Setting Up House in Portugal

downtown square

We returned to Lagos, Portugal in mid-November accompanied by a strange mix of feelings.  We were tired from many airports, the long, uncomfortable plane rides, losing a piece of luggage (located the following day) and zoned out trying to adjust to the five-hour leap ahead of the clock. There was a bit of culture shock as a new language surrounded us and we gazed out of the windows of our shuttle at a somewhat remembered but still unfamiliar November countryside of orange trees still bearing fruit, houses built in tiers upon the hills and the giant chimneys scattered about the region where the storks build their colossal nests.stork nest

But there was also the giddy realization that WE WERE FINALLY BACK IN PORTUGAL as well as the low-level anxiety about all the strange tasks that lay ahead of us as we settled into life in a new country.  Our friend, Ana, met us at our apartment, showed us how to work the combination gas-electric stove and washing machine and whisked us off to the grocery store to pick us up some basics.

Our furnished apartment itself is small, very sunny, and sparsely “decorated,” less than 700 square feet with two bedrooms, a living-dining area, one bath and a galley kitchen designed for two skinny chefs.  When we prepare meals together it’s an elaborate dance to pass each other, open the pantry and drawers, etc.  The apartment itself is far from ideal: too small, too basic and we’re paying too much for the convenience of having a very lovely, Portuguese couple who speak English available for the times we need to reach out for answers to all of the complexities we find ourselves confronted with in our new setting.  But it’s a fine start and the time here gives us the chance to figure out if Lagos is where we want to live while we explore other cities and villages in the Algarve as well as Portugal.Lagos marinaAnd the location is perfect: the primary reason we chose our modest abode to set down our shallow roots. We’re situated on the first floor overlooking the Marina de Lagos with its variety of humble boats to small yachts, views of pallid to spectacular sunsets, the caws of huge, fat seagulls and cormorants perched upon sterns with their wings outstretched, bat-like, drying themselves.  Next to us is a row of shops and bistros while the train station is a two-minute walk straight ahead.

The old train station is much more picturesque than the new station next door.

The old train station is much more picturesque than the new station next door.

We can walk to a large supermarket in ten minutes or cross the drawbridge to the main street of Lagos and stroll through the weekly farmers market, wander through narrow streets with shops or a variety of restaurants (traditional Portuguese, Indian, British or Chinese fare) passing medieval buildings, a castle and the ancient stone walls that guarded the city long ago.  Close by are giant sandstone formations and rocky cliffs overlooking the Atlantic interspersed with golden sand beaches.shops lining the streets

Walls of Lagos 16th century

Walls of Lagos & the Governor’s Castle – 16th century

Our checklist of things accomplished within our first weeks is small but each day we untangle another mystery that makes up daily life in Portugal.  Nothing can be done without the NIF numbers (ńumero de identificacão fiscal) which establishes our official existence in Portugal and were procured for us by our attorney prior to our return. The first “to do” was getting connected which involved setting up cable TV and internet, a local mobile and home phone at the cable store, Meo (pronounced mayo).  We showed our passports, rental agreement, walked back home for the NIF papers and returned, filled out some forms in triplicate, signed multiple times, made friends with our clerk, Catia,  and then… stymied!  We needed a NIB number.  The NIB (pronounced neep) stands for ńumero de identificacão bancária which would allow the cable company to receive payment online from our nonexistent bank account.  Off we went on a quest to the bank, Millennium BCP, to set up a bank account with Teresa, our next new friend. The bank account required passports, our rental agreement, our NIF numbers and social security cards (foreign banking law requires notification to somewhere in the US of its citizens setting establishing accounts outside the US – probably so that our last tax dollar can be squeezed from us).  Again … stymied!  Who carries around their social security card in a foreign country?  Home we went to email my sister (our guardian angel) to copy and scan our social security cards which we then forwarded to our new BFF, Teresa.  The next day we again walked to the bank, chatted with Teresa, signed papers, obtained our NIB number and walked to Meo, chatted with Catia, presented our new NIB number, and set up an appointment for later in the week for cable/internet/phone installation. sunset on marina

Fortunately for us the cable store and bank have proved to be the most difficult things so far requiring lots of patience and remembering our smiles from time to time.  We’ve also set up local health insurance policies with Médis (90 € per month for both us) which, with a copay will cover doctor and hospital, dental and vision after a waiting period of three months.  We found a place, located in a shoe repair shop that also sells handmade shearling slippers, to copy our apartment keys. And we rented a car for our first month(s) at the cost of 320 € during low season including full insurance.  Driving is on the right-hand side of the road like the US but reacquainting ourselves with the proper round-about etiquette and road signs has been a little tense with some testy sniping involved.  And gasoline, sold by the liter, goes for over $5.00 – that’s US Dollars – per gallon. So much for the oil glut!

storkWe’re discovering that the process of settling in and becoming residents in a new country is more challenging and quite a bit different from passing through as full-time travelers.  There’s a whole new vocabulary of acronyms to learn and various bureaucratic hoops to jump through.  But the people we meet have all had wide smiles and patience galore for two bewildered foreigners trying to integrate ourselves into their welcoming country.  Who could ask for more?

By Anita and Richard

 

 

 

 

70 comments

  • My husband and I are winter travellers and in researching destinations for the upcoming winter, I have come upon your blog and I’m enjoying reading about your travels and experiences. It is one of the best travel blogs I have found. I am hoping you can give me your perspective on winters along the coast. I have spent two winters in Madeira, Portugal, and absolutely love it there, The weather is ideal at that time – like our spring on the west coast of Canada. I have been toying with the idea of visiting the Algarve during the winter months as well. I noted that you mentioned that the tourists leave Lagos in the fall to return home – would you say that the Algarve is a suitable winter destination for snowbirds? All the best with your transition, I look forward to your reply.
    Pru.

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    • Hi Pru and thanks for your lovely comment! We had the opportunity to visit beautiful Madeira, Portugal, and we can definitely understand why you love it there – gorgeous! We were a bit apprehensive about our first winter in Lagos but found that we enjoyed the change in climate after spending the past winters in Mexico, Central and South America as well as some of the island countries where the only seasonal change is hot to hotter, and humid to wet! And we think the Agarve is a terrific place to visit in the winter for a lot of reasons, including the very mild winter that we experienced last year. In fact, a lot of Brits and Northern Europeans visit for months to enjoy the Algarve winter, renting many of the holiday apartments (much cheaper than in the high season) as well as living in their camper vans. It seemed that the sun showed itself at least once even on gloomy days, and except for a week where the wind was extremely gusty and rain threatened every minute, it was always possible to get outside and enjoy a walk. Most afternoons were very sunny and a light jacket was all that was needed. And one of the major reasons we liked Lagos as a place to set up a home base year round was that, while the city gets quieter after the summer tourists depart, there are still plenty of businesses and restaurants open. Plus it’s also a great location from which to explore other places nearby during the low season. As you may have guessed by now, we think the Algarve is a great destination for snowbirds! And, who knows, maybe our paths will cross this winter! 🙂

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      • Thank you so much for your reply. My interest in Lagos has now escalated a few more notches. In the mean time I am in the process of reading about your visit to Costa Rica! A place I’ve always wanted to visit……Oh my, Oh my! what to do! 🙂 You write so beautifully about your experiences and together with your photos, makes one feel that they can have the same experiences too. I will definitely do some more research for suitable accommodation in Lagos. I am sure we will love The Algarve. Thank you again!
        Pru.

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        • A very tough choice Pru and, as you’ve read, two totally different but very enjoyable experiences. We were able to visit Costa Rica on the cheap through housesits and traveling off-season but it’s not difficult to find something reasonable through AirBnB or other local and tourist agencies. And during the winter months here in Lagos and other towns nearby (Ferragudo, Carvoeira, Albufeira) there are many winter rentals that are as posh or as inexpensive as you’d want. If you’d like, here’s a link to some friends of ours (honest and lots of fun) that we found our current apartment through: http://algarveapartment.co.uk/properties-to-rent . And let us know when you make it here!

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  • hi guys!! i think my hubbie and i must have read and reread your posts on relocating about 10 times already! brilliant & very helpful info 🙂 thank you so much for taking the time to share all of it like you have. we are rounding up our documents now, and getting ready for an appointment in the coming months. we have 2 kids in tow, and we’ve been full time travelling with them for about 6 years now, and want to put down ‘roots’ in PT. i have many questions to ask, but from a logistics point (which is where my head is now) the main question i wanted to know was where you found a car rental for 350 per month? we’ve had very little luck finding anything close to that price, and wanted to rent for 1 or 2 months while we found a car to buy. contemplated shipping our little car over, but process for registration of imported car seems a bit daunting, so we will just buy little used one when we get there. we still have found no place to long term rent either. did your consulate paperwork in US require a lease for whole year, or would a 1 month rental somewhere have sufficed you think? to sign lease for 1 year, sight unseen is dodgy at best, so that is where renting car and popping about would come in. thanks so much, sorry if this seems scattered somehow….million things to get thought out..lol!! 🙂 take care guys, and hope when we get there, we can meet up!

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    • Hello Leah and thanks for stopping by our blog. We’re happy that our posts about relocating to Portugal have been helpful and certainly understand all the questions you might have since we had so many at the beginning. Of course, we still have some questions but now we have the luxury of approaching them one-at-a-time versus all at once and have made some friends that we can always ask, too! We planned our return to Lagos, Portugal for the off season (October through March) which meant that apartments were easier to find and car rental rates were MUCH LOWER. We rented our car through http://www.marinarentalcar.com (they were great) but there are many car rental services in the area and I think the rates are very competitive. People that we’ve talked to advise buying a car in Portugal rather than shipping one over (very costly and we hear the paperwork is frustrating!) and we found a 2012 Skoda in February with low mileage to buy at a reasonable price. As for our rental – when we were here in June/July of 2015 we rented an apartment in a great location and planned on staying a year while we got settled. However, once we arrived and figured out what the going-price is we found we were paying too much. A car also meant that we had a lot more options than we had originally thought so we were able to find a much nicer apartment for the same amount of rent as our very basic place we originally rented. In fact, we move in 2 days. Also,Portuguese law requires 60 days written notice to terminate the lease which we provided and our lawyer assured us that it is not a problem to change our address with the immigration agency (SEF) – we’ll make an appointment to do that next week. A long answer to your question which basically boils down to – NO – we don’t think there’s any reason to get tied into a long term rental until you have a chance to see where you want to live. Good luck and we’ll look forward to meeting you when you make the move to Portugal!

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      • oh my goodness, your reply is *gold*!!! thank you so very much for all those very important details, cause it really is what it all comes down to for me right now, the nuts and bolts of it all. we are trying to tie all the dates and times of every level together, and knowing that you can change address with 60 days written notice frees my mind up SO much!! cause we really haven’t settled on a region even yet (we think we have, till we pose a new question, then we rethink the ‘where’….there are 4 of us, and we have to pick best spot for kids w/ friends & actives, cost of everything, ease of travel, etc, etc). thanks for the car rental info….i think we will follow your lead and rent one till we find one to buy there. we would love to get another daily driver/campervan to travel around in, so that will give us time to find one to fit us i think. we are also thinking of shipping our stuff over (which i don’t think you guys have done?), so getting packed for that aspect of it all too, when it comes! that part is confusing as well, but i think we have time once we get there to ask about best way to go. all these new things are both very exciting and very taxing at the same time…lol!! but we can’t wait to get back!! we travelled for 2 years in Europe with a caravan, and it was the most magical thing ever, and we miss that side of the pond immensely! and yes, we very much look forward to meeting you guys this year sometime too 🙂 thanks so much again, and i might have another question or two before then…! loved your pics/stories of Morocco, and all the best with your new place in a few days!! take care guys!

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        • We love and share your enthusiasm for Portugal and are finding that the longer we’re here the more there is to appreciate. Getting all the moving details worked out is frustrating – we wrote out a lot of lists and approached the task one step at a time so that the whole process wouldn’t get too overwhelming. Since we sold everything we had before we started our travels in 2012 we didn’t have anything to ship over which simplified things greatly. My advice would be to not bring much unless you can’t live without it because shipping is costly and you’ll find everything you need here. We plan to visit friends and family in the US annually and will bring back a few things that we miss (Lowry’s chili powder!) but really, you won’t miss much! Good luck and we’ll look forward to meeting you! Anita

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          • that is very solid advice anita!!! thank you so very much 🙂 and yes, you are completely right, the moving details are very frustrating. when you get one thing down, 3 other things pop up….lol! we have a list, but the amount of revisions to said list, is a little comical! but that is part of the package i think, so as long as we keep our sense of humor about us, we will be fine i think! one foot in front of the other. i sent you a facebook message, probably went into your ‘other’ folder, but just had a an offline question for you. and thank you so much for the good luck wishes….you know they are very needed & much appreciated! 😀 very much look forward to meeting you too this year sometime, and hearing all about your adventures, esp your recent ones in Morocco!!!! your pics are divine! and there is room in our luggage for lawry’s chili seasoning, so just say the word! 😀 xx

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            • Thanks Leah – we’re so glad that you’re enjoying our posts and pics! I commented on your FB page so if you’d like to resend a friend request please feel free to use the link. We are both list makers and you’ll find that just doing a bit each week will keep you moving towards your goal as well as let you see how far you’ve come! We’ll look forward to meeting you when you make it our way! Anita P.S. And thanks for the Lawry’s chili seasoning offer – you never know!!

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  • Hi Anita and hi Richard. It’s a terrific blog and I’ve been wondering what Lagos is like. Thanks for the pictures. I’m now following your blog. Best wishes from Dai in Lisbon

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    • Thanks Dai for your kind words and for following our blog. We’re feeling very happy with our choice of Lagos as a place to set up a home base and we’ll be writing more about it in the months ahead. We seem to be on parallel tracks going in the opposite direction since we have yet to visit Lisboa except for its airport – It’s high on our list of must do’s! If and when you make it to Lagos or the Algarve Region let us know and we’ll meet for coffee. Anita

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      • Hi Anita. And thanks too. I’ll remember that. I love being in Lisbon although I’m a terrible tourist because I’m not into old churches, old buildings and museums. I do love nature and world travel though. Most Portuguese people I’ve met here in Lisbon have been kind, helpful and friendly so I guess it will be even better out in the countryside. I’m waiting for some warm, settled weather and then I will start to explore much more of Portugal. I’m dreaming of a nice but simple house somewhere in the countryside where I can have chickens, love birds, German Shepherds, fruit trees and my own organic vegetables. But maybe my finances will only stretch to an apartment somewhere. Let’s see what the future brings. Nice to meet you, Anita. Dai

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  • I was nodding my head as l read this. We had the same experience setting up in Spain.. What a pain in the butt. Like you said, you just have to smile and keep plowing on. It’s great that you are tackling it with gusto. It’s a slow process. We were just back in the U.S for a month, and in India and London a month before that. It was nice to refer to Seville as being back home and meaning it. I can’t wait to discover your neck of the woods. Thanks for a great post.

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    • We have to keep reminding ourselves that there’s no rush and things will get done eventually, step-by-step and day-by-day. On our visits back to the US we’re often overwhelmed by the rush and busyness of daily life and it’s easy to recall one of the main reasons we wanted to live as expats. Having the chance to slow down, enjoy good moments and savor the small victories makes us feel very lucky!

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  • Sounds like setting up house in Portugal has been a bit challenging but just think about when it’s all done and you can relax in your new home. Congratulations!

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    • Thanks, Nat and Tim. It’s great to have the chance to feel we have a home again in our own little apartment as well as the time to explore Lagos and decide if this is where we want to plant deeper roots. There are so many charming villages and cities in the Algarve and elsewhere in Portugal and we look forward to the next few months discovering and deciding exactly where to build our nest.

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  • We can so relate, and enjoy your adventures there having made similar treks to establish tax id numbers, bank accounts, electric and water here in Greece. The life of an ex pat is never dull is it? We also feel removed from the ‘world of terror’ in our little villages and life. And Christmas is really just that here ~ all is curiously refreshing, isn’t it?

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    • Of course you can relate having just gone through setting up house in Greece with all the attendant hoop jumping too. And we have to agree that we also feel removed from the fear elsewhere as well as the racism and violence that seem to occur daily in the US. Things really do seem simpler and much safer and we too are enjoying the experience!

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  • If it makes you feel any better, setting up new cable service in the US, even if you’re a US citizen, can be challenging—as is every subsequent interaction with the cable company. It sounds as though you’re approaching your trials with good humor and understanding that being riled and ruffled will not help. At least it sounds as though the locals are wanting to be of assistance—half of half of the battle—maybe a quarter of a quarter of the battle. Best of luck in your new abode. I look forward to following along as you settle into your new country.

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    • Thanks for the good wishes, Suzanne and we’re really looking forward to this chapter of our lives. It sure doesn’t take us too long to remember all the battles with the cable and various mobile phone companies whenever we switched plans trying to find the best deal. Here in Portugal it’s all an interesting adventure as we get to experience life in a foreign country. In the US it’s just a tedious and hair pulling experience minus the novelty that always seemed to cost way too much for what we got.

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  • What a beautiful place you’ve landed, Anita and Richard! Wow! Overlooking that gorgeous marina must be a daily joy. And James and I had to laugh at your description of your skinny kitchen – we’ve had several (even our current one) and we call them our “butt-bumpin’ kitchens.” 🙂 Your description of all the red tape your have to graciously slice through in a new country reminded us of several challenges we’ve had. It sounds like you’re handling it with your wonderful patience and senses of humor. So glad to hear you’re getting settled and we’re looking forward to your tales. ~Terri

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    • “Butt bumping kitchen” is a great description! So often during our travels we’ve realized how spoiled and unappreciative we used to be in our previous lives but we haven’t missed anything enough to trade in our never boring current lives! And red tape and bureaucracy don’t seem to be foreign in any country, right? We’re just lucky that so many people speak English here in the Algarve. Trying to do untangle the tape in Portuguese would not be a pretty sight… !

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  • Sounds like ironically settling down is an adventure. It looks like a beautiful place to do so!

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  • I really enjoying hearing about your experiences settling into life in Portugal. Lagos looks like a lovely place with everything you need nearby. Southern Spain has been in our radar as a place to possibly live eventually but Portugal is a place we also want to investigate.

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    • We can certainly understand why Southern Spain might be tempting – it has so many of the same things that we love about Portugal and I understand that obtaining a residence Visa is also fairly easy. Are you looking at any place in particular? We plan to take our time exploring Spain since it’s right next door and have planned some travel there in the next couple of months ourselves. It’s so amazing to think of all the beautiful cities and little villages that are nearby to enjoy to and explore!

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  • Congratulations on taking the first steps. Lagos looks an awesome place to settle and the view from your apartment is amazing. So what if it is a little small, as you say it will give you a great stepping stone to find out if this is where you really want to be and to discover what else is available. As you enter the honeymoon period of your expat existence, enjoy every moment. We’ve lived in 11 different countries as expats and the first days, even though sometimes frustrating, are full of exploration and ‘new’. Thanks for so often popping by to Lifestyle Fifty and ZigaZag and my little (expat) corner of the world in Australia – I do appreciate it x

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    • Luckily we didn’t expect our settling in process to be smooth and we’ve tried not to accomplish too many things in the first days. We’re retired- it doesn’t matter anymore how efficient we are, ha-ha! And, after 3 years of living out of suitcases it’s nice to be able to unpack, revel in our own little apartment, explore and enjoy the “NEW” at our leisure. We may not know where we’ll end up but we have no doubt our first few months in Portugal are going to be fun and interesting!

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  • It sounds like you two are getting settled in perfectly. I love the view from your apartment, and your photos of Lagos puts it high on my list to visit. I laughed about your SIN number predicament. If I had to produce my Canadian SIN card, I couldn’t do it. I know the number by heart, but have no idea if I actually still have the card. I must remedy that when I get back to Canada this coming summer.

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    • Nowhere in all of our extensive reading did we come across any mention that a social security card might need to be produced! Just goes to show you that, despite trying to prepare for anything, there are always going to be some things we won’t anticipate. The hard thing for us is to remember our patience and remind ourselves that there’s no deadline to meet as we deal with settling in. The learning curve is steep but we have no doubt it’ll be worth it!

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  • How exciting, congratulations on starting this new adventure. It sounds like you have already acomplished a lot in just few days in your new home. Learning a new language might appear daunting at the moment, I remember well how hard it was for me to learn to speak English, but soon the sounds start to became familiar and within few months you will be able to communicate more and more. Are you going to attend Portuguese classes? I am looking forward to follow your journey.

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    • Thanks for stopping by our blog Gilda. There’s a language school here in Lagos and we’ll be attending classes after the holidays, especially to learn how the words are pronounced! I’d never guess that English is your second language since you write so well so I’m going to take your comment as encouragement! Studying the language promises to be difficult but we know it will have many benefits for us, too. After all, if we’re going to adopt a new country we need to make an effort to communicate!

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  • I thought relocating to Seattle in a tiny apartment was challenging – you win the prize. However it seems that you attack each problem as it comes and figure out what needs to happen. I love hearing all of the details too! Keep up the stories and thanks for taking the time to share. The sunset photos are beautiful!

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    • Luckily everything is temporary for all of us and your remodel will be worth the challenge! We know the bumps in the road are going to get smaller as we go along and we’re rewarded as we find out how everyday life is lived and done in Portugal. It’s so much fun to find out new things, meet new people and it keeps everything very interesting. Learning something new every day to keep our minds sharp is happening without us even trying!

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  • Congratulations on setting up a place. Great post that’s both inspirational and informational. I think Portuguese is one of the most difficult languages to master but I have no doubt that you will! Pastry? Since visiting Lisbon, I dream about pastel de nata:-)

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    • Thanks Irene. We can promise many more “informational” posts as we go about trying to assimilate ourselves into Portuguese life. We are less hopeful that you that we’ll ever master Portuguese but will still take lessons and study the language. Fortunately a lot of the words are similar to Spanish but,OMG, the pronunciation may beat us both. However, it doesn’t stop us from saying “Dois, por favor” and pointing when we visit the fabulous bakeries nearby!

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  • It sounds like you’ve landed on your feet. That apartment may be small, but what a pretty place! The bureaucracy you describe sounds pretty standard for Europe; it’s a matter of learning the lingo and staying patient. It’s good you were able to open an account; many banks overseas are starting to simply refuse new American customers because their costs of FATCA compliance are so high. (I hadn’t heard till reading the comment above that some are dealing with the costs by passing them on to the customers!)

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    • Small works for now, especially since we haven’t accumulated much yet. We know however, how quickly things can multiply so I imagine our future move, when we figure out more permanent digs, will be a little more complicated! We’d heard that European Bureaucracy (with Portugal mentioned specifically) could be a tangled web but so far everyone has been apologetic when we hit a snag and very helpful. It also makes a huge difference that English is widely spoken in the Algarve. If we had to do these transactions in Portuguese we can pretty well guess that we’d still be standing at the counters!

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  • I’m paying attention to your posts, and seeing the transition through your eyes. Abi and I often talk about living as expats, so I’m absorbing your lessons. Looking forward to more reports!

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    • Our transition may not be as smooth as we want but it’s far from boring and has kept us laughing as well as feeling the warm glow of accomplishing some of the small tasks. It’s interesting to note how many people are discussing living as expats or foreign travel. Learning about the history and different cultures promises to keep us entertained for years and we predict lots more posts about what we learn and the bumps along the way!

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  • Wow, much progress made! Love your stories of acculturation. We have made some decision, too, as to a partial domicile. We have signed a timeshare that will allow us 3 months’ stay in Mazatlan, Cancun or Cozumel, Mexico. And we have started our Spanish lessons! Being inspired by your adventures!

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    • We spent several vacations in Cozumel and nearby Akumal while we were both wage slaves and, when we started our travels in 2012, Playa del Carmen was the first place we headed to. You’ll love the Yucatan Peninsula and exploring the many Mayan ruins that are spread out over the area will give you plenty of sights to see in addition to enjoying the beaches and fabulous food. Good luck with the Spanish!

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  • This has been a brilliantly informative post, so thank you SO much for sharing all this info! 🙂 I had 3 quick questions for you, if that is ok?
    1. Did you have to have any documents translated, and if so, which ones and did it have to be by their designated translator/agent?
    2. Did you have to have any documents Apostilled, and if so, at which stage (before translation for instance, or after)?
    3. Would you recommend having a lawyer in Portugal to help with all the paperwork, as you guys have done, as it is ‘affordable’ (I do understand that is relative however)?
    We are in process of getting documents ready now for our family of four, and were wondering because, as you said, it’s hard to nail down any solid information online. Thank you so very very much for your time in replying, and we are very excited to follow along your new chapter!! Cheers!

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    • Hi Leah and thanks for stopping by our blog. Congratulations to you and your family on the big step you’re taking – a great adventure awaits! For our first visa, the long term one that we applied for in the US, nothing had to be translated or apostilled. We’ll be visiting one of the SEF (immigration) offices in January to renew our visa and provide a few more documents (a rental agreement, and recent bank statements) and this time, the visa will be good for one year. There is no mention of translations needed for this step either and we’ll post about our preparation and experience once we go through the next step. There seems to be many opinions about whether or not a lawyer is needed but we feel that having an expert to help us through the legal process has smoothed out some of the bumps – our short answer about the lawyer is yes. Should you want to research a bit further there is a Facebook page “Americans in Portugal” that we discovered recently that may prove to be helpful and one of the members, Susan Korthause, has written information (similar to what we wrote) about the process. She may prove to be a very good contact. We’ll be looking forward to hearing how your visa application goes!

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  • Hi,

    As you may remember, I am a former colleague of Dick Hutcheon and have followed your blog from the beginning at Nancy’s recommendation. The blog has always been exceptionally well written and informative. Kudos! You two are living my dream. Although I am single and older (76), I find myself wanting to be out there as well. I spent the month of September in Portugal as a solo traveler and was surprised to find that my Airbnb host in Lisbon was somewhat protective about my continuing to travel as I do. I had daily (at least) contacts with her until I returned to the US. So I want to ask. Do you find any other single women in my age group as you travel? Any thoughts you may have on the subject would be appreciated.

    Best wishes, Maxine

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    • Hi Maxine and thanks for your lovely comment! We’ve run into several solo adventurers in their late 60’s, 70’s and a couple of people in their 80’s in Central & South America as well as Portugal who travel regularly. We both agree that age shouldn’t be a deterrent to enjoying the travel experience. In fact, there’s a terrific blogger that I enjoy reading named Leyla Giray Alyanak who writes a great blog for older,female solo travelers with great tips and information. Here are a couple of links to check out: http://www.women-on-the-road.com/about.html and http://www.women-on-the-road.com/womenontheroad-start-here.html . As for your Portuguese landlord, I think you’re going to find, like we have, many people in this country who go out of their way to answer questions, are friendly, solicitous and eager to help in any way they can regardless of your age. And please, if you decide that you’d like to see more of Portugal be sure to drop us a note.

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  • Haha. “Even Nicaragua beats out the U.S.”. So glad you mentioned this fact. I am really impressed with what you have accomplished so far…and with an incomplete understanding of Portuguese. Incredible. But, seriously, I had no doubts that you would jump into a new life with gusto. Remember to take those baby steps. NIB, NIF? It is all so confusing, isn’t it? But, you will work it out with patience and a little help from friendly people. I can’t wait to read your next post! So very happy for you both. 🙂

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    • Glad you picked up on that comment, Debbie. Just because a country like Nicaragua is perceived as dangerous doesn’t make it so and to see it ranked so far ahead of the US in safety is astounding. Even though you’ve been on Ometepe Island a few years I imagine you can remember the settling in process vividly and it must have been so much more difficult due to its remote location. However, I think that you’d have a hard time at this point imaging yourself in any other place. Choosing a country to adopt is an incredible opportunity and I hope we’re able to integrate as successfully as you!

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  • This is exactly how I have imagined ‘settling’ again in a new country with a new language. It sounds as if you are doing extremely well, bit by bit, day by day. Congratulations! And kudos. I have a friend who moved from Australia to Barcelona. Never mind Spanish, she had to learn Catalan to deal with all the bureaucracy.
    Happy settling. And exploring.
    Alison

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    • Thanks, Alison. We’ve been keeping track of our progress and really are encouraged by the steps we’ve managed to climb, big and small. And the fun we’ll have exploring Portugal and Europe keeps us energized and motivated. As for your friend in Barcelona – I can definitely see the appeal and imagine that your friend feels the rewards are well worth the language barrier (Catalan has to rank up there with Portuguese in difficulty) and untangling the red tape. Isn’t it fabulous to be able to choose such amazing places to live and/or travel to?

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  • It sounds as if you are doing well in such a short time of settling in. You’ll find the exact spot for you with a little investigation. Yes, deciding to live in a place and space for a while is a lot different from passing through. You become part of a community, a language, and new customs. I am eager to learn more about your new adventure in beautiful Portugal.

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  • Pouco a pouco! You will get there. About those bank reporting requirements…. One bank here in Panama announced an annual handling fee of $250 to cover those reporting requirements!! Many of our friends changed banks. Sounds like you are doing great. And you already have numbers!! (NIB and NIF, impressive). From this corner of the world you sound as though your progress is by leaps and bounds. We still don’t have our “permanent” residency cards yet which we need before we get our Cedulas. Bureaucracy at its finest. We keep hitting a wall with my pension. Since it’s not Social Security which they are used to seeing, it is always questioned and needs to be explained over and over again. We will get there pouco a pouco too!!
    Be well and enjoy every minute. Love keeping up with your travels and your progress.
    Suzi

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    • You’re right, Suzi – slow step by step. It even sounds like it might be smoother here than in Panama and the bank charging a fee to cover the reporting requirements sounds outrageous, especially with all the US expats in the area. It seems like we should be encouraging you… We’ll all hope for our quota of patience and keep our smiles in place. Getting things done in a timely manner is for previous lives – we just have to remember that we’re not it the rat race any longer!

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  • It sounds exhausting now but I hope will all prove to have been well worth the trouble! I’m looking to do some home exchanges next year and am going to see if there’s anywhere available in that area so I can benefit from your research!

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    • Dealing with red tape, both in the US and now in Portugal is NEVER fun and, for a while at least, there are a few more tangles to deal with. However, we’re both feeling confident that a new chapter in Portugal is going to well worth the hassle. Since you were recently in Portugal you can appreciate what a lovely country this is. Hope you can find a home exchange and we’ll have to make sure our paths cross!

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  • Well a new chapter in your travels. I imagine that settling in to a semi-perminate apartment is a welcome change from your previous travels. 700 sq ft with four rooms does sound a bit cramped tho….but that is becoming the new reality for US big city dwellers also, as housing in Portland and San. Fran. and Seattle becomes hugely expensive.

    I just got back from three weeks in Belize, staying on an island with a few friends. I came back to an ice storm, wasn’t really prepared for winter yet, but it’s here with a vengence.

    Corky and I are doing well, totally immeresed into the community here, I am the president of the Community Council, and active in the Buddhist monistary in White Salmon, so I have lots of connections and community to interact with.

    It’s great to hear from you about your travels, and see how many different lifestyles that there are out there when one quits worrying about how much stuff one has.

    Keith

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    • So great to hear from you, Keith and know that you and Corky are enjoying your retirement with travel as well as a caring community to be active in. We’re hoping to find a community that we fit into also… Our house IS small but actually, after the years of travel, feels okay if not ideal and, like the realtors say, it’s all about LOCATION! Europe is definitely ahead of the US in the small house movement and, since we don’t have much stuff, we don’t need a lot of room. However, we do dream of a bigger kitchen with counter space to spare … ! 😉

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  • Glad to hear that you are getting things set up in Lagos, after all of the paperwork. Even with all of the bureaucracy it was encouraging to hear of the help you received from your new “friends”. It sounds wonderful and we hope that you enjoy it.

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    • New friends and smiles all around. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that things will get done in their own time – a NOT very American attitude! Maybe it’s having a little bit of experience from our travels in Mexico, Central and South America but, in spite of the red tape, things do seem to get done here in Portugal. And it all will be well worth it soon.

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  • Sounds thrilling and exhausting. How did you choose the town of Lagos? The photos look glorious.

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    • Maybe a roller coaster of thrills followed by sighs! However, we’re feeling that much of the hard stuff is behind us. As for how we chose Lagos – We traveled around the Algarve coast by train to several places and both really liked the “feel” of the city. It’s big enough that, even when the tourists leave each fall the restaurants remain open, unlike a lot of places along the Algarve which virtually hibernate. We both liked the fact that English is widely spoken and thought that would help us in the adjustment process while we begin to learn some Portugues. And, since we’re renting, if we find a place we like better while we’re checking things out we have no ties to stay here. A win-win situation all the way around!

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  • Loved reading about your journey…..as tough as it has been. Nothing worse than bureaucracy. I can certainly learn from you if one day I decide to live in France where the red tape is also frustrating. Enjoy the sun!

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    • It feels so great to be back in Portugal that we’re dealing with the red tape and bureaucracy with far more patience than we’d expected. The requirements seem to be pretty reasonable – it’s just a matter of finding out what they are as well as what order to do them in! However, the people here are so helpful that we find ourselves smiling and just keep trying to go forward step by step. Each day we get a little more settled and we’re actually pretty happy with what we’ve gotten done so far. Now comes the fun part!

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  • Lovely,peaceful and serene. Two bedrooms… I ‘ ll be right over ( lol). No chance for any terrorism there. Just the id process would keep them away. Our recent California terror attack deepens sadness in our hearts. Curious about the foods and possible entertainment available. Of course a walk through a new country is more than entertaining.
    Keep well and enjoy. As it is said in the field, ” thank you for sharing”.

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    • Lagos seems so far away from the violence gone rampant in the US. In fact, according to the 2015 Global Peace Index Rankings (which I just checked) Portugal is ranked 11th in the world with Iceland holding the first position as most safe and Syria at the far end of the scale at 162. Even Nicaragua, which holds position #74, beats out the US, ranked #94 right before Saudi Arabia. As for entertainment, the country is just starting the Christmas season festivities which are quite a bit lower key and much less commercialized than the glitz of the US but we’re having fun visiting some of the Christmas markets. And there’s plenty of goodies to tempt us – the Portuguese are amazing bakers and there’s not much they can’t do with even the simple little fig!

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