The cost of living in Spain
How does the cost of living in Spain compare with the UK and Europe?
The cost of living in Spain is often compared to being close to that of the UK, with some things cheaper and some more expensive. For instance, property is likely to be cheaper, which is a big draw to those who have equity and are looking to sell their existing home and buy in Spain. Salaries are generally similar to Europe – but, as always, thoroughly research how living in Spain will affect your individual financial situation.
If you choose to live in a major city or tourist centre, prices may be higher, but are still likely to be favourable when compared with London and other European capitals. The Expatistan website allows you to compare the cost of living in cities around the world. Don’t forget, when you are changing money to and from Euros, always check out the latest rate on the Halo Financial website and speak to a currency specialist about your requirements, as this can save you money compared with what is typically offered by the big banks. The Currency Consultants at Halo can even monitor the rates for you and alert you when your chosen currency reaches your preferred rate, so you can make the most of your money and protect yourself against any drop in exchange rates.
Travelling around Spain and beyond
Travelling from Spain to the rest of the world
When moving abroad, many people miss their family and friends, so it is vital to ensure that you can easily get back to your native country when the need arises. Luckily, if you are a UK expat, there are many cheap flight options offered by budget carriers including Ryanair, easyJet, Flybe and more. When choosing where you are living in Spain, it is worth checking that the local airport is served by affordable flights to your chosen destination and that they operate year-round, not just in summer. Be aware, too, that carriers can change route options over time, so if you have several cheap flight options when living in Spain, so much the better!
I am thinking of moving to Spain, but I need to be near an airport. What are my best options?
Altogether there are around 60 airports in Spain, so wherever you choose to live, you have a good chance to be able to find one nearby. We have listed the airports in order of passenger traffic and have included the nearest major destination:
- Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas (Madrid)
- Barcelona-el Prat (Barcelona)
- Palma De Mallorca (Mallorca)
- Malaga-costa Del Sol (Malaga)
- Alicante-Elche (Alicante)
- Gran Canaria (Canaries)
- Tenerife Sur (Canaries)
- Ibiza (Ibiza)
- Lanzarote (Canaries)
- Valencia (Valencia)
- Fuerteventura (Canaries)
- Sevilla (Seville)
- Bilbao (Bilbao)
- Tenerife Norte (Canaries)
- Menorca (Menorca)
- Santiago de Compostela Airport (Santiago de Compostela)
- Girona (Girona)
- Asturias (Asturias)
- La Palma (Canaries)
- Murcia-san Javier (Murcia)
- A Coruña (A Coruña)
- Vigo–Peinador (Vigo)
- Jerez De La Frontera (Jerez de la Frontera)
- Reus Airport (Reus)
- Almeria (Almeria)
- Seve Ballesteros-Santander (Santander)
- Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén Airport (Grenada)
- Zaragoza (Zaragoza)
- Melilla (Melilla)
- San Sebastián (San Sebastián)
- Valladolid (Valladolid)
- Aeropuerto de los Cangrejos (El Hierro)
- Pamplona (Pamplona)
- Vitoria (Vitoria-Gasteiz)
- Badajoz (Badajoz)
- La Gomera (La Gomera)
- Aeropuerto de León (Leon)
- Logroño–Agoncillo Airport (Logroño)
- Salamanca (Salamanca)
- Córdoba (Córdoba)
- Burgos/ Villafría, (Burgos)
- Sabadell (Sabadell)
- Madrid–Cuatro Vientos (Madrid)
- Albacete (Los Llanos Air Base)
- Son Bonet Aerodrome (Mallorca)
- Huesca-Pirineos (Huesca)
Which are Spain’s busiest and most popular airports?
The most popular airports in Spain are Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas and Barcelona-El Prat. Not only that, but they have the fifth and sixth highest passenger numbers in Europe, according to the world’s top airport manager, Aena. This means they have excellent facilities and a wide choice of flight options.
For the whole of 2017, the five busiest airports in Spain were:
- Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, with 53,402,506 passengers – up 5.6% on 2016
- Barcelona El Prat, with 47,284,500 passengers – up 7.1% on 2016
- Palma de Mallorca Airport, with 27,970,655 passengers, up 6.5% on 2016
- Málaga-Costa Del Sol, with 18,628,876 passengers – up 11.7% on 2016
- Alicante-Elche with 13,713,061 passengers – up 11.1% on 2016
What new flights have been launched to Spain?
New flights to Spain are being announced all the time. For instance, UK budget carrier Ryanair announced 29 new routes across Europe to Spain. They include destinations in Italy, Portugal, France, Germany, Morocco, Hungry, Poland and the UK as well as domestic routes linking Seville to Alicante and Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. This means that in total Ryanair alone has 500 routes to and from Spain from 26 airports in the country.
Seville will be served with flights from Bristol. Cagliari (Sardinia), Catania (Sicily), Malta, Edinburgh, Luxemburg, Nantes (France), Rabat and Tanger (Morocco) and Venice Treviso (Italy), each with two flights weekly. Ryanair is also introducing new flights between Seville and Oporto, Alicante and Fuerteventura.
Barcelona will get a new route to Valletta in Malta four times a week and Valencia will be linked to Burgundy (France), Cagliari (Sardinia) Palermo (Sicily) and to Fez and Tangiers in Morocco. There will also be weekly flights to Bristol.
There are new routes between Palma de Mallorca to Milan, Bergamo and Rome Ciampino (Italy) and Düsseldorf Weeze (Germany); from Tenerife South to Milan Malpensa, and Gran Canaria to Venice Treviso. New routes to and from Alicante include Bologna (Italy), Gdansk (Poland) and Newquay in Cornwall (UK), and an additional connection will run from Santander, Cantabria to Budapest (Hungary).
Am I able to drive using my European licence in Spain?
You can, as long as you are over 18 years of age. You can continue to drive for six months after residency for non-EU citizens or two years for EU or EEA nationals. You will then have to either exchange your EU licence for a Spanish licence or renew your foreign licence. Non-EU citizens can exchange their foreign licence or pass the Spanish test. Check the regulations to see which scenario applies in your case.
Do I need a special driving licence?
That depends on where you come from. If you are in the European Union, you can drive on your existing licence until the time comes for exchange or renewal. If you are from outside Europe, then it is likely that you will need an international driving licence or equivalent. For instance, in the United States you can get an International Drivers Permit from the American Automobile Association. Anyone under 18 is not permitted to drive in Spain. On-the-spot fines can be levied for some driving offences. You should also carry your insurance documentation. It is worth noting that those driving hire cars and foreign-registered vehicles have been targeted by thieves, so always keep your doors locked and your valuables hidden.
Should I buy a car in Spain, or take over my existing one?
Perhaps the main factor of whether to buy a new car in Spain or take your own is the cost. If you are from North America, then you may pay a little more for a new car than you would in the United States or Canada. Australians may also have to fork out even more. On the other hand, Britons are likely to be pleasantly surprised. For instance, a new Fiat Tipo hatchback costs from €10,600 (£9,348) before tax at time of writing in Spain. In the UK, the price is around £13,245 or roughly €15.000 – a saving of around €4,400.
In the United States, a Ford Focus can start from $15,678 (€12,780). In Spain, it is from €13,500 or around $16,500. In Australia, you could pay around $24,490 or €15,400. Britons could pay from around £20,195 on the road, which is €22,870. Please note, these are general examples and actual prices may differ depending on the dealer, special offers and other factors. The price of used cars depends on the dealership and condition.
You can find low-mileage cars at dealerships and in general, by buying a five-year-old new car, you could save half as much as on a new vehicle. As always, it is worth taking advice and carrying out extensive research before buying. If you are planning to purchase a new or used car in Spain and need to exchange currency, get a quote from Halo Financial first. It could mean the difference between a low-spec model and an upgrade!
I’m afraid of flying. What are the main ferry options to Spain?
There are quite a few ferry options from European countries to Spain. For instance, there are three routes from the English south coast operated by Brittany Ferries. These run from Plymouth to Santander, Portsmouth to Santander and Plymouth to Bilbao. A new route has also just been launched from Ireland to Spain. The twice-weekly service between the northern Spanish port of Santander and Cork on Ireland’s south coast beginning from the end of April.
It will carry around 500 passengers and 195 cars. Travelling from France? Corsica Ferries and Sardinia Ferries operate two weekly sailings from Toulon to Alcudia, Mallorca, with a travelling time of 10.5 hours. Want to go from Rome, Italy? Grimaldi Lines runs six sailings a week from Civitavecchia to Barcelona, which takes 20 hours. There are several routes to and from Morocco, including Al Hoceima to Motril, Nador to Almerica, Nador to Motril, Nador to Barcelona, Tangier to Tarifa, Tangier to Algeciras, Tangier to Motril and Tangier to Barcelona.
Property prices in Spain
How much cheaper is Spanish property than other countries?
House prices in Spain are cheaper than many other countries in Europe and the major cities of the United States, so if you are selling your existing home when moving and buying in Spain, you could save big. For instance, if you live in the UK, Austria, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden average prices of apartments in major cities are likely to be cheaper in Spain, according to data specialist, Statista.
Average prices across England and Wales are half those of Spain, according to official figures from the ONS. In 2016, the average cost of property sold in England and Wales was £2,395 per square metre or around €2,700 at time of writing. In Quarter 4, 2017, the average price for property in Spain (new-build and resale) reached €1,264 per square metre, up 4.2% on the same period in 2016, according to provisional figures in the Tinsa IMIE Local Markets index.
This means that if you want to sell your home and have built up some equity, you may be able to pay off some or all of your dream Spanish home. Looking at major city centres around the world, there are more than 60 where apartments are more expensive than Barcelona and Madrid and 160 than Malaga, according to Numbeo. Of course, you should always take professional advice when buying and selling property. If you have proceeds from your home sale and want to transfer the money into Euros, ask Halo Financial for guidance on competitive market rates. You can find more details about the process of buying and selling Spanish homes.
The economy in Spain
How strong is the Spanish economy?
The Spanish economy has been through some ups and downs over the last few years, but it is currently performing quite strongly. In 2017 Spain’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 3.1% in 2017, according to the National Institute of Statistics. This was the fourth year in a row that GDP rose. Things look positive for the future, too, as the central bank estimates Spain’s economy will grow 2.4% in 2018. Of course, much will depend on how the Catalonia political situation plays out and that the global economy stays on-course.
What are Spain’s biggest banks and how do I open an account?
When opening a bank account in Spain, you have a choice of using a privately-owned main bank or a government-owned Cajas de Ahorros. There are around 50 national banks and 120 cajas from which to choose. The four largest banks by volume in Spain are Banco Santander, BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria), CaixaBank and Banco de Sabadell. Cajas are more locally-based with fewer branches but generally more community involvement. Once you settle, it is best to check around and see which branches are near you then you can compare services and charges to see which suits you best.
Many banks will open new account for non-Spanish nationals, so you may be able to open an account before you move, however, it is likely that you will have to pick up your card and chequebook in person, as they are not often posted internationally. You will probably need to get a certificado de no residencia from a Spanish police station to prove you are not yet a resident. Once you move to Spain as a permanent resident, you will need to let the bank know of your change in status.
Most banks charge for current accounts, debit and credit cards and ATM cash machine withdrawals, but if you shop around, you can find discounts and offers. Most banks only open from 9am-2pm every day but Sundays and holidays. If you do not speak Spanish or have a translator, then check to see if you can have an appointment with staff who speak your language. To open an account, you need proof of identity, such as a passport, identification number and certificate (número de identificación de extranjeros), proof of address, such as utility bills, and employment, such as a contract. Those documents not in Spanish should be translated and authenticated.
Looking after yourself and your family in Spain
How good is the Spanish healthcare system?
Spain has an excellent free healthcare service, although you may need private insurance top-up, depending on your circumstances, health needs and timescale for treatment. In fact, the World Health Organisation has ranked healthcare in Spain the seventh best in the world. Healthcare in Spain is financed through workers’ contribution, which means they and their immediate family are covered. In addition, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals whom have reached retirement age in their home country are entitled to free health care in Spain. Europeans visiting Spain have cover through their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Spain has various health agreements with other countries, too, so make sure you check the regulations before you travel. The Tarjata Sanitaria Individual (TSI) Spanish health card is valid for four years. It not only includes GP and hospital care, but 40% off prescription drugs. If you are a pensioner, prescription drugs are free.
Need dental work? Children aged 6-15 get free dental treatment, but adults are not covered. However, dental work is typically 30% cheaper than in the UK and dental insurance schemes are competitively priced. For instance, a filling in Spain costs £56/€62 on average, but some clinics offer the procedure for as little as €40 (£35), according to the Medigo.com website. That is a fraction of the cost in the United States, where it could set you back $200 (€162), states https://www.dentist-prices.com. In UK, you could pay £100 (€113) for a filling from a private dentist or £47 (€53) from an NHS dentist. The work in Australia could cost from $300 (188) and in Canada $80 (€50).
As an expat, can I claim a state pension if I live in Spain?
Spain has a compulsory pensions system for workers, funded by social security contributions. This currently starts at around 4.7% for employees at 23.6% for employers. Foreigners who move to Spain can claim a pension in the country, if they meet the requirements, which includes paying into the system for at least 15 years for a pension that pays half of the maximum. Although in 2027, there are plans to raise the minimum contribution to 25 years.
Currently, a full pension – up to 81% of earnings – requires contributions for 35 years or more, but that is set to rise to 38 years. The retirement age is also set to rise from 65 to 67. However, if you are a citizen of a European Union country, your contributions may be able to be included in your Spanish pension total, as long as you worked for more than one year. You can find more details of the European pension regulations on the Europa.eu website.
There are also various pension agreements between Spain and non-European countries. Spanish pensions are reduced when taken early and topped up if taken late. Find out more. With an increasingly ageing population, Spain is looking at ways of reducing the cost of pensions and annual rises are no longer in line with inflation. A more complicated formula is used. Other cost savings are expected to be introduced in future, including taking into account life expectancy and the economic performance. Private pensions do exist in Spain, but contributions tend to be low. Less than one in 10 firms offers occupational plans. There is currently a tax exemption for annual contributions to private pensions of €10,000 or 30% of salary. When examining pension options, always take the appropriate professional advice. If you need to pay into a pension using a foreign currency, then speak to Halo Financial about how Regular Currency Trades (RCT) system can help you move money abroad and manage regular payments.
What is the best way to find a job in Spain?
As a European Union citizen, you are entitled to work in Spain. If that is not the case, they you will need an appropriate visa or work permit. Finding a job in Spain, like all countries, can be difficult. Unemployment is high at around 16%, according to the National Statistics Institute, although the jobless rate is falling. It will help if you have transferable skills and can speak fluent Spanish. Other than that, do your homework before you arrive in Spain. Contact employment agencies and ask for help from family, friends and contacts in Spain who can find you suitable work. Search websites that list jobs, such as LinkedIn and Indeed. Expat job boards and are a useful source of leads. Don’t forget to make sure your CV is up-to-date
I have heard the word/phrase “mañana” in Spain, but what does it mean?
Mañana is the concept that something will happen sometime in the future. The laid-back Mediterranean attitude can be seen throughout Spanish society. Appointments don’t always happen on time. Workers may not keep to deadline and Spanish bureaucracy can be slow and incredibly frustrating. Accounting for a siesta in the middle of the day means that days tend to end a lot later, with some families not even eating until around 9-10pm and nights out often lasting until the next morning. Sundays are quieter than in the UK, though, with many shops and attractions shut.
What is summer like in Spain?
As we mentioned earlier, the hottest part of the year in Spain can see temperatures of around 45ºC in some cities. As the tourist flock in, Spanish nationals often go off on holiday to the beaches or to the cooler north and celebrate the fantastic festivals and fiestas held across the nation, including the famous Tomatina Tomato Fight held near Valencia.
All this means that some banks and businesses shut down or operate on reduced hours. It’s always worth checking so you don’t get caught out – and check with your currency consultant in plenty of time if you want to make any currency exchanges around public holidays.