In the summer of 2018, I retired and made a trip to Portugal to see if the country I’d fallen in love with during a 2011 vacation would be a realistic retirement destination. After two months exploring the possibility of moving here, I learned a lot, faced a few fears and decided this would be my future home. I thought I’d share a few of my experiences and some of the trivial factoids I learned.
What were my fears?
* Transportation: I had few moments of panic wondering if the bus or train schedule I used to make my plan was maybe out of date. But every time, the bus or train has showed up within a few minutes of the posted time, no matter how rural. For planning my travel, I used the Comboio Portugal app on my iPhone. Passengers over 65 can travel half-price if they show ID.
* Finding my way in the cities: A Camino walking buddy Bryan Bailey showed me Maps.Me an app that lets you navigate offline. A couple of times I had a moment of panic trying to orient myself to the map it showed. But Maps.me proved invaluable finding my way around Porto, Coimbra, Aveiro, Tomar and Lisbon.
* Language: I’ve been working on learning Portuguese and have basic conversational Spanish. However, when in need I’ve resorted to asking if people speak English “Fala ingles?” And most times people are more than willing to help by speaking English. It truly has become a universal language thanks to movies and tv.
Odd tidbits I’ve learned or noticed in Portugal
* Bathrooms: lights may be on timers, so you may be plunged in darkness during your business – wave your arms around, that often activates the lights.
* Toilet paper: a lot of Portuguese homes or businesses are on septic systems which get clogged with toilet paper. They ask you to put the TP in a bin provided. For women it can be hard to re-learn the habits of a lifetime.
* Tickets for many trains and bus trips give assigned seats.
* Portuguese people are not huggers. Expect an air kiss on each cheek even from business people you’ve never met before.
* Bread, cheese and olives they put on the table before they bring you your meal are not free. The charge is usually 1-2 Euros. Beware. You can often get a fixed price meal by looking for the “Prato do dia” or dish of the day.