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Moving to Spain

Moving to Spain

Moving to Spain from Dubai in 2021 takes careful planning and attention to details and documentation. We provide everything you need to know before moving from Dubai to Spain. Start your move today by obtaining up to 6 competitive moving to Spain quotations FREE.

Moving to Spain conjures up a land rich in tradition and culture, mid-afternoon siestas and sunkissed beaches. But what are the key challenges people face when relocating to Spain?

The key when relocating to Spain is research and preparation. There is a lot of red-tape to contend with; the country grinds to a halt every August and then there is a significant language barrier. Healthcare, housing and finances are all notable considerations ahead of your move to this amazing country. Fortunately, we cover all this and much more in our ultimate moving to Spain guide.

Overview & History

The history of Spain is rich and varied, with discovered remains dating back to 30,000 BC. North African and Celtic tribes settled in Southern Spain around 3,000 years ago whilst other areas of Spain were colonised by Romans and Greeks, among others. 

By 800 AD the Moors established the only Muslim territory in Europe but within 700 years the Spanish inquisition saw a reunified Spain drive out the Moorish army’s in an attempt to re-Christianise Spain.

By the late 15th century Spain was a leading nation in the age of discovery extending its empire globally especially in the South and Central Americas.

In the 1930’s backed by Fascist Italy and Germany, General Franco’s Nationalist forces opposed to Communism ruled Spain until 1975 when King Carlos was anointed Head of state. Three years later the transition to democracy began with the introduction of the Spanish Constitution.

Today the government comprises 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities, which are accountable for culture, health and education. Spain is the 9th largest world economy.

Living/Lifestyle in Spain

Spain has always been a magnet for large numbers of foreigners that intend to move to the country. People can’t get enough of Spain’s laidback lifestyle, rich culture, and fun-loving locals that they decided to make it their new residence and the locals their neighbours.

If you’re one of these hopefuls, this guide will help you transition smoothly to a new life in Spain. For one, permanent residents of the EU and EU nationals will find moving to Spain quite easy. They’ll have to deal with lesser bureaucratic steps.

Country Facts

Capital City: Madrid
Population: 48 Million
Languages: Spanish
Currency: Euro
Time: GMT +2
Driving Lane: Right Hand Side
Domain: .es
Dialing Code: +34

What is it like as an ex-pat in Spain

The lure of a wonderful climate, rich history and a laid-back, unhurried lifestyle, combined with a cost of living considerably lower than pre-financial crisis, have made Spain a very attractive destination for many ex-pats.

In the last 20 years the migrant population has doubled to around 6 million with many of these coming from Europe especially Britain, Germany and Romania. With the world's second-largest tourism industry, almost 60 million tourists per year visit Spain.

Spain offers amazing food, culture, sport and leisure, beaches among other things, and also averages more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year making it one of the warmest countries on the continent.

Moving to Spain - Spanish Beach

How is the crime rate in Spain?

The crime rate is one of the lowest in Europe, especially in areas which are not considered tourist hubs.  Having said that a lot of crime in tourist areas is pickpockets and street scams.  Violent crime is uncommon, however, there is a growing resentment towards tourists as the unemployment rate has risen in recent years.

How bad is the bureaucracy in Spain?

It is pretty bad! Anything government-related moves at a snail's pace. The funcionarios (civil servants) are sloth-like, nobody seems to be in a rush to get anything done.

Wherever you find yourself, the bank, post-office, or in a store expect to queue, be prepared to wait.

Virtually everything grinds to a halt at siesta time (early afternoon) and on Sundays, everything is closed all day. To cap it all off the whole country pretty much closes down for the month of August.

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Cost of Living in Spain

You will be pleased to know that the cost of living in Spain is the lowest in Western Europe. As is the case in any country you live, the budget for your living expenses will largely depend on your lifestyle.

What are general prices? (Madrid)

  • A meal at the standard restaurant is likely to cost roughly Euro 12-15 per person with a beer priced around Euro 3 and soft drinks around Euro 2 per can. A reasonable bottle of wine costs approximately Euro 7 and a coffee typically sets you back around Euro 1.90
  • At the local supermarkets a loaf of bread is priced around Euro 1, a litre of milk approximately Euro .80 and a dozen eggs roughly Euro 1.75
  • Public transport in Madrid (and Spain in general) is very good. A monthly pass in Madrid is likely to cost around Euro 55. Taxis start around is Euro 3.5 and then around Euro 1.25 per kilometre thereafter. Petrol is relatively expensive at around Euro 1.21 per litre.
  • Accommodation is reasonable, although a little higher in Madrid. A typical 1-2 bedroom apartment in a prestigious area of the city would be approximately Euro 800-1,000 per month. Less desirable areas would reduce monthly rent to around Euro 600-700.
  • Basic utilities for an average two-bedroom apartment will be around Euro 150. Prepaid mobile phone charges are approximately Euro .17 per minutes and broadband Internet us roughly Euro 35 per month.


Relatively low cost of living - Even in Madrid or Barcelona
While rent in many areas are reasonable, utilities can be very high
The climate is incredible - In most places even the winter is mild
Spain can get very hot! Regularly over 35 C. So you need air-conditioning
Very good public health system - Most treatment is free and top-notch
The bureaucracy in Spain is legendary, expect long lines and obstacles
Healthy food - especially fresh fruit and vegetables and seafood
Some supermarkets can lack variety, and certain foods are expensive
Pet friendly - dogs are loved and tolerated in public, as are cats
Dogs bark a lot. Owners in Spain are not as strict as in other countries

Live and let live - a nice, friendly, laid back pace of life
People who enjoy a fast-paced life, might not enjoy the 3-hour siestas

Moving to Spain - Requirements

When moving to Spain from Dubai, importation of Household Goods and Personal Effects

  • Copy of passport
  • Original Residence Permit
  • Original Change of Residence (issued by Spanish consulate at origin)
  • Detailed Packing list in Spanish with values (for customs)
  • “Alta de Empadronamiento” issued by local authorities in Spain
  • Duty-Free Import application form
  • Bill of lading / AWB

For a more in-depth look at documentation please check the International Association of Movers.

For the detailed packing list, you have to make sure that your inventory should contain a detailed description of all your carried goods that are not older than six months. In case of appliances, make sure to also include the serial number and model. For expensive items and other larger appliances, proof of purchase or invoice may be needed.

Entering Spain from EU countries

As mentioned earlier, entering from EU countries is way easier than coming from other countries. And the reason behind this is that Spain also adheres to the Union Customs Code. This only means that moving goods within the countries can be done freely, without customs requirements, commercial restrictions, and import duties. There are customs allowances for items like tobacco products and 10 to 110 liters of alcoholic beverages.

Entering Spain from outside the EU

If you’re coming from a country outside the EU, you can still enjoy free tax and custom duties for transported goods provided that they are not for commercial use. However, despite these benefits, they are subjected to more stringent restrictions when it comes to the quantity and value of the goods they are allowed to import.

For example, if you’re importing by electronic devices, tea, coffee, or perfume by sea or freight, you will be taxed if the total value of the goods will exceed 430 EUR. If you’re using a different mode of importation, the tax value limit is 300 EUR. Travelers below 15 years old will only have a limit of 150 EUR. Luggage and personal items, labeled as occasional imports, will not be charged with taxes or customs fees.

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Visas / Legal

What are the visas and permits required for Spain?

Your choice of Spanish visa will largely depend on how long you intend to stay in the country. Currently, there are two types of Spanish visa according to the length of stay and they are the following:

  • Short-stay Spanish visa: This is more popularly known as the Schengen visa, a visa you need if you intend to stay in Spain for 90 days within the next six months. If you intend to work in the country, this visa is not for you.
  • Long-stay Spanish visa: If you are staying in Spain for more than three months, you should apply for this visa. And depending on what kind of long-stay visa you’ll be applying for, you might be allowed to work in Spain.

Short-stay visas in Spain

And if you thought they were the only visas available you are mistaken.  There are nine different types of short-stay visas. These are brief descriptions of each visa for your reference.

  • Business visa: If you have to attend some business-related activities in Spain, apply for this visa.
  • Diplomatic passport holders: This visa is for those issued with a diplomatic passport by their country of origin.
  • EU or EEA dependent visa: If you are a child below 18 or spouse of an EU national, Switzerland or the EEA, apply for this visa.
  • Medical treatment visa: this is for people who need to receive medical treatment in Spain.
  • Missing residence permit visa: If you lost your residence permit while outside Spain, you need to secure a missing residence permit visa first to be granted re-entry to Spain.
  • Tourist visa: If your intention of going to Spain is for a vacation, sightseeing, or tourism, this is the type of visa you need to get.
  • Training or study visa: If you were admitted to a study course or training programs that last for less than three months, this is the visa you should apply for.
  • Transit visa: If you want to pass through Spain to get to your non-Schengen destination country, you should apply for this visa. If you need to travel via plane to reach your destination, you should apply for an airport transit visa. On the other hand, if you’re a seaman and you have to disembark on a Spanish port, you need to secure a seaman transit visa.
  • Visitor visa: This is the visa you should apply for when you want to visit friends or family members in Spain.

Long-stay visas in Spain

If there are nine different types of short-stay visas, there are six types of long-stay visas and they are the following:

  • Student visa. If you have to attend a training program or study course that will last for more than three months, this is the visa you need to secure.
  • Work visa: If you’re qualified to work in the country, apply for this visa.
  • Au pair visa: If you’ll be working for a family in the country, this is the visa you need to get.
  • Golden visa: If you decide to invest in real estate in Spain, you can get to the country and be a resident there through this visa.
  • Entrepreneur visa: If you're an entrepreneur and you wish to expand your business in Spain, apply for this visa.
  • Working holiday visa: This is for those who would like to take a summer job in Spain.
  • Non-lucrative visa: This is a type of residence visa for people who want to move to Spain but doesn’t have sufficient income to support himself and his dependents. This visa is meant to be applied upon the arrival of the applicant in Spain. Before he can be issued with this visa, he needs to apply for a residence permit
Moving to Spain - The Bank of Spain (Banco de Espana) on Calle de Alcala in Madrid
The Bank of Spain (Banco de Espana) on Calle de Alcala in Madrid


Banking in Spain

If you decide to open a Spanish bank account, you’ll find yourself with two different options - Cajas or Bancos. The former refers to state-owned banks while the latter refers to private banks. Though both banks offer almost similar services, Cajas have lesser branches and operating ATM machines within the country. The downside of this is you might incur withdrawal fees if you withdraw from ATM machines not owned by your bank.

In order to open a bank account in Spain, you need to submit the following requirements:

  • Passport or ID
  • Any document that supports your source of income or status in the country (student, pensioner, unemployed, or employed)

If you want to open a resident bank account, in addition to the aforementioned requirements, you also need to submit the following additional documents:

  • Proof or your Spain address (rental contract or utility bill); and
  • NIE (“Número de Identidad de Extranjero”).

If you intend to open a non-resident account, the following requirements are needed aside from your passport or ID: 

  • Proof of residence in your country of origin;
  • Certificate of non-residence that can be requested from the police station

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Spain, in general, has a temperate climate but there is much diversity between the weather north and south of the Cantabrian Mountains. North of the range, where one finds the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia, is the rainy part of Spain, which has a maritime climate, with only slight temperature variations, cool summers and mild winters. Skies are mostly cloudy and rainfall is frequent, though less so in summer.

South of the mountains the weather is much drier, with little rainfall, intensely blue sky and burning sun. There are occasional fierce thunderstorms, but these are short-lived. This climate accounts for about two-thirds of Spain's surface area.


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Housing - Rent/Buy

For a country which has a lot of red tape and bureaucracy, renting or buying property is relatively straight forward.  If you do not speak Spanish, then take someone with you who does. As is the case in most countries, make sure you get everything in writing. 

Renting a property in Spain

There are some important challenges to understand when renting a property in Spain. It is not a good idea to try and rent from a landlord unless you can meet them face-to-face. Many landlords want to meet in person before signing a contract.

Property prices have increased over recent years and increasingly Spaniards are living with parents until mid-twenties and then buying onto the property ladder in favour of renting. Rents for a 1 bedroom apartment in Madrid or Barcelona are around €600-700 per month.

Avoid house hunting in August and September and over the Christmas period.

What documentation and formalities are involved in renting?

The Contrato (contract) will be valid for one year. It’s likely the place you are renting is furnished - check any inventory mentioned on the contract. Anything which is not in order add it to the contract in the form of a snag-list.

Utilities are more generally known as Gastos de comunidad. These may possibly be included in the rent, and normally take the form of utilities, community fees, trash collection, and other service fees. Make sure it is clear what is included.

The Fianza (deposit): is normally one months rent or possibly 2 (avoid if it is any higher than this). This is a refundable deposit which is returned at the end of the rental period.

Spanish law does not offer much protection to owners of property and so you may be asked for additional guarantees such as a letter from an employer or a copy of a pay slip. This is known at Garantías.

Buying a property in Spain

There are few, if any restrictions on owning property in Spain. In general, foreigners need to have an NIE (foreigners’ identity number). Non-EU nationals also need a visa. Employing the services of a lawyer to close the deal, the mortgage and tie the loose ends is a very good idea.offer might be a good idea.

If you purchase a property valued at over 500,000 EUR (562,000 USD) this will provide you with a Golden Visa, which permits you to reside legally in Spain for two years. This is renewable after 2 years. Provided you meet the criteria this will allow you to become a permanent resident in 5 years and a Spanish citizen after 10 years.

Moving to Spain - traditional colorful town La Orotava. Canaray islands of Spain
Traditional colorful buildings in the beautiful town of La Orotava. Canary Islands, Spain

What is the process to buying a property in Spain?

There are generally 5 main steps to buying a property.

  1. Obtaining a mortgage offer, this normally consists of a credit check.
  2. House hunting process to find your ideal property.
  3. Consulting the property register to ensure the status of the property is legally clean, debt-free etc.
  4. Paying the agreed deposit on the property
  5. Signing the deed of sale and starting with the monthly repayments.

Healthcare in Spain

The health system runs along parallel lines in Spain - Private health cover is not mandatory but it does essentially provide access to faster treatment and consultancy, especially for anything non-life-threatening.

Public healthcare

9 out of 10 people rely on the public health system in Spain. This means having a regular doctor (GP) who can refer you to specialists depending on your medical needs. Most medical procedures are catered to apart from dental and eye care which is not free.

Spain does spend 10% of its GDP on health. Doctors, nurses and specialists are extremely well trained and the services provided are among the most comprehensive in the world.

Despite this, and like many European countries, for many non-emergency situations, the public health system can sometimes be affected by long waiting lists.

Access to public healthcare?

Residents - Any person who legally lives/works and/or pays taxes in Spain is eligible to use the Spanish public healthcare system. Local Health centers will allow you to register.

Non-Residents (EU) - Make sure to apply for the European Health Insurance Card. This is done in your home country and they eventually foot the bill. Provided you are in possession of this you will be able to access the Spanish healthcare system.

Other Nationalities - Some countries have bilateral agreements with Spain which will allow you to make use of the Spanish public health system. Other nationalities may have to arrange health insurance before they travel. Check with your home country or embassy to be certain.

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Private healthcare

For the vast majority of people who use private health insurance, the idea is to supplement the Spanish public health service and not to replace it. For this reason, only a small percentage (less than 20%) of the Spaniards have private healthcare, with many of these being public officials and civil servants.

The main reason to take private health insurance is to take advantage of the shorter wait times. It allows you to essentially bypass the waiting lists which are the main drawback to the public health system.

How to access private healthcare

The cost of private insurance in Spain is considerably lower than those found in many other western countries. There are numerous companies selling health insurance with most offering very competitive rates. For most people under 40, coverage can cost as little as €40 per month and will typically provide health cover and dental cover. Since a trip to the dentist can easily cost more than €100 then some may feel it is a good investment.

Ex-pats from certain countries might not qualify for public healthcare and may need to purchase medical insurance before they can board a flight to Spain.

Moving to Spain with Children

Is Pre-school free in Spain?

Spain has a long and proud track record of state-funded education for toddlers. Attendances at pre-school are very high in Spain and research has shown that, as a result. young children adapt much better when they start primary school. Attendance is not mandatory and it is free. There is a real pre-school / kindergarten feel with a focus on development, socialising, co-ordination and basic skills through numerous activities. 

If you have young children and intend to stay in Spain long term, then this is an ideal opportunity for them to become comfortable with basic Spanish as they prepare for state school.

Pre-school in Spain is generally split into two cycles 1-3 year olds and 3-6 year olds. Reading and writing skills tend to start around 5-6 years of age and there are also plans to introduce English to young children in addition to Spanish.

What about private nursery schools in Spain?

Private nursery schools are common, and generally offer very good value for money. Some of these nurseries act more as a substitute for childcare, but others are child-development focused with a huge range of activities.

The best pre-schools will offer outings for older toddlers, helping to integrate new and foreign children into the local community, there is also transportation available for school runs. There is a flexible feel to attendance, allowing you to drop children off every afternoon, or three days per week. So this can fit well into a working/busy schedule.

Moving to Spain- Education

Public and private schools in Spain

Two thirds of children are educated at state schools in Spain. State schools are free up to University and are known as colegios públicos. Parents are responsible for funding books, uniforms and supplies however increasingly several regions in Spain are beginning to subsidise this.

Less than 10% of children attend Private or International schools. These schools vary in cost, with the most expensive to be found in the capital, however some are very affordable when compared to similar establishments in other european countries. Most are payable either monthly or per term.

When it comes to International schools there is quite a bit of choice, with British schools, German, French and even Swedish speaking schools which can be found in Madrid, Barcelona and several coastal tourist regions.

These schools tend to be a little more relaxed than state schools with a more International approach and smaller classes and a more tailored approach to tuition.

Handy School Database

Final Thoughts

Moving to a different country can be daunting, and if you don’t get on top of things it can become quite stressful. Moving to Spain presents its own set of unique challenges, but if you follow the guidelines we have provided, we feel certain you can experience a smooth relocation to Spain.

You can start the ball rolling by completing our simple form, allowing international movers to get started on your quotation, today!

Note: This document is provided as a guide for people moving to Spain and for information purposes only. Customs regulations can and do change at any time, usually without notice. Your mover will provide you with more information.