How to retire to Spain: A complete guide

TransferWise content team
04.07.17
5 minute read

For the retiree dreaming of tapas and wine by the beach, there’s no better place than Spain. Whether you’re a Brit, an American or an Australian, you’ll find expatriates from your home country there. Retiring to Spain gives you nice weather and great health care, without having to worry about depleting your pension.The cost of living in Spain is extremely manageable.

International seniors in Spain have a robust and friendly community of fellow retirees. So what are you waiting for?

What’s the currency like there?

Spain operates on the Euro. It can be written in the currency exchange market as EUR or, as a currency symbol, you’ll see it precede prices with €. Because Spain uses the euro, it means that, as a retiree, you’ll be able to travel easily between other EU countries without having to worry about exchanging your money. The approximate equivalent of one euro as of the summer of 2017 are:

  • 1 EUR is around 1.12 USD
  • 1 EUR is around 0.88 GBP
  • 1 EUR is around 1.49 AUD

What's the cost of living like in Spain?

You can enjoy a comfortable standard of living in Spain for a reasonable cost. Here are some guidelines on what standard items cost:

Item Approximate cost in Spain
Carton of milk 0.75 EUR
Loaf of bread 0.95 EUR
Bottle of wine 6 EUR
Monthly transport pass 40 EUR
Meal for one at inexpensive restaurant 10 EUR
Meal for two at mid-range restaurant 35 EUR
Monthly rent, one-bedroom apartment 500 EUR
Monthly rent, three-bedroom apartment 800 EUR
Internet 30 EUR
Basic utilities 115 EUR

If you find the need to transfer money from your account back home to a bank account in Spain, consider using Transferwise. They can save you money by offering the real mid market exchange rate and by saving you on fees by using local transfers to process your funds.

How much money do I need to retire in Spain?

To retire on a modest salary in Spain, you might plan to spend around €17,000 a year. If you have €25,000 a year to use up, then that pretty much guarantees you can retire comfortably. If you’re willing to budget and live cheaply, as little as €15,000 yearly will do. Also, real estate prices have remained low ever since the 2007 financial crisis. So if you’re looking to buy property in Spain, now is still a good time to do it.

What’s daily life in Spain like?

Weather-wise, living in Spain is a pretty ideal climate for retirees. The area around Barcelona, for example, has an average summer temperature of 24°C/ 74°F. In the coldest month, January, the average temperature is 10°C/ 49°F. Beachy areas like Malaga get down to around 13°C/55°F in the winter - not too bad.

The most densely-populated areas in Spain are Barcelona and Madrid. They are Spain’s two most famous cities and, incidentally, where most people live. Most people outside those areas tend to flock to places like Valencia, Seville and Zaragoza.

Spain offers retirees plenty of leisure activities - from food and wine to hiking, sport, beaching and nightlife. UNESCO World Heritage sites are all around Spain, so for history buffs looking to explore, there’s no shortage of destinations. Spain is known for its street culture. It’s very typical for friends to meet outside of the house for dinner, drinks and a chat. Senior expats can take advantage of this tradition by enjoying an active social life filled with meals and social gatherings.

What are the best places to retire to in Spain?

The top five retirement areas in Spain are:

  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
  • Malaga
  • Valencia
  • Granada

Granada is at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It has snow sports in the winter and beachy weather in the summer.

Barcelona is located by the ocean, and is the second biggest city in Spain. You’ll find no shortage of festivals, art, architecture and probably the best nightlife in the country.

Madrid is the Spanish capital. In Madrid you’ll find all the cosmopolitan benefits of a global city, like history, culture and a modern infrastructure. There are world-famous museums and many parks and gardens, too.

Malaga is an old city on the Costa del Sol, which is a popular tourist destination. It’s known to be a safe and friendly place. You’ll find museums, shopping and restaurants galore, as well as summery weather all year round.

Valencia is a medieval city on the Mediterranean coast. It’s also one of Spain’s largest cities, and it’s known for having beautiful beaches and orange groves. No matter what your personality, you’ll probably find a nice home-away-from-home in Spain.

The UK government advises that most visits and stays in Spain are trouble-free no matter which city you pick. In Barcelona and Madrid you might run into the occasional pickpocket, since they’re such densely populated areas. However, in general these retirement cities tend to be on the safe side.

What are the visa requirements for me?

Visa and citizenship requirements are slightly different in Spain, depending on where you’re from.

Australian requirements to retire in Spain

If you happen to already have a work or residency visa from another EU country, sadly, it isn’t transferrable to Spain. To get a residency visa, you’ll need to apply for the visado de residencia from the Spanish consulate nearest to you before you travel to Spain. You’ll have to provide information that certifies that you’ll receive a regular pension, as well as proof of any other sources of income. If you happen to already own property in Spain, you’ll also need to be prepared to provide further details and paperwork.

Requirements for American retirees

Rules for residency visas for citizens of the United States may change slightly over time. However, in general you'd go through the same process as any other foreigner. You’ll apply for the visado de residencia from the embassy nearest your home. You’ll provide proof that you have enough income to support yourself while in Spain, and you also need to disclose your assets and liabilities. Then, it’s up to the Spanish authorities to grant you a visa. Application fees should be no more than $200.

UK pensioners looking to settle in Spain

As of 2017, the UK and Spain are still both members of the EU. Thus, the process for Brits applying to reside in Spain is still fairly simple. If you’re planning to stay for more than three months, register at the Oficina de Extranjeros in the province where you plan to live. You’ll then be issued a residence certificate. After five years of permanent registration, you’ll then need to apply for a certificate of permanent residency in Spain.

Go out there and get settled

It’s no wonder that so many international people find post-career bliss in Spain. They can find low-cost homes by the sea, a variety of food and mild weather to enjoy. Also, wherever you land, you’re guaranteed to find fellow seniors to befriend. The Spanish government and people make it easy for expatriates to readjust to life in Spain.

Viva España!

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