Expat Essentials

Mónica Da Silva in Portugal: How expensive is it really to live in Lisbon?

Portugal has one of the lowest minimum wages in the European Union. This makes life in Lisbon a bit less expensive than in other capitals in some aspects, but not in all of them. This post is just my point of view after living in Lisbon for almost three years.

But please bear in mind that the concepts of “expensive” and “cheap” of course depend on the income and lifestyle of each person.

Housing

To be honest, rents in Lisbon are madness, and it’s quite hard to provide an overview. I’ve had only good experiences using Idealista to look for places to live and get an idea of the average prices in certain neighborhoods. In 2019 I used to pay 750 euros for a T2 apartment (around 90m2) in Oeiras and it was 10 minutes by walking from the train station.

The closer you get to the city center, the more expensive it gets. I remember that for that price I could only afford a studio apartment closer to Lisbon. So, if your budget is limited, I’d highly recommend you to check areas like Oeiras or Almada to get better prices.

Groceries

This one is one of the hardest things to calculate because the overall price will depend on personal factors such as your diet, your preferences, the number of people in your household and if you like or don’t like cooking. There are two big Portuguese supermarket chains: Pingo Doce and Continente, plus the foreign chains: Auchan, Lidl, Aldi and El Corte Inglés. In my opinion, prices and quality between Pingo Doce and Continente don’t vary too much.

There are also farmer’s markets where you can find fresh and organic food, and you’d be supporting the locals. When I lived alone, I didn’t spend more than 150 euros per month. Nowadays there are three people in my household including myself, and we spend about 350 euros monthly on shopping (Continente or Pingo Doce) with some occasional visits to Aldi or Lidl.

Hygiene and beauty products are quite expensive. However, Continente and Pingo Doce always have at least a brand like Nivea, Dove or Vaseline on offer. So, if you don’t mind using different brands, you can definitely get good deals. For example, in Continente 750ml of Dove shower gel is 6.49 euros but you can get it on offer for 3.24 euros.

Read more on grocery shopping here.

Going out

I’m more of a stay-at-home person, but I love tasting new food and Lisbon has a lot to offer. A wonderful tool I like to use is Zomato where you can get an average price of what two people spend in the place you want to go, check the menus and even make reservations.

One of my favorite burger places is Honorato where I pay 9.20 euros for a veggie burger with French fries.

The following prices may vary but in an inexpensive restaurant:

• a 0.5l Portuguese beer (Sagres or Super Bock) is around 1.50 euros or 2 euros.

• a Coke or Pepsi is 1.50 euros

• and a coffee shouldn’t be more than 1 euro.

Public transportation

In comparison to other European capitals, I find the prices in Lisbon quite cheap. They are even cheaper if you get a Lisboa Viva card which allows you to use all public transportation in the 18 municipalities for only 40 per month. If you prefer to pay for each trip individually, a subway trip is 1.50 euros and a bus ride (with Carris) is 2 euros. An Uber trip from the airport to Cais do Sodré (around 20 kilometers distance) is 12 euros and lasts about 25 minutes.

Utilities

These prices may vary depending on each household. I’ve met people who pay way more than this, but I will share my values so you can have an idea. I used to live in Oeiras in a T2 apartment and pay between 50 euros and 70 euros for electricity, 20 euros and 30 euros for water, and 35 euros for MEO (TV, Internet and home phone). Besides MEO there are different providers with different plans and services, I don’t have too many complaints about MEO so I’ve stuck with them.

Health care

All residents have access to the Portuguese public health system when they get their SNS number. The appointments in the health centers are not free, but they are extremely cheap: 4.50 euros for an appointment with a general practitioner, 3.50 euros for nurse services and 9 euros for a home visit. If you prefer to use the private system, one of the most common clinics is CUF where an unscheduled appointment if you don’t have insurance is 100 euros and a scheduled appointment with a specialist for the first time is 98 euros and 88 euros subsequently.

If you do have insurance, the prices may vary depending on the plan you have, so I recommend you to get in touch with your provider in order to get an idea of the prices.

About the author:

Mónica Da Silva was born in Venezuela but her parents and grandparents are Portuguese. She’s a teacher and translator. Mónica lived in Bonn, Germany for six months and has been in Lisbon for almost three years.

She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and a bit of German.

Read more of Mónica’s posts for Dispatches here.

Read more about Lisbon and Portugal in our Dispatches archives.

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