Living in Portugal vs UK: Cost, Lifestyle, and Benefits

Are you considering a move but torn between the vibrant culture of the UK and the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle of Portugal?
April 25, 2024
Ana Fankhauser
April 25, 2024

Are you considering a move but torn between the vibrant culture of the UK and the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle of Portugal? This comparative guide on living in Portugal vs UK strips away the complexities to offer you a clear picture. From the cost of necessities to social intricacies, we tackle the pivotal factors you need to understand in this life-altering decision.

Key Takeaways

  • Portugal offers a warmer climate, a balance of work and leisure, a laid-back lifestyle, and a range of outdoor activities, in contrast to the bustling, diverse, and opportunity-rich environment of the UK’s major cities.
  • While Portugal’s job market offers growth in tourism and technology with lower average salaries, the lower cost of living may offset higher wages in the UK, particularly with more affordable housing and rental prices in Portugal.
  • Portugal and the UK both provide public healthcare systems, but private health insurance is more affordable in Portugal, offering shorter wait times. Additionally, Portugal’s lower childcare and education costs, together with a generally cheaper cost of living, make it an attractive option for families.

Lifestyle Differences: Portugal and the UK

Lifestyle Differences: Portugal and the UK

The pursuit of a fulfilling life leads many to weigh the merits of living in Portugal vs the UK. Portugal offers a culture rich in history and culinary delights, combined with a generally lower cost of living that appeals to many looking for a laid-back lifestyle.

On the other hand, the UK’s dynamic major cities, like London, with its bustling city centre, provide a different rhythm of life, with an emphasis on diversity and opportunity.


Portugal, which is in Western Europe, has a Mediterranean climate with long, hot summers and mild winters, which is very different from the UK's cooler, wetter weather. The warmer climate in Portugal not only varies based on the region but also invites residents to embrace outdoor living nearly year-round.

Summer months can bring intense heatwaves, with temperatures soaring to highs around 47°C, offering a sun-drenched lifestyle significantly different from the UK’s more temperate conditions.

Work-Life Balance

Many people admire Portugal’s balanced approach to work and leisure. With shorter working hours and a cultural emphasis on personal time, the Portuguese have woven leisure into the fabric of daily life, contributing to a more relaxed pace compared to the UK.

This balance significantly affects individual health and well-being, resonating with those looking to escape the often frantic UK work culture.

Outdoor Activities

Portugal's varied landscape provides a wide range of outdoor activities that are less constrained by the unpredictable weather that is typical of the UK. Whether it’s the thrill of kite surfing, the tranquility of hiking through lush greenery, or the joy of family-friendly outings, Portugal’s outdoor scene is vibrant and varied.

The country’s climate and geography encourage an active lifestyle, including activities such as:

  • surfing
  • paragliding
  • horse riding
  • cycling through picturesque villages

Employment Opportunities and Average Salaries

Employment Opportunities and Average Salaries

In evaluating employment opportunities, it’s not just about job availability but also the salaries they provide. Portugal, with its lower average salary, presents a different economic landscape when compared to the UK. While the allure of a higher wage in the UK is strong, the cost of living can often offset the financial advantage, calling for a nuanced comparison between the two countries.

Job Market

The job market in Portugal is diverse, with major industries, including tourism and technology, thriving in cities such as Lisbon and Porto. The competition for graduate jobs is fierce, reflecting a low unemployment rate of 5.9%. This fierce competition in Portugal’s job market is an important factor to keep in mind, along with the average wage, when considering moving from the UK.

Average Salary Comparison

A closer look at the average salary in Portugal reveals figures under 900 euros, a sum expected to see a modest increase in the coming years. Nonetheless, the lower cost of living in Portugal often outweighs these considerations, as reduced expenses on housing, transport, and healthcare allow the lower salaries to stretch further than anticipated.

Housing and Property Prices

Housing and Property Prices

The dream of homeownership or finding the perfect rental can be more attainable in Portugal than in the UK. Property and rental prices vary widely, but Portugal generally offers more affordable options, especially when factoring in the overall cost of living.

Property Prices

Lower average prices per square meter in Portugal compared to the UK increase the allure of owning property. From the swaying palms of the Algarve to the historic streets of Porto, a variety of homes are available at prices that are often a fraction of those found in UK hotspots like London.

Rental Prices

Renting a one bedroom apartment in Portugal can be significantly cheaper than in the UK. Cities such as Lisbon offer vibrant living experiences at costs that are more manageable for the average wage-earner, particularly when compared to the soaring rental prices in London.

Healthcare and Insurance

Healthcare and Insurance

Comparing the healthcare systems of Portugal and the UK reveals key differences that could be a deciding factor in choosing to relocate. Both countries offer public healthcare, yet private health insurance can play an essential role in ensuring access to a broader range of services and facilities.

Public Healthcare

Portugal’s public healthcare system, Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), provides comprehensive coverage for its residents, drawing inspiration from the UK’s NHS. While both systems excel in emergency care, they can experience longer waits for specialist referrals, with Portugal’s wait times being notably longer.

Private Health Insurance

In Portugal, private health insurance is an affordable option that complements the public system, offering shorter waiting times and access to better facilities.

Non-EU nationals, in particular, may find private health insurance essential for accessing healthcare services in Portugal.

Education and Childcare Costs

Education and Childcare Costs

For families and individuals planning a move, education and childcare costs are major factors to consider. Portugal stands out with its more affordable private schooling options and lower childcare expenses compared to the UK, offering considerable savings for families.

Public Education

The inclusive public education system in Portugal offers a solid foundation for children of both citizens and foreign residents. While schooling is free, there are additional expenses, such as uniforms and meals, that parents need to consider.

International Schools

International schools in Portugal provide diverse curricular options at more affordable rates than similar institutions in the UK. They offer a solution for expatriates seeking an education system familiar to their home country.

Childcare Costs

For those with young children, the lower cost of childcare in Portugal can be a significant financial relief. With expenses being considerably lower than in the UK, the savings can add up quickly for families.

Transportation and Public Transport

Traveling in Portugal can be lighter on the pocket, as public transport options tend to be cheaper than those in the UK. However, car ownership and driving costs present a different picture that merits closer examination.

Public Transportation

Portugal’s public transportation, including buses and trains, offers a cost-effective way to navigate the country’s cities and regions. While the system provides extensive coverage in urban areas, rural regions might not offer the same level of reliability found in the UK.

Driving and Car Ownership

For those preferring to drive, car ownership costs in the UK can be higher when considering insurance and fuel.

Portugal and the UK have reciprocal agreements that facilitate the use of driving licenses in both countries, easing the transition for those relocating.

Cost of Living: Groceries, Dining, and Entertainment

Day-to-day living expenses play a crucial role in determining where to settle. Portugal’s more affordable groceries, dining, and entertainment options contribute to a lower overall cost of living compared to the UK, allowing for a more comfortable lifestyle on a budget.

Grocery Prices

Weekly grocery bills in Portugal can be significantly cheaper for both individuals and families, allowing for savings that can be allocated to other areas of living, such as monthly utility bill charges, thanks to lower consumer prices.

Restaurant Prices

Dining out in Portugal offers a delightful experience that won’t break the bank, with restaurant prices substantially lower than in the UK, catering to a range of budgets without compromising on taste or the quality of Portuguese food.

Entertainment Options

Entertainment options in Portugal, while not detailed in the same resource, are part of the lower cost of living that residents enjoy, providing a range of activities that cater to diverse interests and budgets.

Taxation and Financial Considerations

For potential expats, financial considerations such as taxes play a major role in the decision-making process. Income tax rates, property taxes, and the need for strategic financial planning present varied landscapes in Portugal and the UK.

Income Tax Rates

Portugal’s income tax rates often appear more favorable than those in the UK, especially when considering the NHR scheme, which offers beneficial rates for specific types of income for new residents.

Property Taxes

Property taxes in Portugal, such as the IMI and AIMI, affect homeowners based on various factors, creating a financial landscape that differs from the UK’s property tax system.

Financial Planning

To ensure a smooth transition, expats moving to Portugal should account for immediate financial obligations like deposits and mortgage or rental payments in their initial financial planning.


As the sun sets on this exploration of life in Portugal versus the UK, it is evident that each country offers its own unique tapestry of cost, lifestyle, and benefits. Whether drawn to Portugal’s sunny shores and relaxed pace of life or the UK’s vibrant culture and diverse opportunities, the decision ultimately hinges on personal priorities and financial considerations. Both nations present compelling cases, but for those seeking a lower cost of living without sacrificing the quality of life, Portugal shines brightly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the city center in Portugal compared to the UK?

In Portugal, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is approximately 35% cheaper at £680 per month compared to the UK, where it averages £920 per month.

Are healthcare services in Portugal accessible to non-EU nationals?

Non-EU nationals are advised to have private health insurance as they have limited access to public healthcare services in Portugal.

How do the education systems in Portugal and the UK differ for expatriates?

The education systems in Portugal and the UK differ for expatriates, as Portugal offers a variety of international schools with diverse curricula at a more affordable cost compared to the UK, catering to expatriate families seeking familiar educational systems.

Can UK driving licenses be used in Portugal, and vice versa?

Yes, UK driving licenses can be used in Portugal and vice versa, as the two countries have an agreement for mutual recognition of driving licenses. Residents can use their current licenses by registering their address with the local authorities.

What should expats consider in their initial financial planning when relocating to Portugal?

When relocating to Portugal, expats should consider immediate costs like deposits, mortgage or rental payments, and estate agent fees in their initial financial planning. These expenses are essential to factor in when budgeting for the move.

About Movingto

Movingto is a leading immigration law firm that specializes in helping individuals and families navigate the complex process of relocating to Portugal. With a team of experienced lawyers and immigration experts, provides tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of each client.

Why Choose Movingto?

  • Expertise and Experience: Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of Portuguese immigration law and years of experience assisting clients with various visa applications, including the D7 Visa, Golden Visa, Startup Visa, and Family Reunion Visa.
  • Personalized Approach: We understand that every client's situation is different. Our lawyers take the time to listen to your goals and provide personalized advice and guidance throughout the process.
  • Comprehensive Support: offers a comprehensive range of services beyond legal advice, including assistance with document preparation, property search, and relocation planning.
  • Competitive Fees: We offer competitive fees and transparent pricing so that you know exactly what to expect.
  • Exceptional Client Service: Our team is committed to providing exceptional client service. We are responsive, attentive, and always available to answer your questions.

Whether you are an entrepreneur seeking to establish a business in Portugal, a retiree looking to enjoy the country's favorable tax regime, or a family seeking to reunite in Portugal, is here to guide you every step of the way.

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