One of the questions I get asked most frequently, both as a podcast host and as a licensed realtor, is about personal safety in Portugal.
It's a question that crosses many nationalities, ages and genders, and it also provides a major insight into why so many foreigners are searching for information about moving to Portugal.
However, in the last few years, it has been even more frequent. For Americans looking to Portugal for something more than beaches and a more laid-back and inexpensive lifestyle; and Europeans worried about escalating crime rates in their countries and threats of war.
Everyone is looking for a simple life in Portugal, where security and peace are becoming the most important motivations.
I can recall several interviews I have done on Portugal The Simple Life Podcast, where foreigners — especially women and guests who have moved to Portugal with their families — talk about how reassuring it is to walk around at night without having to constantly look over their shoulders. Not fearing gun violence in schools. Or having to listen to daily news of another violent crime.
Of course, there will always be the occasional pickpocket in Portugal or opportunistic crime, especially in larger cities such as Lisbon, like in any other major European capital. But I remember when I first moved to Portugal being blown away at the amount of homes I would walk past, sometimes on a main road, sometimes late at night, with doors open. I’m happy to say, today, it’s still quite common, and as a South African who has lived here for more than a decade, I still appreciate this.
When we are raised in cultures where crime is commonplace, our default is to distrust others and create boundaries. In Portugal, the culture couldn't be more different. The Portuguese people are naturally generous and trusting. It's in their DNA.
In today’s world, people just want to be in a place where people are nice. But don't take my word for it, check the stats.
Portugal’s safety ranking
In 2022, Portugal continues to rank as one of the safest countries in the world, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI), a report on 163 countries produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
In this ranking, the four European countries that come before Portugal are Iceland, Ireland, Denmark and Austria. These are all beautiful countries, no doubt, but I prefer Portugal’s more than 300 days of sunshine per year!
Global Peace Index 2022
It’s also telling that what the Portuguese Government spends on combating violence represents only 5% of the GDP, one of the lowest percentages in the world.
Portugal also scores well in terms of social support for its population, from public housing to healthcare. It is easy to understand that if there is less social injustice, consequently there is a more well-balanced and safer society.
In the "Relatório Anual de Segurança Interna 2021” (Annual Internal Security Report 2021), an official report by the Portuguese Government that takes stock of the country's security every year, this is also evident. For example, theft crime has been systematically decreasing since 2012. Violent and serious crime, which historically has always registered very low numbers, has also been decreasing since 2003. And these are just two indicators.
Portugal also stands out for its peaceful political system. Threats from extremist or terrorist groups, national or international, are simply unheard of.
This sense of security can be felt in daily life in Portugal, whether you are on public transportation or simply walking down the street.
The feeling that the Portuguese and foreigners have is of a secure and family-friendly country, where people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and genders can live peacefully and without the need to maintain a constant state of alert.
“O nosso país é um cantinho à beira mar plantado!”
"Our country is a little nook planted by the sea" - This traditional Portuguese saying literally says it all. Only a safe country could be compared to a garden!
So when I am asked "what places to avoid in Portugal?", I usually respond with amusement (but also pride): "The only places you should avoid in Portugal are the pastry shops! Those places are seriously dangerous...!".
Moving to Portugal - safety and security...
If the issue of safety in Portugal is important to you in your decision to relocate abroad, my advice is: come visit Portugal.
Talk to the people who live here, both Portuguese and those whom Portugal has "adopted".
Walk the streets. Yes, even at night, and don’t be afraid to do it alone.
Get a feel for what it is like to live in a country where you don't have to constantly look over your shoulder.
Where students can go to school with the safety and peace of mind that every child and parent deserves.
Where life is… simple.
Portugal The Simple Life is sponsored by a network of Portuguese companies that specialise in supporting families transition to a simple life in Portugal. Please contact us if there is anything we can assist you with: Leisure Launch Group, Immo Portugal, Portugal Accounting, Portugal Interiors, Portugal Realty, Presprop Portugal Construction, SCH Holiday Homes and SCH Property Management & Rentals.