Your All in One Guide to Moving to Spain

Moving to Spain

Thinking of moving to Spain for good?

We don’t blame you.

With its gorgeous food, beautiful weather, picturesque coastal towns and laid-back lifestyle, Spain is one of the most visited and desirable tourist and second-home destinations in Europe. So, of course, this makes it an attractive relocation target, too.

Table of Contents:

And now that we’ve covered France in our last post, it’s time to explore everything that you need to know about moving permanently to Spain. The comprehensive guide below is part of our international removals knowledge pack, which aims to give you a clearer picture of the standard of living and residency requirements in Spain, as well as share plenty of other essential facts about this warm and friendly European country.

Why Move to Spain

Well, usually, the number one reason for Brits is the weather. Spain is one of the sunniest countries in Europe, with some areas enjoying around 300 days of sunshine a year. Just think how great it is to be able to appreciate Spain’s amazing nature and popular historical sites without the mandatory umbrella that you’d need most of the time in the UK?

This brings us to another advantage of relocating there if you have an affinity for the outdoors. The country’s mild Mediterranean climate sets the perfect conditions for an almost all-year-round al fresco way of living, whether you love hosting garden dinner parties, dream of lazing about on the beach or you are a sports person who enjoys hiking and swimming.

Furthermore, the Iberian country is the ultimate stress-relief place to move to. The epiphany of Spain’s relaxed approach to work and open-minded understanding of what an ideal work-life balance should be is the huge number of national, regional, community, religious and seasonal festivals (fiestas) that you can experience throughout the year. On that note, you’ll soon embrace the siesta time, too, when you can forget about running errands for a few hours under the hot sun and instead, relax by the pool with a chilled sangria. Oh, you can almost taste it, right?

But let’s go back to our guide and get some paperwork sorted out, first, before dreaming on about the fun stuff.

Spain: Visa & Residency Requirements

“Do I need a visa for Spain from the UK?” – is a question that many may ask, especially when considering the uncertainty of future Brexit negotiations. Relax! British nationals can still move freely within the EU. So, you don’t need a visa to live, work or study in Spain. But if you intend to stay in the country for longer than 90 days, you are obliged to obtain a residence certificate from your local foreign office or police station after you register with the Central Register of Foreign Nationals. Your certificate (card) comes with a unique Foreigner’s Identification Number, which you’ll need to present during all your administrative and financial dealings in the country.

Another mandatory registration procedure is joining the Census Register (padrón). It lists everyone residing in a said town, regardless of their nationality and status. Being on this register will help you access school, healthcare and social services, should you need them.

Also, if you intend to work in Spain as a self-employed person or an employee, you’ll have to register with the country’s social security authorities, in order to be able to contribute to the system and get benefits in times of need.

All the above doesn’t apply if you’re not an EU national, despite having the right to reside in the UK. In this case, you’ll need to obtain an appropriate visa to move and live in Spain.

Way of Life in Spain

Way of Life in Spain

depositphotos / By whbrown

We’ve already sketched out a few distinctions between Spain and the UK, with regards to the weather and the easy-going siesta-style approach to life. But are there any other differences that require some getting used to?

The Mañana punctualityThe Spanish “non-manners”The close-knit Spanish familyMachos reign in SpainGet into overdramatic gear
Get ready for some waiting around, whether you’re quietly queuing in front of your local real estate agency (still closed after opening hours) or you’re expecting a delivery that should’ve arrived days ago. Or don’t frown impatiently when you’re all set to hit the town, while your new Spanish friend is still wondering what to wear. You don’t want to be viewed as uptight and high-strung, do you?
Of course that “per favor” and “gracias” are the first words that you’ve learnt. But they are somewhat rarely used in everyday speech of Spaniards. Still, people in Spain are not necessarily ill-mannered. It’s just a linguistic difference that you need to accept.
You may also find it interesting how spontaneously the Spanish just appear on your doorstep. Yes, without warning. For instance, they often treat their in-laws’ or parents’ place as a second home and will barge in unannounced whenever they feel like it. Also, there’s none of this – “your kids are your kids”. In Spain, it’s just the norm for grandparents to be on childcare duty outside school times.
No, it’s not an exaggeration but a cultural thing that you may find hard to adapt to. It’s not uncommon for girls to be whistled at if walking around in skimpy clothes. Or if you’re a guy, you may experience an uncalled-for, over competitive behaviour from Spanish fellows, you’ve just met.
Spanish people can be temperamental and overdramatic. They will either love or hate, whether they talk about an important political event or a piece of desert. So, the level-headed and rather reserved Brit may feel jumpy and on edge amid a heated “argument” over the best wine in the world.

Well, these cultural differences may sound to you rather stereotypical but it won’t hurt if you keep them in mind. Anyway, you’ll most likely take the Spanish way of life in your stride once you learn about the cost of living in Spain, when compared to the UK.

What’s The Cost of Living in Spain

Spanish Cities

depositphotos / By masterlu

You can guess that everything is cheaper in Spain than in Britain. But this is relative and all comparisons go out of the window if you’re going to earn a Spanish wage. Also, another factor to consider is the significant wealth gap in the country. This, of course, reflects the cost of living in different locations.

Here’s an approximate list of the most expensive cities and towns in Spain:

BarcelonaSan SebastianMadridPalma (Mallorca)Bilbao
A vibrant, modern and cultural city. You’ll be looking at paying around €1000 per month for furnished accommodation in a pricey area.
A gorgeous resort town with resort prices. You may need to learn a bit of Basque if planning to move there.
The capital of Spain offers plenty of opportunities for work and education.
The place is not just a magnet for tourists, you can run a successful business there, too.
A beautiful city, surrounded by mountains, which offers a mid-range, affordable standard of living.

So, let’s find out what you’ll be paying on average for accommodation, utility services and food in Spain.

Renting in Spain

Even if you’re planning to eventually buy a property in Spain, it’s likely that you’ll be renting, first. So depending on the area, the size of the place and whether it comes furnished or not, you can expect to pay between €300 and €1100 per month. Just as an example, a monthly rental along the coast around Murcia is about €600 (£530). Of course, it gets cheaper if you go further inland. In the town itself, you’ll be paying around €300 per month for a 1-bedroom appartment or a studio flat.

What you need to show your landlord or agent if you want to rent a place long-term:

  • An ID document – passport, ID card
  • Your Foreigner’s Identification Number (on your residence card)
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • References

Property hunters, who are looking to buy a place, can be lucky finding a bargain with potential. Still, beware of estate agents, developers and lawyers with dubious credentials, so you don’t end up investing in a property with debts or without the right planning permission.

Food Cost in Spain

Cost of Food in Spain

depositphotos / By bezikus

Again, prices will vary, depending on your location. But generally, you’ll get more groceries for your “bucks” from an averagely priced supermarket or a local store than if you were in the UK.

Here’s a list of how much you’d pay on average for food and drink in Spain:

Food Prices Euro / Pound

Meal Price in € Price in £
A meal for two in an pub €30 £26.50
A lunch meal and a drink €12 £10.60
A fast food meal €7 £6.20
A bottle of beer €4.30 £3.80
Cappuccino €2.30 £2.00
Wine €6 £5.30

And if you’re planning to quit smoking, you may find it hard because cigarettes are a third cheaper in Spain than Britain.

Utility Bills in Spain

Your expenses on utility bills, transportation and various services can become a fair share of your overall cost of living per month. But how much this share is will depend on your personal circumstances and lifestyle.

  • Utilities for 1 person in a flat (50 sq.m) per month – €95 (electricity/gas)
  • Utilities for 2 people in a flat (90 sq.m) per month – €150 (electricity/gas)
  • Transportation – 1 l of diesel – €1,13 – €1,24
  • Monthly pass (public transport) – €45 – €50
  • Taxis: starting rate – from €2,20 to €4; per km – from €0,85 to €1,80
  • A gym membership – €45
  • Housekeeping – €12 per hour
  • Communication – local mobile prepaid tariff – €0,21 per minute

Spanish Bank Accounts

The cost of moving to Spain is loosely interrelated to whether you make the effort to put your finances in good order before the big move or soon after you’ve arrived. Again, your particular situation will play a role in what you need to do. Either way, you will probably want to open a bank account. The equivalent of a current account is called a pay-cheque account. The bank charges will depend on whether you have regular funds coming in each month.

To set up bank account, you’ll need:

  • An ID
  • a proof of address
  • a proof of income
  • NIE (the identification number on your residence card).
Note that banks in Spain shut at 2.00 – 2.30PM.

If you are retired, speak to a specialist about the most favourable options for you. Transferring your British pension to a Spanish bank account every month or withdrawing it directly from your British account will probably cost you more than if you move your pension altogether to a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme). Such transfer will help you avoid fluctuations in exchange rates, as well as certain taxation issues (say, after the death of a spouse).

British Communities in Spain

British Communities in Spain

depostiphotos / By roberaten

Data on immigration from 2017 (source: United Nations) shows that Spain has the largest UK-born population in the EU. Around 300 000 Brits form strong expat communities, distributed across different areas in the country. Most of those who have moved to Spain from the UK are retirees – aged 65 and over. The Spanish National Institute of Statistics notes that 40% of UK-nationals living in the country fall into this age bracket.

The map of British communities by region shows that the biggest concentrations are along the South and South-East coast – around Alicante and Malaga. Understandably, the Canary and Balearic Islands have also become a permanent home for large groups of British nationals. Other locations, which have attracted a number of expats, are the areas around Murcia, Almeria, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid and the North coast.

Before your relocation, you can visit a number of online forums where British expats exchange helpful information and advice on moving to Spain from the UK. There are many websites, dedicated to living in Spain, which provide details it can offer you if you’re planning to make the country your new home.

Essentials in Spain

What else do you need to know about Spain? Are you a young graduate who wants to find their dream job in this colourful and welcoming country? Or are you moving there for good with your kids? You may be also thinking of starting up a restaurant business in the tourist areas along the coast… Then, continue reading and learn about the essentials of moving to Spain when it comes to making a living, paying taxes and having access to education, healthcare and childcare services.

Working in Spain

Spain was hit significantly by the 2008 economic slowdown when compared to other EU states. With over 16% of unemployment, the country’s job market is still struggling to recover despite Spain’s mild economic growth in recent years. Ironically, there are thousands of available jobs, which stay open for weeks due to the lack of qualified candidates. The imbalance between demand and supply and the huge gap (disconnection) between the education system and the business are regarded as the main factors behind the fact that so many positions remain unfilled.

Still, as a Brit relocating to Spain, you have one advantage. You speak English. With hundreds of international companies outsourcing their services to other countries, including Spain, you probably won’t struggle to find an English speaking job in a Spanish city, whether you hold specific qualifications (the IT sector, Business Administration) or you take on a position, which comes with on-the-job training (a call centre).

British migrants also have the opportunity to fill the constant demand for English teachers. And of course, with today’s growing flexible job market opportunities on a global scale, you can always look into working online from home.

Furthermore, plenty of UK-born settlers in Spain succeed in running a small business, whether they open an English bar somewhere on the Costas, start up a cleaning company or provide childcare services for their fellow British expats. Still, if you have any entrepreneurial aspirations, do a thorough market research, first, and get help from a recognised legal advisor who knows all the procedures of setting up a business in Spain inside out.

Healthcare in Spain

As a UK-national, you’re eligible to access state healthcare services in any EU state free of charge, in most cases, or at reduced costs, providing you hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card gives you the right to an emergency medical treatment and a treatment for a pre-existing medical condition. However, you can execute these rights only while you’re on a temporary stay in the country. Ideally, once settled, you should register with the Spanish state healthcare system (contribution-based) to gain access to all the benefits Spaniards get and avoid paying to see a private doctor (€50 for a short 15-minute visit).

Dental care, however, is not free in Spain, unless you are a child resident between 6 and 15 years of age or you require an emergency treatment. Still, common dental procedures are much cheaper than in the UK, which makes the country a popular dental tourist destination. Moreover, you can join a standalone dental insurance plan or one, which is part of a private health insurance programme. Expect to pay a monthly premium of €10 – €15. Your dental insurance will usually allow you to have certain treatments (check-ups, x-rays, teeth cleaning) done for free, as well as get up to 40% discounts on other standard treatments.

Before you move to Spain, especially if relocating with kids, make sure that all your routine vaccinations are up to date, such as the diphtheria-tetanus-polio and the MMR vaccines. Other than this, there are no special vaccination recommendations for travellers going to Spain.
Health wise, beware of insect-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, which is transmitted by some tick species. Just use your common sense and protect yourself against insect bites when spending time outdoors in this Mediterranean-climate country.

Spanish Taxes

You need to register with the Spanish tax authorities in order to pay your taxes. When it comes to income taxes, they are split between the state and the respective region you live in. So depending on your location, the income tax bands and rates will vary, as each local government sets their own. Another important thing to know is that it will be your responsibility to ensure that you avoid double taxation as a Brit when it comes to inheritance and pension income taxes, for instance.

For more information on other taxes for individuals and companies in Spain, you can visit the English version of the Spanish tax authorities’ official website – Agencia Tributaria.

Moving to Spain With Kids

Moving with your children to Spain shouldn’t pose any difficulties in terms of finding fun things to do and entertaining your offspring. There are plenty of parks with kids facilities, attractions to visit and of course, the beautiful beaches to enjoy in the summer months.
With regards to education and childcare, you’ve got one concern to consider if your kids are younger than 3 – enrolling them in a Nursery School, if needs be.

The Spanish preschool education system is divided into two levels – from the age of 0 to 3 years when kids can go to a Nursery School and from the age of 3 to 6 years, which is covered by a free Kindergarten system of education, provided by the state. Interestingly, you don’t even need to be a Spanish citizen to be able to place your kids in a public preschool facility.

But let’s go back to your childcare options for toddlers. To find a place in a state Nursery School may prove harder than going private, where you’d be paying around €400 a month. Still, don’t get discouraged and apply in due time. The best part is that the government has set in place a financial aid programme for parents on a low income. So, depending on your family finances, you can bring the monthly cost for your childcare needs down to a half or a quarter of what you’d pay for a private Nursery School.

It’s also good to know that if you’re stuck, you can rely on affordable short-term childcare options. A registered and qualified babysitter will cost you between €8 and €12 per hour, depending on where you live.

Driving in Spain

If you intend to drive in Spain, you’re probably aware that you’ll drive on the right side of the road. You also need to know about some important new changes, regarding your driving licence. Since 2015, there’s a new law that enforces certain categories of drivers, who are legal residents, to renew their EU licence and get a Spanish one. For instance, you must obtain a Spanish licence if your licence is permanent (will never expire) or valid for 15 years or more for Group 1 (AM, A1, A2, A, B, and BE), or if it’s valid for 5 years or more for Group 2 (BTP, C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D, DE). In addition, if you’ve been a Spanish resident for over 2 years and you fall in the above categories, or your EU licence is about to expire – you’re required to apply for a Spanish licence,too.

To drive legally in Spain, you need:

  • To be 18 or over years old
  • A valid driving licence
  • An ID document
  • Proof of vehicle ownership
  • Evidence of car insurance

Your vehicle should be equipped with:

  • A warning triangle
  • A reflective jacket (you could be fined if found walking on the road in the dark without one)
  • Headlamp beam deflector

Furthermore, it’s an offence to drive:

  • Without a helmet (for motorcycles)
  • Without wearing a seat belt (front and rear seats)
  • Under the influence of alcohol
    -Over the 0,05% limit (private vehicles)
    -Over the 0,03% limit (public transport vehicles and private, transporting dangerous goods; with more than 8 passenger seats, etc.)
  • Over the speed limit

For paying motorway tolls, you can use cash or a credit card. Also, drivers can use the electronic system of payment by obtaining a small transmitter (placed on the windscreen) from a bank or a petrol company.

Spanish Cities Outside Spain

Did you know that the Southern EU border is located on the African continent? That’s right, a state-of-the-art fence separates Morocco from two Spanish autonomous enclaves – Ceuta and Melilla. The two historic towns were colonised by both the Greeks and the Romans. In Medieval times, in the late 15th century, Spain conquered Melilla. And in the 16th century, Ceuta became under the Spanish rule, too.

Both towns have each a population of about 80 000 people. You can visit a number of historical landmarks there and taste the multicultural vibe. However, the towns have immigration issues and are not popular relocation destinations among British expats.

Your British Backdoor to Spain

Gibraltar is another enclave in Europe, which is in the same shoes politically as the Spanish African towns. It is a British overseas territory in the South of Spain, where 14% of the population is British. It’s one of the most densely populated places in the world. The lack of space on the narrow peninsula is being resolved through land reclamation. Reclaimed land comprises 10% of the territory. This may be one of the factors why UK-born nationals don’t see Gibraltar as a potential relocation opportunity but would rather visit the autonomous area as tourists.

Still, it’s a piece of mind knowing that if things go wrong while in Spain, you can reach British soil by land and seek assistance.

In Conclusion

There you have it – a complete guide to moving to Spain. Our advice is to plan carefully the process of leaving your homeland well in advance. Take every opportunity to make your relocation as easy as possible, from tying up any loose ends back home, through professionally packing up and moving your possessions to organising the first days’ logistics of your stay in a foreign country.

Image header source: Deposit Photos/ Author: halfpoint

Happy moving and a stress-free relocation experience!

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Posted in Moving and Packing Tips

Last update: August 29, 2018
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