Retiring in Spain: Pros and Cons & Places to Stay
This post was most recently updated on April 4th, 2022
¡Ola! Now is as good a time as any to start practicing your Spanish, since you are thinking about moving to España. Retiring in Spain has a variety of pros and cons to consider, as it can be quite a big cultural difference from what you’re used to.
Moving to Spain is a momentous event, as the Spanish culture and people are like nothing you have experienced before. As you contemplate life after work, stay tuned for the details you need to make your retirement the semi-vacation it is supposed to be.
Tip: If you are unsure of what to take with you, this handy checklist for moving abroad can help make your life a little easier.
Retiring To Spain
The process of retiring in Spain is not too complicated. However, there are a few things to note as you begin this next chapter. There are a variety of conditions, different visas, and factors to consider. But let’s start with getting the right visa.
Getting a Retirement Visa for Spain
For EU citizens, retiring to Spain is relatively easy. You don’t need a visa or residency permit to work, live, study, or retire here. Non-EU citizens will, however, be required to meet one of the following two visa requirements.
- Long-Stay Visa (visado nacionale)
This visa grants you temporary residence in the country and is therefore indefinite. The temporary nature is because you need to renew it annually, as well as spend at least six months per year in Spain. With this visa, you are allowed to study, work, live, or retire in Spain.
- Residence Visa (visado residencia)
This is the most common visa for foreigners entering Spain to retire, but it does have some limitations regarding what you can do. With this visa, you may live or retire in the country, but you are not able to work. It is generally easier to obtain than a long-stay visa.
Living in Spain: Pros and Cons
Moving to another country, no matter how similar or different to your homeland, is bound to stir up some mixed feelings. Considering the pros and cons of moving, especially when you are planning your retirement, is the key to a happy life.
Retiring in Spain | Pros
The pros of spending your golden years in Spain are quite lucrative, depending on your personal situation and outlook. These benefits can often be the deciding factors when planning a move abroad, so they should all be considered carefully.
- Lower cost of living
In Spain, the cost of living is quite amicable. Rent and utilities are known to be cheaper, especially in the coastal areas, as well as medical care and transportation. Food is also relatively cheap. On average, your monthly expenses can be around $500 USD less than in the US.
- The Spanish people are friendly
The Spanish people are known for their genuine friendliness and hospitality. This can be anything from the mailman greeting you as he goes past, or the restaurant owner personally thanking you for your patronage. The Spanish people are just generally more positive.
- Slow and steady
While the slower lifestyle can be a hassle in the beginning, eventually you can learn to live and even love it. After all, as we age, we do tend to start taking our time with certain things, enjoying the simple pleasures of a less stress-filled life.
- Healthcare is great
Spain is among the countries with the best healthcare in the world. It is just one less thing to worry about, allowing you to live without fear. The quality of healthcare is high, as well as the actual costs involved.
Anything from doctors, treatments, and even medications are considerably less expensive in Spain. Hospitals are also generally very organized, clean, and efficient.
Retiring in Spain | Cons
The cons of retiring in Spain are not too bad, but still something to consider before making your decision. Some of these can be a make-or-break situation and deciding factor on making your residence here permanent.
1. Real-estate Prices Can Be High
This depends on the area you choose, but areas like Madrid or Barcelona can break the bank (and delve into your hard-earned savings). Since these are the major hubs, places here can easily go for around 30% more than in a nice coastal city. These are generally some of the best places to retire in Spain.
- Culture Shock
Especially for those who are on the quieter, more introverted side of life, the Spanish culture and people can be a bit “much”. They can be seen as loud and boisterous, with a love of partying and loud music.
- Expect Slow Service
The Spanish people are in no hurry to do anything. For some people, this can be a blessing, while it can be quite a nuisance for others. Slow service, slow business, and long lines are a common part of life here.
- Cities can be crowded
During vacation and tourist times, cities can get quite bogged down. Combine this with the normally prevalent heat, and you can end up in some potentially sweaty and annoying circumstances.
- Private Health insurance on Arrival
When you first come to Spain, you will be required to have private, often expensive, medical insurance. This needs to be from a company that is licensed to operate in Spain and is necessary for all residence visa types. This is a mandatory step but can be researched long before you step foot in the country. The costing can be around $200 USD per month, depending on your plan.
Biggest Mistakes When Moving to Spain
Some of the biggest mistakes when moving to Spain include a list of “grievances” that can make your life here potentially miserable. For an American living in Spain, the difference in cultures can be a major adjustment, so here are a few important things to avoid.
1. Not Learning Spanish
And no, this does not mean ola and de nada. You need to have at least a basic understanding of general terms and vocabulary to be able to help yourself navigate the country. Brushing up on your verbs as well as the different male and female nouns can make the transition to Spain so much easier.
2. Thinking Spanish Culture and Mexican Culture Are the Same.
These are two separate countries, cultures, and people. Mixing the two up can be very embarrassing for you, as well as potentially offensive to the people you are talking to.
They have different customs when it comes to eating, greeting, and general behavior when you are among others. Also, try not to query things that seem strange or different, and learn to accept that you are the foreigner in their country.
3. Indirectly Insulting Local “Traditions”
When it comes to Spain, they have a very different way of living. Making a point of going against their “slower nature” or their lack of “understanding your point of view” can make for some uncomfortable situations.
They have numerous holidays, religious or otherwise, that they celebrate. While you may not always agree with the sentiment behind festivals like El Dia de Los Muertos, be courteous. Being respectful of their traditions can go a long way towards having a great experience.
4. Packing Everything and Taking it With You
It’s true we all love our things, no matter how big or small, but moving with your entire life’s objects and knick-knacks can cause some trouble.
Regardless of how much space you have, the cost of moving everything across the world can be quite steep. Instead, you can see it as an opportunity to cleanse your home of the unnecessary and the clutter – as well as to match your furniture to the local styles.
Best Places to Retire in Spain
Now that you know the ins and outs of retiring in Spain, it’s time to pick a destination to spend the rest of your life in. Do you prefer a quieter life in the countryside or a busier life closer to where all the action is?
The Costas of Spain refers to the coastline. The southern and eastern Costas are generally the destinations with the best weather. Alicante is on Costa Blanca and is one of the best locations to consider if you prefer a more cosmopolitan lifestyle.
Also located on Costa Blanca, Javea is known as the pearl of the region. It sits at the foot of a mountain range, and thus offers a slightly cooler climate if that is your preference. It has an extremely laid-back culture and a large community of English speakers.
Moving on to something a bit more “out there”, we have the fast-paced lifestyle of Marbella. Mega-yachts, golf clubs, designer boutiques, and Michelin star restaurants are what awaits those making their residence here.
Another destination perfect for ex-pats in Spain, Torrevieja is the ideal summer destination. The huge salt lake that lies to the rear of the town has influenced the micro-climate here significantly. It is a genuinely pleasant and healthier place to live and is even acknowledged by the World Health Organization.
Retirement in Spain: A Dream Destination
There you have it, all you need to make your choice on retiring in Spain. Armed with this info, you’ll be able to make some informed decisions regarding your retirement, including visa choice, where to live, and more.
The only thing that is left is to pack your bags and get your affairs in order. The Spanish coast awaits, with delicious tapas and tortillas to add some spice and flavor to your life. The time has come to join many other ex-pats in Spain.
Are you ready to go? ¿Estas listo para ir?