Portugal vs. Spain: Which Is Better to Live in 2024

If you’re weighing up ‘Portugal vs. Spain: which is better to live in’ for your next chapter, you’re not alone.
Dot
January 11, 2024
Ana Fankhauser
January 11, 2024
TABLE OF CONTENTS

If you’re weighing up ‘Portugal vs. Spain: which is better to live in’ for your next chapter, you’re not alone. Directly tackling costs, climates, job prospects, and social scenes, we’ll dissect the defining factors of each country, offering you clear insights to decide which is the better call for your new abode.

Key Takeaways

  • Portugal and Spain offer varied climates, with Spain providing more diversity and Portugal offering a consistently warmer Mediterranean climate with a cooler north.
  • While the cost of living is generally lower in Portugal, Spain offers higher minimum salaries and a growing economy with more job opportunities in booming industries.
  • Portugal has a more expat-friendly process for residency and citizenship, including the golden visa program and Non-Habitual Residency tax benefits.

Climate Comparison

Mediterranean climate with sunny days and blue skies

The first difference between Spain and Portugal emerges from their respective climates, which significantly influence quality of life. Portugal offers a consistent Mediterranean climate, with warm temperatures throughout the year. However, as the only European country to have an Atlantic climate, Portugal offers milder temperatures in the north, making it a haven for those who prefer a cooler climate.

In contrast, Spain’s climate varies greatly due to its vast size, mountainous landscape, and lengthy coastline. Whether you’re a sun-seeker or a snow lover, Spain has a spot for you. Its larger coastline means that some areas have even warmer sea temperatures, while other regions offer a quick shift in seasons, making it an attractive choice for those seeking variety in weather.

Cost of Living Breakdown

Generally, Portugal leads in terms of cost of living. With a minimum salary of about €775 per month compared to Spain’s roughly €950 per month, Portugal’s economy seems to offer a more cost-effective lifestyle. Yet, the comparison becomes intricate when it involves food, clothing, and utilities. In Portugal, while food and clothing are quite affordable, certain commodities like automobiles, electricity, and petrol are more expensive than in Spain, making direct comparisons tricky.

Despite the higher living costs in Spain, the country’s economy is improving, offering more job opportunities in certain industries. This is manifested in the growing popularity of cities like Madrid, where the cost of living might be higher, but so are the salaries. Overall, both Spain and Portugal offer attractive living conditions, but your personal lifestyle and income level might tip the scales in favor of one country over the other.

Employment Opportunities

Both Spain and Portugal provide increasing job opportunities, particularly in the service and tourism sectors. The service sector makes up 75% of Spain’s GDP and is also the main sector for employment in Portugal, making both countries an excellent choice for job seekers in this field.

Simultaneously, industries such as start-ups, factory work, and wine production are burgeoning in Spain, attracting expats with a penchant for food, beverages, and hospitality. Conversely, Portugal attracts digital nomads and remote workers with its temperate climate, scenic landscapes, and the simplicity of opening a local bank account.

Residency and Citizenship

For those contemplating a long-term relocation, understanding the prerequisites for residency and citizenship is crucial. Portugal’s affordable residency visas, including the golden visa program, and quicker route to citizenship make it an appealing choice for many. The main applicant for Portugal’s D7 visa is required to have the equivalent of the Portuguese minimum wage, which is approximately €820 per month. Additionally, they must have 50% more for their partner. This is considerably lower than Spain’s requirement of an annual income of at least €33,893 for couples. With the growing popularity of golden visa programs, Portugal stands out as an attractive option for potential residents.

When it comes to gaining citizenship, Portugal also has the upper hand. It takes only 5 years to become a citizen in Portugal, compared to 10 years in Spain. Furthermore, Portugal allows dual citizenship, offering more flexibility for expats, especially when considering obtaining a Spanish passport.

Moreover, Portugal offers enticing tax benefits. Their Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) program can provide significant tax advantages for expats, business owners, and people working remotely, which might tip the scales in Portugal’s favor when considering opening a Portuguese bank account.

Language and Communication

Another pivotal factor to consider during relocation is the language. While both countries speak Romance languages, Spanish is generally considered easier to learn than Brazilian Portuguese, thanks to its simpler verb tense structure and pronunciation. Since English is more prevalent in Portugal, it simplifies communication for English-speaking expats, who might also find European Portuguese less challenging than Brazilian Portuguese. In this context, it’s essential to be aware of the differences between spoken Portuguese in these two countries.

Conversely, for those planning to travel or work in Latin America, learning Latin American Spanish could be more beneficial, given its wide usage across the region. But don’t let language barriers deter you - Spanish people in both Spain and Portugal are welcoming and understanding when it comes to foreigners trying to learn their language.

Lifestyle and Culture

In terms of lifestyle and culture, Spain and Portugal provide distinct experiences. Portugal has a slower, more reserved vibe, perfect for those seeking a peaceful life, while Spain is known for its dynamic and vibrant culture.

Both Portugal and Spain, the two countries rich in cultural heritage, offer unique experiences. Portugal, with its grand festivals and charming towns, provides a quaint and tranquil ambiance. Conversely, Spain, known for its fiestas, siestas, and the vibrant atmosphere of a Spanish town, promotes a vivacious lifestyle.

Whether Portugal’s tranquility or Spain’s vibrancy attracts you, both countries provide a unique cultural experience that will enrich your expat journey.

Food and Gastronomy

Delicious tapas spread on a traditional Spanish table

Spain and Portugal’s culinary scenes are a gastronome’s delight. Portugal boasts a rich seafood tradition, with dishes like grilled or fried cod taking center stage. The country’s cuisine is gaining traction and is starting to outshine Spain’s culinary reputation.

Conversely, Spain is recognized for its tapas culture. Classic dishes like Paella Valenciana, Gazpacho, and Tortilla Española are a must-try. Over time, Spain’s tapas culture has become more innovative, incorporating new ingredients and techniques, even extending to sweet dessert options.

Regardless of whether you’re a seafood aficionado or a tapas enthusiast, both countries promise a culinary voyage to titillate your palate.

Healthcare and Insurance

Healthcare remains a key consideration for expats. Both Spain and Portugal offer high-quality healthcare systems, including private healthcare options. In Portugal, there’s a universal public-private insurance system, while Spain has a mix of private-sector providers and a government-run insurance program that everyone contributes to.

Regarding health insurance, Portugal provides all-encompassing coverage for routine and emergency care. However, the average health insurance premium in Portugal is around $584 per month for a 40-year-old on a Silver plan. It’s important to consider these costs and the quality of healthcare when deciding between Spain and Portugal for your expat journey.

Transportation and Connectivity

Concerning transportation and connectivity, Spain boasts superior international flight connections, providing convenience for frequent travelers. It hosts major airports like Madrid Barajas Airport and Barcelona Airport, offering numerous international flight connections.

Conversely, Portugal delivers a more compact travel experience with major airports such as Lisbon Portela Airport and Porto Airport conveniently located near city centers. Both Spain and Portugal have well-connected public transportation systems, providing easy access to and from the major cities and towns.

Leisure and Attractions

Surfers enjoying the waves on the coast of Portugal

Spain offers a broader range of leisure and attractions catering to diverse interests. From the architectural marvels of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia and Madrid’s Prado Museum to the historic sites of Toledo, there’s something for everyone.

Alternatively, Portugal is renowned for its:

  • Surfing beaches
  • Quaint towns
  • Enchanting Quinta da Regaleira
  • Mysterious Capela de Ossos (Bone Chapel)
  • Captivating regions of Faro, Lagos, and Sagres

These offer unique experiences that are not to be missed.

Whether you’re drawn towards adventure, history, or culture, both Spain and Portugal guarantee surprising adventures and memorable experiences.

Expat Communities and Support

Flourishing expat communities in both Spain and Portugal extend support and networking opportunities for newcomers. The dynamic cities of Lisbon and Madrid host a vibrant expat scene, with numerous cultural events, social meetups, and co-working spaces catering to the international community.

Whether you’re a digital nomad, a retiree, or a job seeker, you’ll find a welcoming and supportive network in both countries. The expat communities in Spain and Portugal offer a wealth of resources and experiences, making your transition to a new country smoother and more enjoyable.

Summary

In conclusion, both Spain and Portugal offer attractive options for expats, with their unique blend of culture, lifestyle, and opportunities. Whether you’re drawn to the consistent Mediterranean climate and lower cost of living in Portugal or the diverse climate zones and vibrant culture of Spain, your choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle. Both countries offer a high quality of life, rich cultural experiences, and supportive expat communities that make them ideal for starting a new chapter of your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to live in Spain or Portugal?

It is better to live in Portugal as it is ranked as the fourth safest country in the world, while Spain is ranked 31st in terms of safety and security. Choose Portugal for a safer living environment.

Is it cheaper to retire in Spain or Portugal?

Retiring in Spain generally comes at a lower cost than retiring in Portugal, making it a more affordable option for many people. Portugal is considered the best European country for retirement based on factors like cost of living and healthcare.

Is Spain or Portugal friendlier?

Both Spain and Portugal are known for their warm and welcoming cultures, with people in both countries generally being friendly and hospitable to visitors. Personal experiences of friendliness may vary based on individual interactions and perspectives.

What are the main differences in climate between Spain and Portugal?

So, the main difference in climate between Spain and Portugal is that Portugal offers a consistent Mediterranean climate, while Spain's climate varies due to its size, mountainous terrain, and extensive coastline.

Which country offers more employment opportunities for expats?

For expats seeking employment opportunities, both Spain and Portugal offer growing job markets with a focus on different industries. Spain is seeing growth in startups and wine production, while Portugal is popular among remote workers and digital nomads.

Written by
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Ana Fankhauser

Ana has worked in many startups and moved to a few countries, which led her to create MovingTo. She believes that remote work is a growing trend that is here to stay and that digital nomads will move to countries that have more to offer than the ones you were born into. She mostly writes opinion pieces for MovingTo.

Connect with Ana on LinkedIn


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