Moving to Spain from UK is an exciting prospect but it takes plenty of careful preparation before your new adventure can begin.
Our blog post discusses all the documents you must bring and how to prepare everything for your move, ensuring a smoother and more enjoyable experience.
We will explore the amazing benefits of moving to this wonderful country.
In the aftermath of Brexit and COVID, lots of Brits have been reviewing the likelihood of their dream move to Spain taking place.
Despite these significant events, and it now not being quite as straightforward as it used to be, Spain remains the most popular European expat destination for British families and retirees.
According to UN data, in 2020, 302,000 of the 1.3 million British citizens living in the EU live in Spain!
Ireland was a close second at 293,000 and France was third with 177,000.
These figures further cement the fact that moving to Spain from the UK remains a particularly popular choice.
There are numerous positive aspects to living in Spain compared to the UK, including:
- The warm Mediterranean climate
- Competitively priced villa properties
- Lower cost of living compared with most of the UK
- Eating out is cheaper and a cultural tradition: tapas anyone?
- The relaxed pace of life: think sleeping siestas on the sand
- Working opportunities in IT and consultancy
So, what is it you need to know?
From buying property to applying for residency permits and ensuring your finances are in order, these tips will be useful if you’re considering moving to Spain.
Choosing Where to Live
Your location will be a vital component of your move to Spain, so you are well advised to consider it carefully.
Do you want to live in a big city? or a smaller one depending on your work requirements?
Spain’s sun-kissed coastal regions are the most popular areas for expats moving from the UK.
Alicante on the Costa Blanca is chock-full of beautiful beaches and affordable properties.
Expats report that adjusting to life here is made easier by friendly locals and English-speaking schools.
Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city and is famous for its classic paella.
Lots of expats have found good-value homes in the mountainous communities surrounding the city.
Further south in the Andalusia region is Malaga, a more laidback city with a mixture of old and new.
Narrow down where you think you would like to settle and most importantly, take time to visit each location to be absolutely sure it will fit your needs and wants.
Understand Your Rights
As we all know, the UK is no longer a member of the European Union!
Before Brexit, Brits had the right to visit, live and work anywhere in the European Union.
This allowed British citizens to move to Spain incredibly easily without any visa restrictions or maximum stay periods.
However, under post-Brexit rules, British citizens are now processed much the same way as non-European people.
The rules mean there is now a maximum stay of three months for UK passport holders in Spain.
Anyone hoping to stay longer must legally register as a resident, and any non-resident hoping to work in Spain almost always requires a visa or work permit to do so.
Many people have a false sense of what those already living in Spain do with their time. A popular misconception is that the vast majority of ex-Brits are retirees who have nothing else to do but sit in the sun.
On the contrary, figures published by the Office for National Statistics, indicate that nearly two-thirds of expats living in Spain were of working age.
Plenty of young people have moved to start their own businesses or find employment in one of the country’s beautiful beach side locations.
Spain is still recovering from the fallout of the economic crisis and unemployment, particularly among the youth remains relatively high.
The impact of the pandemic has also had drastic economic implications!
Therefore, finding work may be a little difficult.
However, it is not impossible!
There are numerous job openings in emerging sectors such as IT and consultancy.
Seasonal vacancies also exist in the tourist and hospitality sectors.
Plus the Spanish Government is keen to help anyone who has a good business proposition or idea.
The local Chambers of Commerce in Spain (Cámaras de Comercio) offer free business plan advice and support for entrepreneurs.
Another huge step to starting to live in Spain is finding a suitable home.
Homeownership is 78% in Spain, higher than in the UK and well above the average across the EU.
A large proportion of Spanish property is owned by foreign investors.
This includes British expats, drawn by low-interest rates in the coastal regions, such as the Costa del Sol.
There is a huge range of properties for sale in Spain. Even if your budget is small there are some real bargains to be found.
As with all countries, prices vary according to size, property type and location. Homes sitting further out in the Spanish countryside are the cheapest.
You can purchase a country home known locally as a “finca” for as little as €50,000 (£42,885.)
Occasionally they are even less if you are prepared to do some renovating.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on economies across the globe.
This was certainly no different in Spain!
We recommend keeping up to date with the latest property prices in the country as they slowly begin to settle post-COVID.
As an indicator, the average house price in December 2023 is around €235,000.
That said, some experts such as idealista are predicting that residential properties will fall in price by as much as 3% in the coming months.
To start your search view available properties on Servihabitat. [/vc_column_text]
As most ex-pats are not totally familiar with the purchasing process, buying property in Spain necessitates the services of an experienced gestor (not a jester!).
A gestor is not a lawyer or estate agent, but a Spanish-speaking clerk who is well-connected in the local area.
Their role is to ensure that the transfer of property goes smoothly between you and the Spanish administration.
Generally, their fees are low, and they can save you a great deal of time and hassle.
Word-of-mouth recommendations are the best assurance of the quality of their services.
For more information on their role and finding a gestor see their official site.
For those relocating to Spain and looking to rent, the rental market is very similar to the UK.
However, it is still advisable to understand the rules and regulations to avoid any financial or legal mishaps.
For a comprehensive explanation of tenant rights in Spain, visit the Housing Anywhere website.
Rental agreements in Spain don’t legally have to be put into writing but it is always advisable to do so.
Short-term contracts (contrato de arrendamiento de temporada), which can run up to a year, generally have fewer legal protections than longer-term contracts (arriendo de vivienda).
As of December 2023, a three-bedroom studio apartment located in the centre of Spain’s capital city Madrid, will cost you in the region of £1,561 per month.
A similar-sized apartment in the heart of Barcelona will set you back around £1,754.
One of the cheapest cities to live in is Seville.
Here you can rent a three-bedroom home for around £940.
Prices start declining the further outside of the city centre you venture.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Spain is generally much lower when compared to the UK. It is also favourably comparable with many other European countries.
This is offset slightly however by wages which tend to be much lower as well.
Numbeo, a cost-of-living website, compared the costs of living in Spain vs the UK and found pretty much everything is cheaper in Spain.
At the end of 2023, a mid-range meal for two at a restaurant in the UK costs £60 in Spain it is much cheaper at £38.57.
Combined monthly utilities in Spain cost £108 (as opposed to £216 in the UK).
Typical Expenses Living in Spain
Aside from utilities, rental costs, and eating out, you will have other basic daily expenses to cover such as groceries.
Here too you will find most everyday items cheaper than their UK counterparts.
1 litre of milk 81p versus £1.09 at home.
12 eggs £2.03 versus £2.39
A mid-range bottle of wine is much cheaper in Spain at £4.29 versus UK £7.50
1kg of Chicken fillets is a similar cost in both countries just slightly cheaper in Spain.
A 500g loaf of white bread is £1.11 in the UK versus 99p in Spain.
Apples, oranges, or tomatoes can be as much as half the cost of the UK.
Cigarettes are well over half the cost in Spain coming in at £4.50 per pack of 20.
The Spanish love a market and every town and village will have one at least once per week.
Shopping at a local market provides even more reductions in cost to your weekly shop.
Plus the bonus of perishable items such as fruit and veg tend to be that much fresher as local farmers and growers harvest and sell their produce quickly.
Education & Schools
Families moving to Spain will want to ensure that their child receives a good standard of education.
Education in Spain is regulated by the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE, Organic Law of Education), and is free for all children aged between 6 and 16 years.
There are various English-speaking schools across the country.
The Spanish Bachillerato is the post-16 stage of education, comparable to the A Levels/Higher (Scottish) in the UK, the French Baccalaureate in France or the International Baccalaureate.
Lots of families, particularly those intending to stay for a short while, choose to send their child to an international school.
Fees at international schools in Spain vary widely from around €2,000 a year to well over €10,000 a year at senior schools.
Even if you are going to be moving to an area of Spain where there are lots of English-speaking ex-pats, it is a good idea to brush up on your Spanish language skills before you go.
Most people agree that the Spanish language is one of the easier ones to learn.
Those expats who make the effort report high satisfaction levels and integrate that much easier into the Spanish way of life.
Besides helping you land a higher-paying job, learning the lingo will also be of value when navigating the process of buying or renting a house, including the endless paperwork that comes with it.
Language schools can be found throughout Spain.
There are also lots of online courses and popular mobile apps like Duolingo which will ensure you are speaking like a local in no time.
And of course, if you are struggling with the native language in the early stages and want to keep up to date with all things back home, you can always watch Sky TV in Spain by speaking to a reputable IPTV supplier.
As is always the case when moving to a new country, there will be cultural differences and norms you need to be aware of and respect.
The laidback lifestyle in much of coastal Spain means the morning (la mañana) runs until about 2pm.
It’s not unusual for lunches to run for 2 hours late into the afternoon (la tarde).
This all sounds great of course, but if you need to get something done it can get frustrating.
August is virtually a shutdown month for the country. This is Spain’s popular holiday time where everyone packs up and heads to the beach.
Moving or buying a house in these months is very much a no-go!
Spanish healthcare is generally of a very high standard.
Those working in Spain and making National Insurance contributions are entitled to access public healthcare on the same basis as a Spanish Nationals.
For those seeking private healthcare, it is worth considering your options and costings before departing the UK as it can prove a great deal more expensive.
Those looking to retire to Spain should note that the NHS has stopped reimbursing medical costs incurred by non-working Britons under pensionable age in other European states.
When you first arrive in Spain you may have to rely on public transport until you can buy a car.
Luckily, you will find that it is generally of a very high standard.
Most major cities operate tram or bus services to complement an extensive rail network.
The AVE-Renfe high-speed train network in Spain travels between all the largest cities.
It connects the capital city Madrid with Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, and Zaragoza, and allows for travel to France and Portugal.
If you intend to drive in Spain, the country drives on the right-hand side. There are also different standards of driving.
For example, it is a commonly accepted practice that you must first flash your lights before attempting to overtake on main roads.
In urban areas, sounding the horn is not allowed at any time, except in an emergency.
Emergency telephones linked to an SOS telephone network are installed at 2km intervals along motorways.
Until you switch to a Spanish driving licence, it is highly advisable to keep the following documents with you when you drive:
- Full, valid UK driving licence
- Proof of ID (passport)
- Motor insurance certificate
- V5 registration document
These are just a few Spanish driving differences, for more, visit the RAC website which is packed with practical advice regarding driving rules and regulations in Spain.
Taxes & Pensions
If you are moving to Spain and plan to live off your British pension, you will need to check your ability to access this and also account for any fluctuations between the Pound (£) and the Euro (€).
To pay tax you will need an NIE number on arrival.
This is issued by the National Police of Spain and is a legal requirement in Spain for anyone who is working or plans to open a bank account or purchase a car.
To obtain your NIE you’ll need to go to the Comisaria General de Extranjeria and take the following documents:
- Your passport, including a copy and photos
- A completed EX-15 form
- A document outlining why you need an NIE
The UK has a double taxation agreement with Spain to ensure that you do not pay tax on the same income in both countries.
You can enquire with the relevant tax authority about double taxation relief.
For those already living in Spain, all existing double taxation arrangements for UK nationals remain unchanged.
As a Spanish resident, you are required to declare your global income to the Spanish authorities, regardless of which country it came from.
Opening Bank Accounts
Your finances need to be in order before you move to Spain.
Opening an account as a non-resident is possible before you live in Spain.
Certificates of Residency are required for permanent residents.
Once you have the certificate, you can ask your bank to change your account with the following documents:
- An EX15 Certificate
- Your Passport
- Your NIE number
Spain has several major banks including Santander, ING Direct, and Banc de Sabadell.
You will still need to open a new Santander account in Spain if you bank with Santander in the UK.
The official currency in Spain is the Euro (€).
The majority of large shops, restaurants, and hotels accept internationally recognised credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard.
Getting the best currency exchange rate is crucial when moving to Spain in 2023.
If you are going to move large amounts of money from the UK to Spain such as paying for a new home, getting the best exchange rate is a good way to get the best return for your money.
Unfortunately, it is not always the wisest decision to transfer large sums of money abroad via your bank because they generally charge higher rates to do so.
Check your own bank’s rates against those of a trusted Financial Exchange provider to see how much you could potentially save.
The larger the sum to be transferred the larger the saving!
Transporting Your Goods
For UK removals to Spain the most common form of transportation is by road.
This is where selecting a quality removal company that is experienced in transporting goods to Spain is crucial.
Most removal companies will offer a full or part load service.
The most expensive service is a full load. All your belongings are packed into a dedicated vehicle which transports all your belongings on a fixed date.
In contrast, part loads can be cheaper, but transit times are longer. Your consignment will be sent on a shared vehicle with other people’s belongings which takes longer as the vehicle will not depart the UK until it is full.
Choosing an experienced removal company means that your effects will be in safe hands.
Should any problems arise, such as difficulty moving furniture, access issues, parking permits, they will be able to deal with them.
You will also be advised about the paperwork you need to comply with local customs and duty laws.
It’s a good idea to check which items you are prohibited from importing into Spain well before you move there. Some examples include:
- Tobacco and alcohol over a certain amount
- Illegal drugs
- Animal skins
- Some food items, including beetroot and mustard seeds
- Plants without a phytosanitary certificate
- Unlicensed sports guns
- Certain telecommunications equipment
- Funds of more than €10 000 must be declared to the customs authorities
You will be able to find out what goods you can and cannot bring to Spain from your international removal company.
And if permitted, what documents you will need to supply the relevant authorities.
Importing Your Car
After you arrive, you can drive a car with a foreign plate for six months.
A vehicle with the appropriate registration plate must be driven after 183 days in the country.
Vehicle shipping is offered by many removal companies and the export documentation, customs procedures, and local regulations can be handled by them.
Your vehicle can be registered up to 30 days after becoming a resident.
A Spanish MOT is required for your vehicle.
Once it passes the test, you will need to get a Spanish licence plate and pay the relevant import tax.
Taking Your Pets
No pet under three months old that has not received the relevant vaccinations can be imported into Spain.
You will need to plan well ahead of time if you intend to take your pet dog, cat or other animals with you.
Your pet must be vaccinated for rabies and microchipped with an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15-digit pet microchip.
If this is the first rabies vaccination after being chipped, your pet will need to wait 21 days before travelling.
Up-to-date facts about moving to the EU with pets post-Brexit visit the BlueCross website.
For more guidance, you can also read our blog post on moving abroad with pets.
Are You Moving to Spain From UK?
If you want to discuss your move with one of our European relocation experts don’t hesitate to get in touch with White & Company today.
We offer frequent Removals to Spain.
Our services include:
- Full load consignments that take your belongings direct from point A to B, or
- Part loads that are delivered shortly after your arrival.
- Storage is available, if required, accredited to European standards.
Book your hassle-free door-to-door service with White & Company and let us =handle every aspect of your move!
From packing all your possessions in the UK to delivering them to your new home in Spain, we’re here to help.
For further information on shipping goods to Spain contact us on 01489 663018.
Alternatively, fill out a quick quote form and a member of our team will get in touch shortly.
Max is a seasoned writer and blogger in the real estate and home moving sectors, as well as a knowledgeable source of information for expatriates living and working abroad. His detailed insights have helped thousands of people move and live abroad with greater simplicity and ease.