The Ultimate Guide to Freelancing in Portugal 

All You Need to Know Before You Decide to Start New Life Abroad

11 min readOct 16, 2013


We continue our ultimate freelancing guide with all the important information for those who are considering starting a new life and freelancing in Portugal. This European country is often viewed as a perfect holiday destination full of amazing tourist attractions, great food, friendly people. No wonder more and more people decide to look into the possibilities of moving there. Some consider it as an option for retirement, but some look into the options of working or freelancing there. Due to high unemployment rates the working options might be rather unlimited unless you are a very highly specialised professional (but that always applies to any country). But if you can do freelancing job that requires just a good internet connection, then Portugal is absolutely a place to consider.


Portugal is member of the EU (European Union) so obviously all things legal are a lot easier if you are a citizen of EU. Citizens of the European Union, Andorra, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Romania and Switzerland need only an identity card to enter Portugal.

If you are a minor in addition to their identity card you must also present authorisation from your parents to travel. If you are planning to visit for less than 90 days and you are a citizen from Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican, Venezuela and Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China in Hong Kong and Macao, a passport valid for at least three months after the end of their stay is necessary.Citizens from countries not mentioned above need a visa to enter Portugal, which may be requested at the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate of their country for stays of up to 90 days.

For specific visa requests please check this link and for the list of Portuguese consulates look up this one. If you are looking into permanent immigration options you might want to look up this link.


If you are interested in becoming self employed in Portugal, we strongly advise consulting with professionals prior to making any lasting decisions. Again if you are an European Union national or a permanent resident of Portugal with the appropriate residence card (autorização de residençia), things are not that complicated at all. You can work as a self-employed person or as a sole trader in Portugal right away. However there are still some legal things you need to take care of.There are basically two methods of becoming self employed in Portugal. One requires a minimum investment of capital but does ensure any liabilities. It depends upon the amount of trade you will be expecting to carry out. It is an option of becoming an unlimited sole trader (trabalhador por conta própria). It applies to a situation where you’ll be providing a service such as a journalist, photographer or part-time teacher to clients on an irregular basis. Then it is the simplest and possibly the least expensive method of becoming self employed. You need to register with the local tax office as a self employed worker under the correct criteria of service you will be providing — trabalhador por conta própria. This system allows you not only to be self employed but employed on a permanent basis at the same time. The only tax you would pay would be at the end of the year is based upon the income earned, much like the rest of Europe by submitting your personal tax return. Once you register at the tax office as self employed (trabalhador por conta própria), you will be able to purchase a Receipt Book (Caderneta de Recibos) from them to issue receipts for all the monies earned. Then, at the end of the financial year, you will have to submit copies of all receipts along with your self assessment tax form. In the first year of registering as a self employed person under this system the government does provide financial incentives, notably exemption from paying social security contributions (segurança social) for the first 12 months. After that initial year the social security will be charged at the normal rate.

There are however some limitations to this system as it is designed for workers with specific skills and does not suit persons who must purchase specialist goods or equipment to provide this service. If, for example, you are a plumber or electrician and not only provide services of a plumber or electrician but the equipment as well then the receipts you charge out will of course include the cost of the materials and goods. However, these receipts will not be classed as tax deductible in this system. That is why it also worth examining the other option that is the role of a Sole Trader with Limited Liability (Estabelecimento Individual de Responsabilidade Limitada EIRL)

The Sole Trader with Limited Liability is slightly different to creating a company (Unipessoal), though still limits the liability of the sole trader. As a sole trader you would not be expected to employ others, but can ensure once you have lodged your minimum 5,000€ capital share, any costs can be deducted from the total turnover in one year. Different to creating an individual shareholder company, you can create a sole trader with limited liability situation by simply registering at the local Conservatória. Whichever form of self employment or business you choose to take, it is strongly advised to speak with a qualified Portuguese accountant and solicitor to ensure you are fully informed of the implications and responsibilities which will be expected of you as an employed or employer in Portugal.

Whichever option you decide it’s necessary to take some basic steps. You have to check if your qualifications need to be/can be transferred. Note that this can often take time as you will need to have all documents translated. If however they cannot be transferred you will need to find out about re-qualifying for Portugal. Before you sign-up or register for anything you it’s best to find an accountant and/or tax advisor to give you advice on the best structure of business. Once you have made this application it can be three years before you can change the company registration status. Make sure to check your tax status if you still have accounts or business in another country. You will most definitely need a NIF number from the local financial offices.


Once you decide to start your freelancing carrier in Portugal you should find out about the healthcare options. The healthcare system in Portugal consists of three coexisting systems: the National Health Service (NHS), special social health insurance schemes (health subsystems) and voluntary private health insurance. The Portuguese Ministry of Health (Ministério de Saúde) is in charge of managing the NHS, which is financed through general taxation. Remember that all legal residents registered at a local medical centre have the right to receive healthcare insurance, which covers basic health issues such as sickness or accidents. You might also ensure extra health insurance coverage which is also available to meet your individual needs. Anyone registered for social security coverage also receives healthcare coverage. The Social Security Institute (Instituto da Solidariedade e da Segurança Social) is responsible for administering social security benefits such as pensions and maternity benefits.Hospital services are provided with a discount, and sometimes even without charge, for people that are registered at a local medical centre (covered by health insurance. You have to remember bring your SNS card with you.


Before you actually relocate to Portugal you might want to look for options to rent property in Portugal. Remember that sine it is a massively popular holiday destination, short-term rentals are extremely easy to come by in Portugal (especially in the coastal areas). But even though long-term rentals are available, they aren’t usually advertised nearly as well, so it’s best to ask around to find the best deals. Sometimes the easies and best options is just finding an estate agent. Long-term leases are usually signed on a one-year basis, and require one month’s rent as deposit money. Just like in most countries the standard of accommodation on the market in Portugal can vary hugely from area to area, and from building to building. Newer apartment blocks are modern, well-finished, and structurally sound; while older buildings, although beautifully rustic at times, can often have problems with their plumbing, electricity supply, etc. Newer buildings might have air conditioning, while central heating is rare and largely unnecessary. Most rental properties in Portugal will come furnished. But if you’re looking to rent a large house, have in mind that it might be unfurnished. To look into the specific prices you might want to check this link.


One of the things tourists love Portugal so much. So do expats. Portuguese cuisine evolved from hearty peasant food drawn from the seafood of the country’s abundant coast and the pork raised on the limited grazing land of its interior. Soup is the essential first course of any Portuguese meal. The most popular is the Minho specialty, caldo verde, made from kale, potatoes and spiced sausage. Another Portuguese staple you will find mostly everywhere is bacalhau (dried codfish) everywhere. The most common of Portugal’s delicious fish (peixe) dishes revolve around sole (linguado) and sardines (sardinha) although salmon (salmão) and trout (truta) are also featured heavily. These are fried, grilled or served in a variety of sauces.

You’ll see grills, thick with the smoke of charring meat, in front of many restaurants during your stay. Vegetarians however may have a tough time n Portugal, at least in traditional Portuguese restaurants. Vegetables there (usually boiled or fried potatoes) are simply a way to garnish to the main meat dish. Be careful if you are strict vegetarian as even ‘vegetarian’ salads and dishes may just substitute tuna (which locals don’t seem to regard as a ‘meat’) for ham or sausage.

Restaurants are everywhere especially in more tourist oriented destinations and prices are not extremely hight. However if you live there and chose to cook for yourself sometimes, the only thing you’re going to need is kitchen and some utensils. Vegetarians will be happy to find out portuguese grocery stores are surprisingly well-stocked with items such as lentils, veggie burgers, couscous, and inexpensive fruits, vegetables, and cheeses.If you like hard cheese,try “queijo da serra”,if you prefer soft cheese,try regueijao. On larger shops mostly found in the principal cities, you can also find many unusual items such as exotic fruits or drinks. Obviously those who eat meat will find variety of products, too.


When you decide to live and work in Portugal and travel around at the same time, you might want to consider buying or renting a car. Car rental in Portugal is an option for short-term visitors, and as a temporary visitor in Portugal (up to six months) you may drive using your current international license or pink EU licence. But if you become a resident in Portugal, you must obtain a Portuguese licence or use your EU driving licence until it expires. Holders of Australian and US driving licences are also able to drive in Portugal for up to six months without an international driving licence. Of course you can validate your current licence.To do so (licence categories A, B and B + E), you will need: your current driving license; a recent passport photograph; a photocopy of your identity card; a photocopy of your Taxpayer Card and a medical certificate issued by a doctor.

Remember also that Portuguese law compels drivers at the age of fifty, sixty, sixty-five and seventy (from all categories) to undergo regular medical and psychological examinations when revalidating their driving licences. As far as petrol are concerned Portugal is no different from other European countries.Prices are set in the free market and vary in accordance with the cost of a barrel of crude oil in the international markets. So you can only hope they won’t reach sky limits

Cars of course are not the only option when it comes to moving around the country. And they might not be the cheapest ones given the mentioned changes in petrol and diesel. Trains are a popular way of commuting and traveling. The journey between Lisbon and Oporto on the Alfa Pendular train (the fastest and most comfortable train) may vary between €30,30 and €42,40 (2nd or 1st class) and on InterCity trains the price varies between €24,30 and €35.90.From Lisbon to Faro the fare is between €22,20 and €29.80 on the Alfa Pendular train and between €21 and €27.80 on the InterCity train.If you want to visit the sights on the outskirts of the capital, train tickets cost €1.25 from Cais Sodré to Belém or from Rossio to Queluz-Belas, €1.55 from Alcântara to Oriente, and €2.15 from Lisbon to either Sintra or Cascais. You can find all the necessary info here.

If you would rather not travel by either train or car you can always choose one of the express coaches that offer regular connections between the main Portuguese cities. The journey between Lisbon and Oporto may cost around €19, between Lisbon and Faro, €20, between Faro and Oporto €31 and between Lisbon and Coimbra €14,50. The informations like time tables and fares are to be found here.

If you decide to live in Lisbon, it is best to use urban transport and leave the car for longer trips. The “Lisboa card” permits the use of all public transport facilities in the city and trains between Lisbon and Sintra or Cascais and also offers free entrance or discounts in monuments, museums or tourism circuits. The prices are €18.50 for 24 hours, €31.50 for 48 hours and €39 for 72 hours. Prices for children aged between 5 and 11: 24h — €11,50; 48h — €17,50; 72h — €20,50


Working as a freelancer you might need a good internet connection, especially if you are a web developer, journalist, copywriter, photographer or actually anyone whose work depends on the resources internet provides. Portugal luckily enough has a very decent and well developed internet network. Of course the bigger the city the better. Lisbon is not a city that has a lot of cyber cafes but there are a few places that offer internet services. There are a number of ISDN conventional, ADSL broadband and wireless Internet brands in the Portuguese market. They are Sapo, Telepac, Claranet. If you are looking for Broadband Wireless providers in the city you are in check one of the following: PT WiFi, Kanguru, Novis.


If you ever visited Portugal as a tourist you may view it weather wise as a place close to paradise. For those chances are that before shaping up plans of living there for a number of years they will already know what Portugal has in store weather-wise. Portugal is among the warmest countries in Europe — average temperatures you are likely to encounter will only rarely fall into the single digits. However life in Portugal is not all sunshine, though. Winters are fairly mild, but they are typically very wet, especially in coastal areas. My advice is to not leave the house without an umbrella or, even better, rain gear. In the wintertime, you might even catch a glimpse of snow here and there, although not too often or for too long.

Portugal is the first european option for freelancers we’ve looked up for you after discovering possibilities of freelancing in Thailand, Canada and India. We will continue with our quest to give you most updated info on freelancing in different parts of the globe next moving further north… Please share your comments and your own experiences below.




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