card.
Contact form

(Click to call)
Branch finder

Atlantico Europa (Banco de Portugal)
Current card account: minimum deposit 50€, enables operations in GPR, USD, clients can be residents or non residents, overdraft facility. 5.30€ maintenance costs unless under 23.
Tel: (+351) 210 403 400

Given the delicate nature of the banking market you may find as an expat it is an uphill struggle to get an overdraft or loan. The banks won’t have your previous credit history or tax returns so unless you can put together a detailed story of your past banking, have evidence of your residency in Portugal, your fiscal number and have been in the country a number of years it may be unlikely that you will be granted either. Mortgages however due to the popularity of foreign buyers are available for expats, both residents and non-residents. Not all banks do offer mortgages but getting the correct documentation and deciding on the purpose of the mortgage are key approaches which will help you in the process.

The banking system in Portugal is generally considered to be efficient and modern for customers but at times archaic and slow. In branches there can be slow service and long waits at busy times. In contrast the multi-use ATMs named Multibancos are state of the art machines which can be used to pay bills, withdraw money and top up phones as well as other features. Look for a blue/green M sign to locate one. Other known ATMs are Euronet with a blue and yellow symbol. With so many foreign residents losing money in the collapse of Banco Espirito Santo in 2014 the trust of banks to handle expats money is still fresh in people’s minds.

Whilst plenty of locals and tourists use cards for transactions it is still very common for people to pay with cash. That said the more local and small the establishment the less likely card payments will be used so have cash to hand as well as if buying only a few items in a smaller shop. Contactless is set to become more widely used from 2017 onwards where card machines exist. Accepted cards are Mastercard, American Express (shops, restaurants and hotels) and VISA. You may find Apple pay and Android pay accepted in a few supermarket such as Jumbo or electronic retailers like Pingo Doce.

Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them "on demand" whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic - your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up - ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution - many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine - but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent - many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money - such as the proceeds of a property - a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

Save On Money Transfers

Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers

Learn The Language

Portuguese is a Romance language, fitting within the Indo-European language family. The language itself is the 6th most commonly spoken language in the world and is the official language of not only Portugal but East Timor, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Mozambique. Portuguese Sign Language is also an officially recognised language in Portugal.

There are many dialects of Portuguese spoken in different regions of Portugal and both the autonomous regions. The southern and central dialects are: Açoriano in the The Azores, Beirão in central Portugal (Alto-Alentejo and Baixo-Beirão is spoken in interior central Portugal), Algarvio in The Algarve, Estremenho in Lisbon and Coimbra, Madeirense in Madeira and Alentejano in Alentejo. Within the north of the country Oporto and Braga have the dialect of Nortenho, Trás-os-Montes has the dialect of Transmontano, Alto-Minhoto is spoken in North of Braga and close to the Spanish border in the town of Barrancos Barranquinho is spoken. Some refer to the dialectic categorisations as the Portuguese language, Galician-Portuguese language and Paleo Hispanic languages.

The top most commonly spoken languages in order are Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, Estonian, Czech, German, Italian, Danish and Croatian. Older (60+) Portuguese locals tend to speak only the local language for the most part with less than 5% speaking English in favour of French (7%) as their second language. English is more widely spoken by the younger Portuguese demographic such as those enrolled in education and graduates who have spoken the language at a higher level for some years. As there is a booming tourist industry in Portugal with a large number of English speaking tourists regularly present, places like the cities of Lisbon and Porto and tourist resorts like the Algarve see English being widely and frequently spoken. In urban areas it will not be hard to find someone with conversational English so a few occurrences like asking directions, ordering a drink or joining a medical centre should be ok when speaking English. Other tasks however, will require some level of Portuguese. In rural areas it becomes more difficult to find English speakers and the impetus is on the foreigner to learn the local language. Around 30% of the Portuguese speak English, to varying levels. Whilst it may be fair to assume given the overlapping of the Portuguese and Spanish language that there would be more Spanish speakers in Portugal, but this isn’t the case with less than 10% speaking Spanish.

In the work place, it is safe to say that if you are conducting local business then you will speak the local language. In this setting it should not be assumed that you need to speak the local language to communicate but being able to build personal professional relationships with clients and colleagues is very important in the Portuguese workplace. If you are working for a multinational company or international business you will find that English is frequently spoken. Colleagues who are locals will be bilingual in Portuguese and English and as a result more career options will be open to them on an international level, with the ability to communicate with both English and Portuguese speaking countries.

In the tourism sector, call centre work, IT and sales (namely real estate) roles which are expat client facing, will see a large amount of English spoken. If your work is international usually the communicative language of business is English. Whatever your job and however helpful the Portuguese are in trying to speak English to aid you, the best way to help yourself in the long term is to knuckle down and learn more of the language.

Realistically, in resort areas and more cosmopolitan cities like Lisbon and Oporto expats can just about get by learning the very basics of the local language. However, bills, contracts and many daily tasks will require an understanding of Portuguese so ideally, an individual should reach a competent level of Portuguese wherever they live or work. To make new friendships, understand cultural nuances and really enjoy the country for everything it is, speaking Portuguese is the greatest effort you could make in trying to fit in.

Language schools

Português Et Cetera - School for Portuguese Language and Culture
Offers classroom led Portuguese language courses from beginners to advanced plus classes for official certifications and diplomas. Option of intensive (2 weeks) and extensive (4 weeks) courses. Option of conversation courses and online Skype courses.
Address: Português et Cetera, Rua dos Douradores, 11, S/L, sala 3 e 6, 1100-203 Lisboa, Portugal
Tel: + (351) 96 905 60 67

Portuguese Connection
Offers a large range of individual, small group and large group Portuguese language classes, custom design classes, conversational classes and online classes.
Address: Praça do Príncipe Real 23, cv esq 1250-184 Lisboa
Tel: +351 211 944 364 / +351 966 740 960

Centro de Estudos Sabiamente
Group courses are available with course work and face to face lessons, courses for 1 to 1 learning or pairs. Leveled courses and training for CAPLE exam.
Address: Rua Damião de Góis, 31 Lj6, 4050-225 Porto
Tel: +351 225 508 349

CIAL Centro de Linguas Faro
Offers group courses at various levels from 25 hours a week to 35 hours plus CAPLE exam.
Address: Rua General Humberto Delgado, 5, Faro, 8000-355, Portugal
Tel: 351 289 807 611

CIAL Centro de Linguas Faro
Offers group courses at various levels from 25 hours a week to 35 hours plus CAPLE exam.
Address: Rua General Humberto Delgado, 5, Faro, 8000-355, Portugal
Tel: 351 289 807 611

The Academia de Línguas da Madeira
Group courses, small groups or one to one tuition, all year round.
Address: Rua do Ribeirinho de Baixo, 33-B 2º, 9050-447 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
Tel:(+351) 291 231069

Private tutors

Book Skype lessons online. Able to book time slots and choose level of language desired.

University tutor
Qualified Portuguese tutors able to teach the Portuguese language to learners in Lisbon.

Lisbon language cafe
Private tuition (1 to 1) lessons or groups of up to 4. Informal setting in a coffee shop with your tutor for the lesson.

Learnissimo online tuition. A Private tutor teaches you Portuguese at your own pace. Lessons are 60 minutes.

In people’s homes, children’s television programmes and films are dubbed in Portuguese. In the cinema children’s films come in two forms, one is subtitled with Portuguese and the other is dubbed in Portuguese. The rest of the films are shown in the original language with subtitles as do adult focused cartoons.

Expats commonly use their language skills as a means of employment. Some work within the education sector with TEFL roles in schools, language schools or as a private tutor. Roles in tourism/hospitality can exist from temporary summer jobs in bars and restaurants to full time sales work as an estate agent. With many call centres opening up and relocating to Portugal, there is a new call for English speaking workers, plus speakers of other European languages to work there. Generally, English/ Portuguese translating and interpreting is done by locals, unless the expat is fluent in both languages and more suitable than a native. Furthermore, other non-natives who speak Portuguese in their home country and are able to speak English add competition to such roles.

Choose A School

Education in Portugal is run by the Ministry of Education with the newly appointed Minister for Education Tiago Brandão Rodrigues at the helm. Education and schooling varies per area and autonomous region in Portugal with municipal governments, local authorities, central governments and The Ministry of Education all involved in various ways in funding the public school system.

Public primary schools all over the country follow the same common curriculum as set by the central government and secondary schooling depends on the technical, vocational or general studies undertaken. With a range of fee paying and free education available to new students those relocating to Portugal can certainly find a school to meet the needs of their child.

Nursery- Infantário / Creche. 0-2 years
Nurseries are optional day care services which are not commonly found throughout the country. Due to stay at home Mums receiving decent state financial support, nurseries for local children are more of a rarity. Parents may use other family members, childcare minders and crèches as alternative day care. In larger cities there are international nurseries with fees and English speaking workers but a majority are state funded public nurseries/centres.

Kindergarten Jardim de Infância. 3-5 years
Kindergartens oversee optional education and state provided care for children before they enter compulsory education with an aim at play centred learning and basic numeracy and literacy skills. Officially trained certified teachers work in kindergartens and classes are no larger than 25. State or private options are available. Half days and full days are options and each kindergarten is open 8 hours a day on weekdays. International schools gear their learning towards pre primary learning and many follow the the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Primary school- Ensino Básico- compulsory education 6-9 years
Primary school is where compulsory education begins. The first phase of primary school which lasts 4 years sees a main class teacher and assistants teach children key numeracy and literacy skills with a range of other subjects. Foreign language learning may start, depending on the school. Public, international and private primary schools are available. Generally, school starts at 9am with lessons and learning until 3.30pm. Depending on each school, there may be activities after 3.30pm. It may be that a primary school works in shifts with AM slots of 8.00 am until 1.00pm or PM slots of 1.15pm until 6.15 pm.

Primary school- Ensino Básico - compulsory education 2º Ciclo - 2nd Cycle 10-11
Middle school- Ensino Básico - compulsory education- 3º Ciclo - 3rd Cycle 12-14

The next two cycles extend the school days by around 2 hours beginning at 8.45 am and finishing at 16.45pm. Children have two breaks, one in the morning and afternoon with a lunch break of more than an hour. The curriculum branches out to a broader study of subjects, and the day is structured in a comparable way to secondary education. Such subjects include music, natural sciences, English, environmental studies and perhaps Catholicism. At the end of middle school the child receives a Certificado/Diploma which paves the way for the next school phase.

Secondary Education- Ensino Secundário 15-18
Secondary education in Portugal aims to provide students with knowledge, skills and qualifications for higher education or the labour market. It lasts 3 years and courses can be taught in secondary schools or vocational schools. All courses contain technological, vocational and technical elements. Vocational and technical courses receive a Diploma de Formação Profissional de Nível III or Diploma de Estudios Profissionais and general courses receive Secondary-Escola Secundária certificates.

Higher education Universities and Polytechnics 18-21 and adult education
Students in tertiary education are usually between the ages of eighteen and twenty five. Adults who are 25+ can apply to go to university or polytechnics without secondary education certificates if they are considered able to undertake the course. Higher education is divided into two categories, Polytechnics and universities. There are 64 polytechnics in Portugal and 36 universities which are private and 20 polytechnics and 14 universities and 6 police and military institutions which are public. University education gets the student for the undergraduate course a bacharelato, for a four year course a licenciatura qualification and doctorates and master’s degrees achieve master’s’ degrees and doctorates. Polytechnics also provide licenciatura and bacharelato qualifications.

Public schools

Schooling is inclusive with children with special needs being able to join mainstream education in class alongside others. Lessons are taught in Portuguese, with limited provisions for speakers of other languages.

Private schools

Following the Portuguese curriculum, the schools prepare children all the way to higher education. Boarding is an option with some private schools. There are a range of extracurricular activities and clubs and facilities and resources are well funded and modern. Private schools have uniforms and are not found all over the country but mainly in Porto and Lisbon. An entry exam is necessary to get into private schools and interviews plus the acceptance of school directors influences decisions. Expat children can receive extra help with learning the local language or receiving English speaking and 1 to 1 help.

International schools

International schools are another option for fee paying education. The curriculum can suit students per nationality so they can study the relevant courses for exams of SAT/PSAT, GCSE and the International Baccalaureate. There are many international schools with excellent reputations and competition can be fierce as expat children try to get enrolled. The schools are progressive and have stricter rules on presentation though not all have uniforms. Notable international schools are Aljezur International School in the Algarve, Carlucci American International School of Lisbon and Oporto British School. Expect waiting lists, registration fees, acceptance fees and tuition fees. Portugal also has other international schools such as a Swedish school and Spanish, German and French schools.


When it comes to enrolling in public schools, contact a local school in the area where you live and enquire. They are usually helpful and knowledgeable about the procedure. It is also possible to contact the Direcção Regional de Educação (Regional Education Authority) to see which school your child should attend. The enrolment period is between January and May of the previous school year with the final date usually around mid-July, though if they are coming from a non-Portuguese school then contacting the school’s governing body will provide information on enrolment in this case. For private and international schools contact them directly to apply.

Documentation for enrolment is precise so make sure you have originals and translations just in case. Bring passports/ID Card (cédula) or certification from the embassy of the child’s home country, their vaccination book, the form filled in by the health centre detailing any problems with sound or sight and a health centre card. Bring a photograph of the child, enrolment form and some patience for the process.

International schools follow the calendar and school year of the country they represent, private schools have their own holidays as per school and differ from set state school holidays and term times.

Generally, state schools adhere to the following dates though variations of days are possible.

First term: 15th-21st September to 15th December (Christmas holidays of 2 weeks - Férias de Natal).
Second term: 3rd of January to two week premature of Easter (Easter holidays of 2 weeks - Férias de Páscoa)
Third term: The first Tuesday after Easter to 15th June (Summer holidays of 12 weeks - Férias de Verão)

Extra-curricular activities in public schools don’t exist as they are known in other countries. There are community schemes run by educational organisations outside of school and activities be it recreational and cultural are designed to help integrate students into their communities. Private schools offer personal music lessons, a wider variety of sports teams and more resources for media and I.T clubs. International schools will offer the largest amount of options with more specialist activities like chess, creative writing, computer programming and theatre/drama.

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