Traveling to Spain offers an unforgettable experience. The second biggest country in the EU after France, Spain is a beautifully diverse nation, brimming with culture and tradition. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain is bordered by Portugal and France, and the rest of the country is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Cantabrian Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. These surroundings play a part in creating the vibrant mix of cultures we see in Spain today.
It’s composed of several autonomous regions, each with their own language, culture, traditions, and social structures throughout history. Many of these maintain a strong presence in today’s population, which creates a fascinating cultural mix throughout the country. These regions include Galicia in the northwest, Catalonia in the northeast, Andalusia in the south, and the Basque Country, located on the border between Spain and France.
Spain’s diversity goes beyond its culture; it also has several different climates and landscapes, including thousands of kilometers of coastline, beautiful mountains, and an abundance of enchanting towns and cities to explore. These attractions bring people from all over the world to settle in Spain for its multitude of lifestyle opportunities.
Spain has a Mediterranean climate and enjoys four seasons, but they are not extreme. The temperature in all areas of Spain typically ranges between 70°F (21°C) and 90°F (30°C) throughout the year.
The average annual humidity is about 80%. Mountainous regions and any area above sea level may experience cooler temperatures and lower humidity. Spain receives little rainfall per year, and most regions receive less than 25 inches per year.
As in any country, weather depends on your region. Generally, though, Spain enjoys a warm, stable climate, with little temperature fluctuation from season to season. Winter in Spain lasts from December to February and summers begin in May and last through September.
The good news if you want to travel to Spain is that you can enjoy an incredible trip without going broke. Spain has a reputation worldwide for its low cost of living.
Barcelona, specifically, is one of the most budget-friendly cities in Europe, making it an ideal choice if you’re looking for an Old-World cosmopolitan lifestyle on a budget. The cost of living in Barcelona is about US$1,462 per month.
The city of Barcelona is a vibrant, colorful, and proud place. The city’s energy continues today despite Spain’s economic ups and downs. People live, work, and shop in most of the city neighborhoods and districts, so each has its own community spirit, and even their own fiestas.
Barcelona is the economic, cultural, and administrative capital of Catalonia, situated in the northeast of Spain, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The city covers a small area but has a large population––100 square kilometers with about 1.6 million people in the city center and another 4 million in the suburbs.
The city has 10 districts, but the areas in greatest demand among visitors, property investors, and expats are in the oldest part, the Ciutat Vella, which is divided into four regions—La Ribera, also known as El Borne (or, locally, Born), to the north; Barrio Gótico, which is in the central Gothic quarter; El Raval to the south; and the seaside suburb of Barceloneta.
The Barrio Gótico is possibly Barcelona’s most touristy area. Historically, this was where the wealthy lived; however, when the Eixample was built in the 19th century, the wealth moved out and the area went downhill. Over the last 10 years, this area has become very popular and has undergone a revival, with the chic, trendy people moving back in. It is an area of narrow streets, small apartments, lots of tourists, and plenty of intriguing ancient history.
Tourists can explore the city quickly and easily because of its compact, well-laid-out design. Fantastic art and architecture from pre-Roman to modern times are everywhere. There are galleries, monuments, theaters, restaurants, shopping—all the usual stuff of cities— yet there are also lots of parks and pretty plazas (plaças in Catalan, the language of this region), great beaches, and easy access to the beautiful Costa Brava to the north and the Costa Dorada to the south.
Welcome to what some consider the most beautiful, unspoiled part of Spain. Listed among the “Most Beautiful Bays in the World,” Santander has a stellar view of the waters off the coast. It’s also the capital city of the Cantabria region, along Spain’s northern coast.
Originally, Santander was a fisherman’s town. Today, its main activities are focused on tourism, port activity (fishing, passenger ferries, and industrial shipping), and nearby heavy industry.
If you travel to Spain and venture to Santander, there are plenty of sights throughout the city, including the cathedral, Magdalena Palace, the stunning Plaza Porticada, the imposing Banco Santander building, the Grand Casino, and several cultural centers, the most impressive of which is the Centro Botín. Everyone who travels to Santander visits Magdalena Palace, located on the peninsula that juts out into the Bay of Santander.
If you’re looking for a nice beach day with gentle waves, try the beaches of El Sardinero, La Magdalena, Bikinis, and Los Peligros.
If you want to travel off the beaten path in Spain, check out Cádiz, a historic port city in the Andalusia region of southwest Spain.
Local tour guide Iván Ricoy is passionate about Andalusia… so much so, in fact, that, after a 10-year career as a telecom engineer, he launched his own travel company, Genuine Andalusia. Iván delivers bespoke trips (private walking tours, day trips, extended tours, and more) to ensure that visitors experience the best of what Andalucía has to offer.
“Nowadays, the national perception of Cádiz is changing. It’s becoming more popular with people from other parts of Spain for the very thing it was previously looked down on for: its laid-back outlook on life,” says Iván. People are now seeking out the slow, family-oriented pace of life that Cádiz is known for.
Tourists are welcomed with open arms. “People from Cádiz are also very friendly. They are excited that foreigners want to come here and see how they live,” Iván says. “I often bring my tour groups to a family-run vineyard, for instance, to see how wine is made, and this has become a source of pride for the family.”
If you want to enjoy a slower pace of life and appreciation for living well, check out Cádiz.
Valencia is a beautiful Mediterranean port city along the southeast coast of Spain. It’s the third most populated city in Spain and offers picturesque beaches, wetlands, and hiking trails.
Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences is a popular tourist destination that features futuristic structures including an oceanarium, a planetarium, and an interactive museum.
Rota is a coastal city in Andalusia that is a popular summer tourist destination and fishing town. Enjoy strolling and eating along the boardwalk and relaxing on the beach.
If you visit Rota, you will enjoy pristine beaches, and if you go during the off-peak season––outside of the summer months––you will enjoy the lack of crowds for a peaceful getaway.
The cost of living in France can be much lower than you expect. We don’t mean that France is a “budget” destination (although there are certainly some very attractive real estate bargains here), but your cost of living could be brought down significantly depending on where and how you live.
Your lifestyle influences greatly on your monthly budget. For example, a Coca-Cola at Champs-Élysée can cost more than lunch for two at a nice bistro in a far less recognizable corner of this city. Paris is expensive, and the Marais is one of its most expensive neighborhoods. But for access to the heart of Paris, there is no better location. The cost of living for this prime location amounts to about 2,860 euros per month.
The Marais district in the center of Paris has one of the highest costs of living in France. The average selling price for property is over 1,020 euros per square foot, and rentals are averaging close to 1,700 euros per month.
Absolutely. France offers the world’s best quality of life and retiring here is more affordable than you might think. In fact, France is included in our 2023 Overseas Retirement Index.
If you’d like to reinvent your life in this culture-rich European country, make sure to check our France Starter Kit here. We’ve also published in-depth Country Retirement Reports on several areas of France. These are available in our online Bookstore, here.
France has a famously complex tax system.
Residents are taxed on worldwide income, while non-residents are taxed on locally earned income only. Figuring out French tax can be complicated. The total amount of taxes you’re likely to end up paying between France and the United States should be roughly the same as what you’re paying now. There’s a tax treaty in place between the two countries, which eliminates the risk of double taxation.
In France, you’ll pay taxes to the central government only; there are no state or county taxes. If you’re moving to France as a couple or a family, you’ll be able to take advantage of tax reductions.
If you choose to settle in Paris, most locals will know English, especially those in customer service positions––bookstores, news services, cafés, restaurants, etc. Plus, there’s a large expat community here. You don’t have learn French, but we highly recommend you try to learn at least the basics. A “Parlez-vous anglais?” can carry you a long way.
If you choose to live outside of Paris, you’re less likely to encounter English speakers. To make the most of French country life, learn at least conversational French.
Start by joining ourFacebook page. It’s become a forum of current and soon-to-be expats and is a great place to start a conversation with other France expats.
You could also search online for local expat groups and clubs. These exist all over the world in the form of book clubs, sport clubs, cooking clubs, etc. Some of the most established international expat groups includeInternations,and AngloINFO.
Don’t underestimate how nice it would be to make friends with the locals, though.
When purchasing property in France, you’ll incur notary fees (about 1%) and a transfer tax (5.09%). Both fees together would amount to less than 18,800 euros based on the purchase price you reference.
You also need to consider your real estate agent’s fee. Typically, this is disclosed up front by the agent (whether the fee is bundled in the list price or not); however, if the agent doesn’t detail this, you should ask. Agent fees are usually in the range of 5% but can be negotiable.
A mortgage broker in France should charge you 1% of the mortgage amount, though for a small mortgage, the fee may be greater.
You could apply for a loan to purchase property in France. However, it might prove tricky right now seeing as banks are not particularly open to doing so right now.
Check this video if you want a step-by-step explanation of how you can buy property in France.
Yes. Hazan Immobilier, 145 rue St. Dominique, in the 7th arrondissement; tel. 33(0)1-53-59-59-53; website:www.hazan-immobilier.com.
France is not a “budget” destination, but depending on where and how you live here, you can find it to be surprisingly affordable.
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