For many of us who have been living in the Algarve for quite a while, it is sometimes easy to take the wonderful benefits for granted. So, we thought, for those of you still to discover the pleasures that await, we should have a quick reminder of the lifestyle advantages!
With warm winters and hot summers, the climate is sublime. Daytime temperatures in the winter rarely drop below 16 degrees and if the sun is out it feels like 20/21 degrees. No wonder a favourite pastime is swimming on Christmas day! Rain is often concentrated around April or October and even then, it is unusual to have unbroken rain without the sun popping out. Officially we have 320 days of sunshine a year. The summers can be hot but we always have the breeze from the Atlantic which makes the summer temperatures perfect for going to the beach or drinking a glass of chilled white wine.
The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) places Portugal as the 4th safest place to live in the world. This is based on a survey covering 163 different states and territories using different factors that accumulate into its 'peacefulness'. Some of the indicators used are as follows; impact of terrorism, number of violent deaths, nuclear capability, condition of peace, social security, internal conflicts and international relations. There are rarely any severe crimes here and while we should always take precautions it is not a society that looks to rob, steal or defraud its citizens. Most villas that are sold will have an alarm, maybe grills on the windows and sometimes CCTV. This isn't necessary but we work on the basis it is better to be safe than sorry.
The beaches in the Algarve all have soft golden sand and most are patrolled by lifeguards in high season. There are apparently 133 beaches in the Algarve and they all have their own characteristics. Why not try and see them all! You have sand spit beaches (think Maldives) that are islands only reached by boat. Most don't have vehicles so they are a paradise of calm and unspoiled nature. These beaches can be found close to Tavira in the East. At the western end of the Algarve (Lagos) the geography changes and we enjoy scenic beaches backed by warm sandstone cliffs with rock pillars and caves - regularly visited by boat trips.
The Algarve has a wonderful selection of International Schools as well as state schools which are also good options for your young children, especially if you wish to immerse them into the Portuguese language.
The most popular international schools are:
It is a well-known fact that the Portuguese are among the most welcoming people in the world. History shows that they have been invaded many times but this time 'foreigners' bring investment and jobs. However, the Portuguese don't need a reason to welcome you as it is in their nature to be friendly, considerate and understanding. They are also relatively reserved and like to get along with their neighbours. They do not cause conflict but wish to exhibit their country and its lifestyle, to encourage you to live like them. Peacefully and considerately.
Being next to the Atlantic coast has many benefits - food being one of them. Lashings of fresh seafood and shellfish brought daily by the fleet of fishermen. Sea bass, sea bream, mussels, prawns and oysters to name but a few. There are hundreds of owner-operated restaurants, all creating their own style and menu. Most would also include the famous Piri-Piri chicken - grilled chicken with a wonderful zing of spice, accompanied by tomato salad and home prepared chips. In the majority of restaurants food is freshly prepared and cooked. Add to this a wonderful bottle of Portuguese wine - delicious!
The Algarve has an abundance of sporting and leisure options. It regularly wins the award for the Best European and World Golfing Destination by the World Golf Awards. There are superb options for Tennis Courts and Academies. Cycling is also a popular activity with many local clubs offering rides each weekend. Paddle tennis is also popular among the expats as a pleasurable and social activity. Football is a passion with most locals supporting either Benfica or Sporting Lisbon. If walking is your thing then there are endless signposted tracks both along the coast or inland. The Algarve offers limitless options to enjoy the great outdoors, keeping you fit in both mind, body and soul.
While we enjoy all the benefits mentioned above it is quite remarkable that compared to most European countries and North America the cost of living is around 20% cheaper. Portugal isn't a wealthy country so food, drink and basic commodities need to be affordable. Electricity is the exception to this as the country invests heavily in green energy such as wind and solar power. While the cost of electricity is as high as other countries it is a small price to pay knowing it is mainly from renewable sources. On the high street you can expect to pay €1.20 for a white coffee, €2.00 for a large beer, €2.00 for soup of the day and €8 euros for a main meal or pizza. In the main tourist areas expect to add 50% to these prices and if you are splashing out then a premium fillet steak with accompaniments, in a top-class restaurant, would cost in the region of €25.
The health facilities in Portugal have improved considerably over recent years and now second to none. If you use the public health service then you will be allocated a GP and attend a Centro de Saude (Health Centre). Here, waiting times are not the best but not unreasonable either. Most towns have health centres. If you wish to top up your protection with a private cover then this is readily available and comes in many forms. A basic cover can be provided by your bank at €25 per month and will form part of your banking package. If you wish to have top of the range cover for your family (of, say four) then this can increase to around €200 per month. This will generally provide a discount of 50% on all tests and analysis and provide complete cover for any serious illness. If you just walk into a private clinic (again, there are many) and ask to see a doctor then an immediate consultation will be around €50.
There isn't any! Welcome to the good old days. No annoying road works, no (or very few) speed cameras, no getting up early to beat the rush - just start the car, open the windows, turn on the radio and welcome to freedom.