It’s from April to June that we receive the majority of people that are looking to live in Portugal. We plan for them a Discovery Visit that is a good opportunity to experience Portugal first hand and gather the information needed to support a decision of living in our country, namely regarding cost of living. In this article we explore some of the “Must Do” things that we recommend for a first Discovery Visit.
By now you are thinking of the beaches that we recommend to enjoy the 300 days of sunshine in Portugal. Well, we will keep that for the end so that you can relax. Let’s start with some practical things to learn a bit more about the Portuguese culture. First thing is to go to a subway station in Lisbon and buy a ticket so that you can use the public transportation network. In the big cities like Lisbon or Porto a monthly ticket is less than 40€ and you will find out that you don’t need car in these cities. By subway, bus or train let’s stop on a terrace or old café (Brasileira in Lisbon, Santa Cruz in Coimbra or Majestic in Porto are good choices) to speak with some Portuguese friends. Portuguese history is always a good topic, you will hear a lot about the Portuguese Navigators and about “Saudade”. The word “Saudade” only exists in the Portuguese language, it describes the feeling that you have when you miss someone or a moment.
Every Portuguese wants that you feel “Saudades” de Portugal after you leave the country. This is because Portuguese love to host foreigners. To your surprise, after the conversation over an espresso, you are invited to go to the market (Ribeira or Campo de Ourique in Lisbon or Bulhão in Porto) buy fresh vegetables and sardines for a grill in a nice patio. With a kilo of sardines costing less than 10 € and the potatoes less than 1€ per kilo you will be tented to buy an excellent Portuguese red wine like Quinta do Crasto Douro Superior (number 25 of Wine Spectator list and that only costs 15€ in the market). By now you have already understood that the cost of living in Portugal is a pleasant surprise. Even if you decide not to cook at home, you can have a three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant for no more than 35€. Now it’s time to walk and know more around the quarters where you may want to live. For example, if you are visiting the centre of Lisbon within walking distance you will find pleasant cafes, restaurants, shops, theatres, museums and gardens where you can just sit and enjoy the special light that Lisbon beams. Not far from Lisbon, you can walk or bike along the Estoril and Cascais Coast, on the left you have the Atlantic Ocean, on your right the small palaces that give this area a special glamour. For the more romantics, we advise an immersion in the architecture of Sintra surrounded by lush botanical gardens. If your option is Porto, walk by narrow lanes and appreciate the extravagant baroque churches and the stately beaux-arts buildings piled on top of one another. If tired, stop in a village-style plaza and mingle with the locals, you will discover the true kindness and politeness of Porto residents. In the north, you cannot forget to visit the Douro Valley, simply breath-taking.
If you want to live in the countryside you have many options. In spite of being small, Portugal offers a great diversity of landscapes from Alentejo to Trás os Montes. Depending on your lifestyle expectation, you can select several locations to explore. You will be surprised how easy it is to reach every place taking a modern highway and that you will have broadband connection almost everywhere to skype with friends and family abroad. We always recommend a test: chose the services or infrastructures that are relevant to you and evaluate how easy is to access them. Even in the countryside, you can get to an international airport or excellent medical facilities in less than an hour or so. Finally, let’s relax on the beach. The Algarve you already know for sure, but be advised that besides Algarve, we have more 500 km of coast. If you are a Surf fan, Silver Coast and Ericeira are an option, if you prefer white sand beaches try Tróia. From Tróia to Algarve down the Alentejo coast you have plenty of beautiful beaches. Independently of your option, search for a restaurant where locals eat by the sea where you will always find fresh fish and seafood. There’s of course a lot more to discover and information to gather but this article is already too long.