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Moving to the Algarve

Expats have been moving to the Algarve for decades for the abundance of warm sunshine, the top-class seafood and the slower pace of life. Located on the southern coast of Portugal, rich valleys and picturesque beaches have made this region a popular choice for retirees.

Although the cost of living has started to catch up with other European destinations, the Algarve still has much to offer for those seeking a new life in the sun. There are thousands of foreigners in the area. Those who make the effort to integrate with their local community and learn the language are usually welcomed with open arms.

World-class private hospitals and international schools suitable for expats and their kids are scattered around the region, and state options exist too. It should be noted that the public institutions are comparable to the facilities offered by other European countries, and can be inconsistent in quality. Whether or not an expat qualifies for these facilities depends on their personal situation and where they're moving from, so thorough research is always required.

Expats moving to the Algarve should be cautioned about the stagnant state of the economy. There's a lack of job opportunities in the region. If one doesn't speak Portuguese the chances of finding employment are low.

Expats should also be prepared for some degree of culture shock, especially when it comes to the glacial pace at which life is lived. Bureaucracy can be painfully slow. Difficulty in dealing with town halls and government departments can be a source of major frustration.

The other downside to be aware of is that the Algarve, particularly the central area, gets extremely busy in July and August. Residents often comment that it feels like a completely different place at these peak times. Apart from these points, though, expats moving to the Algarve are in for a treat.

Expats will find that getting around the region is straightforward and inexpensive. This is facilitated by the abundance of low-cost airlines that fly in from other European destinations

Life in the Algarve runs at a slower pace. Its pleasant climate and beautiful natural scenery allow residents to enjoy a great outdoors lifestyle. However, locals in the region can also be very traditional. One will only need to go ten miles into the hills to witness families living self-sufficient lifestyles that differ little from decades ago. Overall, expats who aren't dependent on finding local employment will find that the Algarve has much to offer.

Working in the Algarve

With its stunning beaches and coastal resorts, the Algarve is known primarily as a tourist destination. However, despite the luxury golf courses, apartment complexes and villas, it's also a region of high unemployment and considerable poverty. The inland region of the Algarve is rural and occupied mainly by older people, farmers and expats. Fishing, farming and tourism are the main industries, none of which offer high wages or lucrative opportunities.

Opportunities for employment in the Algarve are limited for expats unless they are fluent in Portuguese or have a specialist skill. It's possible for EU citizens to work in the Algarve without a work visa, but advice needs to be sought from an accountant or financial advisor with regard to setting up a business, registering for residency status and paying taxes.


Job market in the Algarve

Unemployment in the Algarve is high and wages are relatively low, so there are usually plenty of local people looking for work. Portuguese people generally have a high standard of English, which means that native English speakers aren't especially in demand. There may be opportunities for teachers of English as a foreign language to work privately or in language schools. Work in tourism is typically low paid and seasonal with long working hours.

Some expats start their own businesses, often working exclusively for the expat market. These tend to be in trades such as building, gardening, pool maintenance and personal care, as some expats prefer to employ an English speaker to ease communication. 

Other expats work remotely as writers or business owners in their native country. WiFi and plentiful cheap flights to Europe make ‘commuting’ possible for those whose profession doesn't require them to be based in any one place. Earning European pay rates while based in Portugal, with its lower cost of living, is an ideal way for expats to earn an income.


Finding a job in the Algarve

Online portals and expat newspapers advertise existing job offers in the region. Many of these are small ads posted by individuals looking for holiday accommodation cleaners or bar staff. For more professional opportunities, one would need to consider seeking employment in larger cities like Lisbon, where more international employers are based.

Before one considers starting a business in the Algarve it's important to research the amount of work likely to be available. New arrivals should remember that many expat tradespeople have been established in the region for decades and starting from scratch may take some time.


Work culture in the Algarve

Expats in the Algarve will find that paternalism and hierarchy pervade almost every aspect of local work culture. Personal relationships are important to local business people and, as such, it's advisable that expats put considerable effort into getting to know their co-workers and employers.

Expats who manage to learn the local language will also find that more doors are open to them, as local colleagues will usually appreciate the effort they've put into adapting to Portuguese culture. 

Accommodation in the Algarve

From golf resorts and city-centre apartments to homes on the rural hillsides of the interior, the Algarve offers a broad range of accommodation options for expats. Prices vary widely across these different settings and their appeal may vary depending on different lifestyle preferences. Many expats choose rural or coastal villas with pools or properties within tourist complexes.

Property in the Algarve is more expensive than in many other parts of Portugal, Lisbon being the main exception. But Portugal is still one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe to find a home and the Algarve presents plenty of options for all budgets whether buying or renting. 


Types of accommodation in the Algarve

The Algarve offers a wide range of accommodation options, from apartments to villas and everything in between. Both traditional homes and modern apartment blocks can be found in the urban centres. Tourist complexes may present an opportunity for holiday-rental income if an expat will not be in residence all year round. These complexes tend to have communal facilities such as pools and gardens that are maintained for a fee, making them easy to ‘lock up and leave’.

There are also many expats living in the countryside away from the coast, either on golf estates or independently. The regions further inland tend to be very isolated, lacking main roads and amenities, and are populated mostly by Portuguese locals who have lived in the area for generations. Renovated or more recently built homes are also plentiful in the countryside, ranging from modest to high-end luxury. 


Finding accommodation in the Algarve

Property in the Algarve is advertised on international property sites and by numerous estate agents in almost every town. Both rental and sale properties can be easily found through these portals. Expats can also choose to go through local rental agencies, but these tend to take longer and often charge high finder's fees. 


Renting accommodation in the Algarve

There are a number of options for those preferring to rent.

Short-term rentals

Owing to the high number of visitors to the Algarve, there are many holiday properties of all descriptions and locations available for weekly rental during the spring and summer months. Many of these are also available for winter lets at a vastly reduced rate. These properties are fully furnished and ideal for exploring the region before purchasing, or for those not residing in the Algarve year round.

Furnished or unfurnished

Long-term rental properties are usually unfurnished, while short-term properties are typically furnished.

Deposits

It’s standard for landlords in the Algarve to ask for the equivalent of two months’ rent as a security deposit before a tenant can move in.

Leases

To rent accommodation in Portugal, expats will need to sign a tenancy agreement (contrato de arrendamento). This agreement should outline the length of the lease, when it should be reviewed and how much notice the tenant or landlord needs to provide when ending the contract early. Rental contracts can be either open-ended or fixed-term. In the case of a fixed-term contract, the duration and expiry date need to be clearly stated in the contract. Expats must ensure they understand each aspect of the contract before signing it.

Utilities

Typically, those renting accommodation in the Algarve won't have to set up their own utilities. Expats will also need to check with their landlord whether utilities are included in their monthly rental fee, as this varies.