While there are many countries which attract significant numbers of expats there is no doubt that Portugal and Cyprus attract more than their fair share of travellers. There is an interesting thread on the expat forum where a discussion regarding the benefits and attractions of Portugal and Cyprus and a comparison between the two has brought about some interesting facts, figures and opinions.
Background to the thread
The thread has been started by a husband and wife who live in the UK and are looking to move to either Cyprus of Portugal upon retirement. The impression from the thread is that retirement will be in around five years and the couple are doing some research ahead of their big move and trying to find out a number of different angles and different opinions from people who have “been there and done it”. So what exactly have they found?
The weather is obviously a vital element of any new homeland and while on the surface, if you have not visited Portugal or Cyprus, you may assume that both offer similar climates, this would not appear to be the case. A number of people on the thread have suggested that Cyprus is far hotter than Portugal, at least in some areas, and a number of UK expats seem to find it very difficult to cope with this extreme heat. There are the traditional complaints that air conditioning does not work, the sun is too hot and other such comments but there are also a number of people suggesting that comments attributed to Cyprus in particular are often “old wives tales”.
Ultimately it is a “horse for courses” situation, in that there are areas of Portugal which are extremely hot and there are areas of Cyprus which are extremely hot. On the whole it appears that Cyprus is the hotter of the two which is something many people will need to take into consideration when choosing their potential new homeland.
Property development in Cyprus and Portugal, and many other areas of the world, is a subject which attracts many different opinions and different experiences. A number of people on the post have highlighted “dodgy” builders in both Cyprus and Portugal and a number of people have also highlighted the fact that you need to know who you are dealing with. This is one of the areas where contact with the expat community in the region could pay dividends and ultimately point you towards a trustworthy and reliable property developer.
At the end of the day finding a property developer who you can trust and who is reliable is no different to doing that in your former homeland. Checking reviews, talking to people who have dealt with them in the past and ultimately comparing costs and services will help you to arrive at your final decision. However, it is vital that you do not go for the “cheapest option” because at the end of the day many people have been stung by rogue property developers who are happy to quote low prices but do not always deliver on their promises!
While there do not appear to be any specific problems with property deeds in Portugal, aside from the normal situation in that you need to ensure all documentation is correct and in place, unfortunately the same cannot be said of Cyprus. As we have covered on numerous occasions on the website there are still ongoing issues regarding property in northern Cyprus which was allegedly taken when the island split and outright ownership of property and land is still unclear. There have been a number of official investigations into the situation and the European Union has also become involved in the process of determining who owns land, specifically in Northern Cyprus, and how the “rightful owners” can be compensated.
It has to be said that many expats have been caught up in the Cyprus land ownership issue, with property deeds not delivered on time and some homeowners waiting years to receive the correct documentation. Indeed, there have also been reports that a number of properties have been reclaimed by the authorities on behalf of the “rightful owners” or indeed homes have been flattened where ownership of the land has been disputed.
The situation regarding property deeds and property ownership in Cyprus is one which continues to this day and is obviously an element which needs to be taken into consideration. On the plus side, it must be said that not all properties in Cyprus are in any way caught up in this particular issue.
Even though there is no doubt that the cost of living in Europe as a whole has increased somewhat over the last few years there is a general opinion that the cost of living in Cyprus appears at this moment in time to be far greater than that in Europe as a whole and Portugal in particular. As a consequence the value of properties in Portugal and in Cyprus will obviously reflect a standard of living in the region and the demand for homes.
Ultimately, although while varying from element to element, it is safe to say that Cyprus has a significantly higher cost of living when compared to Portugal although there will be certain differences which are in favour of Cyprus. If you are retiring to the region and you have investments then your obviously need to consider how long your funding would last, monthly budgets, relocation costs and ultimately everyday living costs. There is also a comment about relatively low pay in the Cyprus employment market, although this is something which will probably be rectified when the country moves more into the centre of the EU set-up.
Until recently it was very difficult, if not possible, to obtain a direct flight to Cyprus due to the ongoing issues regarding the North-South divide. However, Cyprus has recently been brought into the international community and as such there are now a number of direct flights available to both North and South Cyprus which has ultimately opened up the region to investors, tourists and expats.
For those looking to move from the UK it is worthwhile considering the average flight times which are 2.5 hours to Lisbon and 4.5 hours to Cyprus. While this will not be a major factor in deciding where to move, it is one which may well impact on your ability to entertain friends and family at short notice. The cost of flights to Cyprus is obviously going to be higher when you consider the longer flight time but with worldwide airline struggling for business, there are many bargains around at this moment in time.
As we have covered on numerous occasions, while an expat community in your chosen country will always help you in the short term and allow you to bounce ideas and obtain advice from people who have been there and done it, it is not something that you should put too much emphasis on. Ultimately, if you’re looking to make a life for yourself overseas there is a requirement to mix with the local community as opposed to just the expat community because in some countries, and Cyprus is possibly one, the locals may take offence if you do not “make the effort”. Even though Portugal probably has the larger expat community of the two there are very strong links between Cyprus and the UK in particular, where there is still a military presence on the disputed border.
While there is no doubt that the Cypriot economy and the Portuguese economy are very different animals, with Portugal now more of a services-based economy with particular emphasis on software, automation and business services, the Cypriot authorities have also invested great time and money into the development of their local economy. The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates for Cyprus place it just above the European average for GDP which is a feather in the cap of the Cypriot authorities who have worked around the clock to obtain EU membership and EU recognition.
However, despite all of the excellent work from the Cypriot authorities there is no doubt that tourism and entertainment still command a large percentage of the economic output of the country, and will continue to do so for some time to come. That is not to say that overseas investment is non-existent in the country, but there is a need to attract large international companies to the region.
Portugal on the other hand is one of founding members of the EU, took on board the euro in 1999 and is now a central part of the eurozone. As we touched on above, the economy in Portugal is dominated by the services sector with tourism playing a very prominent role in the Portuguese way of life. However, as the Cypriot authorities have moved with the times, there is no doubt that the Portuguese government have also invested much time and money into exports, private investment and a number of high-tech sectors which include telecoms. These are very prominent areas of the worldwide economy and have allowed Portugal to export more technology than the country imports, which is a very significant trend in the current marketplace.
There are a number of comments on the thread regarding the welcome which expats might expect in Cyprus compared to that which they would receive in Portugal. On first reading of the thread you would be excused for believing that foreigners are not welcome in Cyprus when ultimately this is not the case. It is easy to forget we have two very different cultures and two very different economies which we are comparing and ultimately they are at very different stages of development.
Portugal is a country which is well known by the vast majority of people within Europe and around the world whereas Cyprus is a country which has for many years been shielded and hidden away from the international community – until recently.
Is Portugal or Cyprus right for you?
For many years Portugal, and in particular the Algarve, has been very popular with UK expats and those from different parts of Europe. However, the introduction of Cyprus into the international community continues at pace and there are growing attractions for those looking to move to Cyprus. The thread itself seems to involve an older couple who have been considering a move overseas for some time with Cyprus and Portugal the final two destinations to consider. As we suggested above, it really is a “horses for courses” situation in that there are many plus points for Portugal and many attractions for Cyprus and ultimately it will come down to personal preference.
If you were offered the opportunity to move to Portugal or Cyprus, the vast majority of people may well choose Portugal ultimately because they will know more about the region, climate, the economy and the country itself. However that is not to say that Cyprus does not have an awful lot to offer foreign visitors and expats looking to move to the region, even if there are a number of “teething problems” which need to be addressed.
As with any move overseas it really is a case of “horses for courses” in that different people require different climates, economic outlooks, local communities and lifestyles. No country in the world can offer a “one size fits all” experience and even though Cyprus is obviously at an earlier stage of development compared to countries such as Portugal, it would be foolish to dismiss a move to the country outright.
With regards to the thread on the expat forum it is interesting to see that this particular couple in question, i.e. the ones who started the thread, have been considering a move overseas for some time and are more than happy to do their homework. While a five-year timescale may seem 1,000,000 miles away for some people, as you approach retirement there are obviously more issues to consider as ultimately, if the move goes well, the place you choose could possibly be your final destination.
The thread itself has attracted a great number of comments and different opinions which those looking to move to either Cyprus or Portugal are sure to find of interest. However, it must be noted that the information contained in any thread should only be seen as a starting point because ultimately not everybody is looking for the same lifestyle and standard of living.