James Cave from the Portugalist – Advice on Travel And Living in Portugal

The Portugalist is a blog about travel and living in Portugal. James Cave founded the blog in 2016 to create travel content for people interested in visiting the country’s many tourist attractions. But over the last few years, there has been a shift towards helping people who want to move to Portugal on a short-term or long-term basis.
In 2020 and 2021, with so few tourists visiting the country, James has taken the opportunity to work on an aspect of the blog that he had avoided in the past – advice on moving to and living legally in Portugal.

Brexit, Trump’s presidency, and the global pandemic have contributed to an increased demand for information on moving to and living in Portugal, especially by people from the US and UK

Portugal is growing fast as a destination for expats, location independent entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and retirees.

The Portugalist blog continues to offer lots of information on things to do, what to eat, where to go, and hotels in the country. But James now offers services that help people with residency and other immigration matters, specializing in relocating to Portugal and living there legally. Practical tips on getting a visa for Portugal, choosing the best location and finding information for emigration to Portugal.

📍 Why Lisbon is a digital nomad hub

“I think that’s why you get these little hubs, like Chiang Mai and Bansko. People keep on coming back to them because they have community and because they can network and learn new things. And just live live a life but have a group of friends that’s easily accessible. Lisbon definitely has that.”

📍On community

“I think with digital nomads, the thing that we’re all looking for is community. We all want to go to different parts of the world, but one of the things that we ended up looking for is: are there going to be other people there that I’ll be able to meet and get to know? Or is it going to be a lonely experience?”

“In Lisbon last year (pre-pandemic), the meetups were getting a hundred or more people attending, which is a huge number. There are plenty of coworking spaces. Portugal has its own small startup scene that’s mainly with Portuguese startups. You can integrate into that a little bit as well, so it definitely is a good place for digital nomads. And then there’s all the reasons that people want to come to Portugal, including having great weather for most of the year.”

📍 Why Portugal is a great place for expats

“It’s in a good time zone for those who have to deal with the United States and Europe. And then there’s the food, low cost of living, great beaches, surfing, and good wine.”

“Portugal has some very attractive visas and schemes to get people to move to Portugal. For example, the Golden Visa scheme, which is aimed at those who have money to buy a property or invest in some way. For a lot of people who are, say, at a later stage of their life, it’s quite affordable. The average investment is about 500,000 Euros for a property. Or in some cases just 350,000 Euros. And that gives you the ability to live in Portugal as much as you want. You only have to be there for an average of seven days a year.
At the end of those five years, you can then apply for permanent residency or get a Portuguese passport. And during that time you have access to the whole of the Schengen area as well.”

📍 On the D7 Visa, a popular visa for non-Europeans interested in living in Portugal

“For those that don’t have that kind of money , which which is a lot of us , there’s another visa called the D7 visa, which if you have income, be that a pension or you’re self-employed or you have property abroad that you rent out, you don’t have to come to Portugal and get a job. You can apply for that visa as long as you meet the minimum wage, which is very low by European standards.”

📍 On the NHR program, a tax regime popular with digital nomads and expats.

“I think a lot of people have picked up on the Non-habitual Residence Scheme visas and written articles about it in the wrong way. But overall, Portugal has high taxes. It also has a lot of bureaucracy and so the problem isn’t so much that the taxes are necessarily high, it’s that you need to find an accountant here to do your tax return.In Portugal, the rules tend to change. You don’t really know what’s going on. You go to your accountant and they don’t really know what’s going on. it can get quite complicated.

The non habitual residency scheme, for most people, means paying a 20% flat rate plus social security. If you’re low earner, it’s probably not the best deal because many other Western countries have high tax-free allowances. But if you’re a high earner, say you earn on a hundred thousand Euros a year more, then paying a flat rate of 20% is quite enticing.

The other thing the tax incentive they have here, is called the simplified regime, which tends to suit a lot of freelancers better than the non-habitual residency (NHR) program.
And that basically means you’re taxed on a percentage of your income. You’d be taxed Portuguese tax rates but on, say, 65% of your income, rather than the whole hundred percent.

You’ve got to weigh up the pros and cons. Your taxes might be higher here than they are in the country that you’re living in currently. There may be more confusing sort of paperwork to deal with, but do you get 300 days of sunshine per year, as you get in Lisbon and the Algarve? Do you have a low cost of living which might offset some of the cost of the taxes?”

📍 On getting a European passport through living in Portugal

“Does it mean that in five years time you will have a European passport that would allow you to move around the EU and work in another country? You do have to sit down and work out how much you’re paying now in tax and how much you would payunder these two schemes and whether it’s worthwhile or not.”

📍 On creating the Portugalist website and growing it into a business

“I coming back and spending more and more time here. I said, ‘I’m going to set up a website because I have more experience than the average person about Portugal’. I felt there wasn’t very good information out there about Portugal already. A lot of the content was very top-level stuff.
And I wanted to go a little bit deeper and try to create an information hub for people who were planning on spending some time here. I started doing it as a side project and it expanded. Then it became my main project and that’s what I’ve been doing now for the past few years.”

📍On starting the blog again, is there anything James would do differently?
Yeah. So I don’t know if I’d start a blog about Portugal. Having a blog about Portugal, you’d think that it would make a lot of sense having a blog there’s just about one country. So you can be an expert on it. And I thought this would give me a very strong SEO advantage as well. I was I was wrong on that. I do wtill get outranked on more general general travel sites and more general travel blogs.

📍 Why James would not start a travel blog in a single country or location niche

Two reasons I’d say don’t start a blog about Portugal or some small country:

  1. It really ties you to one place, Which when you’re a nomad, isn’t what you want.
  2. From an earnings point of view, I wish I’d started like America-ist instead. Advertisers pay so much less for traffic from somewhere like Portugal. So when I see people who have similar traffic numbers to myself, similar types of content, they could be potentially making three or four times as much money as me, by putting in the same number of hours.

📍 On the types of content that is churned out by bloggers

“I think when you’re just producing information like “The Top 10 Things to Do in Lisbon”, it’s very hard to compete. That’s all public domain sort of information. So someone else can easily come along and copy you.
A lot of other travel bloggers now have to take on so many freelance writers just to just keep churning out that content like an assembly line.”

📍 On how to stand out from the crowd in the travel blogging world
“If you have a little bit of personality and you can create something that’s just you and your stories and things like that, you’re going to have a little bit of a competitive advantage, because nobody can copy that in the same way.”

📍 James’ recommendations for places to visit in Portugal

“One place I recommend is the Azores. The islands look they look like a mixture between Ireland and Hawaii. They’ve got a volcanic structure to them. Many of the islands have lakes and there’s a green which is very different to mainland Portugal, but with a tropical climate where they can grow pineapples.
I went to coffee and tea plantations there. The people speak Portuguese and it’s a part of Portugal but it’s a unique place.”

Links:

Image of James © Travel Massive

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