Living in Spain

Updated: 1 October 2021

Spain is a well-known tourist destination for its warm weather and excellent beaches. This country on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula is home to about 6 million expats. There are different reasons why many expats choose to call this country a second home. It has a high quality of education, excellent healthcare, and high standards of living. People also like the various tourist attractions such as Costa del Sol and Granada.

In this guide, we would like to present you with everything you need to know about living in Spain. These will include the cost of living, a breakdown of education, banking, healthcare, where to live inSpain, and things to know about the Spanish culture in general. 

Moving to Spain: Visas and Residence Permits

The type of visa you would need for Spain depends on how long you are planning to stay there. Most expats will need a work permit in addition to their residence permit. In case you already have a job offer in the country, you can easily get a permit. If you are a skilled worker who will take a position listed in the “shortage list”, you can apply for a high-skilled worker visa. This is also known as the European Blue Card.   

Normally, you will need a 90-day Schengen visa in order to apply for a work, self-employment, or family reunion visa. If you are planning to relocate there for work, then you will need to apply for a Spanish work visa. You may also be moving there to retire or study. In that case, you would need a different visa and there is a different application process. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the visas and permits their application process:   

Work Permits and Employment Visas

EU/EEA citizens

As a citizen of the EU/EEA, you do not need a visa to live and work in Spain. As a matter of fact, you can live there for up to three months without even reporting your residence to the authorities. However, there are some formalities that you need to do to make your life easier. For example, you will need NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjeros), which means Foreigner’s Identity Number. We will explain how to get this number in the Banking in Spain section below.  

Non-EU/EEA citizens

To get a work permit, whether you want to be a freelancer or work for an employer, you need to start the application process from your own country. It is important to know that this process will take some time, so you should start early.

For a work visa, however, you need to first get a 90-days Schengen Visa. After that, you can visit Spain and apply for a work visa from there. There are two types of visas which fall under the entrepreneur law: The Entrepreneur Visa and the European Blue Card.

Requirements for a Work Permit Visa

To apply for a work permit in Spain, you will require the following documents:

  • A copy of your passport
  • Clean criminal record
  • A Medical certificate
  • Three passport-sized photographs
  • Your NIE number (applicable if you are already in Spain)
  • Your future employer’s social security number
  • The job offer with the labor conditions
  • A full description of the job and the company’s activities 

You would also need to submit the correct form which depends on the type of work permit needed.

The employed work visa can cost between $73-210. This depends on the country from where you are applying.

Non-Lucrative Residence Visas

Other than work visas, the Spanish government offers many different “non-lucrative” visas. These allow the visa holder to live in Spain without working there. These types of visas include the student visa and family reunification visa. Another really common visa is the retirement visa.

Non-Lucrative Visa Requirements

To get any type of non-lucrative visa, you will need to prove that you are financially capable of supporting yourself during your stay there. You will need to give proof of income of at least €2,130 monthly. Additionally, you would need to show €532.51 monthly for each dependent. Alternatively, you can show €27,600 for each renewal period (12 months.) 

Permanent Residency

After five years of uninterrupted legal residence in Spain, you become eligible to apply for permanent residency there. Becoming a permanent resident there allows you access to the education and healthcare system, exactly the same as a Spanish citizen.  

Another common way for non-EU residents to get permanent residence in Spain is through the Spanish Golden Visa.

Spain Golden Visa

The Spain Golden Visa is a residency by investment scheme. The Spanish government introduced this program in 2013. Under this program, an investor can gain permanent residency in Spain through an investment. This program may also eventually lead to citizenship.  

Benefits of the Golden Visa

Other than the right to reside in Spain, the Golden visa grants its holder a lot of benefits, such as:

Visa-free travel in the Schengen Area

The Golden Visa allows you to travel visa-free through the Schengen zone

Family Inclusion

Your spouse and children under 18 years of age can be included in the Golden Visa. If you have children over 18 who are fully dependent on you, they may also be included.

No Minimum Stay Requirement

Unlike other types of visas, you only need to spend one day per year there to maintain the Golden Visa

Eventual Citizenship:

The Golden Visa can lead to Spanish citizenship if you reside there for six months a year for ten years.

How Can You Qualify for The Spain Golden Visa?

There are a lot of different types of investment which can qualify you for the Spain Golden visa, such as:

  • Making a €1,000,000 capital transfer to Spain
  • Making a €1,000,000 investment in business development
  • Making a €500,000 investment in real estate

For a comprehensive understanding of the Golden Visa Spain please consult our Spanish Golden Visa Guide.

Culture and Etiquette in Spain

Spain has many proud traditions stretching over centuries. Each country in the world has its own way of living, sometimes it is in how people greet each other, others is how the young speak to the elders. In this section, we will focus on some of the cultural aspects of living in Spain, to prepare you on this journey to integrating with this proud country and its people.

The Language

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world after Chinese. There are over 330 million native Spanish speakers worldwide. 
As an expat, you would probably be hit with the language barrier when you live in Spain. Fortunately, Spanish is quite an easy language to learn, so if you do some studying and try to mingle with the locals you might pick it up quickly. There is no guarantee that you will find English-speakers anywhere you go, whether it is at the bank or the post office. This is why it is a smart idea to bring a Spanish-speaking friend with you when dealing with bureaucracy.

You might find some English-speaking expat communities in the bigger cities like Madrid or Barcelona. But you may still require Spanish to get by in most cases.


One of the most prominent things you will notice is that family is very important for Spanish people. Spanish people love their family and they love spending time with them. If you go to a Spaniard’s birthday you may see two or three generations of their family there. It is very traditional for Spanish families to come together in large numbers for most holidays. However, these traditions are fading slowly in bigger cities.

Elders are very respected in Spain. It is really common to see older relatives being cared for in family homes.

Personal Space

This is an important thing to know so you don’t experience a shock. Here is how people greet in Spain: they give you two kisses on the cheek, starting with the left. Even if they do not know you, that is how women greet you for the first time. Handshakes are also common, but more often than not, you are getting two kisses. 

Men often greet other men with an embrace and a pat on the back. Though if they are familiar, the two kisses will happen.

In Spain, physical contact from time to time during conversation is very normal and is not considered an invasion of personal space. 

La siesta

You have probably heard about the famous Spanish mid-day nap or (siesta). The siesta is an important part of Spanish culture. As a matter of fact, many shops and small businesses come to a complete halt around the country at Siesta time. This is between 2 pm and 5 pm.

The siesta was first practiced to avoid the heat of that time of day. However, with globalization and competitive business, the siesta is becoming less prominent. This is especially in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona where there are many international businesses. You might be even considered lazy if you mention a siesta in those businesses.

Still, more often than not Spaniards take a long lunch break. They actually tend to eat later in the day than most other people, with lunch at around 2 pm and dinner often after 9 pm. Meals in Spain are very important, that is why you would rarely see someone having lunch at their desk. They love taking their time when it comes to food.

The Spanish usually take a decently long lunch break to rest, socialize, and eat before going back to work or school.


Tipping in Spain is appreciated but not necessary. Usually, you tip if you feel like the service was excellent. The acceptable tip is 10% of the bill, though many people tip less than that. 

Adult Living Arrangements

Spain was hit with a pretty tough economic recession back in 2008. As a result of this, it is common for Spaniards to live with their parents even into their thirties. Try not to express shock if you meet a thirty-something person who still lives with their parents. This might make them feel awkward. 

Following Invitations

If you are invited to a dinner party by a Spaniard, this is a big deal. It is customary to bring a bottle of wine and flowers for the host. Though you might want to stay away from chrysanthemums, dahlias, and lilies, as these are associated with funerals.

If the host has children, you should bring some chocolate or sweets for them. Also, feel free to arrive a bit after the agreed-upon time.  

Spanish Punctuality

Spanish people are not very concerned about being exactly on time. If someone is between five to 30 minutes late for a social call, that is really no reason for concern. Depending on your own culture, this might be a new experience for you. It could be difficult to get used to at first. Though the concept of time is very flexible in Spain, as life tends to be slower there.

Be careful not to be late in a professional capacity though, that can lead to serious trouble.

Forget about August

Something that shocks expats when they move to Spain is what happens in August. Life basically stands still at that time of year. Businesses close down, bureaucracy slows to a crawl and families head to the beach. 
In other words, you cannot really get anything done in Spain in August. So might as well use that month to visit somewhere else, or join the fiestas.

There Is Always a Paper Missing

You have an appointment to deal with some sort of bureaucratic issue or another. If you think you have all the documents you need, think again. There is a strange phenomenon with the Spanish bureaucracy system. Every time you think you have collected all the documents, there seems to be something missing.
This is why you should take your time and read every single paper carefully. Check for dates, names, or anything else that could be missing or misspelled. 

Cost of living in Spain

For the high quality of life that Spain offers, the cost of living there is fairly low. You can live comfortably in Spain with $2,000-2,200 a month in a big city. This means somewhere like Madrid. That expense can be reduced significantly if you live somewhere rural, or outside of the big cities. A couple can live somewhere outside of the big city at $1,700-1,900 a month.
In this section, we will go through various costs of living in Spain, including real estate, food and groceries, eating out, utilities, and more.

Real Estate in Spain

The good news here is that both rentals and property prices are very affordable in Spain. So whether you would like to rent long-term or move to a second home, you should not be worried. 

Rental Prices

The first rule of real estate is “Location, Location, Location.” This means that whether you are renting or buying property, the price will vary dramatically depending on where the property is. Take Madrid for example. If you wish to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Madrid’s city center then you should be prepared to pay $925 monthly. A three-bedroom apartment there will cost you about $1,800 a month. 
If you move outside of the city center, even Madrid becomes reasonable. A one-bedroom apartment outside of the city center in Madrid should be a meager $680 monthly. If you want a three-bedroom, you should be prepared to pay a monthly rent of $1,200. 
As opposed to Madrid, take Alicante. You can get a three-bedroom apartment in the city center of Alicante for about $850. Though you might be able to find a one-bedroom outside of the city center for as low as $400. 

Property Prices

You may prefer to buy a second home in Spain. The great news is, there are no restrictions on foreigners buying property there. If you want to buy a property in the big cities then you should be ready to pay about €3000-5000 per m². You can always look for properties in smaller cities or somewhere outside of the city center for cheaper prices. We have prepared a table for you which depicts the average real estate price in Spain according to Numbeo.com:

City Location Average price per m²
Alicante In the city center 2,560 
Outside of the city center 1,876
Bilbao In the city center 4,678
Outside of the city center 3,028
Barcelona In the city center 4,519
Outside of the city center 2,980
Madrid In the city center 4,929
Outside of the city center 2,993
Malaga In the city center 3,271
Outside of the city center 2,066
San Sebastian In the city center 5,800
Outside of the city center 3,675
Valencia In the city center 2,784
Outside of the city center 1,483

Food and Groceries

Spain has a decent agricultural industry and produces a lot of local products, including wines and cheeses. You can get a proper bottle of wine for about €5. There are even domestic beers that sell for as low as €0.8.
Groceries in Spain should cost you between €200 to €300 monthly, depending on your needs. Here is a table with the average prices of different grocery items:

Groceries Price
Apple (one kg) €1.74
Banana (one kg) €1.62
Chicken (one kg) €6.03
A dozen eggs €1.82
A loaf of bread (500 g) €1.01
Local Cheese (one kg) €9.64
Milk (one liter) €0.79
Onions (one kg) €1.61
Potatoes (one kg) €1.11
Rice (one kg) €0.99
Water bottle (1.5 liters) €0.62

Eating out 

Spain has an incredible cuisine that changes from region to region. Wherever you go, you can always find delicious local meals made in local restaurants. We encourage you to try as many restaurants as you can, as expats love the great Spanish cuisine. Eating out in Spain is also fairly affordable. Below you will see a table with the average prices of going out for a meal:

Meal/Item Price
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant €10
Meal for two at a mid-range restaurant €40
Meal at a fast-food chain €7.50


Utilities vary greatly depending on your location, the size of your house, the season, and your usage. For example, some expats from the UK claim that water is specifically expensive in Spain. Expect to pay €100-150 for utilities. You should also allocate an extra €40 for the ADSL/Cable internet of 60Mbps speed. 


The transportation system in Spain is very well-serviced. There are metro systems in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Valencia. There is also a big number of buses and intercity buses. 
This makes mobility in Spain very easy, and it is affordable too. During the day, most locals use the great transportation system to get to their job or school.  A one-way transportation ticket costs about €1.50. You can also opt to get a monthly pass, for which you will pay €35 to €45. If you take a taxi, you will find that the fares start at €3.50 and increase at €1.10 per KM.

Owning a Car

Gas in Spain is quite affordable. It costs about €1.30 per liter, which is €4.60 per gallon.
Depending on where you live, you may need a car. It is not a smart idea to own cars in the big cities, where you will be mostly stuck in traffic and struggle to find a parking space. However, you might want to own a car if you live somewhere rural.
If you decide to own a car in Spain, there are a few things that you should know. Each driver is required to have the following in their car:

  • Two warning triangles (In case of the car breaking down)
  • Complete set of spare bulbs (for headlights and breaks)
  • Multiple Fuses
  • A spare wheel and the tools to replace it
  • Two Hi-Visibility jackets
  • A spare pair of contact lenses or glasses (if the driver needs them)
  • Driver’s License and car insurance

If you are stopped by the police and fail to produce any of the above items, you might get a €500 fine.

Taxes in Spain

Anyone who resides legally in Spain for six months of any calendar year will become a tax resident there. In this section, we will be exploring the tax system in Spain and go through various types of taxes in depth.

Who is eligible to pay taxes?

As a Spanish resident, you need to submit a tax return and pay income tax. There are a few conditions where you need to pay Spanish income tax on your worldwide income. You have to pay income tax if you:

  • Receive rental income that is more than €1,000 a year
  • Have an employment income that is more than €22,000 annually 
  • Are self-employed or own a business in Spain
  • Have a capital gains and savings income that is more than €1,600 a year

In addition to the above conditions, you must declare your assets abroad if they are worth more than €50,000.

Double Taxation Treaties (DTA)

Spain has signed double taxation treaties with various countries to avoid double taxation. This means that you own have to pay taxes in your own country and in Spain if you are from any of the following countries (List updated on 11/7/2020):

Countries which have DTA with Spain
Albania Algeria Andorra Argentina
Armenia Australia Austria Barbados
Belgium Bolivia Bosnia and Herzegovina Brazil
Bulgaria Canada Chile China
Colombia Costa Rica Croatia Cuba
Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Dominican Republic
Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Estonia
Finland France Georgia Germany
Greece Hungary Iceland India
Indonesia Iran Ireland Israel
Italy Jamaica Japan Kazakhstan
Kuwait Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg
Macedonia Malaysia Malta Mexico
Moldova Morocco Netherlands New Zealand
Nigeria Norway Oman Pakistan
Panama Philippines Poland Portugal
Qatar Romania Russian Federation Saudi Arabia
Senegal Serbia Singapore Slovakia
Slovenia South Africa South Korea States of the former Soviet Union (except Russia)
Sweden Switzerland Thailand Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia Turkey United Arab Emirates United Kingdom
United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Venezuela

Income Tax in Spain

Income tax in Spain is known as IRPF or Impuesto de Renta sobre las Personas Físicas. Each region in Spain sets its own bands and rates of income tax. This means that how much income tax you pay will depend on where you live.

Spanish Tax Rates for Income tax

Since taxes in Spain are not uniform across the country, there is no accurate way to give an overall view of the tax rates. Your total liable tax will be the state’s general tax rates plus the corresponding regional tax rates. 
In 2019, the average tax rates in Spain were as follows:

  • Up to €12,450: 19%
  • €12,450–€20,200: 24%
  • €20,200–€35,200: 30%
  • €35,200–€60,000: 37%
  • More than €60,000: 45%

Capital Gains Tax in Spain

The Capital Tax Gains in Spain is taxed at a progressive rate. And are as follows:

  • First €6,000: 19%
  • €6,000–€50,000: 21%
  • €50,000+: 23%

Wealth Tax in Spain

There is no wealth tax in Spain for assets under €700,000. Any assets worth more than that will be liable for tax at a rate of 0.2-2.5%.

Gift and Inheritance Tax in Spain

The tax for gift and inheritance varies from 1-7%. 

Taxes for Non-Residents in Spain

If you reside in Spain for less than six months of any calendar year, you are classified as a “non-resident.” Rather than the progressive rate, non-residents pay a flat rate. The general flat rate for income tax for non-residents is 24%. This number goes down to 19% if you are a citizen of an EU/EEA country.
Non-residents also pay taxes on the following incomes:

Capital Gains

This is any gains resulting from transferred assets and is taxed at a rate of 19%.

Investment Interest and Dividends

These are usually taxed at 19%, though they can be lower through double taxation agreements. EU citizens are exempt from interest tax.


These are taxed at 24%.


These are taxed at a progressive rate between 8-40% depending on the amount and region. 

Allowances and Tax Deductions in Spain

As a taxpayer in Spain, you are entitled to certain tax reductions. The personal allowance in Spain depends on your age and is as follows:

  • €5,550 for those under 65 years of age
  • €6,700 for those between 65 and 75 years of age
  • €8,100 for those over 75 years of age

Allowance for Dependents

You can claim an additional allowance in case you have children under 25 years of age who live with you. The allowances are as follows:

  • €2,400 allowance for the first child
  • €2,700 allowance  for the second
  • €4,000 allowance  for the third
  • €4,500 allowance for the fourth
  • An additional allowance of €2,800 for each child under three years of age

Banking in Spain

It is always advisable to have a bank account in your country of residence. Otherwise, you will have to pay credit card charges and exchange rates. Having a bank account in Spain will make your fiscal activities, such as paying rent or bills, easier. Doing such activities through international banking will be very costly.
Spain has a large number of both private and state banks. There are also a number of savings and regional cooperative banks. Banco de España is Spain’s national bank and it regulates the banking sector.
Before you open a bank account however, you will need to acquire an NIE number.

Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE)

The NIE is the foreigner’s identification number in Spain. You need this number to do any official activities in Spain, such as registering your residence, opening a bank account, filing taxes, and so on.
To acquire an NIE number, you need to first head to a government bank. There, you should pay the NIE fee which is about €11. After you pay the fee you should go to the nearest Spanish General Commissariat for Immigration and Borders. You should present the following documents: 

  • The NIE application form (obtainable at the commissariat)
  • Original passport valid for at least one year
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Two passport-sized colored photos

It is important to note that you might not find English-speaking officials at the commissariat.

Opening a Bank Account

Once you have obtained the NIE number, you can go to your preferred bank and request an account. The banks open in Spain from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm. It is important to note that there is usually no English-speaking staff, especially in state banks. You should call the bank first to make an appointment with an English-speaking employee. Alternatively, you can grab a Spanish-speaking friend to help you out. 

Documents Required to Open a Bank Account

You should always consult the specific bank of your choice to learn what documents they need. In general, you will need the following documents:

  • Proof of identity
  • Your NIE number
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of employment status

Make sure that all the documents are translated into Spanish. Your account should be open within a couple of days and your cards should arrive by mail within a few weeks.

Banks in Spain

There are various banks in Spain that provide services to expats. There are both Spanish and international banks. 

Spanish Banks

  • BBVA
  • Banco Sabadell
  • Santander

International Banks

  • Barclays
  • Citibank
  • Deutsche Bank
  • HSBC
  • ING

Healthcare in Spain for Expats

Spain has an advanced healthcare system. It guarantees universal coverage for all residents. The healthcare system in Spain has a private and a public system. What is interesting, is that there are some hospitals and health centers that offer both public and private healthcare.
Spain ranks 19th on the Euro Consumer Health Index. The Spanish Ministry of Health oversees the national health budget and develops policies. 

Public Healthcare

The public healthcare system in Spain covers citizens and permanent residents for free. It is important to note here that it might be difficult to find a state hospital on one of the Spanish Islands. As an expat, you usually need to use private healthcare until you become a permanent resident. However, you may qualify for public healthcare as in expat if you: 

  • Are an employed or self-employed resident who pays social security contributions
  • Live in Spain and receive state benefits
  • Are recently divorced or separated from a partner registered with social security
  • Are a child resident in Spain
  • Are a resident in Spain who is over 65 years of age
  • Are under 26 years old and studying in Spain
  • Are a state pensioner
  • Are an EU citizen staying temporarily in Spain and have an EHIC card

Otherwise, you will need private health insurance until you become a permanent resident. 

Private Healthcare

Most expats in Spain use private healthcare. The facilities in the private healthcare sector tend to be newer with better equipment. Additionally, it is more likely that there will be English-speaking staff in private hospitals. 
Private health insurance in Spain is quite affordable and will cost you between  €50-200 a month, depending on your plan.

Pharmacies in Spain

In Spain, pharmacies are known as Farmacia. You can identify them by the green cross sign outside. The official working hours of pharmacies are Monday-Friday 9.30 am-2 pm and 5 pm- 9.30 pm. They also open on Saturday 9.30 am- 2 pm.
The details for a 24-hour open pharmacy can usually be found on windows or doors of other pharmacies.

Education and International Schools in Spain

When a family is moving somewhere new, finding the best education for the children is extremely important. Sometimes you want your child to seamlessly start their education and not be behind on any school work. In that case, you might want to look at one of the many international schools in Spain. On the other hand, you might want to push your kids to learn the language and integrate with the society. In that case, you may register them in a local school to experience how it is. 
In either case, we will break down some essentials you should know about the education system in Spain in this section. 
The school system in Spain is considered to be excellent. There are public, private, and semi-private schools. All of them have a good reputation when it comes to education. Spain is actually listed among the top ten countries worldwide with the best international schools.

The Education System

Public education in Spain is free and compulsory for children between six and 16 years of age. As for private and semi-private schools, they require a tuition fee. These vary depending on the institutions.

School Levels and Ages

In Spain, children go to primary school until the sixth grade. After that, they start the first grade of secondary education. Here is an overview of the education system in Spain by school year and age:

School Level School Year Ages
Early Childhood Education First cycle (guarderias) 0-3
Second cycle (Escuela infantil) 3-6
Primary Education  First to sixth grade 6-1
Secondary Education  First to third grade 12-15
Bachillerato Fourth grade 16
First bachillerato 17
Second bachillerato 18
Higher Education Bachelor’s degree 18+
Master’s degree 21+

International schools

International schools often offer a higher quality of education. They allow students to follow internationally recognized curricula. The good news is, many Spanish children attend private schools. This means that your child will be able to integrate with the society even in a private school.
Most international schools in Spain use English as their primary teaching Language. The most popular international schools are American and British schools. There are also some French and German schools. In Madrid or Barcelona, there are a few Swedish and Italian Schools.

List of The Best International Schools by Region


  • American School Of Barcelona
  • British School of Barcelona
  • Deutsche Schule
  • Collège Ferdinand de Lesseps
  • Scuola Italiana of Barcelona


  • International College Spain
  • American School of Madrid
  • Lycée Français de Madrid
  • Deutsche Schule Madrid
  • Scandinavian School of Madrid


  • The British College
  • Novaschool Sunland International
  • Schellhammer International School


  • American School of Valencia
  • British School of Alzira
  • Cambridge House
  • Caxton College
  • El Plantio International School

Other regions

  • The Lady Elizabeth School (Alicante)
  • Almuñécar International School (Almuñécar)
  • American School of Bilbao (Bilbao)
  • Deutsche Schule Bilbao (Bilbao)
  • Sotogrande International School (Cadiz)

Best Places to Live in Spain as an Expat

Spain is one of those countries that “has something for everyone.” Whether you are a fan of stone cobbled streets, sandy beaches, or rolling hills, you can find the place you are looking for there. In this section, we are going to explore some of the best cities in Spain to move to as an expat. We will take into account the cost of living, job opportunities, and the cultural life of each place. 


Madrid is an excellent place for both expat families and solo expats. Even though it is the second-largest city in Europe, it is not as busy as London or Paris. One thing you will notice as an expat is the laid-back culture of people there. Once you visit this excellent capital you may never want to go back.
The work hours there might be a little bit hard to adapt to at first. It is often possible that you will encounter a job that starts at 9 am and goes to 9 pm with a three to four hour break in between. Spaniards often use this break to have a long lunch, socialize or pick up their children from schools. 
If you are moving there as a family, you will see that there are many family-friendly locations away from the city center. Thanks to the intricate network of subways and busses, those locations are easy to reach. There are a couple of neighborhoods such as Chambery, Retiro, and Salamanca where a family can live in quiet tranquility. Madrid is also home to some excellent museums and new art galleries.
That being said, you will also see a very active city life there, if you are a solo expat looking for such a thing. The night-life in Spain is well-known throughout Europe, with festivities going on until daybreak. It is also very common to find other expats in this metropolis and make friends and connections. 

Work Opportunities

Salaries in Madrid are not as high as other European capitals, ranging from  €1,600 to €3,500 depending on your experience. Keep in mind that if you do not speak Spanish, you will see that it is more challenging to find a job. Other than English-teaching jobs, you can find opportunities for English-speakers in the following sectors:

  • IT
  • Marketing
  • Accounting
  • Office and administration
  • Logistics
  • Wholesale and retail
  • Tourism

The IT section specifically is always looking for international talent. Another common job for expats is working as an au pair. 

Cost of living

As a single expat, you will require about €1700 to live comfortably. This includes rent somewhere near the city, which is around €1100. If you move somewhere outside of the city center though, you will get a better bang for your buck when it comes to renting.


Barcelona stands out in not only being a metropolis but also having great beaches. Because of its location on the Mediterranean sea, it boasts a dazzling coastline with stretches of gorgeous white beaches against pristine waters. The coastline is littered with restaurants and bars. This makes it super easy to grab lunch or after-work drinks by the ocean. 
The world-renowned Antoni Gaudí has transformed Barcelona into a large canvas. His captivating buildings and sculptures throughout the city attract tourists and residents alike. The city is also very easy to get around thanks to the great transportation system.  
Barcelona also tends to be a thriving place full of expats. It will be quite easy for you, as an expat, to merge into the community and find friends there. Even locals are very welcoming towards expats as their city is used to seeing many of them. 

Work opportunities

The job market in Barcelona, just like the rest of Spain, favors Spanish speakers. Salaries here also range between  €1,400 and €3,500. There are a few international companies that might be looking for English-speakers. There may even be some Spanish companies looking for native English-speakers to handle international communication, knowing a bit of Spanish never hurts with those companies. 
Much like Madrid, you may be able to find a job in a few industries such as:

  • Service and hospitality
  • IT
  • Social media marketing
  • Communication
  • Translation
  • Au pair

Cost of Living

Barcelona is Spain’s most expensive city, but not by much. Pretty much like the capital, if you live in the city center you are going to be paying hefty rents. However, with the excellent transportation services there, you do not have to live in the city center. Somewhere between €1800-1900 should allow you to be comfortable in Barcelona.


Valencia is an excellent place for industrious young professionals. The city gets much of its youthful vibe thanks to it being home to the University of Valencia. It is small enough that you can venture through the entire city on foot without feeling exhausted. There are endless things to see and do here.
There is a river running throughout the city. On either side of this, there is a massive park filled with biking and walking paths. Locals love taking a stroll alongside the river throughout the day. The new and impressive City of Arts and Sciences museum has a unique futuristic look and excellent exhibits for you to experience.
Valencia is a little quieter than Madrid or Barcelona. So if you prefer to be away from the city vibe but still enjoy a night out every now and then, Valencia might be exactly what you are looking for. 

Work Opportunities

Valencia is quite industrial, which is why it was able to bounce back fairly quickly after the 2000s financial crisis. The jobs here are a bit more specific, but they tend to pay a bit better at about €5,000. Professional expats might be able to find work in the following fields:

  • Chemical engineering
  • Textile industry
  • Car manufacturing
  • Building materials construction

Additionally, valencia has an extremely busy shipping port. This means expats with expertise in this area might be able to find a professional job easier.

Cost of Living

Despite its industrious nature, Valencia is very affordable. You can more than comfortably rent spacious accommodation in the city center and have an active lifestyle on just €1,600 as a single expat.


Málaga is a unique place because it is small, but it is a port city. What is very interesting about it is that every once in a while, a cruise ship will dock at the port. At that time, thousands of tourists will flood the city to walk around and shop. 
The expat community here is quite small but very welcoming to newcomers. It might be harder to find expats, but they really stick together. So once you get to know the expat community, you will have fast friends. Malaga does not have a very active nightlife, but it does have beautiful architecture and a lot of nature. There are even some good schools for families with children. 

Work opportunities

The strongest business sectors there are technology, transportation, tourism, and logistics. As a matter of fact, Andalusi Technology Park employs nearly 17,000 workers in the tech, industrial and science fields.
There are also some opportunities in the real estate markets. Some real estate firms realized that using expats makes expat buyers more comfortable, and thus will actively look for them. If you also know some Spanish, you will greatly increase your chances.  

Cost of living

Malaga is really cheap compared to other Spanish cities. You can easily live in Malaga on €1,400. This includes rent in the city center and eating out in restaurants often. 

Pros and Cons of Living in Spain

We tried in this article to cover as much about living in Spain as possible to make your life easier. Still, there is no place that is just perfect for everyone. Yes, Spain is an excellent country both for work and retirement, but it does not come without its downside. Here is a list of the pros and cons of living in Spain:


  • Low cost of living
  • Amazing weather all-year-round
  • Fantastic nature and landscapes
  • Buying property is easy for foreigners
  • Excellent education and healthcare system


  • High unemployment rate
  • The main language is Spanish
  • Bureaucracy is very complicated 
  • Different work schedule than most countries


Spain is one of the most wonderful countries with varied landscapes and avenues for all sorts of lifestyles. It is excellent for both solo expats and families. It has a decently strong economy, thriving culture, and excellent weather. So if you would like to live in one of the most welcoming European countries,  where you can enjoy good cuisine, excellent culture, and a relaxed lifestyle, Spain might just be for you.


What is The Cheapest Part of Spain to Live in?
Spain in general is not that expensive. The cheapest cities in Spain to live in are: 

  • Valencia
  • Seville
  • Granada
  • Alicante
  • A Coruña

How Long Can You Live in Spain as a Non-Resident?
You can live in Spain for up to 183 days in any calendar year without becoming a resident. If you reside there for 184 days or more, you will be regarded as a resident and must pay taxes. 
Is Spain Cheaper than The U.S?
In general, yes. American expats living in Spain report that they spend 27 to 30% less in Spain than they do in the United States. 
Can I Buy Property in Spain as a Foreigner?
Yes, foreigners are allowed to buy property in Spain with little restriction.
Can I Get Permanent Residency in Spain if I Buy a House?
If you buy a property worth €500,00 or more, you become eligible for the Spanish Golden Visa program. This program will grant you permanent residency in Spain in addition to visa-free access to the Schengen zone. You may also get citizenship if you reside in Spain for 10 years legally. 
How long can I live in Spain as a US Citizen?
As a US citizen, you are allowed to stay in Spain for up to 90 days. If you wish to stay there longer, then you need a visa and a residence permit. 
Where Do Most American Expats Live in Spain? 
Many expats live in either Madrid or Barcelona. Though there is a decent expat presence in Valencia as well. 
Is Moving to Spain Easy?
If you have the correct documents, moving to Spain is fairly easy. Before you move to Spain, you need to make sure that you have all the documents necessary and that you are applying for the correct visa. It is always a good idea to have professional help. 
Where Should I Visit in Spain?
There are really endless places you can visit in Spain. Granada, Santiago de Compostela, and Costa del Sol are just a few examples of popular tourist attractions there.
How Much Time Does It Take to Get a Visa to Spain?
The time it takes for a visa really depends on your country of origin and the type of visa. We recommend that you consult the local Spanish embassy when you are thinking about moving to Spain.
Can I Move to Spain Visa-Free?
Only citizens of the EEA/EU can visit Spain visa-free. If you are from another country, you should obtain a Schengen visa. 
What is life like in Spain?
life in Spain tends to be slow and relaxed. Many people experience a lot of freedom there and love the lifestyle of Spanish people.
Is Granada a Good Place to Live as an Expat?
That depends on your needs. Granada is a small charming city, with nice weather and many things to do and see. Yet, finding a new job in Granada as an expat might be very challenging.
Are education and healthcare free in Spain?
Public education in Spain is free and compulsory for children between six and 16 years of age. Public healthcare is also free, but it is only available for permanent residents.

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