Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice


Archive for the ‘shopping’

Portuguese Wine: The Rescue Parcel Arrives 0

Posted on July 02, 2015 by Ben Algarve

I’ve already moaned before about how much we’ve been missing Portuguese wine since moving to England again.

Well, last week, thanks to the valiant efforts of several family members, our problems on that score came to an end. Thanks to a family road trip to the UK and some spare vehicle space, we were reunited with some of our old favourites.

Portuguese Wine - in the UK

Portuguese Wine – in the UK

The objective now is to make them last! So far we’ve been rather restrained and only opened a few, and donated some to friends too. It’s been lovely to taste these wines once more, and best of all to be spared the frustration of spending £6-10 a pop in the UK on bottles of questionable swill from the supermarket!

Also in our rescue parcel from Portugal was my beloved Weber barbecue, which regular readers of the blog will know is something of an obsession of mine. I must once again thank all those involved in reuniting us with it. I honestly don’t know if the wine or the barbecue was most exciting, but I think probably the latter!

Barbecue from Portugal

Reunited with my barbecue from Portugal

I’ve not got a huge amount of time to update on much else at this point, other than to say that all is pretty good back here in England. Yesterday, we had a trademark English one-day heatwave(!) but by today it was cool enough for jeans once again. I’m genuinely not saying this to make myself feel better, but I actually don’t mind this at all, because it’s far easier to get stuck into work when the weather outside isn’t sufficiently pleasant to entice me out.

However, that only applies during the week. Rained-off weekends are not cool at all, so here’s hoping we don’t have too many of those.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a shot of Whitstable beach approaching sunset last Saturday. With views like this, moving back to the UK doesn’t feel too bad at all – but as I’ve said before, you’ll probably get a different take on this from me come November!

One last thing actually: Quite randomly, I just discovered you can actually buy Casal Garcia, one of Portugal’s favourite Vinho Verdes (Green Wines) online, in ENGLAND, and for a good price that works out to less than £5 per bottle. It’s on Amazon of all places! What an amazing discovery! I’ve put the link here for you. I’m sorry to tell American readers that I can’t find a similar one on the US site 🙁

Case x12 -Casal Garcia NV – Green Wine

Sunny English Skies in Whitstable

Sunny English Skies

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Some More Random “Moving Home” Observations 3

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Ben Algarve

We’ve been back in the UK a couple of months now, but everything still seems rather alien!

In my last post I was perhaps a little negative about the Portugal we’d left behind, so I’m going for some more balance this week.

Life in the UK has been good, but with an undulating backdrop of homesickness. It doesn’t help that I still do a lot of writing work about Portugal, and having to write about beaches I am no longer just down the road from isn’t the most fun way to begin a working week!  Suffice to say I really don’t think it will be that long until we pop back to the Algarve for a visit.

That visit would probably feel more urgent if it weren’t for the glorious weather we’ve had in England, and that’s where I’ll begin my list of random observations:

1. The weather here isn’t that bad at all.

I know we’ve been lucky with a dry April, but we’ve just spent a long weekend visiting family and we’ve been happily outside for rather a lot of it. Yesterday we had a pub lunch in a beer garden and I woke up today with a tanned face. That was NOT something I was expecting!

Delightful weather in England

Delightful weather in England

The other pleasant surprise is that even when the headline temperature looks low, it’s actually perfectly warm in sheltered spots. Of course I miss the Algarve weather, but what we’ve had since we’ve been back is more than acceptable, and actually far more practical for our baby son.

2. The UK mobile network is APPALLING!

I said that these would be random observations, so now we go from weather to phone signals!

Last weekend on our big family trip, there wasn’t a single house we arrived at where we could get decent data reception. This includes an area covering Kent, Outer London, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. 3G reception on motorways was rubbish too.

I don’t know if it’s just that the UK’s network struggles with the number of people, but by comparison Portugal’s mobile infrastructure is fantastic.

Lots of Traffic and no Phone Signal

Lots of Traffic and no Phone Signal

3. We still have Portuguese “muscle-memory”

I don’t know how long this is going to last, but we are both still often convinced we are going the wrong way around roundabouts, and occasionally find it hard to remember the English word for something (my wife struggles particularly with “coentros,” which is coriander).

Worst of all, we’ve yet to shrug off the continental “hug and kiss on both cheeks” greeting, which in the UK results in either a near-head-butt or the recipient thinking you’re going in for a snog, neither of which comes across as particularly dignified…

4. England is expensive

This is a complicated point, but overall it’s a very good job there are more earning opportunities in the UK, because it’s far harder to live on a budget.

It’s not that all day-to-day things are more expensive. Groceries, for example, are probably cheaper than in Portugal, and as I’ve said before there is far more variety. Our utility bills are less too, but that’s completely cancelled out by a council tax bill of nearly £200 per month.

Where the budgeting unravels is in entertainment. Back in the Algarve, ten Euros could mean a good long trip to the bar and a bite to eat to take home. Here, that ten Euros won’t come close to buying the first round.

At the moment we’re spending every weekend catching up with friends and family, so our spending pattern isn’t typical, but suffice to say we keep having to top up our entertainment budget, and the credit cards are coming out far more than they did in Portugal!

Seafood - Available in the UK as well as Portugal - for a price

Seafood – Available in the UK as well as Portugal – for a price

In addition, working longer days and commuting means being more tired, and that’s when the lure of the takeaway menus becomes strong.

Finally, there’s just so much in the UK that you CAN do! After years of missing the theatre, and the easy access to gigs and festivals, we feel like we want to do it ALL. To do so we must work hard to earn it – and on that basis it’s easy to identify the start of that slippery slope back to the rat race. We must proceed with caution!

5. We’ll probably visit Portugal sooner than we thought

One thing that did come up during our manic weekend was the rather sad realisation that once we’d done everything we had to do, we’d be going “home” to elsewhere in England, rather than “home” to Portugal.

This was actually quite a good thing to realise, because it reminded us that we still have plenty waiting for us in Portugal: somewhere to stay; all of our friends, and all the places and things we miss. I even still have my two most beloved Portugal purchases – my moped and my Weber barbecue! There’s absolutely nothing stopping us going and working from there for a few weeks whenever the “homesickness” gets too strong.

Well, there is one thing stopping us, which is that while we continue to socialise “UK style” every weekend, we’ll never have the time nor the money. So, on that note, I shall sign off and get some more work done 🙂

Please take a look at our book!

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

Or find it here on Amazon.COM, for US readers:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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Moving Back from Portugal – Some Early Observations 15

Posted on March 18, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Moving back to the UK after a long time in Portugal has been just as much of a shock to the system as when we did things the other way around. We’d become completely used to the Portuguese way of doing things, so it’s been a surprisingly interesting adventure.

In this post, I’m going to recount some of our initial observations and comparisons. It’s a terrible shame you can’t take the best of both countries and merge it all together somewhere in the hot sun!

Food, Glorious Food

The food in Portugal was one of the reasons we looked forward to moving there, and we still love it (enough to maintain Food and Wine Portugal!)

But….we have to be honest and say we started to get bored with a lack of variety, especially in the winter months, when we found ourselves in a bit of a rut of eating the same thing week in, week out.

Food in England - serious variety

Food in England – serious variety

Quite sensibly, Algarve restaurants often close for some of the winter or run with restricted menus, and there’s not so much of a takeaway culture. This is healthier, no doubt, but we had started to crave choice, and often found ourselves really uninspired by our options.

Well, now we have that choice. In the time since we left, food options in the UK seem to have multiplied far beyond what we remember, and all the shops seem to have all the products, all the time. Every trip to the supermarket or high street is both overwhelming and tremendously fun.

And now we DO have takeaway options: Chinese, Thai, Indian, Fish and Chips, Pizza, Kebabs – all to our door in thirty minutes. Not a habit we wish to get heavily into, but really exciting, not to mention useful when you are working, unpacking and baby-entertaining all at once.

I could go on for far longer about food, but for now England gets a big tick from us, even though we do already miss a few Portuguese dishes. However, what it really comes down to is that bacalhau aside (which would require a trip to London), there’s nothing we could get in Portugal that we couldn’t get here. There’s a LOT we can get here that we couldn’t easily get in Portugal. Oh, and all the supermarkets here deliver – very handy when you have a baby!

Booze, Glorious Booze

Now for the flip-side of the coin: beer and wine is expensive back in the UK. Really expensive.

In addition, when it comes to wine, it’s not actually that good here either. The entry cost for a bottle of wine seems to be about £6 in England now, and I’ve yet to be remotely impressed by anything at that price.

In fact, I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I could go into a Portuguese supermarket and choose ten reds at €3 and under that would all be better than any “budget” bottle in Britain.

Unfortunately, at £6-10 a pop, wine’s not something to waste, so my research will be slow! If the friend I spoke to last night on the subject is correct, the best option is to drink wine less frequently and splash out on pricier bottles. Either that or we will plan a trip to France soon!

Our last remaining bottle of Portuguese wine

Our last remaining bottle of Portuguese wine

On the other hand, beer and cider here is a delight, just in terms of variety, even though it’s obviously far more expensive than in Portugal. A serious craft-beer culture has sprung up in our absence too, making every (rare with a baby) trip to the pub a rather exciting experience.


I have to say I’m loving having full access to English newspapers again, complete with all the magazines and supplements at the weekend. Although I could read a Portuguese newspaper, it would take me days, and with such basic comprehension I think a lot of nuance went over my head.

Yes, you can get English newspapers in Portugal, but the choice is usually The Sun or The Daily Mail, without any supplements included. I always found it quite entertaining that the only papers available to the expat immigrants to Portugal were the right wing, anti immigration options!

Then there’s TV: In Portugal we had a full Meo package and it was….OK. However, much of the “premium” output was American trash and we never found much to watch.

Now we have a full Sky package with “catch-up” and more box sets than we could ever get through. And we have a Netflix subscription too. We’ve barely had the time to play with any of it, but I can’t imagine us finding a time when we feel there’s nothing to watch.  Best of all, it all works without fudged VPN solutions and hassle, and it’s quick, thanks to an Internet connection that’s about five times faster than we could get in Portugal.


Well, there’s no contest here is there? Portugal wins all the way, and a week spent seeing 27-degree temperatures, along with Facebook barbecue pictures from friends, resulted in our first real attack of homesickness for Portugal.

It’s not all bad, however. It may not be anything like Portugal back in South East England, but it has been dry and largely sunny since our return. A brisk walk in the sunshine to warm up and it’s actually quite pleasant out there…or so I continue to convince myself!

The sun does shine in England sometimes

The sun does shine in England sometimes

However, what I am struggling with is the reality of the fact that it could conceivably be months until we have a day that resembles summer, and that’s hard to get used to. We didn’t realise how much we’d come to take the weather for granted until we were back.


After Portugal’s solid climate victory, the UK’s lost some ground, so let’s move onto “culture.”

Here the UK is winning…big time. It’s almost as if every show and performance we’ve ever wanted to see has all been arranged for our return – or perhaps there was always this much going on and we’d just forgotten.

It seems as if every week we hear of something else we want to go to. So far we’ve got tickets to see our favourite DJ (Dimitri from Paris) play on an outdoor terrace on May bank holiday; Tickets for a one-day-only concert performance of our favourite musical (Follies) at The Royal Albert Hall, and tickets for Chic, Grace Jones and Kylie at Hyde Park in the summer!

And that’s really just the start. We’re only just beginning to see festival line-ups; remembering about Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre…the list goes on. I don’t think we ever realised how much we missed all this stuff.

So, all in all we have a rather mixed bag of first impressions, but putting the weather aside, we’re finding much to inspire us back in the UK. Now if someone could just recommend a serviceable red wine for less than six quid, our lives will be complete!

If you’d like to read more about our five years in Portugal, please check out our book.

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

Or find it here on Amazon.COM, for US readers:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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Expats in Portugal: 5 Tips for Summer 6

Posted on July 22, 2013 by Ben Algarve

Expats in Portugal tend to have a love/hate relationship with the summer. While we look forward to the arrival of sunshine, atmosphere and things to do, we usually start to complain by mid-July when the roads get busy, restaurant service becomes shambolic, and timing a trip the supermarket badly can mean queuing like it’s Christmas Eve!

Crowded Praia da Dona Ana - Lagos

Crowded Praia da Dona Ana – Lagos

So, in honour of the fact that we’ve now arrived at the time when we all begin to complain, here are five lighthearted tips to help residents in the Algarve cope with the summer.


1.      Time trips to the supermarket carefully

The worst possible time to arrive at the supermarket is when everyone’s on their way home from the beach. Sunday afternoons can be pretty hateful too.

All you have to do is think outside the box. Go early, when the tourists are sleeping off their hangovers, for minimal queues and maximum choice. Late doesn’t work quite so well, as although there may not be many people there, there’s probably not much stock either. Right in the middle of a hot day can work too – if, of course, you don’t have to work!

Sunshine - it's here all summer

Sunshine – it’s here all summer

2.      Get out of the expat mindset

It’s hard to get used to the fact that the sun is guaranteed to shine every day in the summer, and break out of the expat mentality that makes you feel compelled to get outside so as not to “waste the weather.”

Four years on, we’re still struggling to break our conditioning, but we’re getting there. We just have to get our work done and trust that the sun will still be there tomorrow.


3.      Go off the beaten track

There’s no getting around the fact that you may resent the thousands of people on “your” usually-near-deserted beach, but the tourists are the lifeblood of the Algarve economy.

Solitude - it's there if you know where to look!

Solitude – it’s there if you know where to look!

Instead, you must learn to go to places that the tourists haven’t discovered. We know a river beach that is never thronged, and also plenty of busy beaches where solitude can still be found after a 15 minute walk.

Best of all though, get to know some people with a house in the hills and ideally a pool. Then, spend your weekends there and save the beach for mid-September. We’re very lucky to have relatives in the country!


4.      Put water under the air conditioning

We always thought that putting a bowl of water in an air-conditioned room was an old wives’ tale. It’s not. If you spend a lot of time with the air conditioning on, the extra humidity from the water will prevent the worst of the peeling lips and sore throats.

Summer festivities

Summer festivities

5.      Remember you’re not on holiday

If you’ve retired then go ahead and enjoy yourself. If, like us, you still have a hefty Monday to Friday workload, you’ve still got to get it all done, and doing it with sunburn, heatstroke or a hangover is no fun at all.


So, sad though it is to accept, you must get your head down and get it done – and what better incentive is there to hammer through it than a beach at the end of the road – even if it is really bloody crowded!


Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

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Moving to Portugal – The Book Launch 4

Posted on September 03, 2012 by Ben Algarve

I’ll make this post reasonably quick, as it’s not my intention to turn this blog into a repetitive book-plugging machine!

However…Moving to Portugal – the book, is now fully available in both printed format and on Kindle. The book tells the tale of our first two years in Portugal and also includes a host of practical information about moving abroad.

UK readers can find Moving to Portugal in both formats here:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

Readers from other European countries should find the book on their own regional Amazon site.

US readers can find Moving to Portugal here.

The Moving to Portugal Book

The Moving to Portugal Book

I also have some copies to send out directly, so feel free to contact me if you have any trouble getting hold of one.

Louise and I are delighted to have already sold a pleasing number of copies and have received some lovely reviews that make the time spent writing the book worthwhile.

Last week, we were excited to receive our first pile of author copies. Fellow blogger Alyson Sheldrake of the Algarve blog has very kindly provided us with the opportunity to sell these at the Portugal 365 art exhibition, being held at the Holiday Inn in Armacao de Pera from 21st to 26th September. Even if you are not remotely interested in the book, I would urge you to visit if you are in the area to look at Aly and Dave’s wonderful art and photographs.

As time goes on, I am in the process of finding other outlets for the book within Portugal and hope to arrange a formal launch and signing later in the year.

A huge thank you to everyone who had already bought the book and those who plan to in future!

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Books about Portugal (and an Exciting Announcement!) 3

Posted on July 12, 2012 by Ben Algarve

I say it a lot, but if you’re planning a move to Portugal, it’s simply not possible to do too much research.

Before we moved, a small collection of books about Portugal helped to answer questions, inspire us and increase our excitement levels.

After three years here, we’re still finding more to read and our Portugal book collection continues to expand. For some time, I have been intending to produce a list of all of these books for those interested in starting a similar collection of their own. I’ve finally got round to it and have included links to all of the books on Amazon UK (in red). Enjoy, and please read right to the end for an exciting announcement!

Moving abroad / Moving to Portugal

Buying Property in Portugal by Gabrielle Collison is the first book I recommend to people planning a move, and not just because it includes a case study on my wife and I! The book was updated in 2011 and contains a ton of useful and (importantly) current information.

Buying Property in Portugal (second edition) – insider tips for buying, selling and renting

Buying Property in Portugal - a great book - and I am in it!

Buying Property in Portugal - a great book - and I am in it!

Live and Work in Portugal is another tome we referred to before we moved. Sadly, it hasn’t been updated in several years and, let’s face it, the world was a very different place economically in 2005. Still, it’s cheap and worth a read!

Live & Work in Portugal

Au Revoir Angleterre: Making a Go of Moving Abroad is essential reading for every potential expat. It addresses all of the typical rose-tinted dreams of wannabe-migrants and dishes up a valuable dose of reality. It’s not a book designed to put anybody off – more as a reality check.

Au Revoir Angleterre: Making a Go of Moving Abroad

Should I Stay or Should I Go delivers more of the same and, to be frank, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In tight economic times moving abroad is a huge decision and one that may not be as easy to reverse as it was five years ago. Money spent on a reality check is money well spent.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?: The Truth About Moving Abroad and Whether It’s Right for Yo

Tales from a Travelling Mum by Alice Griffin isn’t, strictly speaking, a moving abroad book, but I include it here as it is invaluable reading for anyone travelling or moving with young children. Alongside her engaging narrative, Alice provides many useful tips for travelling with kids in a stress-free way and the book was much appreciated by friends of ours who brought their 8-month old son here to Portugal for his first holiday.

Tales from a Travelling Mum: Navigating Europe with a Babe-in-Arms

Speaking Portuguese

There are no end of Portuguese language-learning books, so I have concentrated here on those that have worked for us.

Teach Yourself Complete Portuguese was the first course we used, and having the CD in the car over a period of time was what taught us to deal competently with greetings, shops and restaurants. It’s been modernized and revamped since we used it too.

Complete Portuguese: Teach Yourself (Book/CD Pack)

Earworms Portuguese is a bit different, as it uses music to drum in basic words and phrases – well worth importing to an iPod for walks and runs.

Rapid Portuguese: v. 1: 200+ Essential Words and Phrases Anchored into Your Long Term Memory with Great Music (Earworms)

BBC Active Portuguese is our Portuguese tutor’s book of choice and follows a good, logical way of teaching the language, similar to how you may have learned languages at school.

Talk Portuguese Book and CDs

501 Portuguese verbs is an essential once you get a little further down the line. It’s hard work and heavy going and more of a reference book than a course, but with a language with so many irregular verbs, it is a necessary purchase.

501 Portuguese Verbs (Barron’s 501 Portuguese Verbs)

Essential Portuguese Grammar is another must and probably the book we now refer to the most.

Essential Portuguese Grammar (Dover Books on Language)

Rosetta Stone - The Daddy of Language Learning

Rosetta Stone - The Daddy of Language Learning

Rosetta Stone is the big-daddy of language courses, and those with the money to afford it could do a lot worse – it does work and some family members have used it with good results. Note, however, that it teaches you Brazilian Portuguese – which is like learning American before moving to London.

Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe: Portuguese (Brazil) Level 1, 2 & 3 (Mac/PC)

Travel and Inspiration

We are residents and not tourists, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need guidebooks, both to learn about our own area and for when we go exploring.

AA Keyguide Portugal is probably my favourite of all. We constantly refer back to it, primarily because it includes some fantastic car tours and walks which are great for getting a quick sense of a new area.

Portugal (AA Key Guide) (AA Key Guides Series)

The DK Top 10 Algarve book is another of my favourites, as much for the design and layout as for the information. We tend to get one of these whenever we visit somewhere new.

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide: Algarve

DK’s Eyewitness Travel Guide to Portugal is also a great choice, and has just been updated (as of June 2012) – I will be ordering the new version myself soon.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Portugal: Hilltowns / Golf / History / Crafts / Architekture / Festivals / Restaurants / Hotels / Shopping / Beaches

The Rough Guide to Portugal is also frequently thumbed in our house, but it seems to me to be a little overdue for an update right now.

The Rough Guide to Portugal

Walking in the Algarve is a must for the active and was heavily used when my niece visited to train for the 3-Peaks challenge in the UK.

Walking in the Algarve: 40 Coastal and Mountain Walks (Cicerone International Walking)

Living in Portugal by Anne de Stoop is in a category all of its own and is my one Portugal-related “coffee table book.” It contains loads of history and some gorgeous photography. Before we moved here it may us feel extremely wistful!

Living in Portugal (Living in….. Series)

Living in Portugal - a beautiful coffee table book

Living in Portugal - a beautiful coffee table book

Food and Drink

I could write about foodie books all day long, so this section has been intentionally kept short to only include my favourites!

The Wine and Food Lovers Guide to Portugal is a beautiful book and contains information on vineyards, restaurants and speciality dishes in each area. This book was my constant companion when the days running up to our move date seemed to drag on forever.

The Wine and Food Lover’s Guide to Portugal

Piri Piri Starfish was a gift from my niece and is my favourite Portuguese cook book. As well as beautiful black and white photography it includes lots of inspiring writing about Portuguese food along with the recipes.

Piri Piri Starfish: Portugal Found

Lonely Planet’s World Food Portugal is fabulous and includes historical information, a Portuguese food glossary, details on regional specialties and a scattering of recipes. As far as I can work out, the book is now out of print, so I would suggest grabbing one of the handful of second hand copies stil available via Amazon.

Portugal (Lonely Planet World Food)

More Portugal Reading

The First Global Village is a really easy to read and engaging tome on Portuguese history – and that is coming from someone who usually sticks to the five page historical round-ups in the back of the guidebooks! Amazon has the book, but it is pricey – for those visiting Faro airport, they have it cheaper in the newsagents in departures!

First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World

Night Train to Lisbon gets a mention here as it is one of few English language books set in Portugal. It is a soulful, poetic book that my wife enjoyed, as did several members of our book club – it didn’t really float my boat though, to be honest.

Night Train to Lisbon

A Small Death in Lisbon is a more engaging choice, in my opinion, and based on its “Gold Dagger” award for best crime novel I’m not alone. Perfect for providing a sense of atmosphere whilst on a sunlounger!

A Small Death in Lisbon

Nobody’s Son by Maria Serpa is less well known, but comes on recommendation from my wife. We were approached to review the book and she enjoyed the romantic tale centered around a child abandoned at birth on the Portuguese island of Pico, in the Azores. The book has a somewhat quirky translation but is well worth a read, even for those not usually attracted to romantic novels.

Nobody’s Son

Now you’ve got to the end of that, it’s time for my announcement:

Very soon, I will be able to add another book to this list. For the past 18 months, my wife and I have been working on a book telling the story of our move to Portugal.

The book is in two parts – the first is a narrative of our first two years in Portugal, told from my wife’s perspective. This is almost all new material that has not previously been featured here – so while long-term blog readers may recognise some events and situations, they should find plenty new to enjoy. The second section provides practical information on moving to Portugal – some has been adapted from the blog, but the majority is brand new.

Stay tuned for information on the book, which will be available through Amazon, directly from me, and via the Kindle store. If you haven’t already, subscribe to updates to be the first to know when it becomes available.

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Portugal Cost of Living Update 26

Posted on May 29, 2012 by Ben Algarve

Back in 2010, I produced a Portugal cost of living post, which has turned out to be one of the most widely read posts on the blog.

While much of the article is still relevant, some costs have changed. As cost of living questions are still very popular amongst newcomers to the expat forums, I have decided to revisit this topic – both to dispel some myths and to help those considering a move to this wonderful country.

Cost of living is about far more than the simple cost of individual items and services. One mistake many new immigrants make is to focus too much on comparing “like for like.” If you plan to move to Portugal only to eat English food, drink English drink and watch English TV, then things will get far more expensive than they need to.

Living like the locals enriches the experience of moving abroad, so you will notice that I have added some tips on where savings can be made.


An excess of empty property has pushed down accommodation costs in Portugal. As before, I won’t try to provide sample costs of property for purchase, as estate agent’s websites will give you a far better idea than I ever could.

Despite some bargain prices, unless you have a hefty deposit, the economic climate may preclude you from getting a mortgage. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing right now.

Continuing instability in the Eurozone and the chance that prices may get lower still means that renting for a while can be a good plan. For new expats, this should always be the strategy anyway – why not give yourself a chance to check that Portugal is definitely right for you before committing, and get a feel for the exact area you wish to live in?

Portugal Rental Property can be Very Affordable

Portugal Rental Property can be Very Affordable

Rents have come down a little since I produced my cost of living in Portugal article back in 2010. In our area of the East Algarve, a good two-bedroom apartment with shared pool can be found for around 400 euros per month. In more rural / less touristy Portugal, you will find options for less than this, while more urban areas will be more expensive.

1000 euros per month still puts you into “villa with a private pool” territory. Given that you can pay more than this for a poky flat in a nasty area of London, this is one of the areas where Portugal can still be considered cheap.

TIP: You REALLY need to be in Portugal to find the full selection of available rental options. In our area, almost everyone you meet knows someone who is renting apartments, and few of these ever find their way onto English language websites.


While rental property has gone down a little, our utilities are up.

Obviously, I can only guide you based on our experiences – everyone’s utility usage differs. Our costs are based on two people, year round, in an apartment with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. We work from home so are in all day, and we don’t hold back in terms of using air-conditioning or heating. We run various computers, a fridge freezer, cooker, washing machine and dishwasher. Our gas is purely for water heating and the hob. For around eight weeks of the year, there are four or more people here due to guests staying.

Utility bills in Portugal can be high

Utility bills in Portugal can be high

Our costs currently average out at:

Electricity – 80 euros per month (includes TV license).
Gas – 35 euros per month.
Water – 35 euros per month.


As part of Portugal’s austerity measures, taxes are up significantly since I last discussed the cost of living in Portugal.

In our own experience, with earnings that are mid-range for the UK but very high for Portugal, we pay significantly more income tax than we would in the UK. Across our entire income, we pay around 36%.

It’s impossible to go into much detail on taxation, as everyone’s situation is different. Some professions can take advantage of the non-habitual resident scheme and pay a flat rate of 20%. Married couples with only one worker can combine their allowances and perhaps end up better off than in their former country. The only thing I will say is that everyone needs good accountancy advice. It took us a long time to find an accountant we could rely on – so contact me if you need the details.

Social security should be mentioned here too. If you are self-employed and working on green receipts (reciebos verdes), the minimum monthly social security payment in most circumstances is around 185 euros. The size of this bill shocks some people – it doesn’t, however, kick in until you have been self-employed here for around 13 months.


It shocks our friends when we tell them that petrol in Portugal is as expensive, if not more so, than it is in the UK.

Driving in general is expensive here. Road tolls are widespread and the free roads that can be used as an alternative are no fun at all. To give you an idea of toll costs, a one-way journey from the Algarve to Lisbon costs around 19 euros in tolls, and a trip from one end of the Algarve to the other on the A22 is around 9 euros.

All this, of course, is if you have a car, and there comes the biggest shock of all.

Cars are Expensive in Portugal

Cars are Expensive in Portugal

Cars are terrifyingly expensive, and this is particularly relevant at the lower end of the market. The kind of cars that go for £500 in the back of the Autotrader will set you back up to 4000 euros here. This is offset a little by the fact that the climate means cars don’t really rust, but the concept of finding a “cheap little runner” doesn’t exist here.

Even when talking about nearly new, costs differ massively with northern Europe. Our car cost around 11500 euros – and we could probably have found the same for around £7000 in the UK – the exchange rate does NOT cancel that out!

Car tax is dependent on emissions – we only pay about 70 euros per year. However, relatives with a gas guzzling sports car almost have to place an extra zero on the end of that figure!


Portugal’s public transport system is cheap and reliable. Just like London, Lisbon is a place where car-free life is possible and arguably easier. Daily travel cards for the Lisbon area only work out at around 4 euros a day – a pleasant surprise to someone used to paying well over £10 in London.

Of course, public transport is only of use in areas it covers. Even here in the Algarve, there are places with only a very infrequent bus service. Some bus routes don’t run at all at the weekend. The Algarve’s single train route is better, but very slow from end-to-end, taking at least double the time of a road journey. In addition, many of the Algarve’s stations are nowhere near the towns they serve, landing foot passengers with a bus or cab journey at the end.

Public Transport is Inexpensive in Portugal

Public Transport is Inexpensive in Portugal

So, while Portugal has good public transport, a car is a necessary evil in many areas – making it doubly important to take notice of the motoring costs.


In terms of food and drink, there have only been small changes since I last discussed the cost of living in Portugal.

It’s still possible to live cheaply, IF you are prepared to eat “Portuguese style.” This means concentrating on pork and chicken, basic fresh salad ingredients and vegetables, in-season fish and lots of beans and rice.

Once you get into imported items, things get more expensive, though perhaps not as much so as a couple of years ago.

Supermarkets seem to be wising up to the items that expats want and things like curry pastes, Mexican ingredients and Heinz baked beans have got a little (if not much) cheaper. Of course, British expats in the Algarve also now have Iceland in Albufeira!

Some Food is Good Value in Portugal

Some Food is Good Value in Portugal

The longer you live in Portugal, the more you learn to spend less on food and drink. First off, many people here have families with land. Once you get to know people, you may find you have more free oranges, apricots and figs than you know what to do with!

You also get a feel for what to buy where. It’s possible for us to spend either 1 euro or 4 euros on the same jar of pesto within 5 miles of our front door, depending on the supermarket we choose.

It’s all about visiting the markets and getting friendly with stallholders. Finding out who to go to for clams and when the ladies come round with the huge, cheap boxes of strawberries. Portugal is a perfect place for those who can visualize that huge box of strawberries as a cake, a sorbet and a few jars of jam.

However, those who want convenience food and UK-style supermarket shopping are likely to pay heavily for the privilege and miss out on what Portugal really has to offer.

Onto drink; yes, wine is still cheap (we are currently working our way through a very drinkable red Capataz that came in a 5 litre box for just 5 euros!) Beer is cheap too, if you stick to local brews, but if you start picking up Corona and Carlsberg, it can be more expensive than in the UK. If you’re struggling to find the GOOD cheap wines, take a look at Food and Wine Portugal’s wine section.

Food and Wine Portugal

Food and Wine Portugal

A final tip: much of Portugal is very close to Spain. It’s worth getting used to the things that are cheaper or better there. We go every couple of months and come back with Mexican ingredients, Iberico ham, asparagus and good cider. International shopping can be fun.


If entertainment means eating out, then Portugal can still be a bargain, with many places still offering bargain 3 course meals and “pratos do dia.”

Of course, in the cities and the touristy parts of the Algarve, the sky’s the limit. We have Michelin-starred restaurants and beachfront bars that aren’t scared to charge €8 for a mojito, but it’s possible to have cheaper fun almost everywhere, if, of course, you have the self-discipline to stick to the cheaper restaurants and bars.

For expats, entertainment often means spending time with friends from back home, either in Portugal or in another country. Here things get expensive.

Flight costs are on the up. When we first moved to Portugal in 2009, it wasn’t unusual for my wife and I to manage to both get to London and back for under £100 off-season. Bargains like this just don’t seem to exist any more. Baggage charges and other fees have started to get daft too.

Even worse can be trips back for work or weddings, when travel dates are non-negotiable – £400 each to London and back is not unheard of.

When friends and family come to Portugal, things get expensive too. Essentially, you have to get used to being with people who are ON HOLIDAY several times per year. Wonderful though this is, people on holiday want to go to beachfront bars, eat in good restaurants and drive to see the sights.

Beach Views Sometimes come at a Price

Beach Views Sometimes come at a Price

Although people invariably pay their way, it’s impossible to avoid the fact that being “on holiday” is expensive, even if you live in the country. All expats should be aware of this.

As before, I’m going to finish off with the costs of a selection of random items:

1 Bottle of Super Bock in a supermarket – 60cents
1 Bottle of Corona in a supermarket – €1.30
Pack of 6 thin (bifana) pork steaks – €1.50
2 x fillet steaks from an English butcher – €15
1 bottle of mouthwash – €6
Paracetomol (16 pack) – €2.50
Cough Syrup – €15
6 fresh sardines from market – €1.50
Bottle of drinkable red wine (Real Lavrador) – €1.50
Bottle of rather good red wine (Monte Velho) – €3.80

Want to find out more about moving to Portugal – buy our book!

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

US Readers can find it here


If you are moving to (or from!) Portugal, you will be well advised to find an efficient way to transfer money from the UK. Like in Britain, Portuguese banks very in the exchange rates and charges applied to international payments. The difference in rates between different banks and brokers when sending money to Portugal can be up to 4%, which makes a huge difference if you are transferring a large amount across to buy a property for example.

Usually you will be best off using a currency broker for any transactions over a couple of thousand Euros. Not only will this give you access to preferential exchange rates, which can save a small fortune, but you will receive a personal service along with low (or zero) charges for your transfers. If you have a large transaction to undertake, a reputable company will also keep you informed of rate movements and help you decide when to secure your exchange rate.

You should only use UK currency companies if they are classed as “Authorised Payment Institutions” under the FSA, which ensures your funds are held in safeguarded client accounts. One such company is Currency Index, who offer some of the best exchange rates around, and are well versed in the Portuguese banking system as well as that in the UK. You can get in touch for a free consultation and quote on your own transactions, at

If you have any questions about the cost of living in Portugal, please feel free to leave a comment below, and I will get back to you.

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My Portugal A to Z – D to F 6

Posted on January 24, 2012 by Ben Algarve

This week I am continuing the personal A to Z of Portugal that I began last week. Today, I present you with letters D to F:

D is for Dona Barca:

Dona Barca in Portimao is one of our favourite Algarve restaurants. We found it thanks to a guidebook whilst on holiday, long before moving here. The place has changed a fair bit since we first visited. It’s fame and popularity amongst tourists and locals alike has led it to expand into a larger area in the pretty square of Largo de Barca, and corporate touches like postcards and logoed uniforms have crept in.

Dona Barca Restaurant Portimao

Dona Barca Restaurant Portimao

It’s still the same place though, offering wonderful fresh fish (especially sardines), great house wine in generous carafes, and low prices. For more details, you will find a review of Dona Barca on my Food and Wine Portugal blog.

E is for Espanha:

Now I realise that Espanha may seem a strange choice for a Portugal A to Z, but it feels right to include it amongst my personal choices.

When we first moved here, I used to find it tremendously exciting to see “Espanha” on the road signs. After living in the UK, being somewhere where you can just set off in the car and keep driving until you are in a whole different country gives you a wonderful sense of freedom (and I know that we could have always driven to Wales or Scotland – it just doesn’t feel the same, somehow).

Seville - Just Down the Road from the Algarve

Seville - Just Down the Road from the Algarve

We often head to Spain for weekend breaks, when we would previously have headed for Cornwall or Norfolk. We have enjoyed cheap weekends in Seville, Marbella and Cadiz already, and are soon off to see what Jerez is all about. Espanha, being only 20 minutes away, is also our go-to destination for taco shells and Iberico ham (Carrefour), tealights and furniture (Ikea), and langoustines by the sea (Punta d’Umbria).

F is for Farturas:

The arrival of a van selling farturas and churros in Portugal usually signifies that some kind of local event or festival is about to happen. Farturas and churros are the southern European interpretation of donuts. Churros are essentially the same as a UK seaside donut, but they are squeezed into the hot oil with a piping bag and served as straight sticks, rather than rings.

Farturas and Churros in Portugal

Farturas and Churros in Portugal

Farturas are similar, but stuffed with a filling, usually a nutella-style chocolate sauce or something fruity. Visitors to Portugal should make a point of trying one of these sweet treats – but try to get them while they’re hot – a cold fartura left sitting on the counter for a while is not especially pleasant!

This time last year I was complaining in this post, about the chill in the Algarve air – which is interesting as I was doing just that when I spoke to my mother on the phone this morning. The headline temperatures do not tell the full story when you live in accommodation with only reverse-cycle air-conditioning to remove the chill from the air. Also back in January 2011 I had just discovered Brisa do Rio – probably still our favourite restaurant in the town of Tavira. It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago, given the amount of times we have eaten in there since!

Image Credits: Visit Portugal, Renata F. Oliveira.

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Portugal 2011 into 2012 0

Posted on January 03, 2012 by Ben Algarve

Bom Dia and Bom Ano Novo (Good morning, and happy new year)!

Apologies for my absence over the Christmas period. I took a bit of a blogging break, but am now back refreshed and reinspired.

After a week or so working in London and delivering presents to friends and relatives, we had a fantastic, if slightly hectic, Christmas back in the Algarve. The festive season was full of wonderful moments, so I have decided to list a few of the highlights:

1. Taking my mother and mother-in-law to Praia de Tres Castelos beach on the 22nd December, where our car’s thermometer read the temperature as 23 degrees Celsius. The weather was beautiful enough for us to eat lunch at a beach café, paddle in the sea whilst watching some amazing light bounce of the water (see photo), and even for us to get slightly sunburned! Returning home to make mince pies and wrap gifts after a day like this was surreal, to say the least.

Sparking Water at Praia de Tres Castelos

Sparking Water at Praia de Tres Castelos

2. Meeting our new, seven week old great-niece while we were back in England. I must, however, admit that the term “great uncle” makes me feel very old indeed.

3. Having time to cook so many things at a relaxed pace, including some foodie gifts for relatives such as spiced nuts, gingerbread and Christmas dressing. Sadly, even slow-paced Portuguese life manages to frequently leave us short of time during a working week so having plenty of kitchen time was a real pleasure. Our Christmas cooking included bright pink beetroot hummus, a sinful banoffee pie, and the pictured garlic flatbreads!

Homemade Garlic Flatbreads

Homemade Garlic Flatbreads

4. Our neighbours coming round just before Christmas with smiles and Christmas gifts for us. This was an extremely kind and touching gesture that we will never forget—it made us feel so welcome in our new country.

5. Having two barbecues during the course of the Christmas period. There’s something wonderfully decadent about BBQing in December.

Finally, though it’s not a Christmas highlight, as such, I feel I have to point out that whilst driving near Maragota the other day we drove past something you don’t see every day in the Eastern Algarve – a camel!

Algarve Christmas Camel!

Algarve Christmas Camel!

Now the festive season is out the way, it’s time to look to 2012, a year that everyone is telling us is going to be a tough one.

Algarve 2012 Weather

Algarve 2012 Weather

There are already some visible signs of the truth of this, and a good example is the Gran Plaza shopping centre in Tavira. Stores both large and small have been dropping like flies in the past month. The shopping centre will be half empty if retail businesses continue to fail at this pace. On the bright side, the smaller stores in our area seem to be hanging in there and we have seen several new businesses start up recently. As I am a “glass-half-full” kind of person most of the time I am going to try to focus on this fact instead.

My wife and I don’t “do” New Year’s resolutions. Grand undertakings in times where it’s depressing to be back at work and the apartment is still full of leftover booze and chocolate can only be doomed to failure. Regardless, we are conscious that times are hard, so intend to buckle down to a year focused on working hard, spending minimally, and enjoying all the inexpensive outdoor pursuits the Algarve has to offer. Given that the next fortnight promises relentless sun and temperatures around 20C, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Happy New Year!


Continuing the theme of keeping old posts alive, at this time in 2010, things weren’t going quite so well! We were in the middle of the Algarve’s wettest winter since 1870 and feeling rather unsettled. Read the post here!

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Ranting, Recrimination and Ready Meals 5

Posted on September 13, 2011 by Ben Algarve

Those readers who follow the Expats Portugal blog will have probably seen a long recent thread about the opening of an Iceland store, down here in the Algarve.

I’m sure when the original poster typed his short message to share the news of the opening; he never expected it to generate 21 forum pages of comment, opinion, and, at times, vitriol. I myself voiced some strong opinions, but these were more in disagreement about the discussion’s descent into something akin to a class war, than about the opening of a British discount store and freezer centre.

The whole debacle raised an interesting question though, which is just how much us expats / immigrants should integrate or do integrate into our new home countries?

Various aspects of the culture of Portugal were strong factors in our decision to move here; strong family values, a relaxed pace of life, and a cultural existence that compels citizens to revere famous authors more highly than X Factor “stars” being just three examples. Simple, high quality cuisine was another reason we were likely to highlight when asked the “so why Portugal?” question.

Portugal Weather - Another Deciding Factor!

Portugal Weather - Another Deciding Factor!

We have been here around two years now, and have worked very hard to integrate. Our stuttering Portuguese has enabled us to make friends with our Portuguese neighbours, we don’t huff and puff when held up during shopping or driving because those in front of us have decided to have a chat, and we are familiar with the works of Saramago and Pessoa. If you were to walk into our home at around 9.30pm (because that is now when we usually eat dinner) you would be as likely to see us tucking into bacalhau a bras as beef stew and dumplings.

However, none of this means that we don’t get excited when we spot a jar of mint jelly, a frozen Yorkshire pudding, or (as joyfully happened last week) the opening of an English style butchers. I was perhaps initially surprised just how much you do come to miss things from “back home” once you have lived abroad for a while.

If you think about it, there’s nothing unusual about this. If you go for a wander around Stockwell in south London, you will find plenty of Portuguese shops and restaurants. The culinary variety that can be found in London is made all the more rich by the immigrant populations. Everybody wins, because the restaurant and food stores that provide comfort and familiar products to those populations also provide variety and new flavours to all.

Sometimes Expats in Portugal Miss British Food

Sometimes Expats in Portugal Miss British Food

Now, I know that Iceland is hardly a home of epicurean delights, but I’m not going to complain about increasing availability and value of products that add variety to our daily meals. After all, when we lived in London, we didn’t “eat English” every night, any more than we “eat Portuguese” every night here. Chinese, Indian and Italian all make at least a weekly appearance.

Integrating, to me, is about showing respect for our new home, contributing to the community, ensuring we operate our fiscal affairs according to the laws of Portugal, and respecting the cultural differences of our new country. I don’t think we’re really going to offend anyone by buying the occasional packet of smoked mackerel from Iceland (something I am greatly looking forward to, as it happens).

I do take the point that large stores make it more difficult for independent local businesses, but that situation is far too advanced for one more chain to make any difference. In fact, despite the recession, small businesses continue to pop up everywhere in our area, with low overheads that still, in my opinion, make it easier for entrepreneurial types to try something out here than back in the UK.

Are signs with no Portuguese respectful?

Are signs with no Portuguese respectful?

I’m quick to moan when I find myself in touristy areas such as the Albufeira strip, and see wall-to-wall English breakfasts, menus with no sign of any Portuguese, and sunburned Brits shouting “two large beers” without attempting so much as a “bom dia.” That does display a frustrating lack of integration. But I refuse to be judged for being pleased that I will soon be able to buy inexpensive Branston Pickle. And, who knows, some Portuguese people may even get a bit of a taste for frozen “double stuffed takeaway style pizzas with a sweet chilli layer.” Sometimes, after a hard day, crappy junk-food in front of the TV is just what the doctor ordered…..

Image credit: higgot

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