Year after year Spain continues to rank as the most popular country for British expats to move to. Why? Because the cost of living in Spain is simply much cheaper than the UK. 

Whether you are planning to stay here a year or two, or perhaps settle, Spain is a very appealing destination for Brits of all ages. It is close enough to home to be able to visit family regularly, while being far away enough from the British climate to enjoy year round sun.

a woman sitting in the Gaudi Park in Barcelona enjoying the sun.

It is true that the average salary in Spain is lower than the average British one. However, even though you may be earning less, your money will go a lot further in Spain vs UK.

What is more, ff you teach English you will realise the pay is pretty good. There is a high demand for English teachers in schools, academies and even corporations.

It is not a surprise that teaching English is the most popular job for Brits in Spain. If you combine being a native speaker with a teaching qualification like the TEFL or TESOL you will easily find work.

What is the cost of living in Spain vs the UK?

 

Below I have broken the cost of living down into four main parts:

  • Transport
  • Rent
  • Food
  • Free Time

 

The Cost of Transport in Spain vs UK

 

Metro

The metro systems in Spain are significantly cheaper than in the UK. In Barcelona you can buy a T-10 metro card for €10.20 (£9.13). This allows the use of 10 journeys within a month. That’s a mere 92p per journey!

In London the minimum journey with an oyster card costs £2.40 (this is for zone 1 only). You can see that the metro in Barcelona is almost 3 times cheaper than the tube in London!

What is more so, a journey from London zone 1 – 6 will cost as much as £5.10! Whereas Barcelona is a lot more generous with zone ranges. The T-10 zone 1 will cover your travel way beyond the city limits. You can explore the nature reserve in the mountains above the city or the nearby coastal towns for only 92p each way. A day round trip will cost £1.84 – that is still cheaper than a single journey in central London!

T-10 metro ticket and RENFE train ticket, the cost of living in Spain

The T-10 will cover journeys on the bus / metro / cable car and trains. It even covers your journey to and from the airport. I recently discovered that though the metro stop for the airport is outside zone 1, the train line is just within it. If you take the RENFE you don’t need to buy an extra ticket to go to the airport. This is something I only recently discovered after needlessly always buying a separate ticket – just a little life hack for when you move here. 

If you are moving to Spain to study while you work your travel costs will be even cheaper with discounted rates available to students.

 

Cycling 

Cycling is a great choice of transport in Spain. It hardly ever rains and the cities are small and designed well for cyclists. You can easily buy a second hand bike off of Wallapop or you can choose to rent a bike. In Barcelona there is the Bicing service (much like the London Santander service) where you can pay a yearly subscription to rent a bike. In London a yearly subscription costs £90 where as In Barcelona it costs €35 per year £31.31p, again making the cost of renting a bike almost 3 times cheaper in Spain.

Red Bicing rental bikes in Barcelona.

Driving

As the app world continues to grow we are experiencing more and more new ways to travel by car.

 Many people use the app BlaBlaCar as a way to travel long distances. Drivers travelling to and from cities will advertise a date and destination and you can car share with them. It is a great way to travel and get to know people. 

However, if you want to be behind the wheel of the car of your own road trip, car rental here is very cheap. There is an app Social Car where car owners can rent out their cars for a cheaper price than your standard car rental service. Weekend road trips camping are a really great and cheap way to spend time with friends.

Flying

With cheap airlines internal flights across Spain are very cheap, and flights all around Europe are also. 

The cost of rent

The most popular way to find flatmates and rooms to rent is through apps like Idealista and Badi. I would suggest waiting until you are here to find a room, maybe stay in a hostel for your first couple of weeks, so then you can go and view rooms and decide whether you like the place or not. 

Flats with terraces in Barcelona Spain

Rent in Spain varies depending on what city you are living in. Barcelona and Madrid are relatively expensive compared to the rest of Spain. Though prices have gone up significantly in the last few years they are still very cheap when you compare them to London rent prices.

A room in one of the main cities will cost between €300 – 500 (£268 – 447) including bills, whereas in London the price is anywhere between £600 – 900 per month.

The cost of eating in Spain vs the UK

Eating well in Spain is easy and cheap. You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from your local stalls, and bread and pastries from your local bakery. There is still very much a culture of buying locally from markets as opposed to supermarkets, which is nice as it not only makes the shopping experience more enjoyable but it means you are supporting local independent businesses.

The cost of groceries in Spain, a woman standing outside a fruit and vegetable shop in Barcelonaa burger being sold at a street market in Barcelona, Spain

The Cost of Going Out in Spain vs UK

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how expensive it is to go out in the UK. From the price of a pint costing £5 to the price of a cinema ticket costing £15 , you can easily spend £100 on the most modest of weekends. 

In Spain a standard cinema ticket on the weekend will cost €8.50 (£7.60) – and a drink around €2.50 (£2.23).

However that is just your standard cinemas. There is a great cinema near me where tickets are only €4 on the weekends and even cheaper in the week days.

There are also plenty of fiestas in Spain. It honestly feels like there is a national holiday every other weekend. If you enjoy bizarre traditions, free live music and dancing in the streets then you are in for a treat. 

a couple playing jenga at a street festival in Barcelona, The cost of going out in Spain

When I first moved to Spain I was in awe of how cheap and easy it was to enjoy your free time. A year on and it is still something I am continually grateful for. The cities are designed with relaxation in mind. There are plenty of plazas to sit in and drink €1 beers. In the main cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia you will find public ping pong tables and chess sets, and there are plenty of free activities you can join in on through Meetup. Whether you are into volleyball, running or philosophy there is a free activity for everyone. I’d also highly suggest Meetup for if you are new here. It is a great way to meet people and improve your Spanish.

In the UK it can often feel like you are living to work, in Spain we work to live.

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