Portugal vs Spain: Which Country Is Better For Expats?

So, Portugal or Spain? If you’re thinking of moving to either of these countries, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each. Here are some arguments that can help you make a decision.

Is it the ‘Portugal or Spain’ dilemma you are facing?

It may be a difficult choice if no prompts are coming from your heart. Culturally and climate-wise, the countries are almost equally rich and attractive. So let’s weigh up the pros and cons of each to help you make a decision.

Cost of living

Living in Portugal will cost less, as Portugal is more affordable than Spain. Be it accommodation, food, drinks or travelling, you will find Portugal remarkably affordable on the whole.

As an example, the average rent in Madrid for a 1-bedroom apartment in the centre is around €1,000. In comparison, in Lisbon, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around €800 per month. In Porto – around €650 per month.

Travel links

Spain is more accessible from other European destinations than Portugal. Also, it’s easier to travel from Spain all over Europe compared to Portugal.

However, traveling all over Portugal is much easier due to its size, and the in-country connectivity there is more efficient.

Cultural diversity

Portugal is more homogeneous than Spain. Spain’s a mix and match of different nationalities and thus is more diverse and exciting. This can be great if you enjoy experiencing different cultures and meeting people from all over the world.


State healthcare in Portugal comes with a moderate surcharge. In Spain, state healthcare is free at the point of use. This is an essential consideration if you rely on state healthcare.

 If you prefer a private option, private healthcare providers in both countries offer a range of services, including consultations, surgeries, and diagnostic tests. The cost of private healthcare in Portugal is generally lower than in Spain, with consultations costing around €50-€100, while visiting a doctor in Spain can cost approximately €70-€150 

Health insurance in Portugal can be between €40 and €100 per month, depending on factors like age and pre-existing conditions. In Spain, it is between $50 to $200 per month. 

However, obtaining private insurance if you are 65 and older is problematic in both countries. In this case, international health insurance might be your only option. 


In Portugal, movies and television programmes have English subtitles. In Spain, everything is dubbed. This can be a major advantage if you don’t speak the local language fluently.

Language barrier

You might find it a bit easier to live in Portugal with little Portuguese than in Spain with little Spanish excluding popular expat locations. This is another important consideration if you are not fluent in the local language.

Visas and residency for retirees and passive income earners

Let’s speak about residency. Both countries have a special type of visa/residence for foreign retirees and passive income earners: D7 in Portugal and a Non-Lucrative visa in Spain.

The financial requirements for the D7 visa in Portugal and the Spanish Non-Lucrative visa differ.

For the D7 visa in Portugal, the minimum amount required is currently €7,980 per year for the main applicant, plus an additional €3,990 per year for each dependent. This can be in the form of income, savings, or a combination of both.

For the Non-Lucrative visa in Spain, the minimum amount required is currently €27,115 per year for the main applicant, plus an additional €6,778 per year for each dependent. This can also be in the form of income, savings, or a combination of both.

Golden visa programs

It is still possible to obtain Golden Visa in Portugal by investing a minimum of €285,000 in such popular locations as the Algarve. However, the program is under scrutiny in parliament, and there is a proposal to shut it down completely. It is still possible to apply right now, and the current applications are honoured, but there’s not much time left.

The golden visa program in Spain requires a minimum investment of €500,000.

You can learn more about various European Golden Visa programs in our guide, Which European Golden Visa Schemes Are Best By Value?


Expats in both countries are required to pay taxes on their worldwide income. However, you can take advantage of a special Non-Habitual Residence Regime in Portugal. Under this regime, if qualified,  you pay a flat rate of 10% for the first ten years of living in the country.

The NHR is a big draw for foreign retirees in Portugal, allowing them to save a lot on taxes.

Other than these differences, there is little to choose between the two countries. Both offer a high quality of life, great weather, and a relaxed lifestyle. If you’re still unsure, it might be worth trying to live in both for some time and decide which suits you best.

For more information, read our Living In Spain and Living In Portugal guides.

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