My Big ‘Moving to Portugal’ To Do List

Grape Vines Near Serra

I’ve been in Portugal for just over a week now and I feel pretty chilled about the whole moving here thing. You’d think there was more to it than packing a couple of bags and hopping on a plane (and you’d be right), but for now things feel sort of calm and in control. Maybe it’s because nothing has really happened so far and I don’t have any meetings lined up, paperwork to fill in, government offices to visit, or other bureaucratic fun time scheduled. But I have a slight idea of what needs to be done and I’m slowly working through it… so slowly that I haven’t really started yet.

So what has to happen when someone moves to Portugal? I’m glad you asked! Here’s my list o’ things:

  • Get a fiscal number – The Número de Identificação Fiscal (look at me, typing all Portuguese) is a tax number is required for everything from opening a bank account to buying a car to filing taxes. Since I know this is the key to lots of things in Portugal, I actually managed to get it last April when I was visiting Lisbon for ten days. I went to the wrong office first, then the next office’s system was down, but I managed to get the number on my third attempt using my UK Barclays bank statement as proof of address in the UK (frustratingly, the PDFs you get online don’t have the address on them but nothing a bit of Photoshop can’t handle). It’s a more difficult process for non-EU residents but for me it was super simple and cost something like €15. Win!
  • Open a bank account – Yay me! This one is also done. I knew that I’d be back in Portugal late summer last year with a wad of cash in my pocket (withdrawn from my business account in Rwanda) and I wanted somewhere to put it straight away. So I took my shiny new fiscal number and waltzed into a Millennium in the Alcântara area of Lisbon to set up an account. This was also much easier than I expected, especially when I remember back to the incredibly difficult process of opening a bank account in the UK circa 2002. In this case a super friendly woman helped me get set up and I even have her email address to answer any questions I’ve had. I’d heard good things about Millennium from other people online and so far I’m impressed. I’ve promptly lost all of my internet banking info but, hey, it can’t all be straightforward.
  • Apply for residency – One of my motivations for moving to Portugal is to eek into a European country before my British passport gets booted out of the EU, probably losing the sweet freedom of movement deal that comes with it. Who knows how everything will shake down, but I really want to hang on to my ability to move around Europe to work and live and Portugal has a straightforward residency process. The problem is that I actually have to be living somewhere in Portugal and be able to prove it. Luckily I think some friends might be able to help me out by vouching that I’ll be living with them. Each area of the country can have different requirements so I hope this is good enough to get the process started. I’ll know in a few weeks. If that doesn’t work then the general consensus is that I have until next March to apply for residency and I’m sure between now and then I’ll be able to figure something out.
  • Speak with an accountant about tax – As a (soon-to-be) resident, I’m required to pay taxes to Portugal on my global earnings. Since I earn money in Rwanda and Uganda and there’s no tax treaty between those countries and Portugal, this might mean paying taxes twice which is so not cool. I need to speak with an accountant to figure out where I stand on all of this and the best way to go about things. I’ve had a recommendation for a dude who works in Tomar and I even have a meeting lined up for April 18th.
  • Look into registering for health care – I’m getting old. It’s probably time to stop existing on travel insurance and the assumption that I can just go back to the UK and sponge off of the NHS should I get sick. Time to be a grown-ass adult on this matter and that means learning how the health care system in Portugal works. I’m pretty sure it’s straightforward but residency is a prerequisite of health care so I’ll wait until I have that first step figured out. In the meantime, I’ll continue to rock World Nomads like a backpacker.
  • Learn Portuguese – This is, by far, the most daunting of my tasks. I have a blind confidence that I’ll be able to muddle my way through everything else on this list, but learning Portuguese is that one thing that I’m not so sure about. I know that learning the language will be absolutely key and it’ll make my life here a million times more easy and enjoyable. The problem is that it’s so damned hard and I can think of about a zillion things I’d rather be doing than learning a language. A zillion. For real. I tend to put it off and I always get too scared to actually attempt to speak, which makes learning sort of hard. I was all proud of myself today for ordering lunch and not ending up with a plate of entrails… so that’s a start, I guess.
  • Figure out my budget – I’m not in any rush to buy a place in Portugal in 2018, partly because I want to spend a good amount of time checking out various areas of the country and mostly because I don’t have anywhere close to enough money. As an entrepreneurial type I don’t have a set monthly income to count on, but I do have chunks of money coming in here and there depending on projects I complete and good I am at being all entrepreneur-y. I think by this time in 2019 I should have enough to start thinking more seriously about buying something. But to figure this out I’ll have to sit down and look at money coming in over the next year and make a list of all of the things I’d need to pay on top of just a piece of real estate. It’ll be cool to own some land, but I don’t want to be living there in a tent and crapping into a hole for five years (three years, tops) so I’ll want to think about what money I’ll need in addition for building and general survival and set an actual minimum budget.
  • Buy a car – This is another thing I’m not looking forward to. I’ve existed without a car since I left Canada in 2001 (with the exception of the 1982 Honda Civic that I paid $150 for and drove around New Zealand for four months) and I’d quite happily roll on in life without one. Sadly, wanting to explore Portugal in search of a piece of land that’s potentially quite rural means I’ll need a car. Since I’ve got plans up until September that won’t give me too much time to explore, I’ll probably put this off for awhile. I’ll be in East Africa over the winter too so maybe I’ll end up getting a car early in 2019. I have no idea. I really don’t want one – I’m a crappy driver, I don’t want to spent the money on it, I don’t want to spend the money on gas, upkeep, and insurance, and I know absolutely nothing about buying a decent car. The whole thing fills me with fear but I know that once I actually get one, I’ll be glad to have it.
  • Explore Portugal – I’m in semi-travel mode at the moment and my plan is to check out a few different areas of Portugal this year. I’m in the Tomar area now and then I’ll be down in the Algarve for a few days in mid-April. Then it’s back up to the Castelo Branco (probably the most affordable part of Portugal for land and general living costs) area for a work exchange at Mount of Oaks. Then I’m off to Canada and the UK for a couple of months before heading back to Portugal. I guess I’m doing a crap job at exploring because I’m going back to Keela Yoga Farm, a place I was last year for six weeks. But I really love what they’re working on, which leads on to my next point…
  • Learn new skills and meet cool people – As I mentioned, I’ve been to Keela Yoga Farm already and I’ve also actually visited Mount of Oaks and met its residents too. I really love both places, I think what they’ve got going on is really cool, I like the people, and I think I can stand to learn a lot by spending more time at each. I want to glean as much information from people and learn as many new skills as I possibly can before I buy a place of my own. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and I’m all about slow and steady and really want to pick up tips and tricks for growing and building things in Portugal. I’ll also be hopping over to the UK to take a short course in round wood timber framing with a good friend of mine (and I’m super excited) and then jumping on a two week build soon after. I love the idea of being able to start building with trees taken right off of my own land and so I’m going to see if I can learn a thing or two first.
  • Find a good lawyer – The one piece of advice I keep reading over and over again is to find a good lawyer to check that the land is what they say it is and to get things done the way they should be. I don’t know a damned thing about buying property anywhere, let alone Portugal, so that sounds like good advice to me. Lucky for me, lawyers seems to be something that comes up a lot in conversation. Who knew? So I’ve got a few leads from people who are very happy with their lawyers and I’ll follow up on this sometime next year when I’m closer to being in a position to buy something.
  • Buy a piece of land with a ruin – And last but not least… buy somewhere to call home in Portugal! So far I’ve been browsing online for property mainly on Pure Portugal but also on a few other sites I keep stumbling onto like ERA. There are so many moving parts to buying property in Portugal and it goes beyond looking at pretty pictures on the internet. I’m excited to start looking at places in person but I can’t see this happening until 2019 unless I start to talk to people and something drops in my lap. But first things first… I need to figure out how much I’ll have to spend.

The ‘Buy a piece of land with a ruin’ part is only the beginning, really. I’ll write another post on what sort of land I’m hoping to buy and what I want to do with it, but until then, this is the list I’ll be working through incredibly slowly.