Moving to a new country can be hard, confusing and scary. I went through those feelings in that exact order multiple times when I officially moved to Lisboa earlier this year. It had been 6 years in the making and I am finally beginning to get a foothold here in Portugal. Blanca has been asking me to put together a massive “value bomb” guide to the tidbits I’ve learned in my expat experience, so I put together these 50 Tips for Moving to Lisbon. I look at this as a way to remind myself of the things I experienced when coming to this amazing country, and also an easy way so I don’t forget how to do stuff.
50 Must-Have Tips when Moving to Lisbon
1. Memorize the basic phrases of Portuguese language
While Portuguese is similar to Spanish, it is a very different language. Why? Portuguese has significantly more sounds making it a more difficult language to pronounce. There are also plenty of false friends. What are those? Words that look and sound the same but have completely different meanings; for example, barata means cheap in Spanish, but cockroach in Portuguese. This can cause a lot of confusion. The list at the link above) will be very helpful your first few weeks here. Take this Tips for Moving to Lisbon and become fully fluent.
2. Get a fidelity card from the local Market
This will help you to save tons of money. Most of the supermarkets offer a fidelity card. As of right now, I believe Corte Ingles is the only market that does not.
3. Learn to drive stick
Most cars in Portugal are stick; those that are automatic are significantly more expensive. You want to do this before you get to Portugal because driving classes here cost in the thousands.
4. Hire a cleaning person
This is something that I recommend no matter where you live. It just helps you maintain your sanity, and if you work from home like we do – it saves time and aggravation. Cleaning services here are very affordable, so it is a worthwhile spend (the average cleaning person charges €30).
5. Hire a handyman
If you come from the US (like we did), you will find that home repair is different here. Walls are made of cement, locks are completely different and so is electrical wiring. Don’t experiment. Hire a professional and save yourself tons of grief.
6. Join Facebook Groups
If you ever have questions, you can always leave a comment here and ask, but there are also tons of great Facebook groups for expats where you can get advice when needed. A great group to start with is the LISBON Expat Group.
7. Join Lisbon Sub-reddits
Reddit is a fantastic resource. Check out r/portugal and the subreddit for your particular city to get plenty of advice and recommendations.
8. Go to Meetups
If you’re new to Portugal or a particular city, check out Meetup. It’s a fantastic way to meet people with like interests throughout the world.
9. Walk the city
The best way to get to know the city is by foot. Here, each Lisbon neighborhood is different and so are its people. You’ll also get to know shops, restaurants, and services you may not be able to find on Google.
10. Get Google Maps on your phone
It’s easy to get lost in Lisbon. Google maps is a gift from the gods and will help you navigate Lisbon’s labyrinthine streets. Make sure to check out topography so you can skip some hills. (iOS & Andriod)
11. Install Dulingo or Memrise on Phone
Then play with these apps daily, they will help you significantly to learn the language and get some of the intricacies down.
You’re going to come upon words that you just don’t know. This will be super handy and you’ll get plenty of use out of it.
13. Buy Index Cards before coming to Portugal
I’ve been unable to find index cards here in Lisbon. I’ve asked natives and shown them mine and they tell me they have never seen them before…so bring some with you. Why would you need index cards to do language training flashcards, to keep notes on recipes, to study history of Portugal. You can buy them online from Amazon.co.uk.
14. Go to Lidl
It’s a fantastic discount supermarket. They keep low stock of items and when sold out, they don’t re-stock. Great place to find things you can’t get elsewhere.
15. Buy online from Amazon.co.uk
One thing I hate about Portugal is that if you have things shipped from the US (even gifts) you can get hit with huge taxes. Just makes it not worth it. There is no Amazon.pt, but you can purchase from uk or es. Just keep in mind that even if you are prime, you will have to pay for shipping on returns.
16. Get a Lawyer
Portugal loves paperwork. Invest in a good lawyer so you don’t miss a form or fill one out wrong. Doing so can cause you a ridiculous amount of time. You can find one by visiting various Facebook Groups or just looking for Advogados.
17. Get an Accountant
Portuguese tax law is complicated. Don’t mess around and get yourself an accountant. Lots of Lawyers are also Accountants. So feel free ask your lawyer.
18. Join your Junta/Freguesia
Each neighborhood (at least here in Lisbon) has a Junta da Freguesia. Once you join you can get discount cards for restaurants, join the neighborhood’s gym and get tons more advantages. I love my Freguesia.
19. Get a parking permit
As Lisbon grows in population, parking gets more and more complicated. If you are not a resident – meaning you don’t have a lease & nif, you can go to the Emel office. There you can get a Cartão Viva Parking card that you can add value to and park in designated areas throughout the city. Once you’re a resident, you will be able to get a resident’s parking card for your neighborhood.
20. Find a Seamstress
There are tons all over Lisboa. However, they are pretty expensive (one of the few services that are). If you find a fairly priced one, treat them like gold. Expect to pay 5 euros for a shirt, 10 for hem on a jean and bit more for complex items.
21. Get a dry cleaner
It took us a while to find a good dry cleaner. Most of the local ones gave us back our clothes still dirty. Hate to say to go corporate, but 5-a-sec has been fantastic and there are a few throughout the city.
22. Learn about Lisbon & Portuguese holidays
Back in the day, the city would close down on certain holidays. While this is no longer the case, you still need to know what closes and what doesn’t.
23. Get a fiscal number (NIF)
You need a NIF for pretty much everything. If you are coming from outside of Lisbon and haven’t lived here for 5 years, you may be eligible for an NHR residency (which prevents double taxation). I’ve heard this will be taken away in 2018, so keep your eyes open.
24. Learn the Metric System
Like most other sane countries in the world, Portugal lives on Metric & Celcius. Learn it, live it, embrace it.
25. Keep your receipts organized
Can’t tell you how many times I have paid a bill to get that bill back in the mail saying I owe money. Do not throw out receipts. Get a good filing cabinet and keep those receipts organized. Normally I’d say scan, but Portuguese offices love to ask for original copies.
PRO TIP: EDP Electric bill Is yourshockingly high? It could be an estimate bill. Go to the EDP with your reading to get it cleared up.
26. Keep your paperwork organized
Paperwork is important in Portugal. Keep all your paperwork organized. Chances are you’ll need it often. Get a folder organizer from one of the various Chinese stores or even Staples.
27. Get a Post Office Box
Remember how I said you can order from Amazon. Issue is the delivery dates are never accurate. I’ve had them say that an item was coming on a particular date, but it shows up early. If you have stuff shipped to you, it is safer to have it shipped to a PO Box. You can do a Mailboxes etc (there is one in Campo de Ourique) or at the CTT (the Portuguese Post office). The issue with the later is that they only hold items for 7 days, so if you’re headed out for a longer amount of time, your package may get sent back.
This was fairly easy to do. It’s important to get because you’ll need one if you plan on purchasing property. It is also helpful because you get an ATM which allows you to pay at places that don’t have processors for American credit cards.
29. Learn to pay your bills with Mulitbanco (ATM)
You can pay your bills at the ATM. It’s pretty simple (as soon as you learn a little Portuguese). There isn’t an english option unless your using an American or UK debit/credit card.
30. Get Zomato Gold
One of the best deals in town. Basically, 2-for-1 meals at tons of restaurants for a small membership fee. Go here and put in the code ART4323 to get 25% off
31. Read this blog
Blanca and I have been coming to Portugal for years. We made the official move here in May. If you’re planning to visit or relocate here, there is tons of valuable info on this blog.
32. Get a rental car
Rental cars can be super cheap. I’ve rented for as little as €4 per day. It’s cheaper than buying (rates do go up in the high tourist season). There are many aggregators out their for cheap car rental. Just google around.
33. Find a room
Or an apartment. Idealista is a fantastic site for this. Most realtors list their properties there. If you are looking for easier to work with you can try Airbnb. Most places will do longer term rentals and even you can negotiate annual ones.
34. Get the entertainment guide to city
There are tons of things to do in Lisbon. Don’t miss out.
35. Sell your stuff online
OLX is a version of Craigslist here, but I find that using Facebook groups like this one is a lot easier.
36. Travel to Espanha (Spain)
It’s so darn close. Enjoy its proximity (but only after you have explored Portugal). Easiest ways to get there are driving/busing for about 5 hours, take a 1 hour flight. I prefer to fly.
37. Travel to the Alentejo Region
The Alentejo is like Tuscany. There are beautiful landscapes, great wine, and fantastic food. Did I mention beaches? Yup. There are great beaches too.
38. Travel to Porto
Porto is a lovely town. It is smaller than Lisbon and is known for its fantastic wines. Go there in the Summer when it is cooler than Lisbon to escape the heat.
39. Get an international drivers license
There are different rules on what makes you legal to drive in the EU. Just get an international license so you don’t run into any issues.
40. Get an NHR if eligible
I mentioned this earlier. The NHR makes it some people who become residents of Portugal become tax-free both in Portugal and in the country of source of the income. Totally worth looking into.
41. Hire a dog walker
If you have a dog, it is so worth it to have a dog walker. It will save you time and you’ll have someone who knows your pup well if you need to travel. We found some easily on Lisbon Expats groups on Facebook.
42. Find an artist studio
If you’re moving to Portugal, it’s probably because you’re searching for a better quality of life. There’s no better time than now to get creative. You can rent small apartments for being a studio or if you are near LX Factory there are studio places you can join.
43. Buy some land
While prices have jumped (especially in Lisbon and Porto), it is still a good time to invest in land in Portugal. Especially if you go a little outside those two cities. Grab yourself a nice modular architect and build your dream home.
44. Buy some property
Maybe you don’t want to deal with the stress of starting from scratch. There are plenty of beautiful properties you can buy too. Just expect prices to increase the more you wait.
Portugal is a great place to learn that skill you’ve always wanted to learn. Be it art classes, dancing or fencing, pricing here leaves you with no excuses.
46. Take an acting class
See the above.
47. Learn a random skill
See the two above.
48. Sail the Tejo (Targus) River
The Tejo is Lisbon’s river. It is gorgeous, it is clean and makes for a wonderful adventure.
49. Go Clubbing
People in Lisboa like to party, so don’t be shy and join in the fun.
50. Hack travel
You’re in Lisbon. This means you have access to the EU. Enjoy some travel. Start off by getting to know Portugal and then take trips to the rest of the member countries. Flights can be as cheap as 35 Euros.
Have questions on Lisboa? Ask us in the comments.