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


Guest Post: A Moving Abroad Checklist 0

Posted on September 21, 2012 by Ben Algarve

Hi there. Life has been very busy for us round these parts lately, so my apologies for not having time to post personally yet this week. However, if you want an update on what I’ve been up to lately, you could read my blog post over at the Overseas Guides Company.

Today I have a useful guest post for you with some general advice about moving abroad. Normal service will resume next week, I promise.

Aqua Beach Club Portimao - I admit to the occasional day off!

Aqua Beach Club Portimao - I admit to the occasional day off!

So you’ve decided to move to a new country? Whether it’s permanent, indefinite or just for a year or two, it means a huge amount of preparation. Here are the things you need to begin thinking about in the months before you move to a different country.

Banking and finance

One of the trickiest things to organise is your bank accounts – in your home country and your old country. Find out if you are able to keep your local accounts open for any transactions (some countries may require you to be resident to keep open a bank account). Setting up an account with an international transfer company like can be a good way of transferring savings into your new bank account. If you can set up an account in your new country before your leave, this will be mean the smoothest transition. If not, make it a priority once you land.

Housing and possessions

This will vary a lot depending on your situation – whether you are an owner or a renter, and if you’re going overseas indefinitely or for a set amount of time. You will need to decide whether you sell or rent your house out, or you may choose to organise a relative or house sitter to look after your home (and this way you won’t have to pack up all your belongings!)

Figuring out what to do with your possessions is possibly the most difficult part of relocating because it’s the least clear-cut. Deciding what to ship and what to store, what to throw away and what to sell can be a long and complicated process. It’s best to start sorting as early as possible, as looking into costs of shipping, storage facilities and who amongst your family and friends has storage space that you can use does take a long time. Having a garage sale or putting things on eBay, Gumtree or Freecycle will help you reduce the amount of things you have to worry about.

eBay - A Godsend to those moving abroad

eBay - A Godsend to those moving abroad

Health and travel insurance

Contact your health insurance provider to arrange to cancel your existing policy or put it on hold (this may be possible if you’re not going to be away for long). You will also need to do careful research into a comprehensive travel and health insurance policy (such as Now Health Worldwide Insurance provide) to have in place before your departure.

Service providers and authorities

Don’t forget to notify all the relevant people that you are leaving the country. It is worth re-directing your mail for a few months to a friend or family member in case you miss anything. Don’t forget things like:

Gas and electricity

Mobile phones


Cable TV


Council/local government authority

Taxation authority

Banking and credit cards

Subscriptions and mailing lists

Keep a master list somewhere reliable – such as within an app that syncs between your phone and computer – so that when you inevitably think of something in the middle of the night you can add it.

Before I sign off, I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of our book. Those who haven’t may be interested to know that Amazon have today decided to drop the price by 10% – so grab it while it’s cheap 🙂

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

US users can purchase the book on

Another beautiful Portugal sunset

Another beautiful Portugal sunset

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The 10 Step Guide to Moving Abroad 0

Posted on July 18, 2012 by Ben Algarve

This week, I’ve decided to write a lighthearted yet serious post – a step-by-step, back to basics guide to moving to Portugal.

The steps in this guide are really rather obvious, but will hopefully help some people turn their dreams of life in the sun into reality. It is surprising how many people we come across who think they can miss out some of the steps, or do them in the wrong order, and still expect good results.

Life here is still real life – and while sunglasses are essential in this part of the world, those with rose-tinted lenses are best avoided. Here are the steps:

Fall in Love with Portugal

Fall in Love with Portugal

1. Fall in Love with Portugal – I said these steps would be obvious, and none could be more obvious than this. Remarkably, though, I have encountered people on expat forums beginning to make plans to move here having never visited the country, or having only ever holidayed in Albufeira!

If you’re going to move your life to a new place, you need to have a genuine passion for it – not simply be swayed by good weather or cheap property. These two things exist in many other places too.

2. Research – First off, you need to decide where you want to live. The Algarve is the destination of choice for many expats, but it is just one area in a country with much more to offer.

Next, you need to find out about healthcare, residency, taxation, schools, the cost of living in Portugal and all the other dull, real life things that you have to have sorted out if you are ever to manage to relax on the beach.

3. Do the Sums – If you are retired with a generous pension, this may be easy. For everyone else, it will (sadly) be money that dictates whether life in Portugal can be an achievable reality. Finding work in Portugal is incredibly difficult – and us expats who bang on about it on the forums are doing so to prevent people making a huge mistake, not to be grumpy killjoys.

Do your Sums Before Moving Abroad

Do your Sums Before Moving Abroad

4. Work out how to Earn a Living – This doesn’t mean getting on the plane with a few hundred Euros and “looking for bar work.” Portuguese people, many of whom are university graduates, are leaving the country in droves, advised by their own government to look for opportunities elsewhere.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to earn a living if you think outside the box. People do run successful businesses here, and more and more people manage to do so by working freelance or remotely via the Internet. But, if you have an idea and the people on the expat forums shoot it down in flames, listen to them – they are trying to help.

5. Visit Portugal Several Times (at different times of year) – Portugal is NOT a permanently hot country. Furthermore, if you’ve only visited the Algarve in summer, you will have no perception of how different the place is in November or February. Don’t guess or make assumptions – you have to see for yourself and accept that it may change your mind about a few things.

6. Make Plans – If you get through the first five steps, are still committed to moving here and have enough money in the bank to get started, then things can begin to get exciting. Decide where to live and start looking at property (ideally rental to start with, so as to be sure of your chosen area).

7. Learn Portuguese – Fluency can take years, so it’s never too early to start – most established expats will tell you they wish they knew more when they got here. Officialdom is a lot easier to get to grips with when you understand some of it, and the locals will be much nicer to you if you’re trying hard.

Learn Portuguese as Quickly as Possible

Learn Portuguese as Quickly as Possible

8. Set a Move Date – Once everything is in place, find a European removals company, book your shipping, and start to get excited. Now is a good time to have a clear out and get rid of some clutter via eBay and car boot sales. It all helps to boost the moving fund.

9. Get Ready for a Hectic Six Months – They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can ever do. Moving countries is worse – so don’t expect much sleep. Try to enjoy it, though – it’s a very exciting time.

10. Relax – Try to arrange to be “off” for a few weeks to enjoy your new home, and get to know your neighbours, bartenders and local restaurateurs!  You may now be in Portugal, but you probably still need to sort out an accountant, a lawyer, residency, insurance, a car, a library card, a TV package, a phone and Internet access. By the time you’re half way through that list, your first guests will arrive, and they’ll expect a barbecue.

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One Long Holiday? 7

Posted on June 14, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Only time for a very quick update this week, as my birthday is a few days away and we are getting our house in order ready for a short holiday 🙂

We are taking advantage of how close we are to Spain and taking a trip to Seville.



Moving abroad has changed our approach to holidays completely, not least because the bulk of the annual holiday entitlement my wife has from her job is now spent going to England to attend weddings and christenings! Unfortunately, whilst there I also have to work so we don’t get an awful lot of time off at the same time.

Of course the flip side is that we now live in a warm climate, ten minutes from a beach and have access to a swimming pool just yards away, so the urgency of “having to go somewhere hot” has gone as well. A lot of the things we used to enjoy on holiday – walking on the beach, having barbecues in the sun and having time to read a book (something I never relaxed for long enough to do in London,) are now what we do all the time, so everything is turned on its head.

What we haven’t had though, in over a year, is a break AWAY together, so we are really looking forward to this trip, not to mention the chance to explore the beautiful city of Seville.

I know friends of ours back in the UK joke that our lives are one big holiday now we live here. Whilst we are certainly very lucky that a few times per week it does feel a bit like that (a cooling swim at lunch time is definitely preferable to queuing for a disappointing sandwich in Pret a Manger,) that simply isn’t the way it is. We live in a different country, not a different WORLD and have to deal with the same bills, clients, idiots and call-centres – sometimes in foreign!

It is quite important to know this if you are considering moving to the sunshine but still has to earn a living – I’m afraid there are still many days when you have to tap away at the keyboard while the sun blazes outside temptingly – and no one back home will sympathise, because whatever you tell them, they will assume you spend every day bathing in Sangria.

Did someone say sangria? Back in a week 🙂

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Portugal – A Six Month Review 3

Posted on June 10, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Readers of the blog from long ago may remember a post called “Worries and Jitters,” that I posted just over a year ago, when I looked into the future and wondered how we would feel about our move to Portugal once we had been here six months or so and everything had sunk in.

At the time, I promised to revisit the questions that I had asked myself and see how the real-life experience compared with my predictions. As we have now just passed our six-month point, I thought it the right time to make good on that promise and see how things had worked out.

I wonder if I’ll miss everyone too much?

Algarve Early Evening

Algarve Early Evening

Not really. Our own visits back to the UK, combined with people coming out to see us means we have had plenty of company, and that time you do spend with family and friends is more precious.

We do suffer from the occasional “home-sick” day, and “sick” is the right way to describe it, as it hits you suddenly and really is like a physical feeling. At those times, technology like Facebook and Skype really does become a lifeline, and one we would hate to be without.

Being at such a distance also reveals a few surprises in terms of relationships with others – the people who make the most consistent effort to stay in touch and come to see you are not necessarily the people you would have expected.

Given that I am writing this the day before the world cup, I must mention that however much I love being here, the best place to watch the game is in a rowdy London pub with a bunch of good mates, and I expect to miss this tremendously in the coming days.

I wonder if I will miss the changing weather in England?

No, not one little bit – and after our first Algarve winter (the wettest since 1870,) it is quite changeable enough where we live now!

It is nice to know you will only need shorts and flip flops every day from March onwards, and on the odd day that it does hammer down with rain it is a pleasant novelty. England can keep the frost and biting wind!

I wonder if the locals will accept us?

Almost without exception, we have been made to feel very welcome, something for which I am extremely grateful. About once per week we are served in a shop by someone determined to scowl their way through the transaction and this can be slightly offensive when the same individual manages to be polite and jovial to the Portuguese people ahead of us in the queue. This doesn’t get us down – every country has its share of arseholes and Portugal certainly seems to have far less than London!

I wonder if I will I actually get bored of fresh fish and healthy living?

Well, it’s not that you get bored of fish, but you don’t want to eat it every day. With shellfish especially, its quality and abundance tends to lead to us having a fortnightly binge, followed by a period of never wishing to see another clam again!

Healthy living? Yes, we do spend more time walking, swimming and riding bikes, but my innate inability to keep to any kind of consistent fitness regime does appear to have moved to Portugal with me!

Sadly, life does still get in the way of the very best of intentions sometimes, but it is certainly easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle here without a fried chicken shop on every corner.

I wonder how much I will miss London?

London Traffic

London Traffic

The answer to this really has surprised me. When I predicted my answer to this question I was adamant that it would only be a matter of HOW much I would miss it – I would never have guessed that I wouldn’t miss it AT ALL.

We miss spending time with friends, we miss pub-banter in our native language, we miss reading the papers over a Sunday roast and we miss browsing in bookshops and record shops, but none of this has anything to do with London itself. This leaves menacing chavs, pollution that makes you cough, high prices, maddening traffic, ludicrous quantities of signs and announcements listing things you are not allowed to do, and journeys on public transport that leave you hot, sweaty and cross.

So, no, we don’t miss London at all!

I wonder if it will all be as wonderful as we hope?

The last question is the biggest, and the hardest to give a straightforward answer to. On a web-forum the other day, someone said, as part of a conversation, “nowhere is paradise,” and that was the first thing that popped into my head when deciding how to answer this question.

Wherever you find yourself in the world it doesn’t mean you won’t get food poisoning when you have made plans, it doesn’t mean clients will start paying their invoices on time, and it

Praia De Cabanas, Algarve

Praia De Cabanas, Algarve

doesn’t mean there won’t still be days when you wake up in the morning and simply don’t feel up for it.

However, as I type this I can glance out of my window – I see blue sky, sunlight bouncing off palm trees, and all I can hear are church bells, birds and crickets. I have great quality food to put on my barbecue shortly that cost us next to nothing and a small rack of inexpensive but delicious wine to choose from. I am not still in a car cursing the traffic on the A3, knowing that when I get home all I will have the energy to is decide which menu to order my takeaway from.

Most of all, I can be fairly confident the sun will blaze in when we lift the shutters in the morning and that if I am having an “off day” there is always that endless, glistening sea at the end of the road to lift my spirits.

Would I go back? What do you think?

If you are interested in what I predicted my answers to these questions would be prior to my move to Portugal, you will find them HERE.

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Guest Post: My Wife’s View 24

Posted on May 12, 2010 by Ben Algarve

I thought it would be interesting to give a slant on my sometimes perhaps slightly rose-tinted view of our move to Portugal, so I asked her to write a guest post reviewing her first six months in this wonderful, sunny country! Here’s what she said:

Sunrise on another beautiful day

Sunrise on another beautiful day

Being asked to write a guest post for my husband’s blog started me thinking seriously about how I feel about Portugal after six months of living here. It also made me think about the life I left behind in London.

It’s funny how quickly I’ve adapted to some things, while other things still take me by surprise every day. Greeting people in Portuguese and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road felt natural within weeks of being here, yet I’m still surprised and overjoyed by how bright the sunshine is each morning when I open the blinds.

The cost of life in Portugal is also something I take for granted now. I was genuinely shocked at the cost of dinner out for two last time I was in London: £100 for the meal, plus the train there, the drinks before and after, and the £35 taxi back to the hotel. Here we can get all the fish we can eat for €9 per person – and that seems normal now.

It’s also strange that the things I miss are so different from the things I thought I would. Missing family and friends was always a given, but with regular trips back to England, having visitors here and the wonders of Skype, I don’t actually feel like I’m missing out too much. It’s the little things that I’ve been most surprised about missing – things like spring onions and Thai food (yes, I am as food obsessed as my husband!)

So, how do I feel about it overall after six months? The true answer is that I’m very, very happy to be here. I’ll gladly live with never eating Pad Thai again if it means that I can stay in

Spring onions - Worth Missing Out on

Spring onions - Worth Missing Out on

this wonderful country. The people are so welcoming and supportive of (well, amused by) my efforts to speak their language and settle in their country. Each day brings some kind of small triumph, whether using a newly learned word in conversation or making our first green salad with leaves grown entirely on our balcony. Life now is so far removed from those hours spent fuming in London traffic and feeling tired/stressed all the time that I can’t believe how lucky I am to be here.

Before this starts to sound too sugar-coated though, there are definitely some unexpected downsides to living in Portugal. Mosquitoes, for example. While numerous bite-riddled trips abroad have long since taught me that my blood tastes particularly delicious to these flying cretins, I’ve never seen mosquito bites as more than a minor irritation. Until I lived here. Now every bite brings with it ridiculous swelling, incredible itching and the feeling that my skin is on fire. All of which last for days. I suppose I should be grateful that this gave me the chance to put into practice the ‘trip to the chemist’ module from my Teach Yourself Portuguese CD. It’s hard to be philosophical about it though, when my arm looks like a balloon.

Another unexpected downside is… Hmm… Ok, so I’m sitting here stumped as to what else is bad about living here. I do really want to give a view of both sides of life here, but the only other bad thing I can think of is that shampoo is a bit more expensive than it is in England. As is conditioner.

I’ve thought long and hard whilst writing this about whether I have any regrets about leaving London to live in Portugal and the simple answer is no. For someone who values happiness over money and loves the simplicity of life in the sunshine as much as I do, all I am left wondering is why I stayed in London for so long!

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