Moving Abroad

Your All in One Guide to Moving to Spain

Moving to Spain? Spain is one of Europe’s most visited destinations with its gorgeous food, beautiful weather, picturesque coastal towns and laid-back lifestyle. So, of course, this makes it an attractive relocation target, too.

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And now that we’ve covered France in our last post, it’s time to explore everything you need to know about relocating 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.

Reasons to 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 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 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 before dreaming about the fun stuff.

Visa and residency in Spain after Brexit

“Do I need a visa for Spain from the UK?” – The Spanish government has entry requirements for those who wish to stay longer, study or work, travel on business or for any other reason. The Schengen area allows you to stay for 90 days without a visa for any 180 days. It does not matter if you travel for leisure, business, cultural or sports events, or short-term studies. As a result of Brexit, British citizens and those from countries outside the EU or EEA group of countries with freedom of movement will need to obtain visas and residency permits to work, live, or study in Spain for more extended periods.

Consult the Spanish consulate in the UK regarding the type of visa and/or work permit you may need before you travel.

Another mandatory registration procedure is joining the Census Register (padrón). It lists everyone residing in a said town, regardless of 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 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.

Learn more about the international relocation service we offer by visiting our main website.

Cost of living in Spain

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:

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

How much is rent in Spain?

Even if you’re planning to eventually buy a property in Spain, you’ll likely 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. For 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, you’ll be paying around €300 per month for a 1-bedroom apartment 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

Food cost in Spain

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

MealPrice in €Price in £
A meal for two in a 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 in the UK.

Utility bills in Spain

Your expenses on utility bills, transportation and various services can become a fair share of your overall monthly cost. 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

How to open a Spanish bank account

The cost of moving to Spain is loosely interrelated to whether you make an effort to put your finances in good order before the big move or soon after you’ve arrived. Again, your 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 a bank account, you’ll need:

  • An ID
  • proof of address
  • 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 your most favourable options. Transferring your British pension to a Spanish bank account every month or withdrawing it directly from your British account will cost you more than moving your pension 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).

Living in Spain after Brexit

What else do you need to know about Spain? Are you a young graduate who wants to find your dream job in this colourful and welcoming country? Or are you moving there for good with your kids? You may also be thinking of starting 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 compared to other EU states. With over 16% 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 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 globally, 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 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, provided you hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card gives you the right to emergency medical treatment and 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 require 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 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, ensure that all your routine vaccinations are up to dates, such as the diphtheria-tetanus-polio and the MMR vaccines. Other than this, there are no special vaccination recommendations for travellers going to Spain.

Healthwise, beware of insect-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, transmitted by some tick species. Use common sense and protect yourself against insect bites while outdoors in this Mediterranean-climate country.

Taxes in Spain

You need to register with the Spanish tax authorities 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 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.

Driving in Spain

Can I drive in Spain with a UK licence? 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 important changes to your driving licence. Since 2015, there’s been a new law that enforces certain categories of drivers who are legal residents to renew their EU licence and get a Spanish one.

Can I drive in Spain after Brexit? Due to Brexit, British citizens in Spain cannot drive with their UK licenses. It is illegal for British citizens living in Spain for more than 6 months to drive with their UK driving license, and they must instead take their Spanish driving test.

To drive legally in Spain, you need:

  • To be 18 or the 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 payment system by obtaining a small transmitter (placed on the windscreen) from a bank or a petrol company.

Moving to Spain with kids

Moving with your children to Spain shouldn’t pose any difficulties finding fun things to do and entertaining your offspring. There are plenty of parks with kids’ facilities, attractions, and beautiful beaches to enjoy in the summer.

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 established 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 half or a quarter of what you’d pay for a private Nursery School.

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 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 several expats, are the areas around Murcia, Almeria, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid and the North coast.

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

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In Conclusion

There you have it – a complete guide to moving to Spain. Our advice is to plan 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 organise the first days’ logistics of your stay in a foreign country.

Image header source: Deposit Photos/ Author: halfpoint

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Did you find this post helpful? Or do you have any other tips on moving to Spain? Then, why don’t you share them in the comment box below?

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