Are you looking into working remotely in Spain for a while? Whether you’re thinking about basing yourself in one place or traveling around the country, Spain is a great option for digital nomads.
I’ve been traveling around the world as a digital nomad for the last 5 years.
Every destination has been well worth the effort, but some made life as a digital nomad much easier than others. Our trip to Spain really opened our eyes to what a great digital nomad destination should look like.
What Does a Destination Need to Be Suitable for Digital Nomads?
A digital nomad is a person who is location-independent and uses technology to complete their job. It’s a broad definition and there are lots of different kinds of digital nomads including entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers, and more.
There are certain things a digital nomad needs to be successful. So before I get into why working remotely from Spain is great and why I’d recommend it as a destination for digital nomads, let’s start with what a destination needs to be suitable for digital nomads.
Access to high-quality and consistent internet is one of the biggest factors when evaluating a digital nomad destination.
As a digital nomad, work and income are tied to the internet and the ability to consistently connect at high speed can make the difference between focused work that hits deadlines or troubleshooting frustration.
2. Work Culture, Community and Safety
Most of us don’t travel so that we can sit in our hotels or Airbnbs locked away working. A great digital nomad destination will have lots of options for working outside of your accommodation.
Coffee shops, coworking spaces, and even local parks are great spots to take in the culture and feel of a place while still working. These alternative workspaces will hopefully be frequented by other business travelers or local professionals and the area will feel safe for you to bring whatever work essentials or equipment you need.
3. Travel Infrastructure
For many digital nomads, exploring the surrounding areas and moving from place to place is one of the highlights of this location independent lifestyle. But losing a day just to get from one place to the next due to bad infrastructure is a waste of a good day off!
Sometimes it’s easy to take a quick taxi or hop on the metro, but often the places you want to go to are hours apart. This is where the transportation infrastructure can really affect your experience.
A solid public transportation system can allow for digital nomads to continue working in relative comfort and not lose the time spent traveling from place to place.
4. Cost of Living
When you live where you work, your pay will be somewhat cost adjusted for your area. Digital nomads often get paid based on where their clients or their firm are located and not where they are.
This can be a blessing or a curse and means the exchange rate and cost of living can be big factors in how comfortable of a lifestyle the income can provide.
If you are considering a place with a very high cost of living and a bad exchange rate with the currency you’re being paid in, then it will feel like you are taking a pay cut and may need to adjust your budget to reflect that.
5. Time Difference
If you’re still collaborating with a team while traveling, or still have set working hours PLEASE be aware of the time zone change. Be realistic with yourself about the hours you’ll work based on the time difference.
It might be easy to plan to get up once a week for a 3AM meeting but it can really take away from your experience once it’s your reality. So keep in mind what commitments might arise and what time you would need to address them.
To Sum Up: What Makes a Good Digital Nomad Destination
A good digital nomad destination will have access to high quality and consistent internet, a great working environment, solid travel infrastructure, a reasonable cost of living, and will work within your timing schedule.
Working Remotely in Spain: Why Spain Is an Excellent Digital Nomad Destination
The number of digital nomads in Spain is increasing rapidly. And that’s because many digital nomads love what Spain has to offer.
Let me stick to the same five points I used before to show why Spain works well for digital nomads.
Every Airbnb and every hotel that we stayed at had excellent Wifi. Although it was one of our requirements for accommodations, there was still great wifi everywhere; at restaurants, on trains and train stations, coffee shops, etc.
In Valencia, there are countless cafes and lovely parks that make for excellent work spots. And in Sevilla our Airbnb had an entire block that was perfect for working outside and enjoying the Spanish lifestyle.
During our time in Spain my wife and I were uploading and downloading huge files that required consistent high-speed connections for hours at a time and we didn’t run into any issues at all. This was a huge sigh of relief as our firm was really reliant on us to get this work done and a poor internet connection could have crippled our ability to deliver the work on time.
Note: Although internet has improved a lot in Spain in recent years, it’s not (yet) perfect.
There are many cafés that offer wifi but also many that don’t. The high-speed trains (the AVE) offer wifi, but most local trains do not. And if you decide to visit more rural areas, double-check with your hotel or Airbnb host if they have wifi at all, and don’t expect it to be as good as it is in the larger cities.
Buy a prepaid SIM card from any of the many phone shops once you get to Spain. Orange, Vodafone, Movistar, and Yoigo are four of the big providers. It’s cheap and a lifesaver if ever you can’t find a cafe with wifi.
2. Work Culture, Community and Safety
Spain isn’t particularly well known for its commitment to work. But we also found that most of the cafes and restaurants are happy to have paying visitors even if they’re buried in their laptops.
A cheap coffee or an afternoon pitcher of sangria was the perfect ticket to find comfortable and quiet spaces to get out of our Airbnb or hotel, feel the city and still focus on delivering our work.
In Cordoba, we found a lovely breakfast bar right along the river that let us stay for hours, sipping on sangria, eating pastries, and working away on our laptops.
Spain is also generally very safe, the people are friendly and relaxed, and the quality of life is great. It’s the simple pleasures that are important here. Enjoying a drink on a local plaza, or a long Sunday lunch with family or friends. The Spanish know how to appreciate life!
Tip: are you planning to spend more time working remotely from Spain? Spain offers a non-lucrative VISA that’s a great solution for anyone who’s not an EU citizen and needs a visa to stay in the EU.
My friend Duane has created this practical eBook that explains exactly how to get this visa.
In Spain, traveling from city to city was a breeze on a wifi enabled, air-conditioned fast train with plenty of room and a nice quiet environment.
The trains are super spacious, affordable, and played movies with audio through a headphone connection. Most of the passengers seemed to be very content staring at the movie and listening along with headphones, allowing me several hours of focused work while traveling between cities.
We took the train every time we moved cities from Barcelona to Valencia to Cordoba to Seville and ending in Madrid.
This contrasts starkly with the crowded bus rides and hot trains that we’ve taken in other countries that made working while traveling a real pain.
Buses between cities are also generally comfortable, cheap, and most offer wifi. Buses will also get you to smaller towns where the trains don’t run.
Note: Trains and buses will get you to most places and are generally an inexpensive option. But they won’t get you everywhere.
If you want to explore rural Spain or check out different coastal towns without having to wait for very infrequent buses, then you’re better off renting a car. Rent cars at airports instead of in city centers for the best prices.
4. Cost of Living
The cost of living in Spain is significantly lower than it is in our hometown in South Carolina, USA. And not just that, the cost of living in Spain is lower than in many other European countries.
Because of this, we felt comfortable eating out more, trying delicious Spanish food, enjoying the sangria, and booking excursions to really see the country. I was very thankful that we didn’t need to pinch pennies after seeing all that Spain has to offer.
If you want to know more about the cost of living in Spain, check out Numbeo.com. It is a useful website to help you get an idea of the cost of living in different countries.
5. Time Zone
All of our coworkers are on Eastern Time, a 6 hour time difference, which was the PERFECT scenario for us.
In Spain, most workers start their day between 8 and 9, work until 1pm, then take an extended siesta break in the middle of the day until around 4pm. At 4, they head back into work and finish up between 8 and 9.
My wife and I decided to spend each morning exploring and heading out on excursions, then checked into work at 1pm. This started our day at 7am EST, with a couple of focused hours of planning and execution before our coworkers and clients made it into the office. Then we had five hrs of overlapping collaborative time.
The streets were mostly empty while we were out each morning, and there were very few lines to see any attractions.
In the evenings, all the Spaniards were finishing work at the same time as us and we hit the streets just like them getting a real feel for the culture, pace, and the people.
The Best Places for Digital Nomads in Spain
If you’re a digital nomad and looking to head to Spain for your next long-term stay, we’re confident that you’ll find almost any city in Spain to be a great destination.
That said, our favorites are certainly Valencia and Seville.
Barcelona and Madrid have some thriving areas that would be good fits for digital nomads, but the cities are so big that they can be intimidating and the little pockets of comfort can be harder to find. Cordoba has an amazing historical city, but it’s just a bit too sleepy for our pace.
Valencia and Seville are both upbeat, vibrant cities with lots of modern comforts and amazing sites and activities. The communities, restaurants and bars are alive and fun, but not intimidating. The parks are huge, beautiful and not overcrowded. The streets are clean, the food and drink amazing and the people are incredibly inviting.
Useful Information About the Main Cities for Digital Nomads in Spain
Valencia has a quickly growing digital nomad scene which makes it an easy place to meet other digital nomads.
There is a Facebook page called Valencia Coffees & Co-Working that organizes weekly coworking meetups in local cafes and regular social events.
You can also use that Facebook group to ask questions about the best cafes to work from, current events, etc.
Valencia has several coworking spaces, with Wayco being the most popular one. But again, post a question in that Facebook group for any digital nomad related questions you may have.
If you are looking for a room in Valencia that can be rented per month, and don’t want to spend Airbnb level prices, then check out Uniplaces. And you can use promo code UP10SPENDLIFE for a 10% discount on the service fee.
- Interview With a Digital Nomad About Living in Valencia
- Where to Live in Valencia
- How to Use the Metro in Valencia & Save Money
2. Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
If you are looking for a place with near-perfect weather, Las Palmas might be for you.
Las Palmas is the capital of Gran Canaria, which is one of the Canary Islands. The city attracts digital nomads year round and consequently a lot of coworking spaces and several coliving spaces have opened.
There is a Facebook group called Gran Canaria Digital Nomads. Use it to ask any questions you may have about where to stay, what events are going on, etc.
Tip: An alternative island destination closer to the mainland is Mallorca, which is also becoming more popular among digital nomads. This interview with someone who works remotely from Mallorca shares some tips and personal experiences.
Tarifa is a more laid-back option and especially popular with kite surfers. But it also offers decent surfing, scuba diving and there are plenty of good hikes in the area.
Most digital nomads in Tarifa work from cafes and stay for weeks or months at a time.
There is a Facebook group called Tarifa Digital Nomads where you can find out more about Tarifa and connect with other digital nomads.
Malaga is another city that’s often mentioned as having some of the best weather in the world.
It’s a nice coastal city that’s significantly smaller than Valencia. The city is surrounded by popular coastal resorts and will definitely give you that summer vacation feeling if you go there in summer.
The digital nomad scene here is smaller, but you will find some fellow digital nomads and it’s a great base to explore the south of Spain from.
There is a small Facebook group called Malaga Digital Nomads to help you connect with some other digital nomads here.
If you’re not a city person but do want to hang out with other digital nomads then you might want to check out Javea.
Javea is a beautiful coastal town south of Valencia, located on the Costa Blanca. It has a nice historic center and a long sandy beach lined with bars and restaurants.
What attracts digital nomads to Javea is the coliving space called Sun and Co.
Javea is a nice town to spend a few weeks in and if you rent a car you can explore all the cute towns, coves, and hiking areas the Costa Blanca has to offer.
Note: Sun and Co. operates as a hostel from mid-June until August. The rest of the year it’s a coliving space focusing on digital nomads and anyone who wants to spend some time working remotely in Spain.
Also Read: Things to Do in Moraira, Costa Blanca
If you are thinking about visiting a different part of Spain as a digital nomad or just want general information about digital nomad life in Spain, the Facebook group Digital Nomads Spain is a useful resource.
A Digital Nomad Visa in Spain
Although for a long time working remotely was a strange idea to most Spanish people, let alone government organizations, things now seem to be changing quickly.
The government is creating a special digital nomad visa in Spain, which will allow remote workers who aren’t looking for jobs in Spain to stay in the country for up to 12 months.
This visa is still in the development stage and it’s expected to include a certain amount of taxes that need to be paid, so if it will ever be popular I’m not sure.
The government has also created a list (only in Spanish) of rural towns they say are ideal for working remotely. Whether they actually are ideal is debatable, but it shows that Spain recognizes the growing movement of working remotely and is willing to create new initiatives.
Oh and if you are looking for a cheap digital nomad destination in Spain, those towns are cheap to live in and a great way to get to know local Spanish life!
Other Visas Used by Digital Nomads in Spain
The more traditional visa option for working remotely in Spain is still a simple tourist visa.
If you are an EU citizen you are automatically allowed to spend a maximum of 6 months in Spain without any need to register or apply for any visa. If you are spending more than 6 months a year in Spain you’ll officially have to become a resident, and look into how to pay taxes locally. Unofficially though, I don’t know any digital nomad from the EU who does this until they actually decide to make Spain their home base.
If you’re coming from outside of the EU it’s a bit trickier. Although I’ll admit I know people who have overstayed their tourist visa, I wouldn’t recommend it. You will get questioned at the border and you might run into problems.
A good option has been the non-lucrative visa I briefly mentioned before. But, technically this visa is meant for people who don’t have to work at all and not for people working remotely. And recently I’ve been hearing more and more stories about digital nomads whose non-lucrative visa application was denied.
You have to apply for the non-lucrative visa back home and it seems to depend on the officials there whether they will give you one or not. For example, in the US some cities seem a lot more likely to give non-lucrative visas to digital nomads than other cities.
Visiting Spain as a Digital Nomad
We’ve traveled as digital nomads before to Greece, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, and more, but Spain is definitely the most digital nomad friendly destination we’ve been to so far.
If you’re planning your next destination as a digital nomad be sure to keep these factors in mind, and definitely give Spain a try when you have the chance.
And if you plan to spend at least a month in one place, then check Uniplaces for both room and apartment rentals. Airbnb has gotten very expensive, so this is a more affordable option. And you can use promo code UP10SPENDLIFE for a 10% discount on the service fee.
For More Information About Digital Nomad Life & Working Remotely, Also Read:
- How to Work Remotely From Anywhere in the World
- Staying Productive While Working Remotely
- How to Become a Digital Nomad
- 7 Emotional Challenges of Digital Nomad Life & Practical Solutions
- The Best Gift Ideas For Digital Nomads
- How to Deal With Taxes as a Digital Nomad From the US
For Information About Popular Digital Nomad Destinations:
- Playa del Carmen for Digital Nomads
- A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Bali, Indonesia
- A Digital Nomad’s Guide to Medellin, Colombia
- Montenegro: A Good Destination For Working Remotely?
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