Moving to Spain

Many people are tempted to move from the UK to sunnier climes, where the pace of life may be slower, and where money often goes further. British people often find that Spain fits the bill.

Moving to Spain

Spain is big

Spain is a very large country with all kinds of varied attractions. Do you want to be by the sea? In a city? Or in the mountains? Want lively nightlife? Or peace and quiet in remote countryside? Do you want to immerse yourself in Spanish culture, or have plenty of other Brits around? You can do any of these in Spain.

It can get cold

It’s not all sun, sea and sand! Being such a large country, Spain’s climate does vary from region to region. In the North, it has a temperate climate, with mild winters and warm summers. Down South, close to Africa, it can get very hot indeed. Central Spain, far from the modifying effects of the ocean, tends to experience uncomfortable extremes of hot and cold. Don’t forget, you can ski in the Pyrenees, the Sierra Nevada and even in the area around Madrid.

Do you need an income?

Many expats settling in Spain are retired, but by no means all. Finding a job in Spain will require research; starting your own business will need an even greater amount of thought and planning, and maybe some fact-finding trips. It’s preferable to get things lined up before you go. If you don’t do this, do make sure you have enough money to live for at least six months while you find a job establish yourself. If you are moving to Spain and plan to live on your British pension, remember that there will always be fluctuations between the British pound and the Euro. This chart shows you how the value of the pound has sunk against the Euro so you need to be prepared to deal with this.

How is your Spanish?

If not good, it would be helpful to enroll on a course before you move to Spain. Obviously there are people who live happily abroad without speaking the language, but even if you are going to be living in an area with many British expats, you will find it helpful and get much more out of your new life if you have learnt Spanish before you arrive. Quite apart from making new friends amongst the locals, it will enable you to deal more efficiently with all necessary bureaucracy and to travel to less touristy areas. If you can’t manage the time for evening classes or lessons, why not try an audio or online course? The BBC runs some useful quick lessons in Spanish.

Your health

Spain has a national health service which provides free or low cost healthcare to which you are entitled if you are an EU resident. You’ll need to take an EHIC card (apply here Be careful not to use a website that charges you for this service; the EHIC card is free to British citizens.

If you are going to want private healthcare, check the terms of your current health insurance (if any) in the UK, which will probably only cover you for a short period away from home. Derive some comfort from the fact that Spain has the highest life expectancy in the EU, a fact attributed to the Mediterranean diet, the slower pace of life and the sunny climate.

Buying property in Spain

Be sure to get good advice if buying in Spain, as the system there is different from ours in many ways. For example, when buying property you’ll need to make out a will to cover disposal of Spanish assets in the event of your death. You may also be liable for any debts associated with the previous owner. To avoid misunderstanding it is important (unless your Spanish is fluent or you hire a translator) that your advisor has excellent command of Spanish as well as English.

Get a gestor

There is no good English word for a ‘gestor’. A gestor is not a licensed professional, but a clerk with experience and good contacts. While not a property solicitor or an accountant, he can do some of the work of these. His main role is the liason between you, a member of the public, and the Spanish administration. The relatively low fees are well worth it for the amount of hassle that will be saved in all your dealings with Spanish administration. Ask around as word of mouth is the best way to find a good one. There is some really good information about Gestors on this website:

You’ll need a NIE

A NIE is a tax identification number which is a legal requirement in Spain for anyone who is working, or buying or selling a property or even a car. In fact it is generally used as a means of identification (although it has no photo id). So chances are you’ll need one. Once issued, the number is yours for life. Strictly speaking these need to be applied for in person but you can apply via your local Spanish consulate before you leave, there are firms offering to act as your representative to organize this prior to your arrival in Spain.

Moving furniture to Spain

If you are moving more or less permanently, you’re likely to want to take a lot of your things with you, especially if you are relocating as a family. You’ll need to find an experienced international removals company. They will be familiar with local customs and duty regulations and be able to advise you on any restrictions and on what documentation is required. For instance, used household goods may be duty free if you can prove that you have owned them for a minimum of three months (from UK and other EU countries), and if they arrive in Spain no later than 3 months after you. Mistakes here can cost you dear!


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What to take with you

It used to be that it was hard to find an electric kettle outside the UK, and expats would bring theirs rather than boil water on the stove. These days it’s not so hard to find electric kettles in Spain, though the choice may be limited - which brings us to tea! If you are worried that you won’t be able to get your favourite cuppa, why not take some to tide you over. Though there are shops in Spain that specialize in traditional English foodstuffs like Marmite that people miss from back home.


If you do take a kettle (or laptop or hairdryer) you’ll need a two pin adaptor. Most parts of Spain run on 220V AC though there are still parts of the country that run on 110v, and some houses will have both. If you are bringing any light fittings that require bayonet bulbs be aware that only screw in bulbs are readily available in Spain, so you may want to leave the lamp behind, or stock up on bulbs.

Do your research

There is no shortage of advice online for people planning to move to Spain – many have gone before you and stories of their triumphs and failures are rife. Get as much information as you can to make sure that you are one of the successes!

The UK Foreign Office has an excellent website with more details on Moving to Spain.

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