There is a huge number of people from the UK and the US, coming to settle in Spain. Each one has their reasons to have upped sticks, whether to retire under the sunshine at Altea´s urbanizations or to blast around the country, laptop in hand, working as a digital nomad. This expat survival guide for Spain can help.
What will your story be?
Whether an intrepid adventurer seeking culture and new experiences or looking for a swimming pool by which to while away the wondrous hours, expats have a huge amount in common. From our experience, this is how to get by without the comforts of home.
Table of Contents
Phones and Internet
Firstly. Internet in cities and towns, in Spain, is good; when you get out into the country, things might not be so easy.
Like every country in the world, Spain also suffers from shocking customer service from Internet Service Providers. In our experience, Orange and Vodafone have provided the best overall service, but there are still many disgruntled customers.
Avoid Yoigo, though their prices are cheaper, service is more limited and speaking to a rep takes hours. Movistar also has a bad reputation for slow customer service.
If you are looking to save on the expensive internet bills, try the slower 6gb services if you are near a city, the speeds are easily fast enough to run Netflix and if not, you can simply upgrade (they are much quicker at doing this than the other way around). If you are more than 50km away from a city, opt for the faster service as speed really slows down in coastal towns in Eastern and Southern Spain.
Phone contracts work a little different from the US and the UK, the phone is not included in the mobile contract and comes as a separate bill. iPhones are very expensive in Europe, you would find Samsung has a much stronger presence in Spain. Cheaper Samsungs are usually included in the contract if you just need a phone, only do not expect it to fit all the apps you might need.
Food and Supermarkets.
Food in Spain is generally fresh; probably because Spain is known as “Europe’s cabbage patch”. One of the great things about food in Spain is the seasonality of produce. The orange crop in April and October mean oranges are plentiful and cheap all the time, and they taste amazing. In Valencia, Seville and Extremadura, oranges are one of the biggest exports.
Try the markets. Every city in Spain has a local market with produce coming from around the region. In these markets you get the freshest food from the regions, only they are more expensive than supermarkets, but not by much. If you are a foodie, these are the best places to go. Many of them have restaurants around that cook the food you have just bought. It’s a great experience.
Just don’t expect to find huge supermarkets in town. Carrefour and Leclerc are opening massive superstores on the outskirts of most cities, but they are a drive out. Food and drink are cheaper than in the US and the UK. It’s true that food in the supermarket is not as good quality but you can fill your fridge with great food for the week for around €50.
For those of you UK expats who want home comforts. Carrefour has the International aisle, where you can find Robinson’s juice, Old Speckled Hen and Warbies bread.
If you live in a larger expat area such as Marbella or Javea, there are British supermarkets, but the import prices mean high, high prices. They are so dangerous to shop in when you are hungry!
For US expats, there are dedicated shops such as The Taste of America which have a great selection of the classics like Mrs. Renfro Cheese Sauce and Campbell’s Soup, again though, prices are eye-watering.
Most internet services provide a TV subscription, but the international channels are limited. You will have CNN and BBC World, along with the Discovery Channel and a few other English speaking channels, but the programmes are generally poor.
Netflix is locked by region. So in Spain you can only get what is shown in Spain, there are workarounds if you search Google, but for reasons of copyright we’re not going to publish them here. The Spanish selection has a lot of content in English.
For UK users, the BBC only allows access to their service within the UK, so call up your local MP and let’s get them to open up the license fee worldwide.
Spain do things right in transport. At least, if your point of view is as a traveller and not as an investor. The AVE rail network is world-class, as well as trains in general. They are cheap and are likely to get cheaper in the coming years thanks to a privatization initiative from the EU.
The main cities in Spain all have underground rail or tram networks which are great value for money.
If you are bringing your car, you need to have it licensed in Spain, usually at a cost of around €1000. Most people we know who have done this have regretted it, driving on the wrong side is occasionally quite dangerous, especially on A roads.
The second-hand car market in Spain is expensive. For €1000 you might get a 1994 Peugeot 205 with 150,000 km on the clock. The best way to get a good car is a dealership. Cars lose their showroom value incredibly quickly and hold that value for a long time. For a good car on a four-year deal, you’ll find something good for around €250/m.
If you want a run around in the city, scooters and motorbikes are cheaper in Spain and very easy to get a good deal. Electric scooters are becoming popular and there are more bike lanes than ever.
Many people will be coming to Spain with a job in hand. But for those who are looking for a job when you get here:
Many expats teach English in academies. The jobs are plentiful, but the payment is not so great, and the hours are quite unsociable, with Saturday mornings normally as a must. If you get a Celta qualification to teach English you will usually find better jobs. And the summers are generally difficult for English teachers as students generally stop their classes in June and start again in September.
There are lots of jobs in property; as many Europeans and Russians are investing in property in Spain. From contracting in upkeep and maintenance to working for estate agencies, there are lots of opportunities in a market that have grown – some 7% in the first quarter of 2018. The best agency in Valencia is Bluekey Homes.
Prices are on the rise after a torrid time over the last ten years. House prices are beginning to look frothy as they did 10 years ago so if you are looking to buy, buy quickly. That said, in comparison to London/New York prices, Spain is still very cheap indeed.
Again, in comparison to what you see in the UK and US, renting property in Spain is cheap. The rental market is very big and there are lots of flats available. In university areas, younger people can find house shares for €200-300/m and live a great life in the Spanish sun. In Spain, there are 3 kinds of rentals: Traditional rentals, holiday rentals and expat rentals.