Another (boring?) weekend in paradise

We hear it all the time. Went on holiday but there was nothing to do. Great beaches, plenty of sunshine, but how can we otherwise occupy our time? The other day, I even had to convince a Portuguese person that he was falling into the trap of paying lip service to that ill-gotten, and much maligned, it must be said, reputation which places like the Algarve have earned, for being, dare we say it: boring?

Our weekend started before we realised the week had ended. The first of the summer’s night tournaments was being held at the Portimão tennis club and we had one of the family members playing in the seniors event. The warm-up was interrupted by a phone call to attend a meeting and by the time I returned to offer my support, the match was well into the second set. Two and a half hours later, with plenty of bifanasand refreshments being liberally distributed among the attendees, singles and doubles matches were still in full flow. In this tournament there was even a celebrity attendee. Stefan Edberg, former world number 1 and a frequent visitor to the Algarve, brought his family along to watch his son play. The only give-away that they might not be local club members, was the group of blonde-haired supporters sitting on the long wooden benches alongside an otherwise dark-haired audience.

The first night was an early night, as players and supporters managed to get away by 01:30 and doubles was largely held over until the following evening. Nonetheless, the next morning I drive over to the same club because a younger family member is participating in an U/12 tournament. Hours and several victories later, and we are looking at another full day on the Sunday interrupted only by the continuation of the senior tournament in the evening.

Much to my disappointment I don’t make it over to the Arte Algarve gallery in Lagoa which holds its first auction. Around 80 people attend to see 170 works go under the hammer. Interest is good for this debut occasion and more than 20 works, including prints by well-known Portuguese artist Guimarães and famous Spanish painter Miró, are sold off to art lovers.

From there, it is only a short hop to the Feira do Doce Conventual, a traditional sweets fair held annually in the beautiful Convent of São José. The visitor is greeted by the gentle sounds of a saxophone and flute duo, soloists drawn from the local orchestra. As much a feast for the eye as for the taste buds, the event includes the Big 4 of endogenous ingredients: carob, orange, fig and almond. My comment to one exhibitor that the mere sight of such sweetness is enough to increase cholesterol levels is not appreciated by the person in question, but other visitors smile between mouthfuls of sweets. Outside, the traditional fadoperformers are getting ready to entertain the visitors, their haunting melodies soon floating into the balmy night air.

Sunday’s tennis more than eliminates any excess that might have resulted from the previous night. Players and families leave the club after the finals. Just enough time to wander down to the waterfront and treat everyone to an ice cream…just another weekend in paradise

The Algarve: Best Place in the World to Retire!

Finally it is official!

It has been coming for some time, it must be said. Europe’s leading beach destination – World Travel Awards. 2nd best place to retire overseas – The Telegraph. 7thfriendliest nation in the world (among 140 surveyed) – CNN. World’s leading Golf Destination – WTA.

And now: Algarve, Portugal: Best Place in the World to Retire – 2014 Retire Overseas Index.

The index, which has just been published, sees the Algarve ranked ahead of 21 global locations including places such as Abruzzo in Italy, Barcelona in Spain, Istria in Croatia, Pau in France, Chaing Mai in Thailand, Istanbul in Turkey, Dumaguete in the Philippines, Ambergris Caye in Belize, Mendoza in Argentina, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and City Beaches in Panama.

The ranking was compiled using 12 criteria including climate, cost of living, crime, English spoken, entertainment, environmental conditions, existing expat community, healthcare, infrastructure, real estate, residency options and taxes. Portugal scored top marks in several categories: it received an A for its sizeable 100,000 expat community which allowed new arrivals to integrate faster; an A for Environment, an A for Crime (I think that should be lack of Crime!); and A for infrastructure, recognition that EU money was actually spent on something tangible; an A for Residency and of course an A for climate – no surprise there!

Surprisingly for many, but not us, it was awarded an A for Entertainment. This is not New York or London, but you can see a World Premiere of a musical – Blind Faith has its run of 8 performances in October before starting a 60 performance tour in the UK. It isn’t New Orleans or Paris, but you can enjoy jazz, fado, youth orchestras or ballet, most weeks of the year. It isn’t Flushing Meadow or Adelaide, but you can play a tennis tournament most weekends. Wentworth it ain’t but talk to any of the pros and they will tell you that among the 42 courses that grace the Algarve, there will be at least one that will match your favourite anywhere in the world. Plus you won’t have to travel more than an hour to reach any of them. And when it comes to traditional markets and an array of dining experiences, well, there is really no need to travel to Florence, Rio de Janeiro or even Spitalfields.

Health and Real Estate ranked as an A-. Taxes only ranked as a B because the Non Habitual Residency programme, which allows many new resident foreigners to earn pensions tax-free, only lasts 10 years for any qualifying individual. And the Algarve’s lone C was earned in the English Spoken category, not because few people speak English in the region but because Portuguese as a language is considered very difficult for a foreigner to learn.

Forbes, the highly respected and influential magazine, business and entrepreneurial group, was quick to publish news of the Algarve’s new-found status for retirees. The report, which can be found at, incorporates the summary of the comprehensive study conducted by Live and Invest Overseas, the US-based publisher which spent months analysing data from different countries.

As Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, states of the Algarve and Portugal in general, “it’s the most affordable option in Europe for retirees” – But as she points out, “retiring part-time overseas can also be a good idea”. The publisher frequently encourages those wishing to retire to a new location to do so for a trial period before making a final decision.

Service-based solutions such as those run by, are changing the landscape of the decision-making process of new and potential retirees, providing a way to experience the lifestyle and the region’s many advantages (and any challenges) prior to taking the plunge.

Luis da Silva, Founder and Managing Director at Algarve Senior Living, who has been actively involved as a local correspondent for publications such as the Overseas Retirement Letter, states “we are passionate about living in the Algarve and the many benefits and advantages of life in the region.” Algarve Senior Living assisted in researching and providing relevant data to support the Algarve’s status as an excellent retirement destination.

Algarve Senior Living is not only walking the walk, by launching the region’s first flexible solution for independent seniors. It is also talking the talk, by trumpeting positive data on Europe’s most famous secret, now also the best place in the world to retire. Hope to see you at an Algarve Senior Living village soon, where we walk the talk!

The River Arade glides through Silves town center

Budget & Info – ORL – Live Like a King for Less

Live Like A King For Less – Budget Comparisons

The cost of living in Portugal is generally among the lowest in Western Europe. Some items, such as fuel (around €1.30/ liter or about US$5/gallon), electricity, second hand cars (Ford Focus 2012 diesel between €12,000 and €20,000, Audi A4 Avant diesel starting at €40,000) and electronic items such as appliances and technology, are much more expensive than in the US, but basic items are very competitive, especially when compared to Northern Europe. The keen grocery bargain hunter should also remain alert to extended weekend specials. With careful planning of your budget, residents are able to find discounts on some essential items every week.

Piri-piri, freshly picked veg, and local honey at the indoor market

Most foreigners find the cost of eating out to be very reasonable. In fact, for a retired couple, it is often as costeffective to eat out and warm up leftovers in the evening (portions in Portugal are generous). Local supermarket chain Pingo Doce operates a number of family friendly restaurants where meals, all prepared daily, cost €3.99 plus the price of a drink. Some even run a daily special including a drink and bread roll for €3.50. Local restaurants, with which most new arrivals quickly become familiar, value regular trade and it is possible to negotiate a meal for two including soup, main meal, soft drink (or glass of wine), and coffee for €10. Do not expect a fancy ambience or service frills, but the quality of the Piri-piri, freshly picked veg, and local honey at the indoor market food is excellent for the price. Finding the preferred, low price local restaurant is a favorite past-time of most expatriates.

Buyer beware: whenever you see a menu in multiple languages, expect to pay more as the restaurant is targeting a foreign tourist market. If you want authenticity at a low price, look out for the “Pratos do dia” (dishes of the day) signs scribbled on a blackboard or paper stuck to the entrance. Prepared in larger quantities and with different fish and meat dishes every day, this is the way to get a tasty local meal for around €5-6.50. Be prepared to get by with sign language, basic English words, a phrase book, and a friendly smile, and you will save yourself money when eating out.

Eating out in Carvoeiro and Silves are two different experiences. Try Silves if you want authentic Portuguese eating. Strangely, one of the region’s most famous seafood restaurants, Rui Marisqueira, is located in the inland city! But a visit to Rui’s is not complete without tasting their carob tart, freshly made and delivered from a local pastry specialist. They don’t always have it, but don’t miss it if it’s in the pastry display. Move next door and try the suckling pig at Fernando dos Leitões. Popular with many tourists are the chicken restaurants that are located on the road next to the river. Arrive early and don’t expect to see a menu. They do portions and half portions of freshly grilled chicken (the chef does it under a plastic tarpaulin where the temperature of his ‘kitchen’ is often hotter than the grill!), freshly fried chips, and salted and seasoned lettuce and tomato salad. Keep ordering portions until you are full…
you’ll be surprised when you are handed the very reasonable final bill.

Outdoor, gourmet eating

On the way between Silves and Lagoa is the Barradas restaurant, pricey by Portuguese standards but with great options and an impressive wine selection.

When reaching Lagoa and especially the village of Carvoeiro, you will be spoilt for choice. The town has a famous hill that is packed both sides with commercial establishments, most of which are restaurants of all types: traditional Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Thai, the odd English or Irish pub, and even some vegetarian options. Ele & Ela is consistently ranked highly by its diners for its excellent cuisine, and two stand-out quality restaurants are located on the road between Carvoeiro and Sesmarias: Hexagone and Bon Bon. If it’s cheap and filling Portuguese fare you are after, try one of the many options around the Fatacil fair grounds.

A full meal in a cheap restaurant will cost you around €8 including drink and coffee, a very friendly budget. Expensive restaurants will cost between €35-50 per head, including good wine. On average expect to pay between €15-20 for dinner. Lunch is usually cheaper as most people do not order wine, and menus often have quicker and easier-to-prepare options.

Algarve Monthly Budget

Algarve Monthly Budget

No Language Worries In The California Of Europe

The Portuguese, according to CNN’s Friendliest Countries report, are the “7th most welcoming people in the world.” The World Economic Forum ranked Portugal as 7th (among 140 survey nations) most-welcoming nation when receiving foreign visitors. In the field of language the Portuguese go above and beyond the reasonable to ensure that guests are made to feel welcome in their own tongue. Portuguese is a difficult language to master but some basic knowledge will accelerate integration and make simple daily tasks easier. Some language schools exist but there are well-qualified freelance language teachers who teach Portuguese at each student’s pace.

The Association of Foreign Property Owners in Portugal, or AFPOP, caters to the many foreign residents and property owners in the country, and offers a range of services and discounts to members. With membership at €40 per annum, the benefits quickly outweigh the cost.

Due to Portugal’s strong cultural and historical links with England and the fact that the Algarve is such a major tourist destination, English is widely spoken. English is compulsory as a second language in the schooling system and so the youngest generation speaks it. French, which was the second school language prior to being overtaken by English, is extensively spoken by the older generations. Portugal’s largest expatriate population lives in France, and many of those people, nearing retirement and spurred on by adverse changes in French pensions and positive changes in Portuguese laws affecting pensions, have decided to return to the country.

Multilingual menus, but reasonable prices for all tongues

Many establishments including restaurants, private and public health centers, and hospitals, clinics, sports clubs, and supermarkets, have people able to interact with the public in a foreign language.

In Lagoa there is a well-established second-hand bookstore with thousands of foreign titles and many genres. Hand in your used books for a credit of between €1-3 and use your balance to buy other titles from as little as €2.50.

In summary, the Algarve is very well-placed linguistically to receive visitors and new residents from the USA and Canada.

Year-Round Activities

Fatacil is the largest showground in the province and hosts several large events during the year. The most popular for expats is the International Algarve Fair held in June every year, which unites the local and expatriate community around a variety of activities, shows, services and food and beverage. Larger still is the summer fair held in August, with daily live concerts by top national (and often international) artists. At a few euros a ticket per day, you won’t find better value for money on a sultry summer night.

The Medieval fair in Silves is a celebration of the city’s roots. Dancers, jugglers, flame-throwers, fire-eaters, and snake charmers, and snake charmers combine with a feast of regional cuisine to offer a very authentic experience. Costumes can be hired by those who want to dress the part!

In Lagoa, the annual sweets festival is an exquisite display of delicacies produced mainly from local ingredients, including fig, orange and almond, and the lesser-known carob with its cocoa-like powder—a staple ingredient in regional Multilingual menus, but reasonable prices for all tongues pastry making.

Around June every year, the smell of grilled sardines permeates the air of the coastal towns, as the annual sardine season peaks. Most traditional restaurants will keep them coming until you say ‘basta!’ Pay by the half-dozen and you know you’re in a tourist establishment.

Throughout the year, but mainly from spring through fall, to make the most of the great weather, open-air jazz and
classical concerts are held. Most are free. Experience jazz at Lagoa’s Sitio das Fontes but make sure you take some mosquito repellant because the idyllic location, on the Arade River, becomes a haven for these pests at nightfall. The Lagoa Auditorium is the place to take in a concert by the local youth orchestra (or even attend students’ final auditions that are open to the public) or to watch a film priced between €3-4 per ticket.

Hop on a pretty little sailboat for a trip up the river

The Arade Congress Centre, a white elephant financed by several municipalities, private groups, and the regional tourist body, is nonetheless one of the most impressive congress centers in the country. With Europe’s fifth largest stage and seating which, when retracted, increases the capacity from 1,000 to 4,000 or more, it sits quietly on the banks of the Arade River near the town of Ferragudo. Once or twice a year it springs to life with a motor car launch, a performance by the Russian ballet, or the finals of the World Dance championships.

If it’s sporting action you’re after, try something different. The daughter of the owner of one of the largest boat businesses is a multi-world champion and the family is always happy to offer adventure style practice sessions on the Arade. Kayaking, paddling, and scenic boat trips are all on your doorstep. And don’t forget the boat trips to visit the cave-encrusted coastline or to fish. Or the sailing schools at the river mouth which are, by international standards, inexpensive.

For the tennis enthusiast, join the many expats who gather for social tennis at the Carvoeiro tennis club, or try the local club at Silves, located between the schools of the city and next to a park (to which you might have to retire to for shade if you dare play in the summer afternoons!).

Carvoeiro also has a well-stocked book exchange that allows expatriate residents and visitors alike to trade in books they have read for new titles.

Many retired expatriates become involved in local community or charity work: from manning kitchens, which serve meals to the homeless, to assisting with food distribution to the poor, supporting the donkey sanctuary, or helping with the housing of abandoned dogs, there is no shortage of opportunities to contribute to society and make a real impact that will also help you integrate faster into local culture. Although Portugal is a highly religious country and many social actions are coordinated by the church, there is an increasing trend for people to organize volunteer organizations, often bringing new and innovative ways of doing this from their experiences abroad. See the “Rolodex” for contact volunteer information.

Getting About…Drive, Walk, Sail, Cycle, And Paddle

Driving is easy in this part of the world. Short drives are often scenic. Leave Lagoa along the EN125 road westward towards the large town of Portimão. The approximately 5-mile drive involves crossing the Arade River near its estuary. See flocks of migrating or nesting birds, canoeists, and the occasional angler in galoshes searching for cockles. Return via the picturesque village of Ferragudo.

Local transport is reliable but the intervals between departures out of peak times can be long, especially in smaller village and inland locations. The municipality of Silves contains the province’s main train station link, at Tunes, to the country’s capital 180 miles away. Lagoa has one of the region’s busiest bus stations, with buses leaving for locations in the Algarve and direct to Lisbon, a 3-hour trip away in luxury vehicles with Wi-Fi, in-trip movies, toilet facilities, and reclining seats.

Cycling off- and on-road is very popular here

Tackle the rugged coastal paths on a mountain bike or on foot and get the benefit of spectacular sea and coastal views. Both Silves and Lagoa are easy to visit on foot and walking is much more popular in towns and cities than cycling.

The Arade River flows through the center of Silves. At high tide, small riverboats make their way downstream to the river mouth at Ferragudo and Portimão, and then back upstream. Kayak and canoe enthusiasts are often found paddling up and downstream.

How Easy Is It For The Disabled?

The Portuguese attitude towards helping others is reflected in a general openness towards minorities, in whatever sense. The disabled are no exception, but they have been faced, historically, with the challenge of inappropriate infrastructure, such as traditional stone sidewalks that are difficult for wheelchairs and for people with canes or walking aids, few ramps into public transport, and poor signposting. Portugal’s infrastructure is improving for disabled communities and it is generally true that where specific conditions do not exist, local people will go out of their way to help. Silves and Lagoa have benefited from significant retrofits to existing or newer facilities. Community swimming pools are fully equipped with ramps and disabled pool access, public buildings such as libraries now have disabled access, and even public parks make it easy for the disabled to be dropped off and enter with reduced effort.

Even parks have well-signposted disabled access

The Gay And Lesbian Community

Historically Portugal is a deeply Catholic country. For this reason many of the beliefs and religious traditions remain, although change to this belief system has accelerated dramatically with globalization, the free flow of people and ideas over country borders, national debate around topics such as adoption by couples of the same sex, and changes in the law. The GLBT community is neither large nor very visible. Do not be surprised, therefore, if you and your partner visit a remote area and get inquisitive looks from the locals.

How To Get Here

Faro airport, located around 60 kilometers (38 miles) from both Silves and Lagoa, is one of Portugal’s busiest airports and its most important tourist hub, handling about 5.5 million passengers a year. Direct flights arrive from 76 international and three national airports. Airsat’s recent addition of a weekly direct flight from Toronto’s Pearson Airport means that the destination is now directly accessible to the Canadian market. If you travel from the US, you would probably connect via a major European capital.

Well in excess of 4 million visitors arrive in the busy July- August period, which means that the remaining months are remarkably tranquil for travelers.

Travel to Lisbon in 3 hours in air-conditioned comfort

The A22 highway links Silves/Lagoa to Spain, 112 kilometers (70 miles) away. The cost of the one-way toll is approximately €7.70. The A2 highway, with easy access from Silves via Tunes, makes Lisbon, the country’s capital, approximately a 3-hour drive. Taking the fast route to Lisbon via the toll highway, where legal speed limits are 120 km/h (75 mph), will cost around €20 for the 180-mile drive. Choose the more leisurely route along the national road, which is mostly in excellent condition, and where you can stop to eat at one of the many traditional restaurants or have a picnic on one of the route’s scenic vantage points, and spend only €4 on tolls (the saving will pay for a meal for two!).

Bringing Pets To Portugal

The transportation and importation of pets is well regulated in the EU and the rules applicable to Portugal are documented on the relevant Ministry site, which is also available in English, here.

Unfortunately, the economic crisis of 2008 resulted in a significant increase in the abandonment of animals by people who could no longer afford to keep them. Although there are local municipal kennels, due to overcrowding they tend to operate a strict policy of putting animals down after a week if they have not been rehomed. There are several local charities, including a few charity shops in Lagoa and at least one in Silves, which raise money for initiatives such as the Donkey Sanctuary and the Association for the Protection of Animals in the Algarve (APAA). The Scruffts dog show held annually at Fatacil is also a source of complementary income for the work they do. These organizations are always looking for volunteers to help in whatever way possible and it is a great way to get involved if you are an animal lover. See the “Rolodex” for contact information.

Warts And All

The biggest complaint of most people who arrive here is Portuguese bureaucracy. Much of this is due to a language barrier which makes matters such as finance, tax, and dealing with banks and utility providers frustrating at times (especially as the latter generally have poor records of customer service). Nonetheless, renewing or getting a driver’s license is easier than doing so in the US, for example, as Portugal has migrated most of its public record system to electronic records over the last decade or so.

My recommendation would be to stay away from any project involving planning. If you are a keen builder, developer, or would like to make substantial changes to existing historical buildings (such as converting them into boutique hotels)… choose another location. Planning is a lengthy process requiring years, with major projects often taking more than a decade to clear the upward of 30 entities who typically need to give their opinion as to the merits of any endeavor.

Starting a business in Portugal, while not as complex as in countries such as Brazil, is not as efficient as in countries such as the US. Accounting requirements can be complex and appropriate legal, tax, and accounting support is a must for new arrivals wanting to work in or from Portugal.

Many people are concerned about the economic woes of the country prior to and following its bailout post-2008. While this is indeed a concern for existing residents who have seen the tax burden increase, the NHR measure is aimed at attracting new residents to the country and guaranteeing low tax. New residents will benefit not only from this status but also from Portugal’s need to become more competitive, which in many instances has driven down prices. An excellent example is real estate.

New residents should consider carefully where they live, because the inland areas of municipalities such as Silves have very few inhabitants, and the initial search for quiet and privacy can quickly turn to isolation as foreigners find themselves far from town and city centers and unable to communicate with rural populations whose command of English is not as good as that of people in towns and cities.

Almost without exception those who have chosen Portugal as their home, and have planned financially for their move, are extremely positive about the country and its lifestyle.

Is This The Place For You?

If you want an excellent quality of life, with a low cost of living or budget, great tax benefits, in a location that within easy access of all of Europe and equidistant from North America and Asia, the Algarve is an obvious option. If you seek the tranquility of country living while being minutes from the region’s awardwinning beaches and golf courses, and from the hustle and bustle of a range of tourist activities, then Silves and Lagoa are excellent choices.

The ability to save money, pay less tax, access quality healthcare, enjoy a healthy lifestyle, be part of a community
where English is widely spoken, and get to most European cities in less than three hours, are major attractions for foreign residents.

Sharpen your short game skills on this 9-par executive course


Most people who move here notice the change of pace from large cities and towns. It takes time, like good wine, to mellow. If you are moving here to work locally, be prepared for some stress relating to bureaucracy and the difficulty in the language if you don’t already speak it. If you are looking to work abroad and want to leave your family in a safe, healthy environment, then look no further. Hundreds of expats already do this, and once the secret is out, many more will do so. If you wish to retire, there is hardly a person who has visited who does not think of staying for good. Making friends is easy, whether with locals or expatriates. The fact that new residents will soon have an option to reside in rental communities of like-minded individuals, who share interests, means that purchasing properties is not the only route for new arrivals.

With all this and a lot more, it is easy to see why the region has attracted more than 63,000 official residents or about 15% of the region’s population—although the number is several times higher as many foreigners remain in the country for a substantial part of the year but never become officially resident. Just over 4,500 of these residents live in the Silves municipality and 3,700 in the Lagoa municipality*, with Carvoeiro being one of the most popular multicultural expat towns in the Algarve, catering to a range of nationalities. (* Source:

Property Year-round quality living in Salicos, Carvoeiro

ORL – Making The Right Property Choice

Making The Right Property Choice

Start With A Rental

The Algarve is a popular summer rental market. A range of options exist in both municipalities. Long-term rentals represent a small percentage of the total rental market and private apartment and villa rentals, whose owners often only place properties on the market as an afterthought following a poor summer season, compete with long-stay hotel accommodation that offers various guest services that are not available in private property.

Private rental is often a cost-effective and flexible way to have time to make permanent decisions. However, most rental properties are summer rentals—the most popular rental sitesn continue to be large property portals such as Homeaway, Holidaylettings, and Rightmove Overseas—and owners attempting to advertise properties as winter rentals inflate prices to hedge any loss of summer rentals. As a general rule, the winter rental values of properties in popular tourist areas are similar to the weekly values in the summer. A quick analysis in the area of Lagoa and Silves using a specialist long-term rental site bears out this observation, with long-term rentals of a studio apartment in Carvoeiro at US$946 per month and a 2-bed apartment in Silves at a well overpriced US$2,330 per month. The disadvantages of rentals negotiated directly with private owners include isolation, a lack of support in the initial phases and difficulties in dealing with the initial bureaucracy involved with any new country move, often exacerbated by the lack of knowledge of the local language.

An easy-access property rental for the 50+ market

Historically, many visitors moving to the area, including firsttime visitors, have opted for purchasing real estate as a way of securing their permanence in the area. While this remains a popular option, the market is changing. The economic crisis of 2008 and the knock-on effect on the liquidity of the real estate market means that many people find themselves locked into a permanent solution while their personal circumstances demand ever-more flexibility. Many existing expatriates and prospective new ones say that if they had the choice they would not buy a retirement home or would at least experience living overseas, if possible within a community, before making a permanent move. Two groundbreaking rental projects will launch in the Silves and Lagoa area, which will reinforce their reputation as leading expatriate retirement destinations. The Algarve’s, and one of the Iberian Peninsula’s first senior (50+) communities, with which I am involved, will begin operating in the fall of 2014, in the town of Carvoeiro. Aimed at the independent living market, it will offer a range of 4-star accommodation, and guests and residents will be able to choose from a 1-month try-before-you-move option, a 3-6 month winter stay, or permanent residence (including the possibility of opting out during the peak summer months). You can read more about the project at Algarve Senior Living (

Expected to launch in 2017, a bespoke-developed senior village backed by a major Scandinavian group, will be developed less than 2 miles from the center of Silves on a 60 hectare (150 acre) site. A care home to cater for the increasing health needs of residents, will be included in a future phase. With the variety of options on offer, and direct flights from dozens of global destinations, there is simply no excuse for not trying out the Southern European lifestyle before taking the plunge.

A list of short-term rental providers is in the Algarve “Rolodex.”

Real Estate

“Recent authoritative research by the OECD,” as reported by the Telegraph, “highlights property markets in Portugal” as “a bargain” and “undervalued.” Portugal’s property market is well-established. There is no restriction on the purchase of real estate and most land and property is sold freehold. The country’s property registry system is centralized and very reliable. The law protects property, property rights, and the right to access and use one’s own property.

Property buyers pay property purchase tax (Imposto Municipal sobre as Transmissões – IMT) on a sliding scale based on the property’s taxable value, which has historically been lower (and often significantly lower) than actual values at which properties are transacted. In recent years, this gap has reduced as the government has revalued properties in order to capitalize on an obvious source of tax income. The table below illustrates the values payable for each price interval, depending on the type of property.

Condos for sale in Presa da Moura, Carvoeiro

Land is taxed at a flat rate of 6.5% when it is rural or has nothing yet built on it.

Stamp duty is 0.8% of property purchase price. Annually, municipal taxes (designated IMI or Imposto Municipal sobre Imóveis) are charged on properties using a formula containing variables which include the size of the property, and how many luxury or entertainment items (such as pools, tennis court, etc.) it contains. Each municipality has the right to charge a slightly different IMI value, which range from 0.3-0.5% with rustic buildings (whose taxable values are normally very low) paying a value of 0.8%.

The Algarve was launched as a ‘Mediterranean destination’ in the 1960s and the town of Carvoeiro, located in the municipality of Lagoa, is one of the most popular resorts for foreign property buyers. Today, there is a range of real estate available, both new and resale, mainly 2- and 3-bed apartments and 3- and 4-bed villas. However, a studio apartment starts at around €70,000, a 1-bed apartment from €90,000 and a 2-bed from around €100,000. One-bed cottages, which are scarce, start at around €150,000, 2-bed resale townhouses from around €190,000, sea view 2-bed townhouses from around €225,000, and 3-bed villas from €275,000. A private villa on an acre of land with private tennis court and pool, and established gardens, can be purchased for €850,000. Fractional real estate in the area starts at around €50,000 for a quarter share of a 2-bedroom apartment on a golf course.

Apartments property for sale in Silves

In Silves, new or nearly new 1-, 2-, or 3-bed apartments vary between €80,000 and €140,000. Villas start at around €350,000, and most have at least half-acre plots. Rural properties have large plots and even large urban plots with ruins and planning permission to build can be found at competitive prices. A 20,000-square-meter (five acre) plot with some sea views, containing a ruin and permission to build a house of up to 464 square meters (5,000 square feet) plus terraces, costs less than €500,000.

Mobile Home Paradise

In a survey of motorhome owners, the Algarve was voted best motorhome destination in Southern Europe and Northern Africa (including Morocco). And Silves has gained the reputation of being the motor home capital of Southern Europe. Hundreds of motorhomes, from as far afield as Denmark, the UK, France, and Germany mix with the occasional Portuguese traveler to create a virtual community numbering as many as 350 vehicles. There have been some recent incidents of motorhome users being ordered by local police to leave, due to what they considered abuse of local health and safety rules, and parking in unauthorized zones (there are local licensed sites which include water and waste disposal facilities, as well as a Laundromat, for as little as €6 per day. Nonetheless, the majority of this community of people who spend up to five months in their motorhomes in Southern Europe and some of whom have visited the area as many as 11 times, are law abiding and respect local rules and take care to exhibit good manners in sharing space with other expatriate neighbors. They make a significant contribution to the local economy during the quiet winter months, frequenting local restaurants and shopping at local grocery stores and the Silves market.

Southern Europe’s best motorhome destination

Tax And Financial Matters

Portugal has no inheritance tax; if you rent a property you will also not be liable for any wealth taxes, which only exist in the form of annual property taxes on real estate which you own. Anyone who has not been resident in Portugal for the previous five tax years is entitled to obtain residence under the Non- Habitual Resident law, which entitles most people to receive pensions and foreign income tax-free for 10 years. Under the same law, for any professions included on a list published by the government and which includes company directors, accountants, IT professionals, engineers, architects, people in the medical profession etc., the personal income tax rate for any work conducted in or billed from Portugal is capped at 20% (plus any surcharge due to the fiscal emergency measures, totaling 3.5% in 2013). This is well below the maximum 46% top tax bracket in the country. The procedure to register as a NHR involves registering with a local tax office and providing simple supporting information. (See “Becoming A Resident” for more details.).

Portugal has a double tax treaty with the US (signed in 1996) and with Canada (signed in 2001).

The strength of the euro versus the U.S. dollar in recent months has eroded some of the competitiveness of local prices from the point of view of arriving US visitors, but as exchange rate fluctuations are constant, anyone considering emigration should plan their currency requirements well in advance.

Sales tax (Imposto sobre o Valor Acrescentado – IVA) is charged nationally, based on the type of product or services. IVA rates are high, ranging from some zero-rated services to 6% for basic products and 23% at the highest tier. IVA is included in all products and services. However, due to the high rates, some service providers do not issue a formal IVA-compliant receipt unless specifically requested to do so. In order to combat this tax avoidance, the government has implemented several innovative schemes to bring more transactions within the system, including raffling off luxury cars. Anyone issued an official IVA invoice is automatically eligible to win, but the provider is automatically flagged in the system if they have been avoiding tax. So the government has cleverly put the taxpayer to work for them to collect taxes.

Banking in Portugal is sophisticated and easy, and most transactions can be done online with no need to ever enter When finance becomes too much…remember, the good things in life are free a branch other than to open an account. Deposits are guaranteed up to €100,000 under European law.

Cash withdrawals from Portuguese bank accounts are free: Portugal was one of the world’s first countries to implement a shared banking platform to which all banks are linked and so ATMs, which are easy to find in most locations, allow free access to withdrawals, online payments, statements, and in some cases deposits. Payments or withdrawals using foreign cards and foreign accounts can also be done using the same machines, but subject to usual costs charged by the issuing bank. All major credit cards are accepted. Foreign exchange is easy and all banks and most of the world’s Forex companies operate in the country.

Anyone operating a business in Portugal after having run one in the US or the UK, for example, will find it more
difficult here. Although the Algarve has a Citizen’s Store (Loja do Cidadão) in Faro, which allows you to deal with all government departments, from finance to social security and even registering the name of the company, in a single day and location, annual returns which must be validated by a TOC (an ‘official’ accountant registered with a central professional body), the complexity of IVA returns, and the social security burden on the employer, make the country bureaucratic. The government is working on methods of simplifying this and automation has seen a huge improvement in service levels, but the underlying procedures and multi-stage approvals are still cumbersome.

When finance becomes too much…remember, the good things in life are free

Tax returns are reasonably easy to complete online, although there are limitations on the state’s computer system and online availability near the start or end of submission periods. It is recommended that you seek assistance from a professional tax adviser or accountant for your first tax return. Thereafter, with some support from the Ministry of Finance’s informative and multi-lingual online portal, you should be able to complete the annual return.

As with most countries, it is advisable that advice is sought from one of several specialist firms, several of which have long-standing experience in the region. The cost of a residency application under the Golden Visa program will cost in the region of €6,000 (with each renewal around €3,000), while dealing with an application under the Non Habitual Residency program will cost between €1,500-3,000, depending on the law firm involved.

Many people also prepare a will or testament to ensure that no confusion arises between countries as to their final wishes in case of dying in Portugal.

The traditional façade belies the modern clinic and pharmacy

ORL – Low-Cost, Universal-Access Healthcare, Culture and Citizenship

Low-Cost, Universal-Access Healthcare

Portugal’s healthcare system is broadly based on a universal franchise, which will not turn anyone away. Most hospitals will put patient before price (one of the reasons that the health system runs a deficit, but also the reason the country is generally known for its personalized and humane treatment of patients). With the tightening of financial controls, expect this to be slightly different if you are not resident or don’t have a European card. As in many European countries, state hospitals such as the one located at Portimão, 5 miles from both Lagoa and Silves, are normally better equipped for emergency situations than private hospitals. However, two large private hospital providers own and operate hospitals across the Algarve, with the closest being the Hospital Particular in Alvor. The hospital at Faro has an excellent reputation for cardiology and for successfully treating tourist visitors who have suffered heart attacks.

The traditional façade belies the modern clinic and pharmacy
All residents are eligible to use the state’s national health system, called the SNS (Sistema Nacional de Saúde). European residents should ensure that they are in possession of the European Health Card (EHIC), issued by their home country, and which guarantees them access to the health system in the country that they are visiting. Access should not be confused with cost, and some services may cost more or less than in one’s home country, depending on the national policy in each of the 28 EU member states.

For non-Europeans retiring to Portugal, permanent residence authorization must first be issued by the SEF (borders agency) after the completion of usual background checks (see the “Residency” section below). The foreign resident must then register with their local health center, a simple process involving filling in some forms and having a local (owned or rented) address. Residents are assigned a doctor or in some cases go into a general pool, depending on the number of doctors per inhabitant (which can fluctuate with population growth or doctor retirements). Even without an assigned family doctor, there are general slots available and Lagoa, for example, runs a daily (including Saturday) local ‘emergency’ service, which can attend to up to 40 people who need see a doctor without an appointment, and who do not need the services of a hospital. Co-payment (if the person is not exempt) is €5 (outpatient copayments are around €7.75), regardless of whether one has an assigned family doctor or not.

Diagnostic exams are very affordable if ordered by a doctor within the SNS. The Clínica de Lagoa, a private diagnostic and complementary exam center, offers a range of exams via its agreement with the national health system, and most exams, such as ultrasound, X-ray, and mammography, will cost between €3-10 when prescribed by a doctor on the SNS. Several laboratories conduct blood tests at between 50 cents and €2. A full barrage of tests, including cholesterol, urine, and PSA (prostate tests for men) should cost between €15 and €20. A walk-in cholesterol test conducted at any local pharmacy will cost between €4-5.

It is recommended that foreign arrivals in the process of acquiring residence take out medical insurance for at least the first year, to cover bureaucratic delays and other unforeseen circumstances. Even thereafter, private medical insurance is not expensive when compared to the US and there are several private medical insurance providers available. IMG (including a policy which can be taken out even after your departure) and Bupa, for example, offer expat solutions and a range of national providers such as Medis and Multicare provide policies for those who are permanently in the country. There are also a number of brokers focusing on obtaining car and health insurance for foreign residents. Other foreign visitors not included in one of the above categories should ensure they carry adequate foreign insurance to allow them to use thenational health system, which is of good quality.

Eat like a healthy king Mediterranean style

Maló Clinic, founded by a Portuguese immigrant, is now one of the largest private dental clinics in the world, present in dozens of countries in the world and whose founder is regularly flown to the US to perform dental surgery on wealthy patients. A Maló Clinic can be found about 10 miles from Lagoa and Silves, but Silves has three dental clinics where a clean and check-up costs around €40-50 (free on most dental plans), and Lagoa has several foreign-language dentists. The climate of the region means that convalescence is both quicker and more pleasant than in many countries further north. Doctors and specialists are largely multilingual.

Eye tests at local opticians are free if eye glasses are purchased in-store. A number of promotions are available—a recent one offered designer glasses with progressive lenses at €169. Consultations with ophthalmologists on the SNS are generally free but waiting times can be long.

One of our friends from the US needed to repair his $6,000 hearing aid, an imported Norwegian make. The estimated cost to perform the repair in the US was $900. He posted us the two hearing aids and €40-plus-postage later he had a fully functioning hearing aid at his home in Miami.

Health tourism is on the up in the region and the Algarve is well known for its health & wellness industry, with a number of spas in the region. A thalassotherapy center exists at Vilalara resort in Lagoa. And medical tourism is on the rise with several private hospital groups in the region investing extensively in the marketing of their services, primarily around discretionary (aesthetic) surgery, hip implants, and dental surgery. Although the region does not yet compete with the prices in more established medical tourism destinations, it places great emphasis on the pre-op preparation and post-op convalescence benefits that come with a warm, essentially dry (not humid) climate. Complementing this are the quality services and accommodation options, and a location within Europe.

Education And Culture

Silves is the location of one of the region’s private universities. The Jean Piaget University campus, opened in 2002, focuses on health including undergraduate and Masters programs in the areas of nursing, occupational therapy, and
pharmaceutics. It is in the area of physiotherapy, however, where it has garnered an enviable reputation. Its graduates are spread across Europe, poached by many countries that have made the most of Portugal’s woes post-2008 crisis. The trend is slowly reversing, with local projects providing a muchneeded source of employment for the qualified labor force. Residing in this area guarantees a flow of well-qualified health professionals, many of whom will, it’s hoped, eventually find themselves supporting the region’s senior residents.

Silves city and castle from across the river

Lagoa is one of the region’s centers of international (foreign language) primary and secondary schools. The International School of the Algarve, which comprises two sections, one teaching the British and the other the national (Portuguese) curriculum, was established in 1972. Although it allows children of English-speaking residents to attend school in their native English tongue, residents with children of school-going age should bear in mind that the range of subject options and in some instances the quality of teaching may not be the same as an equivalent private school in the UK or USA. In recent years, a German school has opened and now shares its premises with the Dutch school. The area is now a multi-lingual, multicultural hub with native teaching in four languages.

Lagoa is also an artistic hub housing a thriving musical academy, a cultural academy, an art center, and some of the region’s largest publications including Portugal’s principal foreign newspaper, The Portugal News. The musical academy, which forms part of a multi-city musical project, is headquartered in Lagoa and has an active orchestra comprising of a strings, woodwind, percussion, and brass sections, with musicians aged from eight to 65!

The orchestra plays frequently at public events, television concerts, open air shows, and at the well-equipped auditorium in the town. Lagoa’s cultural association, Ideas do Levante, promotes activities ranging from dance to music.

Becoming A Resident

U.S. visitors to Portugal do not need a visa under an agreement which allows for visits to Schengen countries of up to 90 days. However, all foreign citizens intending to move to Portugal must in the first instance request their long-stay (residency) visa at the Portuguese consulate in their home country. This will allow the Borders agency to issue a residency permit, valid for one year, and renewable for two further two-year periods. After five years of temporary residence, foreign citizens may apply for permanent residence.

The main requirements for a residency visa application include being able to prove sufficient income for subsistence, providing relevant identification documents, having no criminal record, travel documents, and proof of address in which the applicant will initially take up residency. Proof of medical insurance may also be requested but as a precautionary measure it is recommended that any non-EU citizens have private medical insurance when traveling to Portugal. Some companies such as IMG allow medical policies to be taken out when the person is already in the destination. Documents are normally submitted via the local consulate and they eventually make their way to the Borders agency (called Serviços de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras or SEF). I recommend traveling with a copy of the full application process and any relevant correspondence, to avoid any possible misunderstandings on entry. Once the residency authorization has been issued by SEF, applicants should register with the local finance office to obtain their fiscal number.

Recently, the Portuguese government has further improved legislation to allow anyone who has not been resident in Portugal for the previous five years to register for Non-Habitual Resident Status, which allows people to receive pensions and foreign income tax-free for 10 years. Once an individual has an authorization to reside in Portugal, such as via the Golden Visa program (see below), or has obtained a visa to enter Portugal with a view to permanent residence, then the process of applying for NHR status is relatively simple. A qualifying individual should meet two main criteria: they must not have been resident in Portugal in any of the previous five years, and they must be retiring to Portugal or fall into one of the approximately 30 occupations listed by the
government including architects, lawyers, engineers, senior management, health professionals, and individuals who will be fostering inward investment.

The applicant, probably accompanied by someone local who speaks Portuguese, must go to the local tax office (Finanças) and make a written statement that he-she meets all the criteria of eligibility, and then present a tax identification number (or request one), show their passport, indicate the residential address in Portugal (which may be a rented property), and show the residence permit. All applications must be received no later than the 31st March of the year following the one in which the applicant wishes to declare themselves resident under the NHR law.

The Algarve’s golden-sand beaches are but a small part of the Golden Visa program’s attractions

The legal requirements to obtain residency in Portugal is to stay either 183 days in the country or a residential address on the 31st December of the corresponding tax year, which can be considered one’s habitual residence. While the latter condition may not appear at all stringent, it can be deceiving, for the simple reason that it is often not Portugal, but the applicant’s country of origin, that determines that they may not declare themselves resident in Portugal because they have spent too many days in their country of origin. As with all such matters, people intending to take up residency should carefully analyze the residency requirements of all the countries with which they have or plan to have ties to.

The Golden Visa program has proved to be one of Europe’s most popular resident visa-via-investment programs. Although there are three types of applications possible, it is the real estate option, involving the purchase of real estate with a value of at least €500,000 without recourse to credit, which has proved to be most popular. The Golden Visa is an excellent way for non- EU residents to obtain an authorization to visit or remain in the 26-country Schengen space for the duration of the visa, and after five years to apply for permanent residence and thereafter citizenship (after six years). The biggest advantage is that there are minimal requirements for remaining in the country, namely seven days in the first year and a total of 14 days in each of the subsequent two-year periods. Further, the Golden Visa allows the applicant and direct family members the right to enter, live, and work in Portugal, even if not resident in the country. Given that real estate values have suffered significant erosion as a result of the 2008 economic crisis, the Golden Visa is an attractive option for foreign investors.

When compared to comparable programs elsewhere in the world, the Portuguese Golden visa does not appear to have any disadvantages, even though a few other European states have implemented cheaper programs. The flexibility of the scheme, allowing for multiple property purchases, and the use of debt on values above €500,000, together with family-friendly legislation allowing close family members to benefit from the Golden Visa of the main applicant, have made Portugal’s program very popular. Unlike the US’s equivalent $500,000 EB-5 program that targets predetermined areas and projects, Portugal’s Golden Visa rules apply to any real estate in the country. Normal U.S. investor visas are $1 million.

A spectacular beach at Marinha

ORL – The World’s Most-Stable Climate

The World’s Most-Stable Climate

World Weather Online states that the “Algarve enjoys one of the most stable climates in the world” with its moderate weather influenced by both the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas and its proximity to North Africa. Portugal has 3,300 hours of sunshine per year, one of the highest in Europe. The Algarve has a temperate climate and although bathed by the Atlantic, exhibits Mediterranean characteristics. Below are statistics for the province of the Algarve. Silves temperatures tend to be higher than the average for the region, given its microclimate which is much appreciated by many foreign visitors and residents.

Safety First

Portugal ranks as the 17th safest country in the world, of a list of 153. Violent crime is very rare and petty crime is limited mostly to opportunistic incidents during the busy tourist season.

The OSAC report, produced by the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, confirms that Portugal has no indigenous terrorist groups. Organized crime is not a major issue with the exception of isolated Eastern European or other immigrant groups. Foreigners, however, are well integrated into Portugal’s multi-ethic society and while the country remains predominantly Catholic, it is very tolerant of religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity.

Old people ‘killer’

Highways in Portugal are an excellent quality and the A22 highway is no exception. Portuguese drivers, although at times prone to speeding and impatience (in common with many southern Europeans) are nonetheless quite peaceful. Incidences of road rage are uncommon. It is more likely that visitors will become frustrated by an encounter with a 50 cc car (called mata velhos or ‘killers of old people’ because the cars, little more than a shell atop a motorbike engine, don’t have the safety features of modern vehicles) or with the occasional gypsy horse-drawn cart.

Lagoa, located on the busy EN125 road which also crosses the Algarve, is not considered an accident hot spot on what is otherwise one of the country’s busiest regional roads. The city of Silves, situated further inland, is a driver’s haven, with calm roads, respectful drivers, and no traffic jams.

112 is the national free number to call for most types of emergencies (from a fixed line or cellphone).

Beautiful Beaches

Where to begin!? Silves’ two beaches, Armação de Pera and Praia Grande, have blue flags awarded by the European Blue Flag association. Among Lagoa’s 17 spectacular beaches, some require bathers to descend large flights of stairs into wondrous cliff-enclosed coves bathed by azure waters. Others allow you to pull up and stroll out onto the light-colored sand. Most beaches have lifeguards during the summer season. Many have restaurants or snack bars, some of which stay open all year round.

An easier access to the beach at Centeannes

World Renowned Golf

The Algarve has an enviable reputation as far as golf is concerned. With Portugal voted Europe’s ‘Best golf destination in Europe in 2014’ by the World Travel Awards, and the Algarve the gem of the Portuguese collection, it is no wonder that hundreds of thousands of visitors are attracted every year to the more than 40 golf courses dotted along a stretch of little more than 75 miles.

A great place to relax and play Gramacho golf course

The Lagoa and Silves golfing landscape is dominated by the Pestana Group, Portugal’s top hotel group. The Pinta
and Gramacho golf courses in Lagoa and the Silves Golf course allow players of all abilities to test their skills against a backdrop of some of the region’s indigenous species of flora such as ancient carob and olive trees, combined with natural stone walls and artistic use of water features. With designs by famous US golf architect Ronald Fream, and South Africa’s Nick Price, a round of golf here is an experience. The 5-star Amendoeira golf resort—with 36 championship holes designed by Nick Faldo and Christy O’Connor Jr—is one of the seven golf courses operated by Portugal’s largest golf operator, Oceanico. For families or those who want to hone their pitching and putting skills, there is the 9-hole Vale do Milho course, with views to the Atlantic.

There are a number of specialist tour operators that not only book group golfing holidays but also arrange preferential tee times, discounts, and the all-important 19th hole arrangements!

Just imagine taking a cooling dip in this crystal clear water

ORL – The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing

It’s all about retirement. Portugal and the Algarve have been through major infrastructural investment such as highways— the country has Europe’s fifth best roads—and airports— Faro has already receives over 5 million passengers a year, equivalent to half the country’s population. The Algarve is set to be the next big thing and already is a world-recognized tourist and golf destination… at last count there were 42 courses in less than 100 miles. Healthcare is good and some public hospitals have gained a reputation for excellence, as is the case of Faro Hospital and its cardiology unit. Investment in public facilities is visible in the modern sporting and pool complexes that exist in many towns.

Major recent changes have been made to the legal and tax framework. The government has made it possible to earn pensions tax-free and there’s no wealth or inheritance tax (more on this below in “Tax And Financial Matter”). The region is moving away from a physical infrastructure and facilities focus towards an ever-stronger services and lifestyle drive. The next big thing is a move to senior living communities, allowing residents to rent or buy, as well as a huge push towards positioning the country as Europe’s most attractive tax-free destination for retirees.

The Lay Of The Land

The Algarve, located at Europe’s westernmost tip, has an area of 4,996 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) and a resident population of 450,993 inhabitants. It has an average population density of roughly 90.3 inhabitants per square kilometer (or 233 inhabitants per square mile) and an entirely Atlantic coastline that measures about 160 kilometers (100 miles) in length.

Lagoa’s 23,000 inhabitants reside in an area of 88 square kilometers (34 square miles)—the second smallest municipality in the Algarve by area—with a population density of 261 people per square kilometer (or about 676 people per square mile). In contrast, Silves’ population density is 54 inhabitants per square kilometer (or 141 inhabitants per square mile), with its 37,000 inhabitants scattered over an area of 680 square kilometers (262 square miles)—the largest municipality by area.

Dive in at Caneiros—quintessentially Algarve

The region is geographically subdivided into three main areas, each of which contains some extraordinarily beautiful landscapes, and all of which are represented within the municipalities of Lagoa and Silves (* Source:

The coastal area is where most of the region’s economic activity is concentrated. In terms of landscape, the Algarve coast is very diversified, varying between an abrupt and jagged coastline and extensive sandy beaches, inlets formed by lagoons, marshland areas, and various formations of sand dunes. The coastal area has a low altitude and consists mainly of plains, divided into fields and meadows.

The “Barrocal” area marks the transition between the coast and the mountains, consisting of limestone and schist. This area is also known as the “beira-serra” (literally the mountain edge) and is where most of the agricultural produce of the Algarve originates.

The hills occupy 50% of the territory and are formed from schist and some granitic rocks.

A Long, Nautical History

Lagoa’s history is linked to the sea. Despite the capital city of the same name being inland, the fisherman’s villages of Carvoeiro and Ferragudo played an important part in the fishing and fish-preserves industries. The villages of Estômbar and Porches were important centers in the Islamic and medieval periods; Porches became the leading center for the design and manufacture of pottery and has become synonymous with the center of the modern pottery industry in the Algarve.

Modern Lagoa meshes well with its ancient history. Cobbled streets, whitewashed houses with lace-patterned chimneys, and an abundance of fig, olive, almond, and carob trees, are all vivid memories of important aspects of what made this area unique.

The ancient and the modern sit side-by-side in Lagoa

Silves is also a municipality steeped in history. The presence of man during the Paleolithic period is confirmed by one archaeological site. The municipality was inhabited during the Neolithic period and the Bronze and Iron Ages, a fact borne out by numerous archaeological finds. Impressive megalithic monuments—menhirs—carved out of the region’s red sandstone and limestone, are scattered across the municipality.

The Arade River was the route to the interior favored by the vessels of the Mediterranean peoples—Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians—who were drawn to the region by the copper and iron mined in the western Algarve. This much is evident from the archaeological site at Cerro da Rocha Branca—unfortunately destroyed—about half a mile away from Silves, which was inhabited from the end of The Bronze Age onwards. In the 4th century B.C., Silves boasted a strong defensive wall. In the ensuing centuries both the Romans and the Moors occupied it.

Silves owes its existence to the navigability of the Arade River and to its strategic position atop a hill that dominates a broad swathe of countryside. It was possibly founded during the period of Roman rule, but it was with the Moorish invasion that began around 714-716 that Silves became a prosperous city. By the 11th century, it was the capital of the Algarve and according to some authors surpassed Lisbon in size and importance. At this time Silves was also a center of culture, home to poets, chroniclers, and lawmakers.

Cobbled streets lined with traditional houses in Silves

The religious and political tremors that rocked the Moslem world in the 11th and 12th centuries were felt in Silves too, where they manifested themselves in clashes between rival factions and frequent changes of ruler. King Sancho I took advantage of this internal division to lay siege to the city in 1189. His army was aided by crusaders from Northern Europe who were on their way to the Holy Land.

The fight for Silves was long and cruel and, according to chronicles of the time, many of its inhabitants perished, killed by hunger and thirst, or were slaughtered when the crusaders sacked the town. Portuguese rule was short-lived and in 1191 the city was recaptured by the Moors.

Despite having lost many of its inhabitants and much of its wealth, Silves was elevated to the status of Episcopal see and headquarters of the military government after the definitive conquest of the city in the context of the Christian occupation of the Algarve—1242 to 1249—which was concluded in the reign of King Afonso lll.

The centuries that followed were a difficult time for Silves. With the severance of its former links with North Africa and the gradual silting up of the river, it found itself side-lined from thelucrative maritime trade. Consequently, its economic, political, and military influence dwindled, while places like Lagos, Portimão, and Faro grew in importance. Natural catastrophes like the plague, earthquakes, and fevers caused by the swamp that formed where the Arade had once flowed also contributed to the town’s decline.

The great provider the bountiful Atlantic

The coup de grace came after the Episcopal order in 1534 instructed the transfer of the Episcopal see to Faro. Silves was never to recover its past splendor and for almost three centuries it was a city inhabited by only a few remaining citizens.

In the second half of the 19th century dried fruit and, above all, cork breathed new life into the city, which became one of the main processing centers for those products. Today Silves has Europe’s only cork museum as testament to the importance of that product to its economy. It is orange farming that today makes Silves the most important citrus producing region in Portugal. Due to its central location, Silves also plays an important role in the national transport infrastructure, with Tunes the main rail entry and exit point from the Algarve province, and the A2 and A22 highways, the most important routes within and from the Algarve, passing through the
municipality. (* Source:

The immaculate main square in Silves

ORL – Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Europe’s most famous secret. That’s how this part of the world is often described. Why? Because it has Europe’s best beaches, Europe’s best golf courses, one of Europe’s friendliest folk, it’s the chosen retirement destination for over 100,000 resident expatriates, and, added to all that, it’s Europe’s newest tax haven.

Several international publications have ranked Portugal as one of the best overseas retirement destinations, including the British broadsheet the Telegraph, which rated the country asthe “2nd best place to retire abroad.” A safe region, with very little crime and a laid-back lifestyle for expatriates, this destination caters equally to families and retirees, due to the wide variety of cultural, nature-based, sporting, gastronomic, and other activities. Long a popular summer destination for sunseekers and a winter-stay retreat for those getting away from Northern Europe’s colder months, the Algarve receives more than 5 million annual visitors through its airport alone, swelling the local population of approximately 350,000. Add to this the fact that it is the Portuguese people’s preferred holiday destination and that the Spanish love to visits its wilder western coast, and you begin to understand why, at peak times, several million more come here to experience its beauty.

Expect to enjoy the lifestyle if you holiday, study, or retire here, but count on some frustration if you move to the region to work. Business bureaucracy and the shrinking of the economy because of the financial crisis of 2008, mean that the region is not the obvious choice for those looking for employment. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, will find that the region’s excellent communications infrastructure, pleasant working environment, and cheap and talented labor force, together with a range of EU and national incentives to encourage start-up activity, may well make this a preferred location for launching new business ideas.

If you are looking for a mix between the Algarve’s historical roots and the spectacular beaches for which it is famous, then look no further than Silves and Lagoa. These two municipalities, located slightly west of center in Portugal’s southernmost province, allow residents to experience the best the area has to offer.

The immaculate main square in Silves

Silves, nestled in verdant valleys surrounded by the country’s largest citrus-growing area, and on the banks of the Arade River, which is navigable to where it meets the sea at Portimão, offers a warm microclimate, and visitors here will feel comfortable all year round…but perhaps just a little flustered when temperatures soar in the summer! Silves’ undulating hills are located inland in the region known as the barrocal (pronounced “buh-rroh-kaal”) and are covered with indigenous bush and scrubland interspersed with the triad of regional trees: olive, carob, and fig. The barrocal and its fauna contrasts sharply with the expanse of white sandy beach of its only coastal town, Armação de Pêra.

For a variety of beaches, hop over to neighboring Lagoa, with the capital town of the same name, which is a much smaller municipality located close to the ocean. Most of its activity is related to tourism around the coastal resorts towns of Carvoeiro (pronounced “kuhr-voo-ey-roo”) and Ferragudo. Here’s my video tour of the area including the main towns covered in this issue of the ORL.

With the Portuguese being the largest fish eaters per capita in Europe, finding fresh fish at one of the many daily markets is not difficult. Add to that a variety of fresh produce grown in the region and available in the local markets of both towns, and there is no excuse for unhealthy eating of any type! Wash your meal down with one of several local wines and you have the makings of a superb, yet healthy, gastronomic lifestyle.

Portugal has, according to a past Bloomberg report, the lowest cost of living in Western Europe. A variety of competing supermarkets in the Silves and Lagoa area make this area on average 30% cheaper than most European countries further north.

A quiet day at Silves market

The Silves and Lagoa areas are positioning themselves as leaders in the retirement sector within the Algarve, Portugal, and Iberian Peninsula. Two of the region’s pioneering projects in senior living will be launched in these two municipalities— see “Making The Right Property Choice” for more information.

Add to these factors recent legislation that allows many foreign residents to receive pensions tax-free in the country, and you would be hard pressed to find many similarly attractive retirement destinations in the heart of Europe.

ORL Portugal Teaser v2

TAX-free retirement in the heart of europe


Anyone who is nearing or at retirement age wants to protect his or her hard-earned pension.

Many want to do this in a safe country with a warm climate, friendly people and a great lifestyle.

Now one country has made it easy to do all the above.

Portugal, voted Europe’s best golfing destination by the World Travel Awards, has recently improved legislation aimed at attracting foreign residents and investors to the country. The Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) law allows qualifying individuals who have not been resident in Portugal during the previous five (5) years, to become resident in the country and receive a private pension or non-Portuguese income, tax-free for a period of ten (10) years. Foreign or non-Portuguese income is exempt from taxation if the country from which it is paid has the right to tax the payment (even if it does not). Qualifying individuals include EU/EEA/Swiss nationals and those who qualify based on special programs such as dependent employee, entrepreneurship, study, business investment or the Golden Visa.

The Golden Visa allows non-EU citizens (extending to close family members) purchasing at least €500,000 of real estate to benefit from permanent residence, which may be converted into citizenship after a period of 5 years. With property values still at very competitive levels, the combination of the two solutions may provide a tax-free entrance for non-EU nationals to the European Union.

Although Portugal does not implement strict controls on the movement of individuals, especially within the Schengen space, the formal requirement for residency is either 183 days or possessing what could be deemed as an habitual (owned or rented) residence on the 31st December of the respective tax year. Exceptions to this exist, such as the Golden visa, where permanence requirements are significantly lower.

Under the NHR law, a flat rate of 20%* (less than half the highest taxpayer rate of tax) will be levied on any income originating from Portuguese sources, work conducted in the country or foreign income not taxed or subject to taxes at source.

In practice, most double tax treaties (conventions) allow for the taxation of income at source, but many countries do not exercise this right if the person is non-resident. It thus follows that, under the NHR law, most foreign income will be tax-free. It will also be important to analyse each sub-category of assets, such as dividends, royalties, bank interest, etc. in order to ensure that maximum tax relief is obtained in each case. The use of a suitably qualified tax advisory professional is recommended and the investment in this is quickly recouped (typically between €1,500 and €3,000 depending on complexity of an individual’s financial affairs).

The NHR law provides an excellent solution for pensioners as well as liberal professionals such as consultants, company directors, doctors, dentists, architects and engineers, and anyone promoting active investment in the country. Occupational pensions, as long as deemed not to be sourced in Portugal, are exempt under the NHR law.

The possibility of a tax-free pension, the absence of inheritance or gift tax, no wealth taxes (other than annual taxes on real estate), access to the state health system for residents and EU citizens, a lower cost of living than most of the EU-18, and the availability of quality and cost-effective private health, have earned Portugal the Telegraph accolade of the “2nd best place to retire abroad”.

In addition to the traditional route involving the purchase of real estate, a rental-based solution for retirement and long-stays has recently been launched in the Algarve, already one of Europe’s most popular holiday resorts and voted Europe’s best beach destination. Complete with medical, F&B and other relevant services, the solution caters for those looking to try-before-they-move or simply to enjoy winter stays in their destination of choice, and also affords NHR status to qualifying individuals.

* In 2013 there is a 3.5% surcharge imposed on all personal income tax in Portugal, linked to the ending of Portugal’s bail-out from the EU/ECB/IMF