If you’re planning to move and live in Marbella, Spain, you’ve come to the right place to discover more about what to expect and how to settle in.
While Marbella is a sought-after place for retirement, there are also many families looking for relocation, employment, and schools in the area. Use the following guide to educate yourself about what it’s like to live in Marbella as an expat and how you can make your transition a smooth and successful one.
Is Marbella a good place to live?
Yes, Marbella is a great location to live and call home. Whether you are retired or looking for a location with a great climate for the whole of the family, Marbella is a great place to live.
Marbella is one of the best-known resorts on the Costa del Sol and a magnet for both tourists and expats seeking a place in the sun to call home. Its beaches, nightclubs, and luxury venues are famous across the world.
Living in Marbella is an attractive option for anyone wishing to settle in Spain. Even though it is a town, it has all the amenities of a city and is situated on the coast alongside stunning beaches.
Is Marbella safe?
Yes, on the whole Marbella is a safe place to live.
You have probably heard the Costa del Crime reference and how Marbella is a favourite sport for international drug traffickers, mafia, and dodgy money.
There is truth in this statement. Being one of the favourite expat spots in Spain and in the world, Marbella attracts all sorts of people, including the ones that you wouldn’t associate with willingly.
However, when it comes to your personal safety you won't be any more at risk in Marbella than in Madrid or London.
Drug-related and property crimes such as vandalism and theft are on a moderate level, while violent crimes such as robbery or assault are low.
The pros and cons of living in Marbella
Like any other place in the world, Marbella has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with why Marbella is a great place to live.
The pros of living in Marbella
1. Very accessible
One of the most important things about Marbella is how well connected it is. From Málaga you can easily take a flight to many major cities in the UK and Europe.
There are also various easy ways to travel between Málaga and Marbella. Daily shuttle buses can get you to your destination within the hour. You could also take the train or take your own (rental) car. It couldn’t be easier.
2. The pleasant weather
Plenty of sun hours and pleasant temperatures all year round mean you feel better, do more and enjoy life more in general.
You will find that the winters are not very cold and the summers not very hot. In winter, the average temperature is about 16 °C and in summer it’s around 25-30 °C.
The best time of year to be active outdoors is from mid-May to late September when the sunshine is plentiful and the chances of rain are scarce.
3. Stunning nature
The hills around Marbella are beautiful and will provide you with some fabulous walks. There are also two stunning national parks nearby.
Are you an avid bird watcher? Visit the Doñana National Park where you can watch countless migratory birds resting on their long journey.
Another well-known destination in the area is the Sierra Nevada National Park, which offers breathtaking scenery and a myriad of options for hiking and other outdoor pursuits.
4. The best beaches on the Costa del Sol
Marbella’s beaches are the most beautiful on the Costa del Sol, or so Marbella residents say.
It’s the beaches that make Marbella one of the most popular coastal towns on this side of the country. Sun is plentiful, the sand is silky and golden, and there are fabulous promenades, cafes and restaurants. Marbella has all you need for the most wonderful day out at the beach.
5. Glorious lifestyle
Living in Marbella is fab. You can have a modern apartment with a sea view, a mansion in the hills or a villa in one of the many golf resorts. Your own little yacht parked in one of the stunning marinas, amazing shopping, beautiful food and wine, pool parties and nights out during the season, what could be better?
Life is slower, more relaxing, more enjoyable, and it’s built around spending time with your friends and family. You might find that being a full-time resident in Marbella is the closest thing to heaven you’ve ever experienced.
The cons of living in Marbella
It’s important to know in advance why you might not like your chosen location. So what is it you might not like about Marbella?
1. Winter hibernation
Marbella is a holiday town. It's not very big and its economy is primarily based on tourism. From May to September it’s busy, but from October through to April it's a lot quieter.
You will still be able to enjoy restaurants, cafes, and shops, but the nightlife calms down considerably. Some shops and restaurants close for the winter season completely or only open on weekends.
Marbella is still very livable in winter, it’s just not exactly the summer Marbella tourists know. So it will be wise to try out Marbella in the winter season to see whether you can get on with it before moving there permanently.
2. You will need to winterproof your home
However surprising it might be for you, not all homes in Marbella have heating. While this seems completely unnecessary during summer, in winter it is essential. Evenings can become quite chilly even on the Costa del Sol, so don't try a winter without heating, you won't be comfortable.
3. Everything and everyone takes time
We have mentioned above that life is slower in Marbella. Well, so is everything else. Don't count on fast services here. Patience is essential. Everything seems to take ages, especially when it comes to doing business.
Shops open at 10:00 am, close at 14:00 for siesta (lunch and a nap) and reopen again at 17:00. Oh and pretty much everything is closed on Sundays. If you need to visit a bank or your town hall, book half a day off. It can be frustrating but you will soon get used to it.
4. Maddening traffic
In the busy season, Marbella traffic can only be described as total chaos. Traffic jams and the stress that comes with them can only be softened by the good weather and the friendly and relaxed attitude of the locals.
Is Marbella an expensive place to live?
Marbella is cheaper than big European cities. However, if you compare it to similar-sized locations in Europe, it might not be in Marbella’s favour. The reason is that it’s very popular with tourists and expats, and the demand dictates the price.
The fact that the area has one of the highest disposable income levels in the whole of southern Spain also contributes to the overall cost of living.
If put into perspective, comparing Marbella to other European capitals shows that living on the Costa del Sol is 43 percent cheaper than living in London, 39 percent more economical than living in Paris, and 23 percent more affordable than living in Berlin.
A primary advantage of living in the Malaga province of Spain is enjoying grocery-shopping prices at a much lower rate than in most other Spanish cities; living in Madrid, moving to Barcelona or settling down in Seville will certainly make your shopping more expensive.
You would need around £2,803.87 (€3,072.86) in Marbella to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with £4,700.00 in London, provided you rent in both cities. This assumes net earnings (after income tax).
Summary of the cost of living in Marbella:
- Four-person family monthly costs: €2,225 without rent
- A single person monthly costs: €623 without rent
Where are the best places to live in Marbella?
1. The Golden Mile
The most well known and exclusive area is the Golden Mile. This is the stretch between Puerto Banus and Marbella town, where you will find homes with beachfront penthouses and villas with unobstructed views of the Mediterranean Sea. This area is home to some of the most exclusive beach clubs and resort hotels on the Costa del Sol, such as the Marbella Club and Puente Romano.
2. La Zagaleta
Known as the most luxurious country club in Europe, La Zagaleta is closed to the public and it honours privacy, security, and exclusivity. There are two private golf courses, elegant clubhouses, a racquet club, and an equestrian centre.
Here you will find prime and super-prime property for sale surrounded by nature. It has the highest selling prices in the area.
3. Sierra Blanca
Like La Zagaleta, Sierra Blanca’s gated community offers privacy and amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea and Marbella. It’s only a few minutes drive to Puerto Banus and the town. It’s one of the most sought after areas in the Mediterranean due to its high level of security and comprehensive approach to providing safety and comfort for its residents.
You will mainly find luxurious villas for sale, although there are some select apartment developments available.
4. Nueva Andalucia
With accessible property prices in the best areas to live in Marbella, Nueva Andalucia has many different options and settings. This sought after area offers peace and tranquillity but at the same time is close to amenities and within walking distance of Puerto Banus.
If you’re looking for golf villas, then Nueva Andalucia is just right for you. Known as the Golf Valley, you will find beautiful villas surrounding the Las Brisas, Aloha, and Los Naranjos golf courses.
From Centro Plaza, past the bullring and down into Puerto Banus, you will find a bustling Saturday artisan market where you can buy anything from little wooden cabinets to clothes. Browse through a variety of spices, crafts, paintings, textiles, antiques, and furniture. There are also cafés surrounding the market where you can relax and watch the world go by.
5. San Pedro De Alcantara
Ten kilometres west of Marbella you will find the typical working Spanish town of San Pedro de Alcantara. Its popularity has grown in recent years because it offers the best of both worlds. On the one side, you have the typical old quarter with narrow cobbled streets, tapas bars, and boutique stores, and on the other, you have the beach.
Enjoy walks on the promenade lined with palm trees and chiringuitos (beach bars), a popular pastime for tourists and locals alike.
6. Puerto Banus
Another hot spot is Puerto Banus, which is synonymous with glitz and glamour. It’s not unusual to see celebrities and the super-rich shopping in the many high-end designer shops, driving expensive cars and partying on luxury yachts.
It offers a stunning setting for luxury property buyers featuring uninterrupted sea views and a mountain backdrop.
Buying versus renting in Marbella
Renting costs in Spain have been on the rise for the last 5 years. In many locations, it’s cheaper to pay a mortgage than to rent. Marbella is not an exception.
Marbella is very often the first choice for foreigners seeking a permanent home in Spain. It’s also one of the most preferred spots for expats to use as their second residence.
For this reason and the fact that it’s a popular tourist spot, rental prices continue to increase.
In the Marbella area, rental prices can vary greatly depending on the exclusivity of where you want to rent. In an area such as Puerto Banus, an apartment of 65m2 can reach up to €2,100 per week.
Due to high rental prices, more and more people are deciding to buy property in Marbella. This is often not only as their primary residence or holiday home but also as an investment, as it can offer a very good return.
However, don’t rush into buying a property when you are still new to a place.
It makes a lot of sense to rent for a while to know the area better before committing to buying your Spanish home. This way you will know exactly the pros and cons of living in your chosen location, get familiar with the way things are done in Spain and will have a better chance of a smooth and safe house purchase.
When you are ready to buy, keep in mind that Marbella is still one of the most exclusive areas in Spain. Therefore, you’ll need to dish out a substantial sum to purchase a property there.
Currently, you will be looking to pay on average €3070 per square meter. However, it’ll be well worth your money and investment because it’s such a stunning and affluent part of Spain.
- Renting In Spain – a detailed guide to renting a property in Spain for expats
- Buying A Property In Spain – a buyer's guide: how not to make a mistake when buying a home in Spain
What types of jobs are available in Marbella?
The service sector, including property sales and hospitality, is the city’s biggest employer and accounts for around 60 percent of all jobs.
Sales jobs are the most popular overall, while bar type jobs are popular in the summer months.
Longer-term positions for expats working in Marbella do regularly come up in real estate and construction.
Unlike many other Spanish locations, in Marbella you have a chance to find a job even if your Spanish is close to zero. Mabella residents are truly international and prefer to deal with staff in English.
Speaking about languages, there are always opportunities for EFL teachers if you have a certificate, and for teachers in general, as there are multiple international schools in and around Marbella.
Searching online for jobs is probably your best chance of landing a position. Diario Sur, the largest newspaper in the area, has job listings and publications in print and online in Spanish and English.
Schools in Marbella
When relocating with your family, schools and education become a priority. It’s the norm for expats relocating with families to first search for suitable schools and only then to try and find suitable accommodation not far from the preferred school.
There are usually three educational options in the Marbella areas: international schools, private schools, and Spanish state schools.
All Spanish residents regardless of their citizenship can send their children to state-funded schools within their catchment area. State schools are totally free from preschool age right up to 18. Although there are no fees, parents are required to pay for books, materials and any extra-curricular activities, such as school trips.
If you have younger children, state schools might be a perfect option as they will pick up the language quickly and assimilate easily.
If your children are older and don't have a good command of Spanish, they might struggle in a state school. You will probably want to have a look at international or private schools.
Private schools in Marbella
There is a score of various private schools in Marbella that cater for all kinds of educational needs.
Aloha College provides an international education in 2 sections, Primary School and Secondary School. It is one of the best private schools in the Costa del Sol. It welcomes students from 3 to 18 years old.
Colegio San José in Estepona and Marbella – a private bilingual school catering to children from preschool age to 18 years old.
Saint George's School, Marbella – a private primary British school catering for children of 3-8 years of age.
Las Chapas and Ecos – a girls school and a boys school both belonging to the Attendis group. Both are private bilingual schools.
La Latina is a bilingual private school in the centre of Marbella that offers a comprehensive education from preschool to bachelor.
Colegio Alboran is a bilingual private school educating children from primary all the way to Bachillerato.
International schools in Marbella
International schools are the best option if you are not planning to stay in Marbella long. As a rule, international schools are used to catering for the transient expat population. They make sure the curriculum is consistent and the transition to the next school is as easy as possible.
Calpe College International School: follows a British curriculum and caters for children from 2 to 10 years.
The British International School of Marbella offers contemporary British international education from early years through to secondary.
Swans International School offers primary and secondary education.
The English International College offers primary and secondary education.
Laude San Pedro International College is based on the British education system, with students from 3 to 18 years old.
Retirement in Marbella
Many people dream of retiring in Marbella, and it’s for good reasons. Spain is one of the best places to retire abroad and Marbella is one of the best retirement locations in Spain.
Marbella has a stunning old town, lots of culture, fantastic cuisine, and wonderful year-round weather. You can spend your days in the sun, enjoying sandy beaches, healthy food, and activities, and usually all for a lower price than in the UK or in the USA.
The extensive community of expats in Marbella really helps new pensioners feel at home.
There are plenty of appealing activities and support if you’re new to the area. It’s also a healthy place to reside. The Mediterranean diet is said to contribute to making it one of the world's healthiest places to live.
You’ll find it to be a relaxing lifestyle with plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the sunshine. As a retiree, you’ll fit right in and shouldn’t find it hard to connect with new friends like yourself and enjoy some interactions with the locals.
There’s a lot you can do to fill your days depending on whether you want to relax or stay busy. Enjoy a beautiful sunrise. Have a massage on the beach. Stroll along the beach. Take a walk on the seafront promenade. Discover the seafront promenade by bike.
Enjoy the spectacular beaches in the centre of Marbella, to name a few. The area around Marbella is known for its wonderful beaches, enjoyed by hundreds of people every day in the summer months.
Healthcare in Marbella
Marbella is kitted out really well healthcare wise. If you are eligible for state-funded healthcare, remember that in state-run hospitals not every doctor will speak fluent English.
So, either learn Spanish (which is advisable anyway) or take a Spanish speaking friend with you. Another option is a private doctor who most certainly will have a good level of English.
For Marbella residents, the main state hospital is the Costa del Sol hospital off the main A7 coast road at Los Monteros. It is a modern, state-of-the-art facility, one of the best-equipped hospitals in Spain.
It has both inpatient and outpatient departments and a 24-hour accident and emergency centre. Approximately 15 percent of the visitors are foreigners, so the hospital has volunteering interpreters to help those who cannot speak Spanish.
Marbella has an excellent range of medical facilities in the private sector. Hospital Quirónsalud at the eastern end of Marbella’s town centre provides 24-hour emergency service, radiology, an intensive care unit and areas for physiotherapy and functional recovery, among other services.
International health insurance is also a valid option.
There are also plenty of GPs and medical centres both private and state-funded.
- Healthcare In Spain For Expats – what options you have, state vs private, international vs local health insurance, how to apply for a health card and register with a doctor, etc.
Living in Marbella – summary
Marbella is one of the most popular locations in Spain for expats. The advantage is that there are plenty of services and amenities from English speaking lawyers to doctors and Gestorias that help with various paperwork. This makes moving to Marbella easy for expats.
On the other hand, such popularity is reflected in the cost of living and property prices.
In general, Marbella is a fabulous location. If you are prepared to cherish the positives and put up with the negatives in a good-natured manner, you won't be disappointed.