The 6 Unspoken Challenges Of Working In Lisbon Digital Nomads Need To Know

If you are considering moving to Lisbon, make sure to save up now or prepare yourself for some excess spending after arriving.

News & Updates
 Min read
May 12, 2023

Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, has been gaining in popularity over the past few years. This is partly thanks to the 'World's Learning City Break Destination' and 'Europe's Leading City Tourist Board' awards that Lisbon has received for 4 years consecutively. 

In recent years, expats, digital nomads, and entrepreneurs flock to this beautiful city because they love the gorgeous weather all year long, the delicious cuisine, the low cost of living for a European country, and most importantly, how robust the internet infrastructure is for outsiders.

You'll most likely find tons of articles writing about the beauty of Lisbon and how great it is for digital nomads like you. 

However, we're going to take a little walk down the darkened alley and uncover the shadows of Lisbon: the challenges of working in Lisbon as a digital nomad.

Challenge #1: High Rental Fees

When you visit Lisbon, do not be surprised if you find your bank account emptying faster than ever before from the sudden increase in rent prices.

The cost of renting an apartment in Lisbon has been steadily increasing for years, but the rent situation reached a new level last year when landlords started to exploit foreign workers. 

The international community's influx into this beautiful city has created a significant demand for housing and increased rental rates.

If you are considering moving to Lisbon, make sure to save up now or prepare yourself for some excess spending after arriving.

Also, do consider traveling light in Lisbon. Most apartments are 4 to 6-stories high, and they're ancient. Hence a lot of them don't have elevators. So keep mobility in mind if you do struggle with stairs. 


For short stays (less than 2 weeks), Airbnb is the best option. A cheaper alternative is Home Lisbon Hostel, which rents out shared rooms from €18 per night with fast wifi, clean common areas, and friendly staff. 

For medium to extended stays, try coliving options such as Selina, Outsite, Samesame, and many more. You can also check out Facebook groups and NomadX for private rooms. 

If you need to rent an entire apartment, Olx, Bquarto, and Idealista are some of the trustworthy websites (you need to provide proof of income and stay more than the minimum period). 

Challenge #2: Lack Of Heating During Winter

We thought a country with 4 seasons should have heating in all apartments, cafes, restaurants, and malls. 

However, most apartments and establishments don't provide central heating during winter unless you're staying in 5-star hotels. And there's little noise insulation between houses either. 


Wear more layers of warm clothes until you look like Ralphie's brother from A Christmas Story. And eat heart-warming foods like soups, coffee, tea, and freshly baked pastéis de nata (Portuguese tarts). 

Challenge #3: Lots Of Walking Up And Down

If you were to take a picture of Lisbon from the highest point, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, you would notice Lisbon is actually a city on top of several hills.

Meaning, you'll be walking up and down the slippery cobblestones as if you're hiking Mount Everest. Okay, not as bad as Mount Everest, but walking in Lisbon will drain your breath if you walk long enough. 


Either you train your stamina or take public transportation. 

Lisbon has four Metro lines and trams that can get you to most parts of the city. You can consider taking Uber if your destination is far from stations (local taxis are not recommended because they usually charge higher fees). 

Tip: Always wear leather boots with a firm grip in Lisbon. Sometimes it can rain, and the cobblestones can be very slippery. 

Challenge #4: No Digital Nomad Visa Yet

As a US passport holder, you can visit Portugal without a visa for up to 90 days. Despite the influx of digital nomads and entrepreneurs, the country hasn't issued digital nomad visas yet. 


For stays longer than 90 days, digital nomads need to apply for a Portuguese self-employment visa. Most visas cost around €80 (USD$88). Once you've received the visa, you'll become a tax resident and required to file a tax return and pay taxes in Portugal. 

After 5 years of residency, Portugal will grant you citizenship and enable you to access all EU areas with ease. 

Challenge #5: Cards Are Not Widely Used

Despite being one of the top nomad destinations, most cafes, restaurants, shops outside of touristy places accept only cash. Worse, some ATMs (labeled as 'Euronet') actually charge €5 per transaction. If you're withdrawing €50, that's a 10% transaction fee! 


Don't worry. Euronet ATMs exist in touristy places only. A blogger tried MultiBanco (MB) ATMs and didn't get charged ridiculously. So, rest assured to withdraw cash from MB ATMs. 

Challenge #6: Everything Doesn't Operate With Efficiency

You may get highly conflicting information from different public servants. Depending on their moods, some may or may not help you. 

For some odd reasons, the government service desks all close at 3.30 pm, which is just halfway through the day! 

Some processes are often needlessly complicated or unnecessary; opening a bank account requires you to sign a dozen different agreements. 

The healthcare system is of good quality, but it can sometimes be slow and understaffed. 

Whenever you're dealing with Portuguese systems, expect some slowness, conflicting info, and complication procedures. So, harness a bit of your patience throughout the waiting game. 


Deal with the Portuguese system only if necessary! And train your patience. 

Final Words

No matter how beautiful Lisbon is, it's bound to have its fair share of shadows and inconvenient sides. 

But this is precisely what makes Lisbon beautiful, isn't it? 

If working in Lisbon is all rainbows and unicorns, it isn't worth an adventure at all. 

Struggles actually color our experiences and make them memorable. So do not let these challenges of working in Lisbon turn you down. 

Explore Lisbon with these expectations and still keep an open mind to receive all the wonders (the beautiful and the ugly) of Lisbon. 

Next read: Learn more about the 7 common digital nomad challenges and how to overcome them.

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