The quality of life in Spain is alluring. The country is relatively large and varies enormously – culturally, climatically and economically – from region to region. But common to most of Spain is a welcoming society, decent infrastructure and the opportunity for a somewhat affordable cost of living.

It's true that living expenses in Spain have increased recently, while the average Spanish salary hasn't entirely kept pace. That said, foreigners who are either retired or earning a decent salary will likely be able to afford a high quality of life. Plus, expats living on a budget will find ways to save constantly.

Barcelona is the priciest Spanish city to live in, followed by the country's capital, Madrid. It was ranked as the 75th most expensive expat city out of 227 cities in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2023, while Madrid was ranked 83rd. Still, even Spain’s largest urban centres are significantly less expensive than popular European destinations such as Geneva, Berlin and Milan.

Cost of accommodation in Spain

Generally speaking, the closer a property is to the coast or city centre, the more expensive it will be. This is particularly true of the Mediterranean coastline. This trend is due to a passion for Spanish beaches, shared by locals and foreigners alike.

Short-term summer rentals for any coastal property can be among some of the most expensive real estate in Spain, while long-term leases are usually cheaper.

Needless to say, the sky is the limit for high-quality accommodation in prestigious locations. That said, there are also some exceptional bargains to be found.

Cost of transport in Spain

Public transport in Spain is moderately priced, with buses providing an excellent, low-cost way of getting around the country. The rail network also provides good value for money. Thanks to the high-speed AVE network, although more expensive than normal trains, expats can travel between different parts of the country fairly quickly.

While getting a taxi can be quite costly, expats can take advantage of ride-sharing and carpool apps to find the best route and rate to suit them.

Cost of schools in Spain

Expats can send their children to state schools in Spain at no cost, as long as they have registered for their Certificado de Empadronamiento (Certificate of Residence) at their local town hall.

Private schooling is available with fees varying greatly depending on the specific school concerned, its location and the language and curriculum it teaches. An English-language private school in the centre of Madrid will, for example, be more expensive than a Spanish-language private school in the provinces. 

Many expats choose to send their children to international schools in Madrid or other urban centres. This allows students to continue studying the curriculum of their home country and removes the challenges presented by the language barrier. Some international schools in Spain charge high fees, so expats planning on pursuing this option should ensure their budget can accommodate this.

Cost of groceries and eating out in Spain

The cost of supermarket food in Spain is equal to prices found in a country such as the UK. Food is surprisingly expensive relative to average Spanish wages. The inverse is true when eating out, a pursuit which can be of tremendous value, particularly when expats take advantage of restaurants which offer an economical menú del día (menu of the day), which is usually a generous three-course lunchtime meal. Similarly, alcoholic drinks are fairly cheap, which isn't too surprising given the vast quantities of wine produced by Spain.

Cost of living in Spain chart

Prices may vary across Spain, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Madrid in February 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 1,100

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

EUR 800

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 1,800

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

EUR 1,300


Dozen eggs

EUR 2.35

Milk (1 litre)

EUR 0.89

Rice (1 kg)

EUR 1.24

Loaf of white bread

EUR 1.11

Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 7.34

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 5.15

Eating out

Big Mac Meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 2.35


EUR 2.13

Bottle of beer (local)

EUR 3.50

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

EUR 50


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.14

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

EUR 34

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water, refuse)

EUR 168


Taxi rate/km

EUR 1.10

Bus fare in the city centre 

EUR 1.50


EUR 1.85

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