The Best Expat Communities in Portugal
Congrats on taking steps to make your dream of moving to Portugal a reality! Now that you’ve decided to move to Europe, how do you feel? Are you excited and full of anticipation? Or are you a little nervous because you’re setting off on a new adventure without knowing a soul in your future home?
People can really make the place and given that, expat communities are some of the best places to meet future friends! Read on for tips on how to prep for your move and to find your people in Portugal!
Relocating to Portugal
A lot of time, money, and energy goes into preparing to live overseas. Before you leave you you’ll need to figure out what to bring, you’ll also need to research your healthcare options and determine the type of visa you’ll need for your situation.
Additionally, you should scope out expat communities in Portugal to join as well!
You’ll find answers to many of your burning questions about moving to Portugal in the digital book I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. And for an overview into all things Portugal, check out our living in Portugal as an expat guide to start.
Now, before jumping into researching expat communities in Portugal, take some time to think about what you’d like to have on your checklist when deciding where you’d like to live. (This process will make managing culture shock a bit easier too.) Some questions to consider include:
- Would you prefer to live in a small town or a large city?
- Do you need access to public transportation, or do you want to live in an area that’s walkable?
- Do you want (or need to be) in a neighborhood where a lot of English speakers live or do you want to avoid these areas?
- Do you enjoy being near the water or by mountains?
- What were your previous travel and refresh experiences like when (or if) you lived to a new country in the past?
These questions are an example of things to think about before you move. If you’re not sure which city or town to move to this process can inform where in Portugal you’d like to call home. Once you take this step, you’ll be able to create a list that checks all your boxes and starting looking for the right expat communities for you.
As you read on, you’ll learn about the top international communities in Portugal and tips for meeting like-minded people once you make your move.
Where do expats live in Portugal?
Portugal is divided into seven regions with clusters of expat communities scattered throughout the entire country. While foreigners move to different areas based on their interests and needs, the following spots, (broken down by geographic location), are some of the most popular cities and towns with expat communities in Portugal.
Located in the west, Portugal’s capital city has the largest expat population in the country. Foreigners from the U.S. and beyond are drawn to Lisbon’s reasonable cost of living—although services like Airbnb has had a significant effect on housing and rental prices— international food scene, desirable weather, and cultural diversity.
Aside from being a hot spot for digital nomads, internationals of all backgrounds cite the city’s relaxed vibe, friendly people, and access to other parts of Europe and Africa as reasons for living in Lisbon. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the largest number of expat communities in Portugal is in the country’s capital.
Once under the radar, Portugal’s second-largest city is not that much of a secret anymore thanks to its stunning architecture, rich history, and views of the Douro River. Located about 200 miles north of Lisbon, Porto is a thriving city that’s getting more and more attention from foreigners seeking to move abroad.
If you decide to move to Porto, you’ll join retirees, professionals, digital nomads, and other expats who’ve made the city their home due to its low cost of living and growing international scene. Another perk to making Porto your new home is that the city is only 16-square miles. Therefore, you’ll get to appreciate the benefits of living in a city while enjoying its small-town vibe.
Based in south of Portugal in the Algarve region, Lagos is a stunning walled town filled with breathtaking cliffs and numerous beaches along the Atlantic coast. Along with its picture perfect scenery, foreigners are drawn to Lagos because it’s walkable, affordable, and has fantastic weather. It also has a growing digital nomad scene.
In addition to attracting retirees, Tavira is another hot spot in the Algarve for digital nomads looking for a comfortable lifestyle that includes tons of sunshine, beaches, and opportunities to build community. Like Lagos, this charming town is filled with history and plenty of character.
To learn more about how to move to Portugal, get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe.
The best expat communities in Portugal
As indicated, expat communities in Portugal are scattered throughout the country. But if you’re looking to live in a city that’s accessible, has excellent transportation, and a variety of expat communities, Lisbon and Porto are your best bets.
For a quieter life that’s extremely affordable and has excellent weather, head south to the Algarve region of Portugal. Since this is a popular destination for digital nomads and retirees, it should be quite easy to connect with other expats who’ve moved here for similar reasons.
And, if you’d like a fully immersive experience when you move abroad, consider living in a small Portuguese town like Braga. Based in the northern part of the country, the oldest town in Portugal is a booming business hub that’s attracting skilled workers from all over the world. Since the town is relatively small, it could be easier to connect with locals as well.
With so many charming options it can be hard to decide on which city or town to move to. One of the best ways to learn about where you’d like to live before you go is through networking. So, aside from doing your own recon, you can reach out to other expats who’ve made the move that you’re planning to do.
To get started on connecting with others, three of the largest and most popular Facebook Groups are Expats in Portugal Q&A , Americans in Portugal – The Expats Group and Americans & FriendsPT. Since each of these online communities has well over 10,000 members, you’ll be able to gather useful information about different areas of Portugal and even make friends before you move!
5 tips for meeting people in Portugal
Now that you know more about where to live in Portugal, check out the following suggestions about how to meet people once you’ve arrived in your new European home.
- Learn Portuguese: Was learning Portuguese one of your reasons for deciding to hit refresh in Portugal? If this is the case, find a language exchange program to take part in. During these meetups, you’ll be able to practice your Portuguese skills with native speakers. In exchange, they’ll want to converse with you in English.
Along with taking part in a language exchanges, you can also enroll in a Portuguese language class at a nearby school. As you’re learning from a teacher, you’ll meet other expats in the class who are eager learn.
- Sign Up for Meetup Events: Meetup.com is a popular platform that hosts social events such as dinners, language exchanges, hikes, and cooking classes. When you attend a meetup, you’ll be surrounded by others who share your interest and want to make friends. This is also an ideal way to join expat communities in Portugal.
- Facebook Communities: One of the benefits of social media is how quick it is to connect with people from all over the world. Join expat Facebook groups aligned with your interests before or after you move abroad.
Get started by becoming a member of She Hit Refresh’s Facebook group and learn from other Refreshers who have made the move to Portugal (and beyond!).
- Volunteer opportunities: Aside from being a meaningful way to do something you enjoy; volunteering will introduce you to both locals and others who want to give back. For example, if you give your time to help an animal shelter in your new community, you’ll get to interact with locals who run the shelter.
While you can volunteer at a local shelter, you can also adopt a dog. In addition to saving a life, you’ll be able to make friends while walking your dog in your neighborhood. This can lead to meeting a lot of people who share your love of animals.
- Take a Tour: Even though you plan to live in Portugal, there’s no reason why you can’t play tourist in your own backyard. Along with checking out a free walking tour, you can also join a hike, eating tour, or take a day trip to a nearby town. Aside from being a great way to explore the region of Portugal that you’ve moved to, you never know who you’ll meet when exploring your new home!
Need more information?
- In Living in Portugal as an Expat. Learn All You Need to Know to Get Started! you’ll read more about life in Portugal from members of the She Hit Refresh community who’ve made the move.
- When you get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe you’ll get a thorough look at how you can move to Portugal. This includes all the visa options and insurance requirements for Americans and other foreigners.
- If you’re looking for more ideas of where to move in Europe, check our our guide to the best places for American to live abroad in Europe. Also check out She Hit Refresh’s complete Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland and Iceland guides if you’re interested in learning more about moving to these countries.