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

movingtoportugal



A Rather Grey Summer in Portugal 15

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

MOANING, WHINING POST TO FOLLOW…YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

(Ben) Well, here I am with a beautiful new baby in the middle of the Portuguese summer. I should, by all accounts, be walking on air. And a lot of the time I am. However, over the last few days I’ve hit a bit of a wall.

Although I pride myself on giving a “warts and all” account of life in Portugal, I do try to keep my posts largely positive. As a result, I’ve spent much of the day glancing at my “to do” list, seeing “write Moving to Portugal post,” and switching back to doing something else because I don’t want to use this blog as a place to moan.

Unfortunately though, I’m also rather obsessive about ticking off all the things on my “to do” list—so if you’d rather not hear me have a cathartic brain-unload, you may wish to navigate away now and return another day when I’m back to talking about sardines and sunshine.

So, what’s landed me in this rather grey mood? Here are the main things:

  1. The state of the world 

Israel and Palestine; Russia and Ukraine; My own local bank being exposed for corruption on a grand scale; I (really) could go on…

Sometimes I wish I could temper my natural curiosity and need to research, because the current state of the world is truly depressing, and potentially on the precipice of some seriously horrible shit.

Head in the sand - like most of the Western World

Head in the sand – like most of the Western World

To add to this, I get frustrated that so few people seem to realise or care, and know far more about football and the Kar-bloody-dashians than they do about issues that will, one day soon, affect them and their families.

“Ah, but how can the world depress you when you’ve got such a beautiful new son?” I hear the optimists amongst you say. Because he’s got to grow up in this world too, and there’s only so much I can do to protect him from it—and that frequently keeps me awake at night.

  1. Portugal’s “Summer”

It’s not been that bad, but this Algarve summer has been far cooler and cloudier than usual. I moved here for the weather, and never expected to wake up to grey skies in late July.

  1. Job dissatisfaction

I should make very clear that I’m very lucky to have the wide range of regular work that I have. However, I’ve recently started to realise that I spend much of my working life prioritising earning money over doing work I enjoy.

Yes, yes, I know the same applies to half the working world, but I’d love to spend more time lavishing care on this site and on www.foodandwineportugal.com – I’d also love to write another book, but my new-found identity as “provider for a family” has turned me back into a wage-slave, which is exactly what I moved away from the UK to escape.

Losing sight of why we came here

Losing sight of why we came here

There are other things I could cite: niggling health symptoms, family crap, but those are the main reasons I’m having a bit of a down phase.

So, on that depressing note, what do I propose to do about it? Well, the one thing I am always glad of is that I’ve never been one to wallow in the doldrums for too long. Much of today has been devoted to working out how to redress the balance and flick the positivity switch back in the right direction.

On that note, here’s my plan:

  1. I’ve already enrolled on a Child Psychology course, and later today I’ll be making a start on the lectures. I recently found out I’d got a good mark in the Open University course I completed last year, but struggled to justify signing up for another module straight away thanks to ludicrous fee increases and the need to spend the money on nappies and formula. Even though I’ve not missed the stressful run-ups to assignment deadlines, I have missed the mental stimulation and the learning, so this is a good compromise, and I’ve managed to find a properly accredited course for far less than the punitive OU fees.
Time to start studying again

Time to start studying again

  1. I intend to continue to spend hours of each day playing with my baby son, who always does something exciting and new every single day.
  1. By the end of today, I want to kick off my next online project—perhaps some kind of “expat dad” blog, or a new eBook. To ensure I stick with it, I will (at least try to) refrain from being swayed by Euro signs when I’m offered writing work that I know will bore me to tears.

That just leaves me with the general state of the world to sort out—something I’ll probably struggle to manage single-handedly! Still, I’ve plotted a bit of a life plan for the next few months, which is quite enough for one day.

If you’ve reached this point in the post—well, I really should thank you for listening! If you’re bored of hearing me moan, I did warn you!

I’ll conclude by suggesting that prospective Portugal expats take this post as a lesson that real life follows you everywhere you go, and that moving abroad is not a cure-all. On the other hand, I just know I’d feel way more down in the dumps if I had to commute home from central London this evening instead of sitting on the balcony studying my for my new course ;-)

There ends my catharsis. I feel better already.

IMAGE CREDITS: Wikimedia Commons

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Our little bundle of joy 21

Posted on May 28, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Lou) Living in Portugal was our dream for several years before we moved here. We fell in love with the country the first time we visited it and it was on that holiday that as we lazed on the beach, idly watching a man build sand castles with his little daughter, we decided that we didn’t want to bring our children up in London.

The decision was a significant one – we were still years from getting married and having a family, but it signalled the beginning of the end of our love affair with London. From that point forward, the idea of raising our children within walking distance of a sun-kissed seashore was planted firmly in both our minds.

Living in Portugal - sun-kissed sands

Living in Portugal – sun-kissed sands

After several years of planning, saving and working towards our dream, we finally moved to Portugal. The move was over four years ago now and, though at times living here has been stressful (mainly when completing paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy), we have no regrets about leaving the UK far behind.

We have embraced the Portuguese way of life and it has changed us both since we have lived here, though perhaps not in the ways we would have expected before we left England. One constant since our move has been our certainty that Portugal is the place where we want to raise a family. Children are cherished here – a toddler ambling around a restaurant will receive pats on the head from the waiters and smiles from the diners, rather than the annoyed looks that the same scenario would produce in a London eatery.

Living in Portugal - a new arrival

Living in Portugal – a new arrival

We thought for a while that our dream of having a family in Portugal was one that wasn’t going to come true for us. I was actually booked in for an appointment to find out why we were struggling to conceive when we found out that we were expecting. Since then, our life has been a whirlwind of preparation, from spending endless hours waiting for doctors’ appointments, to creating the perfect nursery, to knitting countless tiny jumpers in preparation for the cold winter months.

Two and a half weeks ago, by which time I was the size of a whale, we had lunch with friends at the beautiful and relatively secluded beach of Lota in the eastern Algarve. We visited relatives in the afternoon and then headed home via the supermarket. It turned out to be our last day doing things as a couple, as shortly after we arrived home my body suddenly announced that it was time to head to the hospital.

Living in Portugal - tiny toes

Living in Portugal – tiny toes

Some twelve hours later, our tiny bundle of joy arrived via an emergency Caesarean section, filling us both with a happiness so intense we never knew it was possible.

The last two and a half weeks have been the most wonderful and emotional or our lives. We have been truly touched by the kindness of all those around us, from family and friends to the hospital staff and our next door neighbours. We have been overwhelmed by the amount of new things there are to learn (it turns out that winding a new-born baby who likes to wriggle a lot is harder than it looks in a book). Most of all, we have been amazed that we have managed to produce such a beautiful and perfect little boy, who has filled our hearts with love and our lives with joy.

Welcome to the world Frederico :-)

Living in Portugal - welcome to the world

Living in Portugal – welcome to the world

If you would like to know more about our adventures while living in Portugal, please feel free to 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
US Readers will find it here.

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Seasonally Affected in Portugal 8

Posted on February 19, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted on Moving to Portugal. I shall be honest and say it’s because I’ve not really found an awful lot to write about.

Until this week, the weather has been decidedly dull, and the simple fact of the matter is that there really isn’t that much to do in the Algarve when the weather is poor. We don’t have cosy country pubs with log fires, or Cafe Neros with big sofas (although we do have far better coffee).

Algarve Weather - nothing to write home about

Algarve Weather – nothing to write home about

With a heavily pregnant wife, choices are restricted further. The popular expat option of steadily drinking until the weather improves is certainly off the table!

Thankfully, the sun has returned this week, and just in the nick of time as I was beginning to feel decidedly down in the dumps. Despite plenty of work AND keeping up to date with my degree course, I was still saying “I’m BORED” like a sulky teenager at least a couple of times each week.

As soon as the sun came out, my mood was transformed. It’s not as if it’s suddenly spring, as the temperatures are struggling to rise much higher than about 15 degrees, but it’s still been enough to encourage me to get out and walk again. On Sunday, I even managed to sit outside and read in a T-shirt – in the suntrap of my balcony it actually felt warm.

Last night, Louise gently reminded me that it’s just 11 weeks until our baby is due. I’ve never known time to both drag and fly in such a contradictory way, but having spoken to other recent parents it seems it’s actually quite normal. Apparently in about 6 months time we will give anything to feel “bored” again.

On the subject of boredom, it’s actually a rather common state of mind amongst expats right now. A couple of weeks ago, there were some satellite changes, resulting in the loss of BBC and ITV channels. Currently, thousands of expats are scrabbling around trying to find ways to get Eastenders back.

UK TV Gone in Portugal

UK TV Gone in Portugal

To be frank, I find it all a bit depressing. When you see how mobilised a group of people can become about a topic, you can’t help but wonder how much GOOD such collective motivation could do if it were pointed at a worthy cause. Sadly, however, that’s not the world we live in. The government raise taxes to pay for their own mistakes? Nobody really minds that much. Huge scandals are uncovered? Nobody makes more than a passing comment…

But take Jeremy Kyle away…well SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! What strange priorities we have.

I do feel for elderly people out here. UK TV was a lifeline for them, and few of the alternative solutions are as easy to use as a Sky box. However, UK TV is not a right for anyone living in Portugal, and was never being offered as a legitimate service anyway. Portugal has TV too, and if a few more people watch it they might start to learn the language of the country they’ve chosen to live in.

I did write an article some time ago about an easy way to get UK TV in Portugal. Here is a link to it.

Having read all that back, I am conscious that it sounds a bit ranty, so I obviously haven’t had quite enough sunshine yet. I will do my best to get more cheerful before I post again!

Whenever you're ready summer

Whenever you’re ready summer

Just before I go, I’ve noticed that this in the 200th post on Moving to Portugal. Working on an average length of 750 words, that means we’ve now written 150,000 words – a good few books worth! If you’ve yet to read Moving to Portugal: The Book, which contains plenty of unique content, please check it out below. If you’re one of the people missing UK TV, it will keep you busy for a few hours ;-)

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same
US Readers will find it here.

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Turning tax into charitable donations 4

Posted on April 11, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

After getting over the shock of the size of our latest Portuguese tax bill, I was excited to read in the Portugal News recently that it is possible to pay less tax in Portugal. Well, not less tax as such, but less to the tax man. The concept is a simple one – you complete your annual tax return and tick a box stating that you wish to give 0.5% of the total to a charity or religious institution.

Tax

I got straight on the phone to our accountant who confirmed that it really was that easy. Once the relevant box was ticked, all we had to do was pick an organisation from the authorised list. That was it. It may have been the first time I felt good about having to pay a tax bill!

According to Paulo Alves, who is campaigning to raise awareness of the scheme, €7.14 million was donated to charitable and religious institutions in this way from the 2011 tax year, with 900 organisations applying to receive donations. This year, the number of organisations applying has doubled, as the scheme grows in popularity.

With 4.9 million tax declarations submitted for the 2011 Portuguese financial year, it seems that awareness amongst the tax-paying public certainly needs to be raised. The scheme provides a means of giving to charity without individuals paying out any more than they would have done anyway – the cash is essentially just re-routed to good causes.

Charity tin

If you want to know more about the scheme and take part to benefit one of Portugal’s charities, just ask your accountant when completing your Portuguese tax return and choose the organisation that you would like to donate 0.5% of your bill to. It’s a simple gesture, but the more people that do it, the bigger the difference we can all make.

Want to learn about our early 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
Image credits: Flickr

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Living Abroad – Time to Regroup 1

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Since long before living abroad, I’ve been rather opposed to the “new year, new start” crap – or at least I thought so. However, I composed this post in my head whilst on an uncharacteristic 5km walk, having cut down on booze and cigarettes. I suppose I’d better accept that I am, quite literally, a walking new-year cliché.

There are far worse places to begin a new year than in Portugal’s Algarve. Today, I took a walk to Cabanas-de-Tavira. To those that don’t know, Cabanas is a small resort village that buzzes in the summer and hits the snooze button from October to April.

Sunshine on the Ria Formosa

Sunshine on the Ria Formosa

It’s bracingly cool outside, but there’s not single cloud in the sky. After walking for a mile or so and warming up, it feels positively glorious. The few tourists I spotted certainly seemed to think so, in their shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops. It tickles me to think that a few years ago, I would probably have worn shorts on a day like today – instead I have joined the locals in quietly giggling about the crazy tourists. After all, it IS winter.

The fuel for my walk was a warming bowl of chicken soup, made by boiling down the carcass from last night’s roast with loads of fresh vegetables. My soup, my walk and my quick stop for cake and espresso on the way home made for a truly life-affirming combination.

We’ve been living abroad in Portugal for over three years now, so we see this coming year as one of consolidation and future planning. For such a long time, our top priority was to move to Portugal and make a success of it. Now we’ve done that, it’s time to decide what we want to do next.

Living abroad - a quick coffee by the sea

Living abroad – a quick coffee by the sea

I should make clear that staying in Portugal is part of it, but it’s time for our next 3-5 year plan. Where exactly do we want to live? Which work and personal projects are going to take priority? What do we want to achieve next?

To help us answer these questions, we’ve decided to step back a few paces. We’ve booked a holiday next month and will be travelling to New York and Florida. This is going to be a proper holiday – not a few days off while people visit us, nor a tagged-on weekend at the end of a work trip to the UK or a stolen few days in nearby Spain – a proper, away-from-it-all, chance to regroup and think kind of holiday. The last time we did that was five years ago – on our honeymoon.

So, in about a month’s time, it will be time to execute a new plan, and what’s so exciting right now is that we don’t know exactly what it will entail. I hope, though, that it involves plenty of days when I make soup, have a long walk and stop for a coffee in the sun. I can’t for the life of me work out why I only ever live like this in January. Did someone say “new year cliché?”

January exercise is a pleasure when living abroad

January exercise is a pleasure when living abroad

PS. We’ve been having a few problems with the “comments” feature on the site. I’m looking into it, but my apologies if you have any problems leaving comments.Living abroad doesn’t make you immune to technical problems!

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Moving Abroad: Speaking from the Heart 7

Posted on October 22, 2012 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

We’re so close, I can taste it. A life so sweet, can’t afford to waste it.”
Michael Jackson “We’re Almost There.”

We were rather down in the dumps for much of last week. A combination of the change in seasons, sad / bad news of family and friends, and the sucker punch that was Portugal’s 2013 budget announcement left us feeling rather listless and uninspired.

Yesterday, however, I began to see the wood for the trees.

It’s easy to become so wrapped up in your day-to-day existence that you lose sight of the big picture. When I heard the song quoted above, everything became clear.

It’s a song I’ve quoted before on this blog – just over three years ago, in fact, when we were less than a month away from moving to Portugal from London. I remember the time well. We were working ludicrous hours and trying to fit “moving abroad” into the evenings and weekends. The resulting feeling was somewhere between excited expectation and semi-hysterical exhaustion, and the song always seemed rather poignant.

Moving abroad - not all about the money

Moving abroad - not all about the money

When I heard it yesterday, it wasn’t in some kind of romantic setting. There was neither sand nor sunset in sight. In fact, I was standing on the balcony while rain lashed down, contemplating the fact that the 2013 budget means that we’re looking at yet more years of doing little more than treading water economically.

Hearing that line, and remembering the tremendous sense of anticipation we felt before moving abroad, brought everything into perspective. It’s easy to forget that being here in Portugal is exactly what we worked towards for so much time. We’re no longer “so close we can taste it,” we actually here…we’re doing it….and we’ve made it work for three years in very challenging conditions.

When I wandered back inside, my wife was on the sofa relaxing with a book, the smell of our roast duck had began to waft around the apartment, and a cheap but tasty bottle of red was sitting waiting to be popped. All was well with the world.

We’re all living in a world where just five minutes on a news website can be enough to cause mild despair. But sometimes, you can live in that same world, in exactly the same circumstances, and all it takes is one line of a song to make you shed a tear of happiness. I guess that’s what real life is all about.

Considering moving abroad? I’d recommend it! 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

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Portugal Cost of Living Update 22

Posted on May 29, 2012 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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.

ACCOMODATION COSTS IN PORTUGAL

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.

UTILITY COSTS IN PORTUGAL

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.

TAXATION IN PORTUGAL

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.

MOTORING COSTS IN PORTUGAL

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!

PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN PORTUGAL

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.

FOOD AND DRINK 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.

ENTERTAINMENT COSTS IN PORTUGAL

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

CURRENCY TRANSFERS TO PORTUGAL

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 www.currencyindex.co.uk

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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Enjoying the Algarve at Easter 7

Posted on April 10, 2012 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

When blogging about our new life in Portugal, I am always keen to be completely honest and to share the lows as well and the highs. Regular readers will know that I often highlight the fact that life in the sun is far from being one long holiday.

It’s important to mention this to deliver a reality check to those who may have been on holiday in the Algarve, returned home and impulsively typed “moving to Portugal” into Google. Nowhere is a complete paradise and real life follows you everywhere.

Sometimes, however, all the stars come into alignment and everything feels perfect – and last weekend was one of those times.

Sunset over Santa Luzia Algarve Easter 2012

Sunset over Santa Luzia Algarve Easter 2012

It started with a visit from some guests, consisting of one of my wife’s colleagues and her partner. As I have now told them this in person, I can be honest and say I had a mild sense of foreboding about their arrival, as they weren’t people I really knew.

Anyone who has lived in a desirable location for any length of time will know that “guest politics” can be fraught with difficulty. When you live abroad, seeing friends and family usually means spending multiple days and nights under the same roof – doing everything together.

This is not the normal course of events. When you live in your home country, people may stay the night here and there, but they rarely stay multiple days or weeks. These long periods of closeness can either cement true friendship or signal its destruction. While plenty of enjoyable “cementing” has gone on since we arrived in Portugal, there has also been one “destruction” incident, about which I shall say no more at this point! Suffice to say though, that guests who we haven’t lived in close quarters with before now cause me concern!

Algarve Easter - Praia do Barril

Algarve Easter - Praia do Barril

I needn’t have worried. Our guests were a true pleasure to have around and we bonded against a backdrop of good seafood, soul music and Grey Goose vodka. A good time was had by all I think, and despite a grim weather forecast, the sun appeared at least a couple of times each day, allowing for some unexpected beach time and a couple of fun drives on our electric mopeds.

We finished off the Easter weekend with a day of fishing, walking and biking near the coast of Tavira. Our day was complemented perfectly by my mother in law’s homemade pasta salad, plenty of pink wine and a fresh crab that we bought at the supermarket and cracked into on a rock by the shore. If there’s a better way to enjoy shellfish I have yet to find it! Before returning home we stopped for an espresso, caught the last few minutes of the hot sun and felt more relaxed than we had done in some time.

Fishing spot near Tavira Portugal

Fishing spot near Tavira Portugal

All in all, it was a perfect, low-cost, feeling thankful kind of day. The kind I moved here for. Sometimes being here DOES feel like a holiday.

If you’re considering a move to Portugal, take a look at this book:

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

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Portugal 2011 into 2012 0

Posted on January 03, 2012 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

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!

THIS TIME IN 2010:

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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Facts About Portugal 15

Posted on October 03, 2011 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s trivia time this week on Moving to Portugal. We’ve just come to the end of a long run of different guests staying with us, and this morning I was reflecting on some of the little bits of information about life in Portugal that sometimes come out in conversation, and are a surprise to those who haven’t been here before. So, here we have a light-hearted list of ten things not everybody knows about life in Portugal.

1. There is a reason why people often spend what seems like an unusually long time at the cash machine. The Portuguese Multibanco system is highly sophisticated, and allows you do to all kinds of things. Want to go fishing? Buy your license at the ATM. Need to pay your tax bill? Use the reference number on the bill, and pay it directly from your account using your cash machine (a quite scary task when thousands of euros disappear instantly from your account…. you will definitely want to double check that reference number). Want to book a seat on the train to Lisbon? Yep, you do it with Multibanco. With this in mind, try not to get impatient in the queue for the cash machine!

Portugal Multibanco Machine

Portugal Multibanco Machine

2. There is a nominal fee made in Portugal for a TV license. It is charged automatically on your electricity bill.

3. Petrol is even more expensive in Portugal than it is the UK.

4. So are cars. Due to the ways cars are taxed here, they are a LOT more expensive. On the bright side, the climate down here in the Algarve means they are less likely to rust.

5. When, after a meal, you appear to have become invisible to the waiter as soon as you have been served your coffees, it doesn’t mean standards of service have suddenly dropped. Here in Portugal, people often sit for some time after finishing a meal. On one occasion, I even saw someone place head on table and have a short nap before leaving. We don’t have a table-turning culture. Just ask for the bill as and when you are ready to leave.

6. Shopping centres here universally stay open until 11pm, even on a Sunday.

Fernando Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa

7. Portuguese people typically revere literary figures at least as highly as famous musicians and sports stars. In an increasingly dumbed-down, X-Factor loving world, this is a wonderful thing.

8. It is unclear why there is a nationwide shortage of all euro coins in Portugal, but there is. Prepare for wrath if you intend to pay for a 2.08€ grocery transaction with a note and you don’t have the 8 cents. Once you’re known in your local town you may be sent on your way with your goods and asked to come back tomorrow with the right change!

Portugal - Where are the Euro Coins?

Portugal - Where are the Euro Coins?

9. When eating, it is customary to keep your napkin to the left of your plate, and not on your lap. I’m not sure why this is, but it is practical. Constantly reaching down for a napkin below the table results in sardiney fingers making clothing smell unpleasant.

10. It can get cold here in winter. Really bloody cold. Without central heating, it can feel colder than the UK. People never believe this, but those of us that live here don’t just say it for a laugh. People who have actually visited us during the winter know this to be true, but, for some strange reason, May and September always seem to be “the popular months” for most!

So, I’ve thought of the first ten. Can any Portuguese residents think of more? If so, please comment below.

PS. Anyone wishing to become familiar with Portugal’s literary output would do well to begin here:

The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)

Image credits: anabananasplit starrynight1 FreeFoto

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