Expats Guide to Spain

Expats Guide to Spain


The sixth largest country in Europe and the fifth largest in the European Union with a population of around 47million is Spain, officially known as the Kingdom of Spain. A country which is located on the Iberian Peninsula in South Western Europe and has two island groups, the Canary Islands off the North African Atlantic and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Long-ago the country was ruled by the Romans, the Catholics and the Moors; this is seen today by many.

Expats moving to the country will find that it is known for its food, fashion, art, music and architecture with it offering a life in a modern country and a modern lifestyle. Compared to other European countries it is quite relaxed and the climate is enjoyed on a regular basis with a variety of outdoor activities to take part in. The country is combined with historical and modern cultures with different ethnic groups around the world i.e. Spanish, Romanian, Moroccans and Colombians.

Spain consists of over one million expatriates who have moved here from North America, South America Britain and other countries in the world. The employment environment is not stable with lower salaries than other countries in Europe; it is advised that expatriates should try and secure jobs before moving to the country as they will most likely find it hard to obtain a work permit and a contract when they have relocated.

Those who want to move to a country with low house prices, beachside properties, a warm climate and a high standard of living then this is the place for you.

General Information

Population: 47 million
Official Name: Kingdom of Spain
Capital of Spain: Madrid
Official Language: The main official language spoken is Spanish but there are many other regional co-official languages such as English and Catalan. English is spoken and understood by many
Major Cities: Seville, Valencia, Barcelona and Zaragoza
Popular Expat cities: Madrid, Barcelona
Time Zone: GMT + 1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to October)
Money: The euro (EUR) is divided into 100 cents.
Nearest Neighbours: Spain shares borders with France to the north and Portugal to the East. On the south, across the Strait of Gibraltar is Morocco with Algeria being to the Southeast.
Popular attractions: Sagrada Familia, Alhambra, Park Guell, Mosque of Cordoba
Religions: The major religion in Spain is Catholicism and is the dominant religion in the country. Spain is a secular state which guarantees freedom of religion.
Public Holidays: New Years Day, Epiphany, Good Friday, Labour Day, Feast of Assumption, National holiday of Spain, All Saints Day, Say of Spanish Constitution, Christmas Day and Immaculate Conception
International Dialling code: +34. There are other city and area codes which are used internally (0)93 for Barcelona and (0)91 for Madrid
Emergency contact: 112 is the European emergency number, 061 for health emergencies and 091 for police

Popular Expat Destinations

Life in Spain is suitable for expats who are looking for a relaxed lifestyle locations with friendly locals who can be found in majority of the whole county.

The cost of living does vary depending on where you live and if you enjoy a life with fine dining Spain will turn out expensive.


Barcelona –  The second biggest city in Spain with many bars, restaurants, beaches and museums to visit. It is considered that this city is the largest urban centres on the Mediterranean Sea which is enclosed by the Llobregat and Besos rivers.

Expats will discover that Barcelona is very popular due to the exciting culture, mild climate and architecture dominating life. Here you will live a high quality life which is fast paced and has ten different districts in where you can settle.

The ten districts of Barcelona are:

  • Eixample
  • Sants-Montjuic
  • Sant Andreu
  • Gràcia
  • Les Corts
  • Nou Barris
  • Sant Martí
  • Sarrià-Sant Gervasi
  • Ciutat Vella
  • Horta-Guinardó

The population in Barcelona is over 1.5 million and in its wider metropolitan area the population is around 4 million. EU citizens are free to work and live anywhere in Europe and are required to register as a resident when in the country.

Residents are very friendly and accept & welcome new foreigners in the country so expats moving here will not feel out of place. English is also spoken with many shops, newspapers, events and clubs that take place. English material is available online, at the Barcelona town hall which provides services on councils and offices for newcomers. One website that can be used for guidance for newcomers is www.bcn.es.

The city is known for its beautiful weather, historic buildings and stress free lifestyles. New people that arrive in the city will notice that the property market varies and more homes are being rented out at lower prices which make it possible to live in the heart of the city.

Finding work in Barcelona may be as hard as it is on other cities as many employers look for employees who are able to speak and understand Spanish. It is important that expats get their NIE number as this can help in getting job opportunities faster than those who don’t have this number.

Many individuals enjoy the working life in the city and can be a great experience for expats. The environment is great for job opportunities for expatriates. Expats who are looking to work in the manufacturing industry will find many opportunities here. Other than this expats will find opportunities in tourism, culture, arts, design and architecture However, expats must ensure they are in a good financial position or are able to make money in the city to get by.

Public transport in Barcelona is quite safe, reliable and efficient and families will have many options to choose from for schools for children.

The lifestyle in Barcelona is safe and is filled with a great nightlife, traditional events, fine food and great attractions.

Popular Attractions to see in Barcelona:

  • La Sagrada Familia Church
  • Magic Fountain Show
  • Las Ramblas Street
  • Picasso Museum
  • FC Barcelona and Camp Nou Stadium
  • Park Guell by Gaudi
  • Modernist Buildings
  • Tibidabo Hill
  • Montserrat Mountains


Expats moving to Spain will experience sunny skies, with Mediterranean temperatures and cool breezes. Spain has hot summers but in the winter you will experience cold temperatures with possible snowfall.

The hottest month in Barcelona is August with temperatures 24°C, and the coldest month is January at 10°C. The wettest month is October.


If you are looking to move to Madrid you will find that it is quite an old city which is comfortable in its own modern charms with the warm atmosphere and artistic culture of the colourful city. As well as this, those living in Madrid will find that the city has a large historic culture and youthful enterprise which gives many opportunities for both families and individuals moving here.

With Madrid being the capital and the largest city of Spain, there is a population of around 3.3 million people whilst in the metropolitan area the population comes up to 6.5 million.

Madrid is said to be the best city to find work as it has many multinational companies as well as direct foreign investments.

Luckily, the food, drink and eating is knowingly cheaper than other cities in Europe but that being said the average salary is mediocre to those in other major European cities.

Finding properties in the city may be quite difficult for newcomers as they may not know what they are looking for and what a good price for properties is. Therefore, it is recommended that research is done before moving to Madrid so that expats have an idea on how to search for property, how to make a deal and negotiate.

Expats also have the benefit of Madrid being Spain’s transportation hub which makes it easy to travel between locations. From the city centre it can take around 20 minutes to get to Madrid airport and if travelling on a metro it will only take 1 hour.

The standard of healthcare in Madrid is very high and doctors generally recommend to keep up the standard vaccinations up to date, it also may be worth getting a hepatitis vaccination before moving. The public health care system is free for employees in Spain or EU citizens.

Additionally, expat families with children will find a variety of private schools which are bilingual or teach the full English curriculum.

Madrid has many attractions along with historical attractions to offer to the locals living here. The capital city is also filled with beautiful views on the side-walks and beaches, nightclubs and bars, shopping centres, cinemas and theatres as well as many annual visits for expats to take part in and enjoy. Nevertheless kids will also have something to do with the Madrid Zoo and Urban beaches.

Popular attractions in Madrid:

  • Plaza Mayor
  • Buen Retiro Park
  • Museo Nacional Del Prado
  • Royal Palace of Madrid
  • Temple of Debod
  • Thyssen Bornemisza Museum
  • Puerta Del Sol


Madrid has a warm and dry climate but the temperatures in summer and winter vary due to its closeness to the mountains.

In Madrid the summer gets quite unbearable with temperatures of around 25ºC and in the winter temperatures generally drop to 0°C

The months of October and November sees low rainfall


Those who are moving to Seville will see that this is a traditional city which has an interesting history, rich culture and vibrant festivals

Seville has a small population of over 1 million people and people can enjoy many activities whilst having access to space and freedom with the locals in their own traditional ways.

Many can enjoy bars, lively clubs and flamecos tabaos where foreigners get a chance to experience the great Spanish life.

Seville has a lively culture and a colourful history being a small town which offers expats a slower pace of life than other European cities.

With Seville being small, living here is relatively quite cheap and anything in the city is quite central. Whether you are renting a room or an apartment each neighbourhood has its own feel.

Popular tourist attractions in Seville:

  • The Cathedral
  • Barrio Santa Cruz
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • The River Guadalquivir
  • Plaza de Espana
  • La Feria
  • Sevilla FC
  • Semana Santa


The hottest month is July with temperature from 28°C and the coldest month is January with temperatures averaging at 11°C. In March expats will the wettest month with an average rainfall of 90mm.


Expats who are looking to move to Valencia will see that it is a friendly and welcoming city with a population of 780,000. With it being the third largest city in Spain life can be easy going and the cost of living here is generally cheaper than Barcelona and Madrid. It also has a large expat community continuing to attract much more foreigners.

Expats will get the opportunity to explore the city centre and all the interesting sites with Valencia being a popular tourist city. Here you will enjoy a comfortable lifestyle with many opportunities to do hiking, biking, climbing, skiing and sunbathing on the beaches

Those moving here usually choose to live in villages that are outside of the city, and one of the benefits is that all villages are connected to the city centre with the public transport links that are available. The villages offer international schools, great shopping centres, cheaper rentals and good housing options. The cost of living is also fairly low and to eat and drink out it can be very cheap.

Property prices in Valencia have dropped in the last few years but many expats move to welcoming neighbourhoods such as Canovas and Avenida de Francia which all remain expensive with high rental prices. However, the areas here are safe and open with a variety of furnished and unfurnished options.

The healthcare that is offered is of high standard and has seven top hospitals. As well as this the city is home to many universities which offer high quality education.

Valencia has an underground metro system which covers more than the city and a tram service which covers the north-western areas of the city. Expats who enjoy cycling can use the new cycle lanes which are all around the city as cycling is a popular way of getting around here.

Popular tourist attractions in Valencia:

City of Arts and Sciences

  • Mercado
  • Llotja de la Seda
  • L’Oceanografic
  • Ceramics Museum
  • Museo De Belles Artes
  • Cathedral De Valencia
  • Ancient Town Gate


The hottest month in Valencia is in August with temperatures at 25°C and the coldest month is January with temperatures from 9°C.

The wettest month is in October

Utilities – Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste

Moving to another country requires a lot of research and when looking for accommodation expats must consider the true cost of utilities.


The electricity runs on 220 Volts in most areas of the country, but in other areas it runs on 110 Volts. The prices of electricity prices was one of the cheapest in Europe but lately it has been increased with companies offering different rates depending on the property’s power rating.

Grupo Endesa is the largest electricity supplier in Spain with other small suppliers available such as Union Fenosa and Iberdrola. In most areas expats will only be able to connect to Endesa as this is the only supplier available.

Property owners can expect many power cuts which are caused by weather conditions or routine maintenance checks where houses can be without power for a few hours to a few days. In some areas houses may need a generator to be able to connect to electricity due to not being any main electrics.

To connect to electricity you will need to contact the customer services of the company for it to be installed; you should note installations and new meters being fitted can take a while so this should be arranged before moving into the property. To get connected you may need to provide documentation to the electricity company such as a passport, a copy of an electricity bill, rental agreements and bank account details.

The tariff will then be used to calculate the charges of electricity depending on how much is used and then monthly bills will be sent after the meter has been read. If meters are not read by the company, they can estimate it and send you the bill, this is usually shown. Paying for a bill can be done in different ways i.e. direct debit, post office, at banks and in cash although there may be a charge for this.


Expats buying property should be provided with water bills from the tenant so that water connection is reconnected. Along with this other documents may need to be required including a copy of the rental contract, photo ID and bank account details. The payment of the contract fee should be paid before the water is connected again.

Water shortages are constant and in some areas there possibly will be restrictions on how much you can use. It is said that out of all of Europe, Spain has the highest water usage and because of the shortage in rural areas they will only have access to tap water for few hours in the day.

The water in Spain varies depending on what area you are living in and in the hard water areas a water softener will help reduce the build of scale. It is very important that the drinking water is kept on a separate supply if there is a water softener system in your home.

As well as this, the water prices have increased and people are using less water than before especially if the water is supplied by a pump. If this is the case, when there are power cuts then the water supply will be lost too. In rural areas, water is delivered by a tanker and the water gets filled upon request, this is generally charged per litre along with a delivery charge.

Hot water supply in the country will come from a boiler and this powered electrically or by bottle gas. The gas boilers are more expensive to buy and fit but have a low charge for it to run. There must be enough water supplies in your boiler for the whole family to use.

In majority of the areas in Spain, the supply of water controlled by the local authorities but there private companies available who you can connect your water with.


Gas is available in the larger cities and is supplied by the company Gas Natural. To connect to gas you will need to contact the company for them to switch it on and provide documentation including passport bill, utility bill and a signed contract. Once you have signed up the meter will then be read

Expats living in an area which does not have a gas main, then you will need to purchase bottled gas from supermarkets or petrol stations. There are also gas suppliers who will deliver bottled gas to your home. A deposit for the gas bottle will need to be paid and appliances will be serviced every five years. Usually gas bottles can be used for 6-8 weeks.

Bills are sent every two months which include VAT and are paid via direct debit, on the phone with a debit card or by paying over the counter at a bank.

Waste Disposal

The collection of waste is dependent on which region you are living in and in the urban areas the houses will not be provided with individual bins, although there are communal bins places around the area. There are specific times when you should be putting pit the rubbish and this is usually in the evening time.

Expats wanting to dispose of large items, you will be required to contact the local town hall who will assist you on how these items can be collected or where the recycling points are. Individual bins are generally cleaned on a regular basis by contractors who do charge for this.

Formal Entry Requirements

The formal entry requirements to move to Spain are different for both EU nationals and non-EU nationals. EU citizens will need a valid national identity card or a valid passport.

Entry Requirements

Documents that are required to enter the country

  • Original, signed passport which is valid for 6 months ahead of the stay in Spain and with two blank passport pages
  • Proof of travel
  • Medical requirements
  • Proof of Sufficient funds

Both EU Citizens and Non-EU citizens will be required to complete an NIE application form (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros ) which is an identity number for foreigners if staying in the country for more than three months. Those who are looking to open a bank account, buy/rent property, get a driving license or even work; a foreign identity number will be required.

Expats can apply for an NIE at the national police department or the department of foreigners in city of residence

When applying for an NIE the follow documents are required:

  • Passport and copy of the information page
  • Original application form and a copy
  • Fee of 10 USD paid by money order

Non-EU residents will also need to apply for an NIE and present the above document also indicating why they need an NIE.

The process of obtaining this will take about 3-4 weeks

Expats should also get a Certificado de Empadronamiento. To do this you will need to register on the census register called ‘Padron’ at the local town hall

After arrival

After 30 days of arrive in Spain all non-EU/EEA citizens who want to stay in the country for a longer than three months must apply for a residence permit card. This can be done at the foreigners office or a police station where you are living.

To apply for a residence permit card you will need:

  • A valid passport/Travel ID
  • Passport photos in colour
  • Completed application form
  • Proof of address
  • Bank statements
  • Medical insurance
  • Documentation relating to why you want to stay in the country for a longer period of time i.e. employment contract or proof of education enrolment.

Types of Visa Spain

Expats visiting or moving to Spain will need to have the correct visa before arriving. However, Spain is a Schengen state which means most foreigners will not need a visa for short visits and business trips.

Spain is one of the countries which make up the Schengen area along with 26 other countries such as Austria, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania and many more. The 26 countries in the Schengen area have one common visa and there is no border which controls them

The three types of visas which allow entry:

  • Short stay Schengen visa
  • Long term visa
  • Airport transit visa

Short stay visa – The short stay visa will allow a person to stay in the country for 90 days in a 180 day period. Those with this visa will not be able to work. Nationals who are from Australia, Canada or the US will be required to apply for a long term residence visa to stay for three months or more.

An application form will need to be completed and you will need to visit the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.

You will need to visit the local foreigner’s office or the police station to renew a short term visa as long as you are staying in the country for less than 90 days. Foreigners are unable to come to Spain on a short term visa as a visitor and change your status to student, employee or resident. You will need to visit your home country to apply for a new visa.

Long Term Visa – If you are not a citizen of the EU/EEA you will need a long term visa if you will be living, studying or working in Spain for three months or more.

Airport Transit Visa – An airport transit visa will allow you into the international transit zone in one of the Spanish airports. You will need to check if you require one and to apply it will need to be done through the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.

Visit and Business visas

Expats who are citizens of EU, EFTA and nationals belonging to a country on the Spanish governments list are able to obtain a visa-free entry and the right to stay 90 days in the country. A passport which is valid for three months from the final date of travel is required. Citizens will not need a business visa or a visit visa.

The Spanish list includes New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada, the countries that are not on the list will need to apply for a Schengen visa for business and tourist purposes. The Schengen visa will allow citizens to travel in the country for 90 days within a six month period from date of entry

Individuals who apply for this visa will need to submit a visa application form with the required documents and take this an embassy or Spanish consulate in the home country.

Those who apply for a Schengen visa to travel solely for business purposes will be required to show an invitation letter from the Spanish business party as well as a letter from the employer stating what the duties will be in the country. Proof of registration and accommodation will also be necessary if attending a conference event.

Long Term Visa/Work Permits

Depending on the purpose of staying in Spain, there are different residences and work permits that expats will need to submit. These include:

  • A combined residence and work visa which allow you to live and work in Spain
  • A residence visa for retirement or family reunification
  • A student visa for the length of a training/educational course

Applications for a long term visa can be done online or through the Spanish embassy or consulate in the citizen’s home country before arriving in Spain. A fee of EUR 60 will need to be made and applications must be made in person or through a representative

Expats who are aged between 18 and 35 in Canada have the opportunity to travel and work for up to one year in Spain with the youth mobility agreement.

Swiss, EEA and EU citizens are able to work without a work permit in Spain until June 2020, it is the responsibility of the expats employer to apply for a work permit on their behalf and it is compulsory to get a work offer and a work contract before this can be done.

Family members who are joining a relative in Spain or individuals who are doing voluntary work will not need a work permit. To work in Spain legally expats need to be over 18.

Types of work permits

In Spain there are two types of work permits

  • The Cuenta Ajena work permit is given to individuals who have a specific contract for a certain company. This work permit is generally easier to obtain and is often recommended that expats secure this permit and then apply for the Cuenta Propia.
  • The Cuenta Propia is for self employed expats who want more freedom to move between companies and positions around the world. For those who are in the education or language sectors will require this permit. When applying for this permit, it requires the expat to register with Hacienda(the Spanish revenue service) and Seguridad Social (Spanish social security).

Family Reunification

Expats who have been living in Spain legally for a year and has confirmation of living for another year in the country can apply for family members to join. This includes spouses, partners, dependants, children under 18 and parents over the age of 65.

Those who hold a long term residence permit from EU member state can apply for a family reunification at any time.

Individuals who are studying in Spain can apply for family members to join them for the duration. This is a relative’s residence permit and will only be approved for the same amount of time the students residence permit is. Family members of students who are aged over 18 will be able to work without a work permit.

Student Visas

Nationals from countries who are not from the EU, EEA or Switzerland will need to apply for a student visa if wanting to do an internship, training, carry out research or study in the country. Students must be accepted on a course with an official institution before applying for a student visa. To apply for a Spanish visa, the student will be required to show a letter of acceptance to the consulate or Spanish embassy in your home country.

  • Students studying in Spain for 3 months will need to fulfil the legal conditions which are in the European Directive before applying for a visa to study in Spain for 3 months with the Spanish embassy.
  • Students who are studying for 6 months in Spain will need to apply for a type D visa. Without the visa students will not be able to gain a residence card and if an extension is required a Form 02 can be filed.
  • Students who will be studying in the country for more than 6 months will also need to apply for a type D visa which will allow validity for 3 months after entering. When the student is in Spain, they will be required to apply for a student permit card within 30 days. This will allow the student to remain in the country until after the visa has expired.

Retirement Visa

It is necessary for nationals who want to retire in Spain to have a visado de residencia from the local Spanish embassy in home country. Checks will need to be done on retiree’s pensions to ensure they have sufficient funds along with other terms & conditions.

Fast Track Visa

From 2014 non EU national entrepreneurs, highly qualified professionals and researchers are able to apply for a fast track visa and permit. This offers residence to a family with no minimum stay along with free travel throughout the Schengen area.  The conditions for this may include investors needing to spend at least EUR 500,000 on Spanish property. If you require more information regarding this expats are advised to contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in the home country.

Permanent residency

Individuals who have stayed in Spain for five years can apply for a long term or permanent residence. Those who have a blue card from a different EU member state or have lived in a country in the EU for the same amount of time will also be entitled to obtain a long term residence in Spain.

Long term residence permits allows expats to stay in the country for an indefinite period and can work in the same conditions as Spanish citizens.

After ten years of permanent residency individuals will be eligible to apply for Spanish nationality, this can also be obtained through marriage or for children who were born outside of Spain but have Spanish parents.

Employment in Spain

Finding work in Spain can be very difficult with the unemployment rates being one of the highest in the European Union. Due to this the government has made incentives for foreigners who are not in employment to return to their home country.

Many people find work through

  • Networking
  • Word of mouth
  • Recruitment agencies
  • Job websites
  • Speculative applications

It is highly recommended that expats secure employment before arriving in Spain to avoid the job hunt as many who don’t have a job offer will find that looking for employment can be difficult.

The job search broadens for individuals who have a clear understating of and are able to speak the Spanish language. As well as the Spanish language, those who are able to speak German will have more opportunities for jobs.

Most of the jobs that are available are in certain professions which have vacancies that are difficult to fill for highly skilled professionals. The government of Spain holds a list which shows the shortage of occupations in different regions of Spain, these have a limited hiring process. The shortage occupations are those which are for medium/ highly qualified professionals generally in teaching, mechanical, production engineers, computing, real estate, medical practitioners and many more.

The last few years have shown employment opportunities growing in accounting, business management, marketing, engineering, information technology and in the creative sector.

Qualifications that have been obtained in the UK or in Europe are recognised in Spain and the salary is generally less than in the UK and northern Europe, but the cost of living is also lower. Expats who are unsure about qualifications not being recognised should contact the Ministry of Education and Culture and Sports. As well as this personal references from other countries should be translated into Spanish.

Finding Jobs

There are many different ways in searching for jobs, some of the popular websites to find employment include:

Professional and Specialist employment websites

  • Talent Search People: Sales, Finance, IT, native speakers and e-commerce jobs
  • Xpat Jobs: Multilingual
  • Ambient Recruitment: Multilingual professionals
  • Technoempleo: Telecommunications and IT jobs

Finding work in Newspapers

Most jobs in Spain are advertised in the Sunday newspaper editions as well as daily in the national, provincial and regional newspapers. Job pages can also be looked at in the printed International New York Times and The Overseas Journal.

In addition to this there are many expat publications with some of the being online listing jobs.

Recruitment Agencies

Expats will find that majority of the recruitment agencies only have temporary job posts. You will be required to register with the agency that will then hire workers directly and then assign them to other companies.

Some recruitments agencies:

Radio and TV

Spain has particular job programmes on TV and radio which broadcasts jobs. One of the popular ones on TV is Aquí hay trabajo which is shown daily and also lists jobs on their website.

Facts about working in Spain

  • Business hours: The full time average working week is 40 hours betweem 9am-8pm which includes a two hour lunch break in some areas. This is however slowly changing
  • Business language: The main language in business is Spanish, however multinational companies may do business in English and Spanish
  • Dress Code: Formal, conservative and high quality
  • Greeting: The greeting in Spain is with a kiss on the cheek but many people prefer to shake hands

Applying for a Job

Applying for jobs can be done in different ways; whether it is online, completing a written application or even sending a CV you must ensure that applications have been prepared efficiently. Expats are advised to adapt their CV and cover letter to the Spanish job market.

If sending a CV to a company, you must ensure that the letter is addressed to the right person and then you should follow up with an email.

Self Employment

For those expats who are legally permitted to work and live in Spain have the right to start up their own business. No restrictions are placed on EU citizens wanting to set up their own business in the country as long as the NIE number has been obtained. However, Non-EU nationals will need to have a work permit, a visa and must be able to prove they have sufficient funds to start their own business. Non-EU nationals will also need to confirm that they will employ Spanish nationals.

Many expats who have moved to Spain have had to turn to self employment to work in the country due to the lack of planning, low employment rates and low wages. Businesses that have been opened and successful are those in the improvement & repairs and IT sector.

If you are moving to Spain to open up your own business, you will find that the process is straightforward; generally you will need a financial consultant ‘assessor’ who helps expats to get established, handle income tax returns and IVA.  A financial consultant will charge expats for three monthly IVA returns and a yearly tax return. Therefore, expats should ensure that they are in a good financial position as it may cost several thousand Euros to operate legally.

Those who are self employed will also need to contribute to the health and pension system which increases as the expat gets older, this is a legal requirement.

Housing and Accomodation

Expats moving to Spain to work and live usually rent out a property first so they are able to familiarise themselves with the way of Spanish life before moving on to buy their own property.

Accommodation Types

It is fairly easy to find reasonable priced and good quality accommodation in Spain with prices depending on what region expats choose to live in. The best parts of the major cities in Spain will be more expensive.

Types of properties for rent and contract in Spain

  • Furnished property: These are aimed at holiday makers for a short term stay in the country. However long term lets are rarely furnished. It is essential to confirm details in writing with estate agents/landlord. Those looking for a family home can move into a furnished home directly.
  • Unfurnished property: An unfurnished property has no furniture but has kitchen appliances, light fittings and carpet. The details for this should be confirmed when viewing the property
  • Student Housing: There are many universities and innumerable language schools in Spain and students usually find their own accommodation in the private sector. Student housing is affordable and is in central areas which provide access to the universities
  • Short or Long Term Rentals: A landlord which is renting out property for a short period will need to have a license if renting for 12 months or less. Many landlords will choose to only rent out for long periods of time and the lease is generally for one year. The tenant will have the right to renew each year for five years and can be evicted in certain circumstances. If you want to leave half way through the year, expats will need to pay until the end of the 12 months period.
  • Apartment or House: In the city there are many apartments and homes which are converted into town houses or purpose built apartments. The apartments are single family homes and can be found on the popular and central beach side districts.

Renting property

Individuals who wish to rent properties in the major cities such as Madrid or Barcelona will find that there are not many options with only furnished and unfurnished apartments available in the downtown area and some maisonettes in the suburbs.

It is recommended that accommodation is secured with the contract of employment and the rent will become more expensive if living close to the city.

Many people do choose to house share which is renting a room in a larger house shared with other people. This is a popular option for foreigners and expats should check local newspapers and websites to find house listings.  When renting, leases are signed for one year and landlord require a down payment of two to six months’ rent.

Typical leases can be for 11 months with an integral clause where the tenant may renew the lease. Majority of the landlords however do offer 12 months contract as well. It is recommended that expats signing a contact which is in Spanish should take along a translator, lawyer or notary so that the agreement is understood. Expats should also ensure that the rent price includes all the taxes the tenant is responsible for paying.

Long Term Rentals can be unfurnished or furnished which range from three month to twelve month contracts. After twelve months this can be renewed as the tenant is given more rights.

With unfurnished apartments one month’s rent is usually paid but with a furnished apartment it is generally two months payment. Payments should be made electronically at the beginning of the month, if the payment is made in cash as receipt should be kept.

Furnished rentals has most of the furniture i.e. tables, beds. Chairs, cookware and basic items whereas unfurnished rentals may not come with white goods which expats will be expected to buy.

Utilities payment

The utilities payments are not usually included in the rent and can typically around EUR 100 per month in a two bedroom apartment. All long term rentals will come with an energy certificate which can be consulted with the landlord before signing the contract. Expats may be charged fees for maintenance, local taxes and garbage collections.

How to find property

Many expats do find property before moving to the country as they don’t want the stress when arriving in the country. There are different ways of looking for property including newspapers, websites and estate agents.

Properties are also now listed online but expats looking for a bargain or want to live in a particular area should speak to anyone that they know. As well as this there are a variety of estate agents who speak English and newspapers/magazines which will help you find the perfect property.

Estate agents take the pressure off expats of finding a property and most agents work for landlords but can help you find property quickly and easily. The estate agents generally cover the local area and there are some agencies which are run by expats who focus selling to other expats. Expats must note that estate agents will be expecting fees to help find property which is typically between EUR 250 and one months’ rent. Some buyers avoid using estate agents as it saves a lot of money and most sellers prefer to sell their houses privately so it is worth driving around looking for the for sale signs on houses.

In other areas of Spain, estate agents aren’t used but instead a corredore is used to help find property. A corredore is a broker who knows the local area and knows when someone is going to sell their property. Unfortunately majority of the corredores do not speak English but according to some expats they are the best way to find a property.

In addition to estate agents there are English newspapers which also list properties that are being sold privately without an agent. Some property owners also post listings in shops and bars.

Some useful Resources for finding property

  • Sur Magazine – surinenglish.com
  • Costa Blanca News – www.costa-news.com
  • The Barcelona Reporter – www.barcelonareporter.com

Mortgages and Financial

When purchasing property money to buy outright is not always available straight away and some may need to get a mortgage on the property. With additional costs on the property price it is recommended that the taxes and legal fees are highly considered.

The costs to buy a property in the country does include the deposit and when the agreement is signed the deposit will need to be paid. The deposit cheque should be paid to your own lawyer rather than the vendors lawyer who usually keeps the deposit until the sale is completed. From the purchase price 7% must be paid, this will cover the land and property taxes and will be paid to the Treasury of Spain through the lawyer. Expats will also be expected to pay notary fees along with the land and property registration fees which varies due to the price of the property

When applying for a mortgage which has been approved, the banks in Spain only lend between 60-70% of the sales value of the property if the busy is not a resident of the country. However, residents of Spain will be able to get more. Once this is done, an independent valuer will be sent to the property from the bank that will assess the value of property, for this a fee will be taken but will be included in the application fees.

To qualify for a mortgage with the bank, expats must meet certain requirements

  • Must be able to prove you have sufficient income to cover the mortgage and running costs of the property
  • You must be able to show pay slips or proof of income for the self employed or bank statements
  • Supply a tax declaration from your home country
  • Life insurance policy will be required to cover mortgage terms – This is compulsory

Expats are recommended to get professional advice from a Spanish mortgage lender especially if you are first time buyer. They will be able to give you an idea of what price range you are working with when looking for a home.

Capital gains are only payable on the profit that is made when selling the property and this can be avoided if you are an official resident of Spain who is planning on reinvesting the money into another property in the country

Education and Study

One of the main concerns for families moving to Spain is education so finding a good school for their children. There is a variety of private, international, public and semi-private schools, which can be Catholic or secular, single gendered and co-educational.

Before making a choice there are certain things that should be considered before making a choice i.e. length of stay, budgets, primary teaching language and curriculums. Expats who stay for a short amount tend to send their children to international schools.

Education in Spain is essential for children aged 6-16, the academic school year starts from September up until June.

Entry into a state school is allocated depending on what area you are living in, this many influence your decision on where you want to live when looking for property. Many state schools in certain areas will teach in the dialect of the region instead of in Spanish so this should be researched into.

Structure of Spanish education system

The education in Spain is divided into four stages – two of these are mandatory

  • Nursery and Preschool (educación infantil) – Optional
  • Primary education (educaciónor escuela primaria)  – Compulsory
  • Secondary education (educación secundaria obligatoria) – Compulsory
  • Upper secondary education (bachillerato) –optional


Education Ages
Kindergarten 0-3 years old
Pre-Scholar/Infants 3-6 years old
Primary 6-12 years old
E.S.O 12-16 years old
Upper Secondary 16-18 years old
University 18-21 years old
University Post Degree 18-22 years old

Pre-School/ Nursery

Education in Spain for infant children is divided in two stages which is the first six years of education

  1. Nursery school – This takes children from 3-4 months – 3 years of age which are not covered by the government. Some nursery’s are private or even state run which charge fees
  2. Pre-School – Is for children aged between 3- 6 years and are generally attached to state primary schools. Here children can develop their mental skills, learn to read & write and also learn the alphabet. Pre-schools are free and children are taught the importance on different cultures and environment.

Primary School

It is compulsory for children to attend primary school in Spain when they turn six years old until the age of 12. There are many semi-private and private schools that are available where children can get admission. There are three, two year stage cycles which makes the 6 academic years

  • Primer Ciclo – 6-8 years old
  • Segundo Ciclo – 8-10 years old
  • Tercer Ciclo – 10-12 years old

Primary school children will have the opportunity to study Spanish language, literature, maths, arts, foreign languages and social sciences i.e. geography, biology and history. In the third cycle of primary school moral/social studies can be studied and parents are able to choose if they want their child to take religious education lessons when joining the school.

Classes in primary schools are mixed and parents can see teachers like in the UK if they wish to discuss a child’s progression.

Parents should note that if children have not obtained a good grade at the end of the first or third cycle, they may be required to repeat a year to move to the next stage. In most cases pupils will attend classes in the school holidays.

Secondary Education – Compulsory

Secondary education is compulsory in Spain and is for children aged 12-16 years old. The schooling system has changed over the last few years with it now being more project work and assessments.  Like the primary schools in the country, secondary school is also divided into two cycles

  • 12- 14 years old
  • 14-16 years old

There are compulsory subjects and optional subjects in both cycles and the core curriculum is in the Spanish language and literature.  Children can choose subjects from music, foreign languages, social/moral studies and technology. At the end of the two years the curriculum has other core subjects and students will be required to chose optional courses such as natural and social sciences, music, technology, plastic and visual arts and religious education.

Secondary school children are assessed and if they don’t meet satisfactory levels they will be required to repeat the year.

After students have completed four years and pass the standards, they will be awarded a Graduate of Secondary Education Certificate. This will then allow students to move to the next level of higher secondary education which then they can apply to go to university.

Compulsory education generally ends at the end of ESO and when students are aged 16 they can study for upper secondary and take an intermediate vocational training course to help them with specific jobs.

Upper Secondary Education

Students have the option to go to upper secondary school to study for university entrance or to do vocational studies. This is studying for two more years and at the end of this students will earn a certificate which is equivalent to A-Levels in the UK. This certificate is required by those who wish to go to university as well as sitting an entrance exam. The student will need to take 7-8 examinations over three days which are similar to the upper secondary exams. The scores will then be combined to provide a university grade. The final grade will then determine what students are able to study

State universities and Polytechnic universities

Those students who have passed the upper secondary exams with acceptable marks and want to attend university will be required to take an entrance exam. There are many state universities which provide degrees, post degrees and professional qualifications.

Home Schooling

Home Schooling is not illegal in Spain, but many parents prefer to send their children to a school. Parents who wish for their children to be home school can contact the Association Para Le Libre Educacion organisation who can provide support and guidance on home schooling.

Semi-Private Schools

There are former private schools in Spain known as Semi-Private schools and are subsidised by the Spanish government. Fees for Semi-private schools are low and are a good choice for parents who wish for their children to be in small classes. Some semi-private schools take on children from the age of 1 years old.

The language in semi-private schools are in Spanish or in the regional co-official language, and the curriculum will also be the State Spanish curriculum.

Private Schools

Expats will find that in Spain there are many private schools which uphold various curriculums and have annual tuition fees. Parents choose to send their child to a private school due to the good quality facilities and the array of extracurricular activities as well as the small class sizes.

Subjects are taught in the primary language Spanish, unless the school is international or bilingual. Demand for private schools is quite high and in order to get children into a private school expats will need to negotiate well.

Another factor to consider about private schools is the fees, for private schools it can vary and parents are advised to contact the school for more information on tuition and the curriculum.

International Schools

Spain has international schools which are also private schools teaching an international curriculum, This can be either the International Baccalaureate or the curriculum from another country.  International schools are chosen by those parents who will be in the country for a short period of time as it would allow their children to follow the same curriculum as their home country and in the language they know.

Parents must keep in mind that international schools are generally found on the outskirts of the city which will make the commute longer than usual. In addition to this, international schools have high tuition costs.

For admission in an international school it is a good idea to contact the school directly to find out what the process is and what documents they require for admissions.

Health and Medical Care

The healthcare system in Spain is ranked amongst one of the best in the world and combines both private and public facilities. Expats living and working in Spain may have access to the Free State healthcare which is partly paid by the social security payments which is deducted from your wages.

Spain’s 17 regions takes responsibility for the performance of medical services in their area, so expats might find that healthcare provisions are different depending on the location.

Public Health Care

Public hospitals in Spain provide healthcare and emergency services for Spanish residents. Professionals in public hospitals are educated and most hospitals employ people who speak English. The disadvantage of public healthcare is that the waiting period to see specialists is quite long and some patients can take months.

For use of the public healthcare system, expats will need to get a social security card from the Social security Treasury. Individuals will then need to obtain a medical card from the local clinic which will allow patients to use services of the nationwide public health network.

You must be registered on the municipal register of Spain to be able to obtain a Social security number

State public health care is free for those who are working and living in the country although in some of the Spanish Islands you will have to travel to find a healthcare provider.

Expats are entitled to free healthcare if they are:

  • A resident in Spain and work in employment or are self employed paying social security
  • A resident in Spain receiving certain state benefits
  • A child resident in Spain
  • Under 26 and studying in Spain
  • Staying for a temporary period and have an EHIC card

For those who don’t have the right to free healthcare will have to find private health cover.

Private Health Care

Expats who are not paying social security contributions have the option to take out private health insurance or to pay the full medical cost fees. This is generally chosen so that individuals have access to more options for treatment and to avoid the queues and waiting lists of the public health system.

Spain has many private hospitals and clinics around the country with costs being affordable for most expats. As a result of this it is highly recommended that expats who will use private health care on regular basis should also take out health insurance

EHIC – European Health Insurance Card

An EHIC card is used to access state healthcare in Spain if you are in the country for a temporary visit or if you are studying part of a course which is based in your home country.

This card can be used to get medical treatments through the public healthcare system for free or at a reduced cost.

Health Insurance

When taking out private healthcare expats should also take out health insurance as private companies pick up the amount if the account holder pays the monthly premiums.

Expats who have secured jobs in Spain will find that their employer offers health insurance but this should be checked with the employer before arranging their own health insurance.

Spanish health insurance providers offers plans which suit the local market and follows the contract on an international services.


Spain has many pharmacies in the country and are easily recognised by the large green sign outside. Pharmacies are open on a daily basis 24/7 and on weekends.

All medicines have to be purchased at the Pharmacy and it isn’t possible to buy medication in supermarkets.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in the country have both public and private ambulance services which offer timely services.

When there is an emergency the number to dial is 112, this is the general emergency number and operators are able to speak English.

Other emergency numbers include

  • 060 – ambulances
  • 961 496 199 – Emergency dentists
  • 963 600 313 – On duty pharmacy

Spanish Phrases which may need to be used in emergencies

  • Accident: Accidente
  • Emergency:Emergencia/Urgencia
  • I need an ambulance: Necesito una ambulancia
  • I need a doctor:Necesito un medico
  • Stroke:El accidente vascular cerebral
  • Heart attack: Ataque cardiaco/Infarto

Banking and Managing Money

Managing money & banking in Spain is expensive but quite straight forward. The facilities in the banks are modern and efficient but the charges on international transfers are large compare to other countries in the EU.

Most banks offer online banking with fast transfers and have one of the highest bank branches per capita on the European continent.

When looking for a bank, it is best to look for one which has English speaking staff as majority of them only have Spanish speakers. Once an account has been opened, expats will get the option of getting documents and statements in English

The fees for banking in the country are high and expats must consider the charges that will be applied – this usually includes debit card transaction fees, transfer fees, opening an account and also correspondence fees.

Some international banks which offer English services are Barclays and HSBC, this also allows expats to do free transfers between branches around the world.

Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday 8.30am – 2pm and on Saturdays 9am – 1pm.

Opening a bank account

Expats will have the option to open a non-resident or a resident bank account.

A non-resident account has higher fees and can be held in foreign currencies, whereas the resident account offers more efficient services having higher interest rates and low commissions.

Expats wanting to open a resident account can only do so if they have a Spanish tax identification number

Documents required:

When opening a bank account in Spain, certain documents will need to be shown and this can vary with the banks.

  • Proof of Identity – I.e Passport/Driving License
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of employment status e.g. employment contract, student card and unemployment documents
  • Foreigners identification certificate and number

ATM’s and Credit Cards

ATMs are available around the country which accept foreign cards and provide the best exchange rates with transaction charges. As well as this, credit and debit cards are accepted but transaction charges may be applied.

Spanish Currency

The official currency which is used in Spain is Euro (EUR), one euro is divided into 100 cents.

  • Coins: 2 EUR, 1 EUR; and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents
  • Notes: 5 EUR, 10 EUR, 20 EUR, 50 EUR, 100 EUR, 200 EUR and 500 EUR

Paying taxes in Spain

Those who are living in the country and working will be required to pay taxes on their income and also will need to file a Spanish tax return. Whether you pay taxes on worldwide income or just Spanish based income this will determine on residency status. As a result of this it is advised before moving to check if your home country has tax treaties with the country and the EU. This makes sure that expats will not be double taxed.

Expats who are an official resident of Spain will need to pay Spanish tax on worldwide income which is calculated on a progressive scale.

Non-residents (If you have lived in Spain for less than 183 days) will only need to pay tax on their Spanish income which includes income on Spanish property. Tax will also be applied on property ownership, goods and services in Spain.

Generally, income tax will need to be paid for any year where an individual spends more than 183 days in Spain. After this time an individual becomes a Spanish tax resident who is liable to be taxed. As a resident you will be required to submit a tax return and pay income tax on your worldwide income if:

  • You are self employed or run your own business
  • Annual income is more than EUR 22,000
  • You have capital gains and savings income of more than EUR 1,600 a year
  • Is your first year declaring tax residenct

An NIE will be needed to be identified by the Spanish revenue services.

Dual Taxation Treaty

The country has signed treaties with many other countries which help expats to avoid double taxation, therefore you will not need to pay tax in your home country as well as in Spain. A list of the treaty countries can be found at the Spanish tax authority

Spanish Tax Return

In the first year of tax residency, those who have moved here will need to file a tax return. After one year, you will not be required to do this if your income from all sources is less than EUR 8,000 and you have less than EUR 1,600 of bank interest,

Information on how to make a declaration can be found on Modelo 100, here you will find guidance on how to complete and submit the return.

Transport and Travel

Expats living and travelling in Spain will find that there is high quality public transport links and the country offers some of the best services in EU which range from modern metro system to connected speed rails giving residents.

Public Transport

The public transport methods in the country are very comprehensive and organised which allows everyone to travel between cities.

The national rail network is one of the popular ways of getting to locations, but expats can also use buses, metros and airplanes.


Train travel is considered to be one of the easiest and quickest ways to get around the country offering cheap tickets in Europe with two classes of tickets available.

The most operated train services are by RENFE – La Red de Los Ferrocariles ESpanoles which is considered to be excellent  and is intergrated with regional and urban networks. This company also offers discounts and special prices for travellers at popular times of the year for families and discounts could be as much as 50% with tickets being available on the websites.

Expats who are travelling between the cities, a new high speed network train is available which is known as AVE. This is a high speed link which is able to travel between Madrid, Barcelona, Cordoba and Seville within three hours and also allows travel to France.  This may not be the cheapest but it is one of the fastest ways in getting around. As well as this, if the high speed train is more than five minutes late, passengers will be entitled to a refund.

Regional train services are available in certain areas of the country such as .Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC), this operates in North eastern Spain.


Some of the main cities such as Madrid, Bilbao, Valencia and Barcelona all have underground railway systems which offer a quick way of getting around. Public transport tickets can be purchased which permits travel on all modes of public transport.


The larger areas in the country have widespread bus networks as well as options for inter city travel. The services that are run vary from the area but most urban areas for bus services are well run.  Spain also offers cheap tickets for bus travel especially of you are travelling between regions. The disadvantage of this is that it can take a lengthy time to reach the destination on a bus.

Buses are the most common method of transport which is used and expats will find that the coastal towns and rural villages are only accessible by bus travel.

Private bus services are also available however they are known to be uncoordinated with buses leaving from different destinations rather than a central bus station.

Tickets can be bought online or at a bus terminal using the ticket office or the machines, if not passengers have the option to purchase their single ticket from the driver when you enter the bus, although there may be an extra charge for this.

Bus services in the cities run from 6am till 11pm or midnight.


Expats also have the option in using a taxi which are available in all areas especially in the cities and are reasonably priced. Drivers tend to deliver a good service and it is advised that expats know where they are going and to ensure that the driver has switched on the meter.


Many cities in Spain are bicycle friendly and have a good infrastructure with dedicated cycle lanes and facilities. Travelling around Spain on a bike is a popular activity in the summer months.

Domestic Flights

Spain has many airports across the country for expats who want to travel throughout the Spanish mainland easily. Expats that want to travel throughout Spain quickly can use the domestic flights that are available. The large airlines include Iberia, Air Europa and Vueling, in addition to several others.

Driving Rules and Regulations

Although in Spain it is possible to get by without a car, most residents and expats prefer to drive in Spain so that they have the freedom of exploring.

Driving Rules

Cars in Spain drive on the right hand side of the ride and expats should note that when they are driving they will need to flash their vehicles light before overtaking a car that is in front of them.

There are however different rules regarding an individual’s drivers licence depending on what country expats come from. Most drivers are allowed to keep their own license and will just need to exchange it for a Spanish license, some may be required to exchange it and those who cannot exchange it will need to take a driving test (both practical and theory)

Expats who have an EU license can drive using the same license as long as they are the minimum age of 18. Licenses will not need to be exchanged. If you keep your EU license there will conditions which are attached whilst they are in Spain, this includes the validity, requirements of medical examinations, tax payments and penalties which have been incurred.

Within six months of arrival in the country there is a requirement for drivers to register at the traffic authorities which can be done at the Central register of drivers at the local traffic office. Once this has been done expats will then need to take a medical examination at an authorised centre where drivers will be tested on both physical and mental fitness.

Changing your Licence

Those who wish to change their license; drivers will need to go to the traffic office to make an application. You will need to take:

  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of Residency Status
  • Two passport photos
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Declaration to confirm driver has not been suspended from driving
  • Declaration to show the applicant does not have another license in another country

The license will be sent through the post and will need to be renewed at certain time dependant on your age.

  • Aged under 45 – Every 10 years
  • Aged between 45-70 – Every 5 years
  • Aged 70+ – Every 2 years

Expats who are not from countries within the EU can drive with their original license for 6 months after they have obtained residency status. Whilst driving with the original license, you must have a Spanish translation with you at all times.

Removals and Shipping Services

Shipping to Spain can be quite expensive so it is advised that expats think carefully before planning on what to ship to the country. Many Spanish cities have furnished accommodation and store options are available to purchase items when in the country which range from second hand and antique stores with stores such as IKEA can be found.

Before deciding on a removal company, you should get quotes from multiple services before a company is selected. Expats have the option to import household items duty free to the country as long as they have owned the goods for six months and the goods are imported within one year of securing residency in Spain. All household appliances should be listed showing the model and serial numbers and receipts for the items should also be taken.

When shipping items and personal possessions there are certain documents which will be required

  • Proof of ID i.e. Passport
  • Copy of Spanish ID card
  • Details of residency status
  • Bank guarantee if there are no residency documents
  • Details of employment which will be undertake
  • Proof that you will be in Spain for 2 years or more
  • Documents from the local town hall in country of origin to confirm you have lived there for longer than 6 months
  • Copy of application for duty free import
  • Letter which authorises the agent at the destination to clear shipments

If any of the documents are not correct, expats will be charged extra for import duties and there may be a delay in the shipment clearing. The shipment cannot be cleared until all the paperwork has been completed. Once this is done, the shipment arrives within the first three months of residency and if you want the shipment to arrive later an application for a special permit will need to made

Expats who are shipping household possessions should use services from an import agency who deals with all paperwork and calculations on your behalf as this process can be quite complicated.

Some relocation companies include:

  • Paragon Relocation: A global relocation service which provides domestic and international relocations.
  • Team Relocations: Delivers relocation and moving services across the world.

Communications in Spain

Spain offers a range of communications methods including internet, telephone and mobile phones. There are many options to choose from so it is recommended that expats get the best offer available by obtaining quotes from different countries.


Spain has many options to get internet access. The least expensive option is dial up internet, this is for those who do not use the internet very much but it is limiting options as you are not able to use the telephone when connected to the internet.  Internet providers have plans for dial up options such as billing by the minute.

Broadband – Spain has the lowest rates for broadband services as facilities are limited in the rural areas, however the cost of broadband is quite expensive. This is one of the best options for those who will use the internet on a regular basis as it is much faster than dial up services. Internet providers have a range of tariffs which may include the cost of hardware installation and for this an engineer will need to do this.

WiMax Broadband – Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave access is based on a wireless signal and is used in rural areas when there is limited internet access. Companies who provide this service are Iberbanda and Aeromax.

To get connected to the internet, expats will need to show ID document and then call the provider to install the connection. As well as the ID document, a copy of your passport or visa documents will be needed and a copy of the tenancy document. The set up can take up to 20 days but this can depend on the area you are living in.

For standard internet services the main provider is Telefonica. This is one of the largest telecommunication companies which have more than 300 million customers in the world.


There are a variety of landline services in Spain but the most popular one used is Telefonica who provide the lines for other service providers as well as many other services. Expats will need to contact Telefonica to have a phone line installed as they are the only providers who can authorise this. In rural areas, residents could be waiting months for an installation

If the property you have moved to have a phone lined installed, you will just need to validate that the line is live and then you will be able to transfer the account. This is less expensive than getting a new line installed. This can be done in advance of your move as it can save time. If the line is not live, you will be required to contact the provider for it to be reactivated.

Bills can be sent via post, email or online on the Telefonica website. They usually send bills every two months and the company does have a restricting policy if payments have not been received. The payment can be paid by direct debit, online, over the phone or at the bank.

When making a call in the country, you will be charged by the minute and depending on what time you are making the call the costs can vary.

Mobile Phones

The mobile phone services in the country do vary and operate on the GSM network so most phones which are used in Europe can be used in Spain. Phones which have been bought in the US will work on the CDMA system and cannot be used in the country.

You have the option to choose between pre-paid and contract basis for mobile phones and when a new SIM card is purchased you will be asked to show an ID. The contracts vary according to the provider and monthly tariffs. Bills will be sent monthly or pre-paid cards can be purchased. Orange and Vodafone are two of the popular mobile phone providers in Spain.

Postal Services

Mail which is sent within Spain can take up to three days to arrive and post within Europe can take 4 days. Post codes have 5 digits and an online search is available on the websites.

Those who want to send something internationally will need to mark the parcel with ‘prioritario’ which indicates it’s an international delivery. The three international delivery services are EMS postal express, Priority International delivery and an economy delivery. You may also be required to complete a customs declaration.

Spain has more than 1000 post offices across the country which can also be found in airports and railway stations.


Leisure Activities

There are a wide range of outstanding leisure facilities for sports and recreational activities to take part in Spain. From football clubs, Basketball, Motor Sport, Golfing and many more.

Sports: The country has many known football clubs which in recent years have won the world cup. Madrid and Barcelona are some of the popular clubs which some of the UK players transfer to. Generally, each week millions of Spanish locals enjoy watching football matches and several thousand even go to the games at the stadiums. There are also many other growing sports in the country which many enjoy such as tennis and golf.

Basketball: A popular sport around the country which is played by many, there are 18 teams who participate in the big games for the Spanish national leagues.

Motor Sports: Another popular sport which attracts big crowds at the forumal one tracks close to the city of Barcelona.

Golfing: There are many golfing holidays which are available in and around Spain with many golf courses. Golf is a popular sport for leisure time when people have retired

Skiing:  The country attracts many skiers from all over the world with around 20 skiing resorts available to go to.  The ski resorts are suitable for all ages and abilities from experience to beginner skiers. As well as this expats can enjoy skiing in quiet and laid back resorts with smaller resorts around the country.

Tourist attractions: There are many architectural buildings and tourist sites that can be visited by holiday makers and people residing in Spain

Cinema:  A popular past time in Spain but the English speaking movies have Spanish subtitles or are dubbed. If the film showing has VOSE, VOSC or VO it will be screened in English language.

Regional and Traditional Cuisine

Spain is famous for its seafood, sangria and paella which many enjoy as well as other few traditional foods. There is much importance on buying and cooking your own food in Spain with many handing down recipes which are enjoyed with families.

Regional Cuisine

Each region in Spain has its own regional dishes which they are particular about, for example

  • Galicia: You will find seafood and goose barnacle
  • Catalonia: Raw tomatoes on toast and various rice dishes
  • Valenica: Rice with fried fish or gazpacho

As well as the savoury dishes the Spanish also specialise in sweet dishes which everyone thoroughly enjoy. Expats will find that there are traditional sweet dishes all over Spain which everyone can indulge in.  Some of the sweet dishes include Thin Pastry Almond Tart, Long Pastries and hot chocolate sauce, Creme caramel, Fried bread with cinnamon and Layered pastry with fillings.

The traditional cuisines consist of recipes including Spanish tortillas, vegetable omelettes, potatoes, savoury pastry pockets with fruit, meat or fish, paella with rabbit and chicken and cold tomato soups.


Spain has many local bars with groups of people gathering around and sitting on terraces during the evenings.

Coffee is a hot beverage which is enjoyed with a coffee in the form of a cortado, latte or espresso. As well as this many locals have orange juice with their coffees at breakfast time.

Another thing that is common in the country is that when at bars, customers will get various forms of tapas from crisps, olives and Spanish tortilla.

Breakfast: Spanish locals enjoy cereal, toast, pastry croissants or churros with chocolate sauce.

Lunch: This is the largest meal of the day and contains simple meat or fish with bread

Dinner: Dinner is eaten from 8pm onwards and locals would have sandwiches, a small light meal or salads

Events and Festivals

Spain has many festivals which are celebrated all year round, so expats will have plenty to see in and around the country.

Expats will find that some of the festivals are particularly for certain regions with all of them having their own speciality. Some of the festivals that take place in the country are listed below.

Annual Events and Festivals

Three Kings Day: This is celebrated early January with big processions happening with people giving gifts. Children are gifted presents the night before by Three Kings who visit the homes in the night (This is similar to Christmas).

Jarramplas,Caceres: Celebrated between the 19th-20th January and involves throwing hard turnip in attempt to drive away evil spirits. This is celebrated each year with over 1,5000 people arriving.

CutreCon Trash Film Festival (Madrid): A festival which attracts many visitors and is for all the bad movies, bad acting and tragic directing. Similar festivals are held across Europe

The Arizkun Carnival (Jumping the Bonfire): A festival where thousands of people jump over 20 bonfires which is said to encourage fertility and ward off evil spirits. This is a traditional festival which dates back to the Pagan times and locals generally dress up in sheepskin coats, maypole style hats carrying brushes.

Las Fallas Festival: Mainly celebrated in Valencia in March which showcases giant sculptures made into traditional figures. The display is shown all over the city before the sculptures are then burned on the bonfires.

Holy Week – Seville – Semana Santa is held in 9-16 April and is one of the most important festivals for Spanish citizens in the calendar. Easter festivities are big throughout the country but the biggest is in Seville. You will see processions of floats bearing jewelled statues of Jesus and Mary. This festival begins on Palm Sunday which is a week before Easter and is packed with many visitors

Fiesta De San Isidro: Held in mid-may and is the largest festival which is held in Madrid. It gives residents to wear traditional castizo finery, listen to music and dance. It starts off by a big procession of giants and cabezudos with a speech in the Plaza Mayor. Over the few days expats can experience great entertainment

Moors and Christians Festivals: This is a celebration of the victory over the Moors in the 13th century and dates back to the 16th century. There is lots of entertainment with street parades of soldiers and battle re-enactments.

Haro Wine Festival: Between the 28th-30th June Spain holds celebrations to mark the harvesting of wine. A huge street party is held and locals climb up a mountain and drench other individuals with rioja using buckets, water pistols and sprays. The battle then generally moves down to the bottom of the mountain where there is dancing and vino tinto.

International Festival of Music and Dance: This is a celebration of flamenco and classical music which traces back to the 1980s. It has guitars, castanets and flamenco dancers and is usually held in June/July

El Colacho (Baby Jumping Festival) – A unique festival where people dress up in costumes and queue up to jump over a mattress laden with babies who have been born during the last 12 months. It is said that this ceremony gets rid of the evil spirits and guards against illnesses.

Running of the Bulls: Another famous festival which is held in Spain and hundreds of people take the life in their hands by running narrow cobbled streets of Pamplona whilst being chased by bulls. Hundreds of visitors wear white shirts and red bandanas to take part in this event. In between the festival you will see marching bands, food and drink and also fireworks. Luckily the runners will have newspapers to protect themselves

La Tomatina, Bunol : This is one of the world’s biggest tomato fight and is held on the last Wednesday of August. Thousands of people enjoy this festival and there are truckloads of overripe tomatoes to be thrown. People are advised to take goggles and a set of clean clothes as you will covered with tomato juice

Feast of St James: A public religious holiday in Spain which celebrates the life and work of Saint James who was the towns patron saint. There will be religious services held along with street shows and concerts

Fiesta De La Merce: A celebration held which honours Our Lady of Mercy who is the citys patron saint. Expats will be able to see free music concerts, traditional Catalan dancing,. Fireworks displays and a parade of firework brandishing devils and dragons is the grand finale.

Nadal (Christmas): In December many stall holders set up a Fira de Santa Llucia which is an open air market held in the streets around the main cathedral. People can buy decorations, trees and figurines.

Dia de Los Santos Inocentes: A festival which is equivalent to April fool’s Day

Els Enfarinats: A long day festival which holds a mix of carnivals and anarchy which dates back to 200 years. A group of men (Elfs Enfarinats) are dressed in mock military uniforms who make speeches, impose laws and have a battle with eggs, flour and firecrackers

Help and Advice From Local Experts

New comers in Spain may want to find groups for guidance and help when moving to the country. Some of the expat groups are listed below.

Barcelona Women’s Network: http://www.bcnwomensnetwork.comThis is a non religious organisation which offers guidance and support to local and international women who are moving to Barcelona. Expats can take part in social and culutural activities.

American Women’s Club of Madrid: http://www.awcmadrid.com – Another organisation which offers activites in clubs and in Madrid. Expats can take part in their own interests such as social, cultural and historical well being.