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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello there all,

I've been living a while now in quiet rural Uruguay now, and its great, but the distance to home (Ireland) is a problem and the price of flights make visits home to visit the family nearly impossible, which though not a huge deal now, may be a major problem when the folks get older, or if/when we have children etc.

Anyway before we take the plunge and buy here in Uruguay, I've been thinking a bit about Portugal. I'd like to live somewhere quiet and peaceful and safe, in probably central Portugal - a quiet country house with maybe some land, fruit trees etc. I stayed there about 10 years ago as a single man in Beja and thereabouts for a few months, but memories are vague and neither overly pleasant or unpleasent.

I have my own work (internet), and the language won't be much of a problem, as have Spanish already.

So I'd like to hear from any expats doing the same - ie. living in some remoter parts of Portugal, to get an idea of what life is like there - how the people are, the climate - are the winters really long and rainy and misearble? I'm a bit worried maybe also about noise from hunters or dogs barking (I'm a light sleeper alas), and maybe there are other factors to consider? I know the best idea would be to rent for a while and visit, but due to the enormous expense of the trips there it would be nice to get some info first.

Thanks...
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Although this sort of thing worries us most being animal lovers:

"As expats many of us are shocked and appalled by the treatment of animals, particularly dogs, in Portugal. All of my neighbours have dogs and ALL are tied up outside all day without any exercise or social interaction. It breaks my heart. "
 

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You WILL be bothered by barking dogs, believe me. The Portuguese appear to be totally immune to both the noise itself and the nuisance it causes to other people. By our standards, their treatment of animals is appalling.

Regarding language, I have fluent Spanish and can read and understand Portuguese but the spoken language is incredibly difficult to master. I know someone who has fluent, French, Spanish and Italian who travelled from Lisbon to the interior by train and could not understand a word of conversations around him. To many untrained ears it sounds like an Eastern European language.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the info.

So its not possible to get away from the dogs then? They are everywhere?

As to the language, I meant I'll have a enough to get by (basic communication) which will do for the time being. I'm by no means fluent in Spanish either.
 

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No there not everywhere, but you would certainly need to find somewhere without near neighbors in earshot, which then could well give you a problem with a good internet connection which tends to be in areas of denser population, unless your very lucky to have a 3G mast very close by.

People generally are friendly, are the winters really long and rainy and misearble? no, check out Portugals met office site, Instituto de Meteorologia, IP Portugal, real rural life presents it's own challenges but if you have transport then everything you might need is accessible, and you don't need to go far off the beaten track to find what your after, it really is not necessary to really go to the remoter parts.

I would not under estimate the language as MC says it's difficult.
 

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Hi Aidan - I can speak for the Castelo de Vide/Marvao area.

- locals tend to be friendly but none-too-travelled, but it's the caipirinha-drinking expat community (people from all over, generally pretty sophisticated downshifters) that is particularly sociable and fun
- the Spanish border is just a few minutes away, so living is very much cross-border (life oriented as much towards interesting Spanish cities like Seville, Salamanca, Madrid, Toledo, Caceres as much as towards Portuguese cities like Lisbon and Evora)
- you get a lot of property for your money, especially if prepared to live in a secondary village not the touristy ones (village houses in e.g. Alegrete for 10-15,000 euros, farms start at 100,000 for a fixed up one, 30,000-50,000 for a decent size ruin)
- the cheapness of living in central Portugal (sleepy but beautiful) means that if you can freelance at Northern European rates you can save a lot and splash out on trips away, and you'll find there's a lot of villagey social life that is almost 'no cost' (house parties, friends sharing tools, books, DVD box sets); language classes are often free too;
- things are remote, but good roads and almost no traffic mean you can access e.g. Lisbon/Salamanca in 2 hours and Madrid in 3 hours. An advantage of living right on the border means you have a choice of airport hubs for flights (Lisbon/Madrid and some low-cost options from Valladolid, Porto, Faro, Seville). Petrol, gas bottles... in fact most things!... are also far cheaper in Spain.
- The seasons are not too harsh in the Alto Alentejo. The Serra de Estrela blocks a lot of the colder/wetter weather and the Tagus valley provides a kind of moderating microclimate (so Alto Alentejo is a better option than e.g. the schist villages, Zezere valley or the Douro valley ). The summers are fabulous and pleasant up in the mountains, while the rain (October-March) keeps the countryside much greener than much of the Planicie Dourada of the Alentejo around Beja/Aljezur. With all the dry stone walls, castle-villages and interesting mountains, it's very much like the Yorshire Dales, Mid Wales, Peak District and Dartmoor, only with plenty of sunshine!
- If you have family in Ireland, you are likely to go there for Christmas/New Year (December and January being wet months)
- Amazon now delivers free!

Anyway, if you need more info let me know. If you are interested in trying Portugal out for a few months, there are often expats around who are happy to have reliable house-sitters for a few months.
 

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Whilst you will get plenty of good advise about different areas, only you know what you want so if funds run to it, have you thought of acquiring a motor home as a first step?

You could explore the various options & establish there are no noisy dogs (or neighbours) before you make your final decision.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My poor head - I've moved house/country various times in the past but it doesn't make it any easier - worse if anything.

Yes the more info the better and its greatly appreciated (thanks people!).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yes a motor home is a great idea and we'll probably go for that if we decide to check it out (getting more and more likely).

Alas I have here a full house of furniture (not the house itself yet luckily, but rented houses here come bare), a piano, a car, a german shepard and a cat, a lawn mower, etc. etc., so its a really big decision. Obviously it would very important to go and check it out first, the problem is 1) this is about 3000+ dollars just to do so and 2) one usually needs about 6 months to get a good feel for a place. So hence comments from people who have been there a long while are very helpful (not decisive, but helpful).
 

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Re Motor Homes; there tons of mobile homes touring The Algarve through out the year so you should find plenty of company/advice on this idea.

They may even have their own forum?

I haven't seen too many organised sites but lots of people seem to 'wild camp' (some in big groups for long periods) without getting too much hassle from the authorities.

From an earlier thread, I seem to recall that Surfin USA (an US expat) was considering a similar idea of getting a motor home to check out Portugal/Spain before deciding on where to settle.

Best of luck in your quest.
 

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Only downside to motorhome if you don't own one is price, they are neither cheap to buy or hire here
Standvirtual is major Portuguse internet site for vehicles and will give you some idea Venda Autocaravanas, Autocaravanas Usadas e Comprar Autocaravanas no Standvirtual

Plenty of sites throughout Portugal, private and public, nearly every Camra has a camp site, as it's a popular pastime here nationals and visitors.
 

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Great stuff Dennis, as you may gather, although I have been in the motor home game. I have no practical experience in Portugal or Spain.

Whilst there are local council & private sites, mindful of cost, am I right in saying that the authorities in Iberia have a fairly relaxed attitude toward wild camping?
 

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Great stuff Dennis, as you may gather, although I have been in the motor home game. I have no practical experience in Portugal or Spain.

Whilst there are local council & private sites, mindful of cost, am I right in saying that the authorities in Iberia have a fairly relaxed attitude toward wild camping?
Hi Waterdog
It is true to say that Portugal has a more relaxed attitude to wild camping especially central and northern Portugal but experiences with irresponsible motorhomers with regard the disposal of "black" water and overstaying their welcome in the Algarve has made the authorities tighten up and regular policing of wild camping areas has made parts of the Algarve virtual no go areas for motorhomers.
There are many places to "stopover" in central and north Portugal and I have included part of a thread from a motorhome forum that gives details of some of the stopovers used by the forum members.
I personally had no problem when I toured souhern and central Portugal for many weeks prior to buying and settling here permanently.
Have a look <HERE>
Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
:focus:

So any more insights into life in rural Portugal then? I've heard from someone (not here in these forums) that its all very doom and gloom and miserable there now with the economic crisis and all, and its the last place you would want to consider moving to, any thoughts?

He also mentioned the seemingly biggest problem there (seems to me anyway) of abandoned puppies everywhere, and tied-up dogs everywhere, and barking dogs everywhere.
 

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:

He also mentioned the seemingly biggest problem there (seems to me anyway) of abandoned puppies everywhere, and tied-up dogs everywhere, and barking dogs everywhere.
you will find in most rural areas there will be several dogs in one house, or rather garden. They will generally all be chained. They therefore get bored and start barking. They will bark at anything!
The Portuguese in rural areas look on dogs differently than we do. Very few if any are neutered so stray dogs can be a problem.
There is very little you can do about it.
As the owner of two one year old boxers, the lady who helps in the house thinks I am nuts to have them indoors.
Most of my neighbours have four + dogs. I have just earned to live with it. Even the cats are on chains.
 

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:focus:

So any more insights into life in rural Portugal then? I've heard from someone (not here in these forums) that its all very doom and gloom and miserable there now with the economic crisis and all, and its the last place you would want to consider moving to, any thoughts?

He also mentioned the seemingly biggest problem there (seems to me anyway) of abandoned puppies everywhere, and tied-up dogs everywhere, and barking dogs everywhere.
-- Yup, there's plenty of doom and gloom about right now. The thing to remember is that this is nothing new... the miserabilism of fado lyrics reflects a Portuguese way of living and the relative absence of joie de vivre.

-- The way rural Portuguese (and Spanish) treat animals is certainly shocking, but it's something that we all hope will be ironed out as the Portuguese encounter - and perhaps even enforce - EU animal welfare legislation (for Northern Europeans who care about the issue, see the dogsofportugal website). On top of the dogs-on-chains and strays issues, you also have the problem of hobbled goats/sheep (you often see limping animals with atrophied legs... horrible), and at this time of year, the ******* hunters in camouflage gear who'll shoot anything wild, as long as they get a macho day out in their jipe or pickup with a snorkel on the bonnet.

To summarise
The plus-sides of rural Portugal are: slow pace of life; climate; views/landscape; fun neighbours (esp. the expat downshifters); relatively cheap property in many areas (although some rural areas of France/Spain/Italy/Germany are just as cheap); cheap wine/market food; very low council tax rates (but expensive internet/electricity); excellent rural restaurants (Sao Rosas in Estremoz, Praca Velha in Castelo Branco, Bussaco Palace near Coimbra); fun Helpexer communities/hosts; fabulous B+Bs to spend occasional weekends away; excellent surf beaches; a choice of low-cost flights within driving distance (Faro/Porto/Lisbon/Valladolid/Madrid/Seville).

The downsides are: crap shops; slow pace of life; the economy; bureaucracy; the dourness of many natives (but not all); generally poor customer service; distance from the rest of the EU (6-10 hours to the French border); no excellent universities nearby for self-education; a lack of plannng rules, which has already led to concrete/villa sprawl and uglifying of some areas (Algarve/Lisbon Coast/Silver Coast).

Tip: Look up the Emma's House In Portugal blog for good insights on rural Portugal: the good, the bad, the quirky, the spectacular.
 
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