Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

If you’re planning to move to Portugal, you probably have a list of things you want to do on arrival. For many, the priorities include checking out local restaurants, exploring markets, and heading to beaches and other beauty spots.

There’s plenty of time for all of that. Even better, once it sinks in that you’re actually living in the country, you’ll be able to take it all at a relaxed pace. You don’t need to live like you’re on holiday and worry about squeezing everything in!

Tempting though it may be to slow down to “Portugal pace” straight away, it does make sense to sort out some essential practicalities first.

With that in mind, here are the first ten things you should do when you move to Portugal. Don’t worry – you’ll still have plenty of time to have leisurely strolls and long lunches while you’re working through them.

1. Get A Fiscal Number

In Portugal, you need a fiscal number (Número de Identificação Fiscal), to do almost anything “official.” As such, it’s the most important thing to get hold of. Its closest UK equivalent is a National Insurance number. It’s also worth noting that the fiscal number is often referred to in Portugal as a Número de Contribuinte (or just a “Contribuinte.“)

Of all the pieces of paper you need in Portugal, the fiscal number is the easiest to obtain. You don’t even need a Portuguese address. This means you have to option of getting one while you’re on a holiday or viewing trip, using your UK address (though you’ll then need to change it when you have an address in Portugal).

All you should need to do is visit your nearest camara (town hall), with your passport and proof of address. It’s certainly worth learning how to ask for what you want in Portuguese. Officials in these buildings don’t appreciate people assuming they can do business in English, even if they speak it fluently.

All you should need to do is visit your nearest camara (town hall), with your passport and proof of address.

2. Open a Bank Account

A local bank account is obviously an important thing to have. You’ll usually need your fiscal number before you can get one. This is another thing you can try to do before you actually move to Portugal, either while you’re visiting or by going to a London branch of a Portuguese bank.

Portuguese banks tend to deliver a much more personal service than those in the UK. Decisions are often made by humans rather than computers. You’ll generally need an initial deposit and lots of paperwork, so take identification, your fiscal number, proof of address, and anything else you think they could possibly ask for.

3. Rent a Property

Many people who move to Portugal for the first time opt to rent a property initially. This helps you to get a feel for the country and provides the opportunity to look for somewhere to buy at a relaxed pace.

You’ll find agencies geared specifically towards expats in the cities and in the Algarve. These can provide the reassuring ease of doing everything in English. However, you can perhaps expect to pay a price premium in return.

The more willing (and able) you are to use a bit of Portuguese, the more likely you are to find bargains. As with bank accounts, there’s much more emphasis on “in person” dealings. Automated reference checking with “computer says yes or no” isn’t really a thing in Portugal. The best strategy is to find somewhere you like, and then to get a trusted lawyer to go over the paperwork.


Many people who move to Portugal for the first time opt to rent a property initially.

4. Arrange Phone and Internet

You’ll definitely want to keep in touch from your exciting new home. Internet access will also prove crucial for everything from researching bureaucratic procedures to checking translations.

It’s easy to arrange phone contracts, and both mobile and fixed broadband. A 4G hotspot is a good starting point, especially until you are somewhere you’re going to be for a prolonged period.

There are plenty of phone shops in town centres and shopping malls. It’s also easy to research deals and tariffs using a web browser and Google Translate. Once you have chosen what you want, the key thing you’ll need to progress is your fiscal number.

5. Learn How Multibanco Works

The Portuguese Multibanco system, which you access using cashpoint machines, is highly sophisticated. You can do a huge number of different things using an ATM, from paying bills to topping up pay-as-you-go phones and even buying local fishing licenses.

With all of this in mind, you’ll understand why people in Portugal can often spend an inexplicably long time at the cash machine!

It’s worth becoming familiar with how it all works. When you have your first bill to pay, do it at the Multibanco so you can get used to the process.

6. Sort out your visa

Even now Briton has left the EU, you can still travel to Portugal for up to 90 days in any six-month period without a visa. If you do want to spend longer than this in Portugal, you will need to apply for a visa.

Luckily, Portugal has a reasonably relaxed process for Brits to gain visas and residency, due to the long-standing relationship between the two countries.

There are three types of visa that you can apply for, depending on your circumstances. You can find more information on those here.

It can make good sense to use a lawyer or agency to help with the process. They are likely to know the local procedures. Even more usefully, they’ll probably know some people in the government buildings.

With time being of the essence, it can make good sense to use a lawyer or agency to help with the applying for residency.

7. Organise Healthcare and Social Security

You should qualify for Portuguese state healthcare once you are resident. Go to your local centro do saude to register, and they will tell you what paperwork you need.

It’s likely they will ask for a social security number (segurança social). If you are employed in Portugal, your employer will obtain this for you. If you are self-employed, it will be issued as part of your registration as a trader. For those who are retired, you will need to visit the social security office with an S1 form issued by the UK.

Even once you have state medical care, you may want to register with a private GP in your local town. They typically charge from €40-60 per appointment. Many people choose to use these services for faster appointments and more personalised care.

8. Think About Currency

When you move to Portugal, you’ll want to be tuned in to fluctuating exchange rates. If you have UK pension or other income, moving money at the right time (and in the right way) can make an enormous difference to how many Euros you end up with.

This is even more crucial when you come to buy a property. Choosing the best way to move the money can make a difference of literally thousands. You can contact us directly for advice on this.

9. Visit Local Bars and Cafés

While you’re pounding the pavements getting your paperwork together, you’re sure to want to stop for refreshment!

There’s more to this than an espresso and a pastel de nata, however. It’s well worth starting to put social feelers out in the local community as soon as you can. You may well hear about houses to rent, or from people recommending lawyers and accountants.

There are plenty of networking opportunities out there once you get to know all the local faces. However, it’s wise to show a certain level of caution. In particular, be wary of taking legal or financial advice from anybody other than professionals. Individual interpretations of things like tax and residency rules are widespread and often very wrong.

While you’re pounding the pavements getting your paperwork together, you’re sure to want to stop for refreshment!

10. Find an Accountant

A good accountant can make a huge difference to your move to Portugal. Not only can they ensure you’re paying the right amount of tax, they can help you see if you qualify for initiatives like the Non Habitual Resident tax scheme.

The time to find an accountant is when you’re not in a huge hurry. One week before your annual accounts are due is NOT the time. Be sure to seek personal recommendations from people who’ve been with the same accountant successfully for several years. Choosing the wrong person to give you financial advice can prove costly and stressful.

While this is a long list, it doesn’t mean a move to Portugal should be anything less than a pleasure. View every step along the way as a small triumph, and treat yourself to a coffee or a beer in the sunshine. Once these initial steps are complete, dealing with the ongoing admin is much simpler, and more gradual.


By Lala