Useful Information on Living in Spain

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Spain is located in Southern Europe, bordered by Portugal and France. From mountain ranges, orchards and forests down to historic cities and popular beach towns, Spain has been a popular destination for UK expats for years and has a large, established international community.

The Language Barrier in Spain

The business language in Spain is predominantly Spanish, however most people have a basic grasp of English. ‘Spanglish’ (a casual blend of Spanish and English), for example, is often spoken in expat communities and demonstrates the open-mindedness toward global cultures and languages. Many Spanish locals and residents will understand basic English.

It is easier to adjust to living or working in Spain, especially within an expat or international community, when compared to other European countries.

Weather & Climate

Depending on where you live in Spain, the weather may vary. Where it’s marginally hotter than the UK in certain northern parts, the coldest average temperature is around 10°C in Madrid in January. While the summers are consistently hotter, the seasonal changes are more noticeable when compared to the UK. Winters are cooler by approximately 20°C, whereas Spain experiences summer highs of 33°C, which means abundant sunshine later in the year.

In the northern areas of Spain, winter often spells rainy forecasts, yet more southernly areas are not often exposed to as much yearly rainfall. Northern Spain resembles the closest to traditional English weather, but on average is a lot warmer.

British Embassy in Spain

Address:British Embassy Madrid
Torre Espacio
Paseo de la Castellana 259D
28046 Madrid
Spain
Phone:+34 917 146 300
Fax:+34 917 146 301
Website:https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-madrid
Office hours:Local Time: Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm

Emergency Services Contact Information in Spain

Emergency ServiceContact Number
Police & Ambulance Service112
Fire Service112
From a mobile112

Health in Spain

Those preparing to leave the UK to live or work in Spain should visit their GP to seek professional medical advice and find out about any planned vaccinations that may be needed. In addition to the UK’s standard MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) and Tetanus top-up injections, you might also be recommended vaccines for the for the following:

  • Diphtheria
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Japanese Encephalitis

Additionally, a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate will be required for those aged one year or above if they are travelling from, or through, a country that has a known risk of Yellow Fever Virus.

Whilst Spain does not currently require any vaccination certificates before travel, the Travel Health Pro recommends that most UK expats or travellers receive a Tetanus jab, and some should consider a Rabies jab, before entering the country.

There is a high standard of healthcare in Spain, especially in pharmacies, which operate on a 24-hour availability. Pharmacists in Spain can also offer treatment advice for common illnesses and ailments, which means health advice is more easily accessible.

Spain has both public and private healthcare services, depending on your circumstances and needs. Anyone contributing into the Spanish Social Security service is eligible to benefit from the public healthcare initiative. Public healthcare covers basic visitations, but like the NHS long waiting times can be common. The UK government recommends that all expats seek a good level of medical insurance for comprehensive cover, especially as dental appointments and visits to the opticians are not covered publicly, or under the social security system.

A comprehensive health insurance policy is strongly advised for any British expat looking to live in Spain. Most British expats living in Spain choose to use health insurance to gain access to private medical care for more greater coverage. Although this is more expensive than using public healthcare services, it significantly reduces waiting time and provides more in-depth services.

For retirees, Spain provides free healthcare, and the UK contributes an annual sum to the Spanish government in support of this. Seeking additional health cover is advisable.

Driving in Spain

Driving in Spain is similar to many other European countries, and they even have roundabouts and other familiar road infrastructures. They drive on the right-hand side and, since Brexit, you’ll be expected to obtain a Green Card from your insurer to legally drive in Spain. You’ll also require a GB sticker for your car, and a car insurance policy that covers European travel.

Spain is like France with many of its laws, including a ban on driver radar systems and speed camera detectors. If your sat-nav includes this as standard, you’ll be at risk of a costly fine. So, for UK expats, ensure you’re familiar with the different road rules and regulations before driving in Spain.

Motorways, or ‘autopistas’, are often some of the quieter roads due to the volume of tollbooths that regulates the traffic. You also must keep a minimum speed of 60kmh (37mph), unless there is traffic congestion. Locals often prefer back roads, but these can quickly become congested in peak travel times.

You will be eligible to drive on your UK drivers’ licence whilst living or working in Spain if you are over the age of 18. After Brexit, you can continue to use your licence until 1 July 2021. You may need to take a test if you want to exchange your licence. If you hold a licence from Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, you may need to take a test to drive in Spain.

If you were a resident in Spain before 1 January 2021 and registered your details with the DGT (Spanish Traffic Authority) before 30 December 2020, you must make an appointment with the DGT to complete the exchange of your UK licence by 30 June 2021. You will have to show proof that you are registered as a resident at the appointment.

For more on regulations surrounding Brexit, read here.

Getting your Driving Licence in Spain

In order to convert your licence into a Spanish one, you will need the following:

  • Your UK Driving Licence
  • Proof of residence and identity
  • A colour photograph (32 x26 mm)
  • This form filled out
  • Payment method; or if you have paid already, the invoice number

For further information, the DGT establishes the full regulations here.

Legal Requirements

If you register as a resident or spend longer than 6 months of the year in Spain, you must register your vehicle with the Spanish authorities and you may need to pay some taxes.

You should be extra careful to avoid drink driving while living in Spain as the restrictions are lower. The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.5, or 0.3 for those driving less than 4 years.