If you are moving to Lisbon, congratulations!! Lisbon has museums (so many), great food, cheap and delicious wines, dog-friendly sidewalk cafés, great music, and a local population that makes this old European city feel like a friendly village. I never grow tired of the architecture from the churches built many centuries ago to the beautifully tiled past-century buildings. There’s no reason to own a car in central Lisbon with fast subways, trains, trams, and the very charming trolleys, and funicular cars. And the sidewalks are so artistic and beautiful you will often choose to walk. Lisbon never runs out of ways to stun and surprise.
Portugal is a country that is slightly smaller than the state of Virginia in the US. In spite of its size, if you are visiting or moving to Portugal, you should be pleased to know that you can find just about everything you need here. When you can not find it in Portugal, you should be able to find it online somewhere in the EU including Amazon-Germany and Amazon-Spain. Amazon-UK will be a future option once again when the details of Brexit are sorted. From Lisbon, Porto, or Faro, it is a quick and affordable flight to many European cities, so if items can’t be shipped to you, you could literally plan a weekend shopping trip run.
Scouting Trip to Portugal: What did Lisbon offer?
We took an initial trip to Lisbon to see if it would be a place we might like to live. On our scouting trip, we visited clothing stores, grocers, and pharmacies to check out food and product availability. Lisbon was immediately an easy city to be in. Happily, we saw a diverse population including LGBTQ, an amazing food selection, recycling, natural health stores, and thrift stores! All positive signs for us.
The Move to Lisbon: What we Brought
Determining what to pack boils down to knowing what we can and cannot live without our first month. Our move happened during the summer and during a pandemic. We knew we wouldn’t be able to travel back to the US for another 6-15 months, so we had to pack smart. We decided to mostly bring technical gear, tools including cabling, clothing, shoes, pet supplies, and health products, opting not to bring cold-weather gear because it took up too much physical space in our bags. On the plane, four of us brought ~330 pounds of stuff in seven 50-Lb (22.5/kg) bags plus carry-ons, a dog carriage, and two small dogs.
Here’s what we brought on our first move trip.
- Computer gear, microphones, mice, mobiles, headphones, Wacom tablet, portable printer, travel speaker, hard drives
- Summer, comfort, workout and work clothes, and nearly all shoes
- Art supplies
- Tools surrounding electronics and accompanying gear
- USB cords, extension cords with universal plugs, cables
- A few stainless steel water bottles
- Travel plug adapters
- Health products like medicines, green drink powders, vitamins, several boxes of fluoride-free toothpaste, reusable menstrual pads, and menstrual cups.
- Face and skincare products, hair products, perfume, and make-up
- Two of our preferred pillows and one small blanket
- Some kitchen tools (wine key, lemon squeezer)
- Sonicare toothbrushes
- Portable Waterpik flossers
- Baggu grocery totes
- Beard trimmer and electric shavers
- Harry’s razor and enough blades for 1 year
- Portable chargers
- Stainless steel coffee press
- Textbooks for classes
- Laundry detergent (1 months worth)
- Pet snacks, dog food, and pee pads, bedding, and a dog cart
- Kishu Binchotan Charcoal sticks for water
Can you find everything you need in Lisbon?
Yes. We haven’t had a hard time finding anything including electronics, gluten-free foods and ingredients, low chemical household products, fluoride-free toothpaste, aluminum-free deodorant, coconut flour, hot sauce, and specific brands we might prefer. It might, at times, be more expensive in the EU, but at least 99% of the time, we can find what we need. The only issue so far has been finding one prescription medicine in Portugal, however, there is a pharmacy in Germany that ships. Apple products and computer gear are more expensive here, so we upgraded some items in the US. Saving large Apple upgrades for trips back to the United States saves $$$.
Here are some of the things we’re happy we brought with us.
- Musical Instruments and music books.
- Apple devices.
- Shoes. We like minimal shoes and need larger sizes that are not common in stores.
- Medications. Most medicine is available in PT, however, it was useful to bring several months’ worth of medication.
- Our dogs’ stuffable bed and their dog cart. Like kids, dogs need a sense of stability and comfort to adapt to change and new surroundings. These two items continue to comfort our dogs.
- Bringing as many clothes and things that we could manage for our teen made the transition easier on them.
While in the US or other countries, we like to pick up supplies that we can’t find in Portugal or that we can find for less money. Also, we carry an extra foldable bag or two to take advantage of cost savings and availability of products. Here’s a partial list of items that we might look for on our travels.
- Dehydrated foods
- Products or Brands that I don’t see in Portugal
- Non-toxic or cool nail polish
- Deodorant w/o aluminum
- Women’s sport briefs
- Glide dental floss
- Columbia convertible pants
- Spry fluoride-free toothpaste (expensive in PT)
- Spry gum (expensive in PT)
- Soft density pillows with down or alternative down
- Harry’s razor refills
- Clothing from stores that aren’t in the EU
- Collagen Hydrolysate Beef
- World’s Softest Comfy slippers
- Minimal shoes
- Sports equipment that isn’t at Decathlon
- Candy: Junior Mints, Justins, Swedish Fish, or regional brands. We like to get extra bags of candy to share with others.
- Pet treats. Plus, special treats help occupy excited dogs while unpacking. Even pets love a present.
Getting help in Lisbon: Moving Teams
Even though navigating the bureaucracy of any new country can be confusing, especially in a different language, our move to Portugal was one of our easiest international moves yet. We managed our move during a pandemic, so having help was even more useful to us. Moving to PT, the first item to get is the NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal or Número de Contribuinte). The Fiscal number or ‘Contribuinte’ is your tax ID number and it’s a fairly straightforward task to obtain.
The next important ID will be the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) which is your residency ID card. If you qualify and have a lease that is good for one year, you may be able to take advantage of NHR (Non-Habitual Resident Status which grants expatriates in PT a 20% tax rate or a total exemption on the taxation of income for a period of 10 years.
Having a translator help through the NIF, SEF, and NHR process made things easy for everyone involved. We also had some help opening a bank account and getting credit cards, but this task is pretty straightforward and easy enough for a foreigner to manage on their own.
Getting Portuguese IDs (SEFs): The Process
We had help and pursued our SEFs while in Portugal. The people helping us made our appointments giving us three full months to get all of our documentation together. Our appointment was at the SEF office in Cascais and went smoothly. Our physical temporary residence cards arrived one week later. There were no errors on our documents or cards.
What was the hardest part about relocating to Portugal?
Switching from Brazilian Portuguese to European Portuguese is my only challenge. It took only a couple of weeks to start saying words in a more Euro Portuguese way, however, there are many different words to learn and the grammar rules are a little different. Still, if we didn’t already have a foundation in Portuguese the most difficult part about moving here would have been learning Portuguese from scratch.
Study Portuguese and Produce in Portuguese
As mentioned in my Moving to Brazil article, take European Portuguese lessons before you move to Portugal. I recommend Memrise and then will link some useful Youtube channels. Besides this, I believe the very best way to learn Portuguese is to create content (Youtube, Blog, or whatever) and produce that content at least in part, in Portuguese. Furthermore, create content in an area that interests you or that you need expertise. People will kindly correct you and even help you with how things are said in the real world.
If you are moving to Portugal in 1 month or 5 years, start working on your Portuguese now and continue to work on it once you arrive. Even if you are working for an English speaking company, the water cooler talk is in Portuguese. Of course, many Portuguese people have a decent and sometimes astonishing comprehension of English, but you don’t want to rely on that, do you? Study and produce.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone that is relocating?
If this is a permanent relocation for you, I recommend shipping only the smaller items and the absolute minimum. Additionaly, don’t bring any electronics unless they are dual voltage. If you are considering an invertor for electronics, just know that they are only recommended for low voltage and low current items. People will tell you they use invertors with their Vitamix blenders, but you really shouldn’t.
Do a cost-benefit analysis on the items you will bring and check Portuguese online stores to see if it’s worth the trouble and expense. Take on your flight what you will need to be comfortable for a few months. In all of our international moves, we have been able to bring everything we need on our flights, but we have storage in the US, we are not collectors and we’re fairly minimalistic.
How Easy is a to Move to Portugal?
Having a moving team was great because they scheduled the appointments and showed up with us to translate and speak on our behalf. We found the apartments we wanted to see and our team arranged for a realtor to show us places and negotiate our lease. Therefore, our major responsibility was to obtain current FBI reports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, school enrollment forms, and degrees and then have those all Apostilled. There are people in PT that can do the Apolstilles, but we had a connection in the US that was much more affordable. Managing the paperwork and deliverables probably took the most effort.
Documents need to be translated if they are not in Portuguese, and our help team found a group to translate with a fast turnaround. In our case, we had help, but most people do not and the feedback is often that help is not necessary. Moving to Portugal was pretty straightforward overall.
If you are considering or planning a move to Portugal, you will LOVE it here. I hope this list has been useful. If you have already made the move to Portugal, what did you bring tthat you couldn’t live without? Please share with us in the comments!