Your guide to expat life in Spain

Moving to Spain

There’s a good life to be had in Spain, but don’t expect it to be one long holiday – and you may need patience and perseverance to get settled.

It can take time to adjust to the slow pace of life in Spain. You’ll need some knowledge of Spanish to be accepted – and to deal with the bureaucracy and practicalities of daily living. But the rewards are worth the effort. The country’s warm climate means you can enjoy its beaches and beautiful countryside all year round. And its rich culture is a feast for the senses, with mouthwatering Mediterranean cuisine, lively flamenco music and striking Iberian architecture and art.

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Basic info

  • Population: About 46.5 million
  • Capital city: Madrid (and the largest city)
  • Main languages: Spanish (known as Castilian) is the official language. There are several regional languages, such as Catalan, and English is widely spoken and understood.
  • Main religion: Catholicism. Other religions include Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other Christian denominations.
  • Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
  • Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to the end of October)
  • Electricity: 220 or 225 volts, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • International dialling code: +34
  • Internet domain: .es
  • Emergency numbers: 112 (general emergencies)
  • Road Traffic: Drives on the right

Next holiday

Aug

15

Assumption of Mary

If a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it’s moved to the first available weekday.

Public Holidays

2016
1 January New Year's Day
6 January Epiphany
25 March Good Friday
1 May Labour Day
15 August Assumption of Mary
12 October Hispanic Day
1 November All Saints' Day
6 December Constitution Day
8 December Immaculate Conception
25 December Christmas Day
2017
1 January New Year's Day
6 January Epiphany
14 April Good Friday
1 May Labour Day
15 August Assumption of Mary
12 October Hispanic Day
1 November All Saints' Day
6 December Constitution Day
8 December Immaculate Conception
25 December Christmas Day
2018
1 January New Year's Day
6 January Epiphany
30 March Good Friday
1 May Labour Day
15 August Assumption of Mary
12 October Hispanic Day
1 November All Saints' Day
6 December Constitution Day
8 December Immaculate Conception
25 December Christmas Day

Your relocation checklist

Moving to a new country takes a lot of planning. To help you get started, here are some of the things you need to do before you leave home – or just after you arrive.

Key phrases in Spanish

  • Hello ¡Hola!
  • Good evening Buenas noches
  • Goodbye Adiós
  • How are you? ¿Cómo está usted?
  • Thank you Gracias
  • Yes Si
  • No No
  • Do you speak English? ¿Habla inglés?
  • Can you help me? ¿Me podría ayudar?
  • I’m sorry Lo siento

Top tips

View a selection of tips sourced from expats about Spain:

“Be positive, don't let the bureaucratic systems get you down, don't try and do everything at once and learn the language” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Enjoy lots of regions of Spain. They're so diverse it's almost like travelling to a totally different country!” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“I live in Pamplona, and I really recommend living in Navarra, or Basque country. The scenery, the air and the people are just great. Love it.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Get ready for a very different schedule for meals, travel as much as you can around the country, and try local dishes- it's really fun.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Learn the language! Spanish for Spain generally, but if you are moving to an autonomous region like Catalonia, Basque Country or Galicia, try to learn the local language as well.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Spain

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I've moved around a lot in the last 4 years, to take my home comforts with me but to avoid lugging loads of stuff or paying airline excess baggage fees I use a luggage service.

Chigwell to Washington

View more hints and tips for Spain

Shipping

How you ship goods to Spain will depend on where you’re coming from. If you’re from the UK or mainland Europe, a removal van is your cheapest option. If you’re from further afield, you’ll have to choose between air and sea freight.

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Import duties

If you’re from outside the EU, you’ll have to pay duty on new goods, but used items are duty free as long as you’ve owned them for at least six months. You’ll need a detailed inventory and documents such as receipts, a customs application form and your work visa.

Restrictions

Spain limits the amount of tobacco and alcohol you’re allowed to take into the country. There are also restrictions on certain types of antique and artwork. To import firearms you need a permit from the Spanish Police.

Pets

If you’re from an EU country, you can take your pet to Spain under the European Pet Travel Scheme. Animals from other countries need extra documents, including a health certificate from a vet and a rabies certificate.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in August 2016. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.