On August 10, 2017 Lufthansa Flight 6952 touched down in Lisbon following a 2 hour flight from Frankfurt. Having missed their original connecting flight from Halifax, two Canadian travelers on board were a little weary but still very excited to see the pastel buildings of the city rising up the hills from the banks of the Tagus River.
We have flown into many cities over the past two years but this time felt very different. We weren’t coming for a short visit or as a jumping off point, we had actually committed to immigration with our new Residency Visas shining brightly in our passports. Something as simple as emerging into the Arrivals area and stepping onto the sidewalk felt like a whole new beginning.
As you know by now we loved our time in Portugal last year and have been eagerly anticipating our return since leaving in early January. We are going to be settling in Lagos for the immediate future and have accommodation here until April 2018. In addition to working through all of the paperwork and logistics to become residents, we will be exploring and looking for a long term base. Whether that is in the Algarve or not remains to be seen.
As we ended up on a later flight, we missed our afternoon bus to Lagos, so rather than take an evening one we decided to get caught up on our sleep and stayed the night at an airport hotel. A comfy bed, some time to gather our thoughts and a terrific breakfast buffet the next morning combined to make it a great choice.
The next morning we were rested and excited to catch a bus for Lagos. A big shout out to Dick and Anita at No Particular Place to Go for putting us up for three weeks, but also for sharing their experience and contacts with us. Also a big thank you to our friend Kiki who lugged us around when we arrived, and has been supportive in so many ways.
Lagos in the height of the tourist season is quite different from when we left in the winter. At that time it was quiet and relaxed with little traffic, no lines at the grocery stores and only a few people on the streets. Now there are waits to enter the traffic circles, crowded aisles and queues at the supermarket checkouts, and a broad spectrum of languages and nationalities on the streets. For those of us who prefer a relaxed pace it seems crowded, but it is important for the local businesses.
Our first two weeks have not been typical in that we are not starting from scratch with the language, street directions and food choices. We have been here before but more than that this time we are here for the long haul. We can take time to learn enough of the language to have more than a fleeting encounter with people, experiment with local ingredients and recipes, and discover special picnic places along the shore and on the inland hillsides.
One of our personal goals is to complete the 450 km Rota Vicentina which runs from Santiago de Cacém to Cabo de São Vicente. The trails of this system traverse a broad range of regions and ecosystems across southwest Portugal and are calling out for slow exploration.
To do all of the things we want requires patience and we have already found ourselves more relaxed and focused than in quite some time. So for now we are starting with the requirements to obtain our Temporary Residency Permit which allows us one year in Portugal. This can be renewed in two year increments.
The first step was to obtain our Número de identifição fiscal (NIF). These are available from the local finance office (finanças), however we chose to go through ACOQ, a local Tax and Business consultancy who we would recommend if you are looking for fiscal representation. A NIF is required to open a bank account, make major purchases and obtain the Residency Permit. With their assistance the process was quick and efficient. The total cost was €413 for both of us including the fees.
With our fiscal numbers we were able to open a Portuguese bank account and obtain private health insurance at what we felt were very competitive rates. Be aware that you will need an address and rental contract for almost everything you do. This can take the form of a lease, rental agreement or in some circumstances you may also be able to obtain a signed proof of address from the local Junta de Freguesia (a local municipal government office). Immigration and Borders Services or Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) are very strict about this, as are all government services.
Our own situation is a good example as we plan to rent from the owners of a villa and will not have a formal lease. As such we needed to find two local citizens to attest to the fact that we will be living at the address and register the document with the local freguesia. Initially however the bank accepted an email confirmation of our address as did one of the major telecom companies. We have a cellular, internet and television package contract at a fraction of the cost we are accustomed to in Canada.
With these initial steps completed we have a meeting with SEF scheduled for mid-September to apply for our Temporary Residence Permit. We are regularly updating all the steps on our new Emigrating to Portugal page which we hope will be a helpful resource for anyone considering a move to Portugal. Another particularly good site is the Gail at Large – Life in Portugal page by fellow Canadian Gail Aguiar which has extensive links to online resources.
Prior to our SEF meeting we plan to move into our own place and we are actively looking for a car. When we haven’t been working through logistics, we have really enjoyed walking and birding, swimming both in the pool and at nearby Praia do Porto de Mós, exploring the well stocked supermarkets, drinking great wine and coffee, catching up with old friends and meeting new people.
Our plan for the blog in the future is to do a monthly “catch-up” type post where we talk about day to day life in Portugal. We will add new shorter specific posts to the Exploring Portugal pages as we explore the villages, countryside and special places of this beautiful and peaceful country.