Spain vs Portugal: Expats’ Guide

Spain vs Portugal: Expats’ Guide

Are you considering moving to Spain or Portugal as an expat? Both countries have a lot to offer, from stunning coastlines to rich cultures and delicious cuisine. However, there are also important differences to consider when making your decision. In this article, we’ll compare Spain and Portugal in terms of cost of living, job opportunities, healthcare, education, and lifestyle, to help you decide which country is right for you as an expat.

Cost of Living: Comparing Spain and Portugal

The cost of living in both Spain and Portugal is generally lower than other Western European countries. However, there are some important differences to consider. Spain has a higher cost of living overall, especially in major cities like Madrid and Barcelona. On the other hand, Portugal is generally more affordable, with lower housing costs and a lower VAT rate. In terms of food and drink, both countries offer excellent quality at reasonable prices. In Spain, you’ll find a wide variety of tapas, wines, and local specialties. In Portugal, seafood is a staple, along with port wine and pastel de nata (custard tarts).

If you’re on a tight budget, Portugal may be the better choice. However, if you’re looking for a more cosmopolitan lifestyle with a wider range of cultural activities and nightlife, Spain may be the way to go. Keep in mind that the cost of living can vary depending on where you choose to live within each country.

Job Market: Opportunities for Expats in Spain & Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal have relatively high unemployment rates, especially among young people. However, there are still opportunities for expats in certain fields. In Spain, the tourism industry is a major employer, along with technology and finance. The demand for English teachers is also high, especially in private language schools. In Portugal, the tech industry is growing rapidly, with startups and multinational companies setting up offices in Lisbon and Porto. Education, healthcare, and tourism are also important sectors.

As an expat, it may be difficult to find work in either country without speaking Spanish or Portuguese fluently. However, if you have a high level of proficiency in English or a specialized skillset, you may be able to find work in your field. Keep in mind that the job market can be competitive, and salaries may be lower than in other European countries.

Healthcare: Quality of Care in Spain and Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal have public healthcare systems that offer affordable care to residents. However, there are some differences in how the systems are funded and managed. In Spain, healthcare is decentralized, with each region responsible for managing its own system. This can lead to some variation in quality and waiting times. Portugal has a more centralized system, with a national health service that covers the entire country.

In general, the quality of care in both countries is good, with well-trained doctors and modern facilities. However, expats may find it useful to have private health insurance for additional coverage and shorter wait times. Private healthcare in both countries is generally affordable, with many English-speaking doctors and clinics available.

Education: Schools and Universities in Spain and Portugal

Spain and Portugal both have strong education systems, with many reputable universities and international schools. In Spain, the public education system is free and compulsory up to age 16, with many private schools and international schools also available. The universities in Spain are well-regarded, with several top-ranked institutions including the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Madrid.

In Portugal, the public education system is also free and compulsory up to age 18. There are many private schools and international schools available as well. The universities in Portugal are also highly respected, with the University of Lisbon and the University of Porto both ranking in the top 200 worldwide.

Lifestyle: Culture, Climate, and Entertainment in Spain and Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal offer a high quality of life, with rich cultures and plenty of entertainment options. Spain is known for its beaches, nightlife, and festivals, including the famous Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. The climate varies depending on the region, but in general, Spain has a warm Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters.

Portugal is known for its historic cities, charming villages, and dramatic coastline. The climate is also mild, with plenty of sunshine throughout the year. Portugal is a great destination for outdoor activities like hiking, surfing, and golfing.

In terms of culture, both countries have a strong artistic and literary tradition, with many museums, galleries, and theaters. The food and drink in both countries are also excellent, with a wide variety of local specialties to try.


Whether you choose to live in Spain or Portugal as an expat will depend on your personal preferences, budget, and career goals. Both countries offer a high quality of life, with plenty of opportunities for work, education, and entertainment. By considering the factors we’ve discussed in this article, you can make an informed decision about which country is right for you as an expat.

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