15 Reasons Portugal Is The Best Country For Americans Moving Abroad

If you are considering leaving the U.S., Portugal should be at the top of your list. You read that right. Not Spain, not France, and not Italy. This quaint country on the Iberian Peninsula has become a go-to, long-term destination in the last few years, with the number of American expats living there doubling since 2018 from just over 3,000 people to nearly 7,000 residents (as noted by CNBC). 

The prospect of long-term traveling or moving abroad can be a daunting prospect. Where does one even start? What is the application process? What would the experience of living abroad even be like? Well, hopefully, this article can help alleviate some of those concerns and shed some light on the popularity of Portugal and why it is becoming such a desired new home for Americans. So with that, let's take a closer look at 15 reasons why Portugal is the best country for Americans moving abroad!

1. The people

Warm, friendly, and with a major cultural emphasis on family, the Portuguese people are a stark contrast to the work-heavy culture so prevalent in North America. This is an obvious draw for those looking for a more interpersonal day-to-day existence from the hectic nine-to-five grind. Erasmusu notes that a substantial percentage of Portuguese also speak English, particularly in big cities like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve, making the assimilation process here considerably easier than in some other Western European nations.

2. The weather

Portugal features a stunning Mediterranean climate, with over 300 days of sunshine per year (as noted by Live And Invest Overseas). With this climate, the Portuguese enjoy hot, arid summers and light, damp winters. Porto, a city in the north, feels a lot like San Francisco, with mild temperatures and a bit more of an overcast sensibility. The Algarve in the south enjoys, arguably, the premier climate of Europe with nearly 3,500 hours of sunlight annually.

3. Safety

This is an exceptionally safe country, safer than you probably even realize. Immigrant Invest notes that Portugal ranks 6th on the Global Peace Index, which is a comprehensive assessment of violent crime, corruption, and other key metrics to determine the overall safety of a country. For comparison, the United States came in at 129th. People in Portugal enjoy minimal violent crime, no mass shootings, and streets safe to walk at all hours of the day and night.

4. Pastéis de nata

Pastéis de nata is the national dessert of Portugal, and the hype is real. This is the best plus-one for your morning coffee or simply a quick bite to eat. Not too sweet and with incredible crunch and flavor, these can be found in most coffee shops and bakeries. Fun fact — they were originally created in Lisbon in a neighborhood called Belém. The owners of this original recipe refer to their version of the pastry as the pastél de Belém, which they aptly titled their bakery as well (as noted by G Adventures). It has been open since 1837.

5. Infrastructure

Tired of sitting in traffic all day and expending excess energy behind the wheel? Portugal boasts spectacular public infrastructure and walkable cities. All major regions of the country can also be reached via trains, which run all day and operate efficiently with little fuss. A car is not required here unless you live in a more remote village or town, but you will certainly not encounter the kind of traffic found in major cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta. If you do need a car, thankfully your U.S. driver's license will perfectly suffice for qualifying to rent a car (as noted by Boundless Road).

6. Cost of healthcare

HSA For America reports that the average family of four in the U.S. pays over $1,400 a month in health insurance. For some, this is basically an additional mortgage and can be a tremendous financial burden for those looking to save or set aside money for retirement and investments. In Portugal, a family of four can pay for private health insurance at a modest rate between $100 to $200 a month, and this includes vision and dental (as noted by Internations). And how is the quality of healthcare? The World Health Organization ranks Portugal as the 12th best country for healthcare in the world (as noted by Portugal.com). 

7. Work-life balance

They may not take afternoon siestas like in Spain, but the Portuguese know the value of a good time and family. Meals here are slow, in typical European fashion, and people enjoy a casual drink during the work week with their colleagues. However, Portugal, along with several other European nations, has taken serious action for maintaining the separation of the professional and personal in the age of remote work. The country recently passed legislation that makes it illegal and fineable if a boss contacts an employee after business hours (as noted by Scary Mommy).

8. The food

Portuguese food is criminally underrated. It is fresh, all locally sourced, and quite cheap compared to American food prices. A local lunch in the capital city Lisbon with a salad, entree, and glass of wine will only run you about $15. And no tips! Inspired by seafood and delicious meats, iconic dishes such as the hearty francesinha (pictured above, an inside-outside grilled cheese stuffed with sausage, beef, ham, and topped with a fried egg), arroz de pato (duck rice), and bacalhau (codfish) revolve around simple ingredients and impeccable preparation (as noted by Cookly).

9. The history

Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, centuries older than London, Paris, and Rome (as noted by ESA). Medieval towns, castles, and ornate palaces in cities like Sintra make you feel like you are fresh off the set of "Game Of Thrones." The tradition of fado music, which has been around since the 1820s, is still celebrated and performed today (as noted by Portugal Online). Portugal is a country rich with tradition, history, and culture that will have you moving from one discovery to the next. 

10. The Algarve

Without a doubt, Portugal features some of the most unbelievable beaches in the world. In particular, the southern region of the Algarve sports peak beach living within the country, with many Americans and Brits choosing to retire there. International Living notes that, aside from the unbeatable coastal living in this region, the Algarve also features incredible geographic wonders like mountains and cliffs. In this respect, it is particularly similar to the west coast of the United States, with people enjoying biking, hiking, boating, and more.

11. Douro Valley

Unbeknownst to many, Portugal features one of the most spectacular wine countries in the entire world. Famous for its port wine, Douro Valley is an evergreen paradise of Portuguese beauty. Port wine is delicious, with flavors of cocoa, dried fruits, and caramel (as noted by Wine Folly). Douro Valley is located only an hour or so outside of Porto and is truly a highlight within the country.

12. The visa application

Although Portugal features its own bureaucratic drawbacks, the process to get a visa is relatively easy. Global Citizens Solutions notes that an American can acquire a visa in as little as a few months. From there, you are then eligible to receive a one-year residency permit. It's a fairly straightforward process, and there are multiple options. The D7 visa specializes in applicants that earn a living through passive income and the Digital Nomad visa is geared toward remote workers who want to enjoy short- or long-term residences in Portugal.

13. Housing costs

Portugal is on the more affordable side of housing costs when compared to the U.S. For example, the capital city of Lisbon has rental costs nearly 70% cheaper than New York City (as noted by Numbeo). A typical one-bedroom apartment, in the trendiest parts of the city center, will only cost around $1,000 a month. A typical three-bedroom apartment in the city center will run around $2,100 a month. For a major metropolitan area, these are staggeringly cheap prices, and they are even more impressive once you realize how high-quality the city actually is. 

14. Inexpensive groceries

A fresh loaf of bread for $1. A pound of chicken fillets for $3. A bottle of wine for $4. Yes, when it comes to everyday groceries, this is an area that blows Americans away. Because much of the food is locally sourced, groceries are quite inexpensive here (as noted by Numbeo).

15. The Azores

A hidden gem off the coast of the mainland country, the Azores is a strikingly beautiful place for most travelers. Lonely Planet points out that the geographic variety here is nearly unbeatable, with caves, evergreen landscapes, incredible hiking trails, and crystal-clear lakes — it is straight-up Jurassic Park here. A visit to this relatively untouched part of Portugal will transport you back in time.

16. Tax benefits

Immigrant Invest points out that the tax schemes in Portugal are more favorable than a lot of other European nations. Those that move here can attain what is called a Non-Habitual Residence tax status, which allows you to avoid paying taxes twice on foreign income, requiring you to only pay American taxes on income earned there. This is a competitive offer, considering that Portuguese income for citizens can be taxed as high as nearly 50%.