What It’s Like Living In The Azores As An Expat?

Is living in the Azores a good idea? Learn about the lifestyle and cost of living. Decide if the Azores could be your perfect expat hideaway.

If you love the thought of living in Portugal and you’re searching for a guaranteed laid-back lifestyle with fewer extremes of temperature than parts of Portugal can experience, you should consider living in the Azores.

Located in the Atlantic Ocean, this archipelago of nine islands, an autonomous region of Portugal, has plenty to offer.

The islands are stunningly beautiful, with peaceful yet relatively active locations offering expats a wealth of choices when it comes to activities as well as an affordable cost of living.

What’s the weather like in the Azores

The Azores can be best described as having a maritime subtropical climate.

Influenced by their location in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream, as well as their latitude.

So whilst the Gulf Stream and the islands’ latitude could suggest more temperature extremes, their physical location in the Atlantic ensures the climate is mild all year round. 

Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the climate in the Azores is perfect!

In the summertime, it’s warm; in the winter, it’s mild.

There is rainfall in moderation, and only occasionally do storms hit the islands in the summer, with the odd rough winter day being the only negative climate issue. 

On the whole, the climate in the Azores is the one that helps us live longer and healthier.

You can read more about such climates in our guide, The Healthiest Climate That Could Help You Live Longer.

Is it expensive to live in the Azores?

No, compared to other popular expat destinations in Portugal, the Azores are very affordable.

Your house bills will be much lower compared to Portugal’s mainland.

Day-to-day shopping will cost you less since the VAT in the Azores is lower (18% versus 23% in mainland Portugal).

Being an island, certain items will cost more to import.

However, everything you may need is readily available. European-based companies, such as Ikea, even deliver here. 

A meal in a local, lower-end restaurant will cost you as little as €10, while for a 2-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, you can expect to pay roughly €40.

A pint of domestic beer will set you back €1, and a bottle of imported beer costs as little as €1.80

For daily essentials, a liter of milk costs just €0.60, a loaf of fresh bread costs €0.78, and a bottle of mid-range wine will cost €3.30.

A month’s membership at a gym will cost roughly €30, monthly utilities can cost less than €200, and monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center can cost as little as €470.

Is the Azores a good place to retire to?

Because of the attraction of the weather, the islands have become something of a hotspot for expat retirees. 

You will experience few harsh extremes and sufficient rainfall to ensure your garden and the surrounding countryside is always lush, verdant green.

If you are looking for a peaceful location, the Azores are much calmer than mainland Portugal when it comes to nightlife and tourism so that your summertime days and nights are not spoiled by touristic noise and crowds.

At the same time, the islands have been well discovered and are beloved by visitors from many nations, so there is still plenty to do and see to stop you from getting bored!

If you relish golf and are considering living in Portugal because of the number of incredible courses, particularly in the Algarve, you’ll be pleased to know there are good fairways in the Azores too. 

You can try the Balalha or Furnas Golf Clubs on Sao Miguel island or perhaps Terceira Golf Course on Terceira island. 

And if you’re a golf widow, don’t worry; there’s much more to the Azores than just golf.

As mentioned, the islands are so lush and green thanks to the weather.

They are also very fertile, so gardening is a popular pursuit. 

Wining and dining out is also a highly enjoyable pastime because there are so many exceptionally good local restaurants and cafes on each of the main islands. 

If you enjoy walking, hiking or mountain biking, or cycling, these are popular pursuits in the Azores – as is fishing with big game, sea, and lake fishing. 

Bird watching is another popular pastime – or if you prefer more activity and adventure, what about tennis, horse riding, swimming, or even scuba diving?

Moving to the Azores as a non-EU national

Non-EU citizens moving from North America and the United Kingdom must apply for a long-stay visa and a residence permit to live in the Azores permanently.

The most popular options are a D7 visa for passive income holders and a Golden Visa.

While a D7 visa is perfect if you want to retire and live in the Azores permanently, a Golden Visa gives you more flexibility.

Besides, there are some interesting investment opportunities in Portugal right now.

If you have questions or need more information about your Golden Visa options, contact us via our page on Residency and Citizenship. We will be happy to help. 

The pros and cons of living in the Azores

The Azores have so much to offer expats. However, like anywhere in the world, there are upsides and downsides. 

The pros of living in the Azores

1. Mild subtropical climate 

The climate in the Azores is very mild, which makes it friendly for residents and visitors alike!

Temperatures can vary between 10°C and 20°C throughout the year. In summer, temperatures can reach 25°C.

This means you won’t need any heavy coats, and you’ll save plenty of money not needing air conditioning. 

2. Low cost of living

One thing that makes life in the Azores so appealing is how affordable it is to live here.

For those seeking to retire here, you can live very comfortably on a small budget. Although you may sacrifice a small number of luxuries, you can easily get most things that you need. 

Plus, as an expat, you might qualify for Portugal’s low tax regime for your first ten years of residence in the Azores.

3. Easy access

There are three major airports located in the Azores: 

  • João Paulo II Airport, named after Pope John Paul II, on São Miguel
  • Horta Airport, located in Faial
  • Lajes Airport, found on Terceira island

There are regular flights to and from the UK, the US, and Europe. Azores Airlines offer direct flights from mainland Portugal, Boston, New York, Toronto, Paris, and Frankfurt airports.

Swiss Air Lines, Lufthansa, and Iberia also operate regular flights to the Azores, especially in high season. Flights are still available in winter but are less regular.

Ferries between the islands operate on a regular basis. 

4. A relaxed lifestyle

Life in the Azores is relaxed.

This outlook seeps into all aspects of life, making it an ideal place to unwind for those seeking an escape from the rat race.

This can present some hurdles when it comes to anything bureaucratic. However, it is more than made up for when you take in the views and remember where it is you actually live.

There’s also next to no traffic, and there are no mosquitoes. 

5. Volcanoes create a landscape for explorers

Made up of 9 volcanic islands, the Azores has something for every taste, whether it’s exploring picturesque forests, hiking beautiful mountains, escaping in natural pools, or relaxing on one of the many beaches.

The islands are easily accessible, so you have plenty of variety should you want a change of scenery. This is a place to reconnect with nature and escape from the world. 

6. Whale Watching

The Azores are one of the best locations in the world for whale and dolphin watching.

If you go out on one of the boat trips, you may even get to see a magnificent Blue Whale.

The cons of living in the Azores 

1. Red tape 

The pace of life here can be frustrating for those unaccustomed to it.

Formal processes such as visas, bank accounts, and residence permits can take a long time.

2. Somewhat limited healthcare 

The public system in the Azores, like the rest of Portugal, is very good, with many private options also available. Services can be lacking on the smaller islands. 

Non-EU citizens planning to retire in Portugal will need private health insurance for at least until they get a residence permit.

After that, they can join the National Health Service (SNS).

However, many expats opt for international health insurance as it gives them coverage both in Portugal and in their home country.

To ensure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

Healthcare under Portugal’s national health system is free for children under 18 and those over 65. The rest will only need to contribute a small fee every time they see a doctor. 

3. Unstable weather

Despite the pleasant temperatures, the weather in the Azores can be quite inconsistent.

Locals describe the experience of having four seasons in a day, which can mean rain and sun within a matter of hours.

You may not need a winter coat, but you’ll definitely need an umbrella. 

Do they speak English in the Azores?

Thanks to a NATO base in Terceira and its inclusion in the curriculum of many schools, English is widely spoken in the Azores.

Also, due to its proximity to the United States, many locals have migrated and returned, developing skills and bringing them home. In rural and remote areas, this is less common. 

Learning a few Portuguese phrases will go a long way, even if it’s nothing more than a simple courtesy. The gesture will be warmly welcomed.

Are the Azores safe?

Thanks to its isolation, the Azores is considered very safe when compared to other European tourist hotspots in regards to larger threats. 

Plus, recent economic growth, thanks to tourism, has improved the quality of life for the local community.

Like anywhere in the world, crime does exist, but on a small scale.

The Azores are considered a safe place to live. 

Where to live in the Azores

In terms of where to live in the Azores, well, your lifestyle preferences will very much dictate the choice you make and also the locations you feel most at home in. 

As an archipelago made up of nine islands, you might think you’d be spoiled for the choice of potential places to settle.

However, the development across these different islands is varied, so the lifestyle you’re seeking will significantly impact where you choose to live.

Given the islands’ isolation, the population on each island is also varied.

The islands are divided into three groups, the Eastern, Central, and Western islands. Sao Miguel and the Terceira islands are the two most populated areas, making them the most appealing option for expats.

Santa Maria is also worth considering. 

You could also look at São Jorge if you’re comfortable with a minimal lifestyle.

The other islands are: 

  • Pico
  • Faial
  • Graciosa
  • Flores
  • Corvo

Sao Miguel

Sao Miguel is the largest island in the Azores by population and landmass measures. It’s also home to the capital, Ponta Delgada.

This bustling city is the Azores’ economic, cultural, and political center, making this the ideal location for expats.

Here, you’ll have everything you need to live a comfortable life, along with access to stunning local scenery, including natural lagoons, forests rich in color, mountains, and the largest beach on the island – Praia de Santa Barbara.

Sao Miguel is not only well connected to the other Azores islands but the rest of the world, too, thanks to its international airport.

Sao Miguel is the kind of place where even in the heart of the city, amongst its bright lights, you can see a night sky full of stars.  


living in the Azores, Portugal
Angra do Heroismo and Mount Brazil on Terceira Island

Terceira is as beautiful as it is historic.

Since its founding in 1534, the old town of Angra do Heroismo has been slowly built over time into the economic hub that it is today, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For those seeking an alternative to Sao Miguel, Terceira will not disappoint. Life here is very relaxed, so you can maintain a metropolitan feel amongst the island’s peacefulness.

Housing here is also at least 20% cheaper than on the more developed island of Sao Miguel.

You’ll find a lava tunnel in the island’s center, along with mountains offering breathtaking views of the city and the rest of the island. Beaches, lagoons, stunning scenery, and excellent quality of life – there is a lot to love about Terceira. 

Santa Maria

Santa Maria is an excellent island for those seeking tranquillity and the best weather in the archipelago.

This small but mighty island offers potential residents remote beaches and stunning landscapes.

It isn’t named sun island for no reason!

Santa Maria is not as established as, say, Sao Miguel or Terceira, so for those seeking a more urban lifestyle, we wouldn’t recommend settling here. 

São Jorge

São Jorge is a fascinating island. Called Dragon Island, the island is much more hilly and steep than the others.

The local population has adapted to the terrain living on the part of the land called fajãs.

This land is formed at the bottom of coastal cliffs caused by landslides.

The lifestyle can be very basic; a few residents on the island still don’t have electricity.

There is a micro-climate on the island that has enabled São Jorge to become the only coffee plantation in Europe.

The other islands, whilst beautiful in their own right, are better suited for expats as a temporary destination rather than a place to settle.

You can find more information in our detailed guide on the best places to live in the Azores.

Given the diversity of the Azores, we strongly recommend visiting the islands first to find the perfect place for you.

Plus, what better excuse is there for a holiday, right? 

You might find helpful:


  1. Ola, Hi. Does a Brit with an EU Irish passport (from having Irish parents) have the same residency conditions as a European citizen? If not, do the visiting periods change? Many thanks for the informative site. Obrigado.

    • Hello Marc,
      As an Irish citizen, you are also a citizen of the European Union, giving you full rights to live, work and do business across the EU. If you would need further information, you can check out our website (www.lvpadvogados.com) and get in touch with us, we’d be happy to assist you in Portugal.
      Warm regards, Joana.

    • Hi Gery, yes, there are stray dogs in the Azores. There are also many passionate residents who try to sort this out and help stray animals as much as they can. Local animal and dog rescue shelters are always in need of help and volunteers.

      • Can anyone connect me with an Australian? I need to know which company to use to ship the container and or household effects.
        Would be interested in knowing what household effects are useful to take with.
        How do expats go about learning the language

  2. Hi. I’m contemplating moving out of the US. I know that the best way to experience life is to actually live in your destination for at least 6 months. What would you recommend I do to begin prior to going there? Also, 2 questions: how does one travel to the other islands? Are there annoying insects (read mosquitoes)?
    Thank you so very much.

    • Hello Cathy,
      Azores is a breathtakingly beautiful destination that you’re sure to love. There are many resources available online to help you plan your trip, but I suggest starting with the “Visit Azores” website for in-depth information (https://www.visitazores.com/en).

      As a US citizen, you’re allowed to stay in Azores for up to 90 days without a visa. If you’re looking to stay longer, you’ll need to apply for a long-stay visa through the Portuguese Consulate of your current area of residence. For more information on the visa application process, you can check out https://www.lvpadvogados.com/

      I hope this helps!
      All the best,

  3. Hi,’ Elizabeth,
    We visited Pico Island in late August or early September and the Wi-Fi was perfect.
    Never once did we have a problem, and we were there for a week.

  4. I completely agreed with you, the Azoeres are a great place to retire. I bought a house in Sao Miguel, and the only thing it is frustrating me that everyone think all Ex-Pat are millionaires and their services charges goes over three times what they will charge the locals…I moved there because with my retirement in the USA I could leave amore comfortable life and affordable. But Im getting disappoint it with this double standards…

  5. Hi! Do you know of a library, with books in English, anywhere Pico Island or maybe Faial?
    Also, what is wifi reception like in Pico Island?

    Thank you,

    • @Elizabeth De Almeida, The library in Horta has a collection of books in English. Wifi reception with a MEO subscription is good

  6. Are there snakes anywhere on the Azores Islands? Doesn’t matter if they are dangerous or harmless, tiny or not. I have a phobia of them and am looking for a European location that has none besides Ireland. Thank you for the kindness of a reply~Judith

  7. Nice writeup about the Azores.
    Small correction, Santa Maria is not the smallest of the islands, Corvo is, and Graciosa is also smaller than Santa Maria.

    • The article states that Santa Maria is a small island……not the smallest island. It is correct! Beautiful archipelago!

  8. Can American citizens (soon to be an Expat) buy property in the Azores? What is the current situation regarding Covid-19?
    Thank you

  9. We just got back from our first trip to the azores and loved it. It has everything we have been looking for in a retirement location.
    Is there a certain area of São Miguel where retirees live? Is there an active retiree community to engage with?

  10. Hello
    We would like to know how much money would we need to make the move from canada to the Azores? And can we get our pension from Canada transferred to the Azores ? Is there a big difference with Canadian money and Portugal money?
    And what would be the procedure to make the move?
    Thank you
    Hope to hear from you soon
    Have a nice day😊

    • Hi Carole,
      It looks like a very exciting move, congratulations. We can’t help you much with the info as our primary audience is British. Rules concerning pension transfers differ from country to country. Look at the Double Taxation treaty between Portugal and Canada and see what it says about pension taxation. If under the agreement your Canadian pension is taxed in Portugal, then you will probably be able to benefit from 10 years of no tax living, however you do need to consult a specialist.
      Good luck with your move

    • “The other islands, whilst beautiful in their own right, are better suited for expats as a temporary destination rather than a place to settle.” – that is not true. Faial and Pico are very popular to settle down as well, with great airports, many shopping centers, Continente etc. There’s even a Burger King on Pico island.

  11. Looking for retirement information for living in the Azores. Cost of home buying what is need to purchase a home for a foreigner. Taxes and other expenses for moving and retiring from America to an Island in the Azores?

    What is the main economic factors in the Azores, i.e. farming fishing?

    Thank You

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