Pros and Cons of Moving to Lisbon as an Expat in 2024

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Lisbon, the capital and largest city of Portugal, is a popular destination for expats who are looking for a sunny, vibrant, and culturally rich place to live in Europe.

According to official data, at the end of 2023, there were 118,947 foreign citizens with residence permits residing in the municipality of Lisbon, which represents 21% of the city’s population. The main countries of origin were Brazil (22,080), Italy (9,391), France (9,033), Nepal (8,875), and Bangladesh (8,486)1. These numbers are expected to increase in 2024, as Lisbon continues to attract more expats from different backgrounds and regions.

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Some are professionals who work in multinational companies, startups, or freelancing. Some are students who study in prestigious universities or language schools. Some are retirees who enjoy the high quality of life and the low cost of living. Some are digital nomads who take advantage of the fast internet and the creative atmosphere. Some are simply lovers of the city who fell in love with its charm and history.

But what are the reasons behind this attraction?

The expats who move to Lisbon are drawn by its many advantages, such as:

  1. Great Climate

Lisbon is blessed with sunny and mild weather all year round. You can enjoy the warmth of the sun in January when the average temperature is 11.8 °C (53.2 °F), or the coolness of the sea in August, when it is 23.6 °C (74.6 °F). You’ll never get bored of the blue sky and the golden light, with an average of 9.5 hours of daylight in January and 14.5 hours in June.

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You’ll also love the refreshing breeze and the stunning beaches that the Atlantic Ocean offers, just a short drive or train ride away from the city center.

2. Spoken English

Lisbon is a city where English is widely spoken, especially in the central areas and among the younger generation. You can easily communicate with locals, tourists, and other expats without needing to learn Portuguese.

However, knowing some basic phrases can always help you to make a good impression and show respect for the culture.

3. Great Location for Traveling

Lisbon is a great base for exploring other parts of Portugal and Europe. The city has an international airport that connects you to many destinations, as well as a train and bus network that can take you to nearby towns and cities.

You can easily visit places like Sintra, Cascais, Obidos, Setubal, and more. You can also enjoy the beautiful beaches that surround Lisbon, such as Costa da Caparica, Carcavelos, and Guincho.

4. History and Art

Lisbon is a city with a soul, a city that tells a story of centuries of civilization, culture, and creativity. You’ll be amazed by the beauty and diversity of its monuments, such as the Belem Tower, the Jeronimos Monastery, the Castle of Sao Jorge, and the Alfama Quarter, which reflect the influences of different eras and peoples.

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You’ll also be inspired by the artistic and innovative spirit of the city, which you can discover in its many museums, galleries, theaters, and festivals. Some of the most renowned ones are the Gulbenkian Museum, the Berardo Collection Museum, the National Theater, and the Lisbon International Film Festival.

And of course, you’ll be enchanted by the music of the city, especially the fado, the soulful and melancholic song that expresses the essence of Lisbon and its people.

5. Food and Fun

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Lisbon is a city that delights your senses, a city that offers you a taste of the world. You’ll savor the delicious and diverse cuisine of the city, from the traditional Portuguese dishes to the international flavors. You’ll especially enjoy the seafood, such as bacalhau (cod), sardines, octopus, and clams, which are fresh and abundant. You’ll also treat yourself to the pastel de nata, the irresistible custard tart that is a signature of Lisbon.

You can find plenty of places to eat, drink, and socialize in the city, from the cozy and charming restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and markets, to the lively and trendy bars, pubs, and clubs.

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6. Residency and Benefits

Lisbon is a city that welcomes you, a city that offers you several options to live and stay in Portugal.

One of the most attractive ones is the D7 visa, also known as the passive income visa or retirement visa. This visa is perfect for expats who have a stable and sufficient income from sources such as pensions, dividends, royalties, or rentals. The income must be at least equivalent to the Portuguese minimum wage, which as of 2024, is €820 per month. The visa is easy and fast to obtain, and it gives you a temporary residence permit, which you can renew and convert into a permanent one or even citizenship after five years.

7. Tax system for expats

Lisbon offers several options for expats who want to obtain residency and benefit from a favorable tax system. One of the most popular ones is the Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) regime, which allows foreigners who have a stable and sufficient income from sources such as pensions, dividends, royalties, or rentals to pay a flat income tax rate of 10% or even be exempt from taxes for 10 years.

The NHR regime is expected to end for new applicants in 2024, so you should act fast if you want to take advantage of it.

8. High Level of Safety

Lisbon is one of the safest cities in Europe, with a low crime rate and rare violent incidents. You can walk around the city with confidence and enjoy its beauty and charm. Of course, you should always be careful of pickpockets, scams, and other petty crimes, especially in crowded and touristy areas.

All in all, Lisbon offers a high quality of life for expats, with a mild climate, a rich culture, a diverse cuisine, and a big community of expats. However, like any move abroad, there are both advantages and challenges associated with becoming an expat in Lisbon in 2024.

1. Cost of Living

Lisbon is not a cheap city to live in, especially compared to other Portuguese cities or some Eastern European capitals.

The main expenses are housing, transportation, and utilities.

The city has a high demand and a low supply of rental properties, which drives up the prices and makes it hard to find a suitable and affordable place to live. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is €1,214 per month, while outside the center it is €877 per month. Buying a property is also expensive, with an average price of €4,535 per square meter in the city center, and €2,493 per square meter outside the center.

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The rising housing prices are causing many expats to consider moving out of Lisbon or even from Portugal entirely. Some are looking to other destinations, such as Spain and France, to re-establish their lives. Others are even packing their bags and returning to their home countries.

Transportation is another significant expense for expats living in Lisbon. The city has a good public transportation system, with metro, bus, tram, train, and ferry services. However, these services are also costly, with a monthly pass costing €40. Driving a car is also expensive, with high costs of fuel, parking, tolls, and maintenance.

Utilities are another important expense for expats living in Lisbon. The city has a moderate climate, but it can also get cold in winter and hot in summer, which requires heating and cooling. The average cost of electricity, water, gas, and internet for a standard apartment is around €150 per month.

2. High Bureaucracy

Lisbon, like the rest of Portugal, is notorious for its bureaucracy and red tape. Expats who want to move to Lisbon will have to deal with various procedures and paperwork, such as obtaining a visa, a tax number, a social security number, a bank account, health insurance, and a residence permit. These processes can be time-consuming, complicated, and frustrating, especially if you don’t speak Portuguese or have a local contact.

The public services are often understaffed, inefficient, and slow, and the online platforms are not always user-friendly or updated.

Expats who want to avoid the hassle of bureaucracy may consider hiring a professional service or a lawyer to assist them with their relocation.

3. Congested Traffic

Lisbon is a densely populated and congested city, with a high volume of traffic and a limited parking space. The city has a hilly terrain and narrow streets, which make driving difficult and stressful. The traffic jams are frequent and severe, especially during peak hours and in the city center. The average driving speed in Lisbon is 18 km/h (11 mph), and the average time spent in traffic is 31 minutes per day.

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The public transportation system is a better alternative, but it can also be crowded, delayed, or disrupted by strikes or accidents. The best way to get around Lisbon is by walking, cycling, or using electric scooters, which are widely available and affordable.

Lisbon’s appeal is undoubtedly multifaceted, with some key advantages drawing expatriates to its shores. However, as you see, the expatriate experience in Lisbon is not without its challenges. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to move to Lisbon is a personal one. If you are drawn to the city’s charm, affordability, and cultural richness, then Lisbon could be a great place to call home. However, if you are sensitive to rising costs, complex bureaucracies, and crowded environments, then you may want to consider other options.

Are you ready to take the next step and move to Lisbon? Or are you just curious about what the city has to offer? Either way, you can benefit from a personal consultation with me. I am an international lifestyle consultant, and I can help you with relocation. I can give you expert advice, customized solutions, and practical support for your move.

I can make your transition easier and smoother. All you have to do is visit my website [here] and fill out the form. I can’t wait to hear from you and help you with your move to Lisbon.



Hi, I am Emily Bron.

After living and working in 4 countries (3 continents), experiencing several immigrations, changing several professional fields and being an avid traveler, I created International Lifestyle Consulting to help you to find the best matching place and to relocate abroad for a better quality of life, work, or retirement.

As a professional Baby Boomer and Remote worker, I am relocating again!

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