Spain Country Profile - Cost of Living

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Geographical variation

The cost of living in Spain is noticeably cheaper than many other western European countries, but it retains a degree of variation. Property prices have dropped in recent years, but the more desirable tourist and expat areas remain more expensive and this has a knock on effect on the price of goods and services in those areas. Cities and coastal resorts are typically the most expensive places to live, while rural areas represent the best value for money although the provision of goods and services there can be more limited. 


Most of the rental accommodation in Spain is apartments, but there is no shortage of living space available and the costs are very reasonable. However, finding the right place to live can be a daunting prospect. Some universities will provide accommodation for new academic staff, but other options include long-term lets of holiday properties owned by expats, as well as local lettings by Spanish landlords. There are typically two types of contract:

  • Temporada – a short-term deal aimed at the holiday market and lasting just a few weeks
  • Vivienda – a longer-term agreement which is aimed as residents and is normally cheaper

It can be useful to take a temporada contract for a period when you arrive to enable you to find a more permanent solution. Many people also lodge with families in Spain for short to medium periods. If you are working there in the longer term, it is certainly possible to buy property in Spain. As well as arranging the mortgage, you will need to pay the notary to conduct the transaction and settle the relevant tax bills, so it is worth taking professional advice.

Rental deposit

Typical rental deposits in Spain consist of a month’s rent, although you are usually asked for the first month’s rent in advance too. If properties are bigger or extensively furnished, the deposit may be two or three months’ rent. Letting agents usually ask for a month’s rent in fees too. Bear in mind that Spanish law does not offer a great deal of protection for landlords, so it is not uncommon to be asked for various documents such as proof of earnings or a bank guarantee letter.

Property tax

Local authorities in Spain charge a municipal tax, the ‘Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles’ (IBI) which is the contribution of residents towards local services. It is usually calculated based on the rental value of the property. Different regions also have a range of other local taxes, so check with the landlord or agent to estimate what the rates will be.


If you are renting a property, remember to check whether utilities are included in the rent. Utility bills in Spain are not exceptionally cheap, but work out lower than in many European countries. In most areas you will have a choice of electricity supplier so you can shop around for the best rates, but water supply tends to be administered through local authorities. Mains gas is not that common in Spain, so you will most likely need to purchase gas bottles.

TV licence

Spain does not require people to buy a television licence as there is no central broadcasting authority. Channels are funded by advertising, and there are over thirty terrestrial channels as well as numerous pay-per-view services on offer.

Healthcare and medical costs

Provided that they are contributing to social security payments, foreign nationals working in Spain can usually access free or low-cost medical care on the same basis as Spaniards, so contact your local social security office to check your eligibility. Healthcare in the country is generally of a good standard, but waiting lists can be long so some expats prefer to take out private medical insurance. Visitors to Spain may claim back healthcare costs using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but be aware that this is not intended for long-term residents’ use and may not entitle you to free care.


Spain has a good choice of supermarkets and smaller specialist shops and the cost of grocery shopping is comparatively low. Although larger supermarkets can be cheap, it is usually worth checking local shops, particularly for fresh produce as locally sourced food can be much cheaper. Other items, such as clothing and white goods, can be less cheap than you might expect so again look for local brands to find the better deals.

Sales tax

Value-added tax called Impuesto al Valor Agregado (IVA) is charged on transactions in Spain. There are three levels of payment, but some services are also exempt from the tax. IVA is not applied in the Canary Islands, which hold a special economic status and therefore have their own Impuesto General Indirecto de Canarias (IGIC) tax instead.

Price guide

  • Rent on 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – 530.23€ (≈£417.00) per month
  • Rent on 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – 401.68€ (≈£315.89) per month
  • Price of apartment in city centre – 2,774.92€ (≈£2,182.32) per square metre
  • Price of apartment outside city centre – 1,813.57€ (≈£1,426.27) per square metre
  • Loaf of bread – 0.94€ (≈£0.74)
  • Milk (1 litre) – 0.80€ (≈£0.63)
  • Bottled water (1.5 litre) – 0.54€ (≈£0.43)
  • Draught beer (0.5 litre) – 2.00€ (≈£1.57)
  • Packet of cigarettes – 4.75€ (≈£3.74)
  • Petrol (1 litre) – 1.43€ (≈£1.13)
  • Cinema ticket – 8.00€ (≈£6.29)

Source: (accessed December 2014)


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