Why We Quit Living In Portugal

We lived in the Algarve, in Southern Portugal for 13 years. From July 2008 until July 2021, we called the Algarve our home. Our two youngest children were born there, and we even had a mortgage. But many people are shell shocked when we say we quit living in Portugal and want to know exactly why.

It always felt like it was more than a 5 minute answer and here is exactly why we quit Portugal and why we are so happy living back in the UK and have no regrets.

Why We Quit Living In Portugal

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A Family From Lincolnshire Quit First

The Algarve is a small place with a big expat community, and everyone seems to know everyone.

The lady and gent that we bought our car from quit life in Portugal a bit before us. She shared on her blog how the education was just not working for her sons, and she was going home. She had just rented out her UK home, so her commitments in Portugal were little and then she managed to rejoin her old UK life rather easily.

At the time I never got why she wanted to quit.

Then my beauty therapist quit. I understood her reasoning because she was in the Algarve on her own, didn’t have any family here and was in her late 30’s and wanted to settle down and have kids and everyone was couples here and she never felt like she could date or move onto the next chapter in her life.

At that point we were still in our Algarve bubble and loving to be able to say “we live in the Algarve”. And we just didn’t really get it, I mean who wants to give up the beaches and the waterparks.

Me & Dom Had A Pact!

When we first arrived in The Algarve, we had a pact, it was that when life in Portugal cons is greater than the UK con’s then we must go home.

When life in Portugal is no longer the expat dream, then we need to re-think things and see if we need a change of direction or not.

That date when that happened was October 2020 we had lived in Portugal through the outbreak and realised it was not the place we wanted to be. We also realised our business was growing and we couldn’t grow it any more in Portugal.

We appointed an accountant and they had between the October to the December to get us registered as a LTD and then we started trading as a UK company from the 1st of January and then moved back to the UK in the July.

It then became a big to do list.

Sell the car. Sell the house. Sell the bits we didn’t want to take. Arrange removals. Sort out the transport of our cat and dog to the UK. Organise ferry crossings and then find somewhere to stay when we arrived back in the UK.

We then bought a motorhome for us to move back to the UK in and we were all systems go with a firm plan to get the kids into UK schools for the September.

It paid off and we found a rental in the August, they started school in the September, our house sale in Portugal went through in the December, then the following year in the November (on Sofia’s birthday) we bought our house in the UK. 

But lets back track first and tell you the reasoning behind living in Portugal as an expat and why we would want to give it up.

Bad Things About Living In Portugal

These are the bad things about living in Portugal that combined over time eat away at you and make you want to go home.

Government Buildings Are HELL – You can lose a day in a government building. The place you go to sort out your tax, register for anything important will drive you crazy.

Your first experience will be when you register for a fiscal number and then it will get worse over the years and OMG going to get your residencia updated is just as painful.

I have been many times when we have queued for 90 minutes, we get to the front and they say to their colleagues, that they are not dealing with us because we are English. Then we have to wait another hour for someone that is willing to deal with you.

Paperwork Is The Devil – I think the first time we realised how obsessed they were with paperwork and form filling was when we first opened a bank account. It was a ¾ day down the bank just to sort out banking. Then we had to run home halfway through because we were missing something.

Everything Is Slow – Overall everything is slow (not just updating the residencia) and at a doctor’s appointment when pregnant I would be waiting over 2 hours. Which goes with the slow pace of life of Portugal but the times you want it fast it never is.

They ONLY Like You If You Have Money – In 13 years in the Algarve I only ever noticed the Portuguese being polite to the Brits if we were giving them money and they were providing a service. Such as restaurant staff, spa staff etc. They even have this sneaky method in restaurants of having a higher priced menu in English because they think 3 things of Brits that we are fat, rich, and drink too much.

The Medical Service Is Very Poor – I don’t think I will ever get over the birth of Sofia and how the hospital system is run. You are strapped to the bed until the birth has happened and are not allowed to move and are monitored on CCTV from another room. They also take everything including your hospital birthing bag and you have to really complain to get it back. My Dad was also tied up in the bed when he was scared as he has dementia rather than them showing any compassion.

The doctors surgery unless you have a really good doctor is the same and I never did get a six week check up after having Jorge.

Then when I had my 20 week scan with Sofia the scan lady was very abusive because my Portuguese wasn’t perfect and very rude.

It became a thing where you would only go to the doctors if you absolutely had to or use a private doctors instead. 

The Education System Is Poor – I love the school term dates and miss them now that we are back in the UK. In Portugal they break up for the summer in mid-june and then return mid-september this meant we could have a 12 week holiday if we wanted or go on holiday outside of the 6 week holidays. But this didn’t make up for the poor education unfortunately. Kyle had no maths teacher for his last 3 years as one went on sick and was never replaced.

The Checks When You Buy A House Are Poor – If you have bought a house in the UK, then you will know all the checks you have to make sure everything is spot on. Well, its not as strict in Portugal and this means you are often sold houses with a lot of cover ups and things wrong with them, that you wouldn’t notice. For example, we were not informed that we had our own sewage to take care of and that the previous owned had cemented over it so we wouldn’t know, well until a year after buying when the plumbing was failing. This resulted in a big whole, in the driveaway and struggling to find someone to fix it.

Add to this that buying a house and getting a mortgage in Portugal is a lot more stressful than the UK and expect it to feel like a board meeting when you exchange contracts.

Houses Crumble In Portugal – I was never aware of this when we bought just after. The walls crumble away. No matter how much paint you put up or how much you plaster, it just crumbles and you notice a little bit of the paint coming off when you enter the room. Its because the houses are so old and when they were built they cut costs too much.

Our House View In Portugal
Though whilst our house is crumbling we still had this view less than 600m from our back door.

Photo ID Is Required Everywhere – As a Brit you only ever took your passport with you if you were having an ID check say at a bank. Yet in Portugal it is for everything, even when going into the waterpark. It felt so tedious having to present your passport everywhere!

Integration Is Hard – It never feels like you are wanted there, and I found it incredibly hard to make friends. I am an outgoing person and don’t have any shyness so for someone like me to struggle kind of shows the lack of community. Especially between the Brits and the Portuguese.

Not Everything Is Cheap – I think there is an association with Portugal that everything is super cheap well you will find that electronics, petrol, electricity are among the highest prices in Europe.

Cars Cost A Lot – This is the biggest expense and also was for us when we moved here. That banger in the UK that you paid £250 for will cost you 1200€ in Portugal. If you are moving to Portugal then bring your car with you and get it converted onto Portuguese licence plates.

Stray Dogs – There is a huge stray dog problem in Portugal and the dogs are often left to roam wherever they want. Some of them can be vicious, but the biggest problem is that these become the main causes of charities in the area rather than those struggling with the cost of living. Plus, the dogs as they are left to their own devices are often pooping everywhere.

Dog Strays In Portugal
Kyle at one of the dog shows when they try to re-home is many dogs as possible. But with more strays producing it was a lost battle.

There Is A Lot Of Racism – This comes back to what I said about the government buildings and how they treat you when they find out you are British. They treat you totally different when they find out you are English and look down at you and many expats have suffered a lot of racism in Portugal. Everyone seems to have that story of racism in Portugal to tell. Our eldest son Kyle noticed a lot of it when he was at school here.

There Is A Lack Of Jobs – Sure you can get a job in a bar in the summer season for their very low minimum wage, but beyond this you will really struggle. If you are coming over think about what self employed job you can do instead.

Finding Good Workmen Is Very Difficult – We spent a long time trying to find people for various jobs to our house and never had any luck. The only person who ever did a good job that we hired was the company that put in the double glazing. The guy that put up our new gate did a very poor job but charged the earth and a month later it fell down.

The Bad Driving – We kind of got used to it, but when we look back, we cant stop thinking about the bad driving and how it became the norm. Rather scary how bad it is, and Kyle even went to the funeral of his schoolteacher once who died in a car crash.

Brexit Has Ruined A Lot – Deliveries and getting items in via customs was bad before, then it became unmanageable. Even the supermarkets here that sold British food couldn’t get any in and instead were supplying from southern Ireland. At the time we were running a food blog and we just couldn’t source what we needed.  

And wow was just writing at random a bunch of the really bad bits of living in Portugal and wasn’t expecting to give you a list of 18!!!

You may be wondering now how we managed 13 years in The Algarve with so many negatives about living here.

Well, its not all at the same time and you have a bad day, then the next day the sun is shining, and you wonder why you were cross the day before.

It then becomes an overtime problem and is real Algarve living and what you should expect.

Is Portugal A Good Place To Live?

Portugal is a good place to live if you are retiring here and are not of working age. This will mean that you don’t have to worry about education or mortgages or worrying that the rules are going to change for the business you are running.

If you are retired, we recommend a communal rental property where you don’t have to worry about the maintenance or buying a house and can just enjoy the Portuguese lifestyle.

How Much Income Do I Need To Live In Portugal?

You might be wondering if its cheaper to live in Portugal than the UK and I would most certainly say Portugal is cheaper.

We had a 68,000€ mortgage when we lived in Portugal and all bills + petrol + food was less than 1500€ a month.

There is no council tax and TV licence and there is a lot of UK bills you don’t have in Portugal making it very cheap.

Just think if we convert 1500€ into £ on todays exchange rate (at the time of writing this) that is £1305 and I’m sure most of us couldn’t manage on this in the UK.

What We LOVED Being Expats In Portugal

We loved that you could walk in a park with the kids at 7pm at night and feel 100% safe. There would be teenage lads in the park, and they were friendly with great manners and never on the floor drunk or aggressive.

We loved our annual passes to Zoo Marine and to Krazy World. We loved our trips to Alvor beach and to praia da rocha.

We loved walking the dog in winter in shorts and tshirt and thinking that in the UK, they had to ice their car this morning and we have this!

The Portugal Beach
This was Kyle at his favourite beach at Easter at the same time the UK had snow.

We loved all our favourite cheap eats such as getting a menu of the day and getting a 3 course meal for less than 10€ per head.

But we realised that we can get most of these things on a holiday and we just missed the holiday element of Portugal.

Zoo Marine Lazy River
We do miss the lazy river at Zoo Marine. It was so much fun and made for the best place for a day out in the summer.

During the pandemic, we realised that without these things there was nothing good left for us to enjoy.

Overall, if you asked us the biggest reasons for leaving our life in Portugal behind we would say:

  • Black Lives Matter – This brought to our attention how bad the racism had got and how much we felt like outsiders, especially how corrupt the Portuguese police are with the expats.
  • Brexit – As food bloggers we just couldn’t get ingredients in we needed, tools to do our work and we were stuck. Or our bills would go up by 500% because of all the new customs fees.
  • Education – Sofia was a year away from going to proper school in Portugal and we felt the education was not enough, so if we didn’t move now then it would be too late for her.

You now know why we moved back to the UK and we have to say we are so happy that we did so.

It made us fall in love with the UK all over again and if it wasn’t for our new love for the UK, we wouldn’t have created Trip Meets Travel and you wouldn’t be reading this.

Pin Why We Quit The Algarve For Later!

Well, that’s a wrap, do you have any questions then do ask below and if you want to refer back, to this later for planning your move to Portugal then don’t forget to pin it to your travel board or days out board on Pinterest.

Why We Quit Living In Portugal After 13 Years(1)

Why We Quit Portugal After 13Yrs
About the author

Run by Sam, Dom, Kyle, Sofia & Jorge it documents our family’s love for eating out, day trips, road trips and great holidays.

We just love a trip, we love to travel, and here we will show you with a little planning, how to have a great adventure and create new memories along the way!

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