Life in Spain: a guide for expats

What’s on this page?

  1. Life in Spain: the experience of emigrants
  2. Job opportunities for expats in Spain
  3. Administrative essentials of emigration to Spain
  4. Taxes in Spain
  5. Expat-Friendly Regions
  6. Cost of living in Spain
  7. Education for expats
  8. Healthcare for expats
  9. Expat communities in Spain
  10. Social integration of expats in Spain

Spain is a country of sun, traditions and cultural places. It is not for nothing that it attracts people from all over the world. Whether you are looking for new career opportunities, a beach holiday or simply want to immerse yourself in a rich cultural world, Spain can be your new home. This guide is designed to help you understand and easily adapt to 
living in Spain as an expat.

Life in Spain: the experience of emigrants

Living in Spain as an expat is not only a change of geographical location, but also an exciting journey into the world of cultural nuances and a unique way of life. Language barriers can be a challenge, but the country's multilingualism helps you get used to it quickly. Lifestyle expectations vary from region to region, but you can certainly count on impressive cultural events, delicious food and friendly locals.

Job opportunities for expats in Spain

Expat jobs in Spain can be completely different. If you speak Spanish well, there are many vacancies. If you can work remotely, then Spain will be a perfect country for you. But, if after emigrating to Spain you need to look for a job here, then pay attention to the following industries:

  • tourism
  • Information Technology
  • services sector (cafes, restaurants, hotels, etc.)

Moreover, in Spain it is the norm to submit your resume directly to the company you like. It is quite acceptable that a person simply leaves an application on the official website of this or that employer.

Note that the unemployment rate is relatively high by European standards at 12.8%, compared to the EU average of 6.6%.

It should also be understood that competition can be high, and it is recommended to look at job search sites and evaluate your options before moving.

Administrative essentials of emigration to Spain

The process of adaptation will include issues of an administrative nature. Obtaining a visa, residence permit and other aspects require attention and understanding. It is important to familiarize yourself with all bureaucratic procedures and learn the specifics of local legislation in a timely manner.

Obtaining a visa

The first step in the emigration process is obtaining a visa. The choice of visa type depends on your status and the purpose of your stay. A "Residencia Temporal" visa can be chosen for temporary residence, and "Residencia Permanente" for permanent residence. Read the requirements and apply for a visa at the Spanish consulate in your country.

Registration upon arrival in Spain

Upon arrival in Spain, you should register with the municipal authorities known as "Empadronamiento". This is a mandatory step, as registration gives you resident status and access to social services.

Obtaining a National Identification Code (NIE) number

Obtaining a NIE is a key element of the administrative process in Spain. This number is issued to foreigners and is needed for banking, contracting, taxation and other aspects of daily life.

Opening a bank account

To simplify financial transactions and daily financial management, it is important to open a bank account. When choosing a bank, you should pay attention to commissions, customer service in English and the availability of ATMs.

Insurance and healthcare

In order to gain access to healthcare, it is important to take out health insurance. Spain offers both public and private insurance options.

Tax registration and information on taxation

You should register with the national tax office and get a tax number. Understanding the tax system, including tax rates and liabilities, is essential for effective financial management.

Taxes in Spain

If you plan on living in Spain as an expat, you will have to familiarize yourself with the system and pay taxes in Spain. In this country, one of the main types of tax is income tax. It starts with 19% of income. This is provided that the tax amount does not exceed 12,450 euros. If the income is higher, the tax also increases. In general, the top rate is 47%. It applies to incomes over EUR 300,000. However, this depends on the region you live in, as taxes are partly federal and partly regional.

It is important to check the exact tax rates and other taxes you may be liable to pay, such as wealth and property tax, depending on the region in which you plan to live.

Expat-Friendly Regions

Spain is a country of various regions, each of which has its own characteristics and unique flavor. Choosing a region to live in may depend on your preferences and needs. Living in Spain as an expat can open new horizons for you, where every day is a celebration of cultural differences.

Streets of Alicante

Forbes magazine published the list of Expat City Rankings. Here are the cities that expats rated as the best to live in in 2023. And what is most interesting - five cities of Spain are included here.

TOP-20 best cities in the world to live in

  1. Malaga, Spain
  2. Alicante, Spain
  3. Valencia, Spain
  4. Ras Al Khaimah
  5. Abu Dhabi, UAE
  6. Madrid, Spain
  7. Mexico City, Mexico
  8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  9. Bangkok, Thailand
  10. Muscat, Oman
  11. Dubai, UAE
  12. Lisbon, Portugal
  13. Barcelona, Spain
  14. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  15. Nairobi, Kenya
  16. Zurich, Switzerland
  17. Athens, Greece
  18. Stockholm, Sweden
  19. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
  20. The Hague, Netherlands

There were 20 cities on the list based on how expats feel about living and working abroad in 2023. To compile the list, InterNations* surveyed more than 12,000 expats worldwide, representing 177 nationalities and living in 181 countries or territories.

*InterNations is the world's largest community for people living and working abroad.

Cities such as Valencia and Alicante offer great conditions for coastal living and active life.

Waterfront of Alicante

Cost of living in Spain

The question of finances is always relevant for emigrants. Housing rent, food, transportation and other expenses may vary depending on the region. Below is a table with the cost of housing on the Costa Blanca:

Type of housing Average cost (in euros)
Apartment for rent, 1 room 500 - 800
House for rent, 3 rooms 900 - 1300
Buying an apartment (per square meter) 2000 - 3000

*These data are indicative and may change depending on market conditions and other factors.

On our website, you can read more about the offers on the real estate market in Spain, in particular in the province of Alicante and the region of Murcia.

Category Average price (euro) The lowest price (euro) The highest price (euro)
Real estate in Alicante 499,004 43,995 5,950,000
Real estate in Murcia 343,948 77,040 4,950,000

*These data are indicative and may change depending on market conditions and other factors.

Beautiful house in Spain

General guidelines for the cost of food in Spain

Type of food Average cost
Lunch in a restaurant 10-25 euros
Dinner in a cafe 8-15 euros
Fast food 5-10 euros
Groceries in the supermarket Depends on what you choose

* These numbers may vary depending on the region, the level of the restaurant or cafe, and your own eating style. You always have the option to choose whether to cook yourself or eat in public catering establishments.

Education for expats

Education in Spain is compulsory for children aged 6 to 16. The academic year runs from mid-September to the end of June, with major holidays in December/January and June/July. Education in Spain also offers a variety of options, including international schools for children of expats.

Types of schools in Spain:

  • Folk schools

State education is free for children aged 3 to 18. You will have to pay for books and extracurricular activities - and the classes are in Spanish.

  • Semi-private schools

Semi-private schools, which are subsidized by the government, have lower fees and smaller classes than public schools. They follow the national curriculum - and most lessons are taught in Spanish.

  • Private schools

There are many private schools, both religious and secular, with varying standards and facilities. All fee-paying more prestigious schools are very expensive.

  • International schools

You will find a good selection of international schools in and around Spanish cities. Most study under the British curriculum, but there are also those who study under the American or International Baccalaureate program. Fees are usually high and competition for places is fierce.

Healthcare for expats

The healthcare system in Spain is considered one of the best in the world. High-quality healthcare is available for expats living in Spain, but expat health insurance can be an important element. All residents in Spain, including expats, have access to the universal security system. After obtaining residency, you should register at your local health center (Centro de Salud). Health centers (Centros de Salud) operate at the local level and provide basic health services. For specialized medical care, expats can contact doctors in hospitals.

Many expats also choose additional health insurance, which allows them to receive additional services and a wider choice of doctors. There are many international insurance companies that offer plans for expats in Spain.

Please note that dentistry is not covered by the general insurance system, so many expats use additional insurance to ensure access to dental services.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 112 immediately. Spain's emergency medical services are managed regionally. Private ambulances are also available, but they charge a fee and their services are not always covered by health insurance.

There are many pharmacies all over Spain - they all have a flashing green cross.

Doctors in Spain

Expat communities in Spain

There are many expat communities in Spain, which provide opportunities for meeting people, communicating and exchanging knowledge. These communities can be both online and offline and help expats settle into their new environment more easily.

One of the key aspects of successful adaptation is that online forums, social networks and offline events allow expats to share experiences, make new friends and receive support. 

Here are some examples:

  • Local Language Exchange Events: Many cities have events where you can improve your Spanish and make new friends.
  • Expat groups and clubs: Many cities have their own expat groups, which organize a variety of events, from meetings in cafes to hikes.
  • Cultural and sporting events: Taking part in local cultural or sporting events can be a great way to make new friends and be part of the community.
  • Local festivals and events: Attending local festivals and events can open up opportunities to network with locals and other expats.

In Spain, expat communities can help you adapt to a new environment faster, find support and expand your social contacts.

Social integration of expats in Spain

If you want to socialize in Spain, you will need to attend various meetings, events and activities. This is an important component of living in Spain as an expat. Spain has a warm acceptance of cultures and traditions, but for maximum social integration some steps can be helpful:

  • Learning Spanish. Knowing the language will allow you to communicate more easily with locals and other expats. Language courses, conversation clubs and practice in real situations will contribute to the improvement of language skills.
  • Participation in local events. Attending local festivals, exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events will help you better understand the local culture.
  • Sports and hobbies. Participation in sports events or improving your hobby in groups will allow you not only to do your favorite things, but also to find new friends with common interests.
  • Volunteering in local organizations. Participating in volunteer programs can be a great way not only to help the community, but also to meet new people and gain a sense of belonging.

Working together on these aspects will not only contribute to social integration, but also create a positive experience of expat life in Spain.

Consider moving to Spain as an exciting adventure. Many new and interesting things await you in this country. However, make sure to travel armed with the knowledge to make the most of your life in this vibrant and diverse country. Whether you are looking to build a career here, want a change of scenery or immerse yourself in a new culture, Spain welcomes everyone.


What is living in Spain like as an expat?

Living in Spain as an expat offers a unique combination of rich culture, diverse landscapes and a welcoming atmosphere. This involves adapting to the Spanish way of life, enjoying the vibrant communities and exploring the various regions of the country.

What job opportunities are available for expats in Spain?

Expats in Spain can find work in a variety of industries, including tourism, language teaching and technology. However, it is important to be aware of potential challenges in the labor market.

How can expats connect with communities in Spain?

Expats can connect with communities in Spain through local events, online forums and expat groups. These communities provide valuable support, networking opportunities and insight into adapting to the Spanish way of life.

What are some expat-friendly regions of Spain?

Spain offers numerous expat-friendly regions, each with its own unique charm. Whether it's the coastal lifestyle of the Costa Blanca, the cultural richness of Barcelona or the laid-back atmosphere of Valencia, expats can find communities that suit their preferences.


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