- Download our Moving to Spain Guide (PDF)
The quality of life in Spain is alluring. The country is relatively large and varies enormously – culturally, climatically and economically – from region to region. That said, common to most of Spain is a welcoming society, decent infrastructure and the opportunity for a somewhat affordable cost of living.
Living expenses in Spain have indeed 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 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 that can be of tremendous value. This is particularly true for expats who take advantage of restaurants that 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 education in Spain
Private schooling is available, with fees varying wildly 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 healthcare in Spain
Spain’s healthcare system is highly regarded globally for its effectiveness and almost universal coverage. The public healthcare system, known as the National Health System (SNS), provides quality medical services to over 99 percent of the population. This system is characterised by well-trained medical personnel and an extensive network of hospitals and medical centres.
Despite the high standard of care, the system is not without its challenges. Longer waiting times for specialist appointments and certain procedures can be a source of frustration. This has led to the popularity of private health insurance, which offers an alternative for those seeking faster access to non-urgent and elective procedures. Private health insurance plans vary in cost, but they provide an option for individuals to supplement the public system and mitigate wait times.
Cost of living in Spain chart
Prices may vary across Spain, depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Madrid in February 2024.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|Food and drink
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Big Mac Meal
|Bottle of beer (local)
|Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)
|City-centre public transport fare
|Gasoline (per litre)
What do expats say about living costs in Spain?
"Living in Spain is way more affordable than living in France. Everything is cheap here, from international schools and restaurants to housing." Read our interview with French expat Chris to learn more about living in the country.
"People have this perception of Spain being a cheap country, but I don’t think this is necessarily true. At least not in Barcelona. I do think that basic groceries and restaurants/bars are cheaper than in The Netherlands. But housing is definitely very expensive, both for renting and buying. Taxes on income and property are pretty high and gas, light and electricity are way more expensive than back in my hometown. Although, I’ve been told that these prices vary by region." Read about Linda's expat experience in Spain over the last seven years in her interview.
"Living in Spain is way more affordable than living in Germany. I especially enjoy the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables. However, I was quite surprised by how high the rents in Barcelona are compared to what people earn here". Read more from our interview with Vicki on her experiences of living in Spain.
Are you an expat living in Spain?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Spain. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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