I’m a Brit who quit UK for Portugal – fine dining is £30 a head, trains are just over a quid and there’s no council tax

A SUN-DRENCHED adventure was top of the agenda for me when I swapped London for Lisbon – but the move has been brighter for my bank balance too. 

I’m just one of the many British expats who have fallen in love with the Portuguese capital over the years – making my own journey in the summer of 2020.

I moved to Portugal back in 2020 - and my living costs are so much lower


I moved to Portugal back in 2020 – and my living costs are so much lowerCredit: Instagram / @laurenelclark
Rent and dining are so much cheaper - but there are some catches to life in Portugal


Rent and dining are so much cheaper – but there are some catches to life in PortugalCredit: Instagram / @laurenelclark

Working as a freelance journalist, I ended up relocating after living in London for nine years, and found my living costs to be so much lower in Lisbon.

My rent is less than UK – but there’s a catch

I currently pay around £640 (€750) for a two-bedroom apartment in Lapa – a coveted central area of the city more popular with locals then tourists.

Living on my own is something that never felt feasible in London where a room in a flatshare would usually be far more than this – according to Zoopla, the average rent price in London is now £2,121 per month.

Although my flat isn’t the largest or the most modern, it’s absolutely perfect for me.

In terms of other monthly outgoings, I don’t pay council tax (an equivalent is paid annually by landlords) and my bills feel significantly less than those I used to pay in London flat shares – I pay around £100 per month (€118) for electricity, water and internet. 

However, it isn’t all perfect – I was lucky enough to sign a three-year lease back in 2021, with prices having risen since then.

A recent study found it is now the world capital with the highest rise, jumping by 13.9 per cent in the first half of 2023 alone (compared to 1.9 per cent in London during the same period).

The Lisbon rental crisis means I’ve heard some people are paying prices similar to the UK now.

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And as with many older properties in the city, I have neither central heating nor air conditioning – which can make the extremities of summers and winters a little challenging, armed with just a bog-standard fan and electric heater.

On the plus side, it likely keeps my costs down!

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Better value lifestyle

I’ve saved in other ways too, including my transport costs.

While TFL used to take a chunk of my earnings, I now walk pretty much everywhere (most of what I need is within a 30-minute, albeit hilly, radius) – whether that’s to a co-working space, to meet friends for a drink or go to a yoga class. 

If I can’t get somewhere on foot, other forms of transport are amazingly affordable.

The nearest decent beach, Praia de Caxias, is an approximate £1.50 (€1.75) train ride away and the closest big shopping centre, Colombo, is roughly a £1.55 (€1.80) metro journey.

Trains to the nearest beach are just a few euros


Trains to the nearest beach are just a few eurosCredit: Instagram / @laurenelclark

While dining out in London feels like you’re parting with a small fortune, the Lisbon restaurant scene is not only of incredible quality but also far more affordable.

A delicious meal – including food and booze – might set you back around £30 a head at my most-beloved spot in the city.

As such, being sociable feels far more within budget.

One of my absolute favourite things to do is go to the shady quiosque (the city is full of them, often at stunning viewpoints) in Jardim da Estrela and order a coffee for a couple of euros or a chilled glass of vinho verde for a few more.

I now walk pretty much everywhere

Lauren Clark

Interestingly, two areas where the UK certainly wins are groceries and beauty products.

I have to be more cautious when budgeting my food shop because, while most food and non-alcoholic drinks are zero-rated VAT back home, they aren’t here – and it’s a cost noticeably passed on to the consumer.

Additionally, I can bag make-up and skincare far more cheaply back home (I’m the one stocking up in Boots at Gatwick!).

It doesn’t add up for everyone – particularly the locals

I understand why many Brits are still being tempted over by the lower living costs – particularly if you opt to make your home outside of Lisbon, Porto or the Algarve, where rent and house prices are higher.

But there are some other considerations I’d urge you to make.

While expats are finding their money go further, this is not the case for locals, with the minimum wage in Portugal being just €956.70 per month, which works out to €11,480 per year.

This has, understandably, led to frustration and some resentment towards expats, blaming them for rising prices and even seen locals heading abroad to live somewhere cheaper.

And while I may feel better off overall, I’m actually paying more tax (which includes income tax and social security payments) than I would in the UK.

How much cheaper is Portugal than the UK?


  • Two-bed flat in Portugal – £640 a month
  • Average rental price in London – £2,121 a month (according to Zoopla)


  • Cost of electricity, gas and internet in Portugal – £100 a month
  • Cost of electricity, gas and internet in UK – £129 a month (according to Uswitch)


  • Train from Lisbon to Praia de Caxias (30 minutes) – £1.50
  • Train from London to Brighton beach (59 minutes) – £24 on average (according to Omio)

Food & drink

  • Cup of coffee in Portugal – £1.70
  • Cup of coffee in UK – £3.51 on average ( according to Project Cafe UK)
  • Three course meal and wine at top restaurant in Portugal – £30
  • Three course meal at mid-range (on average) in London – £74 (according to

Additionally, just like with the NHS, the health service here is similarly overwhelmed.

As a taxpayer I am entitled to (mostly) free treatment, but I’ve felt forced to go private for certain things, and now pay around £34 (€40) per month for health insurance

I also pay around £105 (€123) per month for an accountant to help me do everything correctly in a language I’m still getting to grips with.

As with many things in life, it really does depend on your personal circumstances, and the grass can seem greener.

At this moment in time I’ve still got the Lisbon blues – by which I mean cobalt skies and turquoise tiles.

If you fancy the move for yourself, Portugal launched it’s digital nomad scheme back in 2022, which allows non-EU residents to move to the country for one year, providing they earn at least €3,280 a month.

And here’s a Brit who ditched the UK for Spain – and raves about the £2.50 beer and 40p trains.

I love my life in Portugal - but there are problems just like other cities in Europe


I love my life in Portugal – but there are problems just like other cities in EuropeCredit: Instagram / @laurenelclark


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