Studying in Portugal? A Guide for Canadian Students

Studying in Portugal? A Guide for Canadian Students
University of Coimbra, Portugal
Last Updated: 21 May 2024

Our guide is crafted exclusively for you, covering diverse programs at globally renowned institutions as well as invaluable insights, tips, and essential information. Embrace the journey of studying in Portugal and let this captivating country be the canvas for your academic success and personal growth.

As Canadian students consider their options, Portugal emerges as an enticing destination; from the ancient ruins steeped in history to the vibrant cities pulsing with life, Portugal offers an enchanting blend of academic excellence and cultural immersion. In this blog, we will explore various advantages and considerations for Canadian students seeking higher education in Portugal, a country that offers many opportunities for personal and academic growth.

Cost of studying in Portugal as a Canadian student

The cost of studying in Portugal depends on several factors, including the university or institution, the specific program of study, and your lifestyle choices. Here are some key considerations regarding the cost of studying in Portugal:

Tuition fees: Tuition fees for international students in Portugal are generally lower than in other popular study destinations. The exact fees vary depending on the university and program. Public universities tend to have lower tuition fees compared to private institutions.  

Living expenses: Portugal's living cost is generally affordable compared to other European countries. However, expenses can vary depending on the city or region you choose to study. Larger cities like Lisbon and Porto tend to have slightly higher living costs than smaller towns or rural areas.  

Scholarships and financial aid: Portugal offers various scholarships and financial aid options for international students, including those from Canada. The Portuguese government, universities, and other organizations provide these scholarships. Researching and applying for scholarships designed for international students is advisable to help offset tuition fees and living expenses.

Part-time work opportunities: As a Canadian student studying in Portugal, you can work part-time during your studies. Part-time jobs can help you cover some of your living expenses while gaining valuable work experience. However, it's essential to consider the workload of your studies and ensure that your part-time job does not negatively impact your academic performance.

Health insurance: As an international student in Portugal, you must have health insurance coverage. Some universities provide health insurance options for their students, while others require you to obtain private health insurance. It's important to factor in the cost of health insurance when planning your budget.

How do Canadian students apply to a university in Portugal?

To apply to a university in Portugal as a Canadian student, follow these general steps:

Step 1 - Research universities and programs: Initiate your journey, by conducting thorough research on universities in Portugal, identifying the ones that align with your academic interests and aspirations. Consider essential factors like program quality, reputation, location, language of instruction, and specific admission requirements.

Step 2 - Review admission requirements: Carefully review the admission requirements for the university and program you're interested in. As each university may have slightly different criteria, it is crucial to read the guidelines on their official websites carefully. Common prerequisites typically include academic transcripts, proof of language proficiency (English or Portuguese), a curriculum vitae (CV), a motivation letter, and recommendation letters. Being well-informed about these requirements will aid in preparing a robust and comprehensive application.

Step 3 - Language proficiency: Determine whether the program you are applying to requires proficiency in English or Portuguese. Some programs are taught entirely in English, while others may require proficiency in Portuguese. If the program is in Portuguese, you may need to provide proof of language proficiency, such as a language certificate (e.g., DELE or CELPE-Bras).

Step 4 - Apply online: Most universities in Portugal have online application systems. Create an account on the university's admissions portal and fill in the required information accurately and completely. Prepare and upload the necessary documents, including academic transcripts, language proficiency certificates, CVs, motivation letters, and recommendation letters. Be sure to follow the specified format and document requirements for each document.

Step 5 - Pay application fee: Some universities may require an application fee, which should be paid as instructed during the application process. Make sure to check the specific requirements for each university.

Step 6 - Student visas and residence permits: Once accepted, you must apply for a student visa/residence permit through the nearest Portuguese consulate or embassy in Canada. Check the specific requirements for visa application and gather the necessary documents, including proof of acceptance, financial records, and health insurance. Plan accommodation, travel, and other essential preparations when moving to Portugal.

Why should Canadian students study in Portugal?

Canadian students have numerous compelling reasons to consider studying in Portugal. Here are some key advantages:

Quality education: Portuguese universities are renowned for their high-quality education and academic excellence. With consistently high rankings in international university evaluations, studying in Portugal grants access to top-notch faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, and a supportive learning environment that nurtures intellectual growth and development.

Affordable tuition fees: Compared to other popular study destinations, Portugal offers relatively affordable tuition fees for international students. Public universities generally have lower tuition fees compared to private institutions. This affordability factor makes Portugal attractive for Canadian students seeking a high-quality education without incurring excessive costs.

Wide range of study programs: Portuguese universities provide an extensive selection of study programs taught in English, ensuring accessibility for international students. Whether your interests lie in humanities, sciences, engineering, business, or arts, you will discover a broad spectrum of academic disciplines and specialized options available to cater to your preferences.

Safe and welcoming environment: Portugal is known for its safe and welcoming atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for international students. The country has a low crime rate, friendly locals, and a reputation for hospitality. Canadian students will feel at ease navigating the cities, exploring the country, and adapting to the Portuguese way of life.

Opportunities for language learning: Studying in Portugal offers a fantastic opportunity to learn or improve your Portuguese language skills. As the sixth most spoken language globally, gaining proficiency in Portuguese can significantly enhance your career prospects and open doors to exciting opportunities in Portuguese-speaking countries. 

Best places in Portugal to study as a Canadian

Portugal offers several excellent cities and regions renowned for their academic institutions and student-friendly environments. Here are some of the best places to study in Portugal:

Lisbon: Portugal's capital is a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination that attracts students from around the world. It is home to prestigious universities such as the University of Lisbon and Nova University Lisbon. The city offers historic sites, lively nightlife, and a thriving startup ecosystem.

Porto: Situated in the northern region of Portugal, Porto boasts a picturesque riverside setting, iconic bridges, and a thriving port wine production. The University of Porto has a prominent academic excellence reputation, especially in engineering, architecture, and business. Enveloped by a vibrant student community, Porto offers affordable living costs and a delightful blend of old-world charm and modern amenities, making it an inviting and enriching destination for students.

Coimbra: Nestled in central Portugal, Coimbra is renowned for its historic university, the University of Coimbra. The university's exquisite campus, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and deep-rooted academic traditions contribute to a unique studying atmosphere. Embracing a rich cultural heritage, Coimbra strongly emphasizes arts and sciences, making it an inspiring destination for scholars and students alike.

Aveiro: Known as the "Venice of Portugal," Aveiro is a picturesque city on the west coast. It is home to the University of Aveiro, which is highly regarded for its science and technology programs. Aveiro offers a relaxed and student-friendly environment with its canals, colourful Moliceiro boats, and beautiful beaches nearby.

Top educational institutions in Portugal

Here are some of the top-ranking universities in Portugal based on global university rankings:

  • Universidade de Lisboa
  • Universidade do Porto
  • Universidade de Coimbra
  • Universidade Nova de Lisboa
  • Universidade do Minho
  • Universidade de Aveiro
  • Universidade Catolica Portuguesa
  • Polytechnic Institute of Porto
  • Instituto Universitario de Lisboa
  • Universidade do Algarve 

Paying for your overseas education with the best exchange rates

If you're living and studying in Portugal for a considerable time, finding affordable ways to transfer money internationally is well worth it. For instance, to avoid the above-average fees your bank charges, you must register with MTFX to get the best rates.

The MTFX platform is accessible 24/7 and allows secure, automated payments. You can also enjoy competitive exchange rates of 3-5% lower than the banks. This translates to savings of $1,500 for each $30,000 you move across borders.



MTFX offers the best exchange rates

If you are interested in pursuing your studies in Portugal, it is important to note that only the Euro (€) currency is accepted there. While banks offer traditional exchange rates, MTFX, on the other hand, provides better exchange rates with lower fees and transparent pricing without hidden charges.

Open an account today and enjoy competitive exchange rates, low transfer fees, and quick international money transfers.



1. What aspects of Portugal often surprise overseas students?

International students studying in Portugal often discover several aspects of the country that can be surprising and delightful. Here are a few examples:

Warm and welcoming people: International students are often pleasantly surprised by the warm and welcoming nature of the Portuguese people. The locals are known for their hospitality, friendliness, and willingness to help others. This creates a welcoming and inclusive environment that makes it easier for international students to adapt and feel at home in Portugal.

The rich history and cultural heritage: Portugal has a rich history that spans centuries, and international students often find themselves captivated by the country's cultural heritage. From well-preserved medieval castles and historic neighbourhoods to ancient ruins and UNESCO World Heritage sites, Portugal offers a wealth of historical and cultural landmarks to explore and learn from.

Affordable living costs: Compared to other European countries, Portugal generally has lower living costs, making it an attractive option for international students. Accommodation, transportation, and everyday expenses tend to be more affordable, allowing students to make the most of their budget while enjoying their time in Portugal.

2. How can I manage the cost of living in Portugal?

Managing the cost of living in Portugal can be achieved through several strategies. Here are some tips to help you manage your expenses effectively:

Budgeting: Create a monthly budget outlining your income and expenses. Determine your fixed costs, such as rent, utilities, and transportation, and allocate a portion of your income for these essentials. Track your discretionary spending on food, entertainment, and other non-essential items to ensure you stay within your budget.

Accommodation: Consider sharing accommodation with other students to split the costs. Student residences, shared apartments, or renting a room in a private house can be more cost-effective options compared to renting a whole apartment. Look for accommodation options outside significant cities where rental prices may be lower.

Transportation: Utilize public transportation options like buses, trams, and trains, as they are generally more affordable than owning a car. Consider purchasing a monthly or semester-long public transportation pass, which can offer savings compared to individual tickets. Cycling or walking can also be cost-effective and healthy alternatives for shorter distances.

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