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Cost-of-living comparison: UK vs Portugal 

Currencies Direct June 12th 2024 - 3 minute read

As the UK moves through the tail end of a prolonged cost-of-living crisis, upping sticks and moving abroad can seem like an appealing prospect.  

When compared to the UK, Portugal offers a warmer climate, beautiful beaches, a rich cultural history and – generally speaking – a lower cost of living.  

However, there are many factors you need to be aware of if you pursue such a move. Housing, transportation, and even healthcare can differ in prices between countries. In this article we’ll go through a few key topics and compare the differences. 

Housing prices and rent 

First up is housing prices, both to buy and to rent. The cost of housing in Portugal is generally lower than in the UK.  

If you’re buying a Portuguese property, prices vary from region to region. In Lisbon, the average price per square metre for properties ranges from €3700 to €7683 depending on the neighbourhood.  

The most expensive areas, such as Santo António, see prices around €7683 per square metre, while more affordable areas like Olivais and Marvila average between €3700 and €4000 per square metre​.  

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in Lisbon’s city centre costs around €1328 per month, and outside the centre it costs about €920 per month. 

In comparison, housing prices in London are considerably higher. The average price per square metre in central London is about £11,000 (approximately €12,700), and even in less central areas it ranges from £4000 to £8000 (about €4600 to €9200) per square metre.  

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in central London can cost around £2500 (approximately €2890) per month, and outside the centre it costs around £1500 (about €1735) per month. 

Overall, Portugal offers more affordable housing options compared to the UK. 

Transportation 

The cost of transportation in Portugal is generally lower than in the UK. In Lisbon, for example, a single metro ride costs €1.65 and a 24-hour ticket for unlimited travel on metro, buses and trams is €6.60​. 

The navegante card (formerly known as Viva Viagem), essential for using public transportation in Lisbon, costs €0.50. It can be loaded with various fare options such as single journey tickets, day passes, and monthly passes. 

Long-distance travel by train, such as from Lisbon to Porto, costs around €25, while bus trips, like from Lisbon to Lagos, range from €15 to €20​​. 

In contrast, transportation in the UK, particularly in London, is more expensive. A single journey on the London Underground starts at £2.40 with an Oyster card, and the daily cap for unlimited travel within Zones 1-2 is £7.70.  

Long-distance train travel, such as from London to Manchester, can cost anywhere from £30 if you buy in advance to as much as £165 for a peak ticket bought on the day​. A return ticket could cost between £100 and £370. 

Transportation in Portugal offers more affordable options compared to the UK, benefiting both residents and visitors. 

Healthcare 

The healthcare systems in Portugal and the UK have significant differences in costs and structure. 

In Portugal, healthcare is predominantly provided through the public Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS), which offers services either free or at a low cost for residents.  

Non-residents and expats from outside the EU typically need private health insurance, which can vary widely in cost.  

For instance, a consultation with a general practitioner in the private sector typically costs around €40, and private health insurance premiums can range from €400 to €1500 annually, depending on coverage levels and personal circumstances. 

In contrast, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is funded through taxation and provides free healthcare at the point of use for residents. 

However, non-residents or temporary visitors may need to pay for services or secure private health insurance.  

Long-term visa holders in the UK must pay the International Health Surcharge (IHS) to access the NHS. The fee is £624 per year for most adults and £470 per year for students and children, covering essential healthcare services. 

Meanwhile, the cost of private health insurance in the UK can range from £1200 to £2500 per year, again depending on the level of coverage. 

Overall, while both countries offer comprehensive public healthcare systems, Portugal relies more on out-of-pocket expenses and private insurance for certain segments of the population, whereas the UK’s NHS provides broader coverage funded by taxation. 

How Currencies Direct can help 

Considering a move to Portugal involves more than just comparing living costs – it also requires navigating the complexities of currency exchange. At Currencies Direct, we specialise in FX, helping to streamline transfers and save our customers money. 

One of the key services we offer is a forward contract. For a small deposit, you can lock in the current exchange rate for up to a year. This protects you from market volatility, ensuring that sudden currency fluctuations don’t impact your budget during your move. 

Additionally, our automated regular payments service makes it easy to handle ongoing expenses such as paying bills abroad, servicing a mortgage, or transferring monthly pension payments. 

With 24/7 support available through our app, you can receive guidance and answers to any queries at any time. Our team is also accessible via email at customer.s@currenciesdirect.com or by phone at +44 (0) 20 7847 9400. 

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Currencies Direct

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