With the cheapest living and travel costs in Western Europe and a warm climate, Portugal is an obvious choice for digital nomads and its popularity is easy to understand. In this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of working remotely there as well as some of the best places to go and tips for getting around.
Portugal Digital Nomad Guide
- Population – 10.3 million
- Capital – Lisbon
- Language – Portuguese
- EU – Yes
- Schengen Area – Yes
- Currency – Euro
Pros & Cons to being a Digital Nomad in Portugal
- Low Costs
Portugal is a great destination for anyone looking to be in Western Europe and experience the benefits that go with that, while keeping costs down to a minimum. Portugal is marginally cheaper overall than neighbouring Spain and much more affordable than countries like France, Italy and the UK.
Accommodation costs are particularly low, making it one of the best places in Europe in terms of finding a nice Airbnb at a good rate for short to medium term stays. For those staying slightly longer, even in the capital Lisbon you can rent a room for as little as 300 Euros per month and shouldn’t have trouble finding your own small flat for around 600-700 Euros away from the centre if you’re not looking for anything fancy.
- Scenery & Warm Summers
It’s a bit of a myth that Portugal is just a hot country throughout the year and it can get seriously chilly in the north during the winter with a lack of central heating systems in most buildings meaning even indoors you can feel the cold.
However it does have fantastic summers and is blessed with some fantastic beaches and national parks to enjoy them in. South of Lisbon, and particularly in the Algarve region, things heat up a bit quicker with May to October providing highs of over 20°C almost every day.
- Attractive Cities
Portugal’s cities are sometimes overlooked by visitors which is a real shame as it has some very beautiful ones. While many buildings feel as though they are in desperate need of restoration, Lisbon (pictured above) is a charming place with some fabulous views from its many hills and miradouros. Porto is one of the most dramatically set cities in all of Europe, while there are many historic towns such as Braga, Coimbra and Sintra.
- Hard to get to know locals
Many visitors to Portugal come expecting it to be a bit like Spain or Italy but the Portuguese are certainly a bit colder and harder to get to know. There are perhaps more similarities with Northern Europe in this regard and there is also what is sometimes described as the “Glass Half Empty” mentality which can be frustrating for new arrivals. This outlook is perhaps best summed up by the notoriously melancholic Fado music, one of the most unique aspects of Portuguese culture.
- Difficult Language to learn
The difficulty in terms of getting to know locals is compounded by the fact Portuguese is a difficult language to learn with some harsh sounds. While it may look similar to Spanish, it rarely sounds like it. With the level of English quite high compared to its neighbouring countries, many foreigners simply don’t bother learning Portuguese which is a bit of a shame, but you will find it much easier to integrate into Portuguese society and get to know locals if you make some effort.
Remote Work Portugal – Where to Go
For City Living – Lisbon
Portugal has some great options for urban living but even the second city Porto is relatively small and quiet during the week. Therefore if you want a real city living experience, Lisbon is certainly your best bet and it boasts a growing community of digital nomads, as well as a few barrios that have a noticeable international vibe with a mixture of Erasmus students, English teachers and visitors, sharing the streets and bars with locals.
Lisbon may not be one of the cheapest cities to live in Portugal, but for a major European capital it’s great value. It has the widest selection of entertainment and evening activities of anywhere in Portugal while it is less than 20 km from the beaches of the Costa da Caparica – a popular spot for surfers.
For the best climate – Madeira
To truly find a winter sun destination, you have to leave the Portuguese mainland behind and head to the island of Madeira. While it is situated to the north of Spain’s Canary Islands, Madeira still experiences some of the best winter conditions in Europe with average highs of around 20°C even during December and January – one reason why it is a popular new year destination.
As such, Madeira is unsurprisingly proving a hit with growing numbers of digital nomads and remote workers. The island even launched its own “digital nomad village” complete with free workspaces and wifi, making it something of a haven for anyone looking to lead a remote lifestyle.
For the best beaches – The Algarve
While Madeira may boast the best year-round climate, you’ll struggle to find better beaches than those that exist in the Algarve – the southernmost region of mainland Portugal. Highlights include gems such as Praia de Almograve, Praia da Rocha and Praia da Mareta while the town of Lagos is another popular location for nomads.
While the Algarve does fill up with tourists each summer, away from the very peak months of late July and August, it’s a pretty chilled out place and it’s not hard to find quiet beaches in late spring to early summer, or during the autumn.
Getting Around Portugal
Portugal is a relatively small country in terms of its land area but it’s long and thin, a bit like a mini European version of Chile, so getting from the north to the south does take some time while its islands are a long way from the mainland and will require flights.
By Bus – Buses are generally the cheapest way to get around Portugal with all the major towns and cities connected. It’s pretty easy to buy tickets too with the Rede Expressos website allowing you to purchase and have tickets sent as PDFs to your email which you can display when boarding. There are also bus connections with nearby cities in Spain.
By Train – Getting around Portugal by train is also very possible and in some cases is quicker. Portugal has a pretty extensive rail network which connects Lisbon with just about every town and city in the country. There is a relatively fast service between Lisbon and Porto which takes around 3 hours and both cities have extensive metro/suburban rail networks which connect the heart of the cities with the surrounding suburbs and towns.
By Plane – There’s not much need to travel by plane within mainland Portugal but you will need to if you want to reach Madeira with regular flights from Lisbon into Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, named after the island’s favourite son. The Azores – a Portuguese archipelago consisting of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, is even more isolated but again there are plenty of flights to the mainland with Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel, being the most accessible.
Portugal has some great Airbnb options and it’s generally the first and only site you need to find short to mid term accommodation in the country. There is usually excellent choice both in the big cities and on the coast and Portugal’s extensive transport network, means there are few places (at least near the coasts) that are difficult to reach.
For longer stays, a site like Idealista would be a good starting point. It’s also worth noting that many people (both Portuguese and from around Europe) have holiday homes in the Algarve region which they are often happy to rent out during the cooler periods of the year at much reduced rates. If you’re arriving in Portugal from September onwards and plan to stay for 3 months or more, this is something worth looking into.
Coworking Portugal & Other Places to Work
While it’s not exactly one of Europe’s most tech-savvy nations and therefore is something of an unnatural place for a remote lifestyle, Portugal’s coworking scene is growing. Here are some of the options for anyone looking for a coworking space in Portugal:
|Nomad Village, Madeira||Located in Madeira’s Ponta Do Sol, the Nomad Village offers free workspaces, activities and a community of nomads.|
|Second Home, Lisbon||Located above the city’s famous Mercado da Ribeira, Second Home is a modern office full of plants and natural light with a range of membership options from day passes to a permanent desk on 6 month contracts.|
|WorkHub, Lisbon||An open workspace for freelancers and self-employed with less thrills, but lower prices than some of the other options.|
|WOW Coworking, Porto||A coworking space in Porto, with desk, private rooms and chillout common zones.|