The Algarve has been an increasingly popular destination for foreign retirees since the end of WWII when a first wave of former British officers fell under its spell. Attracted by a sunny climate many had become used to from service in Asia and the Middle East, they also appreciated its low cost of living, which stretched their pensions and gratuities.
In the 1960s, the charms of the Algarve were discovered by the Beatles and their groupies, who moved in to the Algarve fishing port of Albufeira, still the home of the most authentic fish and chips on the south coast.
And thanks to a long history of dealing with the British Empire for hundreds of years prior, the Portuguese have been learning English almost since they’ve had schools. There are plenty of non-British foreigners in the Algarve, too, from Germany, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and even the Far East (and they all speak English, as well).
Retirees to the Algarve benefit from the great tide of prosperity and modernization that has swept along Portugal’s southern Atlantic coast in recent decades. New roads crisscross the landscape making it far easier than before to move around. Primitive hole-in-the-corner shops have been replaced by ubiquitous supermarkets. Television and telephones have become universal. Airlines from all over Europe now fly into Faro’s modern airport, though to reach the United States and Canada you must still go to Lisbon to pick up a trans-Atlantic flight.
Medical facilities are also expanding and improving throughout the Algarve. Portimão, Faro, and Lagos all now have major public hospitals. And a private hospital chain called the Hospital Particular has opened near Portimão.
Meanwhile a number of British and German doctors and dentists have opened private practices in the Algarve, although many Portuguese doctors speak excellent English.
Algarve’s Atlantic coastline measures about 160 kilometers (100 miles) in length and offers one of the highest densities of Blue Flag beaches in the world. Swimming and tennis are year-round sources of recreation, while modern gyms are also starting to appear in the region. But the sport of choice, especially for retirees, remains golf. The Algarve is celebrated for its splendid golf courses.
Add to that the fact that foreign residents can receive pensions tax-free in the country, and you would be hard pressed to find many similarly attractive retirement destinations in the heart of Europe.
Portugal’s health care ranks 9th in Europe and 12th in the world. The hospital network has modern, well-equipped units, and at least 90% of all doctors are English-speaking (in both public and private facilities).