How We Save Thousands Every Year by Living in Portugal

by Terry Coles on September 22, 2021 in Lifestyle, Travel,
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After taking early retirement, Texans Terry and Clyde Coles wanted a travel-rich lifestyle. First, they ventured to Panama, then spent a couple of years housesitting, roaming the globe rent-free. Today, they’re settled in sun-soaked Portugal.

The sun sparkled against the sand as the ocean breeze blew through my hair and sweat glistened on my face. It was the last few minutes of a beachfront bootcamp that a friend invited us to attend along Portugal’s Atlantic coast. The group was instructed to run a lap around the perimeter of the boardwalk as our final exercise. I was tired and had second thoughts about running through the sand and on the dusty platform but did as I was told. Before I knew it, I was on the ground and my left arm had taken the brunt of the fall.

In the southern Portuguese region of the Algarve, retired ex-pats Terry and Clyde Coles rent a two-bedroom condominium in a gated complex with a pool for $1,030 per month. Photo courtesy International Living

A while later my fingers turned to ice making me think that something was wrong so off, we went to the local emergency room. Soon after arriving X-rays were taken of my arm, hand, and wrist and a while later I met with an orthopedic surgeon. He gave me both good and bad news. Yes, my arm was broken but it was a hairline fracture that did not need casting just a sling for a few weeks until it healed. The cost was just $20 to see the doctor and another $20 for X-rays. Just imagine how much this would have set me back in a US hospital.

One of the benefits of retiring to Portugal is having access to their low-cost public healthcare system.

From Texas Around the World to Portugal

My husband Clyde is a retired firefighter and paramedic from Corpus Christi, Texas.

When he was working, the city paid a good portion of the cost of health insurance but when he retired, he would be responsible for the full amount. Ten years ago, that cost was a staggering $1,400 per month. We had two choices. Keep working forever to pay for US healthcare or find a place where we could live a more affordable, better life abroad.

In 2011, Terry Coles and her husband, Clyde, set off from Texas to enjoy early retirement in Panama. Their overseas adventures were just beginning.
Photo courtesy International Living

Our adventures abroad begin in 2011 when our plane touched down in Panama. Since neither Clyde nor I had ever even traveled out of the US, Panama was a good starting point for us. We bought a house, a car and made a ton of friends enjoying a tropical lifestyle year-round near the expat haven of Coronado. Life was good until I convinced Clyde to take our first-ever trip to Europe. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Europe? People like us don’t go to Europe, only rich people do!” Surely, he regrets ever uttering those words because now we actually live in one of Europe’s most popular destinations.

After a one-month trek through Europe, we returned to Panama as changed people and knew it was time to move on and live somewhere else. But where? We sold our house in Panama and gave away everything else except what would fit into two carry-on-sized suitcases each. For two years we traveled the world as house and pet sitters. It was from a sit that we discovered this tiny country called Portugal and decided to make it our next home.

Today, Terry Coles and her husband Clyde (a retired firefighter and paramedic from Corpus Christi, Texas), live in southern Portugal’s Algarve region in the resort town of Vilamoura. Photo courtesy International Living

Portugal offers foreign residents access to their low-cost, free-to-join public healthcare system. But one of the requirements needed to apply for a long-stay visa is proof of private health insurance, at least initially. Our cost for private health insurance here in Portugal is around $350 a month for the two of us. It covers us at 90% if the doctor is in-network and 80% if they are not. It even offers us worldwide emergency coverage for up to 60-days when traveling, even in the high-priced United States. So, by moving out of the US we reduced our healthcare costs from over $16,800 a year to just $4,200. That’s a saving of over $12,000!

Today we live in southern Portugal’s Algarve region in the resort town of Vilamoura. We live comfortably on $2,500 to $3,000 a month including private health insurance. The Algarve is known for its stunning coastline, large expat community, and English-speaking locals.

The past ten years have been an amazing adventure and surely what dreams are made of. If we could do it, anyone can.


Cover: Falesia Beach, Portugal. Photo courtesy International Living

This article is a sponsored collaboration with International Living. For more than 40 years, International Living has been publishing information on living, retiring, traveling and investing overseas.