Living in Portugal v USA - comparing healthcare, lifestyle and education

Inspiration Interviews Lifestyle
Moving from the USA to Portugal – how does healthcare in Portugal compare to that in the USA? Is it more expensive? What about education? Is it easy to get a visa? Or a mortgage for buying property? Is the food good? What about the cost of living? And the big one - will I like it?

These and many more questions will swirl in the minds of all those thinking of moving to the Algarve. There is a wealth of information available about moving to Portugal, about adapting to your new home and making the transition to a new country. There are cost of living calculators, guides to buying property, visa portals and more. But perhaps most useful of all are the first-hand reports of those that have already made the move, and whose insights into everyday life resonate most with those still contemplating the move.
 
Check our Moving to Portugal Guide for insights on schools, taxation, where to live, healthcare, buying property and more.


Joe and Terri from the USA made the move to Portugal in 2021, having purchased property through the services of Ideal Home Portugal. A forward-thinking and award-winning real estate agency, Ideal Homes Portugal looks to provide a great aftersales service too, making sure that new home-owners are settling into life in the Algarve.

Sandy Barreiros from Ideal Homes Portugal caught up with Terri for a conversation on life in Portugal, and how certain aspects compare to life in the USA.
- Check out the video below for the full conversation.
- Read on for a summary of Terri’s insights into life in the Algarve.

Ideal Homes Portugal has a great range of informative videos on their YouTube channel, covering topics such as mortgages and visas as well as special offers on properties and services.




Why move to Portugal from the USA?
The reasons for moving to Portugal are multiple and specific to each person. But across the board there is some commonality. Joe and Terri’s reasons reflect this. They took early retirement and looked around the globe for a spot that ticked their boxes:
  • Climate. They wanted sunshine and amenable temperatures to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, the Algarve looked like the perfect destination
  • Security and safety. The fact that Portugal is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world is a very important factor for many people. Politically stable and with little social unrest, Portugal can be seen as a refuge from the turmoil sometimes seen in other countries.
  • Lifestyle and value. Taking early retirement, Joe and Terri knew they would need to choose a location that allowed them to live within their means while also enjoying a comfortable lifestyle throughout their retirement. The cost of living, along with the quality of life in the Algarve, means they didn’t have to give up on one to achieve the other.
 
How does healthcare in Portugal compare to healthcare in the USA?
Concerns about healthcare loom large in the minds of Americans planning to move abroad. Not just the quality of care but also the cost of care and services. As Terri’s experience shows, healthcare in Portugal is not only good, for those accustomed to the American system it is unbelievably inexpensive.

All residents in Portugal have access to the public health system, the SNS – Serviço Nacional de Saúde. As with all national health systems around the world, it is not perfect, but the Portuguese SNS ranks highly compared to many other countries in Europe, ahead of Ireland and the UK, for example.

As Terri discovered through direct experience, the access to public healthcare for an emergency situation was excellent, multiple tests, including scans were carried out, and a specialist appointment was made for the patient, all for the princely sum of €32,50.

Private healthcare is also available, for both residents and non-residents, and it is not unusual for people to opt to use both the private and public systems. Private health insurance is inexpensive compared to the USA with Sandy quoting a monthly family rate of €53.
 
Education
Although Terri’s children have been educated in the USA, Sandy knows from personal experience just how affordable education in Portugal can be. The public school system provides free education (excluding books, stationary, etc). Even university education, while not free, is very affordable. Annual tuition rates at public universities are generally under €1000 per year (usually in the €650 to €850 range). For 2021-2022, annual tuition fees at public universities have been set with a top limit of €697.

Private education is available, from kindergartens and primary schools, right through to high school, international schools and universities, although private schooling can represent a significant investment.
 
Lifestyle – food, wine and fun
The Algarve is well known for its fresh, tasty and reasonably priced food. Joe and Terri have been enjoying discovering local restaurants where unassuming outside entrances often hide sunny patios and terraces, and where the dishes pack a flavour punch.

When you move to a new country shopping at supermarkets and local produce markets is more adventure than chore. Terri has found that there is a greater variety of fresh produce available in the Algarve and at better prices than back in the States. Eating seasonal, local and fresh produce is an ingrained habit among the Portuguese, which means there are always healthy and tasty options available at the markets. Of course, no one is expected to forgo treats from home, and some of the supermarkets that cater to an expat clientele, such as Apolonia, often stock international brands of goodies, as, increasingly, do the national supermarkets chains.

In Terri’s experience baked goods, fresh produce, drinks such as wine and beer are very well priced compared to in the USA. She reckons the wine is cheaper here than water in the states!

With plenty of sunshine all year round, the beaches are a favoured location with many people who move to the Algarve, whether for days lazing the sun or winter walks. Unlike some places in the USA, all beaches in Portugal are public and access is free. No membership, no fees, just a slice of sandy bliss.

If you are interested in moving to Portugal and buying property here, get in touch with Ideal Homes Portugal. They operate across the Algarve region and beyond and can assist with all aspects of buying property, obtaining mortgages and visas, and with making the move.