If you’ve ever dreamed of moving to a country where life is considerably cheaper than where you are now, you should read Tim Leffel’s new book, A Better Life for Half the Price. Travel writer, author and experienced expat Tim Leffel has identified 18 countries where this is possible for people currently living in expensive countries like the US and the UK. One of them is Portugal.

Through his book and additional guides and coaching sessions, Tim aims to help you decide whether or not you’re ready for expat life and how to choose a suitable place to live. Drawing upon his own experience, extensive research and the stories and experiences of other expats living in the 18 selected destinations, he provides enough information to get you started on your rat race escape plan.

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As one of the expats in Portugal that Tim interviewed to gain insights into the pros and cons of living here and the costs involved, I was keen to read the whole book. Especially the Portugal section.

I’ve moved country four times in the last 12 years so I’m familiar with both the perks and the challenges of relocating and starting a new life in a different culture. What I especially like about A Better Life for Half the Price is that it deals with both of these and doesn’t just gloss over the potential difficulties that lie ahead for wannabe expats.

Despite the premise of the book being to help you find a country where your money goes further, Tim makes it clear that there’s more to moving abroad than saving money or drinking sangria by a pool. In fact, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to making you question whether or not you’re really cut out for living away from your comfort zone, whether that be easy access to friends and family, food that doesn’t turn your stomach or systems and laws that don’t make you weep with frustration.

“It’s not the strongest or most intelligent that survive, but those who can adapt to a changing environment.” – Tim Leffel

When every day is different and you are constantly learning new ways of doing things, life can be exciting and fascinating but also exhausting. Some days are like wading through warm tar. Anything involving official paperwork is likely to involve repeat trips with extra documents and seemingly illogical, frustrating delays and complications.

Even simple tasks like doing the weekly shop or paying a bill can take twice as long, if not more. I lost a lot of weight when I lived in Caracas because I ended up dreading the supermarket checkouts. For some reason I never managed to understand, it would inevitably take about an hour to pay for my groceries, even with only one customer in front of me. Venezuela was definitely not the right place for me to live for numerous reasons and I left after a year.

“Finding the right place to live is almost as complex as finding the right mate.” – Tim Leffel

There may be success stories of people who went on holiday and fell so in love with the place that they bought a house and upped sticks to their dream destination, living happily ever after. Neither Tim nor I would recommend doing that. Again, one of the strongest messages in the book is the importance of trying before buying.

Although it may sound obvious, there’s a huge difference to the way you’ll experience and feel about a place when you live there as opposed to taking time out from your normal life to relax and have fun for a couple of weeks. The weather might be glorious while you’re sunning yourself on a beach in June but if you’re planning to live there year-round, you need to consider how you’ll cope with potentially unpleasant weather extremes.

To get a more realistic picture of what it’s like to live in the country, Tim advocates renting a property in a residential area for an extended period. Once there, use the local shops and services, hang out in public spaces and ask other expats what they struggle with.  Current expats are a great resource when you’re researching and evaluating a destination so if you can’t track any down in person, find online forums and Facebook groups where you can ask questions and gauge problematic areas.

During your trial period, and especially before committing yourself by buying property, Tim suggests asking locals about crime and safety in the neighbourhood. I agree. I popped into a local police station during a house-hunting trip to Lisbon and got some very candid advice from an officer about the area I was considering. I had got carried away with dreams and the potential for a particular apartment which was blinding me to the realities of a rather run down part of the city. Talking to him helped remove the rose-tinted glasses and I made the sensible decision not to buy there.

“It’s hard to really know if a place is going to be right for you without doing two things: inner soul searching and exterior evaluation.” – Tim Leffel

The soul searching involves being honest with yourself, and your partner if you’re moving as a couple, about what’s really important to you and what you can and can’t live without. Even if that makes you seem less adventurous or even a little shallow, it’s better to admit and deal with your needs, fears and concerns before making a costly move that could destroy your relationship or make you miserable.

If, after reading about the reasons why moving abroad isn’t for everyone, you still want to give it a go, A Better Life for Half the Price can help you narrow down your options. In fact, Tim has already made your life easier by giving you 18 countries with the potential for halving your living costs without a drop in living standards where the economical, political and cultural aspects of the country are not prohibitively challenging. Even if you don’t fancy any of them, you can use the book as a guide to the kind of information you should be gathering about any destination you have in mind.

As Tim points out, you’ll still need to do more research once you’ve chosen a country but he describes the pros and cons of living in 18 different places. Each country chapter discusses the cost of living, the potential for working there and the visa situation, peppered with anecdotes and advice from expats.

Knowing that some people will appreciate support and guidance beyond what the book offers, Tim has created three different packages to suit different levels of interest. If you just want to read the book, you’ll get a couple of extra free bonuses thrown in. If you need more help, you can choose from having access to group support and additional expat advice or one to one coaching sessions to help you decide if and where you should move.

The ebook is now available to buy on Amazonavailable to buy on Amazon.

Click on the image to find out more about the book and the packages available to help you find A Better Life for Half the Price.

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Note: I’m an affiliate for these packages, which means that if you decide to buy through these links, I’ll get a small commission. You won’t pay any extra but I might be able to buy a cup of coffee. Or a sangria.

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21 Comments

  1. A very interesting article, I read it with pleasure. You have answered many of my questions. Thank you

  2. Hi is there any more up to date blogs just read through this page which are all 2014.
    Thanking you.

  3. I moved to Portugal 17 years ago and just like Julie says this would be paradise if working conditions improved. Salaries are a disgrace and the country has been going through a tough time (economically wise), but it’s still a fantastic place to live!

  4. Thanks for your blogs, very informative! I have recently qualified as a secondary school teacher and would love to come over to Portugal to teach, could you suggest contacts or websites to help find employment at English medium schools or teaching English at Portuguese schools or is it best to contact schools directly? I am a native English speaker. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Christine, Unless you have teaching qualifications that are valid in Portugal and speak Portuguese fluently, I think your best bet would be the international schools. A google search should turn up some contacts.

  5. Hello Julie
    I was interested in reading your answers about living in Lisbon – you mention many green places and walks in green areas. We lived In Cascais for 2 years and search a lot in Lisbon to find large green spaces as one thing we really missed in living there was nature. We lived in 5 different countries and even London and Brussels real oasis of nature were easy to find. In comparison it seemed extremely difficult to have access to real nature or even long walks in green areas. We are considering returning to buy a lace for winters as we live in Stockholm where winters are pretty dark, cold and long. We considered Caldas da Rainha hopping it will have easier access to woods walking and real countryside (hopefully without the unruly dogs). Sintra is too steep for us nowadays. On the other hand we need culture life as in only a big town one can find.
    Can you comment some more about the green areas you use for long walks in Lisbon and also other parts you might know close to Lisbon?

    1. Author

      Monsanto park in Lisbon is probably the easiest and biggest and is large enough for nature. Otherwise, what about the hills and forests around Sintra? An easy day trip from Lisbon. Check Lisbon Câmara municipal website for a list of parks.

  6. Hi Julie,

    Interesting to read your article on rain. I had a similar experience living in Thailand for 7 years. From April/May to October we often had floods from torrential, non stop rain. This was followed by a lot more mosquitoes too.
    I’m now living back in the UK and thinking about buying in Portugal. I don’t want to live in the south because it seems too dry. Central Portugal looks stunning but I’m wondering if there is an area of Portugal which has the beauty without the consistent, heavy rain you described. As you mentioned, rain for a few days at a time we can cope with.

    Regards, Les

    1. Author

      Hi Les, It’s not always as bad as it was when I wrote about the rain. But we do usually get periods of rain that go on for longer than we’d like – as you say, a few days is doable but a week or more starts to get you down. You should check in expat forums to find people who can verify this but I think the area around Lisbon might prove suitable. It’s usually warmer / less extreme weather wise than where I live right in the centre of the country. Try around Obidos, Caldas da Rainha or anywhere in that area just north of Lisbon. I hope you find somewhere you like!

      1. So, having lived in Seattle, WA where it rain for 8 months of the year, although the summers can be great with almost 0 rain and weather in the 60’s to 80’s but I’d still like more sun as I’ve had living in L.A, San Francisco and New York City. So I think weather in Portugal will be better than 8 months if cloud cover and rain/showers. We had a windstorm w/65 hours winds and rain earlier this week. I’m interested in Algarve as I’m tired of rain every day for months.

        1. Author

          The Algarve is probably your best bet in terms of weather – it’s generally sunnier than other parts of Portugal although they can get some rough storms in the winter. One of the things I love about living here is the fact that even in winter, the skies tend to have blue in them more often than not. Can you handle the influx of holidaymakers that pour into the region each summer though?

  7. They say you can find anything on the Internet, but I’m having trouble finding comments on this question: Should I retire (from the US) in Lisbon or in Cascais? I’m in Chicago now and like the big city, don’t play golf, am active but not a beach goer, and will have a monthly budget for two of about 4800 euros. I would assume that Lisbon would hold more appeal for an urban guy like me, but, frankly, people writing about Cascais seem so extraordinarily happy that it’s hard for me to discount that smaller area. We’re coming there for six weeks to explore in January, but wonder about any advance thoughts on this question. Thanks so much.

    1. Author

      Hi George, the only one who can truly answer that is you, I’m afraid. If it was me, I’d be inclined to live in Lisbon and travel to Cascais (an easy train journey) whenever I felt the need (which, now that my beach bum days are over, would be relatively infrequent) but you’ll need to try it for yourself to find out what makes your own heart sing. If you rent a place rather than buying one immediately, you can always move if you find you’re not satisfied with your first choice.

      Lisbon has plenty of green space, cycle routes and walking paths plus a whole host of other activities to keep you fit and busy, as well as the usual city attractions.

      1. Thanks, Julie. I love to run and bike so your input may be more valuable than you think. I like your blog – and your advice. I hadn’t heard the idea of Cascais as a day trip. I had been thinking more of Lisbon being material for a day trip (from Cascais). Thanks again for the food for thought.

  8. I love your blog! Life certainly hasn’t been easy in Portugal the last couple of years and unfortunately a lot of my friends have left Portugal the last two years because of the crisis here, but I am still here, because I LOVE Portugal. Portugal offers a quality of life that is very difficult to find somewhere else. I hope the economy sorts itself out, because than this country would be paradise on earth!

    1. Author

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope you manage to find a way to stay in Portugal. As you say, it’s a wonderful place and if the economy can recover, life will get easier for everyone. I think the important message to take from this is that you (as in anyone considering moving here) need to do your research before coming here to make sure you can find a way to survive without having to rely on finding a job locally.

      1. So, I saw there’s a high unemployment rate but what other issues are going on with the economy might be of concern? Can someone clarify? Since 2008 after the US meltdown and how that can affect the global economy and issues w/a few countries in the EU Nd unrest in the Middle East, are there other concerns specific to Portugal?

        1. Author

          We’re still undergoing austerity measures here, despite having crawled out from the IMF bailout. Things are still tough here with high taxes and unemployment. I wouldn’t count on finding a job here unless you’ve really done your research and know you have something to offer that can’t be found locally and know a company that needs you. Salaries are generally pathetically low so your best bet is to do work for US (or other) clients who can pay you standard US rates, which will go further here in Portugal. Of course, if you are retiring here, you should find your pension goes a lot further here.

  9. Must certainly be an interesting read for people wanting to live a good life for less money!
    Australia is an expensive country, although the quality of life and standard of living are great, but my husband always says that when we retire, we might have to move back to Portugal as with our Australian pension we could live quite well for less!

    1. Author

      Hi Sami, It’s a tough call – both countries are beautiful and great places to live, but as your husband says, your retirement funds would go a lot further here in Portugal. Food for thought 🙂

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