Retiring to Spain

One of the biggest attractions for retiring expats is the climate. Winter daytime temperatures in Southern Spain are usually above 10° and very rarely below it, with the country as a whole enjoying an estimated 300 days sunny days a year. Other boons for retirees include the laid back way of life, the good food and the huge range of outdoor activities on offer.    

Living Expenses

Compared with other western European nations the cost of living in Spain is relatively low, though this can vary regionally. Clothing and utility costs can be fairly high but food costs in both restaurants and supermarkets are in the mid-range for Europe whilst public transportation falls within the low to mid-range. However, in Spain’s largest cities – Madrid and Barcelona – the cost of living can be significantly higher than the national average.


Life expectancy in Spain is high at 81.4 years and universal healthcare is free, provided by the Spanish government in accordance with a mandate in the constitution. Spanish healthcare facilities are of a high standard and are generally considered to be better than those on offer in the U.K. That being said, the strong emphasis on family values means the numbers of care homes for the elderly, infirm and disabled are limited.

Before going to Spain you are advised to arrange private medical cover in advance or register with the local authority swiftly after your arrival (the latter option potentially exposes you to tax.) Once issued with a Spanish medical card (tarjeta sanitaria) you will be in receipt of the same healthcare rights as a Spaniard in the state system. Alternately you can register with a private medical service, either within Spain or in your country of origin.


Unless renting is the preferred option retiring to Spain usually involves one of the following property options: Fully Independent, Gated Community, Dedicated over 55’s Complex, Retirement Homes or Leasehold Property. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, so thorough research and independent advice prior to making any form of commitment is absolutely essential. Property prices in Spain are very location dependant, again doing some dedicated research could not be more strongly advised!

Social and political climate

The urban crime rate in Spain is appreciably higher than the rural whilst the national crime rate for violent crime has been falling in recent years. Retirees will find Spain a safe and welcoming place as long as reasonable precautions are taken (cars secured without valuables on display, adequate home and personal security measures in place).

Spain is considered to be politically stable, conflict within the nation has not occurred since the short lived coup attempt of 1981.


The Spanish rail system is one of the best in Western Europe and is the most developed part of the country’s infrastructure. On the high speed trains a trip that could normally take five hours is reduced to two, and there are good connections between all major cities. Spain also has the largest amount of operational commercial airports, 48 publically operated and 2 privately operated. The majority of Spain’s road network was constructed in the second half of the 20th century and is in a constant state of improvement. Congestion can be quite an issue in more built up areas, particularly around large cities, and it can get significantly worse in the summer months.