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Hi friends, we hope that your having a great week. We’ve been enjoying this week as we’ve had good weather and have been able to go to the beach a few times to unwind. We often get questions about the cost of living in Spain and what one could realistically expect to pay for things. This blog post will hopefully shed some light on what it costs to live in Spain and will give you an idea of how much we spend for things so that you can plan if you are thinking of moving here. We will be talking mainly about the following areas: Rent, Utilities, Food, and Transportation. We’ll also have a section to cover miscellaneous expenses that you will no doubt incur. So here it goes.
Rent is one of the biggest expenses that you will have when you move to another country. While rent in Spain is generally lower than what you will find in the United States prices still can vary greatly. During our three years of living in Spain we have had three different apartments in Murcia, Bilbao and now Huelva. So let’s talk about what we paid and what you can expect to pay for each area.
When we lived in Murcia our rent for a brand new furnished two-bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood was €300. The apartment came with a washing machine, fridge, dishwasher, couch, two beds, and a desk. The apartment was never lived in before and it also had a really cool rooftop terrace. Since Murcia is in the southeast of Spain the prices for apartments and houses are less than in other areas of Spain. What we paid was typical for the area and many of the other places that we looked at were similarly priced.
Once we moved to Bilbao our rental costs increased dramatically. Bilbao is one of the most expensive places to live in Spain along with Madrid and Barcelona. This is because the economy there is really good and people are generally wealthier. As we searched for an apartment there we saw that it would be next to impossible to find a place for the same amount of what we were paying in Murcia. The average prices that we found for one and two bedroom places were around €700 and up. We ended up finding a one bedroom apartment for €600 a month but it was not in the best area of town. Nevertheless the apartment had been remodeled and was very modern and had a western style layout. It came furnished with a bed, dining table, chairs, sofa, washing machine and a dishwasher. The apartment was very spacious and we were comfortable there. The only thing that we would have changed would have been the building itself and the neighborhood.
Where we currently live in the Huelva province in Andalusia, the apartments and houses are extremely affordable. When we started looking for a place to live we saw that we could find places from €300 and up. In general many of these places would be new or in good condition and come furnished. We settled on a two bedroom furnished apartment in a small town about five minutes from the beach. The apartment is in a very nice gated building on a quiet street. It came with a parking spot in a gated garage and it is tastefully furnished from Ikea. There are also plates, utensils and a nice terrace. It pretty much has everything we need and we pay €400 a month for it. In the area that we live some friends pay a little less but it is also possible to pay quite a lot more if you really want to splurge but in general you could get away with paying between €300-€400 a month for a nice decent place.
In this section we want to cover things such as electricity, water and internet. For our electricity, our costs seemed to vary depending on where we live. When we were in Bilbao since it gets cold we would use the heater much more than in Murcia or Huelva. But in Huelva over the summer we have used the air conditioning since it can get quite hot. We have found that electricity is paid every two months in general. We try to budget €75 a month for this but in reality, it often varies quite a bit.
For water costs they were the highest in Murcia. This could be because the area does not have a lot of water and is so dry. They were the lowest in Bilbao maybe because there is an abundance of water there. We try to budget €50 a month for water but often it is much lower.
Our internet costs are mostly typical of what you would find in many western European countries. We have used a few different companies but at the moment we use Orange a French company. We pay €30 a month for internet which is run through a 4G wireless router. This is not like traditional DSL or cable because there is no installation required since it operates with sim card. We are capped at 100GB a month but this is perfect for our needs even though we use video heavily for our work throughout the week. We previously had DSL which was around €40 a month but we weren’t very happy with the service due to erratic internet speeds. With the 4G system we have very good speeds ranging upwards of 28Mbps download and 36Mbps upload at the time of writing this post.
For our mobile phones we also use Orange and we pay €6.95/month for one plan and €25/month for the other plan. The difference in price is due to paying for the phone on the higher plan. We also have three other business lines that we use for work which allow us to have ample talk time for our business needs. These lines run us €10/month each totaling €30 for all three. So generally speaking we try to budget around €100 a month for internet and mobile/fixed phones.
Another area where costs may differ depending on your circumstances is food. When we lived in Murcia we would shop for our groceries at a local market near our house that was made up of the farmers and local sellers. The fruits and vegetables there were very affordable and the quality was very good. We would usually spend around €10-€20 and have enough for the week. Of course there were things that we had to get at the grocery stores such as bread, olive oil, eggs and other items. When we lived in Murcia we shopped at a grocery store called Mercadona. This grocery store is in many parts of Spain and we found that the price to quality ratio is very good. When we moved to Bilbao this store was not available so we began shopping at Lidl and Carrefour for our groceries. Lidl is a German grocery store so they have some unique products and they also have very competitive prices. We enjoyed shopping at Carrefour because they have a lot of selection and a nice variety of produce and meats. Now that we are back in the south of Spain in Huelva we shop at a combination of Carrefour, Mercadona and Lidl in that order as well as some of the local markets from time to time. They all have different products and benefits and we enjoy being able to choose from all of them. In general our food costs are reasonable in Spain. We like to budget around €200 a month for food. Likely you will be able to spend a lot less but we enjoy certain brands and other specific types of food such as non-dairy alternatives, gluten-free, etc. which increase the price.
Depending on whether you rely on public transportation of have a car in Spain your expenses will vary accordingly. When we lived in Murcia we didn’t have a car so we took the bus and walked everywhere. Thankfully the city was quite walkable and we only took the bus when we didn’t feel like walking in order to get to the city center for example. It was a nice set up because we lived around several friends who would have service meetings at their house and also would bring us to the meetings. So we didn’t really miss having a car. The buses in town were very affordable. I think they were around a euro one way. Once we moved to Bilbao we still didn’t have a car but we were able to take advantage of the amazing public transportation system. They have an extensive network of buses, metro, trams and even city bikes. You are able to reach outlying villages and even take the metro to the beach which is pretty cool. We got a monthly pass for each of us which allowed us to use most of the services offered. This was around €40 for each of us.
This allowed us to get to meetings, go out in service and get around to do fun stuff. To be honest, having a car in Bilbao would not be that practical because parking is not that easy and the public transportation system is so good. Also Bilbao is not that big and often we just walked to where we wanted to go since it gave us the opportunity to exercise and see the city. Now that we have moved to Andalusia the public transportation is not very good at all. Also since things are so far apart like meetings, service and even shopping at times you really need to have a car here. So we bought a little 2006 Opel Astra car that is good on gas and comfortable for around €3000. As you know fuel is much more expensive here in Europe than in the US. We usually pay around €1.12/kilo for our car. It generally costs about €50 to fill up our tank which will last for two to three weeks.
We often don’t use the car very much since we work from home and we can usually just walk to the corner store if we need something simple like groceries for example. So we will usually drive about three to four times a week. We pay €45 for an oil change for our car. In general we have found car ownership to be reasonable here in Spain if you don’t have to have a lot of repairs done. In general we like to budget between €85-€100 a month for gas depending if we have an outgoing talk or not. I haven’t really given you a summary for transportation costs because as you can see it will depend on whether you live in a big city or a small town. Hopefully this will give you a rough idea as to what you can expect to pay.
I wanted to spend some time talking about other costs for things such as eating at restaurants and entertainment. Here are some average costs for items at a restaurant. Like anywhere else you can go to the fancy high-end restaurants and spend a lot of money or you can go to the places where the locals mostly go and pay locals prices. Often in Spain you will find that you can go out and have a few tapas (pinchos for our Basque friends) and a drink and be perfectly content. Where we currently live we usually spend around €2-€3 euros for a tapa and our drink is usually €1.50. This could be a coffee, beer, wine or tonic water. This week we went out and had two tapas and half a chicken with fries and two drinks and the total came out to €12 for the two of us. This is a pretty good average of what we pay when we go out to eat. If you are having breakfast you can pay less for example where we live you can get six churros for €1 which is enough for one person. If you add a coffee you can have breakfast out for two people for €5. Usually the meals here will offer different sizes of the same dish. This would be as follows tapa, 1/2 racion, racion. Basically the last one, racion, would be a full size plate and the tapa would be the smallest only a few bites. The prices will usually be as follows tapa- €1.50/€2, medium racion €5/€6, racion €8/€10. So this can help you see how much things could be when eating out.
One example of entertainment would be going to the movies. In the town of Lepe there is a theater that offers movies for only €5 and the popcorn and drinks are around €1.50 which is very affordable. This place is on the low-end but the others are not very much more. We saw a movie this weekend (Le Petit Prince) and it was probably around €15 for two tickets popcorn and a drink. We enjoyed the movie too by the way.
In conclusion here is a summary of what things typically cost us currently living in Andalusia, Spain. Our apartment rental is €400 a month. We try to budget around €225 for utilities, internet, mobiles and business phones a month. We try to budget around €200 a month for food and this would not include eating out. For transportation costs we try to budget €100 a month. So not including added costs like eating out or entertainment total monthly expenses come out to about €925. This of course is not set in stone and can vary depending on many different factors in either direction but hopefully it can give you a rough ball park idea of some of the costs of living in Spain if you are thinking of moving here to live a simple life.
We hope you have a great week and let us know if you have any questions about this article either in the comments section below or by emailing us at [email protected]. As always we always appreciate your feedback and we will do our best to respond to you as soon as possible!