Cost of Living in Spain

by Jose Marc Castro on August 10, 2009

costoflivingSPAINEvery year, thousands of Britons are making the move to finally live in the land of their dreams, Spain. The cost of living in Spain can be both high and low depending on the location and type of lifestyle. Numbers are looking up for the Mediterranean destination since it recently ranked 9th worldwide in terms of economy size and 5th all over Europe.

Unemployment rate is still soaring over 18.7% which has been teetering on a greater problem brought about by the current worldwide recession. Living in Spain is more expensive nowadays but expatriates can still find several scenic places that are considerably much cheaper than many places in the United Kingdom.

The total GDP of Spain is estimated to be over 1.2 trillion euros. The country is in a better position now but almost all of the population still has debts to the government. Spain still owes it to foreign investors and overseas workers bringing in dollars and pounds to keep businesses and the free market afloat. Commodities have become more affordable as stated in Spain Expat Forum last September 2, 2009:

A Reuters housing poll of Spanish and foreign-based economists found that on average prices were expected to fall 32 percent from their 2007 peak.

Wednesday’s data compares with a 10.1 percent year on year fall in June according to private surveyors Tinsa, compared to a 9.8 percent fall in May.

Regardless, Spain has so much to offer in terms of food, leisure activities, entertainment and housing that one may opt for the higher quality living choices at more expensive rates.

Food and Drinks Costs in Spain

There is plenty of food in Spain and prices of goods can range from very cheap to moderate to very expensive. Depending on the city and seller, raw materials and cuisines may fluctuate in value plus the inclusion of value added tax.

Vegetables like artichokes, cabbage and thistles as well red beans, Fava beans, cherries and pears are much cheaper if bought from community and farmers markets. Some other cheap choices are rice, tortilla, potato and flour. As for drinks, there are several locally made beers and wines as well as soda products available for export. Barcelona comparably costs 18% less than London in terms of food.

On the average, a family of four in Spain spends about 400 to 500 euros every month on food. You can get an average meal in less than 20 euros so long as you know where to find them.

Imported products tend to be more expensive but a lot of locals prefer purchasing Spanish brands and buying raw materials outside the big cities. Expatriates will notice the difference when buying food products at smaller cities than getting them in Barcelona or Madrid.

Clothing and Accessories Costs in Spain

Shopping in Spain is not cheap but it is reasonable. There are affordable items at the Northern regions and coastal areas like Costa de la Luz. In big cities, prices of clothes and wares can be very high and even become more expensive than in the UK. There are locally made clothes and textiles found in shopping malls and department stores. Malls and individual designer label shops house top-of-the-line clothing from Europe and the United States. These are some of the highest priced places in any part of the country. This has changed Because of declining sales, many of these high priced boutiques have slashed prices and gave massive discounts in the past few months.

Trinkets, souvenir items and other gadgetry are moderately priced anywhere. Some can find bargain items at flea markets although these are not as common today compared ten years ago. Electronics and cars are imported from Japan and other European nations and prices could soar depending on popularity and demand. Barcelona is still the place to go when shopping for fashionable items. The latest trends in terms of style can be found there since Spanish designers aim to compete with the best in the world.

Housing Costs in Spain

The property market in Spain has been somewhat hindered by inflation. However, prices on rentals and property ownership are still more affordable than most European nations. Some properties have very competitive prices especially in the northern and coastal regions. Retirees find these locations more suitable because of the less stressful environment plus lower demand in terms of prices of commodities, living conditions and the like. The southern coasts of Spain remain to be some of the most expensive in Europe due to the fast-growing economy which mainly relies on foreign investments and trade. The property prices in Spain have made it a buyer’s market as continuous falling prices have been reported all throughout the country. This has been echoed in Spain Expat Forum last August 16, 2009:

The report, which is grimmer than the bank’s previous forecasts, does include one positive note: the dropping prices, combined with falling interest rates – which it predicts will hit 0.5 per cent by the end of this year – mean that the housing market will become more accessible to potential buyers than it has been in 20 years.

The average Spanish tenant pays 200 to 350 euros every month for a two-room apartment downtown. The closer the apartment is to the main city attractions, the higher the cost. Some beach locations are also very expensive. Most landowners cover utilities like water and electricity to an extent.

Gas consumption is usually taken care of by the tenant. The quality of most Spanish homes and apartments are good and well maintained so expatriates get what they pay for in most cities. There are also a number of farm areas for sale at very reasonable rates but road accessibility and mode of travel is still not fully determined.

Services Costs in Spain

Transportation in the major cities has been fully systematized and convenient. On the average, people spend less than 8 euros daily for fare and transport. Several buses and taxi cabs are available in all parts of the city. Also, some prefer private vehicles to travel. Internet service is also good in most locations. There are a number of companies providing fast and reliable network. Almost all cafes, restaurants and hotels in Barcelona have WiFi access. Internet connection costs less than 10 euros every month.

Health care is also excellent in terms of quality and equipment. The workforce at present is in shortage that is why more foreign skilled health professionals are in demand. Nevertheless insurance policies are best served in all major districts and nearby provinces. Public hospitals are subsidized by the government and there are private institutions as well which provide care and rehabilitation programs at the highest level for the tourism industry.

One of the major problems facing the country and its citizens is inflation with an average of 10% per year though officially it is listed at 3.5%.

Employment Costs in Spain

Spain is said to be in its deepest recession in half a century with the unemployment rate projected to rise at 16% in 2009. The government at present is aiming to increase both employment and literacy rates so that more jobs will be available for locals. Foreign investors are usually directed to give financial support in the bigger cities while expatriates can find decent and well-paying jobs in smaller yet fast-growing regions.

Currently, Spain needs more doctors, nurses, engineers, agriculture experts and construction workers. Expatriates are also welcome within the business and trade sector since the country is still heavily active on these areas to provide a significant part in their overall GDP.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Will April 16, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Rental costs in attractive areas are not 250-350 Euros a month. In Salamanca, which is not cheap but is not Madrid either, the cheapest decent 1 bedroom apartment downtown is minimum 400 Euros plus expenses. In Cordoba, 3 bedroom apartments in a decent area are about 500 Euros. Yes, there are cheaper rents in smaller cities, and in unattractive neighborhoods, but in the places that most people want to live in the prices mentioned above are normally a minimum and go up from there in cities like Madrid and Barcelona, where on can easily pay 500 Euros for a room in a shared apartment. Also the quality of the construction is usually poor. The walls are thin and noise is almost always a problem. It is very hard to find an apartment which is consistently quiet. Furthermore, many landlords think that they are not responsible or only partially responsible for repairs when things break.


judith turner June 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm

now live in a park where the owner still expects his rent but does NOTHING for it what can i legally do?


Bruno July 26, 2010 at 8:25 am

Rent in MAdrid in a normal place can range from 800 to 2000 € for a non luxurious 2 to 3 bedroom appartment and not in the most luxurious neighbourhoods.
Yo also made a big mistake in Philippines. Living in Makati in Manila can cost 2000USD for a 2 bedroom appartment for expats, unless you want to live in an unsafe far away place and spend 4 hours a day in traffic jams.


Koko October 31, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Cost of living in main cities in Spain is incredibly high, don’t be fooled by this article. One shared bedroom in a major or touristic city (Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastián) can cost from 300 to 500 euros. An 80 sq. mt. house might cost from 1000€ a month in normal conditions. Of course, you might find cheap houses in a lost village in Andalucia, Aragón, or Castilla, but… there are no jobs, no communications or future there. Food and clothing are not cheap either. I’m not in Germany and food is cheaper here. Clothing stores (H&M, etc…) have the same or lower prices in Germany too. Cars are also expensive in Spain. Good brands that are common in Germany (VW, BMW, Audi…) are simply unaffordable for the population.

Considering that salaries in those cities are considerably low for young professionals (e.g. 900€/month for a programmer, 1300€/month for an engineer, etc..)

All money you earn in Spain indirectly goes to tenants, which offer very bad houses, with 20-year-old couches and mattresses and make you pay for anything that deteriorates or breaks.

And by the way, we’re not short in any professional skills. Don’t be fooled. And if we are, it’s because people are migrating because they’re not being paid what they deserve. Doctors and nurses prefer to work y Portugal. Engineers prefer to work in Germany and IT people in Ireland, the UK or anywhere else.

Let’s be clear: For someone with previous money, properties, or being the boss of an existing business, Spain can be quite good. But it is at the cost of normal workers. At the cost of their low salaries and the money they pay for rents.

So, for all normal, educated and honest workers, Spain simply sucks.


Christina October 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm

lol, so just because I am an entrepreneur, I'm "evil"?

Just because I am my own boss it doesn't mean I don't pay taxes and am fine with crappy apartments.


oscar January 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Agree with Koko… almost, maybe a non experienced programmer, just finnished his carrier, get a 900 EUR/month salary, if he get any job, not easy nowadays.
I dont think an engineer in Madrid or Barcelona is willling to work for 1,300 month.. Im not ingeneer, but a Bus driver get about 1,800, in Madrid and he only work 4 days a week, I have a friend working as bus driver in the EMT, bus company in Madrid city, and I dont think and ingeneer get lower salary then a bus driver, and you?


oscar January 11, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Time to time, Ive never met any spanish people working in Portugal where salary are 30%, lower than here.. surely a Doctor or nurse, prefer to work in england or Germany, but no Portugal, even Italy, where salaries are very similar than here,

Definitely, I dont know what part of Spain have you been, if any, VW has been best seller in Spain several years, and I see many BMW, and Mercedes.. in any spanish city, but surely u see more in Germany…been about 20% cheaper than here, and your salaries higher.

Is difficult to find a one room rent in Madrid for less than 500 EUR, and in that range up to 800 dont u expect any nice thing, in a nice area.., here its said: you pay what you brake, but ofcourse u are in your right to get a decent flat with everything working ok., in the moment u get in there, so better to check out everthing before sign.

Anyway spanish cityzen have been treated very badly by the crisis, salaries in 3 years never rose up, utilities about 25%, its hard to live in those condittions for the lowest classes, and everybody knows the scareable unemployeed rates..

Regards from Madrid, and welcome to any vvisitors


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