What to know before your move from Canada to Portugal

7 Things to know and do before moving from Canada to Portugal

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Portugal is one of the most preferred countries for Canadians who want to move to Europe. There are 3 main reasons for this preference: the beautiful weather, the real estate prospects, and employment opportunities. 

If you are looking to move from Canada to Portugal, this article will provide you with an essential checklist of everything you need to know about moving to Portugal!

Moving from Canada to Portugal: Everything to know and do

What to know before your move from Canada to Portugal

1. First steps before moving to Portugal

Visa Requirements

One of the first things you need to take care of when moving from Canada to Portugal is your application for a residence visa. To start the application, you must get in contact with the Portuguese Embassy in your Canadian city for your Portuguese visa application. You can apply for your residence visa at the Consulate of Portugal in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, or Vancouver. 

If the residence visa is not the one you are looking into applying for. Visit the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras website to find out more about different visas available.

Once in Portugal, you should then request for a National Identification Number (NIF) at the Finances Services office. You are going to need the NIF for tax purposes, including receiving tax benefits. 

Finally, you should have your Social Security Number settled. This is necessary so that you can enjoy coverage from the Portuguese Social Security. Taking care of your visa requirements is a crucial step before making any move from Canada to Portugal. 

Finding a job

As of August 2023, the unemployment rate in Portugal is 6.2%, compared to the average unemployment rate of Europe at 5.9%. 

Portugal has a high demand in many sectors including transport and logistics, marketing, information technology, human resources, construction, banking and finance, retail, to name a few. 

When finding a job in Portugal, you can use employment vacancies and internet job postings like Indeed and Net-Empregos

Indeed (March 2023)

Getting there 

You may make an informed decision on how to move to Portugal from Canada by looking into these options for transportation. 

Flying is the most convenient way to move to Portugal. You can book your flight to get there, for example through its major airport, Lisbon Portela International Airport. Be sure to arrive in Portugal two or three days before your move in date so you have time to take care of last-minute tasks. 

International Moving Company

Moving all your belongings to a different country in a different continent can be very stressful. This is why it is critical that you choose wisely when looking for an international moving company. There are many different factors that you can look at but the most important ones are damage insurance, experience, and transportation.

  • Damage Insurance: No matter how careful the movers are in handling your items, you can never tell what can happen on a long trip. The only way to protect yourself is by choosing a mover with thorough insurance coverage. In case of damages, you can at least get the monetary equivalence of the damaged items.
  • Experience: New moving companies are always emerging and although they might really be as efficient as they claim to be, they still can’t stack up against the really experienced movers. It’s not advisable to risk the safety of your belongings on new companies. Instead, you should pick one that has been in the business for many years.
  • Transportation: You should take a look at the means of transportation by which the company will be moving your things. The generally preferred method is by airplane, which is faster but more expensive. Some companies only offer sea transportation, which has its own pros and cons.

Must dos before your arrival 

You may find it exciting and challenging to move to Portugal. You will be more prepared for your new life if you are aware of these things beforehand.

  • Find an international moving company. You can find a number of international moving companies that can move your belongings from Canada to Portugal. 
  • If you have a car you would like to bring to Portugal, make sure to do what is necessary for car shipping as well as auto insurance. It might be best to sell your Canadian car and purchase a new one in Portugal as it is best to travel light! 
  • Apartment Hunting: Plan ahead by researching and scheduling apartment visits before your arrival. This proactive approach will help streamline your housing search process and ensure a smoother transition.
  • It is strongly recommended to learn Portuguese, the official language of Portugal, before your arrival as English is not common in Portugal.

Car Shipping to Portugal 

Unless they have significant emotional attachment to their car, most Canadians choose to leave their cars behind when moving to Portugal due to the elevated shipping and import fees and the long vehicle inspection process. If you must absolutely ship your car to Portugal, here are the steps to follow:

  • Get various quotes from the best car shipping companies. A trusted car shipping company will have insurance, good reviews, and will make customer service their priority.
  • Choose the port of departure.
  • Choose the port destination.
  • Prepare the car by cleaning it and emptying the tank to ⅛ full or you may have to pay a fee upon arrival.

*Ask your chosen car shipping company for additional requirements.

2. Upon your arrival in Portugal

Must dos right upon your arrival

  • Get familiar with your neighborhood, and make sure to take note of the important emergency numbers.
  • Locate the essential facilities like the nearest hospital, police station, and fire department for your safety and in case of emergency.
  • If you are moving to Portugal for work, it is recommended to call your employer and advise them of your arrival. If not, enjoy some local Portuguese cuisine like pastéis de nata and Portuguese wine! 


Portugal has a long-established healthcare system that is regulated by the Servico Nacional de Saude (SNS). Canadians can qualify for SNS healthcare services. In order to do so, you must acquire a health card. 

You will need your social security card, passport and your residence permit when you go register at the local health center. Afterwards, you will receive your healthcare card and will be able to get access to healthcare services in Portugal.

Setting up your cell phone

When it comes to cell phone service in Portugal, there are three major providers; Vodafone, Optimus and TMN. All these companies offer both prepaid and postpaid SIM cards. There are no requirements for purchasing prepaid SIM cards. But if you want a mobile contract, you should provide your NIF, a proof of address, and your passport or other valid identification. 

Getting a driver’s license

As a Canadian national, you can use your Canadian drivers license in Portugal for up to 6 months. After this period, you will have to exchange it for a Portuguese driving license

To do this, you should obtain a driving record from your previous residence in Canada. You will also need a doctor’s certificate stating that you are fit to drive.

Foreigners are required to take 32 hours of driving lessons at an accredited driving center which are private companies. After completing the lessons, you will have to pass a Portuguese driving test, which is made up of a theoretical, a technical and a practical portion. Only then will you be finally given your Portuguese driver’s license.

Setting up a bank account 

You need four things in order to open a bank account in Portugal; proof of residency in Portugal, an active mobile phone number, a valid ID number, and your tax identification number (NIF), which you should obtain as soon as possible after you arrive. 

The most popular banks in Portugal are Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), BBVA, Banco CTT, Novobanco, to name a few. 

3. Best places to live in Portugal

Best places to live in Portugal

Moving to Portugal means deciding where you want to live and considering your priorities. We’ve listed the best places to live in Portugal!




Capital of Portugal


Second-largest city in Portugal

Silver Coast

Best for beach and outdoor lovers


Best for a small town feel with rich history

Setting up home services 

For electricity and gas, the main providers in Portugal are EDP, Galp, Gas Natural Fenosa, Endesa and Iberdrola Portugal. Portugal mostly uses wind and hydro electricity to produce electricity for their residents.

As for water, if there is a public water supply network within 20 meters of your property, you must connect to the network. If not, the property owner is obliged to provide water through a septic tank. If you need to request water supply and any form of sanitation, it is recommended to contact the managing team in your area through ERSAR.

Should you rent or buy?

As of June 2023, the median cost of buying a property in Portugal is €355,268; as of October 2023, the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center is €780.60.

Trusted websites such as Idealista.com and Imovirtual are often used to find available apartment listings and property or engage with real estate agents for assistance.

Numbeo (Sept 2023)

4. Cost of living in Portugal


Monthly cost 

1 bed apt rent inside city center



Numbeo’s grocery list



Electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage


Internet with 60 Mbps


Transit pass



Meal, taxi, movie


Gym membership 




*prices in Euros 

Numbeo (Sept 2023)

5. The weather in Portugal

When moving to Portugal be prepared for sunshine and warm weather. The average temperature year round is 21°C. As you move north of Portugal the weather will start becoming cooler however the temperature generally stays the same. 

Summer in Portugal means high temperatures of 29°C during the daytime. Between May and August, there are 10 hours of sunlight every day! 

6. What to do as a local in Portugal

One of the best ways to immerse yourself as a local in Portugal is by trying Portuguese cuisine. Portugal takes pride in their culture but more especially in their food. Take a walk to your local food market and restaurants to try bacalhau, alheira, pastel de nata and cozido à portuguesa. 

Portugal residents love to spend time outdoors, so be sure to take the time to hike and watch the sunset on your weekend off. One of the best views can be seen at Madeira Island. 

If you truly would like to become a local, be sure to explore local farmer’s markets and antique markets filled with unique products for your new home! 

7. Fun facts about Portugal

  • Fun Fact #1: Portugal is famous for its production of wine, but more specifically, Porto.
  • Fun Fact #2: Portugal is home to the oldest bookstore known as Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon.
  • Fun Fact #3: Portugal is known for its unique tiles called Azulejos, usually located on churches, palaces and buildings. 


Portugal is popular for being one of the most friendly countries in the world. The people are kind and generous so this is sure to make the transition to your new life very comfortable. With this guide you will be more than ready for your move from Canada to Portugal! 

Are you planning to move soon? Check out the 7 Things to Know and do Before Moving from Canada to Spain.


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Ann Nacario

The author

Meet Ann – our head writer with a knack for making moving and city living a breeze. From the many details of moving to picking the perfect moving company, she’s your guide. Ann has a friendly yet detailed approach to ensure your move goes off without a hitch. When she’s not writing about relocation, it will always be on her mind, but you’ll catch her spending time with her three furry friends.

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