Why More People Are Going to Portugal to Retire

Portugal is the number one retirement destination for 2020. Find out why this tiny European nation is the perfect spot to enjoy your post-career time off.

If you could retire anywhere in the world, where would you choose? Before you answer, think about what’s important to you for retirement. If quality health care, a reasonable cost of living, good climate, plenty to see and do, great food and wine, and friendly people are the things that tick all of your “must have” boxes, then Portugal should be at the top of your list. And you won’t be alone. Portugal earned the number one spot on International Living‘s Annual Global Retirement Index, and Live and Invest Overseas (LIO) put Portugal at the top of its “10 Best Places to Retire Overseas in 2020.” (Plus, the country’s Algarve and Cascais regions took the number one and two spots on LIO’s “10 Best Places to Live Overseas in 2020” survey, as well!)

So, why all the fuss about Portugal? We took a deep dive to find out.

Portugal is one of the most popular spots in Europe

For the third year running, Portugal won the prestigious title of Europe’s Leading Tourism Destination at the World Travel Awards 2019. The country won a cornucopia of accolades, including Lisbon for Best City Break Destination in Europe and Best European Cruise Port; the Algarve as Europe’s Leading Beach Destination; and Madeira as Europe’s Leading Island Destination. If you’d prefer to stay closer to home, check out the best small towns in America to retire.

There’s a perfect beach for every day of the year

portugal beach LucynaKoch/Getty ImagesWith more than 600 miles of sun-kissed sandy coastline and one of the best climates in Western Europe (you can count on 3,300 hours of sun every year!), a beach day is always on the agenda in Portugal, especially in the sunny Algarve. Plus, more than 350 Portuguese beaches fly Blue Flags, the coveted award given to beaches recognized for outstanding water quality and cleanliness, 18 of which are right near Lisbon. That means you’re almost always assured a spectacular beach outing, even from the city. And the weather is so lovely here year-round, it’s one of the best off-season travel destinations as well.

You’ll get great value for your money

If you have income (earned, investment, or retirement) in U.S. dollars, it goes further in Portugal right now than it has in many years. The cost of living in Portugal is among the lowest in Western Europe, says LIO, on average 30 percent lower than in any other country of the region. According to LIO, a couple could live in Portugal comfortably but modestly on a budget of as little as 1,300 euros per month and could live large with a budget of 2,000 euros per month. (That’s around $1,400 and $2,400, respectively, in U.S. currency.) These are just some of the reasons Portugal is one of our top destinations to live in for saving money.

It’s OK if you don’t speak Portuguese

According to International Living, locals generally make a sincere effort to make visitors and expats feel welcome, and although it helps if you try to speak at least a little Portuguese (crash course: ola is hello, por favor is please, obrigado is thank you), in urban areas such as Porto and Lisbon and the multinational expat region of the Algarve, English works just fine.

It’s easy to get to Portugal from the U.S.

When you’re ready to visit the United States (or, more likely, when friends and family want to come and check out your cool, new Portuguese digs), it’s easy to fly direct, and without breaking the bank, thanks to TAP, Portugal’s national airline. TAP recently launched three new routes from the U.S.—Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, and Washington-Dulles—as well as tripled the number of direct flights between Newark and Porto.

Portuguese food and wine are fantastic

Portuguese cuisine visualspace/Getty ImagesThe abundance of sunny days, the long stretches of coastline and access to the Atlantic Ocean, and the unique microclimates of Portugal have all worked together to create a fabulous cuisine culture that guarantees you’ll always be well-fed while you’re in the country. Even top spots are still affordable. Fresh seafood, especially whole grilled sardines in season, succulent ham, wonderful fresh dairy cheeses, and sweet pasteis de nata tarts are all amazing options. And the fabulous, and bargain-priced, wines are created in equally fabulous vineyards, one of the reasons Portugal is on our list of the most gorgeous wineries in the world you really need to visit.

The health-care system is one of the best in the world

Portuguese health care is international-standard, ranked by WHO as the 12th-best system among UN-member countries (out of 190). Even better: Public health care in Portugal is available to legal foreign residents as long as you’re registered with your local medical center.

There’s always something to do in Lisbon

Lisbon, Portugal Kisa_Markiza/Getty ImagesA city full of hills that roll into the sea, surrounded by vineyards, and traversed by tramcars, the charming capitol of Portugal, Lisbon, sometimes feels like San Francisco—that is, if San Fran suddenly added several hundred years of history, including a castle at its peak, and became much less expensive. There are a variety of places to explore in Portugal. One must-see is Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a gorgeous monastery in the late Gothic style, where explorer Vasco de Gama is entombed.

Sold on Portugal? Instead of simply daydreaming about packing up and moving there someday, make sure you take these 13 retirement facts seriously.

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Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.