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How to Study in Portugal on a Budget

Filippa Nyqvist shares her tips on studying in Lisbon as a student who's lived in 4 different countries in the last four years.

Dec 13, 2023
  • Student Tips
  • Study Abroad
How to Study in Portugal on a Budget

After studying in four different European cities, Lisbon stands out as the one that offers the most budget-friendly experience for students. Portugal offers students a great experience while allowing for a low budget.

Today I will tell you about my experience of being an international student in Portugal and why I think Portugal is one of the best budget-friendly options for international students.

Curious about Portugal?

Learn more about studying in Portugal in our country guide!

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Studying in Portugal

Filippa taking sunset photo in Portugal

During my year in Portugal, I was constantly amazed at how friendly the Portuguese culture is. The people really made it easy to feel welcome as a foreigner.

Portugal is a fairly small country that makes travelling around by train both easy but also very affordable. It also offers a variety of options for international students whereas many private universities offer a broad selection of programs in English.

Even though Portugal is a small country there are many different types of landscapes and architectural styles depending on the region. Being in the North versus the South almost feels like two different countries. You both have the option to live in a vibrant city or in a beach town.

Portugal offers both historic universities with a traditional approach as well as many innovative private universities with unique programs and campuses. Many of the universities want to attract international students with their low tuition fees and international student bodies.

The quality of life in Portugal is also generally high which I definitely saw while living there. The work-life balance is highly prioritized which you can see when you go out in the evening where even the smaller cities are filled with people in the evenings. This makes Portugal a great destination for students looking for a rich academic experience as well as a cultural and social life.

Studying in Lisbon

Filippa in Lisbon with her friend

As a student in Lisbon, the first thing that stood out to me was how international the city is. People from all over the world come to Lisbon as students, expats and workers. Lisbon is a city that is easy to fall in love with. With its warm climate with more than 300 sunny days a year, it is one of the warmest countries in Europe. Lisbon offers both a great city life and amazing beaches in the surrounding areas.

There are many universities in Lisbon that offer programs in English. They therefore attract many international and Erasmus students. This makes making friends as a student in Lisbon very easy. There is a big network of international students who are all looking to get to know new people. There are many activities organized by different universities and the Erasmus organization is open to all students.

Lisbon is also a beautiful city with a unique style of architecture. I felt like I was finding new buildings every day walking around even though it's a pretty small city. Lisbon also has many different neighbourhoods with different vibes and looks. This makes the city feel bigger than it is because you can get a diverse set of experiences all in one city.

How expensive is Lisbon?

Living on a student budget is fairly easy in Lisbon. Even though rent is a bit higher than in other cities in Portugal the cost of living is still low. There are also many student residences in the city where you can rent a room for a reasonable price.

Filippa looking at the sea in Portugal

Lisbon on a budget

The great thing about Lisbon is that as a student you can shape the city to fit your budget. You can definitely live on a low budget in Lisbon while still having an amazing experience in the city. I learned throughout the year where to go to find the cheapest prices.

Here's some of my best advice on how to make Lisbon more budget friendly:

  • Go to local markets for cheap groceries
  • Live outside of the city center for cheaper accommodation
  • There is many free activities like going to the beach or neighbouring cities
  • Go out in student neighbourhoods, they're much cheaper
  • Walk around in the beautiful city and find local restaurants and bars for a way more affordable price

Cost of living in Portugal vs Cost of living in Lisbon

Portugal is one of the cheapest Western European countries - you can live on a very small budget there, without detracting from your student experience.

Accommodation €400-900€550-1,100
A meal at a restaurant€5-20€7-25
Monthly transportation€36€40
A cocktail€8€8-12
One cinema ticket €6-10€8-12

Portugal is a great budget-friendly option for international students. Not only is the cost of living one of the cheapest in western Europe but there are also many options of different accommodations and restaurants depending on your budget. There are also many free activities to do in Portugal because of the warm climate.

Want to learn more?

Read more about Filippa's study abroad experience here:

Filippa Nyqvist


Filippa Nyqvist is an international student with a Bachelor's in politics and international relations, enriched by studies in management, law and design thinking. She shares her study abroad experiences on TikTok.

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