Alicante, Spain

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Alicante, Spain: Everything You Need To Know

Reviewed by Lief Simon

Lief Simon is the managing editor of Global Property Advisor, Simon Letter, and Offshore Living Letter. He has purchased more than 45 properties, investing in 23 different countries around the world.

Promenade in the Marina of Alicante, Spain
AdobeStock/ Leonid Andronov

Alicante is easy to fall in love with. The challenge living here can be resetting your internal clock to get in sync with the local rhythm.

Spain has long been a popular destination for casual visitors and retirees alike. A convivial culture, generally agreeable climate, reasonable cost of living, and superb food are just a few of the reasons for Spain’s perpetual popularity.

ButSpain is quite diverse—really more a loosely-knit group of largely autonomous and disparate comunidades more than a single country. Faced with such diversity, where should you begin your explorations?

The historic, Mediterranean port city of Alicante is worth your consideration. Located on Spain’s southeast Iberian Peninsula in an area known as the Costa Blanca, Alicante has a population of 350,000, which includes a small expat community.

Although its roots are ancient, Alicante today is a 21st century city with a bustlingcentroof chic designer shops and department stores, friendly locals, a harbor with stunning yachts, and a sleek tram/light-rail system.

And yet, Alicante manages to retain the feel of Old Spain. Businesses observe the afternoon siesta. Friends meet for coffee and chats. In fact, Alicante is an ideal place to savor Europe’s café culture.

Life In Alicante

The city has an excellent public transport system. Buses (1.50 euros) are modern and air-conditioned and integrate with the tram system, which comprises 5 lines, 71 stations, and 78 miles of rail.

The tram system (3.75 euros one way, 6 euros round-trip) covers not only the city proper, but extends to outlying areas such as Benidorm, and is a great way to explore the entire area.

Living in Alicante, Spain. you wouldn’t need to own a car.

The Alicantines have learned that it’s best not to battle the afternoon sun. Shops open at 9 a.m., close at 2 p.m., reopen at 5 p.m., and then remain open until 8 p.m.

Before or after dinner, people take regular evening walks along the promenade—the Explanada de España—stopping off perhaps at one of its many bars and cafés.

For example, dinner is at 10 p.m. or later—late by North American standards. Though the schedule may initially seem odd, if you relax and give in to it, you’ll soon find that these folks really are on to something.

Expats In Alicante, Spain

Alicante is home to a small but solid expat community. The city feels larger than it is, perhaps in part because of the staggering number of restaurants here.

One expat maintains there are 631 restaurants within the city. Whether this is true or not, you won’t ever have to go far in search of a good dining experience.

The food is good wherever you go. A poor-quality restaurant doesn’t stay in business long.

In the shops here you can find virtually everything you might need. Indeed, you might not need to look any further than the multi-story Corte Inglés department stores—there are two in the downtown area. It’s little wonder many expats choose to live inel centro.

Expat John Clites lives full-time in Alicante, Spain. “There’s a lot to like here, but the food tops my list,” John says. “I never tire of paella, which comes in so many varieties.

And there’s shrimp, squid, and octopus. If you aren’t a fan of seafood, try the olla churra, which is a hearty meat-and-veggie stew.

A custom I love is that most bars and restaurants give you a tapa—a little snack—free when you order a drink. ¡Una cerveza más, por favor!”

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Cost Of Living In Alicante, Spain

The downtown and harbor of Alicante seen from Santa Barbara Castle. alicante spain

Perhaps the best part of this beautiful Old World coastal city is the cost of living here. This is one of Europe’s greatest bargains. You can rent a furnished apartment in a good location for as little as US$500 per month.

The surprise comes in discovering how low the price tags are… Especially given the top quality of life on offer. This incredible value applies to everything from eating out…to health care…to renting or buying a home.

With the dollar so strong against the euro right now, this is one of the best times in 20 years take advantage of the values in Spain…

Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in Alicante.

Apartment Or House Rental Budget (For A Couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
TOTALUS$2,235 
RentUS$1,088Three-bedroom apartment in the city center.
TransportationUS$65Monthly pass for a couple.
UtilitiesUS$200Electricity, including heating and cooling, and water. Internet and Cable TV.
CellphoneUS$22Monthly plan with calls and 10GB+ data.
GroceriesUS$400Monthly grocery haul.
Household HelpUS$160Twice per week.
EntertainmentUS$300Eating out twice a week at a local restaurant. Beers twice a week at a local pub. Movie theatre trip twice a month.

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Things To Do In Alicante, Spain

Lunch with a fantastic view to the blue sea
AdobeStock/Lissa

Castillo de Santa Barbara sits atop Mount Benacantil, watching over Alicante and its harbor, as it has for centuries. The castle’s exact age is unknown, but some sources trace its origins back to the ninth century. It’s a great place to take in the layout of the city. While you can walk to the top, you might instead want to splurge and pay the 3 euros to ride the elevator. (Tip: If you are 65 or older, the ride is free.)

Lovely from any angle, Alicante is perhaps loveliest from above. Parks are sprinkled liberally about, and the broad Explanada de España runs along the exquisite harbor. Alicante is a city designed to be enjoyed.

Down at street level, Alicante is home to more than 600 restaurants. Eating is an important part of the experience of life in Spain, especially in Alicante.

Speaking of food, there are various tapas and wine tasting tours you can take. Or you can go on a paella and sangria workshop where you’re brought to the Central Market—the largest indoor market in Spain. There you pick up your ingredients before learning how to make these two Spanish staples.

Alicante is a city of and for boaters of all kinds, who can sail and cruise at any time of year. Even in winter, daytime highs are usually in the low 60s.

So, if you have a boat fetish, Alicante is made for you, as yachts, sailboats, and sea craft of all sorts moor in its harbor. If you aren’t ready to shell out for your own boat, you can charter one or take a day tour to nearby islands.

For the more adventurous, go parasailing, take surf lessons, or charter a boat to explore the nearby caves.

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Safety In Alicante, Spain

Spain, on the whole, has some of Europe’s lowest crime rates, and Alicante is no different.

The economic crisis of recent years led to marginal increases in overall criminality. However, the most common type of crime in Spain, theft of property from a car, has seen a considerable decline over the last few decades.

Alicante comes in with a crime index of 31.75 and a safety index of 68.25. This makes it safer than other European cities like London, Rome, Brussels, and Lisbon, and on par with Krakow and Copenhagen according to numbeo.com.

Expats who live there tells us that the city center is strikingly clean and vibrant and safe for walking, even in the madrugada—the wee hours.

Health Care In Alicante, Spain

The Spanish health care system is one of the best in the world. It placed seventh in the most recent World Health Organization rankings. In comparison, the U.S. ranks #37 and Canada ranks #30.

As a North American retiree, you likely won’t have free access to the Spanish public health system. But there is a pay-in scheme of around US$65 a month for under-65s and US$170 a month for older residents. Meantime, private health insurance plans start from around US$300 a month.

And, if you need ongoing access to health care, you’ll be well catered for. There are a number of hospitals and clinics in the city and all receive high ratings for their patient care.

In Spain, the health system is held in high regard.

The quality of staff, service, and equipment are outstanding. In general, non-EU retirees will not have access to the Spanish health care system and will have to take out private insurance.

Plus, if you move to Spain as an employee or are self-employed, the situation is different. You will pay social security contributions, and so you will be issued with a social security number entitling you to health care, sickness, and unemployment benefits, as well as government pensions.

For minor problems, take advantage of the excellentfarmacias(pharmacies), where highly trained pharmacists will recommend advice and remedies, some of which require prescriptions back home.

Alicante, Spain: Visa And Residency

U.S. citizens can enter Spain for visits of up to 90 days visa-free, so it is feasible to own a property in Spain, visit for up to 183 days a year, and remain non-resident. Or you can seek legal residency.

If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, you need a “long-stay visa” in your passport before you leave the United States.

Like many countries in Europe, Spain grants residency to foreigners who can prove they can take care of themselves (that is, pay their own bills and not be a burden on the state). Spain introduced an investor residency visa in November 2013, modified in July 2015 to make it more attractive.

How To Qualify for An Investor Visa In Spain

A minimum 2 million euros sovereign debt purchase;

Establishing a business that creates employment or post-graduate study;

Property purchase with a minimum value of 500,000 euros. This can be one property or an accumulation of two or more less expensive properties, but the initial 500,000 euros investment must be mortgage-free (although any portion over 500,000 euros may be funded via a mortgage).

Purchase may be via a company if you can prove you are the majority shareholder.

This investor visa covers the legal spouse of the visa holder, civil and common law partners, dependent parents, and dependent children, including those over 18.

To initiate the process you can apply in Spain for a six-month visa once a contract to purchase a property is signed and deposit funds are in a Spanish bank account. Thereafter, a five-year renewal is given and this can be done from outside Spain.

The visa includes the right to work and the right to access social security and health care once employed.

No minimum stay in Spain is required during this period so it is possible to hold a residency visa and remain fiscally non-resident, although you may be asked to provide evidence of where you are actually resident.

Residency in Spain doesn’t just allow you to live in Spain. You can stay as long as you like in any of the 26 Schengen visa countries.

In short, you could move as you wanted among Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and beyond.

Read more: First Step To Your New Life Overseas

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Weather In Alicante, Spain

During the winter months, daytime highs are usually in the low 60s (Fahrenheit).

Rain is scarce with a drier winter than other Mediterranean locales.

It’s mild between December and February, with lots of sunny days. The good news is it never snows.

Summers are hot and sunny with highs of 90°F. The use of air conditioning is common during these months.

Alicante, Spain - FAQ’s

Can You Fly Direct To Alicante From the US?

Even though the airport in Alicante is an international one, there are currently no direct flights from the States. However, you can fly to Alicante from various cities in the US including from New York (JFK and Newark), Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia with one or two stopovers.

A huge advantage of living in Spain is the chance to explore Portugal, France, and beyond. Whether by road, rail, or air, Spain’s infrastructure allows you to plan your European adventures easily, frequently, and affordably.

Fancy a long weekend in Amsterdam, Vienna, Rome, Prague, or Dublin? Budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet offer cheap flights all over Europe, with services close to all major towns.

How Can I Ship My Household Goods?

Transferring your belongings can be done either by plane or boat—the latter taking quite a bit longer. Countless companies are available to help you in this process, collecting your belongings at your home in the States, and delivering them to your door on the other side of the world.

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