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If you’re looking for a study abroad destination with pristine beaches, world-class cultural institutions and vibrant nightlife, then look no further than Portugal. Sharing the Iberian Peninsula with its neighbour Spain, Portugal has a long and proud history along with an enviably temperate climate.
This page will give you an overview of what you need to know about student life in Portugal, from accommodation and living costs to local cuisine and culture.
Portugal has much to offer international Masters students. Lisbon is a cosmopolitan capital city with colourful architecture and winding cobbled streets. Famously hilly, Lisbon is blessed with many miradouros (viewpoints) from which visitors can survey the startling topography of this beautiful city.
Porto, the second biggest city in Portugal, is around three hours north of Lisbon. Several beautiful bridges span the Douro river and the Casa da Música is a landmark concert hall designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
Postgraduates will find plenty to enjoy in Portuguese cuisine, with an enduring favourite being the pastel de nata (custard tarts) found in local bakeries across the country. You’ll also be able to sample excellent, freshly caught seafood and authentic Port wine.
Surfing is one of the most popular pastimes in Portugal, which is a premier destination for surfers from across Europe and beyond. Football is a national obsession, thanks to global superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Figo and João Félix.
The Queima das Fitas (‘ribbon burning’) festival is a unique student tradition in Portugal, involving a day of festivities for new graduates.
There are several housing options for international students in Portugal. In the major cities it can sometimes be tricky to find suitable accommodation, so it’s worth beginning your search as early as possible.
These are the main accommodation types and how much you can expect to pay in rent:
The cost of living in Portugal is relatively affordable by Western European standards. You should budget somewhere between €150 and €200 for your monthly expenses (not including rent).
A cheap restaurant meal costs around €8, while a monthly transport will set you back between €19 and €55.
As you’d probably expect, living costs are higher in the major cities of Lisbon and Porto than they are elsewhere in Portugal.
Looking for more information about Masters study in Portugal? Our detailed guide covers everything from university rankings and courses to fees, funding and applications.
If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss national, you are free to work under the same conditions as a Portuguese citizen.
Other international students can only work for 20 hours a week during term time but full-time during university holidays.
Hopefully you now have a good idea of what to expect from life as an international Masters student in Portugal. If you’re looking for a break from the library, it doesn’t get much better than sipping a coffee and nibbling a pastel de nata on one of Lisbon’s many miradouros, right? But there’s more to Portugal than custard tarts and sunny terraces. These are a few more of the practicalities you’ll need to consider before beginning your Masters.
EU, EEA and Swiss students should make sure that they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles them to access local Portuguese healthcare.
Other nationalities should check if their home country has a reciprocal health agreement with Portugal. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to take out a private health insurance policy to cover your medical costs while in Portugal.
If you’re travelling to Portugal from outside the Eurozone, it’s a good idea to open a local bank account. You’ll usually need the following documents in order to do so:
Several Portuguese banks offer student accounts that are exempt from service fee charges.
Portugal has a well-developed train network, with Lisbon and Porto a three-hour journey from each other. The country’s popularity as a tourist destination means that there are three international airports to choose from on the mainland: Lisbon, Porto and Faro.
In terms of inner-city travel, Lisbon and Porto both have excellent public transport networks spanning light-rail, metro, trams and buses.
Last updated - 06/02/2020