Located on the very southern end of this enticing country, The Algarve, Portugal (86 miles by 24 miles) has been drawing expatriate retirees seeking the good life for quite awhile and the reasons are simple: the region is renowned for its wonderful climate, top notch golf, verdant landscape and stunning coastline. This tiny piece of the globe has been occupied by the Phoenicians, Celts and Romans (and by an occasional pirate). As a result, the Algarve still offers hints of an eclectic past. Warm waters, almond groves, white washed building, medieval ruins and modern architecture all find a home here.
Most expat retirees here are British and European, but there are also some Americans and Canadians. This is not an inexpensive country, but it is one of the less expensive countries in the European Union, and overall, the cost of living is about half of that in France or Germany. The Algarve is essentially a row of beach towns with some inland country, and the cost-of-living in this is roughly the same as in Boston. Life here, though, comes with a magnificent coastline, sumptuous seafood and wonderful weather.
Foreigners (and retiree residents) can buy property in Portugal, and buying real estate can almost be easier than renting it since long-term rentals along the coastline are often hard to find. Most seaside rentals are short-term, catering to vacationers, and they are expensive.
The Mediterranean Sea greatly influences the Algarvean climate. Summers are hot and dry; winters are mild with little rain (50 days with rain). The region has an average of 12 hours of sun a day, and there is always a slight breeze off the Atlantic. The water is surprisingly warm, and there are no tidal waves, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions or tornadoes.
Food, particularly seafood, is a way of life here. Seafood soups, oregano snails, pork meat and grilled squid cuttlefish are all local specialties. The local wine is very tasty, too, and very inexpensive as are most groceries. Markets with fresh fruits and vegetables are in abundance, and daily market trips are one of the great joys of living here.
There are 30 golf courses scattered along the coast and within the nearby hills. One of the most famous and most photographed is the Royal Course.
The cost of private dental care and medical care is quite high, but the country has the Portuguese Public Health System, under which any resident is entitled to free basic health care, including free essential medicines, free general practitioner appointments, etc. Once one becomes a resident of Portugal, he or she needs to apply for a medical card to access the health care system. This system is, however, overcrowded and services are inconsistent, so private care and private health insurance are highly recommended.
English is spoken in some of the larger towns and tourist areas, but it is essential to learn Portuguese if considering retiring here.