I wanted to write a little post about our experiences moving to Central Portugal as this is something I often get asked in terms of basic living costs/ education etc and so I wanted to try and cover it here in one place.

I do think every situation and budget is completely different, so peoples experiences will differ, but I can only share our knowledge from experience and what others we know are doing too.

When we moved over here our situation was that we wanted to rent for 6 months to see if we liked the area around Penamacor and that we planned to live on my earnings as a graphic designer/ web designer during this period as we knew there weren’t many opportunites for jobs and that all my work is done online.

I will do a list of the top things people ask me about and that with any move, it makes sense to consider.

  1. Rent – With rent we were lucky enough, through a friend, to find a great deal where we house sat someones quinta (small holding) for 6 months over winter on a cheap rent, in return for taking care of the land – pruning, clearing the land and general up keep of the place. This isn’t always something that comes along all the time, but there are often other house sitting opportunities for shorter periods of time (which you can often find on the local FB pages). In terms of rent, there aren’t a lot of rental properties around our area, but when they do come up I would say they are between €200- €500 per month depending on the size. I only know this from other people I know who have rented. We also have friends who are living in a caravan on some elses land and helping out to pay for it. There are so many options!
  2.  Food costs – I think this is a hard one to answer as every family eats a different diet and different amount, but I was quite surprised that the food costs were similar to that in the UK. This is the case though if you shop at the supermarkets, however there are a few markets nearby, one 45 mins from us in Fundao, that you can get really cheap, local organic veg so that really helps with the costs and there is also a Lidl in Fundao too with cheaper prices. Of course the climate lends itself to growing food too which will also help to save money. In summer we save so much on fruit when our fig and apple trees were producing fruit for a month or two. Another point is (if you like a little treat now and again) that in cafe’s and bars you will spend a lot less! If you go into a local rural cafe and order say 2 coffees, 2 juices and 4 cakes you would probably spend only around €5.
  3. Utility bills – This again was something that wasn’t as cheap as we originally expected. I think when we were in rental property we paid about 40 euros per month for electricity and we pay 25 euros a month for our internet package, which is a two year contract! Water we haven’t paid as in the rental place and our own new place we had our own water supply through the well. Gas is 25 euros a bottle and through winter we probably go through one a month if not more but in summer it is much less. Wood we buy for 70 euros for ton – we got two and think it will easily last us until the end of winter. I guess this varies on the fire you have and also what other sources of free wood you may come across! Obviously if you are thinking about living completely off grid then you won’t have  the electricity bill either but will need an upfront cost for a solar system.
  4. Fuel – this varies from 1.15 – 1.35 euros a litre for diesel and as we are quite rural we do drive quite far to get to places, but obviously this also depends how much you go out and how locally you shop.
  5. Property – If you are looking at buying land or a place here like many people are, then there is so much for sale and you can find out the sort of prices things are going for on Pure Portugal, but also things can be cheaper if you are here a while and get to know the locals – this can take time and like most things it is a case of who you know! We were here 8 months before buying and we looked at many many places! Too many! Some from local people, some from agents but we ended up buying a property that was listed on Pure Portugal.
  6. Education – One of the main reasons we moved here was for the alternative school that was starting nearby and our son went there for the first year. It was a lovely school with lovely families, but we decided to take our son out because the school moved to a new building next to 3 mobile phone masts and after doing our research we decided we didn’t like the health risks, but other families may think this is ok and is worth a look. This school costed €12 per day when we attended and I think there are also options for flexi schooling. The other options are the local Portuguese schools, who I have heard, do welcome foreigners with open arms as we have some friends with kids in the local schools, however the ‘old school’ disciplinarian approach, with no child led initiatives and long days wasn’t what we wanted for our little people. The other option which we are now exploring is home education. Legally to do it in Portugal you need to register with a school and do tests in years 4, 6 and 9, in Portuguese, so that is the route we are now going down. This is obviously something that every family will have different approaches/ opinions on and although our children learning the local language is very important to us, we decided not as important as their overall education and that it may take them longer to learn Portuguese (through private tutor, online apps and being part of local clubs) but it is important for us that our children learn in a child/ interest/ project led way and surrounded by nature. I will write more about this soon, once we are more in our groove with this and have our head around all the paperwork and laws in this area. At the moment it is new to us and we are quite quickly creating a home ed community with our friday family group and other meet ups during the week too. It is worth a mention that if you are a family that travel a lot, you don’t have to register your children in the Portuguese system. If you are out a certain amount of months per year then you can home educate without any tests. To find out more about home education in Portugal you can join the Facebook groups Homechool Portugal or Ensio Domestico (In Portuguese).
  7. Cars – Second hand cars here in Portugal and especially in the rural areas are expensive, much more than in the UK. A lot of people we have known who have moved from the UK have brought their car for the first 6 months and then bought one here. After the 6 months you really need to buy a car here or have yours matriculated – which means it is legal in Portugal.
  8. Recreational Activities – There is a difference in our area in recreational activities. In the UK you are used to there being lots of thing you can pay to take kids to but here there isn’t so much. There are some fun play things at the city but locally we can enjoy free activities such as walks up hills to ancient villages or sun caves, visits to river and lake beaches in the spring/ summer and lots of local festas that are always free! You can find out more about many local activities for families on our friends blog Topsy Turvy Tribe.
  9. Jobs – Most people who move here don’t have jobs. I mean they do earn money somehow but they don’t have local jobs. I am lucky enough to work online and that is our only income (if you are from the UK child benefits and tax credits, if you got them stop after moving here). There are others who have sold in the UK and are living off what they made (as property is much cheaper) or rent out property in the UK, start tourism businesses or other businesses but a lot of people find work online doing various things such as teaching english as a foreign language, writing, web design and so on. The thing that most people move here for though is to live a life that is less reliant on money and more self sufficient. Most don’t want the lifestyle of having a job so people find creative ways to make this work. I also have friends that are yoga teachers, do meals on wheels, sell crafts or food at markets, tradesmen offer their services (but do have to compete with local prices), sell solar systems, make trips back to the UK for care work or other project based work – the list is endless but coming here to find a local job is pretty much 90% not going to happen.

I think that about covers what people usually ask me and the basics people might think about before making the move here. As we have experienced it, I know there is so much to think about, but don’t be afraid to just ask! There are so many people who want to help out and share their experiences too. Pure Portugal facebook group is a great place to start and then when you decide on the area you can ask on there for the local groups which are generally really helpful too. I know some people may not use Facebook as much but I must say it has been a massive help throughout our journey to moving here and finding support locally too. Our local groups are generally supportive and perfect to find out about what is in the area and where you can source things from. There is a very close knit community of foreigners like us and Portuguese people who mostly are here to live more simple and self-sufficient lives and are happy to share knowledge with one another.