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Moving to Spain as an American: What I Wish I Knew

Are you thinking about moving to Spain from the US? Then let me share my experiences with you!

As an American, moving to Spain was difficult.

It was difficult to prepare for and actually make the move, but the difficulty didn’t stop when we landed in Spain. Getting settled was the second big challenge.

From finding a long-term apartment lease to adjusting to everyday life in Spain, there were some challenges that were more difficult than we had expected. But, there were also plenty of pleasant surprises… things that were much easier than we anticipated.

For context, we are a couple in our 40’s, we were living in San Diego, California, moving to Valencia, Spain to retire abroad with no children or pets. My children are all now young adults.

Also Read: 4 Retirees Share Their Experiences & Tips About Retiring in Valencia, Spain and Moving to Spain as an American to Teach English – What You Should Know

We had spent years researching and setting our expectations about life in Spain. We certainly did not throw caution to the wind and hope for the best. It was mindful and thoughtful planning that brought us to this point in the journey.

Following is a brief list (in no particular order) of things we found more challenging and less challenging than we expected when moving to Spain from the USA and how to remedy or take advantage of them.

More Challenging Than Expected When Moving to Spain from the US

1. Engaging Rental Agents

renting a place to live when moving to Spain
apartments in Valencia, Spain – Moving to Spain

If you don’t speak Spanish, your choice of rental agents will be limited. There are several great agencies that have English speaking agents, but they, in most parts of Spain, are the exception.

Tips for Dealing With This:

Be Persistent

If you do not speak Spanish, many agents and landlords will not want to deal with you. Understandable. I am the foreigner.

Simply cross that agent off your list and try the next, and the next, and the next. You may get a lot of No’s, but eventually your efforts will pay off. You will undoubtedly come across agents who speak some level of your language.

Tip: Save that agent’s contact info. And if you need referrals to English-speaking rental agents in Valencia, leave a comment below.

Also Read: The Most Popular Neighborhoods to Live in Valencia

Use Google Translate

Translate your message and send it in Spanish (or the local dialect). If an agent who doesn’t speak any English encounters a message in English, they likely will ignore it. If you take on the translating duties, you are much more likely to get a response.

Use WhatsApp

When leaving a message, always mention WhatsApp and leave your WhatsApp number in the message.

You are making it clear to the agent that WhatsApp is the best way to contact you. If they reply in Spanish, use Google Translate to engage them. Even if they don’t speak English, if they see that you are a viable potential customer then they are more likely to continue working with you.

Engage them without revealing that you do not speak their language.

2. Obtaining Medications

medications in Spain

The affordability and accessibility of prescriptions and OTC meds in Spain was more challenging than we had anticipated.

Many are affordable, but some are not. Example, Imitrex. Some medications that we thought would be OTC required a prescription. Example, Sudafed.

Tips for Dealing With This:

Try Another Pharmacy

As silly as it sounds, if one pharmacy won’t sell you a medication without a prescription from a doctor, simply try another pharmacy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

3. Late Night Street Noise

Moving to Spain from the US - noise is a challenge
Fun Fact: Spain has the highest number of bars in the EU

Spaniards speak loudly. They speak at a volume many of us in the rest of the western world may not be comfortable with. After they have been drinking for several hours, they speak even more loudly.

In the city, there are bars and restaurants on every corner. And between the corners you’ll find more bars and restaurants.

Some bars and restaurants stay open to the wee hours of the morning. Likely your apartment windows will be within spitting distance of one or more of them.

Tips for Dealing With This:


Get an apartment away from bars and restaurants. Observe and avoid the busier, heavy traffic streets.

Rent Upper Floors

Getting an apartment on an upper floor will be quieter. Not only are you farther from street noise outside the building, but you will have fewer neighbors within the building passing your door.

Double-Paned Windows

Look for new double-paned windows when house hunting. They are much more efficient at blocking noise than traditional single-paned windows.

4. Landlords Play Games

dealing with landlords in Spain
Villa for rent in Moraira, Costa Blanca

Some landlords will play games. They agree to terms then raise the stakes as soon as you agree, or worse, at the last minute even after signing a contract.

Tips for Dealing With This:

Work with Reputable Agencies

There are plenty of scammers… People looking to take advantage of you.

Follow your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away, no matter how good the apartment seems. Contact me if you need referrals for Valencia.

Never Rent Sight-Unseen

You want to see the place in person AND meet the agent or landlord you will be dealing with.

Fully Vet Before You Transfer Funds

Never transfer funds before you have a signed contract and have met and vetted the agent/landlord and the apartment; preferably you’ve seen the apartment more than once.

Don’t Let These Challenges Stop You From Moving to Spain!

Spain is actually becoming more and more popular among Americans.

You’ll find a great mix of Americans here: people who chose to retire here, a rapidly growing number of people working remotely, and plenty of Americans teaching English in Spain.

Less Challenging Than Expected When Moving to Spain from the US

1. The Visa Process

visa process for living in Spain as an American

Spanish bureaucracy is notorious. But we found the process of obtaining our Spanish visa easier than we expected. Maybe because we had read the horror stories and knew to expect the worst.

But be honest with yourself. Not everyone is good at this stuff. Consider hiring help if you are not.

Tips for Dealing With This:

Organize & Document

Use Google Docs and/or Google Sheets to collect all the details of your plan into one place.

Basic project planning

Map out any time-sensitive pieces of your plan; are there any dependencies?

Backup Plan

Always have a backup plan. If this doesn’t work, what will I do?

Be Flexible

The less stringent you are, the more you can roll with the punches when things don’t go to plan.

Tip: if you are moving to Spain from the US without a local job or to retire, you will most likely want to apply for a non-lucrative Visa. Our friend Duane who moved to Spain from Canada created this practical eBook describing exactly how to obtain this visa, which also works for Americans moving to Spain.

2. Making New Friends

hanging out with friends at a rooftop bar in Valencia
Hanging out with new friends at a rooftop bar in Valencia

It can be intimidating to move to a new country where you do not speak the language.

I have met some amazing people who are open-minded, adventurous, and who are doing incredible things and I’ve only been in Valencia for a number of months. It is a self-selecting group. Admittedly, most are English-speaking expats, but that’s ok. It’s about the journey.

I’m taking Spanish lessons and I have no doubt that my group of local friends will grow over time.

Tips for Making New Friends in Spain:

Use Social Media

Especially Facebook and Meetup. They can be great ways to find new, like-minded friends with common interests.

Get Started Early

Start early making connections in your new home town. Ideally, you will have a few new friends before you actually move.

Put Yourself Out There

Say yes to challenges, be open, ask for help if you need it. Most people are more than willing to help.

Also Read: Why Moving Abroad is Such a Valuable Experience

3. The Taste of Fresh Produce & Meats

fresh produce in Spain

The taste of the fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish is so much better than back home in California!

Regardless of where you shop, I have found tomatoes, lettuce, beans, berries, and more all just taste like they are supposed to taste. Even milk and dairy products simply taste better.

Tip: Buy fresh fruit and veggies at local markets or fruit & vegetable shops instead of at the supermarket.

Also Read: Famous Spanish Food You Should Try

4. Public Transit

public transit in Valencia, Spain
Metro in Valencia, Spain

The public transit systems available in Europe put American cities to shame.

From biking lanes to metros, trams, trains, and busses, they cannot be beat. This is also true in Spain, especially the larger cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville.

Public Transit Cards

Public transit cards can often be found at the tobacco shops (Estancos) and metro stations. They are often reloadable, so less waste. And they can often be used for renting bikes, riding the metro and on buses.

Rent a Bike

Spain has become a lot more bicycle-friendly in recent years. The major cities now have bike-sharing systems or just rent from a bike rental company; they are accessible, affordable, and easy to use.

5. Free Things to Do

free things to do in Spain - moving to Spain from the US
One of many free things to do in Spain: the famous Fallas festival in Valencia

The number of free or nearly free sites and events available in Spanish cities is astounding.

Spaniards are very social (see the note above about noise at bars). They love to get together and talk, discuss the events of the day, catch up with friends. This is usually done over a drink at a streetside cafe, but getting together with the family at a fiesta or parade is common.

Life in Spain is to be celebrated. There is always something happening, especially during the spring and summer months.

Also Read: 5 Crazy Spanish Festivals You Have to Check Out

How to Find Out What’s Going On in Spain:

Social Media

Follow your favorite organizations on social media. Check events posted to Facebook. Mark events as Interested and similar events will be suggested.

Your Social Network

Rely on your social network (see note about friends above). The social butterflies in your friend groups are likely to know about the latest events. 

Street Posters

Watch for posters, billboards, and flyers in the streets announcing local events. These are often posted where people congregate or pass through, just like billboards along the highways back home.

Moving to Spain From the USA – Conclusions

moving to and living in Barcelona, Spain
moving to and living in Barcelona

As an American, it was not easy to move to Spain. It required a lot of forethought, planning, and attention to detail.

And there were definitely some unexpected surprises along the way… some good, some not so good. All in all, though, it has been an amazing experience which we wouldn’t change for the world.

A little preparation, especially mental preparation, can go a long way to ensuring your move to Spain is successful.

I hope my experience provides some practical advice. Living in Spain as an American has been great so far and if you would like to read more or follow my journey in Spain, you can find my blog online at Travel Inspire Connect.

Also Read: 10 Things to Know For Americans Traveling to Europe For the First Time

Travel with an open mind,

If You Are Interested in Moving to Spain, Also Read:


Like this article about moving to Spain from the USA? Pin it!

These are the things I wish I knew before moving to Spain from the US.

Lane Beck

Author: Lane Beck
Lane Beck is a lifestyle blogger from San Diego, California living in Valencia, Spain. He achieved financial independence, quit his career, sold everything and moved to Spain to fulfill a dream and live a slower-paced, higher-quality lifestyle in Southern Europe. He writes about Spanish Culture, European Budget Travel, Financial Independence, and Mindful Living at Travel Inspire Connect.

55 thoughts on “Moving to Spain as an American: What I Wish I Knew”

  1. Hey, Nobody mentioned IRS in this blog, so here I go…

    I’ve been living in Spain for the last 20 years where I worked and had a family. I’ve no work or business relationship with US, just visiting family and friends every year.

    The other day I found out that, as a US citizen (I’ve double citizenship), I’ve the legal obligation to report my annual income to the IRS. Is this correct? If so, doesn’t it go against the double taxation that both countries have signed?

    How are you managing this situation?

    • Emilio,
      Great question. I am no tax expert, but to my knowledge, the short answer is… if you are a U.S. citizen, then you are obligated to file taxes with the U.S. every single year regardless of how often you visit, whether or not you own property, whether or not you work or do business, or even visit. Notice that I said “file” not “pay” U.S. taxes. As a US citizen, you are required to file. Whether or not you owe income taxes to the IRS, of course, is completely dependent on your personal situation. Regardless, you still have to file your U.S. income taxes every year with the IRS.

  2. hello

    I am moving to costa blanca area in November. Final location is TBD. I will be working remotely for my own company and have started researching how to manage my phone service. This is my forever country so would like to know a more long term solution but also wont be retiring for 5 years so will need a ‘short’er plan.

    How have you managed your phone service?


    • Gloria,
      Congrats on your decision to move to Spain! I think you will be elated. The Costa Blanca is amazing. I actually just received a message from an American friend of mine who recently got his non-lucrative visa approved and just arrived in Denia today. Alicante is nice, Altea is gorgeous (have a good friend whose family is from there), Gandia is ok, haven’t been to Denia [yet].

      To your question, though. Phone service was actually one of the easiest parts of executing our move. Lebara Mobile, 10€ per month, auto-billed, works well, never need to log in, worry about data, etc. Just works. Except for the time we went to Italy and I could neither call nor text. That was a nightmare. Contacted Lebara tech support upon return and turns out that I didn’t have it set up correctly. who knew. We took our US phones (an iPhone and a Samsung), made sure they were paid off and unlocked before leaving the US, and simply went to a trusted vendor here in Valencia and purchased the Lebara SIM. They installed and setup for us on the spot. I would say visa and taxes would also be high on the priority list for your situation. Best of luck!

  3. Many thanks for the detailed info in the article and all the questions you answered. I searched but couldnt find anything regarding a recommendation for legal consultation. Have you worked with any attorneys that you can recommend?

    • Hi Ernst,
      Thanks for reaching out. I am glad you found the information helpful. What kinds of legal representation are you referring to?

      If you are asking about legal counsel for the visa process, then the answer is no, we did not use an attorney. As an American, applying for the Spanish non-lucrative visa you do not need to use an attorney, although many choose that route as an option. The process can be daunting, but I believe if you are organized and plan ahead it is certainly doable. We did it and we speak almost no Spanish.

      If you are referring to tax counsel, then I recommend you have a Spanish city or region in mind and then choose tax counsel for that region as tax implications often vary widely from region to region. Tax counsel is the only type of legal counsel we have used to date. Our tax counsel is specific to Valencia, but I am happy to provide that contact if it is relevant to you.

      • Hi Lane, thanks for the reply! We were looking for a couple of things. 1. general legal representation for a few different things. My wife has her Polish/EU citizenship. We are trying to figure out how the move for permanent residency would work for me who does not. 2. Tax counsel specifically dealing with the tax code in Valencia. 3. Setting up a business.

  4. Hi. Do you know how to find out if Spain is still accepting applications for non-lucrative visas now? I have searched high and low online and cannot find anything definitive.

    Thanks for the great article! I have it bookmarked on my computer.

    • They are accepting applications! First Google to find the nearest Spanish consulate to where you live. On their website you can find the requirements and information about the process. There is also a lot of info if you Google “How do I get a not lucrative visa from Spain?”

    • Ashley,
      Yes, Spanish Consulates in the US are accepting and processing NLV for Americans wishing to live in Spain. However, some consulates may be processing faster than others. Per Michael’s comments below, however, you CANNOT choose which consulate to get your NLV from. Find the Spanish Consulate in the US which is in the jurisdiction of your US residence address. That is the Spanish Consulate you must go to. The Spanish NLV is one of the best-documented European residence visas for Americans so you should have no trouble finding both the requirements and experience from people doing what you are trying to do. Good luck! Let us know if you need further guidance.

  5. Hi, This article sparks an interest in me to move from San Diego, CA to Spain. I like simplified lifestyle, grocery store, etc in walking distance, no dependency on car. Thank you, Lane and everyone for sharing your experience. I would like to take this “second” leap of faith. Love and Peace to you all from G

    • Gita, you are very welcome! I am glad that you found your dream and that I may be a small part of inspiring that dream. This is the reason I started blogging 3 and a half years ago! When you have questions about moving to Spain or need resources, please reach out. We have a giant community waiting to support you. You Got This!

  6. Hi Lane! Great article. I am from San Diego too! My husband and I are seriously considering moving to Spain – somewhere in the Southern Coast. I am a Spanish citizen thanks to my grandparents, they immigrated to Mexico, my parents to San Diego. I also speak Spanish natively. I’d love to connect with you to get your thoughts on your favorite Southern cities in Spain. We’ve just starting researching – would LOVE any other learnings you may have documented on how to move, things to look out for, literally anything. We’re in our 30s so we’d probably look for work eventually, but cost of living seems so much more affordable than San Diego! Thank you 🙂

    • Hey Jessica! Thanks for reading. Congrats on considering a move to Spain! Very exciting! We have not regretted what was somewhat a leap of faith for us. Of course, there is a lot to consider, but the fact that you have citizenship and speak Spanish puts you way ahead of the game! Our favorite Andalusian cities were Granada and Seville, but we ultimately chose Valencia sight unseen because of the extreme summer and winter temperatures inland. We found costs to be roughly half of our budget in San Diego, but we do live a fairly simple life. FI is a big part of our story. I’m not going to sugar-coat it,… finding work here will be challenging. Working online, consulting or freelance work would be ideal for you. I checked out your LI profile. I think we both used to work for OneRoof! Small world! I have loads more tips and suggestions, but connect with me on my blog, email or social media (FB, Insta, LI) and we have a dialogue.

  7. I agree with Lane that Valencia is a great city for anyone looking to move to Spain and wanting a walkable city, on the coast with good weather year-round.

    Check out Idealista.com (it’s like the Zillow of Spain) to get an idea of what types of properties are available, both for sale and rent.

    As much as I am a fan of Valencia, I would say Alicante and Malaga are definitely worth looking into as well.
    Barcelona is more expensive so you might not be able to get what you are looking for there for $300,000 and it’s less walkable because of its size.

    You might want to check out this article about retiring in Valencia and this article about living in Alicante.

  8. Hello Lane,
    My wife and I live in Torrance CA. She is German, I’m African American. We’re both retired, no kids and so far, are healthy. We’ve lived in Germany for many years but have been in CA 21 years now. Long story short, we’re growing rather pessimistic about US national politics here lately, and are becoming more open to considering an overseas move. We may relocate back to Germany, but are open to other options, including moving to Spain. My questions are; In your opinion, for retirement purposes, what cities in Spain would you recommend? (We prefer walkable cities with restaurants, shopping close by, and a coastal location). How are race relations in Spain? We’d eventually be interested in buying instead of renting (townhouse or condo preferred over single-family home) could $300,000 USD put us in the ballpark? BTW…we are bilingual (German/English) and know some Spanish.

    • Gerald,
      I’m sorry you are feeling uneasy in the U.S. That is a shame. But I congratulate you on being open to a move abroad. It takes courage to go against the status quo, but I think you will be rewarded for your courage.

      Recommended cities: Of the coastal cities in Spain, we have only visited Gandia, Alicante, Malaga and Nerja briefly, so it is difficult to evaluate or compare. But Valencia is extremely walkable, excellent cultural and social scene, amazing green spaces and public transit, bars and restaurants galore! Valencia sort of still has the feel of a large village with barrios where you can get to know your neighbors.

      Race relations: unfortunately, racism exists everywhere in the world, but IMO, here in Spain it is not as prevalent, blatant and provocative as in the U.S. right now. Just like any outsider, you will not necessarily be embraced, but your chances of being verbally abused or physically assaulted are next to nil here. Many Spaniards are kind, friendly and open, but they are not know to easily let foreigners into their inner circles of friends… that takes time and considerable effort ususally.

      $300k for an apartment: In general, yes, I would say that USD $300k could buy you a decent apartment in a good neighborhood, but maybe not if you have high expectations or upscale taste. Property values and even rents are surprisingly high here compared to local salaries, but, as everything in life, it is all relative.

      Wishing you all the best!

  9. Thank you for all this helpful information. My husband and I are also from SD and want to move to Spain in the next 5-10 yrs. we are in our early 40s no kids. We were thinking Valencia which we love or in Galicia somewhere along the coast.

  10. Hi, I’m from Valencia and have been living in the UK for 5 years now, and guess what, I learnt English before I moved to another country. People don’t speak your language in a foreign country and that is rude? Maybe everyone thinking on moving to a different country should think about learning the language and learning the culture. Also, that thing you call dialect, is a language and it’s called Catalan (Valencian in València) so you should learn that also before you move there, because it’s offensive. I’m sorry you don’t like Spanish people being noisy, but as you might know, generalisations are also awful. As a Spanish person, from Valencia, living abroad I would recommend to learn a bit of the language and culture, and respect the culture of local people and integrate. Also, sorry, but not sure who you have dealt with when renting apartments, as soon as you have an offer in Spain or anywhere in Europe, they can’t put the price up, if you deal with serious landlords and agencies, that is the reality.

    • Thanks for your comments, Patricia. And congratulations on learning English before moving to the UK! The purpose of the article is to set proper expectations and mitigate challenges for other Americans who might come or consider moving to Spain. These are my own personal experiences. I think they provide value and a balanced narrative. We came to Spain to continue to learn the language, embrace the culture and integrate. However, as you well know, that is a journey.

  11. Thanks for the info Lane! Could you please share your experience regarding obtaining health insurance? I understand this to be a requirement for residents

    • John de Miguel,
      Health insurance is definitely required and it must meet certain criteria.

      Since I just wrote a post on my blog outlining this, I will refer you there. Jump over to my blog and read my post titled “How to Stay in Spain More Than 90 Days as an American.” It details requirements for the NL visa including health insurance. Feel free to reach out should you have further questions.

  12. We are also San Diegans in our 40s (well, my wife is 🙂 ), looking to move to Valencia, Alicante, or maybe even Palma in a few years.
    How would you compare the weather there to SD? As much as I love our weather, I’ve always hated June Gloom, May Grey, and that it cools down fast at sunset in the summer.
    Also, I know you don’t have pets, but what’s your take on bringing a small dog or two? Do you see a lot of other dog owners? Last but not least, how is the healthcare there – do you have special insurance? Thanks so much – this post is great!

    • Tom C, all great questions. Short answer, you will be hard-pressed to find a city in the world with better weather than San Diego, but I think Valencia is a close second! The weather here in Valencia city is quite similar to coastal San Diego, however, there are times here in VLC when the wind gusts, also the winters are a bit colder and the summers a bit more humid. But, so far anyway the weather comes and goes. You don’t get freezing cold all winter or hot and humid all summer.

      I don’t know about transporting your pets, but I have friends who have done it. Many, many people have dogs here. Dogs are overwhelmingly the favorite pet.

      As for the healthcare system, it is excellent. For the Non-Lucrative visa, you will be required to purchase private health insurance. Jump over to my blog and read my most recent post, “How to Stay in Spain More Than 90 Days as an American.” It outlines all the requirements for the visa including the specifics on the type of health insurance you will need. Feel free to reach each out for other questions. Good luck!

  13. Thanks so much for this informative post – so many questions!

    As far as maintaining US financial accounts, I think some (if not all) require some physical US address. How do you manage that?

    • Great question, Andrew. Yes, we knew we wanted to maintain a U.S. address so we used a virtual mail service. We recommend Traveling Mailbox. For $15 per month, you get an address that looks like a physical mailing address, an account on their website, they scan the outside of each piece of mail as it comes in and you decide whether to ask them to open and scan the contents, trash it, etc. They also offer mail forwarding and check deposit services for a small fee. Accounts come with limits on the number of pieces they will scan, but you can monitor that by logging into your account.

  14. I visited Spain last summer with my son and fell in love. I Don’t speak much Spanish, I get the basics. I’m a single mom with a 4 yr old but am trying to figure out logistics of moving to Spain if I can make this happen. What kind of jobs are available? What are the schools like? What’s a good/safe neighborhood to live in?

    • Hi Stevi,
      I am a single mom of an 18 year old. I realize my child is a young adult. Currently he has no plans for life, at least not that I am aware of. Anyway, I have never visited Spain but like to relocate there with a job. My foreign exchange students from Spain/France thought Spain would be a perfect country for me to relocate. If you come across good resource for jobs, please share. I will do so too.

      May our relocation dreams come true 🙏

    • Hi Stevi, Congrats on thinking outside of the box. Spain could be a great move for you. You’ll definitely want to ramp up your Spanish language skills, but you have time for that. Choose a destination, for example, the city you liked best, and plug into a tribe of people who have already done what you are trying to do. Facebook, for example, has many ex-pat groups for various cities in Spain and around the world. You will find me in the Valencia groups. These people will be able to guide you to further details around specifics like neighborhoods, apartments, schools, etc. As for jobs, we all know the economy has been hit very hard. In Spain, unemployment was high before 2020 already, and will most likely get worse. A job here without fluent Spanish would be extremely difficult… but that doesn’t help you… here’s what might: (1) If you have the ability to save money, build a large cash cushion, and apply for the Non-lucrative visa, (2) consider some kind of remote work for a foreign organization (teaching English online, rent out your foreign property, read ‘The $100 startup’ for ideas, look for passive income sources, (watch out for the MLM sharks!), or (3) would it be possible to take your current work remote.

  15. Great article Lane! My wife and I also fell in love with Valencia (and Spain in general) last year. Now that I am retired, we are hopeful that we can also accomplish what you and your S/O have done. We have been planning for this the minute we stepped on the plane back to the US (Denver) from Valencia. We’ll be coming back in March (entire month) to experience the Fallas and get our NIE cards. From there we are off to the Spanish consulate to apply for our NL visas. You have given some really good and useful advice. Thanks!

    • Steve, Great to hear! It is a privilege to help others do the same.
      Please note, that as an American to get a Spanish residency visa (including the NL), you must begin the process at the Spanish consulate in the U.S. that is designated for your U.S. residence. For example, we lived in San Diego and the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles is the designated consulate for our home address. You gather your paperwork and apply for the NL visa BEFORE you leave the states, then apply for NIE and Padron after arriving in Spain (assuming you were granted the NL visa). Different consulates have slight variations in requirements.
      Leave a comment on my blog and I will send you some resources. And reach out when you come to Valencia! We’ll grab a drink! Un Saludo!

  16. Hi Lane, my manager is from Colorado and he has been working in Spain (Madrid) for 7 years and it is time to go back home. He has gone through all the stuff you are writting about for sure :-). I would like to give him a present so he can recall his experiences. Please, could you recommend me anything that you would like to keep when back home? I was thinking on special book reagrding expats but I do not know if they are really good or not. thanks a lot in advance, and I know it is not an easy question. Kind regards

    • Juan Pedro, thanks for reaching out. A book is a good idea especially if you know one he really likes and does not own yet. You might also take a favorite photo and present it in a frame or have it enlarged on canvas or acrylic for mounting on a wall. If they are into wine, maybe a special bottle. Find something very meaningful to your boss or something that will remind them of their time in Madrid. Good luck!

  17. I am planning a retire to Spain in about a year. Where can I find information about international health insurance companies and plans? Any recommendations?

    • Sarah, Great question. If you are coming from the US, you will need to go to the website of the Spanish consulate assigned to your place of residence and review their requirements. Some consulates could have variations on requirements. That said, for health insurance, I believe most consulates simply require a Spanish insurer and a No-Deductible plan to cover the full year of your visa. We got quotes from insurers that were recommended like Sanitas, Asisa, and Asefa. We used Asisa for the first year with success, but just switched to Asefa because we got a better price. Many expats use Sanitas. You will likely have to pay the full year’s deductible upfront. If you would like a referral to a broker that many expats recommend, use the Contact Form on my blog and I will send you her contact info.

  18. Hi Lane,
    Thinking of a move from Los Angeles. One concern was transfer of funds from home bank in US to Spain. Would appreciate knowing which US banks have branches in Spain and transfer or other fees or limits. Thanks.

    • Hey Mark, Thanks for reading. I don’t know that any US banks operate in Spain. To pay your rent and utilities, you need a Spanish bank account. Fairly easy setup and zero fees if you transfer more than 700 euros per month. To open an account, you will need your NIE card. You can use a low-cost service like TransferWise to convert currency and transfer funds from your US bank to your Spanish bank. As for upper limits, I don’t know, but you do not want to transfer $10k+ and we always keep minimal funds here as you don’t have the protection and will not be earning interest. Hope that helps. Good luck.

    • Good question, Top. Yes, we did need NIE’s and a few other official documents (like the Padron) in order to complete the visa process after arrival in Spain. However, the focus of this article is the more challenging things about the move. For me, the documentation needed to complete the visa after arriving in Spain was insignificant compared to other challenges. If you can handle the visa on the U.S. side, you will have no trouble with NIE, Pardon and the like once you are in Spain.

  19. Hi Lane; very informative article. Thank you for the many details. When you settled down, did you move some of your personal belognings to Spain? do you know of people who has done it?

    • Great question, Eli.
      Personally, we wanted to simplify our lives and be free from our “stuff” so that we could be more mobile and have more opportunities. We brought nothing but clothes, laptops and mobile phones… two suitcases in total. We sold a home, cars, bikes, furniture and gave away (Buy Nothing) or donated everything else. We purged in phases over the course of almost one year. We didn’t know it at the time, but this decision allowed us to live on an island off Croatia for a short time before heading to Spain… amazing!
      In my opinion, it is far too expensive to ship your things, although I know people who did it. We would use public transit, so did not need a car. You need far fewer things than most people would ever admit. My motto: If you really need it, you can get an equivalent here in Spain that is likely half the cost of what it would be in the U.S.

  20. Hello Lane. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I would be grateful for your recommendations of rental agents to work with. I am beginning my search now.

    • Hi Rhea, Glad you enjoyed the post. The rental agencies in Valencia that I recommend are Perfect Spain, Lucas Fox, and A Properties. These came to me highly recommended and I have personally had positive experiences with Perfect Spain and A Properties. Good luck!

  21. Great advice. I’m looking for rentals now and am interested in reputable agencies in Valencia that you’d recommend.

    • Martha, apologies for the late response and congratulations on your move. The rental agencies in Valencia that I recommend are Perfect Spain, Lucas Fox, and A Properties.

  22. Excellent article and quite thorough. I would add that whenever you go to an official department, bank, realtor or anything where paperwork needs to be signed, take everything you have. It may be clear that all you need to bring is your credit card and then when you get there, someone wants to see your padron, your passport, utility bill and so on. Just take everything with you each time!

    • Agree, Mike. Spanish bureaucracy is notoriously fickle and inconsistent. Last week, I went to my Spanish bank to update the mobile number on my account. For security reasons, they said, I had to contact my personal account rep. His branch is far away and he was not answering my emails… So, I walked into another branch, showed my TIE card, and, voila! Done.

  23. Great article.
    I was curious about these things:
    – What documents you needed to move to Spain (so many they required a spreadsheet) and what you were tracking.
    – The kinds of “games” landlords and agents play.
    – The length of leases you were negotiating.
    – Money transfers to and from US banks. Did you keep your US accounts and only transfer to Spanish banks what you needed for the month?
    – Issues and concerns regarding hospitalization for older persons considering the experience regarding health, medications, social security, etc.,
    – The overall affordability of life in Spain (certainly cheaper than San Diego, but as compared with cities like Memphis, Tulsa, Kansas City)

    • Thanks for reading! Great questions Albert. Some brief answers below:
      – For documents needed, refer to the website of the Spanish consulate for your residence in the US. Each consulate may have varying requirements.
      – Most common game: asking for large deposit after agreeing to terms; do not rent from an agency unless you have been to there office.
      – Length of apartment leases: minimum 6 months, typically 12+.
      – Yes, we kept our funds in US banks and transfer what we need to pay bills here in Valencia, Spain.
      – We are in our 40’s and relatively healthy. Our visa required that we buy private health insurance in Spain paying a full year upfront.
      – for the cost of living, see https://travelinspireconnect.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/cost-of-living-comparison-numbeo-com

    • Albert: I can answer that, having lived in several Spanish cities. The landlords/agents only plats the usual games, like blaming existing damages to the property on you and withholding deposits for no reason what-so-ever.

      Contracts are either shortterm (3-11 months) or long-term (5 years, with 6-12 month mandatory compliance). Overall Spanish rental laws favor the tenant.


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