Leigh Gillis

10 tips for emigrating to Spain


3 min read

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Ready for your new life in sunny Spain? Spare yourself the cost and embarrassment of emigrating the wrong way with our expat’s guide on how to move to Spain.

1. Dress to impress

Spaniards take pride in dressing smartly for work and at the weekends. It’s considered inappropriate to wear beach attire on the streets. Flip flops are strictly for the pool or beach and it’s illegal to drive in them (or to drive barefoot). Make sure you cover bare shoulders and don’t wear shorts when entering a church, or you might be asked to leave.

2. Think about the winter weather

Things can be pretty different in January when the beach is cold and deserted. Winter is nippy in many regions, houses aren’t insulated and there’s no UK fuel benefit for pensioners. So don’t depend on Spain for year-round sun. If you’re thinking about moving, it’s important to consider the weather outside of peak season.

3. Get registered

You have the right to live and work in Spain as an EU citizen. But you need to register on the Empadronamiento at the local municipality after living in Spain for four months. Registering allows you to apply for a social security number, and you’ll need to get a medical card at the local clinic. Your national identity card lets you purchase property, open a bank account and access other services in Spain.

4. Make a healthcare plan

If you’re a pensioner planning to live in Spain, make sure you fill out an S1 form before you move. You’ll need to register your completed S1 form with the local Seguridad Social office before you can make an appointment with your local GP and get your medical card. Lots of expats get medical insurance because public healthcare only covers about 70% of medical expenses.

5. Think about transporting pets

There are three ways to move your furry pals. The most expensive is through a pet travel service. It’ll cost about £1,000 to transport a pair of cats from Manchester to Malaga. Bringing them in the car might be less stressful for your pets – and less expensive, too. It takes about 27 hours to drive from the UK to Malaga, so you’d need to stay in pet-friendly hotels. There’s also the ferry, which will get to you to Malaga in a day. A cabin berth for two costs around £950.

6. Transfer your vehicle registration

If you drive your UK-plated car for more than 30 days after applying for residency, you could be in big trouble. Insurance might not cover accidents, and the police will impound vehicles and charge huge fines if you’re caught skipping the deadline. You need to transfer your vehicle into Spanish registration within 30 days after becoming a resident, which means getting it inspected (Spain’s equivalent of an MOT is an ITV), taxed and insured.

7. Do it yourself

Lots of people hire a consultant to help them move to a new country. Many make the task seem harder than it is – so they can charge a hefty fee for their services. But if you hunt around forums, Facebook groups, and other websites with your questions, you’ll save a lot of money. It can also help you to make friends online – so even if you’re living in rural Spain, you won’t be isolated.

8. Learn the new mealtimes

Our Spanish friends dine at different times to Brits. A 7 a.m. breakfast of churros and hot cocoa is traditional, as is a massive multi-course lunch in the afternoon. Evening meals tend to be lighter, and might not finish until midnight. Look for menu boards advertising Menu del Dia around 2 p.m. You’ll get a three-course feast of the chef’s best dishes that averages only €11 per person, including wine.

9. Move your money the right way

Currency exchange companies (like us) specialise in saving you money when transferring your sterling into euros. If you’re purchasing property, your currency broker can save you money by locking in a good exchange rate with a fixed forward – or other options. You’ll have more to spend if you transfer your pension or send any regular payments through a currency company, too.

10. Get stuck into the community

Try to learn some Spanish. The locals will love it because 60% of expats don’t speak the language. Volunteering for charities is another way to get to know both locals and expats. You could also join rescue groups to help save Spain’s stray cats (there are lots of them). Or you could donate funds, walk the shelter dogs or foster kittens and puppies.

*The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing (September 2019). It could change depending on the outcome of Brexit. *

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