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Living in Spain

A Practical Guide to the Way of Life in Spain

If you are wondering what it is like to live in Spain, this guide has you covered. You can find everything you need to know about living in Spain, from how the healthcare system works to getting private health insurance, opening a bank account, and finding international schools. You will also find more general information that will help you settle into the country, such as driving, culture, etiquette, and the cost of living.

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Healthcare

How does the Healthcare System Work in Spain?

Spain’s healthcare system is among the best in the world. As an expat, you can benefit from both private and public healthcare. The public healthcaresystem is mostly free, except for some generic fees paid at the time of assistance.

Be advised that some health centers and hospitals offer both public and private services. You will need to make it clear which service you are opting for. When in doubt, consult Sistema Nacional de Salud (SNS),which regulates public healthcare in Spain.

Understanding the Healthcare System in Spain

To benefit from public healthcare, you will need to:

  • be a legal resident
  • be registered with the Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social (INSS), the National Institute of Social Security
  • have a public health card, tarjeta sanitaria individual (this card must be shown every time you visit a public hospital or health center)

Family members of insured people may also benefit from public healthcare, but only if they legally reside in Spain. This includes spouses, children under 26, and siblings of the insured person.

How to Obtain the Tarjeta Sanitaria Individual?

You can get a tarjeta sanitaria individual at the local health center (Centro de Salud) that corresponds to your place of residence. You will need to contact your local Centro de Salud to know the exact procedures for applying for this card, as requirements may vary by autonomous regions. In general, make sure to bring your identifying information and any other documents that prove you are eligible for social security.

If you are living in Spain, but cannot benefit from Social Security (for example, you do not work in the country), or you are a beneficiary of an insured person, you can apply for public healthcare. To do so, you must visit your local social security office with the following documents:

  • The application form for recognition of the right to healthcare.
  • An identification document:
    • EU citizens: the certificate of registration and national ID or passport.
    • Non-EU citizens: TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjeros) and your passport.
  • If registering beneficiaries, such as spouses, children, or siblings, you will need a family record book, or civil registry, that proves your relationship with the insured person.

After the INSS confirms that you qualify as an insured person or beneficiary, you can apply for a tarjeta sanitaria individual.

If you do not meet the criteria for any type of public healthcare in Spain, the Spanish Social Security offers a special pay-in scheme, the Convenio Especial. This allows access to the public healthcare system for a monthly fee of 60 EUR (67 USD), or 157 EUR (176 USD) for people over 65 years of age. You can request the Convenio Especial by presenting the form TA-0040 at the social security office of your place of residence.

What does Public Healthcare Cover?

In general, public healthcare in Spain includes primary care services, such as family medicine, pediatrician, nursing services, midwives, and physiotherapists, as well as all matters related to prevention, diagnosis, rehabilitation, and emergency services. You will be appointed a family doctor and pediatrician in your region, who will refer you to a specialist when needed.

The type of healthcare services provided may vary between autonomous regions, so always check the conditions that apply to you and your place of residence.

The cost of public healthcare may vary between autonomous regions as well. On average, you will find out-of-pocket payments to be around 24% of the total cost. This is higher than in most European countries.

You are also responsible for the costs of any pharmaceutical, orthotic, prosthetic, and other health products. You may pay between 10 and 60% of the full price, depending on your level of income. Medicines and pharmaceuticals can only be purchased at pharmacies, and some require prescriptions.

Public healthcare does not usually cover adult dental care, except for basic extractions. Dental prostheses and eyeglasses are also not covered by the Spanish healthcare system.

The national healthcare system issues documentation for sick leave or other medical discharge certificates that are deemed necessary.

What are the Pros and Cons of the Public Healthcare System?

According to a national survey, the general opinion is that public healthcare services work well and provide sufficient care.

Pros of public healthcare:

  • The Spanish public healthcare system is generally of high quality, with well-trained medical staff.
  • Spain has a good network of hospital and medical centers, some of which are ranked among the best in the world.
  • The public healthcare system also covers the direct family of a beneficiary, such as spouses, dependents under 26 years of age, and siblings.

Cons of public healthcare:

  • The waiting times for surgeries, procedures, and treatment from specialist doctors are frequently cited as the main setback of public healthcare in Spain.
  • Public healthcare services do not allow you to choose your doctor or specialist.
  • You may have some difficulty finding English-speaking staff in public hospitals or care centers.
  • Lack of coverage of dental care and other treatments often leads insured people to supplement public services with private insurance.

An Overview of Private Health Insurance

Generally, you do not need private health insurance in Spain butknowing how health insurance works is always a good idea. If you would like to avoid the delays of public healthcare, or you simply prefer to have private health insurance, there are many options to choose from.

Anyone can get private health insurance in Spain. There are no specific requirements. Opting for private healthcare in Spain has the benefits of allowing quicker access to specialists, the possibility to choose English-speaking healthcare providers, and overall more comfortable hospitals and medical centers.

The cost of these services will depend on your age, gender, and any pre-existing conditions. The average cost of health insurance is typically 100 and 200 EUR (112 to 224 USD) a month, but you can also find private health plans for 50 EUR (56 USD) a month with some of the bigger insurance companies. Primary care consultations and specialists in the private sector usually cost between 100 and 150 EUR (112 to 168 USD) per consultation.

Types of Health Insurance Plans

You can choose from a variety of health insurance plans in Spain: from low-cost plans with few services to more extensive health insurancecoverage. Health insurance plans vary based on insurance companies, and you can check prices and deals on their individual websites. You can easily sign with an insurance plan online. A few popular health insurance companies in Spain are Sanitas, Adeslas, and Asisa.

For those who prefer to use private health insurance to supplement services not covered by public health insurance, there are basic, affordable plans that cover services like dental care and blood tests, but do not include surgeries and hospitalization.

With most private plans, you will be asked to co-pay upfront for services. The rest of the treatment will usually be covered by your insurance. However, you may still receive additional bills via the mail even after your co-payments, so always check which specific procedures are covered by your insurance plan. You may also have some triangulation between your insurance provider and hospitals or medical centers, so expect to play some part in the communication between these services.

In general, private insurance is not used by many Spanish residents. Some job contracts may include private health insurance, so check with your employer before signing with an insurance company.

How to Find a Doctor or Dentist

As part of the public healthcare system, you are entitled to a family doctorwho can offer consultations free of charge. You do not need to worry about finding a family doctor. You just need to register with your local clinic and bring along your registration documents (such as the empadronamiento from when you first registered in your place of residence). A family doctor will then be assigned to you. These are general practitioners who can refer you to a specialist in the public healthcare system whenever needed.

In general, if you need to find a doctor or specialist, you should not have much difficulty. You can easily find private practices if you search for medicos near you. Dental services are not covered by public healthcare, so you will need to look for a private dentist. To find a dentist, you can look up dentistas online or in local newspapers. You can also search for reviews and compare prices on specialized websites such as Medigo.com.

The first dentist appointment and dental check-up are often free of charge, but the following procedures are charged. The prices are set by each medical practice. For reference, a filling tends to cost around 60 EUR (67 USD).

In general, whenever you request public healthcare services, be sure to carry your personal health card with you (the tarjeta sanitaria individual).

Are there Waiting Times to See a Doctor in Spain?

You can expect long wait times and delays with public healthcare services in Spain. On average, you may have to wait around 57 days to see a specialist. The longest delays are for traumatologists (68 days) and ophthalmologists (64 days).

For surgeries, the average national wait time is 93 days. However, these delays vary from region to region. Madrid, La Rioja, and the Basque Country tend to have the shortest waiting periods for surgery: 48 days. The Canary Islands, Castilla-La Mancha, and Catalonia have the longest wait times: around 140 days.

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Banks and Taxes

Wondering how to open a bank account in Spain for non-residents? Opening a bank account in Spain makes it easier to handle mundane formalities, such as paying utility bills, receiving a salary, and taking out loans.

The Spanish banking system is fully integrated with the international financial markets and is generally quite advanced. Spain has the greatest number of bank branches per capita in Europe, so you should be well covered regarding solutions for your financial transactions. Not only that but banks in Spain also operate through telephone, online, and mobile banking, so accessing these services should be relatively easy.

Bancos or Cajas?

When first looking at your options for opening a bank account in Spain, you will find two types of services: private banks (bancos) or state-owned banks (cajas), also known as savings banks.

Private banks used to provide more complete services. Nowadays, however, the offers between private and state-owned banks are similar, but they can still differ in ways that may influence which type of bank you want to use. For example, you may find that state-owned banks have fewer branches and ATMs available. Withdrawing from an ATM not operated by your bank may result in a fee. If you want to avoid these fees, it is better to open an account with a bank that has more branches and ATMs available.

Resident and Non-Resident Accounts

In Spain, you will find current (or “checking”) bank accounts for residents and for non-residents. As the name suggests, you can apply for the first if you have current residency in Spain. Even if you do not have residency, you can choose a non-resident account. Typically, you can open both types of accounts online, although a visit to the bank afterward is often required.

When you gain residency, your non-resident account can be converted into a resident account. Likewise, if you stop being a resident in Spain, you can convert your resident account into a non-resident account.

There are some requirements that are the same for both types of accounts:

  • ID or passport
  • if applicable, a document that proves your status or source of income in the country (employed, unemployed, pensioner, student, etc.)

To open a resident account, you will need:

  • proof of your address in Spain (recent utility bill, or a rental contract)
  • NIE (foreigners’ identity number)

To open a non-resident account, you will need:

  • proof of your address outside of Spain (recent utility bill, bank statement, or rental contract)
  • certificate of non-residence (certificado de no residencia), which can be obtained at a police station

When opening a current account, you are typically given a debit card. Credit cards are not always available with every account type, so remember to check the specific conditions of each plan or account.

Minimum depositsare usually quite low and sometimes not required at all. Usually there are no fees for opening or closing current accounts in Spain. Monthly maintenance fees are standard, but you may still find options without any fees altogether. For sending or receiving transactions, transfer fees may differ depending on the currency, urgency, or destination of the transfer.

Best Banks in Spain

Top banks in Spain are both national and international. Some top banks include:

  • Banco Santander
  • BBVA
  • CaixaBank
  • ING Bank
  • Bankinter

Be aware that even in major banks you are not guaranteed to find English-speaking staff. It might be a good idea to specify ahead of time that you do not speak Spanish to ensure you receive the best support throughout the whole process of setting up your account.

To find the best savings accounts for your needs, you can consult this ranking, which considers both interest rates and deposit conditions across all major banks in Spain.

What are the Best Banks to Open Online Accounts with?

With the most popular banks, you have the option to set up a regular account entirely online, as well as the option to open an online account. Aside from the documents mentioned above, you may be asked for an email address or a video call to verify your identity.

As an expat, you might want to look for banks that are available to both residents and non-residents. Here are some of the best options, that include both national and international banks:

  • ING, Cuenta Nómina
  • Deutsche Bank, Cuenta Nómina DB
  • BBVA, Cuenta Online
  • Banco Mediolanum, Cuenta Cero

ING and BBVA do not require annual fees. Deutsche Bank has the highest annual cost (80 EUR/90 USD), while Banco Mediolanum has the lowest (6 EUR/6.70 USD). Each bank allows users to open accounts online.

After setting up your account, you may be asked to visit a bank branch once you are in Spain. You will need to provide some of the original documentation and / or meet with a representative to finalize the procedure.

Writing Numbers in Spain

Writing numbers in Spain may be different than what you are used to. To avoid confusion, especially when dealing with banking or taxes, know that large numbers are separated in the groups of thousands with a period instead of a comma. A comma separates the decimal numbers. For example, a larger number like one million would appear as 1.000.000,00.

What is the Tax System like in Spain?

If you live and work in Spain, you have to pay taxes on your income and assets. Tax rates in Spain vary according to your level of income and whether you are staying in the country as a resident or non-resident.

The tax system in Spainrelies on different types of taxes, the most significant ones being income tax, social security contributions, corporate taxes, and VAT (value added tax). Some of these may be taxed at a national level and others at both national and regional levels.

Spain has double taxation agreements in place with 93 countries to avoid doubly taxing foreigners.

What is the Income Tax Rate in Spain?

The income tax system in Spain follows a pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system, where a percentage of the tax is withheld from your paycheck on a monthly basis. This system is progressive, which means higher tax rates apply to higher salaries. This personal income tax is known as Impuesto Sobre la Renta de las Persona Físicas (IRPF).

At the end of each term, both residents and non-residents have to file a tax return for IRPF. However, if you are a non-resident, you only need to pay taxes on your Spanish income. For taxation purposes, you are considered a resident if you live in Spain for more than 183 days a year.

This tax return is filed between April and June of the following year. Refunds are paid between May and July of the next year.

These are the five tax brackets andtheir corresponding ratesin Spain (the total tax is the sum of state and regional taxes):

Tax brackets (EUR) Tax brackets (USD) Total tax (%)
0 to 12,450 0 to 13,960 19
12,450 to 20,200 13,960 to 22,650 24
20,200 to 35,200 22,650 to 39,470 30
35,200 to 60,000 39,470 to 67,280 37
More than 60,000 More than 67,280 45

 

You will need to file an annual tax return if your income exceeds these limits:

Type of income EUR USD
Income from employment 22,000 24,720
Capital gains and savings income 1,600 1,800
Rental income 1,000 1,123

 

Social Security Contributions

You will also have to pay contributions to Social Security when living and working in Spain. The contribution rate is 6.35% for employees, and 30.15% for employers. You can read more on social security contributions in our Working in Spain section.

VAT in Spain

VAT, or IVA (Impuesto Sobre el Valor Añadido) in Spain has a current standard rate of 21%. Some cases may benefit from a reduced rate of 10% and a super-reduced rate of 4%.

Some of the goods and services that are exempt from VAT include financial and insurance transactions, resale of the property, welfare, education, and medical and health services, among others.

For properties, different taxations apply:

  • For new homes, you will have to pay VAT and Actos Jurídicos Documentados (AJD) which is the equivalent of stamp duty.
  • For second-hand homes, you will pay property transfer tax and AJD.
Self-Employment Taxes in Spain

If you are self-employed, or autonomo, you will have to pay social security, VAT, and income taxes. Social security taxes for the self-employed are around 200 EUR (224 USD) a month. Newly registered workers may pay only 50 EUR (56 USD) monthly. The VAT is usually around 21%. The rate could be lower depending on your type of business or service.

As for income taxes, you will also need to pay the IRPF, although rules tend to be more complicated for self-employed workers. You need to pay 20% of your profits in advance (income minus costs) in IRPF. This is done every three months at the end of each trimester by submitting the tax form Modelo 130 (Estimación Direta). Besides these payments, which are considered advances, you still need to file an annual tax return in May or June, which corresponds to the form Modelo 100, Declaración de la Renta. After submitting this annual tax return, you may be reimbursed depending on your individual situation (e.g., single parent, under 25, etc.).

Education

The Education System in Spain

The Spanish education system has its own peculiarities when it comes to the age of admission and overall organization of school years. This guide covers all what you need to know about Spanish education, such as what school is like in Spain, the grading system, the age of admission, and international schools.

Education in Spain is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 16. Children typically need to be registered with the local city hall, ayuntamento. To enroll in school, these documents are usually required: the child’s ID, proof of residence, a medical certificate, and the parents’ ID and NIE.

Below is an overview of the education system in Spain, by school year and age of admission.

School Level School Year Ages
Pre-primary education

 

First Cycle, Guarderias 0–3
Second cycle, Escuela Infantil 3–6
Primary education

 

1st to 6thgrade 6–11
Compulsory Secondary Education

 

1st to 3rdgrade 12–15
4th grade 16
Bachillerato

 

1stbachillerato 17
2ndbachillerato 18
Higher education Bachelor’s degree 18+
Master’s degree
Doctorate degree

 

You can also see this graph of the integrated school system from preschool to higher education.

Daycare and Preschool

Preschool in Spain is not mandatoryand it corresponds to two cycles depending on your child’s age.

  • First cycle: from 0 to 3 years old, guarderias (or nurseries)
  • Second cycle: from 3 to 6 years old, jardín de la infancia (or preschool)

Neither cycle corresponds to a formal type of education. Instead, preschools in general act as daycares, where children are taught basic communication, movements, and other important milestones for their stage of development.

First cycle: Nurseries, or Guarderias

There is a shortage of public childcare centers in Spain­. Only 30% of children are in some type of childcare, and only half of those attend public centers. This forces parents to rely on private centers to care for their children, which are more expensive.

Out of all the countries within the EU, Spain is known for offering the least financial support to parents. Because of this, the majority of children under three years of age are not in childcare in Spain.

The average cost of full-day childcare in a private center is 310 EUR (347 USD) a month. In regions such as Barcelona, childcare can cost 200 EUR (224 USD) more than in the south of the country.

Second Cycle: Preschool, or Jardin de la Infancia

When your child reaches three years of age, they can attend preschool (Jardín de la infancia). These centers are free as they are part of the public education system. They can either be specific centers for preschoolers or integrated with primary schools, known as CEIPS (centros de educación infantil y primaria).

Primary and Secondary Education

Both primary and secondary educationare mandatory and free in Spain. However, books and other supplies are not subsidized and should be paid for by each student.

Primary school, or primaria, starts at six years of age and goes up to eleven years old. At this stage children learn Social Sciences, Math, Languages, and Physical education, among other basic subjects.

Secondary education, or ESO (educación secundaria obligatoria), typically starts at 12 years of age. There are compulsory subjects, which are the same for all students, as well as optional subjects chosen by each student. Both the compulsory and optional subjects may vary by autonomous region.

Bachillerato and Vocational Training

Although Bachillerato is not mandatory, it is free for all students. Most students choose to continue with these two additional school years. This type of education covers subjects in a more in-depth manner and would typically correspond to the traditional high school level.

After Bachillerato, students can either take the university entrance exam and attend university, or go on to study higher vocational training, known as Formación Profesiónal de Grado Superior.

School Hours, Terms, and Holidays

School hours may depend on the school. Some schools run from 9:00 to 17:00, with a two-hour lunch break (from 13:00 to 15:00), while others run from 9:00 to 14:00.

School terms follow a trimester system: September to December, January to March/April, and March/April to June. Summer holidays are typically from late-June to mid-September. Students usually have school breaks around Christmas and Easter.

The Grading System in Spain

The Spanish education system uses a 10-point grading scale:

  • 9 to 10 is outstanding
  • 7 to 8.9 is notable
  • 6 to 6.9 is approved
  • 3 to 4.9 is insufficient (fail)
  • 0 to 2.9 is very insufficient (fail)
Private Schools

In addition to public schools, you can find private schools throughout the country. These can be entirely private (colegios privados) or semi-private (colegios concertados), which are state-subsidized schools that follow the national syllabus.

Many colegios concertados are Catholic schoolsthat typically only teach in Spanish. There is a general perception that education in these schools is of a high standard and the curricula on religions tends to be diverse and not necessarily Catholic-focused. If you wish to apply to a semi-private school, you can do so the same way you apply for a state school, at your local ayuntamento.

Independent private schools may operate differently from public schoolsin terms of school hours, syllabus, or even school breaks. There are many choices of private schools: bilingual English-Spanish schools, Catholic schools, international schools, bachillerato schools, or foreign language schools for French, German, or other languages.

Private schools tend to be more expensive in Madrid and Barcelona, but are overall less expensive than private schools in Northern Europe or North America.

International Schools

Spain is listed among the top ten countries to choose from when looking for the best international schools.

International schools have a reputation of offering higher quality education. These usually allow kids to follow the national curriculum from their home country or an internationally recognized curriculum. Going to an international school in Spain does not mean your child will not integrate with the local language and culture as many Spanish children also attend these schools.

The majority of international schools in Spain use English as the primary teaching language. American and British schools are the most popular, but you can also find French schools and German schools. Swedish and Italian schools are rare, but can still be found in Madrid and Barcelona.

You will find a list of schools for different regions and languages below:

Barcelona

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

Madrid

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

Malaga

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

Valencia

  • American School of Valencia
  • British School of Alzira
  • Cambridge House
  • Caxton College
  • El Plantio International School
  • Elian’s British School
  • English School Los Olivos

Other regions

  • The Lady Elizabeth School (Alicante)
  • Almuñécar International School (Almuñécar)
  • English School of Asturias (Asturias)
  • American School of Bilbao (Bilbao)
  • Deutsche Schule Bilbao (Bilbao)
  • Sotogrande International School (Cadiz)
  • Newton College (Girona)
  • Baleares International School (Mallorca)
  • English International College (Marbella)
  • El Limonar International School (Murcia)
  • Chester College International School (Galicia)
What are the Tuition Fees for International Schools?

You can expect international schools to be more expensive than other private schools. However, overall tuition fees for international schools in major Spanish cities are not much higher than in other popular cities around the world.

The average price of tuition in international schools varies by region. In Barcelona, tuition fees are the highest in the country, usually at around 770 EUR (863 USD) a month, followed by Madrid at 740 EUR (830 USD) a month. In Malaga, tuition fees are considerably lower, with a monthly fee of 520 EUR (582 USD).

Requirements for Admission to International Schools in Spain

International school requirements vary greatly by school. When it comes to the age of admission, it is more common for schools to admit students from 3 to 18 years old, although some may take in children as young as 8 months.

Different documents are required depending on the child’s age. In general, you must provide school reports and other qualifying exams, such as one covering EAL (English as an Additional Language), from the last two years to prove your child has sufficient knowledge of the primary language. Your child may also be informally interviewed by the teachers or asked to take an entrance test.

Other requirements and admission rules may differ from school to school, so check with your preferred schools individually. In general, expect to have these documents ready:

  • photocopy of the birth certificate, the family registry, identity card or passport of the child
  • photocopy of the parents’ identity documents
  • medical certificate indicating the child has no contagious or infectious diseases
  • school certificates from previous schools
  • passport size photograph of the child
  • application form from the school (if applicable)

Higher Education

Best Universities for International Students in Spain

Some of the best universities in Spain welcome both Spanish and international students. In fact, Spain is among the top destinations for foreign students worldwide.

Higher education in Spain follows the traditional system of a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and Ph.D. or Doctorate. Some courses like Music, Plastic Arts, or Sports may follow a different education system. Bachelor’s degrees may last for three years or four years (180 ECTS or 240 ECTS).

There are at least 80 courses in Spain taught entirely in English, with some 160 courses taught at least 50% in English. You can check a complete list of bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees to see which courses are taught in English.

These are some of the best universities in Spain:

  • University of Barcelona
  • Complutense University of Madrid
  • Pompeu Fabra University
  • University of Granada
  • Autonomous University of Barcelona
  • Autonomous University of Madrid
  • University of the Basque Country

You can also find a complete list of schools by region in the Ministry of Education’s website.

How Much does It Cost to Study in Spain?

Tuition feesfor universities in Spain are set by each regional government, so these may differ depending on where you plan to study.

In general, students in Spain pay relatively low tuition fees in public schools. Bachelor’s degrees may cost between 680 and 1,400 EUR (760 to 1,570 USD) a year, while master’s or Ph.D. degrees are typically between 1,350 and 1,500 EUR (1,510 to 1,680 USD) a year.

Tuitions fees for private universities are higher. Bachelor’s courses in private universities cost between 5,000 or 12,000 EUR (5,600 or 12,450 USD). Master’s and Ph.D. degrees vary from 1,320 to 2,160 EUR (1,480 to 2,420 USD) a year. These fees apply to both national and international students.

Country Facts

Practical Information

  • Country Name: Kingdom of Spain, Reino de España
  • Government type: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
  • Climate: temperate
  • Capital: Madrid
  • Currency: Euro (€, EUR)
  • Languages:
    • Official language: Spanish (Castilian)
    • Other co-official languages: Catalan (and its variant Valencian), Galician (Gallego), Basque (Euskera)
  • Religions: Roman Catholic and others
  • Time Zones: UTC +1 (Central European Time) on the mainland, UTC +0 (Western European Time) in the Canary Islands and Plazas de soberanía.
  • Calling Code: +34
  • Emergency number: 112
  • Voltage: AC 220 volts, 50 Hertz; outlet type C or F
  • Recommended Vaccinations: routine immunization
  • Member of the European Union, Eurozone, and Schengen Area

Spain operates as a state divided into 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities.

Main Embassies and Airports

There are about 120 embassies in Spain and many more consulates. If you are looking for airports, there are approximately 50 airports in all of Spain. The main airports are:

  • Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, in Madrid
  • Barcelona-El Prat, in Barcelona
  • Palma de Mallorca, in Palma de Mallorca
  • Málaga-Costa del Sol, in Málaga
  • Alicante-Elche, in Alicante
  • Gran Canaria, in Gran Canaria
Public Holidays in Spain

Because of the territorial divisions, Spain has both national and regional public holidays.

These are the Spanish national holidays:

  • New Year’s Day, 1 January
  • Epiphany, 6 January (not a national holiday, but it is declared in all regions)
  • Good Friday (on the Friday before Easter Sunday)
  • Labor Day, 1 May
  • Assumption Day, 15 August
  • Hispanic Day, 12 October
  • Constitution Day, 6 December
  • Immaculate Conception Day, 8 December
  • Christmas Day, 25 December

Cost of Living

Spain is one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe, so you may find the average cost of living in Spain to be one of the major benefits of moving to the country. Its cost of living remains reasonable even when compared with the rest of the world; sometimes even cheaper.

This is how Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia compare to Spain:

Canada United Kingdom Australia
Consumer Prices 20% higher 23% higher 33% higher
Consumer Prices with rent 25% higher 27% higher 44% higher
Rent Prices 37% higher 40% higher 72% higher
Restaurant Prices 15% higher 36% higher 32% higher
Groceries Prices 44% higher 20% higher 55% higher
Local Purchasing Power 34% higher 28% higher 50% higher

 

How does Spain Compare to the Rest of Europe?

The cost of living in Spain tends to be lower than in most European countries. In general, prices in southwestern Europe (Portugal and Spain) are cheaper than in Western or Central European countries. However, they are higher than in Eastern European countries.

How Much does It Cost to Live in Spain?

The cost of living in Spain varies from region to region and city to city. In the table below, to give you a sense of the national average living expenses, we have listed the average prices for food and alcohol, groceries, eating out at restaurants, as well as the cost of utilities, education, and rent. Keep in mind that the overall national monthly salary is around 1,250 EUR (1,400 USD), after taxes.

Rent per month Average price
 (EUR) (USD)
1-bedroom apartment in the city center 613 688
1-bedroom apartment outside the city center 459 515
3-bedroom apartment in the city center 992 1114
3-bedroom apartment outside the city center 715 803

 

Utilities per month Average price
(EUR) (USD)
Electricity, heating, cooling, water, waste (85 m2 apartment) 115 129
1 minute of prepaid mobile tariff 0.16 0.17
Internet (60 mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/adsl) 39.93 44.86

 

  Average price
Markets (EUR) (USD)
Milk, 1 liter 0.77 0.86
A loaf of fresh white bread, 500g 0.94 1.05
White rice, 1kg 0.96 1.07
Eggs, twelve units 1.62 1.82
Local cheese, 1kg 8.80 9.88
Chicken breast, 1kg 5.74 6.44
Apples, 1kg 1.65 1.85
Potato, 1kg 0.97 1.08
Onion, 1kg 1.01 1.13
Water, 1,5 liters 0.57 0.64
Bottle of wine 5 5.61
Domestic beer, 0,5 liters 0.76 0.85
Imported beer, 0,33 liters 1.29 0.86

 

Buying an apartment Average price
(EUR) (USD)
Price per square meter in the city center 2,893 3,250
Price per square meter outside the city center 1,847 2,075

 

Restaurants Average price
(EUR) (USD)
Meal, inexpensive restaurant 10 11
Meal for two people 35 39.32
McMeal at McDonalds (or equivalent) 7 7.86
Cappuccino (regular) 1.56 1.75
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liters) 1.70 1.91

 

Travel and transportation costs Average price
(EUR) (USD)
One-way ticket (local transport) 1.40 1.57
Monthly pass 44.35 49
Taxi start 3 3.37
Taxi 1km 1.05 1.17
Taxi 1 hour waiting 20 22.47
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.26 1.41
New car (Volkswagen golf 1.4 90 kw) 18,000 20,224

 

Childcare per child Average price
(EUR) (USD)
Full-day preschool, private, monthly fee 347 398
International primary school, yearly fee 6,780 7,617

 

As for some of the more common leisure expenses, you should expect to pay around 35 EUR (39 USD) a month for a gym membership, and 8 EUR (9 USD) for a cinema ticket. When it comes to clothing, a good quality pair of jeans will typically cost 70 EUR (78 USD), and a summer dress from a fast fashion store will be around 27 EUR (30 USD).

How does Cost of Living Differ by Province or City?

Generally, southern cities in the country tend to be cheaper than northern cities. Below is a rank of the major cities in Spain, according to Numbeo’s cost of living index, from most expensive to least expensive (excluding rent).

Cities Costs per Single Person Costs for a Family of Four
(EUR) (USD)  (EUR) (USD)
Bilbao 705 792 2,500 2,808
Palma de Mallorca 670 752 2,375 2,668
Madrid 660 741 2,310 2,595
Barcelona 665 747 2,325 2,612
Granada 595 668 2,075 2,331
Valencia 575 646 2000 2,247
Alicante 560 629 2,015 2,264
Seville (Sevilla) 560 629 1920 2,157
Malaga 535 601 1,890 2,123
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 565 634 2,010 2,258
Santa Cruz de Tenerife 525 589 1,880 2,112

 

As with any country, your comfort of living will depend largely on the ratio between salary and expenses. Overall there is a good balance in Spain between income and the cost of living.

Culture and Social Etiquette

Below are a few facts about the culture in Spain:

  • Generally, you will find locals to be friendly and open.
  • The country is predominantly Roman Catholic, with many celebrations and traditions reflecting this religious background throughout the country.
  • You are not guaranteed to find English-speaking locals in Spain. Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and the language barrier may be a problem for expats. Do your best to learn the language and, whenever handling formalities, bring a Spanish-speaking friend along, or try to learn some of the basic terms in advance.
  • Gender roles in Spain are becoming increasingly balanced. However, the gender pay gap is still prevalent in the country, with women making on average 12% less per hour than men.
  • As a monarchy, nobility and aristocracy still exist in Spanish society. In general, Spain’s concepts of class, wealth, and upward mobility are the same as other Western countries.
Social Etiquette in Spain
  • The Spanish tend to eat much later in the day when compared to other people. Lunch is typically around 14:00, and dinner is more common after 21:00. Also, eating lunch at your desk or on the metro is usually frowned upon, as a lot of importance is placed on meals.
  • Greeting someone in Spain could be awkward for non-locals. Giving two kisses on each cheek is the standard way of greeting women, even when you are meeting for the first time. The handshake is also standard, but locals may still go for the two kisses, as it is embedded in the culture. Men greet other men with a handshake, or, if they are more familiar, with an embrace or a pat on the back.
  • The popular Spanish mid-day nap, siesta, is controversial. Siestas made their way into business hours in some parts of the country, with shops or services closing between 14:00 and 17:00. However, these hours no longer reflect the modern and competitive business culture in the big cities. In some situations, mentioning the siesta could be taken as an implication of laziness.
  • Tipping is common, but only if the service is considered good. Tips in Spain also tend to be lower, and the common rule of leaving 10% of the bill is often ignored.
  • The dress-code in Spain relies heavily on seasons. Wearing clothes from other seasons is usually considered inappropriate.
  • Spaniards are typically relaxed when it comes to being on time­. A five to 15-minute delay should not be a big reason for concern in social situations. However, in a business environment, this is considered unprofessional.
  • Given the economic recession, it is common for people 30 years old or older to still live with their parents. Be sensitive and self-aware when approaching the subject, as expressing surprise could make a local in this situation feel uncomfortable.

Driving in Spain

If you are planning on driving in Spain, there a few rules you should know in advance.

How to Get a Spanish Driver’s License

The driving age in Spain is 18. Even if you already have a valid driver’s license from another country, you must be at least 18 years old to drive in Spain. If it is your first time obtaining a driver’s license, you need to pass a theoretical exam and a practical exam in Spain, both of which are regulated by the Dirección Generale de Tráfico (DGT).

Driving in Spain with a Foreign License

If you already have a driver’s license, you will typically need to renew it or exchange it for a valid Spanish permit. Depending on your country of origin, there are different procedures for getting a valid driver’s license in Spain.

In general, you will need an appointment, or cita previa, to renew or validate your license. Be aware that in some autonomous regions, the wait times for a cita previa can be up to one and a half years. If you do not handle this formality in advance, you may find yourself with an expired license in the country. Some authorities may be benevolent with expired licenses if you prove you are waiting for a cita previa, but others may still fine you.

If you are an EU national, your driver’s license is valid in Spain for the first two years of residency. After that, you will need to exchange your license for a valid Spanish permit. You can do this at any Provincial Traffic Department, provided you have made the cita previa and have the following documents:

  • official application form for EU/EEA citizens
  • duly completed talón-foto, which can be obtained at the Traffic Department, Jefaturas Provinciales de Tráfico
  • your ID, passport, or NIE
  • your national driver’s license (provided it is still valid): the original and a copy, sometimes called the Permiso de conducción Comunitario
  • recent photograph (32x 26mm)

There is a fee of 28,30 EUR (31 USD), which you can pay either through the DGT website or in cash at financial institutions (model form 791).

As a non-EU national, your driver’s license is only valid in Spain for sixth months.

Whether you can exchange your driver’s license for a Spanish one or need to take the practical exam will depend on your country of origin. Check with your consulate or the DGT website to know which conditions apply to you.

You can exchange your existing driver’s license, at any Provincial Traffic Department. You will need to bring the following documents:

  • official application form for non-EU/EEA citizens
  • duly completed talón-foto, which can be obtained at the Traffic Department, or Jefaturas Provinciales de Tráfico
  • your ID or Passport
  • your authorization of residency
  • your original driver’s license
  • medical fitness report issued at a Driver Recognition Center
  • written declaration:
    • that you do not have another driving license issued in Spain or the EU
    • that you are not deprived of the right to drive
  • recent photograph (32x 26mm)

You will also need to pay a fee of 28,30 EUR (31 USD), either through the DGT website or in cash at financial institutions (model form 791). If you need to take the practical exam, the fee is 92,20 EUR (103 USD).

International Permits are also recognized in Spain.

Driving Rules in Spain

Here is what you should know about the rules of driving in Spain:

  • You drive on the right side and overtake on the left side.
  • Seatbelts are compulsory and should be worn by everyone in the vehicle.
  • Helmets are compulsory on motorbikes, mopeds, bicycles, and trikes/quads.
  • Warning triangles and reflective jackets are mandatory in case of an accident or breakdown. You must have these in the vehicle at all times.
  • Using a mobile phone while driving is forbidden unless using a hands-free system.
  • The maximum alcohol level in the bloodstream is 0.5 grams per liter and 0.25 mg per liter for exhaled air.
  • Parking on a public street is not always permitted or free, with many cities having regulated parking areas subject to payment. These are identified by signs and parking meters.
  • BUS-VAO lanes are reserved for buses, motorcycles, and vehicles with at least two people (sometimes three), typically reserved for rush hours.

Speed limits are the following:

  • 120 km/h on dual carriageways and motorways
  • 100 km/h on conventional roads
  • 90 km/h on all other roads
  • 50 km/h in residential areas
Driving a Rental Car

Driving a rental car in Spain comes with a few rules:

  • You must be 21 years or older to rent a car in Spain.
  • Many rental companies require having at least one or two years of driving experience.
  • Spain is one of the few countries that accept debit cards or cash as a form of payment for rental cars.
  • You will need to show your valid driver’s license and your ID.

You will not have trouble finding a car rental service as there are many car rental companies throughout the country. Just search for alquiler de coches near you.

Public Transportation in Spain

In general, driving in big cities comes with a lot of traffic. Madrid’s traffic jams can start as early as 5:00. Because of this, opting for public transportation may be a wise idea.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to public transportation in Spain.

A good network of trains connects the entire country, with high-speed trains (AVE) connecting many regions in less than three hours. Many long-haul train routes make up the country’s railways, along with the Cercanías, which connects nearby cities. The National Train Network is operated by RENFE, the Spanish public transportation service. You can find train itineraries and timetables on their website, as well as some car services.

Most cities are also equipped with either metros or trams. In cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, or Seville, you can find both.

A network of buses operated by private companies covers many cities, most of which are owned by Alsa. You can find bus lines in places that are not covered by metros or railways, which ensure transportation to more remote parts of the country.

You can also use taxis or similar services, with popular apps for car transport operating in Madrid and Barcelona.

What are the Costs of Public Transportation?

As for the cost of public transportation, these services are generally quite affordable. Prices may vary by autonomous region, but, in general, expect to pay around:

Transportation Type of ticket Price
(EUR) (USD)
Bus Single ticket 1.5 1.6
Metro Single ticket, for 5 stations 1.5 1.6
Single ticket, for 10 stations are more 2 2.2
Train Single ticket 1.7 1.9
Bonotren, valid for 10 trips 10 11

 

In Madrid and Barcelona, the 10-trip ticket combines both metro and bus and is cheaper per ride. Monthly passes for metros can go anywhere between 30 to 50 EUR (33 to 56 USD), depending on the areas it covers.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: October 08, 2019
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