Tips for moving to Portugal

Hello everyone!

I will be moving to Portugal (Coimbra) next month, starting to work there. Does anyone have any recommended tips or comments on what to do when moving there from a different country?

I am moving from the UK, and I haven’t yet thought how to move my stuff from here to there (if you have any experience you would like to share, please do!). I also would like to buy a car in Portugal, but don’t know yet if it might even be easier to buy one in the UK and drive to Portugal or buy one in Coimbra. Do you have any experience in buying a car in Portugal? Any suggestion on what to do?

I am a bit overwhelmed at the thought of finding a flat, getting a NIF, opening a bank account, getting a SIM card, etc… If you have had any experience in any of these and you have any tips (or you wish you would have thought about something sooner) I would be really curious to know about it! Any shared experience would be extremely helpful! :slight_smile:

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Hi there and welcome! You know, Coimbra is probably the only big-ish town in Portugal where summer is actually low season. It’s the definition of a university town and without the students, it’s pretty dead. On the other hand, it’s pretty lively the rest of the year and you’ll be at the epicentre of Portuguese university traditions (both good and bad!).

Anyway, bureaucracy… You’ll hate it. SIM cards are the least of your concerns. You can get prepaid SIM cards for €5 or something, but you can also get a combined TV+Internet+phone monthly subscription (once you have a flat) and get a single bill for everything. Getting a NIF is also surprisingly easy. Here’s our own little guide on that: Applying For A Portuguese NIF Number .

Things start getting more complicated when it comes to your social security number (NISS). If you’ve already secured a job contract, talk to your employer because they should be able to help you through the process/take care of it for you, since they’ll need to inform them of your employment anyway. If you’re actually coming to work as a freelancer, this article has some information to get you started, not only regarding the NISS, but the whole process: How to Become a Freelancer in Portugal and Issue Recibos Verdes. If you’re going to create your own company, your mileage may vary.

I don’t know how the housing market is in Coimbra, for someone looking for a whole flat. For people just looking for a room, it should be fine and very dynamic, since every year there are lots of students coming and going, starting and terminating contracts. I do know that the prices haven’t escalated to the same extent as Lisbon and Porto, which is good for you. This article was written for people looking to buy a home, but even if you’re just renting, there’s also good stuff there (such as all the websites with property listings and our way of describing the size of a house/flat): Buying a Home in Portugal

To open a bank account, this guide from Expatica seems thorough (even for other topics, this is a good website for you to check out as well): Opening a bank account in Portugal . It might sound ridiculous, but my first-hand experience with this is very limited. My own bank account was initially a student account that I didn’t even open at the bank, but at the university (the bank folks came to us and made everything tremendously simple). Even after finishing my studies, there was no added bureaucracy.

Cars are heavily taxed in Portugal, which makes buying a new car here extremely expensive, at least for our low salaries. You surely get better value for money buying it abroad, if you’re willing to drive it all the way here. However, this doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re only buying it just before moving here. That’s because if you’ve owned the car for less than six months before driving it to Portugal, you’ll pay tax on it (ISV) as if it had been imported - and it could cost a few thousands of €. In your situation, it’s only worth bringing a car from abroad if you buy a used one (lower ISV). Even if you buy a car here, don’t go for a brand new one - go for a semi-new car, at the very least. 100% new cars are truly, truly overpriced.

Hope this helps, at least a bit :slight_smile: Again, if you’re employed by a company, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. I’m sure they can help you a lot in all of this.


Thank you so much! This is so helpful!!


You should get the NIF as your first priority, because you will need it to do any of the other steps.

For the SIM card, I just went to a Vodafone location and told them which plan I wanted (from looking at the options online). I got a mobile only plan at first (while I was staying in a temporary place) and then switched to a mobile/internet package once I had a lease somewhere. Switching restarted the contract though, which is for 2 years.

I used to look for flats. Calling the real estate agents directly will get you the most responses. A lot of people did not respond when I sent messages through the site. You may want to consider staying in a hotel, AirBnb, or similar for a month or so just to give yourself some time to search and find a place you like.

Are you renting or buying? I know more about the renting process. Most places will require that you have a “fiador”, which is basically a Portuguese resident who acts as a guarantor on the lease. They sign saying that they are financially responsible if you don’t pay your rent. Also, I don’t know what things are like in the UK (I’m from the U.S.), but something that surprised me was that it’s okay to negotiate on the rent here. For example, I didn’t have a fiador and I offered 100 euros less than what was advertised, but to make up for it, I paid 5 months of rent in advance.

Here’s another article you might want to check out on getting residency in Portugal.


Thanks for the excellent tips! I am going to rent, so that applies to me :slight_smile: