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Moving to and Living in Spain – How To Create A Fantastic New Life In Spain

Spain is a number one European destination for Britons considering relocating abroad and the numbers of foreigners moving to and living in Spain grow every year. There are compelling reasons for this, and first and foremost is that Spain promises us an amazing lifestyle that we could only dream of.

In this article we’ll look at the ins and outs of moving to and living in Spain and the main considerations while planning your relocation.

Why Moving to and Living in Spain Can Change Your Life

Spain has it all – i.e., all regions of the nation are accessible from all parts of the UK and usually for a fair price.  Not only that, but the climate is fantastic with Spain averaging 137 days of sunshine compared to just the 52 that we have each year in the UK.  The culture is rich and diverse in Spain, the cuisine is thoroughly appealing, the wine is delicious, the history of the nation is fascinating, and then to cap it all off, the scenery in Spain is breathtakingly magnificent.  How many more reasons does one need to think that actually, moving to and living in Spain might just be ideal and idyllic?

If you’re not yet convinced however, consider the fact that the nation is also vast, and because of Spain’s landmass you have such diversity, therefore there is a part of Spain that appeals to each and every one of us.  For those who prefer a more temperate climate, Northern Spain is cooler for example, and for those who want as much sunshine as possible, the Costas are ideal.  Alternatively, if you’re a winter sports enthusiast or a lover of the great outdoors, what about the Pyrenees or the Sierra Nevada, and if you prefer island living then there are the Spanish Balearic and Canary Islands of course.

Spanish Housing Market

As the underlying appeal of Spain has not been damaged by the falling property prices, many Britons are taking advantage of the fact that you can now finally find truly good value for money in the Spanish real estate marketplace.  If you’re seriously contemplating a move, then haggle hard when you find the property of your dreams – because as a buyer you’re best placed to be the one doing the negotiating.

As expats are realising the opportunity, last two years Spain saw the number of property transactions rising.  This rise was mainly driven by foreigners buying homes on the coast and in cities like Barcelona and on the Costa del Sol, one of the country’s most popular areas with overseas purchasers. Britons remain the number one foreign homebuyers in Spain, making about 21% of all home purchases by foreigners in 2015.

Where to Live in Spain

Planning on moving to and living in Spain is a key to your successful life abroad.

If you’ve holidayed on the Costas or visited Spain regularly and decided that it really is the one country that you could call home, chances are you have a basic but not deep understanding of the country.  Unless you’ve committed to living in Spain for at least a few months, you won’t be able to say for sure that this is the country that you really can settle into.

Moving to and living in Spain - Barcelona


Yes, holidays are perfect for giving you a taster of a country, but to really get to know it well enough to commit to living in it, you need to spend an extended period of time living there.  It really is essential to spend time living in a nation before you commit to moving there lock, stock and barrel – no matter how familiar it is to you on the surface.

So, when planning on where to live in Spain, go and spend time there getting to know the different regions and areas. During your research stay it will be also important to spend time looking at the housing options available to you as well.

When it comes to planning your research visit to Spain there are two schools of thought – one is that you spend a handful of extended periods visiting the parts of the nation that you’re interested in and that you do so at different times of the year.  The other is that you commit to living in Spain in rental accommodation for a single intensive period of a few months or even a few years.  Both methods are valuable in their own right – and whichever approach you choose may have more to do with your own personal circumstances.

The main ‘rules’ of a research visit are as follows: –

  • Don’t just spend time getting to know one area of Spain.  The nation is vast and varied, diverse and wonderful – if you only commit to examining one small part, you could well miss discovering the part of the nation that actually suits you better.
  • Don’t just visit in the spring and summer when the weather is lovely and the towns more lively.
  • Spend time in Spain out of season and in the winter when the weather can be foul even on the coast so that you can determine whether you can cope with the climate extremes.
  • Get to know favourite areas out of season – see how different the experience of living in such an area would be when your favourite bars, restaurants and shops are shut.
  • Start learning Spanish when you’re on your research visit – you will certainly need it out of season and what’s more, it is far easier to learn a language a) when you’re living in the country in which it is spoken and b) when there is not such intense pressure on you to get it right.  I.e., before you actually commit to moving to Spain permanently!
  • Visit towns and villages, rural communities, urbanisations and Costa resorts to get an idea of where you would feel most at home.
  • Towards the end of your research visit, if you have decided that Spain really is for you, begin looking more closely at the part of Spain you’re strongly attracted to.  Find out all about the amenities and facilities available, think carefully about how accessible the given community is and think ahead.  Whilst a given location is ideal for you today, will it still be ideal in twenty year’s time?

The final major task on your research visit will be considering property in Spain.  Having lived in Spain now for an extended period of time and learned all about the rental market, you may feel that you’re ready to buy.  An additional advantage of having got to know Spain and the Spanish people is that you may well have met people who will be useful to you in your search for a home.  You are less likely to be taken for naïve tourists and more likely to be taken under the wing of local people and told about properties that others may not be aware of!

Moving to and living in Spain - windowmills

A romantic Spain at the sunset

Think carefully about the property type that would suit you – if this is going to be your permanent home in Spain you need to make sure the construction of the property is up to scratch.  Many holiday villas and apartments are sold without any form of heating and many are on complexes that are all but abandoned out of season.  Homes such as these are less likely to suit you.  You will need something that is built well, would appeal to the local market and that’s within reach of a year round community.

You will find that a research trip to Spain is invaluable.  It will save you from making the false assumptions and mistakes that many make when they just sell up in the UK with hardly a second thought and transfer all their worldly goods to some villa somewhere in Spain!  Take your time, after all, expatriating is a massive undertaking, and it is not one that should be taken lightly.


Moving to and living in Spain means a complete lifestyle change. The lifestyle that relocating Britons find in Spain could not be further removed from what we are used to in the UK.  For example, there is far more emphasis on the family and on relaxing and enjoying life in Spain than there is in the UK.

Brits quickly adapt to this change in culture and realise what they have been missing out on by constantly being on the go in the UK and living to work rather than just working enough to live.  Generally speaking one can expect this positive change on ones life to result in an enhanced feeling of well-being, and sooner rather than later your old friends and your family back in the UK will see this positive change in you and themselves begin thinking about whether moving to and living in Spain could be just the ticket for them too!

Practical Tips on Moving to and Living in Spain: Visa, Residency and NIE

The most basic question about whether or not you need a visa to live in Spain and how you go about getting an ID card can seem impossible queries to get an answer to.  So, if you’re moving to Spain, Expatra can answer all your residency and NIE questions.

The first question you’re probably wondering about is whether or not you need an NIE number.  NIE stands for Numero de Identification de Extrajeros or foreigners’ identification number.  This is the expat equivalent of the local Spaniards’ DIE or Documento Nacional de Identidad and if you want to know what that is, consider it similar to the British National Insurance number.

All EU citizens are free to come and live in Spain without applying for any special permission from the local government.

However, after three months of living in Spain you need to apply for an NIE number.  It is the experience of our readers who have moved to live in Spain that you will find it impossible to operate if you don’t have one.  You are asked for it if you buy a property, if you buy or insure a car, if you want to open a bank account or set up utility bills – i.e., you will need it often during your day-to-day life in Spain.

The next question that arises relates to residency and whether you as a British, and therefore a European citizen, need to apply for residency to live in Spain.

According to Spanish governmental information you don’t necessarily need one – however, you will get tax advantages with one!

To get your NIE and residence certificate, apply to the nearest foreigners office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or police station (Comisaria de Policia), which can be found in all main towns.

The Oficina de Extranjeros will issue you with a Residence Certificate. This certificate displays your name, address, nationality and NIE with the date of your registration.

The process can take a long time, so the sooner you begin the better.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Spain is determined by your lifestyle and the location you have chosen as your home.

There is no upper limit for those seeking luxury and indulgent lifestyle, fine dining and top-class entertainment and shopping.

You can also choose a more traditional Spanish way of life, and try to eat and live like locals. Move a bit further away from dazzling and luxurious settings inhabited by international expats and enjoy Spain as it is – you won’t need to be a billionaire to have a good quality of life then.


Becoming resident in Spain for tax purposes means you are subject to Spanish taxation on your worldwide income. So as tax resident in Spain you must declare all the assets you own outside Spain.

Spanish taxation rules are quite complicated, and the best course of action is to seek professional advice from a local taxation specialist and also an international financial adviser regulated to give advice in Spain.

In conclusion…

There is so much in Spain’s favour that we Brits cannot do anything about the love and passion we feel for this nation.  It appeals to us on all levels, and now that Spanish house prices are falling and it is therefore becoming easier to buy in to the inimitably enjoyable and good lifestyle that Spain offers, so those Brits already living the dream in Spain can soon expect to be joined by a whole host of new British neighbours!

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