Living in Spain as an Expat

In this article

There are currently over 7 million expats living in Spain. There are expats from all over the world, including South America, North Africa, and the UK. This country is a popular destination for expats because of its peculiarities. You have found the perfect answer if you wonder what it is like to live in Spain as an expat.
This article will provide you with all the information you need to furnish yourself with before moving to Spain to live as an expat. It will expose you to what to expect as a foreign national living in Spain.

Living in Spain as an Expat: Yes or No?

Living in Spain as an expat is definitely a yes. Spectacularly rich in history and culture, there is little wonder why this country is a top world expat destination. While modernization is thriving in Spain, it has also retained its local culture. So, if you are looking for a blend between civilization and rurality, Spain is the place for you. While living in Spain is a great idea, it also has its downsides. Let's take a quick look at the pros and cons of living in Spain.

The Pros of Living in Spain as an Expat

One of the country's main selling points is its Safety ranks. Worldwide, Spain is ranked the 29th safest country 0f all 163 countries. One of its major countries, Barcelona, is ranked the 6th safest city in the world. The safety issue might be less cogent for you if you come from safer European countries like Iceland or Portugal. However, Spain is also relatively very safe to live in.
Spain has the 8th best healthcare in the world. As an expat working or living in Spain, it is good news that you have access to free healthcare. You can choose to have private health insurance for quicker and broader access to healthcare. However, Spain's healthcare is easily accessible. Social Security Payments cover it.
One of the perks of living in Spain as an expert is its tax system. As a foreign national, you can use Beckham's law to bypass tax payments on your foreign income for the first six years, and you will pay only 24% tax on your Spanish income.
It is easy to invest in Spain. You do not have to break the bank to invest, as properties are relatively cheap compared to other countries. The investment procedure for expatriates is easy. Interestingly, if you invest up to €600 000 in real estate, you can get the golden visa, also known as the investor's visa. This will grant you and your family Spain's working visa.
Another thing you will enjoy in Spain as an expat is the warm climate and the tourism lifestyle it offers. The weather is mostly always bright, and every day seems like summer. Costa del Sol, for example, offers you about 300 sunny days a year, and you have the Canary Islands, the sunshine center of Europe. If you are planning to travel to Spain for retirement, Bueno!; You are on the right track. Spain is a laid-back country and is very rich in culture. There are many beaches in Spain; the crowded ones and the quieter beaches. Amidst the everyday hustle and bustle of life, the Spanish lifestyle requires you to find time to relax with family and friends.

The Cons of Spain for Expats

As wonderful as this dream country is, it has its downsides, with might be challenging for expatriates. These are some of the downsides of living in Spain.
While Spain's weather is one of its pros, it is also one of its major disadvantages. The heat in Spain can be extreme and uncomfortable for moving around. The hotter part of the day, 12 noon- 8 pm, might require you to stay indoors. However, the northern part of the country offers you more rainfall and cold weather. Still, Spain's winter is milder than other northern cities.
Many parts of Spain still observe siesta, a cultural shock for many expats. This lifestyle can be hard to adapt to as it disrupts your daily activities. Most shops and offices will close down between the hours of 2 pm - 5 pm. At this time, you will rarely find businesses open.
Another downside of living in Spain is the language barrier. Living in Spain may be difficult if you do not speak Spanish. Although all Spanish people speak Spanish fluently, and some even speak English, many have regional dialects that might be hard for foreign nationals to understand. Most importantly, if you cannot speak it fluently, you should understand Basic Spanish words like “por favor” (please), “perdon” (pardon), “gracias mucho” (thank you very much), “lo siento” (sorry), “disculpe” (excuse me) and so on.
Another problem an expat might likely encounter in Spain is unemployment. There are few employment opportunities in Spain. As for the available job opportunities, the income is usually low compared to other European countries. The best thing for you as an expatriate is to get a job before moving to Spain or have a viable source of international income.

Which Cities Are Best for Expats in Spain?

Below are the top five cities best for expats in Spain and why they are considered so.
  • 1. Barcelona: Barcelona has just everything an expatriate might need. There are so many expats in Barcelona, so it will be easy for an expat to blend in and find like-minded people in the crowd. One of Barcelona's charms is that it is touristy. It has many fantastic architectures that tend to amaze and draw in expats. Barcelona also has a sea, a high selling point against Madrid.
  • 2. Madrid: Madrid is Barcelona's top rival, so there are many expats in Madrid too. Madrid is the home of entertainment. The city offers you unique places to visit and relax. It also does not fall short in the business of tourism. This city is home to three of Spain's most famous art museums. Madrid also has amazing nightlife to amuse foreign nationals. Madrid is also known for being the home of many dishes. There are many top-rated restaurants to take your taste bud on an adventure.
  • 3. Valencia: Valencia. Spain's third-largest city has also been rapidly growing in expats. It takes expats who have stayed in Valencia to get charmed and locked up in the city. It is rich in culture, entertainment, art, and architecture. Valencia has touristy beaches which attract UK citizens and tourists from all over. This city is also adventurous with food, providing many Mediterranean dishes. There are also employment opportunities available in Valencia. So, if you are an expat seeking a Spanish job, you should try out Valencia.
  • 4. Sevilla: Sevilla is one of the most vibrant cities in Spain and is also very rich in architecture. The city is also perfect for relaxation, considering its proximity to beaches and mountains. Unlike Madrid and other cities, Sevilla is very traditional.
  • 5. Granada: Granada is located in Southern Spain. It is more conservative compared to the cities mentioned above. It is globally known for being home to the Alhambra, a world heritage site . This city houses a lot of historical Arabian culture. Although very reserved, the city offers stunning views and tourist centers. It is one of the oldest historic cities in the region of Andalusia.

How Much Does It Cost to Move to Spain for Expats?

Cost to Live in Spain for a Single Person

Spain's cost of living is relatively low compared to other countries in Western Europe. The cost of living in Spain is relatively moderate and not unnecessarily high, although this can differ from one region to another. The cost of living in the high-rated Spanish cities will differ from that of the smaller, more reserved ones. On average, an expat in Spain will spend 641€ without rent. The cost of living in Spain is, on average, 34.78% lower than in the United States. With rent, the cost of living can climb up to €915. This covers the rent, feeding, and utilities for one person. Living in the top cities where higher accommodation can require up to €1,045. This is cheaper than you will find in most western European countries.

The Cost of Utilities

On average, you will spend €160 on utilities. This covers electricity, water, heating, cooling, waste management, and the internet. In major city centers like Barcelona, you might spend up to €169.80, and in cities like Alicante, you can spend as low as €113.28.

The cost of accommodation

Getting accommodations in the major cities is a little high. Demand here is higher, and so are the prices. One-bedroom apartments in the city can cost about €740.96 and €605 outside the city. In the city, a three-bed apartment costs €1,252 on average and €935.48 outside the city.

Healthcare in Spain for Expats: How Does It Work & Much Does It Cost?

The Spanish national health system runs Spanish healthcare. In Spain, every resident has basic health insurance. The Spanish government has a system where every resident with a social security number can access public healthcare.
Most expats like to go for private health insurance to access a more efficient healthcare system. According to visa guide, for a single person, private insurance costs about €35 and €130 for a family of four.

Taxes for Expats in Spain

In Spain, they operate a progressive scale taxation system. As an expat, if you have lived in Spain for a total of 6 months or more, you will be taxed as a resident. All expats who have incomes or assets in Spain will be taxed. As a tax resident, you will be taxed on your worldwide income progressively.
As a non-resident taxpayer, someone who has lived in Spain for less than three months and earns some income in Spain, you are taxed on only your Spanish income. Non-residents who are non-Europeans pay a tax rate of 24% on their income generated in Spain, while citizens of the European Union or the EEA pay a tax rate of 19%.

Opening a Bank Account in Spain

In Spain, there are bank accounts for residents and non-residents. When opening a Spanish account, you need the following:
  • A valid identity card (passport)
  • A valid Spanish address
  • Your NIE number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero)
  • Proof of your employment status or student card if you are a student

On average, the cost of opening a Spanish bank account is €15 for a debit card and €30 per year for a credit card. Depending on your chosen bank, you can also open a bank account without your NIE number. Note that all your documents have to be in Spanish.

Getting a Driver's License in Spain

If you are a non-EU/EEA license holder, you must take a Spanish driving test to drive in Spain. To get a Spanish driver's license, you must be 18 or above. The Spanish driver's license test consists of theoretical and practical aspects. You will answer 30 questions in the theoretical aspects and must score above 27. The practical test is done on the road. To take the tests, you need an ID card (usually your NIE), a medical certificate issued in an approved Spanish medical center, and a certificate from a driving instructor. European Community driving licenses are also allowed in Spain if the holder has taken the psychophysical medical exam and passed. The exam is to be taken periodically.

Bringing Your Pet to Spain

If you have a pet passport issued by another EU member state, you can use it to travel to Spain. Pros entering Spain must have an ISO microchip for identification. Dogs, cats, and ferrets coming from non-EU countries must come with a health certificate issued within ten days from travel. This certificate has to be in Spanish. The health certificate has to reflect the rabies vaccine administered at least 21 days before traveling to Spain.

Which Country Is Better for Expats - Portugal or Spain?

Expats generally prefer Spain. This is because it has many big cities, compared to Portugal. Spain is also preferred for its international flights, which makes it easy for expats to go in and out of the country. However, in terms of getting citizenship for either of the countries, it is easier to get Portugal's citizenship than to get Spain's. Regarding the cost of living, it is hard to decide which country is better as both countries share very similar price structures, depending on the cities being compared.
Spain is also more bubbly and busier than Portugal. Whether Spain is better than Portugal for you comes down to your choices and what you want to prioritize for your desired destination.

Is It Safe for Expats to Live in Spain?

Spain is safe, making it easier for expats to feel safe there. There are barely major security threats or terrorist attacks in Spain. However, pickpocketing is on the high side.
Tourists and expats are pickpockets' primary targets, so you must take extra safety precautions in public. Keep your valuables very close to you and out of reach of the public eye.

Entry Requirements for Spain

Going into Spain as a citizen of one of the EU/EAA countries will require a valid personal identity card or your passport. Suppose you are a non-EU/EEA traveler. In that case, you will need a valid passport or travel document, a visa, proof of accommodation, a return or round-trip ticket, and documents proving your purpose of entry.
Valid from November 2022, the ETIAS visa waiver for Spain is a requirement that allows citizens of an eligible country to travel to this European country. ETIAS, valid for three years, will enable citizens of eligible countries to travel to the Schengen Area for up to 90 days. It is an online application that is very fast and stress-free.
Depending on your purpose of travel and your intended duration, there are many visa categories you can apply for. Examples are Student visas, Work visas, Au Pair visas, Golden Visas, Entrepreneur visas, Digital Nomad visas, and Working Holiday visas, amongst others. You must get another visa if you want to stay longer in Spain.

How Good Is Spain for Expats: The Verdict

Spain is a good destination for expats. While it has its downsides, its good sides do cover up for that and more. There is absolutely nothing that should discourage you from enjoying this wonderful country. Spain indeed promises a fabulous experience.
Written by: Fikayomi Abisola
Abisola is an ETIAS Travel and Immigration writer with several years of writing experience in the industry. Abisola has a unique enthusiasm for travels, tours, and tourism and loves to educate travellers about the criteria involved in international travelling.

Spain for Expats FAQs

  • Is living in Spain a good idea?

    Yes, living in Spain is a good idea. Many retirees like to settle in Spain. The city has many tourist attractions, art, natural beauty, and architecture. Spain is the package for you if you are looking for a relaxed and laid-back life.
  • How much money do you need to live comfortably in Spain?

    Spain is an affordable country with a moderate cost of living. On average, you can live comfortably with €915 in Spain. This varies from one region of Spain to another.
  • What are the pros and cons of living in Spain?

    Cost of living, weather, safety, sound healthcare system, and investment opportunities are some advantages of living in Spain. However, the country also has a low employment rate, and the heat can sometimes be extreme in some parts of Spain.
  • Can a foreigner live in Spain?

    Spain is an expat-friendly country, housing over 7 million expats. The locals are friendly and easy to relate with.
  • Is Spain good for expats?

    Spain is a top expat destination in Europe. Many expats travel to Spain for a soft lifestyle and welcoming nature. Quality of life and food in Spain is considered good. It is family-friendly and also an excellent place to retire.
  • Where in Spain do most expats live?

    Madrid houses most of Spain's expats. The country is loved locally and internationally. Next to Madrid is Spain. These two countries provide expats with everything they need, being part of the major cities in Spain. You can easily connect with other experts and form a social circle here.
  • Is Spain friendly to foreigners?

    There are many expats in Spain because the country is friendly towards expats. Spaniards are easy to approach, and interacting with them is effortless.
  • Is Spain or Portugal better for expats?

    Both Spain and Portugal are perfect for expats. However, your choice will depend on what you consider most important in your desired destination. Portugal is smaller than Spain, but the two countries have similar lifestyles.

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