There is a scene in the 2003 movie "Under The Tuscan Sun" that I now can identify as the moment...Read more
Along Spain’s southwestern coast is an area you’ve probably never heard of…
It’s called the Costa de la Luz, or the Coast of Light, and going from northwest to southeast, it stretches from Spain’s border with Portugal down to Tarifa, the southernmost point in Europe, almost touching Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar, along the Atlantic Coast.
This region is famous for the very thing it’s named for: dazzling, always abundant sunshine. At well over 3,000 sunshine hours per year, vitamin D deficiency is not a risk here.
The Costa de la Luz’s centerpiece is Cádiz. It’s often called “Little Havana” or compared to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, because of its long board-walked beachfront backed by colorful ancient buildings…
But Cádiz is the prototype that those New World cities were based on.
It’s touted as the oldest city in Western Europe, dating to 1104 BC. Walking its streets, you can feel the history and see the cultural influence of the many civilizations—from Phoenicians to the Romans to the Moors—that impacted it over time. Its Old Town is densely populated, with one of Europe’s oldest neighborhoods and ruins hemmed in by old city walls. Individual landmarks syncretize various architectural styles. Narrow streets spill out into lively plazas where you can sit in the shade of a towering cathedral and watch the world go by…
Cádiz Province (one of the two provinces that the Costa de la Luz covers; the other is Huelva) offers everything from well-appointed beachfront towns to ancient hilltop villages that can be seen for miles because of their brilliant white-washed buildings. Across these towns, you find pockets of expats that love the region for its low cost of living, beautiful beaches and pristine nature, and authentic culture.
One of the biggest reasons to choose Spain as your overseas retirement destination is that it’s fantastically affordable. Many Americans and Canadians have this perception of Western Europe as being financially out of reach, a destination only accessible in daydreams… The truth is that many Western European countries— especially Spain and especially the Costa de la Luz— are more affordable than the States or Canada. That’s a lower cost of living for a higher quality of life, too.
Also, the current opportunity that Europe presents can’t be ignored: it has never been more affordable for Americans than it is right now. The euro is at a historic, 20-year low against the U.S. dollar, which means that everything from the cost of espresso to the cost of beachfront property comes at an unprecedented exchange-rate discount.
If you’re looking to make a move anywhere Europe, the time is now.
Living in the Costa de la Luz, your big-ticket expenses are likely to be rent, health care, and taxes. For rent, expect to pay about 600 euros a month at the higher-end of the spectrum, for a well-appointed two-bedroom apartment by the beach. Compare that to US$2,159—the average rent for an apartment in Sarasota, Florida, and you’ll see where the savings come in.
To qualify for most types of Spanish residency as a foreigner, you’ll need to provide proof of health insurance, and for older folks, this can be pricey. Exact amounts depend on the provider, your health, and what the policy covers, but it can be anywhere from US$1,500 to US$5,000 per person per year.
Once you become resident in Spain, your health care costs will go down once you become part of the national health care system. One expat I spoke to, Rachel, quoted paying about 60 euros per month for excellent Spanish health care.
For other day-to-day costs in Spain, you’ll be surprised at how affordable things are… You’ll often hear that “wine is cheaper than water” in southern Spain, and it’s completely true. You can get a decent bottle of wine for about a euro. A dinner for two, including drinks, appetizers, mains, and dessert, could come to about 30 euros. A fancy coffee will be less than 3 euros; a beer (served in small glasses called cañas in Spain) will be about 1.20 euros.
Transportation costs will depend on whether you have a car. It’s possible to get by without one thanks to the train, for which the basic fare is negligible. You’ll want to have air conditioning in your home to use in summer months, and this will bump up your utility bill, but the good news is that Spain will be spared from the massive energy price spike that’s coming to Northern Europe this winter.
Sixteen years ago I flew into sunny, cosmopolitan Barcelona and thought what a great place this would be to live, not for a minute at the time believing that would ever be possible. Just four years later I had moved to within 20 minutes of Barcelona's pulsing heart. My daughter was born right there, a stone's throw from La Pedrera, Gaudí's famous wave-fronted Modernista building. What immediately intrigued me about Barcelona back on my first visit was how quickly and...Read more