Living In Lisbon: Guide For Expats and Digital Nomads

Thinking of moving to Lisbon, Portugal? Well, maybe not permanently, but as a digital nomad? There are lots of expats in Lisbon and more and more are making the move over. It could be that the Lisbon cost of living is drawing them there. Perhaps, it's the year-round sunshine. Want to know what some of the motivation is for living in Lisbon? Take a look at a this interview we did with one of our good friends who has called Lisbon home for the majority of the last 2 years. He gave us great insight into what it is like living in Lisbon along with some great tips and suggestions for anyone who is looking to try it out for themselves.

We have not lived in Lisbon ourselves. However, we did spend an entire week there a couple of years ago and would love to go back and try it out for an extended period. During our week in Lisbon we rented an AirBnB in the Alfama area and spend our days working online and mixing in a bit of sightseeing every now and them. 

Lisbon Cost of Living - transportation on tram

Our experience is quite different from what our friend describes here since we were mostly tourists and didn't really get to know any other digital nomads in the area. We also didn't have a clue where the expats liked to work and hang out so this information really made us want to go back and see it in a different way.

Living In Lisbon: An Interview With A Digital Nomad

The first question on our minds was in regards to location. If you're going to stay in a city like Lisbon for an extended period, you don't really want to in the heard of the tourist area (or do you?). Typically, digital nomads would want to be living where prices are not inflated and it's easy to blend in like a local.

A good location should also give you convenience and easy access to things like restaurants, transportation and cafes or co-working spaces.

Here's what he had to say:

Where Should Digital Nomads & Expats in Lisbon Live?

"I lived in Graca which I loved and was good has a great Coworking called Heden. Before I lived out of town a bit in a place called Compo de Ourique, which is traditional and nice but I wouldn’t recommend it for most DNs. "

  • Most people seem to live in Graça, Alfama and Baic
Lisbon Cost of Living - airbnb apartment

Long Term Rentals...how do you find them?

"Uni places is good. Or just asking around in some FB groups. There’s Lisbon Digital nomads. I personally just go for Airbnb because of the convenience of it. There’s tons of stuff on there but it’s getting more and more expensive. For a nice 1 bedroom apartment you’re likely going to be paying around $1K-1.5K/month at least on there. "

  • If you fancy staying longer than a few months long-term rental websites such as Idealista and a few others in Portuguese.
  • The best way to find a place here tend to be word of mouth. Once you’ve stayed for a while and get to know people, someone will always know a spare room for you to take up.

Best Hostels and Hotels...any personal recommendations? Anything you may have heard others talk about?

"I’ve never personally stayed in any hostel but I’ve heard Lisbon Poets Hostel is a great place for a few nights. They don’t take bookings longer than few weeks but it’s pretty clean, well decorated and they organize trips and tours around Lisbon"

Lisbon Cost Of living

General Day To Day Expenses

  • Coffee - somewhere between €2-€3
  • A quick lunch in a sit down restaurant cost between €8 - €10
  • A nice dinner meal cost somewhere between €10-€20.
  • Groceries are comparable to anywhere else in Europe. 
  • Pastries here are very cheap (and awesome.) 
  • Locally produced wine is cheap and great. 
  • Metro tickets for the month will cost you around €60-ish. 
  • Co-working with a hot desk option tend to be around €150 a month.
Lisbon Cost of Living -restaurant receipt

Typical monthly Rent? What would be included?

"I personally paid $1040/month for a one bedroom in Grace covering all bills and Wifi and weekly cleaning. I think (sadly) this is a pretty good deal unless you ask around and know people here and are able to get some local deals. 

Renting one bedroom in a three bedroom flat is around €500 a month. The utility bills depend on what kind of aircon or heating options you have in the house. Electricity tends to be very expensive in Lisbon."

Remote Work and Living in Lisbon

Once we had a good idea of the location for staying long term in Lisbon, naturally, we wanted to know where digital nomads could set their laptops down for a few hours of work daily. After all, being able to work remotely means you need a good internet connection, a good standing or sitting area with a desk and maybe even some coffee.

Living in Lisbon

Where can digital nomads work from?

Most cafes are too small or they don’t have proper chairs and tables for working so people tend to work out of the same spots that are quite well known in the community:

  1. Copenhagen Coffee Lab
  2. Use the mobile app called Croissant. You sign up and buy monthly hours which gives you access to most the coworking spots in town. This is a great way to easily test out all the spots to make up your mind on what works for you best. New spots are popping up all the time. (highly recommend)
  3. Lastly you can work from libraries and sometimes when the weather is nice you can even go to a park and find a cafe in the park to work from.

There are many coworking spaces here which allow day passes so you can always get a pass and roam around​. Here are some co-working spots in Lisbon:

Living in Lisbon - colorful
  • Heden (favorite)
    • Pros: it’s a very creative space are both very beautiful and thoughtful interior design he has natural light coming from sky lights and the entire space feels very Zen.
      Cons: The sound insulation doesn’t work very well in Heden. Also because there is a lack of call booths people tend to take calls right from the desk so it get’s noisy here. 
  • Cowork Lisboa
  • Cowork Central
    • Pros: Good local expat community. Great view from downtown location. Wi-Fi is strong and reliable. Occasionally, they organize dinner for the members. They have a slack channel for members to get to know one another and it can be a good way to break the ice. 
    • Cons: Because of the popularity there is very few spaces available through the Croissant app. When it gets really busy you sometimes have to work in their kitchen space. 
  • VRLAB
  • Outsite
    • Pros: It has a lot of desks available and meeting room and a quiet room. There seems to never be more than five people working there.
    • Cons: The building is very echoey, so if you are there to take a conference call is practically impossible. Because of the lack of people working here there does not seem to be a community of coworkers. 
  • Bworking Spaces
  • NOW_BEATO (second favorite)


Getting Around - Transportation In Lisbon

What mode of transportation is used on a daily basis? Is there public transportation? Is it easy to get transportation? Tips for the best way to get around?

Living in Lisbon - public transportation
  • It’s super easy to get around. The metro is what I use daily which can get you to most places in the city. The tram is also easy to get as well. Tram 28 which is the main touristy one goes right past my house so I get that often. 
  • If you do decide to go on Tram 28 try to go away from peak times as it can get really crowded. For that reason I get the metro normally.
  • Google Maps is great for planning out routes and reliable. 
  • You can get the metro to and from the Airport easily so I’d recommend that when first arriving.
  • At every metro station they have ticket machines. You can buy a ticket using card or cash and then use then use that for the duration of your stay. These work on the trams as well. You scan a little machine as you get on.
  • They’ve also just introduced Uber Ebikes which is cool. The appeared overnight a week ago.
  • If you’re not interested in any of that then go for normal Uber. I’d say it’s one of the best places for Uber I’ve ever visited. Literally at any time of day there’s an Uber 5mins away max. 
  • You can take public bikes as well there are docking stations everywhere you just need to download a mobile app


Food.. eat out or cook at home?

"I eat out 99% of the time. There’s so many good food spots here that I’d eat out always if your budget allows for it. This can add up though so the odd visit to the shops is worth it. "

Cost Of Living In Lisbon - Food
  • If you want to try some local dishes there are always dish of the day options in most restaurants. That’s a set meal precooked for the day with an appetizer, a main course and a drink. 
  • Big groceries: Pingo Doce, Continente and Lidl. 

Foods to eat - any specific dishes that are good at restaurants? Quick bites for busy people? Cheap places to go regularly?

Lisbon Cost of Living - food
  • Pasteis de Nata are a sweet breakfast meal that I have most days with a double espresso. 
  • Padaria Portuguesa is a bakery chain all over the city with very good pastries, cheap coffee and quick pre-cooked sandwiches for lunch.
Living in Lisbon

Eating tips - how to order food?

"I recommend using Google translate but no need to worry. Most restaurant owners here speak pretty good English to help you understand the menu. It’s useful to pick up some basic Portuguese phrases but not required."

Tourist traps To Avoid

  • Time Out market is horrible. 
  • Restaurants in Chiado in general 
  • Pick pockets in Baixa-Chiado area and on popular trams 

Connecting To WiFi and Sim Cards

"The Airbnb had it when I arrived and it was included in the price. I think it would be easy to set up though. 

My standard sim card worked here so I didn’t set anything up.

Vodafone seems to be a popular option here. Costing about €20 a month on a prepaid plan. You can get it from the Vodafone booth at the airport but there may be a long wait or you can go to a Vodafone shop in the city and get it there."

Expats In Lisbon - tiled

Visas 

"People from outside of the EU cannot stay here for longer than three months but it seems easy enough to extend your Visa you just need to call the board of control and they will grant you permission to stay here while you start your Visa"

Networking With Expats & Other Digital Nomads

"Meetup is good here. They have a Digital Nomad meet up every Thursday which is a good way to meet people. They also have coworking days where you can meet up to discuss ideas, etc. "

Best Time Of Year To Be In Lisbon

"June onwards until about November especially in the summer months people in Europe to come to Lisbon for holiday.

Expats In Lisbon

The worst time to be here is from December to February this month tend to be rainy, windy and cloudy most of the time."

Recommended Things To Do In Lisbon

  • Rent a bike and cycle to Belem tower
  • Visit Caiscais for the day 
  • Visit the castles in Sintra
  • Go to a Fado place and have some wine with live music 
  • Do a walk tour and learn about the history of the city
  • Sit by the waterfront and wait for the sunset
  • Taste all the local pastries
  • Take the tram 
  • Look around the area called the seven hills
  •  Visit the other side of the bridge by taking the public ferry
Living in Lisbon - what to see

Other Areas Near Lisbon Good For DNs

Porto is a great city to visit and three hours away on the train. Carvalhos is a great beach town about 30 minutes on the train from Cais de Sodré.

How does Lisbon compare to Chiang Mai?

Lisbon is more of a place to live on the water, whereas Chiang Mai is all about the mountains. If you love the sea, Sandy beach and surfing, you will enjoy Lisbon. If you love hiking and motorbike rides, Chiang Mai is better. Chaing Mai is more suited to DN’s in terms of cafes etc.  Also, Chiang Mai is much cheaper. 

Lisbon Cost of Living - getting around

How does Lisbon Compare to Bali?

  • Lisbon is all about the city life. Bali is an island and life is much more chilled out. 
  • Easier to get around in Lisbon with decent public transport. 
  • Bali roads are dangerous if you’re not a confident rider.
  • More transient vibe in Bali 

Additional Insider Tips

  • The rent keeps on rising and there seems to be no stopping it. 
  • Many places have no AC and it gets really hot in the summer. Make sure you’re prepared for that. 
  • It’s hilly! Make sure you’ve got suitable shoes.
Lisbon Cost of Living - viewpoint


What’s something that makes you think “Only in Lisbon?

"Life by the ocean. The whole country is on the coast!"

Living in Lisbon - visit Cascais Beaches

So, would you pick Lisbon as a digital nomad or expat city to live in for a short while? Do you know anyone who has lived there as an expat? If you have any experience living in Lisbon that you would like to share with our readers, please drop us a comment below.

Based on chatting with our friend and learning from his experience of moving to Lisbon, Portugal, we think that it would certainly be a place we'd like to try out for ourselves. Our favorite aspects of life in Lisbon would be the sunny days, colorful streets, good food, and lots of fun things to do with other expats and digital nomads in the community.

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Taiss Nowrouzi

About the Author

Taiss Nowrouzi

Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!

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Sometimes referred to as the ‘next Berlin’, ‘Europe’s San Francisco’ or ‘the Chiang Mai of Europe’, Lisbon has built up quite the reputation for digital nomads in recent years. From being voted the Coolest City in Europe 2017 by CNN to being recognised by Dutch freelancing platform Hoofdkraan as the Best City in the World To Be a Freelancer, it’s not hard to see why Lisbon has quickly become a mecca for remote workers.

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