South Africa: will the Rugby World Cup stem retiree departures?

As someone who grew up in South Africa, I watched with anticipation and some sense of pride as the Springboks or the “Bokke”, pulled off a great victory to take the trophy home. But the naturally ebullient and optimistic feeling after a victory of such proportions was short-lived. The victory would, knowing the way the South African population react emotively to such events, convince many people that “everything was going to be ok”.

The rugby win would pull the country together, help it tackle its issues such as the constant power cuts, the consistent under-investment in education, the rampant corruption, the continuing HIV-AIDS epidemic which is a plight on the nation, the cycles of violence which cannot seem to be broken. Of course it would…not.

What we learn if we have lived in South Africa is that, no matter how much we admire the country, its people and its magnificent scenery, economically the situation has deteriorated consistently over several decades. There is no greater indication of this erosion of purchasing power than the demise of the national currency, the Rand, which has made the cost of living, although still competitive by international standards, hugely costly for the local population. Indeed, even for visitors, certain items are very expensive and one wonders how the local population afford these items. The answer, of course, is they do not and go without.

In the 1960s the Rand was worth almost $1.39, dropping to $1.15 in 1974 when it was delinked from the USD. I recall times in the 1970s when the Rand was around $1.12 to the Rand – we took a holiday to Disneyworld and it was very affordable.  But the Rand has been on a downward trend since the early 1980s. By 2001, the USD was worth over R12, and today that level sits at R18. This represents a depreciation of over 2400% over a period of approximately 50 years, or around 40% per annum. Put another way, R1,000 deposited in USD would have become, when converted back, more than R1.1 million in 20 years, simply based on the average devaluation of the currency over time.

Even for the most ardent and passionately loyal South Africans, those who under no circumstances see themselves leaving the country, it would seem to make sense to hedge by having some form of investment or holding in a foreign currency, to protect against the devaluation of the Rand.

The challenge with South Africans or those who have lived in South Africa is that they justify the risks in the country – physical, economic – with the “quality of life” and “lifestyle” which they believe is not attainable or replicable anywhere else in the world. Until one extricates oneself from this environment and has the opportunity to observe the country from afar, and to compare it to other places, it is an almost impossible task to convince a South African resident to look objectively at the situation in the country. No other country is likely to compare, and using logic is often counter-productive when discussing a hugely emotive subject.

The result of this “insular” perspective, not helped by the fact that it is far and expensive to travel to other first world locations, is that many residents become unwitting economic prisoners of their own circumstances. The term may seem emotive and even extreme, but the cases of retired South Africans who, through lack of planning brought on by their South-African-centric view of the world, have found themselves suddenly unable to do anything but live out their lives where they are, with no ability to, for example, join children who have emigrated or to be able to do some international travel, is all too frequent. This is not to say that suddenly all South Africans or residents will want to leave the country, but to many it is complete taboo to even discuss a life outside South Africa. This is a pity because these decisions will affect multiple generations of families, and essentially a lack of planning and action has left many South Africans without a choice.

After the World Cup win, we saw an obviously elated Bryan Habana appeal to the emotive side of the nation, and to vocalise what many hope, namely that the event would be a catalyst for change in the nation. While sport has historically had huge transformational potential in the country, most South Africans considering their financial situation, are increasingly detaching their emotions towards the country from the reality of fiscal prudence and creating financial security for themselves and their families.

And with the changes foreseen to be implemented by the South African Revenue Services (SARS), the usual 183-day rule will now be replaced with a ZAR1 million threshold rule, which will have an immediate and substantial effect on the tax position of high earners. The “expat tax” will be a big factor for wealthy South Africans in terms of deciding whether they commit, fiscally, to South Africa or look for a permanent alternative.

I note that the raising of the foreign remuneration exemption limit reminds me of a distracting tactic designed to take away attention from the fact that the average historical annual devaluation of the Rand against the USD has been substantially higher, and even in a period of greater stability, a portion of the increase in the exemption level is eroded by currency devaluation.

There is talk of South Africans now coming under the remit of worldwide taxation under the new regime, but it should be noted that a country like Portugal applies exactly the same rule in terms of its residents, namely the taxation of worldwide income. So the decision to emigrate fiscally from a country such as South Africa to Portugal cannot be based solely on taxation but on a combination of factors such as inheritance after naturalisation, tax exemptions under programmes such as the Non Habitual Residence scheme, and lifestyle and safety factors. In an African spirit, the generation making the decision must see this as “African” in the sense of the decision being the first step in a multi-generational decision. A decision to move from Africa to Europe involves so much more, emotively, socially, culturally, linguistically, than simply moving one’s tax position, that anyone considering it must look at it from a multi-generational impact perspective.

South Africans have historically felt comfortable with emigration to English-speaking countries in the Southern hemisphere such as Australia and New Zealand. Notwithstanding the obvious benefits of being the same hemisphere so the seasons being the same, and of English being the first language, Europe offers a huge array of options, especially for a younger, professional generation. If, after consideration, South Africans consider Portugal a good choice (and both Portugal and Spain offer excellent lifestyle options although Portugal, linguistically, makes for easier integration because of the level of English spoken), then it cannot be overstated how important choosing your residence is.

Selecting a location and a property in which to live with your family will be a key step in the decision to move. And with so many South Africans being sold overpriced villas in Cascais, for example, it is important that South Africans moving to Portugal ensure that they do not undermine their financial planning strategy by overpaying for real estate. If necessary, consider a rental for an initial, even indefinite period. You will still be eligible for residency under programs such as the income-based D7 visa. Importantly, don’t be convinced that you must invest in a Golden Visa when other options might be equally available for your situation. And don’t be persuaded by agents who have sold to many South Africans in the “same location” and now argue that that buying in the same areas are the only sure-fire way to quickly integrate into the South African community in Portugal.

South Africans, like all nationalities, are often comforted by proximity and contact with other South Africans. So are the French, and the Finnish and the Swedish. and the Brits. But with few exceptions all these nationalities eventually form a multinational circle of friends based on their interests. So if you are accustomed to space, want affordable real estate yet proximity to an international expat community, don’t hope to find the former in Lisbon or the latter in the Silver Coast. If you like the opera and ballet every week, don’t expect to have that option in the Algarve without travelling up to the capital or to Seville.

Any country move is a process. What starts as a multi-faceted decision involving emotions, aspirations, finances and much more, quickly becomes a practical search for housing, schooling and even investment such as a local business.

With so much changing in South Africa and in Portugal (both Golden Visa and NHR programmes will change), timing and speed is crucial. If you are seriously thinking of Europe, and specifically Portugal or Spain as your destination, getting in touch with a local expert who has experience in navigating this process themselves, is an absolute must in ensuring as smooth a journey as possible.

Tax-free retirement in the heart of Europe

TAX-free Retirement in the Heart of Europe


Anyone who is nearing or at retirement age wants to protect his or her hard-earned pension. What better way to do this than via tax-free retirement?

Many want to do this in a safe country with a warm climate, friendly people and a great lifestyle. And in a region voted Europe’s best golfing destination by the World Travel Awards.

Now one country has made it easy to do all the above.

Portugal has recently improved legislation aimed at attracting foreign residents and investors to the country. The Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) law allows qualifying individuals to receive a private pension or non-Portuguese income, tax-free for a period of ten (10) years. To qualify, applicants may not have been fiscally resident in Portugal during the previous five (5) years. Foreign or non-Portuguese income is exempt from taxation if the country from which it is paid has the right to tax the payment (even if it does not). Qualifying individuals include EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, who have the automatic right to settle. Those obtaining residence via programs such as dependent employee, entrepreneurship, study, business investment or the Golden Visa, can also apply.

portugal TAX-free Retirement

The Golden Visa allows non-EU citizens (extending to close family members) to benefit from permanent residence. This may be converted into citizenship after a period of 5 years. Golden Visa real estate investments begin at €280,000 and rise to €500,000, depending on the location. With property values still at very competitive levels, the combination of the two solutions may provide a tax-free entrance for non-EU nationals to the European Union.

Although Portugal does not implement strict controls on the movement of individuals, especially within the Schengen space, the formal requirement for residency is 183 days per year. Alternatively possessing what could be deemed as an habitual (owned or rented) residence on the 31st December of the respective tax year is also accepted. Exceptions to this exist, such as the Golden visa, where permanence requirements are significantly lower.

The Non-Habitual Resident regime

Under the NHR law, a flat rate of 20%* (less than half the highest taxpayer rate of tax) is levied on any income originating from Portuguese sources.

Most double tax treaties (conventions) allow for the taxation of income at source. In practice, many countries do not exercise this right if the person is non-resident. It thus follows that, under the NHR law, most foreign income will be tax-free. Each sub-category of assets must be analysed in order to ensure that maximum tax relief is obtained. These will include dividends, royalties, and bank interest, among others. The use of a suitably qualified tax advisory professional is recommended and the investment is quickly recouped. Costs are typically between €1,500 and €3,000 depending on complexity of an individual’s financial affairs.

The NHR law provides an excellent solution for pensioners as well as liberal professionals. These include consultants, company directors, doctors, dentists, architects and engineers, and anyone promoting active investment in the country. Occupational pensions, as long as deemed not to be sourced in Portugal, are exempt under the NHR law.

The possibility of a tax-free pension, the absence of inheritance or gift tax, no wealth taxes (other than annual taxes on real estate), access to the state health system for residents and EU citizens, a lower cost of living than most of the EU-18, and the availability of quality and cost-effective private health, have earned Portugal the Telegraph accolade of the “2nd best place to retire abroad”.

As an alternative to the purchase of real estate, we have launched a rental-based site for long-stays in the Algarve. Rentals also afford NHR status to qualifying individuals, who do not need to purchase a property.

* In 2013 there is a 3.5% surcharge imposed on all personal income tax in Portugal, linked to the ending of Portugal’s bail-out from the EU/ECB/IMF.

Live Like a King for Less

Live Like A King For Less – Budget Comparisons

The cost to live in Portugal is generally among the lowest in Western Europe. Some items, such as fuel (around €1.30/ liter or about US$5/gallon), electricity, second hand cars (Ford Focus 2012 diesel between €12,000 and €20,000, Audi A4 Avant diesel starting at €40,000) and electronic items such as appliances and technology, are much more expensive than in the US, but basic items are very competitive, especially when compared to Northern Europe. The keen grocery bargain hunter should also remain alert to extended weekend specials. With careful planning of your budget, residents are able to find discounts on some essential items every week.

Piri-piri, freshly picked veg, and local honey at the indoor market

Most foreigners find the cost of eating out to be very reasonable. In fact, for a retired couple, it is often as costeffective to eat out and warm up leftovers in the evening (portions in Portugal are generous). Local supermarket chain Pingo Doce operates a number of family friendly restaurants where meals, all prepared daily, cost €3.99 plus the price of a drink. Some even run a daily special including a drink and bread roll for €3.50. Local restaurants, with which most new arrivals quickly become familiar, value regular trade and it is possible to negotiate a meal for two including soup, main meal, soft drink (or glass of wine), and coffee for €10. Do not expect a fancy ambience or service frills, but the quality of the Piri-piri, freshly picked veg, and local honey at the indoor market food is excellent for the price. Finding the preferred, low price local restaurant is a favorite past-time of most expatriates.

Buyer beware: whenever you see a menu in multiple languages, expect to pay more as the restaurant is targeting a foreign tourist market. If you want authenticity at a low price, look out for the “Pratos do dia” (dishes of the day) signs scribbled on a blackboard or paper stuck to the entrance. Prepared in larger quantities and with different fish and meat dishes every day, this is the way to get a tasty local meal for around €5-6.50. Be prepared to get by with sign language, basic English words, a phrase book, and a friendly smile, and you will save yourself money when eating out.

Eating out in Carvoeiro and Silves are two different experiences. Try Silves if you want authentic Portuguese eating. Strangely, one of the region’s most famous seafood restaurants, Rui Marisqueira, is located in the inland city! But a visit to Rui’s is not complete without tasting their carob tart, freshly made and delivered from a local pastry specialist. They don’t always have it, but don’t miss it if it’s in the pastry display. Move next door and try the suckling pig at Fernando dos Leitões. Popular with many tourists are the chicken restaurants that are located on the road next to the river. Arrive early and don’t expect to see a menu. They do portions and half portions of freshly grilled chicken (the chef does it under a plastic tarpaulin where the temperature of his ‘kitchen’ is often hotter than the grill!), freshly fried chips, and salted and seasoned lettuce and tomato salad. Keep ordering portions until you are full…
you’ll be surprised when you are handed the very reasonable final bill.

Outdoor, gourmet eating

On the way between Silves and Lagoa is the Barradas restaurant, pricey by Portuguese standards but with great options and an impressive wine selection.

When reaching Lagoa and especially the village of Carvoeiro, you will be spoilt for choice. The town has a famous hill that is packed both sides with commercial establishments, most of which are restaurants of all types: traditional Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Thai, the odd English or Irish pub, and even some vegetarian options. Ele & Ela is consistently ranked highly by its diners for its excellent cuisine, and two stand-out quality restaurants are located on the road between Carvoeiro and Sesmarias: Hexagone and Bon Bon. If it’s cheap and filling Portuguese fare you are after, try one of the many options around the Fatacil fair grounds.

A full meal in a cheap restaurant will cost you around €8 including drink and coffee, a very friendly budget. Expensive restaurants will cost between €35-50 per head, including good wine. On average expect to pay between €15-20 for dinner. Lunch is usually cheaper as most people do not order wine, and menus often have quicker and easier-to-prepare options.

Algarve Monthly Budget

Algarve Monthly Budget

No Language Worries In The California Of Europe

The Portuguese, according to CNN’s Friendliest Countries report, are the “7th most welcoming people in the world.” The World Economic Forum ranked Portugal as 7th (among 140 survey nations) most-welcoming nation when receiving foreign visitors. In the field of language the Portuguese go above and beyond the reasonable to ensure that guests are made to feel welcome in their own tongue. Portuguese is a difficult language to master but some basic knowledge will accelerate integration and make simple daily tasks easier. Some language schools exist but there are well-qualified freelance language teachers who teach Portuguese at each student’s pace.

The Association of Foreign Property Owners in Portugal, or AFPOP, caters to the many foreign residents and property owners in the country, and offers a range of services and discounts to members. With membership at €40 per annum, the benefits quickly outweigh the cost.

Due to Portugal’s strong cultural and historical links with England and the fact that the Algarve is such a major tourist destination, English is widely spoken. English is compulsory as a second language in the schooling system and so the youngest generation speaks it. French, which was the second school language prior to being overtaken by English, is extensively spoken by the older generations. Portugal’s largest expatriate population lives in France, and many of those people, nearing retirement and spurred on by adverse changes in French pensions and positive changes in Portuguese laws affecting pensions, have decided to return to the country.

Multilingual menus, but reasonable prices for all tongues

Many establishments including restaurants, private and public health centers, and hospitals, clinics, sports clubs, and supermarkets, have people able to interact with the public in a foreign language.

In Lagoa there is a well-established second-hand bookstore with thousands of foreign titles and many genres. Hand in your used books for a credit of between €1-3 and use your balance to buy other titles from as little as €2.50.

In summary, the Algarve is very well-placed linguistically to receive visitors and new residents from the USA and Canada.

Year-Round Activities

Fatacil is the largest showground in the province and hosts several large events during the year. The most popular for expats is the International Algarve Fair held in June every year, which unites the local and expatriate community around a variety of activities, shows, services and food and beverage. Larger still is the summer fair held in August, with daily live concerts by top national (and often international) artists. At a few euros a ticket per day, you won’t find better value for money on a sultry summer night.

The Medieval fair in Silves is a celebration of the city’s roots. Dancers, jugglers, flame-throwers, fire-eaters, and snake charmers, and snake charmers combine with a feast of regional cuisine to offer a very authentic experience. Costumes can be hired by those who want to dress the part!

In Lagoa, the annual sweets festival is an exquisite display of delicacies produced mainly from local ingredients, including fig, orange and almond, and the lesser-known carob with its cocoa-like powder—a staple ingredient in regional Multilingual menus, but reasonable prices for all tongues pastry making.

Around June every year, the smell of grilled sardines permeates the air of the coastal towns, as the annual sardine season peaks. Most traditional restaurants will keep them coming until you say ‘basta!’ Pay by the half-dozen and you know you’re in a tourist establishment.

Throughout the year, but mainly from spring through fall, to make the most of the great weather, open-air jazz and
classical concerts are held. Most are free. Experience jazz at Lagoa’s Sitio das Fontes but make sure you take some mosquito repellant because the idyllic location, on the Arade River, becomes a haven for these pests at nightfall. The Lagoa Auditorium is the place to take in a concert by the local youth orchestra (or even attend students’ final auditions that are open to the public) or to watch a film priced between €3-4 per ticket.

Hop on a pretty little sailboat for a trip up the river

The Arade Congress Centre, a white elephant financed by several municipalities, private groups, and the regional tourist body, is nonetheless one of the most impressive congress centers in the country. With Europe’s fifth largest stage and seating which, when retracted, increases the capacity from 1,000 to 4,000 or more, it sits quietly on the banks of the Arade River near the town of Ferragudo. Once or twice a year it springs to life with a motor car launch, a performance by the Russian ballet, or the finals of the World Dance championships.

If it’s sporting action you’re after, try something different. The daughter of the owner of one of the largest boat businesses is a multi-world champion and the family is always happy to offer adventure style practice sessions on the Arade. Kayaking, paddling, and scenic boat trips are all on your doorstep. And don’t forget the boat trips to visit the cave-encrusted coastline or to fish. Or the sailing schools at the river mouth which are, by international standards, inexpensive.

For the tennis enthusiast, join the many expats who gather for social tennis at the Carvoeiro tennis club, or try the local club at Silves, located between the schools of the city and next to a park (to which you might have to retire to for shade if you dare play in the summer afternoons!).

Carvoeiro also has a well-stocked book exchange that allows expatriate residents and visitors alike to trade in books they have read for new titles.

Many retired expatriates become involved in local community or charity work: from manning kitchens, which serve meals to the homeless, to assisting with food distribution to the poor, supporting the donkey sanctuary, or helping with the housing of abandoned dogs, there is no shortage of opportunities to contribute to society and make a real impact that will also help you integrate faster into local culture. Although Portugal is a highly religious country and many social actions are coordinated by the church, there is an increasing trend for people to organize volunteer organizations, often bringing new and innovative ways of doing this from their experiences abroad. See the “Rolodex” for contact volunteer information.

Getting About…Drive, Walk, Sail, Cycle, And Paddle

Driving is easy in this part of the world. Short drives are often scenic. Leave Lagoa along the EN125 road westward towards the large town of Portimão. The approximately 5-mile drive involves crossing the Arade River near its estuary. See flocks of migrating or nesting birds, canoeists, and the occasional angler in galoshes searching for cockles. Return via the picturesque village of Ferragudo.

Local transport is reliable but the intervals between departures out of peak times can be long, especially in smaller village and inland locations. The municipality of Silves contains the province’s main train station link, at Tunes, to the country’s capital 180 miles away. Lagoa has one of the region’s busiest bus stations, with buses leaving for locations in the Algarve and direct to Lisbon, a 3-hour trip away in luxury vehicles with Wi-Fi, in-trip movies, toilet facilities, and reclining seats.

Cycling off- and on-road is very popular here

Tackle the rugged coastal paths on a mountain bike or on foot and get the benefit of spectacular sea and coastal views. Both Silves and Lagoa are easy to visit on foot and walking is much more popular in towns and cities than cycling.

The Arade River flows through the center of Silves. At high tide, small riverboats make their way downstream to the river mouth at Ferragudo and Portimão, and then back upstream. Kayak and canoe enthusiasts are often found paddling up and downstream.

How Easy Is It For The Disabled?

The Portuguese attitude towards helping others is reflected in a general openness towards minorities, in whatever sense. The disabled are no exception, but they have been faced, historically, with the challenge of inappropriate infrastructure, such as traditional stone sidewalks that are difficult for wheelchairs and for people with canes or walking aids, few ramps into public transport, and poor signposting. Portugal’s infrastructure is improving for disabled communities and it is generally true that where specific conditions do not exist, local people will go out of their way to help. Silves and Lagoa have benefited from significant retrofits to existing or newer facilities. Community swimming pools are fully equipped with ramps and disabled pool access, public buildings such as libraries now have disabled access, and even public parks make it easy for the disabled to be dropped off and enter with reduced effort.

Even parks have well-signposted disabled access

The Gay And Lesbian Community

Historically Portugal is a deeply Catholic country. For this reason many of the beliefs and religious traditions remain, although change to this belief system has accelerated dramatically with globalization, the free flow of people and ideas over country borders, national debate around topics such as adoption by couples of the same sex, and changes in the law. The GLBT community is neither large nor very visible. Do not be surprised, therefore, if you and your partner visit a remote area and get inquisitive looks from the locals.

How To Get Here

Faro airport, located around 60 kilometers (38 miles) from both Silves and Lagoa, is one of Portugal’s busiest airports and its most important tourist hub, handling about 5.5 million passengers a year. Direct flights arrive from 76 international and three national airports. Airsat’s recent addition of a weekly direct flight from Toronto’s Pearson Airport means that the destination is now directly accessible to the Canadian market. If you travel from the US, you would probably connect via a major European capital.

Well in excess of 4 million visitors arrive in the busy July- August period, which means that the remaining months are remarkably tranquil for travelers.

Travel to Lisbon in 3 hours in air-conditioned comfort

The A22 highway links Silves/Lagoa to Spain, 112 kilometers (70 miles) away. The cost of the one-way toll is approximately €7.70. The A2 highway, with easy access from Silves via Tunes, makes Lisbon, the country’s capital, approximately a 3-hour drive. Taking the fast route to Lisbon via the toll highway, where legal speed limits are 120 km/h (75 mph), will cost around €20 for the 180-mile drive. Choose the more leisurely route along the national road, which is mostly in excellent condition, and where you can stop to eat at one of the many traditional restaurants or have a picnic on one of the route’s scenic vantage points, and spend only €4 on tolls (the saving will pay for a meal for two!).

Bringing Pets To Portugal

The transportation and importation of pets is well regulated in the EU and the rules applicable to Portugal are documented on the relevant Ministry site, which is also available in English, here.

Unfortunately, the economic crisis of 2008 resulted in a significant increase in the abandonment of animals by people who could no longer afford to keep them. Although there are local municipal kennels, due to overcrowding they tend to operate a strict policy of putting animals down after a week if they have not been rehomed. There are several local charities, including a few charity shops in Lagoa and at least one in Silves, which raise money for initiatives such as the Donkey Sanctuary and the Association for the Protection of Animals in the Algarve (APAA). The Scruffts dog show held annually at Fatacil is also a source of complementary income for the work they do. These organizations are always looking for volunteers to help in whatever way possible and it is a great way to get involved if you are an animal lover. See the “Rolodex” for contact information.

Warts And All

The biggest complaint of most people who arrive here is Portuguese bureaucracy. Much of this is due to a language barrier which makes matters such as finance, tax, and dealing with banks and utility providers frustrating at times (especially as the latter generally have poor records of customer service). Nonetheless, renewing or getting a driver’s license is easier than doing so in the US, for example, as Portugal has migrated most of its public record system to electronic records over the last decade or so.

My recommendation would be to stay away from any project involving planning. If you are a keen builder, developer, or would like to make substantial changes to existing historical buildings (such as converting them into boutique hotels)… choose another location. Planning is a lengthy process requiring years, with major projects often taking more than a decade to clear the upward of 30 entities who typically need to give their opinion as to the merits of any endeavor.

Starting a business in Portugal, while not as complex as in countries such as Brazil, is not as efficient as in countries such as the US. Accounting requirements can be complex and appropriate legal, tax, and accounting support is a must for new arrivals wanting to work in or from Portugal.

Many people are concerned about the economic woes of the country prior to and following its bailout post-2008. While this is indeed a concern for existing residents who have seen the tax burden increase, the NHR measure is aimed at attracting new residents to the country and guaranteeing low tax. New residents will benefit not only from this status but also from Portugal’s need to become more competitive, which in many instances has driven down prices. An excellent example is real estate.

New residents should consider carefully where they live, because the inland areas of municipalities such as Silves have very few inhabitants, and the initial search for quiet and privacy can quickly turn to isolation as foreigners find themselves far from town and city centers and unable to communicate with rural populations whose command of English is not as good as that of people in towns and cities.

Almost without exception those who have chosen Portugal as their home, and have planned financially for their move, are extremely positive about the country and its lifestyle.

Is This The Place For You?

If you want an excellent quality of life, with a low cost of living or budget, great tax benefits, in a location that within easy access of all of Europe and equidistant from North America and Asia, the Algarve is an obvious option. If you seek the tranquility of country living while being minutes from the region’s awardwinning beaches and golf courses, and from the hustle and bustle of a range of tourist activities, then Silves and Lagoa are excellent choices.

The ability to save money, pay less tax, access quality healthcare, enjoy a healthy lifestyle, be part of a community
where English is widely spoken, and get to most European cities in less than three hours, are major attractions for foreign residents.

Sharpen your short game skills on this 9-par executive course


Most people who move here notice the change of pace from large cities and towns. It takes time, like good wine, to mellow. If you are moving here to work locally, be prepared for some stress relating to bureaucracy and the difficulty in the language if you don’t already speak it. If you are looking to work abroad and want to leave your family in a safe, healthy environment, then look no further. Hundreds of expats already do this, and once the secret is out, many more will do so. If you wish to retire, there is hardly a person who has visited who does not think of staying for good. Making friends is easy, whether with locals or expatriates. The fact that new residents will soon have an option to reside in rental communities of like-minded individuals, who share interests, means that purchasing properties is not the only route for new arrivals.

With all this and a lot more, it is easy to see why the region has attracted more than 63,000 official residents or about 15% of the region’s population—although the number is several times higher as many foreigners remain in the country for a substantial part of the year but never become officially resident. Just over 4,500 of these residents live in the Silves municipality and 3,700 in the Lagoa municipality*, with Carvoeiro being one of the most popular multicultural expat towns in the Algarve, catering to a range of nationalities. (* Source:

Low-Cost Universal-Access Healthcare Culture & Citizenship

Low-Cost, Universal-Access Healthcare

Portugal’s healthcare system is broadly based on a universal franchise, which will not turn anyone away. Most hospitals will put patient before price (one of the reasons that the health system runs a deficit, but also the reason the country is generally known for its personalized and humane treatment of patients). With the tightening of financial controls, expect this to be slightly different if you are not resident or don’t have a European card. As in many European countries, state hospitals such as the one located at Portimão, 5 miles from both Lagoa and Silves, are normally better equipped for emergency situations than private hospitals. However, two large private hospital providers own and operate hospitals across the Algarve, with the closest being the Hospital Particular in Alvor. The hospital at Faro has an excellent reputation for cardiology and for successfully treating tourist visitors who have suffered heart attacks.

The traditional façade belies the modern clinic and pharmacy Healthcare
All residents are eligible to use the state’s healthcare system, called the SNS (Sistema Nacional de Saúde). European residents should ensure that they are in possession of the European Health Card (EHIC), issued by their home country, and which guarantees them access to the health system in the country that they are visiting. Access should not be confused with cost, and some services may cost more or less than in one’s home country, depending on the national policy in each of the 28 EU member states.

For non-Europeans retiring to Portugal, permanent residence authorization must first be issued by the SEF (borders agency) after the completion of usual background checks (see the “Residency” section below). The foreign resident must then register with their local health center, a simple process involving filling in some forms and having a local (owned or rented) address. Residents are assigned a doctor or in some cases go into a general pool, depending on the number of doctors per inhabitant (which can fluctuate with population growth or doctor retirements). Even without an assigned family doctor, there are general slots available and Lagoa, for example, runs a daily (including Saturday) local ‘emergency’ service, which can attend to up to 40 people who need see a doctor without an appointment, and who do not need the services of a hospital. Co-payment (if the person is not exempt) is €5 (outpatient copayments are around €7.75), regardless of whether one has an assigned family doctor or not.

Diagnostic exams are very affordable if ordered by a doctor within the national healthcare system (SNS). The Clínica de Lagoa, a private diagnostic and complementary exam center, offers a range of exams via its agreement with the national healthcare system, and most exams, such as ultrasound, X-ray, and mammography, will cost between €3-10 when prescribed by a doctor on the SNS. Several laboratories conduct blood tests at between 50 cents and €2. A full barrage of tests, including cholesterol, urine, and PSA (prostate tests for men) should cost between €15 and €20. A walk-in cholesterol test conducted at any local pharmacy will cost between €4-5.

It is recommended that foreign arrivals in the process of acquiring residence take out medical insurance for at least the first year, to cover bureaucratic delays and other unforeseen circumstances. Even thereafter, private medical insurance is not expensive when compared to the US and there are several private medical insurance providers available. IMG (including a policy which can be taken out even after your departure) and Bupa, for example, offer expat solutions and a range of national providers such as Medis and Multicare provide policies for those who are permanently in the country. There are also a number of brokers focusing on obtaining car and health insurance for foreign residents. Other foreign visitors not included in one of the above categories should ensure they carry adequate foreign insurance to allow them to use thenational health system, which is of good quality.

Eat like a healthy king Mediterranean style Healthcare

Maló Clinic, founded by a Portuguese immigrant, is now one of the largest private dental clinics in the world, present in dozens of countries in the world and whose founder is regularly flown to the US to perform dental surgery on wealthy patients. A Maló Clinic can be found about 10 miles from Lagoa and Silves, but Silves has three dental clinics where a clean and check-up costs around €40-50 (free on most dental plans), and Lagoa has several foreign-language dentists. The climate of the region means that convalescence is both quicker and more pleasant than in many countries further north. Doctors and specialists are largely multilingual.

Eye tests at local opticians are free if eye glasses are purchased in-store. A number of promotions are available—a recent one offered designer glasses with progressive lenses at €169. Consultations with ophthalmologists on the SNS are generally free but waiting times can be long.

One of our friends from the US needed to repair his $6,000 hearing aid, an imported Norwegian make. The estimated cost to perform the repair in the US was $900. He posted us the two hearing aids and €40-plus-postage later he had a fully functioning hearing aid at his home in Miami.

Health tourism is on the up in the region and the Algarve is well known for its health & wellness industry, with a number of spas in the region. A thalassotherapy center exists at Vilalara resort in Lagoa. And medical tourism is on the rise with several private hospital groups in the region investing extensively in the marketing of their services, primarily around discretionary (aesthetic) surgery, hip implants, and dental surgery. Although the region does not yet compete with the prices in more established medical tourism destinations, it places great emphasis on the pre-op preparation and post-op convalescence benefits that come with a warm, essentially dry (not humid) climate. Complementing this are the quality services and accommodation options, and a location within Europe.

Education And Culture

Silves is the location of one of the region’s private universities. The Jean Piaget University campus, opened in 2002, focuses on health including undergraduate and Masters programs in the areas of nursing, occupational therapy, and
pharmaceutics. It is in the area of physiotherapy, however, where it has garnered an enviable reputation. Its graduates are spread across Europe, poached by many countries that have made the most of Portugal’s woes post-2008 crisis. The trend is slowly reversing, with local projects providing a muchneeded source of employment for the qualified labor force. Residing in this area guarantees a flow of well-qualified health professionals, many of whom will, it’s hoped, eventually find themselves supporting the region’s senior residents.

Silves city and castle from across the river Healthcare

Lagoa is one of the region’s centers of international (foreign language) primary and secondary schools. The International School of the Algarve, which comprises two sections, one teaching the British and the other the national (Portuguese) curriculum, was established in 1972. Although it allows children of English-speaking residents to attend school in their native English tongue, residents with children of school-going age should bear in mind that the range of subject options and in some instances the quality of teaching may not be the same as an equivalent private school in the UK or USA. In recent years, a German school has opened and now shares its premises with the Dutch school. The area is now a multi-lingual, multicultural hub with native teaching in four languages.

Lagoa is also an artistic hub housing a thriving musical academy, a cultural academy, an art center, and some of the region’s largest publications including Portugal’s principal foreign newspaper, The Portugal News. The musical academy, which forms part of a multi-city musical project, is headquartered in Lagoa and has an active orchestra comprising of a strings, woodwind, percussion, and brass sections, with musicians aged from eight to 65!

The orchestra plays frequently at public events, television concerts, open air shows, and at the well-equipped auditorium in the town. Lagoa’s cultural association, Ideas do Levante, promotes activities ranging from dance to music.

Becoming A Resident

U.S. visitors to Portugal do not need a visa under an agreement which allows for visits to Schengen countries of up to 90 days. However, all foreign citizens intending to move to Portugal must in the first instance request their long-stay (residency) visa at the Portuguese consulate in their home country. This will allow the Borders agency to issue a residency permit, valid for one year, and renewable for two further two-year periods. After five years of temporary residence, foreign citizens may apply for permanent residence.

The main requirements for a residency visa application include being able to prove sufficient income for subsistence, providing relevant identification documents, having no criminal record, travel documents, and proof of address in which the applicant will initially take up residency. Proof of medical insurance may also be requested but as a precautionary measure it is recommended that any non-EU citizens have private medical insurance when traveling to Portugal. Some companies such as IMG allow medical policies to be taken out when the person is already in the destination. Documents are normally submitted via the local consulate and they eventually make their way to the Borders agency (called Serviços de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras or SEF). I recommend traveling with a copy of the full application process and any relevant correspondence, to avoid any possible misunderstandings on entry. Once the residency authorization has been issued by SEF, applicants should register with the local finance office to obtain their fiscal number.

Recently, the Portuguese government has further improved legislation to allow anyone who has not been resident in Portugal for the previous five years to register for Non-Habitual Resident Status, which allows people to receive pensions and foreign income tax-free for 10 years. Once an individual has an authorization to reside in Portugal, such as via the Golden Visa program (see below), or has obtained a visa to enter Portugal with a view to permanent residence, then the process of applying for NHR status is relatively simple. A qualifying individual should meet two main criteria: they must not have been resident in Portugal in any of the previous five years, and they must be retiring to Portugal or fall into one of the approximately 30 occupations listed by the
government including architects, lawyers, engineers, senior management, health professionals, and individuals who will be fostering inward investment.

The applicant, probably accompanied by someone local who speaks Portuguese, must go to the local tax office (Finanças) and make a written statement that he-she meets all the criteria of eligibility, and then present a tax identification number (or request one), show their passport, indicate the residential address in Portugal (which may be a rented property), and show the residence permit. All applications must be received no later than the 31st March of the year following the one in which the applicant wishes to declare themselves resident under the NHR law.

Healthcare The Algarve’s golden-sand beaches are but a small part of the Golden Visa program’s attractions

The legal requirements to obtain residency in Portugal is to stay either 183 days in the country or a residential address on the 31st December of the corresponding tax year, which can be considered one’s habitual residence. While the latter condition may not appear at all stringent, it can be deceiving, for the simple reason that it is often not Portugal, but the applicant’s country of origin, that determines that they may not declare themselves resident in Portugal because they have spent too many days in their country of origin. As with all such matters, people intending to take up residency should carefully analyze the residency requirements of all the countries with which they have or plan to have ties to.

The Golden Visa program has proved to be one of Europe’s most popular resident visa-via-investment programs. Although there are three types of applications possible, it is the real estate option, involving the purchase of real estate with a value of at least €500,000 without recourse to credit, which has proved to be most popular. The Golden Visa is an excellent way for non- EU residents to obtain an authorization to visit or remain in the 26-country Schengen space for the duration of the visa, and after five years to apply for permanent residence and thereafter citizenship (after six years). The biggest advantage is that there are minimal requirements for remaining in the country, namely seven days in the first year and a total of 14 days in each of the subsequent two-year periods. Further, the Golden Visa allows the applicant and direct family members the right to enter, live, and work in Portugal, even if not resident in the country. Given that real estate values have suffered significant erosion as a result of the 2008 economic crisis, the Golden Visa is an attractive option for foreign investors.

When compared to comparable programs elsewhere in the world, the Portuguese Golden visa does not appear to have any disadvantages, even though a few other European states have implemented cheaper programs. The flexibility of the scheme, allowing for multiple property purchases, and the use of debt on values above €500,000, together with family-friendly legislation allowing close family members to benefit from the Golden Visa of the main applicant, have made Portugal’s program very popular. Unlike the US’s equivalent $500,000 EB-5 program that targets predetermined areas and projects, Portugal’s Golden Visa rules apply to any real estate in the country. Normal U.S. investor visas are $1 million.

Viva Culture! A Variety of Things To Do

Viva Culture!


Empty streets, closed cafés and restaurants, hotels which give their staff a long winter off, and even beach bars which are disassembled, only to miraculously reappear in the spring, are well-recognised signs of life in a summer tourist destination. Walkers are in their element as they have trails to themselves. Cyclists find that the only traffic are the few locals who also venture off the beaten path. Beachcombers have a choice of endless stretches of golden sand. But, while wonderful for the visitor who likes the quiet at this time of the year, for most winter tourists the daunting challenge is to find a variety of things to do – viva culture.

With an increasing number of people considering spending time away during the colder and rainier winter months in their home countries, one of the most important questions on their minds is whether they will simply find enough to do, to keep them occupied while in a winter sun destination.

viva culture

Notwithstanding that in the home country retirees naturally reduce their activities over the winter, for reasons of accessibility and climate, and that even in the summer, their participation is often limited due to distances and traffic, these factors are often ignored when abroad.

Any analysis of the profile of any region should take into account three very important factors:

⦁ availability: the variety of activities during the winter;
⦁ accessibility: the ease of access to the activities, both in terms of distance and physical access; and
⦁ affordability: whether someone on a limited budget (such as a pension) will be able to participate in multiple activities

This winter in the Algarve has been very busy. October set the scene with the World premier week of the Holman and Ash musical, Blind Faith. Audiences were treated to the talented duo’s music and lyrics in preparation for the planned Cathedral tour of the UK in 2015. November saw a new exhibition at the country’s largest private art gallery, located in Lagoa, with visitors afterwards opting for a wine-tasting of regional vintages, or participating in an art auction. During the month, guests took their pick from several music performances by the region’s orchestras, and some attended the hilarious production of Donizetti’s comedic opera Rita, ou le Mari Battu, at the Municipal theatre in Portimão for €15 a head.

Early December, after an unusually long late November rainy spell, saw the return of bright, sunny days. A beautiful (and free) performance by the woodwind orchestra of the Algarve, with participants aged 8 to 60, was followed by the Russian ballet which graced the region with its superb performance of Tchaikovsky’s classic Swan Lake, at €25 per ticket. Perhaps a larger stage would have done greater justice to the grace of the international dancers but being a winter performance, the organisers opted for a 300-seater, fully accessible auditorium. Some visitors looking for an authentic insight into the region, took the leisurely €20 round-trip boat trips to Silves, the Algarve’s original capital, with its mix of Moorish and Roman influences, departing from the river mouth of the Arade River. Time for a leisurely stroll along the river in the town, as well as through some parts of the city, before taking in a 3-course meal at a local restaurant (drink included) for €7.50 a head!

Roll in January and New Year’s resolutions. For some visitors these included visiting the converted sardine factory in downtown Portimão, now a modern museum (€3 at the door), or the new wax museum in Lagos, paying tribute to the discoveries, at €4. A stunning evening jazz performance by the region’s jazz orchestra, at €6, was complemented by young talent entertaining for free in several locations around Lagoa, making an event out of a visit to the post office or to the library.

viva culture

The Al Mouraria group, combining traditional Portuguese fado with the rhythm of the Argentinean tango, entertained guests for €9 at an evening performance in town, and some visitors are already looking ahead to stellar performances of the Hunan acrobatic circus, in Lisbon and Portimão. With so much cultural variety, it was surprising that almost 80 local and visiting golfers found the time to participate in the year’s first amateur competitive golf event on the busy golfing, but the €75 cost per couple, including a buggy, might have just been a factor! The sport had in November been the main attraction at the Portuguese disabled golf championship. For others, the beautiful coastal walks (no cost and majestic views) were just the tonic to an eventful winter in the Algarve.

Just as the Algarve is Europe’s most famous secret, so too the variety of activities, many of them cultural, is proving to be an irresistible allure… Winter visitors abroad are encouraged to speak to insiders to get insights into the wealth of activities on offer. For any visitor to Southern Europe, it’s not only about who you know, but whether they can tell you what is happening and where! I suppose we could say – Viva Culture!

Accessibility: Levelling the Playing Field for Senior Tourists

Accessibility: Levelling the Playing Field for Senior Tourists

At the World Travel Market in London a panel discussion on accessible tourism included panellists from around the world, among them Paralympian Ade Adepitan. The participants expressed their frustration at the slow pace of change in levelling accessibility in the playing field for travellers with disabilities, starting with those with physical limitations or consigned to a wheelchair. What was striking, however, was the way in which this segment of the market was seen as still requiring exceptional treatment by operators of holiday or tourism businesses catering for the ‘general’ (read, non-disabled) public. In contrast, experienced operators of solutions in the senior space deal with guests with special requirements, whatever they may be, in a consistently personalised way.

A focus on the senior market equips a business to deal with the individuality that the demographic requires: clients with specific medical requirements, habits and preferences acquired over a lifetime, dietary special needs, a greater likelihood of allergies and skin ailments, medicines management needs, and accessibility needs, among others. Just as making available professionals, to ensure that seniors are not taking medicines which may be in conflict with one another, is a basic medical service for visitors or residents, so too providing appropriate infrastructure and facilities for disabled or wheelchair users forms part of a sensible solution to broaden inclusion.

Accessibility levelling the playing field for senior tourists Even parks have well-signposted disabled access

The interesting thing, as the owner of a completely adapted site in Brazil pointed out, is that accessible facilities have broadened the appeal of his site and much more revenue has been generated by the families and friends of disabled guests, than by any wheelchair user.

When Algarve Senior Living added a third location to its business model via a partnership with a beautiful river-side site near Portimão in the Algarve, the response and interest from the market was high. For a business focussed on the 50+ market, simple single-floor or accessible multi-floor accommodation is the logical choice. As the general market begins to understand the benefits of accessible accommodation to the general public, it will be interesting to observe whether owners and developers opt for a retrofit of existing (unsuitable, typically double-storey) accommodation or the development of fit-for purpose accommodation.

The site’s accessibility credentials include 60 rooms prepared for disabled or wheelchair access, with elevators and ramps (including to indoor and outdoor pools, terraces and all public areas), wide doors, fully prepared bathrooms and showers with rails and support bars, sensor activated sliding doors and lighting, and accessibility equipment rental. The immediate challenge was to create a network of services which covered the ground between the location and the guests’ point of arrival or departure, and extended beyond into the accessibility supply chain.

Accessibility levelling the playing field for senior tourists

While airlines already provide support in the form of wheelchairs and assistance to disabled users, often the support ends as soon as the traveller enters the airport terminal. In the Algarve, the support network is now much broader. A specialist accessible transportation company, Cultur’Friends, makes available adapted VW Caddie Active vehicles with manual ramps and hydraulic suspension. A network of accessibility partners, integrated into the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), points travellers with mobility or accessibility to partners or suppliers.
Service-based solutions such as those run by, are revolutionising the way in which travellers with accessibility needs find appropriate solutions. This includes increased focus on ensuring that accessibility information, including any limitations, is more readily available. Accessibility statements, better designed web sites, and in-situ signage, all help to make the experience of guests with disabilities as similar as possible to visitors who are not disabled.

Luis da Silva, Founder and Managing Director of Algarve Senior Living, comments that “we have always had an inclusive vision. While we have been realistic about the current infrastructural constraints, we are constantly striving to seek broad-based solutions. It just makes sense because the quality goes up for all concerned.”

To paraphrase Paralympian Ade Adepitan: “There is an £8.5 billion market out there. Catering for the accessibility segment of the market is not simply a question of ensuring all travellers are treated fairly, but it makes sound business sense. Foolish is the business which ignores the potential of this vast market, avid for travel and for new experiences!”




Vem som helst som närmar sig pensionsåldern vill skydda sin välförtjänta pension.

Många vill göra detta i ett tryggt land med ett varmt klimat, med vänliga människor och med en fantastisk livsstil.
Inget enskilt land har en särskilt underlättad procedur till ovanstående.

Portugal, som röstats Europas bästa golf och strand destination av World Travel Awards, har nyligen förbättrat sin lagstiftning som syftar till att locka utländska medborgare och investerare. Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) lagen tillåter kvalificerande personer, som inte har varit bosatta i Portugal under de fem (5) föregående år, att bli bosatt i landet och få privata pensioner eller icke portugisiska inkomster, skattefria under en period av tio (10) år. Utländska eller icke portugisiska inkomster är skattefria om landet från vilket de betalas äger rätt att beskatta betalningarna (även om det inte gör det). Kvalificerade individer innefattar medborgare i EU, EES och Schweiz samt de som kvalificerar sig genom speciella program såsom beroende anställda, företagare/entreprenörer, studenter, investerare i företag och det Gyllene Visumet (Golden Visa).

De formella krav för att få uppehållstillstånd är antingen 183 dagars vistelse eller vad som kan betraktas som en stadigvarande bostad (som ägs eller hyrs) den 31 december i resp. taxeringsår. Undantag från dessa finns, till exempel det Gyllene Visumet, vilket gör att icke EU-medborgare får uppehållstillstånd genom att köpa fastigheter till ett värde av minst €500.000.

Enligt NHR lagen, ett schablonbelopp på 20%* (mindre än hälften av det högsta inkomstskattesats) tas ut på alla inkomster som härrör från portugisiska källor, arbete som utförs i landet eller utländska inkomster som inte beskattas eller som inte omfattas av källskatt.

Enligt de flesta dubbelbeskattningsavtal, beskattningen av pensionsinkomst sker i det land där personen är bosatt. Enligt NHR lagen följer det att de allra flesta utländska inkomster blir skattefria. Ett viktigt undantag till lagen omfattar pensionsutbetalningar till f.d. offentliganställda då varje regering normalt förbehåller rätten till källskatt. Detta innebär att full befrielse från källskatt inte kommer att vara möjligt. Människor som hamnar i denna kategori kan dock kompensera eller mildra beskattningen med hjälp av dubbelbeskattningsavtalet mellan Portugal och ursprungslandet.

Det blir också viktigt att analysera varje underkategori av tillgångar, såsom utdelning, royalties, bankräntor o.s.v. för att se till att i varje enskilt fall den maximala skattelättnad uppnås. Hjälp av en professionell och kvalificerad skatterådgivare rekommenderas och kostnaden av en investering på mellan €1,500 och €3,000 (beroende på komplexiteten i en persons ekonomiska angelägenheter) tjänas in vanligtvis snabbt.

Processen för kvalificerade sökande (d.v.s. de som uppfyller förutsättningarna som förklarades ovan) är enkel: Det handlar om att registrera sig på den lokala Finanças (eller skattemyndigheten) för att få ett skattenummer, ge uppgifter om bostaden (bevis på ägandet eller ett långsiktigt hyresavtal) och en skriftlig begäran till den relevanta myndigheten. Alla ansökningar måste lämnas in senast den 31 mars av året efter det år som avses i ansökan. Ansökningarna kan ta några månader att behandla så det rekommenderas att alla behöriga sökande lämnar in sina ansökningar så snart de har tagit beslutet att ta steget, så att resultatet är känt, om möjligt innan slutet av de relevanta beskattningsåren (inte bara i Portugal utan också i ursprungslandet).

NHR lagen ger en utmärkt lösning för pensionärer samt fria yrkesutövare såsom konsulter, företagsledare, läkare, tandläkare, arkitekter och ingenjörer samt alla som aktivt främjar investeringar i landet. Tjänstepension som anses inte köpta i Portugal är undantagna enligt NHR lag.

Möjligheten till en skattefri pension, frånvaron av arv eller gåvoskatt, ingen förmögenhetsskatt (förutom den årliga fastighetsskatten), tillgång till en tillförlitlig statligt hälsosystem för både invånare och EU-medborgare, lägre levnadskostnader än de flesta EU-18 och tillgängligheten till en förstklassig och kostnadseffektiv privat sjukförsäkring, har tjänat Portugal utmärkelsen för “Bästa stället i världen att gå i pension i” från den 2014 Overseas Retirement Index.

Utöver den traditionella vägen för inköp av fastigheter för pensionering eller långa vistelser, har en lösning baserad på att hyra nyligen lanserats i Algarve. Tillsammans med medicinsk och andra relevanta tjänster, lösningen riktar sig för dig som vill prova-innan-du-flyttar, för att njuta av vinter vistelser i din favoritdestination som även ger NHR status till kvalificerade individer som väljer att tillbringa merparten av sin tid i landet.

* Under 2014 finns det en 3.5% (2015: 2.5%) avgift som åläggs all personlig inkomstskatt i Portugal, kopplat till slutet av Portugals räddningspaket från EU / ECB / IMF

The Algarve: Best Place in the World to Retire!

The Algarve: Best Place in the World to Retire!

Finally it is official!

It has been coming for some time, it must be said. Europe’s leading beach destination – World Travel Awards. 2nd best place to retire overseas – The Telegraph. 7thfriendliest nation in the world (among 140 surveyed) – CNN. World’s leading Golf Destination – WTA.

And now: Algarve, Portugal: Best Place in the World to Retire – 2014 Retire Overseas Index.

The index, which has just been published, sees the Algarve ranked ahead of 21 global locations including places such as Abruzzo in Italy, Barcelona in Spain, Istria in Croatia, Pau in France, Chaing Mai in Thailand, Istanbul in Turkey, Dumaguete in the Philippines, Ambergris Caye in Belize, Mendoza in Argentina, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and City Beaches in Panama.

The ranking was compiled using 12 criteria including climate, cost of living, crime, English spoken, entertainment, environmental conditions, existing expat community, healthcare, infrastructure, real estate, residency options and taxes. Portugal scored top marks in several categories: it received an A for its sizeable 100,000 expat community which allowed new arrivals to integrate faster; an A for Environment, an A for Crime (I think that should be lack of Crime!); and A for infrastructure, recognition that EU money was actually spent on something tangible; an A for Residency and of course an A for climate – no surprise there!

best place

Surprisingly for many, but not us, it was awarded an A for Entertainment. This is not New York or London, but you can see a World Premiere of a musical – Blind Faith has its run of 8 performances in October before starting a 60 performance tour in the UK. It isn’t New Orleans or Paris, but you can enjoy jazz, fado, youth orchestras or ballet, most weeks of the year. It isn’t Flushing Meadow or Adelaide, but you can play a tennis tournament most weekends. Wentworth it ain’t but talk to any of the pros and they will tell you that among the 42 courses that grace the Algarve, there will be at least one that will match your favourite anywhere in the world. Plus you won’t have to travel more than an hour to reach any of them. And when it comes to traditional markets and an array of dining experiences, well, there is really no need to travel to Florence, Rio de Janeiro or even Spitalfields.

Health and Real Estate ranked as an A-. Taxes only ranked as a B because the Non Habitual Residency programme, which allows many new resident foreigners to earn pensions tax-free, only lasts 10 years for any qualifying individual. And the Algarve’s lone C was earned in the English Spoken category, not because few people speak English in the region but because Portuguese as a language is considered very difficult for a foreigner to learn.

Forbes, the highly respected and influential magazine, business and entrepreneurial group, was quick to publish news of the Algarve’s new-found status for retirees. The report, which can be found at, incorporates the summary of the comprehensive study conducted by Live and Invest Overseas, the US-based publisher which spent months analysing data from different countries.

As Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, states of the Algarve and Portugal in general, “it’s the most affordable option in Europe for retirees” – But as she points out, “retiring part-time overseas can also be a good idea”. The publisher frequently encourages those wishing to retire to a new location to do so for a trial period before making a final decision.

Service-based solutions such as those run by, are changing the landscape of the decision-making process of new and potential retirees, providing a way to experience the lifestyle and the region’s many advantages (and any challenges) prior to taking the plunge.

Luis da Silva, Founder and Managing Director at Algarve Senior Living, who has been actively involved as a local correspondent for publications such as the Overseas Retirement Letter, states “we are passionate about living in the Algarve and the many benefits and advantages of life in the region.” Algarve Senior Living assisted in researching and providing relevant data to support the Algarve’s status as an excellent retirement destination.

Algarve Senior Living is not only walking the walk, by launching the region’s first flexible solution for independent seniors. It is also talking the talk, by trumpeting positive data on Europe’s most famous secret, now also the best place in the world to retire. Hope to see you at an Algarve Senior Living village soon, where we walk the talk!

The Non Habitual Resident law: a Case Study

The Non Habitual Resident law: a Case Study


I thought that Börje Forsberg looked tanned and relaxed. Although we had never met before, I assumed that this was because he was now retired to the Algarve. He was quick to confirm my first impressions. By his own admission, he now has a very different lifestyle to the one before his retirement four years ago, all due to the Non Habitual Resident law (NHR law).

We had organised to meet so that Mr. Forsberg, an experienced company director and still active non-executive director, could tell me a little about why he had become a resident of the Algarve, specifically the town of Lagos. In a very personal and genuine way, he was spontaneous in admitting that the death of a close friend to cancer four years ago had made him rethink his life and decide to bring forward plans to seek a change of lifestyle and reduce his “double shift of 30 years” which had taken him to hundreds of international working destinations.

That change included a renewed focus on friends, family, his grandchildren, new challenges and (surprisingly) travelling (but not work-related).

In a structured process often associated with Scandinavian thinking, his research process had included an analysis of Spain, Malta, and France, until settling on Portugal, which he had only visited twice before. After an initial visit to Cascais and the greater Lisbon area, it was Lagos, a city he describes as “genuine” and “not destroyed by tourists”, that he decided to settle, spending on average nine months of every year. Originally from Stockholm, he found that in the area, expatriates mingle easily with locals, and a sense of a normalcy prevails throughout the year (even in the heady summer season).

I assumed that his decision to adopt Lagos and the Algarve as his home involved more than the sea and pool views from his apartment, or the peaceful, balmy afternoons reading a book in the shade of the overhang of the balcony above him. He quickly expanded on the reasons for his choice: “the culture, good food, good wine” (said, it must be added, with just a hint of a smile), all added up to the “perfect” location for him. With a population of just 20,000, even the swollen summer that brought with it probably another 100,000 did not create any significant traffic jams. Perhaps it is time that they “rebuild the old bridge”, he adds as a critical afterthought, referring to the city’s once-popular crossing between the city’s promenade and Meia Praia and which due to structural instability and a lack of funds had ceded its position to a new crossing further upstream.

And, of course, the tax situation. Mr. Forsberg found out about Portugal’s Non Habitual Resident law, which allows new eligible retirees to receive their pensions tax-free in the country. Even though it was not his main motivation, the 57% tax saving was the icing on the cake. Mr. Forsberg is quick to add, though: “don’t move if saving tax is your only reason”, implying of course that his was a weighted decision involving a number of variables. But there is no doubt that for Swedes, “Portugal is the number 1 option” from a tax perspective, better than even Malta which has traditionally been the destination of choice.

True to his promise to himself “to live a completely different life”, he now runs (or jogs) five times a week, plays some tennis, reads and finds time to deal with his approximately 20 daily e-mails (which made me admiring and insanely jealous at the same time, when thinking of my own inbox).

With views over the ocean and of the communal pool in his apartment complex, there could be worse places to retire, I thought. And a 50% tax saving as an added prize…no wonder Mr. Forsberg has already convinced ten of his Swedish friends to join him.

Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Europe’s best kept secret. That’s how this part of the world is often described. Why? Because it has Europe’s best beaches, Europe’s best golf courses, one of Europe’s friendliest folk, it’s the chosen retirement destination for over 100,000 resident expatriates, and, added to all that, it’s Europe’s newest tax haven.

Several international publications have ranked Portugal as one of the best overseas retirement destinations, including the British broadsheet the Telegraph, which rated the country asthe “2nd best place to retire abroad.” A safe region, with very little crime and a laid-back lifestyle for expatriates, this destination caters equally to families and retirees, due to the wide variety of cultural, nature-based, sporting, gastronomic, and other activities. Long a popular summer destination for sunseekers and a winter-stay retreat for those getting away from Northern Europe’s colder months, the Algarve receives more than 5 million annual visitors through its airport alone, swelling the local population of approximately 350,000. Add to this the fact that it is the Portuguese people’s preferred holiday destination and that the Spanish love to visits its wilder western coast, and you begin to understand why, at peak times, several million more come here to experience its beauty.

Expect to enjoy the lifestyle if you holiday, study, or retire here, but count on some frustration if you move to the region to work. Business bureaucracy and the shrinking of the economy because of the financial crisis of 2008, mean that the region is not the obvious choice for those looking for employment. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, will find that the region’s excellent communications infrastructure, pleasant working environment, and cheap and talented labor force, together with a range of EU and national incentives to encourage start-up activity, may well make this a preferred location for launching new business ideas.

If you are looking for a mix between the Algarve’s historical roots and the spectacular beaches for which it is famous, then look no further than Silves and Lagoa. These two municipalities, located slightly west of center in Portugal’s southernmost province, allow residents to experience the best the area has to offer.

The immaculate main square in Silves Best Kept Secret

Silves, nestled in verdant valleys surrounded by the country’s largest citrus-growing area, and on the banks of the Arade River, which is navigable to where it meets the sea at Portimão, offers a warm microclimate, and visitors here will feel comfortable all year round…but perhaps just a little flustered when temperatures soar in the summer! Silves’ undulating hills are located inland in the region known as the barrocal (pronounced “buh-rroh-kaal”) and are covered with indigenous bush and scrubland interspersed with the triad of regional trees: olive, carob, and fig. The barrocal and its fauna contrasts sharply with the expanse of white sandy beach of its only coastal town, Armação de Pêra.

For a variety of beaches, hop over to neighboring Lagoa, with the capital town of the same name, which is a much smaller municipality located close to the ocean. Most of its activity is related to tourism around the coastal resorts towns of Carvoeiro (pronounced “kuhr-voo-ey-roo”) and Ferragudo. Here’s my video tour of the area including the main towns covered in this issue of the ORL.

With the Portuguese being the largest fish eaters per capita in Europe, finding fresh fish at one of the many daily markets is not difficult. Add to that a variety of fresh produce grown in the region and available in the local markets of both towns, and there is no excuse for unhealthy eating of any type! Wash your meal down with one of several local wines and you have the makings of a superb, yet healthy, gastronomic lifestyle.

Portugal has, according to a past Bloomberg report, the lowest cost of living in Western Europe. A variety of competing supermarkets in the Silves and Lagoa area make this area on average 30% cheaper than most European countries further north.

A quiet day at Silves market Best Kept Secret

The Silves and Lagoa areas are positioning themselves as leaders in the retirement sector within the Algarve, Portugal, and Iberian Peninsula. Two of the region’s pioneering projects in senior living will be launched in these two municipalities— see “Making The Right Property Choice” for more information.

Add to these factors recent legislation that allows many foreign residents to receive pensions tax-free in the country, and you would be hard pressed to find many similarly attractive retirement destinations in the heart of Europe, because the Algarve is Europe’s best kept secret.