Residency Myth Buster

Windmill for sale Portugal

Try living in a windmill!

“You must get a NISS number,” said the teacher, standing in the sunlight and showing me a piece of paper with a list scribbled on it. “We need a NISS, and a vaccination certificate for your son. Also a health card.” All that? Where do we start? Well for a start you can’t get a NISS number without residency, which of course I found out the hard way.  So we set out to get our residency certificates.

School days - just need a NISS

School days – just need a NISS

Thus began our journey to get a NISS number (Portuguese National Insurance Number) to send our child to school. We’re in the EU and so as an official told us, the schools can’t technically turn our child away. Still, we wanted to do things correctly so we went off to the local town hall to apply for Portuguese residency first, armed with passports, utility bills, blue sky and sunshine.

Heading out under blue skies and sunshine

Heading out under blue skies and sunshine

The town hall is a vast, airy building, large floor to ceiling window at one end with a tree planted in front of the window – on the inside. Quite pleasant to hang around in, unlike the tatty social security office where you get your NISS, or the Finance Office where you get your Fiscal Number. We took a ticket for ‘Tesouria’ and sat down at one of the light wood chairs until our number came up on the screen.

Paula who served us spoke English which was a relief. She’s getting to know us quite well and is always called upon when we turn up at the Town Hall to explain stuff such as we haven’t got the right piece of paper for my child to have school dinners or that we are in the wrong office to pay our IMI (council tax). This time she explained patiently what we would need to get our Residency Certificate. I asked for non habitual residency. Actually I insisted upon it. It would keep our tax rate down. Paula shook her head. “Nao.”

This was a starting point for confusion. All Paula knew was that non habitual residency wasn’t something she dealt with and after some enquiries discovered that this was purely tax related and that it was something we had to apply for at the finance office after we had got the initial residency. So doing things in the right order, the first thing we needed to get for our residency certicate was a criminal records check.

Need a criminal records check.  Pic credit here.

Need a criminal records check.  Pic credit here.

We were sent to the Justice Department up the road to get the criminal records check, another smart, beige stone building. This cost 10 euros and took about ten days. During this time we were off to England so it was some time later when we actually collected it and some time later still when we returned with it to the Town Hall. As we waited we noticed an expiry date at the bottom of the document in tiny writing. Which was the end of that week. Well, that should present no problem.

Ferry, Brittany ferries

Off on holiday to England

Our lady at the Town Hall smiled at us and explained we had to get proof of where we resided at the Junta de Freguesia in the village. To get over our disappointment of not getting immediate residency we went to the cafe and had some local Montejunto cakes, a crispy filo pastry filled with a Bakewell tart like treacly mixture. Heaven. We were over our disappointment therefore fairly quickly and headed to the village Junta de Freguesia. We met the white-haired mayor who was very friendly and handed us some old brochures about the area to browse through while we waited. Should we have bought him a bottle of wine, I wondered, or was that just in France?

Delicious Montejunto cakes

Delicious Montejunto cakes

Armed with the correct paperwork for my husband and I, and pleased as punch at feeling initiated into the village, we went back to the Town Hall. Handed the new bits of paperwork over. Went back again to the Junta de Freguesia as we hadn’t asked for any documents for the children, thinking it included everyone at the address. Another hour or so, then another day, went by.

DSC_0129 (2)

Another day went by.


Back to the Town Hall. Oh, we hadn’t bought bank statements. The lady apologised at having to take bank statements but it was necessary. Being a citizen of the EU, I wondered why. Ho hum. It was close to lunch time and we had the school run to do. Aware that our criminal records check was shortly due to expire we nipped back for lunch and returned straight after school drop off with the bank statements.

Paula took our documents and we waited. I sat and examined the polished marble floor and flicked through a brochure showing photos of local festivals we hadn’t been to and events we hadn’t known about. Twenty minutes later she returned and handed us our residency certificates. We handed over 10.50 euros per certificate. Then wahey! We were residents.


Local festivals around Montejunto

Local festivals around Montejunto

Oh, but wait. I had always been confused about the length of time a residency certificate was valid for. We now found out that it is until your passport expires. So while my children and I are done for around the next five years, my husband whose passport expires next year, will have to go through the whole process again in a few months time.

Now for the NISS number. Back to the cafe first though for some more Montejunto cakes.


Summing up, you will need for each person:

Criminal records check + 10 euros

Bank statements


Utility bills

Certificate from the Junta de Freguesia

10.50 euros per certificate

N.B. Residency will only last until the passport expires.

The above apparently varies from town to town and is a rough guide based only on our own experience. I take no responsibility for any mess, legal or otherwise, you find yourselves in based on this information.


Silver Coast Property Hunter

“There’s this job Zed…” I said, sipping the coffee he’d just brought me, “…being advertised.”  I had thought about it all morning.  We could do with finishing the kitchen.  The three kitchens.  Who has three kitchens and not one of them finished?  The olive trees needed attention, the windows were leaking upstairs, plus….I did spend a lot of time on the internet looking at old properties anyway, had (almost) renovated two houses and enjoyed months of house hunting.  If there was one job I would enjoy to supplement my income it would be this one.  I typed out the email, attached my cv and with a flourish hit ‘send’.

One thing I really love about Portugal is the amazing variety of architecture around with few properties the same.  There are balconies and towers, roof terraces at strange angles, an assortment of railing styles and shutters, teeny village houses and small farms or vineyards, ultra modern in bright colours or old and rambling.

Which is why if, like me, you love old buildings or modern architecture then finding properties with ‘Perfect Property Portugal’ for other people to start a new life on the Silver Coast is a lovely job.

“Go for it,” said Zed, as he handed me a quote for the windows.  Then another quote for painting the house.  Then another quote for…..

So now I have an extra job, hurrah!  On this page are my choices for the week in a selection of price ranges.  If you want to take a look at any or have your own personal search done you can go directly to the site and contact PPP (ideally mentioning this website or reference GZ) or drop a line in the comments below.  The site has its own search facility so you can browse yourself, but PPP also have access to about 3000 properties in the area through other agents so if you have specific plans to come over I can do a more thorough search.

Why buy here? There’s heavy investment planned to promote tourism in the area, Ryan Air have just moved into Lisbon airport and property prices are still low so it couldn’t be a better time to pick up a holiday home or start a new lifestyle.  If you don’t want to be near the beach and tourist bustle then head inland towards the Serra Do Montejunto or the Candeeiros National Park.

Meanwhile I’m going to make a start on the olive grove.

Er….no this blog isn’t going to morph into an estate agent’s site, but you may have to indulge me occasionally!




Exploring the Best Ways to Heat a House


Land of sunshine – oh no it’s raining again!

Oh no it’s raining again!  We don’t have central heating but the living room is 14.5 celsius without it so that’s probably not too bad.  If you’re wearing a thick jumper.  I’ve read various online opinions from experienced expats on the most efficient form of heating in Portugal.  Double glazing and insulation being a given.  With that in mind, how are we doing?

Insulation and double glazing - not quite there yet

Insulation and double glazing – not quite there yet

Aha, we should move to Portugal I hastily thought as icy rain hit me in the face in England two years ago.  It’s warm there.  We froze through our first winter in the inland region of Castelo Branco in a house where we had ripped out the ceiling and therefore scuppered the chance of adding additional insulation.  Instead we created two mezzanine spaces.   They look good though.  Our neighbour insisted on giving us extra quilts which we were too polite to turn down, maybe we looked cold as we left the house and she was right, along with a constant supply of cabbages and oranges.

Bags of vitamin C

Bags of vitamin C

Eventually we installed a wood burning stove.


The new wood burning stove in the old kitchen

Here we are, a year on much nearer Lisbon and the coast, again without central heating. On the bright side, touching wood here, I’ve not had a cold all winter.  The other day it was 20 celsius outside and a lovely sunny day.  Portuguese houses are traditionally designed to keep out heat though so it’s often much colder inside.

Much warmer outside, although you may need to be fully dressed to go swimming

Much warmer outside, although you may need to be fully dressed to go swimming

The heating system the previous owners had installed was let’s say, unusual.  A large pipe ran from the top of the fireplace around the ceiling into which hot air is supposed to flow from the fire.  It was then boxed in.  A builder who first came to look at the house said he had the same system and it was useless and advised us to dispose of it.  Diggory, the builder we finally employed, ripped out parts of it in the kitchen and showed us a nest that had been made inside, suspiciously more like rodent than birds nests, but then who knows the house was at one time full of birds before we moved in.  Evidenced by the amount of mess they’d left everywhere.

Central heating?

Central heating?

When the electricians came along they tore off another bit of the piping system leaving an ugly gap which we tried to hide over Christmas by hanging Christmas stockings over it.  Zed finally decided to rip out the rest of the boxing above the fireplace which is now ready for me to paint over.  Looking forward to it.

Just needs a lick of paint

Just needs a lick of paint

So what are we heating ourselves with?  Hmmm.  The main hall has a fire place.  Clearly it used to have a glass front which the last owners or vandals ripped out just leaving the metal casing. It’s not therefore very efficient but it burns wood and looks cosy.  For actual heat we have an ugly Calor gas heater in the living room and electric radiators in the bedrooms.

Gloves for indoors and outdoors

Wrapping up for indoors and outdoors

The long term plan is to install air conditioners which combine as heaters during the winter months as recommended by friends who have probably tried just about everything.  Costing around 700 euros to buy and install per unit.  Judging by various online forums, a wood burning stove seems cost wise to be the most efficient form of heating. Logs are approximately 100 euros a ton. Thing is I love to stare into flames in lieu of any decent TV programmes and so we will stay with an open fire and at some point replace the glass.  Solar heating isn’t apparently cost efficient due to the high price of installation (though of course a must for helping the planet if you can afford it) and we would eventually like to go that route for hot water.  We have been quoted 2500 euros although I’m sure we’ll end up paying more.  But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, a thick jumper will have to do and plenty of outdoor walks.

Plenty of outdoor walks

Plenty of outdoor walks

If you’ve got any tips and experiences on this subject I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Some Like It Hot: Painting the house


Tony Curtis painted our house in Castelo Branco one beautiful, hot day last month. O.K. a Tony Curtis looky likey called Manuel. To the British of a certain age, and my children who we have made sit through all episodes, willingly I hasten to add, the name Manuel conjures up visions of Fawlty Towers and an incompetent waiter. It was therefore with a certain unjustified doubt that when our neighbour, a very helpful Portuguese and English speaking lady from Mozambique, suggested that a guy called Manuel paint our house, I agreed. The prejudices of a TV programme have been indoctrinated into our culture, as have the images of Tony Curtis in his prime. What we got was a Tony Curtis look alike aka 1963, wielding a paint brush. It was good enough for me. The quality of his work remained to be seen.


We had opted to paint the house a hot, deep, yellow, which we had admired on several other houses. I had bought 15 litres of white paint at 15 euros from Max Mat, the big DIY store in Castelo Branco, and 6 tubes of concentrated colour. It was an unprofessional guess. We could have asked the store to mix it for us but were advised against it by a guy from the next village, on the basis that from his experience it would cost a lot more. He also pointed out that if we didn’t have enough colour we wouldn’t know the amounts to get the exact same shade again. So we followed this advice. Maybe we should have checked the colour of his house first though.


Manuel washed the building wielding a high pressure water gun.  Water seeped in through the old, leaky windows. No, not seep, it gushed in, actually. The house was white washed at amazing speed. Meanwhile, Mr Indoors and I squirted six tubes of concentrated yellow paint of various shades, at 6 euros a tube, into the pot of white and stirred. A pale, yellowy cream emerged. I raced off to the DIY store twenty minutes drive away to buy more.  We were well away from a hot, deep, yellow.
When I returned with another six tubes Manuel was chipping away at the render underneath the balcony. Mr Indoors and Manuel looked at me with worried expressions. Antique, white render and dust were all over the place.

“Manuel couldn’t paint over it so we thought we would expose some of the stonework”, said Mr Indoors. I blinked. Pale brown stone was emerging. It was exactly what we had discussed. It was fabulous. It was genuine. It was old. No false, stone cladding for us, we had the real thing. Hurrah!


We mixed the rest of the paint up. I had bought some brown to darken it, a red and a bright orange too. We chucked them all into the mix with the yellows. An insipid, custardy yellow emerged. Manuel meanwhile, who had taken a very short lunch break, was almost ready to start with the yellow. I raced back to town and bought another half dozen tubes which we threw into the mix again, slowly realising that no matter how many tubes we put in we weren’t going to get that deep, hot, golden shade we had imagined. What we came up with however, was a sunny custard. Certainly heaps better than the shabby white with plants growing out of the paintwork that we had started off with when Manuel had turned up half an early to start work that morning at 7.30pm, while I was still curled up in bed and wondering what day it was.


The neighbours had gathered round at various points of the day to watch. Others walked up and down the street as word got around that there was ‘a painting’ happening in the village. We were now proud of our lovely house. Custard or rich gold, it was hot. And as the Tony Curtis’ most popular film goes ‘Some Like It Hot’.

Tony Curtis 3

Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe in 'Some Like It Hot'

Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe in ‘Some Like It Hot’

From Lisbon to The Stone Roses

John Squire at Stone Roses premiere - it was this or a pic of the train station

John Squire at ‘Made In Stone’ premiere – it was this or a pic of the train station

Today’s story is about Mr Indoors and the attempt to catch the train on time to get to Lisbon airport for the  ‘Made in Stone’ film premiere in Manchester. Except that Mrs not as Glamorous had other plans for him first.

Yeh, ok, I get it, as one of the editors Mr Indoors particularly wanted to attend this thing.  So all I had to do was drop him off at a train station near Lisbon to get him to the airport for the plane to Manchester.  Mrs not as Glamorous (me) on the other hand is not on the invite, but I don’t mind because really, there’s nothing like staying behind to varnish the new floor. On the way to Lisbon I decided it was a great idea to do a spot of multi-tasking. We just had to find the EDP office in Cadaval to get the electricity connected to the new house, fill out the paperwork and find the train station.  What could be simpler?

I'm sure his wife would rather be varnishing floors too

I’m sure his wife would rather be varnishing floors too

Our estate agent had confirmed there was an EDP electricity office in Cadaval.  I emailed him for the address. No reply.  I tried an internet search for the location but there was no reference to a local office in Cadaval.  We almost went into the EDP office in Castelo Branco but were advised against bothering for Lisbon.  Better to have a three hour drive. With dog. When we bought a house last year from a quite different estate agent, Remax, they took us to the EDP office and translated for us.  Then to the water board.  Then the bank. And anywhere else we needed to be.  Even drove us past the town swimming pool so we’d know where it was.  No help from our new agents. Just saying.

We drove around for twenty minutes then spotted the EDP office down a side street.  It was hitting 12.30pm.  The lady at the desk looked at her watch as we launched into pigeon Portuguese with rehearsed sentences about needing a new meter and connection.  She waved the watch at us.  I rummaged around for the right paperwork.  It had disappeared.  She shook her head and ushered us out, locked the door behind us and skipped off down the road.  Oh dear, come back!  We have a train to catch!

Ian Brown, Stone Roses - "hey Lady at Desk come back"

Ian Brown, Stone Roses – “hey Lady at Desk come back”

We watered the dog then hung out at a café where we were within viewing distance of the EDP office.  We saw Lady at Desk approach and legged it across the road towards the office.  In front of us a local darted out from the side street and straight into the office.  Lady at Desk and local chatted away while a bill was paid, chatted away afterwards, and chatted away while standing at the door on the way out.  We smiled as she looked at us, sharing a joke, and we smiled back as though we understood and tried not to show any signs of anxiety.  I wanted to wave my watch at her.  Finally, our turn!

"Could've stayed at home and gone fishing instead"

“Could’ve stayed at home and gone fishing instead”

This time I had found the paperwork, the deed, proof of existence, a picture of the house.  What else could they need?  Still, she shook her head.  Silly us, she needed the name of the last owner?  No?  The name of the owner before that?  No? Oh, OF COURSE, the name of the owner before THAT.  Otherwise no connection. Sorry.  Our paperwork didn’t go back that far.  There was no record of the house on the computer.  I showed her a picture.  “Look, it exists.  It just needs electricity.”  She made some calls.  Still nothing.  Nothing she could do.  ‘Go away now’, she effectively said, ‘and don’t come back until you’ve got something else’.

It was past 2.00pm. I had to pick the kids up from school, and still drop Mr Indoors at a train station near Lisbon.  I would never make it doing both.  We changed plans to stop at a station instead on the way back to Castelo Branco. We would never catch the planned 14.20 train from Cartaxo and the next one was 17.00 something.  We drove to Entroncamento.  We should have plenty of time this way.

"It's just down this street"

“It’s just down this street”

Have you ever tried to find the train station at Entroncamento?  Ha, don’t. It lures you in with the false promise of logical signposting.  We followed signs that led us towards roads with a big ‘no entry’ notice.  The GPS didn’t recognise this and neither did the signposts.  We were in a maze.  We hadn’t eaten since our mid-morning snack and hunger was making us snippy with each other.  I reversed down one road, up another, turned round in another.  We could see the tracks, we just couldn’t get to them. According to the GPS I was now going to be five minutes late to collect child number one. We asked directions.  Something about a rotunda.  We drove round the rotunda and back up the one way system.  Another sign which took us under the railway line.    Finally we pulled up at the station and Mr Indoors grabbed his suitcase, passport, and said goodbye to me and the dog as I hit the accelerator and drove far, far away from Entroncamento. Portuguese_Railways_2297_EMU_at_Entroncamento_Railway_Station

The Deed and a Matter of Principle

Hamster cheeks?!

Hamster cheeks?!

Today’s tale is about the complicated attempt to sign the deed on our new house.  A quick jaunt to Lisbon, an hour in the notary and hey presto….or so we thought.

“Erk, I have hamster cheeks!”   I was looking at the photo of my son and I that had just been taken across the table of a café, before we stepped into the estate agents for our very important date.

“Well, that’s a surprise, since you did ten sit ups the other morning.  So if you take that over the year that averages about 1.9 sit-ups a day”, said Mr Indoors.

“Maybe you could do the ‘de-tox’ diet again mum”, said daughter helpfully.

“Ouch”.  Fortunately I’m generally a glass half full type of person so not too sensitive about these matters.  I mean hamster cheeks can be cute can’t they?

Yay, about to sign the deed - or not?

Yay, about to sign the deed – or not?

We were sitting in ‘Sparkles’ café in Lourinha, waiting to go into the estate agents before signing the deed to the new house.  Sparkles I think is so called because it has a glittery loo seat which I thought was rather cool and now want one.  Maybe we could name the new house Quinta de Glitter or Casa Sparkly.

It took only two weeks from the offer to be accepted to the appointment at the notary, which frankly is amazing.  I’m used to 2-3 months in England, although much of the delay is caused by the searches which is probably a good thing.  Although we have appointed a good and independent solicitor I’m not sure we have anything specifically to say that a mine is not about to be dug behind the house or a new motorway is not planned to come crashing through the courtyard.

It should have been a simple day but when I put on the offer form that it was subject to the courtyard being cleared of rubbish, I REALLY MEANT that I wanted the courtyard cleared of rubbish.  We had chased the estate agent up on this earlier in the week and had been duly ignored, so on the way to Lisbon we decided we would stand our ground and not sign until this had been done.  I texted the agent.  The answer to my question was evaded.  I texted again.  And again.  No, unsurprisingly the yard had not been cleared.

Clear the rubbish or we'll walk!

Clear the rubbish or we’ll walk!

We stood with arms folded refusing to go to the notary until we had an agreement about the yard.  The agents called the owners.  It was an investment company and frankly, according to the agents, they couldn’t give a damn.  We did though.

Our appointment with the notaire at 2.00pm came and went without us. We rang our solicitor who was in a notary meeting in Fundao and unavailable.  Where did we stand, legally?  It was hot, 26 degrees outside, we were getting tired after a three hour drive.  The children were starting to fidget and major whining would kick in at any moment. The agents offered to pay half the cost. Nope. Matter of principle at stake. We tried the solicitor again.  Should we come back another day?  Another three hour drive each way, another 50 euros in petrol.  Another set of toll fees.

Not yet fidgeting...

Not yet fidgeting…

We paced the hot pavement outside.  The agents were getting agitated.  It was nearly three o’ clock.  We still had to pay the property taxes at the finance office.  I did not want to come back another day.  The investment company knew that.  We were running out of time.  We agreed, in the end, we would pay no more than a hundred euros and the agents would pay the rest.

We bolted off in the car to pay the taxes.  We were number fourteen in the queue, a half hour wait.  Clearly then, we would never make it to the notary in time.  Unless……the agent called his bank which was now officially closed.  We raced back to the car, drove off to the bank with the agents, handed over the cash to the bank so that we could pay the taxes via the cash point, ran round the corner to the notary, and yay….half an hour later we emerged into the sunlight with a huge bunch of keys to the new house.

Proud owners of a garden with house attached

Proud owners of a garden with house attached