Living in Portugal – A Guide for PhD Students
Written by Chris Banyard
With an idyllic climate and an ancient and prestigious university system, it’s no surprise that many international students choose to study in a PhD in Portugal.
The guide covers everything you need to know about moving to Portugal for your PhD, including information about accommodation, living costs, working, banking and transportation during your Portuguese doctoral studies.
There’s more to Portugal than just sun and sea (although these are definitely enjoyable!). The country's rich culture and history can be seen in its architecture as well as popular traditions like fado singing. Plus, as a PhD student you may experience some of Portgual's unique university-related customs – including an annual festival dedicated to student life.
Culture and tourism
The most striking aspect of Portugal is its climate – with hot summers, beaches, and sea, Portugal is a popular holiday destination. It also has a lot of culture to offer too, with many ancient towns and cities displaying adorned with beautiful art and architecture. The country boasts 17 UNESCO world heritage sites and is regarded as having a high quality of life and a peaceful society.
Sport and leisure
Football is very popular in Portugal, and the country has produced many great international players, including Eusebio, Luís Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal’s close relationship with the sea means that water sports are also popular. You can experience surfing, windsurfing, sailing, paragliding on the sea, and further inland on Portugal’s rivers you can try canoeing and rafting.
Food and drink
Portugal offers a distinctive and diverse cuisine. Fortified wines such as Port, Sherry and Madeira hail from here, as do many other traditional reds and whites. You will also find a variety of seafood (cataplanas and bouoillabaisse are traditional dishes), Portuguese olive oil, lots of cheese (most famously queijo de Serra) and an array of sweet desserts including the celebrated pastel de nata custard tart.
As a PhD student in Portugal, there are several types of accommodation available. In general, the prices of housing are relatively low, although this can vary somewhat depending on the location of your university.
The types of accommodation for PhD students in Portugal are as follows:
- University accommodation – this accommodation is used by most students, and is similar to UK halls of residence with individual rooms and shared facilities
- Shared rented flat – privately rented rooms in a shared flat / apartment with other students
- Privately rented flat / apartment – an individually rented flat or apartment
For more assistance with student housing in Portugal, you should contact your university’s international office.
The cost of housing in Portugal is relatively affordable in comparison to the UK. As a PhD researcher, you can expect to pay around €250-400 per month for university accommodation (including utilities), around €100-550 per month for a privately rented room and around €200-800 per month for a rented flat or apartment.
The overall cost of living in Portugal is noticeably lower than most other Western European countries. You can expect to pay around €550-750 per month, budgeting around €250-400 for accommodation, €150-200 for food and €150 for miscellaneous costs.
Prices in Portugal
The following table gives an indication of prices for some common expenses during a PhD in Portugal:
Student Cost of Living in Portugal
|Monthly Travel Pass
|Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.
You may be able to work part-time alongside your PhD in Portugal, subject to certain conditions.
If you're an EU, EEA and Swiss student you'll be free to work in Portugal without any restrictions (as long as you have a registration certificate).
Other international students must have a valid study visa and receive authorisation from the Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF). You may also need additional authorisation to carry out research work, teaching and other PhD-related activities during your doctorate. For further information, you should contact your university’s international office.
The Portuguese currency is the Euro (€ or EUR).
As a PhD researcher, you will likely need to open a Portuguese bank account. To do so, you must visit your chosen local branch in person with the following:
- your passport or other valid ID
- proof of address (rental contract or utilities bill)
- proof of university enrolment / employment
- your Numero de Indentificacao Fiscal (NIF) number
Most banks offer suitable student bank accounts, with benefits such as exemption from service fee charges. It is also possible to open a bank account online in Portugal, but applying in person is usually simpler – especially for students.
If you require any more information, your university’s international office will be able to provide assistance.
The public transport in Portugal is normally fairly low-cost and is the preferred means of getting around by most people. You will usually find you can receive student discounts for many services with your valid student ID.
The train service in Portugal connects all of the country’s major cities, and provides connections to Spain and France. The rail networks are run by Comboios de Portugal, and tickets can be bought in conjunction with the European Youth Card for 25% discounts.
The ten airports in Portugal are managed by Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA). They provide regular flights to and from most major European cities, and to other destinations around the world. In general, you will be able to find these flights at a relatively low-cost.
Lisbon and Porto have metro services for quick and easy travel around the city. Also, most cities provide taxis (cream or black with a green roof in colour). Of course, economical PhD students are also able to travel to most places on foot or on bike.