Playing Twenty Questions: Life as Expats, Life as Travelers, Life in Lagos, Portugal – Part Three

 

Back in 2011, when we were in the midst of preparing for full-time travel and radically downsizing, our announcements of our plans to various friends and family got a lot of different responses.

From dumbfounded gapes and guffaws to “You’ll never be able to do it.”

What a great idea. I wish I could but …”

But what about______? ”  Here you can fill in the blank with: leaving a steady paycheck and our eventual financial ruin to robbers, rapists, natural disasters, not understanding a multitude of foreign languages, getting lost, people who hate Americans, etc.

And right along with the ‘What abouts’  were the ‘What ifs …?’  One of our favorite ‘What If’ questions was, “But what if you die?”  We both cracked up with that question and gave a shrug but looking back, that question and the puzzlement it conveyed perfectly summed up why we were deconstructing and reconstructing our lives and taking a leap into the unknown.  Because the alternative question was, What if we died living our perfectly safe lives?  That of course excluded: floods, fires and hurricanes, traffic accidents, robbers, mass-murderers, and various diseases lurking and waiting to ambush us. Or what if we died while we were reputably employed: watching the clock, feeling the stress and pressure build, buried under the day-after-day grind, waiting for something new to break up the routine, waiting for the weekend, waiting for retirement? For us then, What if we die? became a huge incentive rather than an obstacle and a multitude of “What Ifs?” became possibilities.

And so, in our conclusion to our “Playing Twenty Questions” series and counting down the last seven questions, we’ll answer this What if question.

7) But what if I die?

We can give the flippant answer of We’re all going to die, which is far from helpful or give you our Hereafter philosophy.  (Trust us, you don’t want to hear it, you probably won’t agree with it, and it’s way more shallow than deep.)  That said, we drafted our first US will in the eighties, after our one-and-only was born, and we’ve updated it periodically since then.  Copies of our newest will are kept at my sister’s home along with our dwindling stack of important papers which include our Durable Power-of-Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive.  A few months ago, we met with our Portuguese attorney and had him write a will for what few assets (car, bank account) we own here in Portugal.  This will is written in Portuguese with an English translation.  It’s pretty basic but among other things, our Portuguese will mentions that we also have a will back in the US. It specifically states that we do not want our remains to be repatriated to the US which is a huge expense and a why bother? (No one in either of our families seems to care that much about our decision to remain wherever we drop either.)  And, continuing with the mortal remains theme, last week we pre-paid for our imminent demise with a bare-bones (no pun intended) international funeral plan that includes everything we can anticipate.  We’re also in the process of letting trusted friends here in Portugal know where our papers can be found.  And, in keeping with Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying, “ … the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes,” our next question tackles the second part.

 

Reasons to love Portugal

6) How do you deal with your taxes?  Google the question, “Do I have to pay US taxes if I live overseas?” and the answer is a resounding “Yes.” The sad reality is that leaving the country does not mean you can leave this obligation behind, no matter how much you’d like to.  If you are a US citizen, you are required to pay income taxes no matter where you reside.  (For our readers who aren’t from the US, it’s worth checking out what your tax laws are if you’re considering long-term travel or expating.) Since we’re somewhat lazy and generally hazy on anything tax related, we have a Texas accountant who keeps current with the laws and has helped us file our taxes for several years.  Because we’ve done our damnedest to simplify our lives (no paycheck, no property, few deductions) our taxes are simpler to file too.

TIP – Paper tends to add weight when you’re traveling full-time and clutter when you’re not, so we scan copies of all our medical expenses and receipts to our computer and upload them to Dropbox in case we’re ever audited.

TIP – For those of you considering an expat life living and working in another country as a U.S. citizen (instead of a totally idyllic retirement like us) you are also required to file.  And yes, the IRS wants to know all about any money you make overseas.

And that leads naturally to the next question.

5)  If I get a resident visa to live in Portugal, do I have to pay taxes in Portugal?

This question gets you the wishy-washy answer of Yes and No and, since we’re not lawyers, accountants, nor remotely interested in trying to grasp any legal intricacies, we’ll try to skim-answer this question as best we understand it.  (In other words, if you want a better answer, ask someone else.)  Foreign residents who live in Portugal are called (probably one of the nicer names anyway) Non-Habitual Residents (NHR) and Portugal has a tax treaty in place with the US and several other countries that exempts these residents from double taxation on their foreign income.  Since we’re retirees, this exemption means that we don’t have to pay taxes in Portugal on our US social security and money from our retirement plans. Of course, nothing is that easy and you have to:

1) register as a non-resident taxpayer

2) obtain your residency visa

3) register as a tax resident in Portugal and

4) then apply for the NHR exemption which is applicable for ten years.

A link that explains this requirement better can be found Here and there are more answers online.  To be compliant, you need to file annual tax returns in Portugal, stating your worldwide income and provide adequate documentation as well as proof that you’ve paid your income tax back in the US.  We copied and submitted our income tax returns which worked just fine.

 

More reasons to love Portugal

4)  How difficult is it to set up a bank account?

In recent years, many foreign banks are refusing to work with American citizens because the US imposes burdensome filing requirements upon them but we found it remarkably easy to set up a bank account in Portugal and we made a good friend, Teresa, in the bargain.  (We refer all our friends to her.)  We picked Millennium BCP bank because it seems to be located in almost every city and village in Portugal, and our new BFF, Teresa, patiently walked us through all the forms. The bank account required passports, our rental lease, our fiscal numbers (trust us, this essential number, also known as an NIF, will be the most important part of your official new identity as a resident of Portugal) and a copy of our US social security cards.  We left with a stack of papers that included online instructions and passwords welcoming us and our money to the new Millennium family and received debit cards in the mail a couple of weeks later.

Note – We set up our account in November of 2015.  We’ve talked to friends who have set up accounts recently and our info still appears to be current.

TIP – If you plan to set up a bank account in Portugal (or any foreign country for that matter) this link is a terrific quick and dirty into to what you need to know about foreign bank account reporting as a US expat. And you can sound like an expat pro to your friends and family when you casually drop the acronyms FATCA and FBAR into your conversations.

3) Can you give me the lowdown on all things medical in Portugal?

This won’t be a surprise to anyone from the US, but we receive a lot of questions related to Portugal’s healthcare system from US citizens and retirees. As residents of Portugal, we are entitled to access the National Health Service (the Portuguese Serviço Nacional de Saúde or SNS) for almost free public healthcare.  Almost immediately after we received our residency cards, we signed up at our local health service center in Lagos bringing our passports along with us as required.  We were each issued a paper with our individual numbers to use in the event that we find it necessary to use the public healthcare system. That said, we understand that, although the care is good at the public hospitals, the waiting lists for routine visits can be longer than what we’d like and that many of Portugal’s public hospital and clinics may be crowded and understaffed. Instead, we’ve elected to access the private hospitals using our private health insurance company Medis, which was offered through our bank for a cost of €46 per person each month.  With private insurance, we have no problems getting in to see English-speaking doctors at the private hospitals in a timely manner and the care we’ve received has exceeded our expectations.  After coming from the US where many of the doctors are stressed out, overworked and all-too-often forget the human side of health care, it’s been awesome to find doctors who are warm and caring and our visits to them unhurried. The copays vary from €15 -25 and, if a prescription is necessary, we can get a discount at the pharmacy when the doctor writes down our national health service number.

The pharmacies are also quite different in Portugal compared to the US.  Some medications like inhalers are available without a prescription and when your prescription is presented, the medication is located, a notation is written on your prescription indicating that the medication has been dispensed and the prescription is handed back to you. Quick, efficient and quite a bit simpler than filling a prescription in the US but, my critique as a former pharmacist would be that there seems to be little advice given nor screening for drug interactions. There are upsides however, and almost all of the drug prices are much lower than in the US.

TIP – Make sure to ask for the generic as it won’t automatically be offered.

TIP – A good reference that will help answer your questions regarding Healthcare in Portugal can be found Here.

 

We love the pedestrian friendly streets too!

2) How’s that learning Portuguese going?

In the Algarve area of Portugal, as well as the larger cities of Lisbon and Porto, it’s not hard to get by with English as your primary language.  And, because laziness is always our convenient fallback, the fact that English is spoken widely has proven to be our greatest stumbling block.  We really have to put forth an effort to find locals to practice our Portuguese with as they, in turn, like practicing their English on us expats. That said, Richard (as always more diligent when it comes to language learning) has been attending classes twice a week for several months and is actually making some progress.  I, on the other hand, have found all sorts of excuses to avoid this exercise and fervently believe that (some) spouses should never attend the same classes if they want to remain happily married.  Eventually though, I realize that I need to ‘get with the program’ so to speak, and make a real effort to learn some Portuguese since this is our adopted country.  We love exploring other parts of the country where finding English speakers is more difficult and having some familiarity with the language really enhances our experience.

TIPHere’s a great online resource for learning European Portuguese (which differs from Brazilian Portuguese) that we’ve found useful.

And, our final question (for those of you still with us) is:

1) This lifestyle reset to become a fulltime traveler and/or expat sounds like a lot of work. Is it worth it? 

Yes and Yes!  We’ve heard variations of this question several times and rather than painting a rosy picture and telling a happily-ever after fairytale, we have to admit that shaking up our lives has been, in some respects, the hardest we’ve ever worked. The flip side to that is, it’s also been the hardest we’ve ever played and the past years have been some of the best in our lives. Trading the routine and the known is a great and trusting leap into the unknown cosmos of foreign plane, train and bus terminals, unique and exotic cultures and different languages, customs and rules.  And sure, there have been downsides: bureaucratic tape and finding work-arounds to get things done, patience-testing situations (that we generally fail first time around) and things that make us exercise our ‘colorful’ vocabularies. But, we can truthfully say that we have never contemplated going back to our old lives.  For us, going forward is infinitely more rewarding and making the decision to shake up our lives six years ago has wildly exceeded our expectations.

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

 

 

77 comments

  • Brilliant post for anyone wanting to live in another country. There are so many questions and what ifs. You should write a book for expats!!

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    • I kind of think we did write a book, Marilyn. For sure we’ll never be accused of brevity with this lengthy series. 😁 And yes, there are so many questions that come up when you first start thinking about traveling full-time and expatriating. There are a lot of answers too, and for sure there are better solutions and easier ways to approach things in some cases that we learned on the fly. Perhaps the first thing to keep in mind is that you’ll always forget something to ask and have to bumble along as best you can. And the most important thing to remember is to hold on to your patience, plaster a smile on your face and keep your eye on the prize!

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  • Sounds like a great experience. And lots of logistics are needed regarding taxes, wills, healthcare, etc. When we contemplated moving to Ecuador, healthcare was the first thing I looked into. Sounds a lot like what you are seeing in Portugal; although in the smaller cities, it is easy to get in to see doctors in the public system.
    We travel 4 months/year and have the issue with documents. Have you looked into Boxcryptor; it is dropbox encrypted, which makes your documents safer in the cloud. Looking forward to hearing about your travel adventures.

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    • For us, as well as most people from the US, access to healthcare is a huge issue and it was interesting to compare the differences in countries we traveled through before deciding on Portugal. What surprised us was that healthcare outside the US was cheap, very good and the professionals in each country were caring without the sense of being rushed through our visits. For us, we found healthcare to be a major plus to being in the expat experience. And thanks Wendy for your recommendation of Boxcryptor. We’ve downloaded the app and it’s waiting for us to move some of our files to it. I love exchanging ideas and tips with readers and bloggers. There’s always something new to learn!

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  • What an exciting opportunity! Thank you for sharing!

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  • You are such an inspiration to people of every age to embrace learning new things and new places while letting go of the negative “what if?”

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    • Thanks so much for your kind words. We’ve often talked about how different the beginning of our retirement years has been from our parents’ and grandparents’ and how lucky we are to have so many opportunities to choose from. While becoming an expat isn’t for everyone, it’s interesting to see that there’s a huge interest from the baby boomer generation to embrace travel and other challenges and make the golden years an exciting time. “What if?” has a negative side for sure but there are a lot of positive ways it can be spun too. Thinking outside the box really makes you aware of all the possible paths you can choose as alternatives to a more traditional retirement.

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  • I read this with great interest. I missed the first 2 parts. Darn! I wish we could do what you did. We settled in Arizona instead. With Bill’s heart problem, we had no choice really.

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    • There are always going to be paths and places we miss exploring but it seems to me, Carol that you’ve made the most of your retirement years with travel around the US, Canada and a multitude of other countries too. And it looks like, despite Bill’s health problems, that you’re planning more travels ahead. Finding a good health care system was one of the main reasons we decided to set up a home base although, since neither of us was in the military, the US wasn’t really an option. No doubt, both age and health problems will limit what travels we (all of us) pursue in the future but how fortunate we are to have the chance to take advantage of the opportunities while we can. (And we’re looking forward to meeting you when you make it to Portugal!)

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  • Thank you so much for writing this twenty questions about life as expats series. I already am an expat (I live in the Netherlands with my Dutch husband.), but we have every intention of moving somewhere else with less rain when my husband retires. It’s good to have an overview of the kinds of things that need to be addressed when you move to a new country.

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    • We’re so glad you enjoyed this series Rachel, and it will be interesting to see what country you decide on when you retire. No doubt it may have been easier in some respects to become a resident and citizen of the Netherlands because of your marriage but I imagine assimilating into the culture and language took a lot of work, patience and persistence. For your next expat journey, it will definitely be much more fun. (And keep in mind that Portugal has a lot of sunshine. 😁)

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  • What a great, useful article for any USers wanting to be come Portugal residents! I hear you on the Portuguese Portuguese versus Brazilian Portuguese thing. I speak Spanish and can understand a great deal of Brazilian Portuguese. OTOH, when we visited Portugal, I understood virtually nothing and kept thinking people were speaking Russian. That’s what it sounded like to me. The Portuguese we spoke to most definitely preferred to speak English to Spanish.

    What do you do about health insurance when you visit the backward (when it comes to providing healthcare) United States?

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    • We’ve noticed a certain antipathy between the Portuguese and Spanish which probably goes back centuries as each nation vied for power. On our first visit here, we’d buy fruit from a elderly lady and she’d always steer us to the fruit grown in Portugal and wrinkle her lip when she saw me putting fruit grown in Spain in my bag. So funny! Knowing some Spanish really helps with the written words as they’re both romance languages but the spoken language is really nasal. I can never approximate the zzzsh sounds and my attempts to pronounce the words are invariably wrong. I’ve told Richard that once I start studying Portuguese, my blogging days will be over because it looks like a full-time and lifetime project!
      As for health insurance when we visit the US, Richard has Medicare so he’s covered. Our Portuguese private insurance offers a travel policy that I’ve skimmed which might work for our next trip so I’ll have to write about that at some point. Good question!

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  • I know that question”But what if you die?” Aussie friends asked me that when I went ahead with my plans to visit Paris after the first attack, but statistically speaking I have more chance of being run over on a Sydney street or taken by a shark in Perth. Good on uou! Life is so short.

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    • HaHa – I can see that you too, have put some thought into how random life (and death) is and that threats can come in many unanticipated forms. Many of our friends from the US questioned our safety when we set off for Mexico, Central and South America, etc. but seem not to see the dangers lurking in our own country’s streets, schools, churches, etc. And you’re right – life is too short to let fear keep us from experiencing new places and large and small adventures.

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  • These questions were so funny and interesting to read. Such a great post! Those pictures from Lagos are magnificent!

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    • We’re so glad you enjoyed both the post and our sense of humor! We loved our lives as full time travelers and are loving our current status as expats and part-time travelers as well. While there’s a lot of thought and work that goes into this lifestylet (like all things worthwhile) and it’s not for everyone, it’s a perfect life for people who value new experiences and random adventures!

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  • Wow, I am late getting into the conversation here, but your incredibly detailed Twenty Questions series give excellent information for soon to be Expats, as well as old timers, like us. I especially like your last answer to the question, “Is it worth it?” Of course! I imagine this series required a lot of tome and effort on your part! Bravo!

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    • As an experienced hand at both travel and expating Debbie, I know you too would say without any hesitation that taking the leap and moving to a foreign country is an adventure (and then some!) well worth the effort. I’ve always loved your complete candor in sharing your experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly with your readers especially because there’s no roadmap for this kind of lifestyle. Perhaps you could say that moving to another country is the very definition of optimism, right? HaHa!

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  • This series has been wonderful Anita, chock-full of useful information and loads of humor. One never knows when they might take the plunge, so to speak. We waited until Terry’s cancer diagnosis several years ago to finally leave the workforce behind and hit the road. This is what took us to Mexico for a year, as he wasn’t old enough yet for Medicare, and there was still that nasty pre-existing condition clause to deal with. That was probably in some ways the most daunting experience and the most rewarding. And it definitely changed our view of traveling abroad, and perhaps living there again someday. I think that travel tests our patience, which is always a good thing I believe. You two never cease to inspire us!

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    • Thank you so much LuAnn, for you lovely comment and I’m so glad you enjoyed the little bits of humor I tried to inject into this wordy tome! I’m sorry it took a health crisis to prompt you and Terry to hit the road but, that in a nutshell, is also one of the big incentives that got us moving too, rather than waiting for that magical 65th birthday. Richard is now covered by Medicare but I still have a few more years before I qualify. It’s really difficult to explain to anyone who lives outside the US what an utter SNAFU our healthcare system is and what dire situations people are forced into. One of these days, I look forward to hearing your Mexico story but I can imagine that the experience helped set the tone for all of your future travels, too. You really approach the world with a huge appreciation and I love how you share the beauty of places you visit. And yes, travel tests your patience (I’m not exactly know for my grace under fire) but as you said earlier in your comment, it’s also been one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done. And about the inspiration … I could say the same about you!

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  • We made an exploratory visit to Portugal in September and L-O-V-E-D Lagos. We would like to return for a longer visit in off season to evaluate retirement residency in a few years. We like the outdoor activity in the area and lovely Portuguese people.

    What residential areas would you suggest we explore for our next visit?

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    • Lagos makes a great first impression doesn’t it? We visited the town 3 different times while we here during our initial visit and liked it more and more with each visit. And, after almost 2 years here, it’s lived up to its promise with plenty to do and see, good shopping and restaurants, great people, etc. Our second choice for a place to live in was Tavira and last week we took a drive there since we hadn’t visited it in awhile. If we had to leave Lagos, Tavira is a great alternative with a great walkable downtown, close to the sea, terrific restaurants, etc. Other places I’d recommend to check out on your next visit are Loule and Alvor which we also love!

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  • You’ve been busy on this series of posts Anita. Great info. I’m glad we’re not American with all the stuff you guys are having to go through these days.Lissette’s a dual citizenship and it was a hassle trying to get a Croatian bank account – until we all figured out that it’s best just to keep in in my name. We did a separate document giving her access to the account…but technically the only way around the whole American mess was to keep her off it. What a mess.

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    • These last few posts kind of got away from us Frank! Your observation about how difficult it was for Lissette to have a bank account in Croatia was interesting and agrees with information we’ve heard about many countries just taking the easy way out and refusing to accept American customers. We had assumed that most banks want our money but … I guess the more correct statement would be, most banks want your money unless you’re from the US. We’ll have to add that in as another reason why we were so lucky to have landed in Portugal!

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  • Another great post Anita and Richard. It also reminded me we still don’t have a will in Australia, and unlike Portugal, the kids won’t automatically be entitled to our “stuff” if we die intestate.
    Your health insurance is so affordable.

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    • Thanks so much for your kind comment. It’s interesting that Australia’s law is so different from what we understand the US law for inheritance to be. Our big goal was to make sure our son received (what’s left!) of our estate with a minimum of hassle. We mentioned our wills in this post because we were really surprised that so many expats don’t have any plans in place for the inevitable and many have never discussed what they want done with their immediate families. Perhaps we were more aware than most of how complicated dying abroad can be because Richard’s cousin passed away suddenly (many years ago) while on vacation in the Cook Islands. It turned a naturally sad event into a nightmare for her husband and we wanted to avoid that whole mess. Our son thanked us too!

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  • More great info, Anita, thank you! How does voting for you work? Do you register in the state where your mailing address is? I’m in California now, have been most of my life. I’ll probably use my sister’s address when I’m overseas, and she’s in West Virginia. I’d be voting in a state I’ve never actually lived in, strange!

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    • We’re so glad you’ve found our information to be useful and appreciate your question on voting. Since we’ve been gone from the US for 5 years now, we’ve requested absentee ballots for both of the Presidential elections using our official address (my sister’s home) in Texas. Since we lived in the same city for 10 years before we left the country, it was just a matter of changing our mailing address because we were already registered. We’ll continue to vote absentee here in Portugal and this time we plan on voting in the off-year elections as well coming up in 2018 as every vote will count. Here’s a link we bookmarked because it does a great job of explaining the process for voting outside the US: https://www.votefromabroad.org/vote/home.htm .

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  • Another SUPERB post! This one is going in our Portugal file for sure! Great information. Regarding US taxes ( you may already know this) Susan works from our home here in Panama for a US based company and has the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. She pays no US or Panama taxes on her income. She still pays Socia Security and Medicare.

    Cheers!

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    • Thanks John and Susan. I imagine that some of what we’ve written about in our series is quite familiar to you but it’s interesting to find out the different bureaucratic hoops an aspiring expat is required to jump through for their country of choice. I remember one of you mentioning that Susan was still working but have to confess that I had to google the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. More forms to fill out but the exemption from paying additional taxes would be well worth the time and effort!

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  • Great post. Leaving our “old life” was a great (though tedious) decision for us. It was certainly worth the work and we are loving our new less complicated life. Some people will never get it but that’s okay. I always tell people it’s not for everyone. It IS for me!
    Cheers,
    Suzi

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  • Great ending to the series that is chock full of information for anyone looking to move to Portugal and even elsewhere. It is certainly very important for the practice run. Visit first and take a look around so you get it right, even if there is really no right. The good thing about having fewer possessions is that if you end up not liking a place, or getting tired of places, you can move on. We have done it as slow travelers and actually enjoy the really slow pace traveling (spending months and years in a place). For us, the E.U as a whole is perfect :-). I totally get jealous of how much your health insurance premium is. Since we are no retirees, we pay a bit more but with no copays. l can’t wait to move to a lower premium like you have and pay copays :-). I keep meaning to do the wills but yikes.. I can’t deal but l know it needs to be done. February seems to be shaping up so keep us in the loop :-).

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    • Thanks Kemi. As far as we’re concerned, slow travel (not to mention a slow pace 🙂) is the best way to visit and really get the feel for a place: what the shopping’s like, how easy it is to get around by foot, car and public transportation, what the people are like, things to do, etc. And yes – not having to pack around a whole bunch of stuff as you move from place to place is the only way to go. I have to confess – that stuff is breeding and multiplying and our next move will be a little more complicated than back when we each had a suitcase and a backpack! I’ve finally started putting together some plans for February so stay tuned for a pm. Hugs to you and Fede!

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  • Hi Anita and Richard

    We’ve been following you since (I think) 2015. We became nomadic in 2016 and will be housesitting in Spain in July and August. We would like to spend at least a month exploring Portugal (Schengen only allows a 90 day stay for me) in September 2018 and wonder if you have any suggestion on apartment rentals? Will we need to rent a car?

    We think Portugal may be a place we’d be interested in settling down, and want to fully explore it. We appreciate all the advice and information you have provided all this time!

    Regards,

    Toni and Peter

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    • Hi Toni and Peter. We’re so glad for the virtual introduction and thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s always fun to meet full-time travelers and nomads and lucky you – 2 months in Spain. And yes, that inconvenient Schengen visa can really complicate travel in Europe. In fact, that was one of the big incentives for us to pursue a residency in Portugal after our first visit. To answer your questions: 1) Renting a car probably depends most on where you want to travel in Portugal. If you plan on visits to Lisbon or Porto, you can use the bus to get there easily and, once inside the cities, the metro, buses (including the hop-on, hop-off bus) and walking will pretty much get you anywhere you might want to go. We’ve also used the taxis which are metered and reasonable. As for the Algarve and other parts of Portugal, I’d rent a car for at least part of your trip. Portugal is a country of small towns and villages with a surprising amount of rural areas and having a car makes it much easier to take off and explore some of these hidden gems. 2) Finding a property rental can be as easy as checking AirBnB or Googling Rental Properties in ___ for property managers. Up until this summer, we’d always thought of September in the Algarve as the end of the tourist season but, as interest in Portugal as a vacation and retirement destination has increased, so have the tourists and the prices. However, a car might allow you to find a smaller, less touristed town to use as your base while you explore. In addition to Lagos, make sure to check out Sages, Alvor, Monchique and, one of our favorites in the eastern Algarve, Tavira. And don’t forget to let us know what you think as well as decide!

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  • Thank you Anita! I’ve been anxiously waiting for part three to appear. And again you have answered more of our questions. Yes this giant leap into the strange and unknown has definitely been difficult and stressful for me and my husband. But as you shared in your blog we don’t have any intention of “going back”. As difficult and confusing as it is at times the rewards are worth working for. And your information certainly has helped us in our journey! Thank you. Bonnie and Edd

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    • So glad to hear that some of our answers in Part 3 anticipated your questions, Bonnie. 🙂 We understand how settling into a new country can be stressful (an understatement, right?) but we’re so glad that you feel it’s worth it, too. For us, meeting new people and making new friends has gone a long way towards turning our new base into a home. Having a group of friends, both expats and locals, really helps with trading tips and info as well as having a great time sharing new places and experiences. And now, we’re looking forward to sharing some new adventures with you and Edd!

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  • So much great helpful information, and as always delivered with humor and eloquence Anita and Richard. (The poster kids for senior travel.) 😂

    This post had me at the food and left me thinking about why we didn’t ultimately choose Portugal instead of Sri Lanka!? Well, here we can get fresh sardines from the fish market and Ben cleans them and cooks ’em up. But it is not quite the same thing as having grilled sardines and octopus be part of the local cuisine.

    One of the best things about moving ( first ) to Nicaragua, was the opportunity it afforded to learn Spanish. I had lessons on and off but first and foremost I learnt from talking with locals. Took me five years to be able to have good conversations in Spanish, but learning a language is a great brain workout and I definitely enjoyed the challenge. Ben of course was close to fluent in 3 months, maybe less. Ah well….

    Peta

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    • Well, now that we’re famous in Sri Lanka, Peta … ! 😁 And, yes, Portugal’s food is really simple but always awesomely fresh and delicious. We don’t usually take pics of our restaurant orders so I was surprised to have such a variety of photos to choose from. As long as I can stay away from the fabulous desserts (I try to restrain myself with a bite of Richard’s) there’s no reason to not dig in and enjoy! We took Spanish lessons in several countries while we were traveling and I was really surprised how much we picked up. Like Ben, Richard could hold actual conversations while I butchered the Spanglish and did charades. And here in Portugal, I’ll be doing the same thing for a while longer. From all the muttering I hear when he’s working on his homework, Richard’s brain is definitely getting a workout!

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  • Good advice. Having visited Portugal only last month I think it is a country where I would be most happy to live.

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  • In our case we decided years ago that we didn’t want to end up in two rocking chairs, drooling on ourselves in our old age and talking about all the things we wanted to do and didn’t. Little did we know that approach to life would lead us to Greece as full time ex pats this fall. And how I needed this post this morning to remind me of that decision! Woke to find our adopted cat has trapped a mouse between the door and the screen (mouse hanging on for dear life at the top of the screen) and opening the door will likely result in a mouse in the house. I have CIGNA Global insurance papers here that need to be addressed as they seem to think that Mr. Joel Smith and Mr. Jackie Smith are the insureds. Later today we head to Athens in hopes of finding an SUV – automatic, used – which can navigate the road to our house here damaged more than a year ago in the 100-year (we, hope!!) storm and have had several wild goose chases related to car searches already. Our new US passports had to be entered into our bank account here and it was such a process (complete with those US government reporting forms) that I was actually sweating while sitting at the bankers desk and thinking, “Now why was it we thought this was a good idea?” Yes, I needed this post today! BTW, if any readers are thinking of ex pat life in Greece, they should know we don’t have the option of dying and our remains staying here. Greece requires repatriation insurance that will take us if extremely ill or dead back to the U.S. as part of its residency permit requirements.

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    • That is very interesting!

      Greece requires repatriation insurance that will take us if extremely ill or dead back to the U.S. as part of its residency permit requirements.

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    • Loved the image of you and Joel (the two Mr. Smiths! LOL) drooling in your rocking chairs but I so get your point of pursuing all the things you want to do while you can, rather than lamenting later about the ‘What Ifs.’ I know too, that you are realizing what a huge difference there is between slow travel and living part-time in a place versus the extra paperwork that comes with becoming a resident. I think, however, that you are going to love the huge benefit of foregoing the ‘Schengen Shuffle’ every 3 months as well as the freedom to travel leisurely throughout the EU whenever you want. Greece hasn’t been on any lists for easy places to get a resident visa (they don’t make it easy to they?) and I’m always interested when I compare the differences between your experience and ours. Mice, sweaty bank visits and the search for a used SUV aside, life really doesn’t get any better though, does it? How awesome it is to be right where you want to be!

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  • Excellent end to your series. Thanks for all this!

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    • Thanks, Susanna and we’re glad you enjoyed our ‘Twenty Questions’ countdown. It was a lot longer than we’d anticipated and kind of took on a life of its own once we got rolling. Your blog, Future Expats, was one of the few I found back in 2011 with advice about retiring to a foreign country and I remember how interesting it was to read each post as you prepared to move to Panama. We’ve always remembered how terrific it was to read about another couple doing what we wanted to. And it was so fun to meet up in Las Tablas when we traveled through Panama. There are a lot more baby boomer expats abroad now who can inspire older travelers and wanna-be expats and we loved sharing some of the things we’ve learned!

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  • As someone(s) who took full advantage of Dick and Anita’s wisdom and practical suggestions, I can highly attest to the fact that they’re the best For anyone even beginning to think about the expat life in Portugal, Anita and Dick are the go to couple, cuz they’ve been there, done that. We greatly appreciate all of their support and their friendship.

    One thing I would add – with Anita and Dick’s permission – is something that we’ve thought about over the past several months as we traveled through Europe and Portugal: If at all possible take a practice round, i.e. if you’re thinking of the expat life in Spain, or Portugal, or Croatia, or Greece, or wherever, go spend time in the country, Spend at least two or three months living the daily life to glean a good sense of reality. There are so many logistics to sort through, right down to the simple task of grocery shopping when you can’t read the labels. I’ve had some interesting cooking experiences. Ha!

    Thank you Dick and Anita, the information you’ve posted will prove to be invaluable for so many.

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    • Excellent point about spending time in a country before taking the plunge. We traveled to Greece for 8 years before buying a home here and then did part-time residency for 2.5 years before taking the full-time plunge. Your examples of grocery shopping and reading labels (not to mention recipes!) is so very true!

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      • Everyone should try cooking in another country, Patti and Jackie! Eating is part of the adventure. Even now, we’ll start off with one idea and have to change midway through when we’ve found that the beef was pork, the spices we bought aren’t close to what we thought they were or we’re missing 4 ingredients out of 10. We have favorite recipes over the years that we’ve cooked in different countries that have turned out to be quite interesting variations! We like good food but it’s a good thing we’re not picky! 😁

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    • Wow Patti, I think we’re blushing a bit. Thank you and you’re more than welcome. And look at what a wonderful friendship that’s evolved over the months of you and Abi working your way through the visa process and finally landing in Portugal. Your suggestion of spending a few months in a country you’re thinking about moving to is a great one. We found that traveling slowly through several countries gave us a good idea of what we liked as well as things that weren’t so-great and plenty of comparisons. There’s a huge difference between a visit and a long stay and that ‘honeymoon’ time when you’re in love with everything and charmed by the inconveniences eventually fades. No place is perfect and if it is, you still bring all your baggage and expectations along with you. It’s good to have an idea of both a country and a culture before you’re really committed. For us, Portugal and the Algarve with its laid back, slow pace felt like home. For others, a faster pace and more cosmopolitan city like Lisbon or Porto is a better fit. What’s fun is having the opportunity to try different places before you decide!

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  • As a faithful follower of your blog and travels, I am most appreciative of the stories, events and tips you have shared along your journey. Anita and Richard, thanks do very much.

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  • I’ve found your twenty questions posts fascinating. I am a detail person and wonder how these practicalities are taken care. Some of what you’ve done may have been hard, but it certainly has been a worthwhile adventure.

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    • So glad you liked these questions Donna, as we’re always interested in how others go about dealing with the practical details of traveling full-time and/or expating. We too, are detail people and sometimes forget what the big picture is supposed to look like. 🙂 We read one book written by an expat who said just try and do one thing every day when you first start because otherwise starting out in a new country can get frustrating. So far that approach has seemed to work. And, oh yes, the adventure has been more than worthwhile!

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  • Another great blog Anita! We also chose Millennium for our bank in Portugal for your reasons and because their website has an English version. I’ll have to look into their medical insurance through Medis as the premiums are much lower that what I found through AFPOP. I do have a question about state taxes. If you keep a US address, do you have to file state tax for that state? Thanks a bunch! Terri

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    • Thanks Terri. You must be getting excited about your visit coming up! It’s funny you should mention AFPOP as we just joined it and will see if our membership this year is worth the money or if we should just continue to muddle by on our own. I’ll let you know. 🙂 Your question about state taxes is a good one but I’m pretty sure that, if the state you’re claiming as your official residence has an income tax, you have to file for both the state and federal taxes. We lucked out as our official residence is in Texas which doesn’t have a state income tax. It makes life just a little bit simpler!

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      • Yes we’re very excited about our trip! We don’t pay state taxes in Washington either and we don’t plan to keep an official address in the US. However we do plan on using a mail forwarding service for the first year or so. I’m curious if that will count as an official address for tax purposes. So many things to consider!

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        • We’ll be very interested in what you find out during your trip here as well as what you decide, Terri. (We love trading info and tips back and forth. You never know what’s going to come in handy!) Most people we talk to have a back up address at the beginning for whatever mail might come although we were really surprised at how easy it was to transition to doing almost everything on line. Perhaps your mail forwarding service offers an address that you can use if you need to? And you’re right, there’s so many details to juggle. We kept list after list of to-do’s and find-outs over the months that we prepared to leave our old lives and, like most newbies, learned a lot about what we didn’t even know to ask!

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          • Yes the mail forwarding service does offer addresses in numerous states (most are an extra $4.95/month) but the one in NC is included in the monthly fee. After a bit of digging I found out that only 13 states tax social security payments anyway and NC isn’t one of them! The main reason I hear from folks about keeping a US address is for banking. I guess a number of banks don’t allow foreign addresses.

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            • Thanks for the tips, Terri. We weren’t quite sure why we might need an official address at the beginning but we still had our home on Padre Island at that time and knew that mail would be trickling in. And, since we were traveling full-time for the first 3 years, having an official address made everything much easier, especially since my sister lived in the same city. I agree that the main reason now to keep a US address is for banking since we only withdraw what we need here for living expenses (especially since the financial requirements, FBAR and FATCA, are so onerous for many expats) and for keeping international credit and debit cards. We can also request absentee ballots for the State of Texas using that address and keep our US driver’s licenses current (until we break down and get our Portuguese licenses). An official US address still makes life less complicated!

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  • Another great post. The more I read about what you’ve gone through to move to Portugal, the more I am impressed. I sooo want to live in France for JUST 3 months and can’t even get around to organizing it and look at what you’ve accomplished! I guess reality sunk in for you when you got your wills done in Portugal. To me, THAT task would really make it real.

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    • Thanks Janice and we’re so glad you liked the post. It may seem daunting when you look at a list of things that have to be done but really, it’s just a matter of taking it one step at a time. In fact, we’ve both used an example I know you’ll appreciate as a former teacher and principal when we talk about changing our direction in life. Students start school and get through it one class – one grade at a time until graduation. That’s kind of like what we’ve done with deciding on traveling full-time which has evolved into living as residents in Portugal. It’s been fun to watch the paths present themselves and decide which ones to follow. And I know that sooner verses later, that 3-month trip is going to happen!

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  • “What if we died living our perfectly safe lives?” The entire post – chock-full of great info, but this one line, to me, says it all! 😉

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    • Exactly! I know you’ve weighed the ‘What Ifs’ too, Dyanne and your travels are the perfect example of opting for that life of infinite possibilities rather than living a ‘normal’ life that’s safe and shuns any sign of risk taking. I love how you embrace new adventures with gusto and a smile. You’re a wonderful inspiration!

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