Useful Information on Living in Portugal

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The Language Barrier in Portugal

British expatriates can enjoy living and working in Portugal with relatively few barriers, especially as English is the country’s second most common language. Although approximately 96% of residents speak Portuguese, due to its popularity as a tourist destination, English is a more common language in busier city areas.

Weather & Climate

Portugal enjoys a Mediterranean climate due to its location, which is characterised by mild and wet winters with calm and dry summer spells. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal neighbours Spain and experiences a similarly hot climate. For British expats, this climate is a noticeable change from the cooler weather of other European countries.

In Portugal, the winters bring average temperatures of around 16˚C. In Northern Portugal, strong winds and heavy rainfall can be common, which is familiar weather for expats. In the south, however, the weather is generally warmer, especially in the summer months where it averages 29˚C. Yet, for those who want to avoid areas with high humidity, the coast is often cooled by Atlantic winds.

The British Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal

British Consulate Portugal

Address:Rua de São Bernardo 33
1249-082 Lisbon
Phone:+351 21 392 40 00
Office hours:Local Time
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm (COVID Restrictions currently in place)

Emergency Services Contact Information in Portugal

Emergency Service Contact Number
Police, Ambulance & Fire Services112
Forest Fires117

Health in Portugal

Those planning on leaving the UK to live or work in Portugal are strongly advised to visit their GP to seek medical advice and find out about any vaccinations that may be needed. In addition to the UK’s standard MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and Tetanus top-up injections, you might also be recommended various immunisations, including:

  • Diphtheria
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A/B
  • Yellow Fever
  • Japanese Encephalitis.

Tetanus jabs are a requirement for anyone going to Portugal and, sometimes, Yellow Fever and Hepatitis A may also be mandatory.

In Portugal, there are three types of healthcare:

  1. The SNS (Servico Nacional de Saude), which is a national health service available to all residents, including expats.
  2. Occupation-based private healthcare schemes for workers, such as those in the public sectors.
  3. Private health insurance schemes are also available.

To receive care under the SNS, you must be a legal resident in Portugal. The SNS does not cover 100% of the costs of treatment. Instead, there are certain treatments that are supplemented privately by individuals, with the exception of those who are vulnerable or on a low income.

If you are retired in Portugal, you’ll need to complete an S1 form to receive healthcare, but if you emigrate and are going to be working, you will need to contact the Social Security office and get a NIF (Número de Identificação Fisca) number. Typically, your employer will organise this, but if you are self-employed, it becomes your responsibility.

Driving In Portugal

Portugal is like most European countries, where they drive on the right. Whilst the road infrastructure is generally good, the quality of driving can seem erratic by comparison. For visitors, including expats, you can drive for up to six months without exchanging your foreign license.

For inter-city travel, public transport is considered efficient and reliable. This includes a developed train network and convenient bus schedule, but pre-planning routes and checking times and availability are advised. For traveling farther distances, driving by car is often the only option.

Toll roads were introduced in 2012, but easy pay schemes, including Via Verde (‘Green Road’), makes both payment and driving much smoother. The Via Verde initiative allows drivers to access toll roads without disruptions to their journey. Once a tag is attached to your vehicle’s windscreen, a device will scan and take electronic payment as and when you access ‘green lanes’ in your car.

Getting your Portuguese Driving Licence

Non-EU citizens are permitted to drive on foreign license (which should be under their country of residence) for a short period after becoming a legal citizen in Portugal. This varies by country, however, and it is always worth confirming legal travel requirements before your travel.

To get a Portuguese driving licence, you need to take the following documents with you:

  • Proof of residency
  • A completed IMT Modelo 13 application form
  • A photocopy of your current driving license
  • Proof of identity

You may also be required to take a medical certificate.

Before receiving a Portuguese driving licence, you’ll also need to pass a local driving test. This will need to be renewed every 10 years between the age of 50 and 70. You may also need to pass an additional medical test at that time. After the age of 70, you must pass your test again.

The Portuguese Driving test consists of three parts:

• A theory exam: which is 30 questions in 35 minutes (the passing mark requires a score of 27 out of 30)

• A technical exam, which lasts for 50 minutes.

• A practical driving exam, which lasts for up to 50 minutes with an instructor and examiner present in the vehicle.

Legal Requirements

There are a few specific differences when driving in Portugal. Unlike UK driving law, for example, there is a legal requirement for vehicles to drive with headlights on at all times when passing through a tunnel. Under local law, the minimum age to drive a car in Portugal is 18 years of age.

Speed is measured in kilometres per hour (km/h) and the limits include:

  • Built-up urban areas: 50km/h
  • Rural roads: 90km/h
  • Motorways: 120km/h

Like in the UK, Portugal runs a 12 point offence system. For most offences, you will be deducted two points, although this varies as follows:

  • 3 points: Drunk driving with alcohol readings between 0.5g/l and 0.8g/l. Excessive speed above 20km/ in urban areas
  • 5 points: Drunk driving with alcohol readings between 0.8g/l and 0.2g/l. Driving under the influence of drugs. Excessive speed above 20km/ in urban areas.