Living in Spain – A Complete Spanish Expat Guide to Help You in Your Move to Spain!

Living in Spain - A Complete Spanish Expat Guide to Help You in Your Move to Spain! Photo by © Nikada from Getty Images

Is it your dream to be living in Spain, chasing the Spanish sun? In this comprehensive guide, we outline the cost of living, as well as other factors to help you decide on a move to Spain!

We absolutely love Europe! Having lived most of our lives in sunny South Africa, we got the opportunity to live in London when we had just graduated from college. The experience was amazing and left a deep imprint and love for Europe in our hearts.

Subsequently, whenever we travelled on holiday from South Africa, whether visiting Greece on our island hopping adventure, or on our trip to Portugal before eventually moving here, we always dreamed of moving and setting in Europe.

This is the reality for so many who visit the sunny shores of Spain and dream of a life of sunshine, beaches, siestas, sangria, and of course incredible Spanish cuisine.

If you too are considering this move to Spain, then we hope this cost of living in Spain guide will help give you more insights and information on planning your adventure. Vamos!

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Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Spain Travel Essentials:

Pssst…Ready to travel, check out our comprehensive packing list for your holiday to Spain, and make sure you’ve packed everything you need for your Spanish move or vacay!

Living in Spain Pros and Cons

While moving to one of Europe’s top holiday destinations might sound like a dream come true for many, it is best to weigh up the pros and cons beforehand. With a better understanding of what Spain is like, you will be able to make a more informed decision. Below are some pros and cons of living in Spain.

Life in Spain: Pros

Life in Spain Pros - Mallorca - © Photo by pixelliebe from Getty Images Pro by Canva
Mallorca – © Photo by pixelliebe from Getty Images Pro by Canva

From its low living costs to the beautiful, natural landscapes and amazing weather, Spain has plenty to offer. Below are some of the biggest benefits of Spain living. 

Lower Cost of Living 

In comparison to other parts of Europe like France and the UK, the cost of living in Spain is relatively cheap. This means that Spaniards are able to enjoy a higher quality of life for less money. 

This even holds true in the city centres of Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona. The cost of living here generally falls well within the average salaries of most positions. As such, Spain is a relatively cheap place to stay for most Spanish expats who setttle here. 

Buying Property is Easy

Foreigners can easily buy property in Spain as there are no restrictions on land or special requirements for foreign real estate investments. In fact, foreign investment in Spanish real estate is encouraged by the country’s government. 

As such, owning a home here is an achievable reality. Should you purchase property in Spain over a certain value, you may qualify for Spain’s Golden Visa program too, entitling you to a residency permit in the country. These values are usually around half a million Euros, so be sure to check for the latest Golden Visa updates and requirements before settling on this route.

Amazing Weather 

While Spain may have cold and rainy winters, it is very much a temperate country. As such, it experiences much milder weather than countries in northern Europe. In fact, some parts of Spain see sunny days almost all year round, another bonus to moving to Spain!

Wishing to chase the Spanish sun? Here are some of the warmest places in Spain in Winter

To accompany Spain’s spectacular weather are some of the most beautiful beaches, incredible landmarks, and stunning hidden gems in Spain worth exploring. The Spanish coastline stretches nearly 5000 kilometres. This means that there are lovely sandy beaches near many of the country’s cities. 

Explore all of Europe 

Travelling from Spain to some of Europe’s top destinations is relatively cheap as many of them are just a short distance away. By purchasing your flight tickets at the right time, you’ll be able to explore most of Europe at relatively lower costs. 

If you’ve dreamed of exploring Portugal, Greece, Germany or other top tourist destinations, Spain is a great starting point. Travelling between Barcelona and Paris is also easy via train. 

The country is also fairly diverse, so even exploring the length and breadth of Spain is well worth it. The gorgeous Balearic islands are only a short trip away. You can easily get from mainland Spain to Ibiza, as well as the other islands that make up this beautiful group.

Life in Spain: Cons

Life in Spain Cons - Closed Sign - © Photo by Gwengoat from Getty Images Signature by Canva
Closed Sign – © Photo by Gwengoat from Getty Images Signature by Canva

While Spain has its many upsides, there are also downsides to moving here. To follow are some of the most known cons of Spain life. 

High Unemployment Rate 

If you’re planning on living and working in Spain it’s good to know some stats about the country’s unemployment rate.

The economic recession in 2008 hit Spain hard and as a result, many people lost their jobs. Moreover, many graduates were unable to find work for a long period of time. Today, the country is still trying to recover and unemployment remains quite high. 

As of 2020, Spain has an unemployment rate of around 13.02% – the second-highest of all the EU states. As such, finding a job in Spain can be challenging. 

Language Barriers

Although Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, there are many different dialects to the language. The Spanish spoken in Spain may sound different to the Spanish spoken in Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere. 

In certain parts of Spain, many people speak Catalan, Basque or Galician. This can be difficult to understand, even for those fully fluent in the Spanish language. Moreover, Spain does not have many English-speaking people, particularly in areas outside of the major cities. 

It’s good to do some research ahead of time and it may depend on where you’re moving to. If you’re considering living in Barcelona, then you could look into learning the Catalan language instead of Spanish, although Spanish is still widely spoken here too.

Slow Pace of Life 

While many expats are attracted to Spain for its laid-back lifestyle, this can quickly become off-putting and annoying. For those who are used to a faster-paced lifestyle and getting things done quickly, this can be quite the adjustment. 

In Spain, it is not uncommon for restaurants to open for dinner during what you would consider bedtime. Smaller businesses may take siestas (an afternoon rest or nap), making their hours of operation unpredictable.

To add to Spain’s laid-back lifestyle, the country is known to shut down during the month of August. At this time, many businesses close and it feels as if the entire country is on vacation.  

As such, if you plan to move to Spain, you have to adjust your mindset and embrace this way of life, which really is focused more on a balanced lifestyle, in your new home country to avoid feeling frustrated or fed up. 

How Much Does it Cost to Live in Spain?

While the cost of living in Spain is relatively low, it can vary depending on how you choose to spend your money. To help you make informed purchasing decisions, here is what you can expect to spend on your everyday needs. 

Transportation 

Madrid Metro - Move to Spain - Transport - © Photo by FernandoAH from Getty Images Signature by Canva
Madrid Metro © Photo by FernandoAH from Getty Images Signature by Canva

In Spain, you most likely will not need a car as the country has everything from high-speed trains to century-old trams. Below are the average costs for public transport in Spain.

  • One-way Bus Ticket – €1.50 ($1.83 USD)
  • Monthly Pass – €40 ($50 USD)
  • Taxi or Uber – €3.50 ($4.27 USD)

While the use of public transport is growing in popularity, the amount of people in Spain who commute by car is comparable to the EU average. If you prefer travelling on your own by car, car rentals and gasoline are relatively cheap. 

Accommodation

Depending on where in Spain you decide to stay, the price of accommodation can vary quite a bit. The average prices for a place in Spain are listed below. Of course, these may vary if you decided to stay in Madrid versus living in say Tenerife!

The average price for apartments and long term rentals in Spain is reported as follows:

  • 1 bedroom apartment near the city centre – €650 – €1000  ($800 USD) 
  • 1 bedroom apartment outside the city centre – €500 ($610 USD)
  • 2-3 bedroom apartment near the city centre – €1050 or more ($1300 USD)
  • 2-3 bedroom apartment outside the city centre – €750 ($915 USD)

Given the ease of foreign real estate investments in Spain, many may opt to purchase property as opposed to renting. The average price for an apartment in Spain is reported as follows: 

  • Price per square meter for an apartment in the city centre – €2900 ($3500 USD)
  • Price per square meter for an apartment outside the city centre – €1950 ($2400 USD)

Find property in Spain here

For utilities such as water and electricity, you can expect to pay around €115 ($140 USD) for an 85-metre-square apartment. For internet connection, the average cost in Spain is about €40 ($50 USD). 

Food, Beverages and Dining Out

Food in Spain - Living in Spain - © Photo by margouillatphotos from Getty Images by Canva
Food in Spain © Photo by margouillatphotos from Getty Images by Canva

Spain is undoubtedly any foodie’s idyllic destination. From the delicious foods of Seville, the bubbly fresh Cava of Catalonia, to the delectable flavours of Valencia, there is a dish to suit every tastebud!

The day-to-day costs of purchasing food, beverages and eating out at restaurants are often overlooked. Luckily, food items sold at Spain’s supermarkets are relatively cheap. The average cost for some of your basic food staples (1-litre milk, loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, 1kg beef and 1kg potatoes) will cost you around €15 ($18.30 USD). 

Eating out in Spain can be fairly expensive, depending on where you decide to eat. At a mid-range restaurant, you can expect to pay around €40 ($50 USD) for a 3-course meal for two people. 

Luckily, Spain has plenty of tapas bars and cafés where you can enjoy some of the most delicious eats at affordable prices. On average, a meal at a tapas bar will cost you between €3 and €6 ($3.66 USD and $7.32 USD), while your morning cappuccino at a local café will cost about €1.66 ($2 USD). 

By the way, be sure to read our guide on what’s expected as far as tipping goes in Spain.

Healthcare 

Spain, with its universal healthcare system, is renowned for having one of the best healthcare systems in the world. It is stated in the Spanish constitution that the country has to offer basic and emergency care, free of charge for everybody. 

As an expat in Spain, you are eligible for free state healthcare provided you are:

  • A Spanish resident and pay social security contributions
  • Living in Spain and receiving certain state benefits
  • A child living in Spain
  • Pregnant women residing in Spain
  • Under 26 and studying in Spain
  • A pensioner
  • Living in Spain temporarily and have an EHIC card.