A guide to the biggest mistakes when moving to Spain, and some tips on how to avoid them.
Whether you’re moving to Spain for the beautiful beaches or the bustling cities, it’s a wonderful place to make a home. But it’s not all smooth sailing for new arrivals - as with anywhere, it can be difficult to know how to get the best value out of your time there, and you might encounter hidden costs galore. Here’s our guide to saving the money before - and after - you make your move.
Shops in every country have sales, of course, but in Spain they go pretty next-level on it. The twice-yearly tradition of rebajas (sales) is buried deep in the Spanish mindset and helps to shape buying patterns for many people, whether on a budget or not. So it might be worth holding fire on buying non-essential household items until it’s rebajas season. This can save you a lot of money, and make you look like a pro in front of your new Spanish friends.
All shopping areas tend to get insanely busy when the sales hit, so scope them out in advance if you have time - get to know the geography of your favourite stores, and, if you’re buying clothes, find out what size you're in them. And when the time comes, expect queues. All the queues.
And don’t go on the weekend. Seriously, just don’t.
If you’re pushed for time and willing to pay, there are all manner of professionals out there ready to help you with your move - whether you need a van, shipping, or just someone to manage the whole process for you. But there’s a lot to be said for doing as much as you can on your own.
When a professional comes in and packs up all your stuff, you lose a little bit of control over what you do and don’t take, meaning that you might find yourself in your chic new Madrid flat surrounded by boxes filled with old underwear, broken crockery and faded magazines you meant to chuck out months ago. Better - and cheaper - to spend a little bit more time on sorting it out for yourself.
Now might also be the perfect time to think about how attached you really feel to that cheap, broken bookcase you bought five years ago. Would you really be so sad to part ways? It’s not hard to auction old furniture off online and it’s even easier to just give it away to friends. It’ll make your move a lot easier and cheaper if you don’t have to take these bulky objects with you.
The Spanish have their own cheap furniture stores, after all - and antiques are all the rage in trendy cities like Madrid. Furnish your flat locally, and bring a little bit of Spain inside with you.
If you’re somewhere else in Europe at the moment, it’s worth considering whether you really need to jump on a plane to make your move. Europe-wide coaches are quite common, and on average a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. It’s a more eco-friendly way to go, as well.
And there’s one more advantage if you’ve got a lot of stuff to take with you. You might find the coach’s baggage restrictions are a little bit less tight than those on a plane. Maybe you can even take a whole extra bag or two - another way a coach can save you money and stress.
Do get a good book before you leave, though. And perhaps one of those eyemask things.
Hack 5: Don’t get stuck with leftover bills from home. Adult your life by doing a little extra planning.
Sad but true: moving to a new country means that your current gym membership will fast become pretty useless. Unfortunately it’s time for your final spin, before you bid your farewells, clean out your locker, and - this is the big one - cancel your direct debit.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on magazine subscriptions and credit cards, too, not to mention household bills - moving countries means a fresh start with your finances. And who knows - maybe your new Spanish gym will have an bench that isn’t always covered in sweat.
Opening a bank account in Spain is easier than in some other European countries, but it can still be a real administrative hassle, and it might prove tough, or even impossible, to open an account in advance of moving there. So you’ll need to figure out how to pay for yourself at the very beginning of your trip - ideally without relying on your home bank account the whole time, and paying a foreign transaction fee every time you do anything at all. It’s not really ideal to stuff your suitcase full of euros, either.
A borderless multi-currency account with Wise might be the answer. With one of these, you can easily keep your money in euros - or 28 other currencies if you feel like it - even if you don’t yet have a Spanish bank account. The account comes with local details including an IBAN, meaning that you'll be able to make and receive payments with it, without having to pay international transaction fees. There will also be consumer debit cards from early 2018 as well. And of course you can convert your money to one of the other supported currencies, at the mid-market rate, and withdraw your money any time you want into another bank account . It’s a great way to keep a little bit of financial security at the start of your move.
A little bit of planning goes a long way when it comes to rail travel in Spain. If you buy a ticket at the station, you'll probably have to pay a surcharge, so head to the official RENFE website and book online - the earlier, the cheaper. Also look out for special discounts and the dates when new tickets are released.
If you live in London or Paris, buying your own place might sound like a distant dream. But the property market in Spain is a very different thing, and you might find it’s an option sooner than you think. Only about 17% of people in Spain rent, and foreigners face few barriers when it comes to buying property.
That said, jumping straight in at the deep end is seldom a good idea. Get to know the country a little bit first, and decide if it’s really right for you - you’re unlikely to regret it in the long run. That’s especially the case because tenants have decent rights in Spain. Long-term and short-term contracts exist, although the latter are more common, and there are options to find places either furnished or unfurnished. Keep your eyes peeled on the streets for discarded furniture - it’s common to leave unwanted items outside, so you might be able to furnish your flat on the cheap.
Hack 9: Don’t forget to think about, and budget for, your four-legged friend if you’re bringing your pet with you.
Yes, a pet passport is an adorable concept. But no, it isn’t made up. Get your pet a passport before you travel to Spain, or you’ll end up in trouble. Cats, dogs and ferrets need to be microchipped and vaccinated too.
Restrictions vary from animal to animal - and even between certain breeds of dog - so it’s best to check with a specialist like PetTravel.com before you go. And definitely consider taking out a pet insurance policy - always a good investment when a long trip’s involved.
Good luck with your move to Spain. It’s a beautiful and welcoming country that’s certainly used to expats making a home there. Just make sure you don’t spend more than you have to as you get set up. ¡Buena suerte!
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