Amidst the Brexit confusion, more and more people are looking to move abroad before the deadline hits. If you fancy joining over 300,000 Brits that call Spain home, then there are a number of factors you need to take into account.



Before you do anything in Spain you will need a Número de Identidad de Extranjero or N.I.E.

It’s essentially a personal number, and without it, you will have a tough time setting up your new life in the sun. To get a bank account, buy a house or a car, or apply for your residency, you will need an N.I.E. You could even be asked for it when buying higher-priced goods, such as a fridge-freezer.

They are very simple to obtain, you can either do it yourself at a local police station or Oficina de Extranjeros. Outside of Spain, you can go to your nearest Spanish Consulate, or employ a Spanish lawyer to do it for you.

This can be particularly helpful if you grant them power of attorney as it means you can get this sorted in absentia before you arrive and not have to worry about the paperwork.


The Padron is short for empadronamiento and is a register of those living permanently in Spain. It’s not a proof of residency, but issued by the local Town Hall and used as a measure of how many people are living in an area, and thus aids in the calculation of how much government funding that town might get from Madrid. Anyone staying in Spain for more than 6 months should obtain a Padron and it’s vital for signing up at a health centre, getting children into school or registering your car. The Padron certificate is valid for 30-90 days, but it only has to be updated when you need to show it to the authorities.

Driving licences

At the time of writing, if you have a British driving licence you can convert it to a Spanish one by filling out a form and undergoing a basic medical check. Post-Brexit, who knows what will happen, so best to do it sooner rather than later.


Many expats have been keen to sign up for official residency in Spain. This means that Spain is your primary domicile and you are registered to pay tax. It is also the first step to permanent residency, which can be obtained after 5 years. To get your residency certificate or residencia you will need your N.I.E, valid Padron certificate, and evidence that you can look after yourself without being a burden on the state. In other words, if you are of working age, then you must have enough income to support yourself, and health insurance. Companies such as Sanitas (the same company as Bupa) offer English language services and doctors should you need them.


Long-term property rentals are usually for 11 months, with a 6- month break clause. Some of the best sites to use to find rental properties are:, and

Buying a property

Buying a property is often a very straightforward affair, with less of the argy-bargy and legal wrangling seen in the UK. Conveyancy fees are similar to the UK, but state tax can raise the cost of buying to 13-14% of the total value, so factor this in when you’ve spotted that bargain finca.

Property ownership tax – “impuesto sobre bienes inmuebles”, or I.B.I. is due every year and is a local tax. It is based on your property’s “cadastral” value, which is the price attached to your property by the Spanish authorities. Sometimes this hasn’t been updated in over 20 years and therefore can vary dramatically from what you paid for your house.

The I.B.I. is usually 0.3% to 0.5% of the cadastral value, so can often be quite low when compared with British council tax.


Simply put: electricity is expensive, water is cheap, gas usually comes in bottles and broadband is pretty good.

On the subject of the internet; Spain is forging ahead with fibre optic and often small towns have much better access to super-high-speed connections than equivalent locations in the UK.


Spanish bureaucracy is legendary. It is best to assume that they will want every bit of paperwork you have ever been issued with, including that 25-metre swimming badge, and work backwards.

Also, beware documents coming back with the wrong information on them. This is quite common, so check everything is correct when you get them, rather than realising at the last minute that your N.I.E. has the wrong information on it when you are in the process of buying a house.

The 7 best places to live in Spain

We take a look at seven of the best places to live in Spain, from the more expensive main cities through to cheaper options that see a large percentage of Brits moving there every year.

Ahead of arranging removals to Spain and starting your new life abroad, you’ll need to decide which area of the country you’ll live in. Much like we see in the UK, depending on where you live can make a huge difference to all aspects of your life including how much it might cost you to live there, what there is to do once you are there and the general quality of life you might expect to lead. Thinking about joining the 296,000 UK expats currently working, retired or studying in Spain? Let’s explore where you should live.


Naturally, we are going to kick this off with the capital, Madrid. This city is a hub of culture, business and world famous night life. Attractions that pull in tourists include the famous Gran Via, which runs from the Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España, as well as a number of other historical and architectural sites of note.

Interestingly, living in Madrid might not be the most expensive option when it comes to moving to Spain. In reality, other cities such as Barcelona or San Sebastian are equal if not more and does clearly provide an excellent quality of life.

In terms of the number of expats that live in Madrid, figures show that there is a reasonably high concentration. In the city and surrounding area an estimated 2.5% to 4.5% live there, equating to roughly 7,400 to 13,350 British expats.

These figures are likely due to the primary position that the city plays in the economy of Europe and the ample job opportunities for expats that move there.


If you think of the main cities in Spain, Barcelona is probably somewhere near the top of the pile. This city has always been massively popular with tourists due to its generally warmer weather, position on the coast and relaxed way of life. The city holds a number of gems when it comes to attractions including the world famous Sagrada Família, Park Güell and La Rambla.

Due to its massive popularity, the city is one of the most expensive options in the country to live in. Barcelona sees rental and purchase prices of properties within the top three most expensive in Spain. However, when you compare the cost of living with other major cities in the UK, Barcelona can appear relatively affordable. For example, data shows that overall it is 23.4% cheaper to live in the city when compared with London. There is a reasonable number of expats that live in Barcelona and the area that surrounds it, comparable in many ways to the overall numbers that live in Madrid with 2.5% to 4.5% of the expat population of Spain living in these areas. Barcelona is found within Catalonia, an area with a unique culture in Spain.


One of the most popular areas for Brits to move to is the city and surrounding area of Alicante in the south of Spain. This is likely due to the more affordable nature of the city and the year round beautiful weather. The city is famed for its stunning palm tree flanked boulevards and shopping streets, great sandy white beaches and historical sites.

Living in the city is one of the most affordable places in Spain. In fact when compared with more pricey options such as Barcelona where rental prices are an average of 52% higher and day to day items such as groceries are 17% higher, it is clear that you can spread your money a lot further in this city.

The popularity of Alicante is apparent with the sheer number of expats that have moved to the area and call it home. Although the potential range of expat residence in the area ranges from 6.5% through to a massive 30.5% this means actual numbers are in the region of 19,300 through to 90,463, these figures far outweigh the majority of other regions in the country.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian is a popular city based in the Gipuzkoa region of Spain. Although this city doesn’t necessarily benefit from the warmer weather experienced in the south of the country, it still offers an incredible quality of life. Occasionally referred to as a mini Paris, the city contains stunning architecture and is rich in history. It is also famous for its pintxo which is best experienced in the Parte Vieja. For those that like a drink or two the old city centre holds the record for having the highest concentration of bars in the world.

The Gipuzkoa region, in which the city is situated, is relatively popular with expats, although not to the scale we see in Alicante and Malaga. In terms of concentration, roughly 0.6% to 2.6% of the British population of Spain is located there. This is likely due to the higher living costs and the year round weather not being much better than you might expect in the south of the UK.

These higher costs are apparent across the board, with recent studies showing that San Sebastian may be the most expensive city to live in Spain, with rental prices and purchasing prices being on average 10% higher than those in the capital of Madrid. This higher cost is likely to put off a number of Brits, however these are relative to the high quality of life you would expect in the city.


Malaga is much loved by expats, primarily with those that are looking to retire to the country but also those that want to work and live in Spain. Like many of the popular areas on the south coast of Spain, Malaga is primarily loved for its favourable climate, great food and drink and relaxed approach to life. However other key benefits of living in this area include Malaga Airport which is the third largest in the country, incredible beaches and quality level of public transport.

After Alicante, Malaga is also one of the cheapest places to live in Spain. For example, when compared to living in London living costs are as much as 37.8% cheaper in Malaga. This lower cost of living can provide much better access to quality living for those that choose to move to the country.

In terms of the British population of Malaga these are at a similar level to those in Alicante, with anything from 19,300 through to 90,463 individual expats working, retiring or studying in the area.


Valencia is a popular area to live in for those that love great food, with their famous Falles festival held every March. The city also sees many expats visit and move there to experience the year round culture with a particular focus on art and architecture.

For those looking for a city that sits in the mid-range in terms of cost of living, Valencia is a great contender. Rent in the city is 39% lower than in Madrid and overall living costs are 33% lower than those you might expect to pay in London.

Valencia is another area that is popular with expats, although you are unlikely to run into as many as you might in more densely populated areas such as Malaga. Estimates show that 0.6% to 2.6% of the total expat population of Spain are located in this area.


Needless to say that many expats move to Seville to take advantage of the fantastic climate. However the city is also famed for its historically rich architecture as well as the way of life that includes interacting with friendly ‘sevillanos’ and eating lots of tasty tapas.

Unlike the majority of popular cities to live in Spain, Seville is set back from the sea. Although it is located close to the south coast, still benefiting from the warm weather year round. Living in the city is similar in terms of costs to Alicante and Malaga, benefiting from a much lower cost than much of the rest of the country. In fact, the overall cost of living in the city is as much as 35% lower than in London. This lower living cost has attracted 0.6% to 2.6% of the total British in Spain to this area.

We hope this guide has helped kindle plans for your big move to Spain, and you have a better idea of different areas that may interest you.

(Article source: Various)

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