Based on the most respectable authority in the global retirement destinations rating – International Living – for the first time, Spain became a number 5 on the Global Retirement Index 2014. Spain is arguably one of the best bargains in Europe at the moment. Ranking high across the board in this year’s Index, but especially in the entertainment and amenities category, Spain is an ideal destination for retirees who wish to enjoy the delicious tapas on offer or soak up some European sun...all at an affordable price.
For anyone who’s been there recently, it’s no surprise that Spain became one of the top five destinations in this year’s Global Retirement Index. Spain is arguably the best bargain in Europe, offering First-World living at a cost that can compete with some Latin-American countries.
Thanks to the on-going recession, real estate prices in many parts of Spain have plummeted. Buying here is more affordable now than it’s been in decades. On much of Spain’s Mediterranean coast, for instance, you can buy a beach condo today for $150,000 or less—sometimes much less. Prefer to rent? Long-term rentals start at about $550 a month in Alicante and at about $850 in Málaga, for instance. (And although these are both tourist destinations, they’re also real cities, with shops, markets, and cinemas, so you can easily live a non-tourist life, just as local Spaniards do.)
Even before the recession, Spain was one of the least-expensive countries in Western Europe, and that remains true. Day-to-day expenses, for instance, can be very low. Pick one of the many areas with a warm, mild climate, and your monthly utilities can run you $150 or less. Stick with a Mediterranean diet—the doctors’ favorite for good health—and your grocery bills will be as slim as your figure. And, while there are plenty of supermarkets everywhere, you can still shop in colorful, traditional markets if you prefer. Bilbao, in northern Spain, and Alicante both have especially nice ones: large, beautiful, and well-stocked.
In general, fruit and vegetables here are good, plentiful, and cheap. In summer many fruits and vegetables go for €1 a kilo, which works out to about 59 cents a pound. Olive oil and wine are produced locally and are also cheap. You will be able to pay $5 a bottle for decent wine and about the same for a liter of good olive oil. Yes, meat is more expensive than in the U.S.—but once you’ve tried Spain’s roast suckling pig or grilled lamb chops, you’ll think they’re worth every penny.
No matter where you live in Spain, you’ll have easy access to the rest of the country—and to the rest of Europe, too. Modern, high-speed trains can get you from one end of Spain to the other in about seven hours. Or take the bus—fares are low, and bus routes crisscross the country. You can fly directly from North America to Madrid, Barcelona, and other metropolises. The many smaller, regional airports can zip you around Spain and to the rest of Europe (often on cheap, discount airlines).
It’s cheap and easy to stay in touch with those back home, too: Fierce competition among phone carriers has brought prices way down… You may find paying just $60 a month for a combined cell phone/Internet/cable TV connection…and offers like this are pretty standard.
No need to worry if you get sick here, either. Spain has nationalized, public health care as well as private health care—and both systems are excellent. Good hospitals abound, too—even in rural Spain, you’re never more than a few hours from a good hospital.
But Spain’s biggest plus may be the people and the lifestyle. Warm and engaging, Spaniards believe in enjoying life, and they put a high value on friends and family. So do as they do… On long summer evenings, when the sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m., sit at an outdoor café with friends until the wee hours…bathe in the warm waters of the Mediterranean…gaze on the Alhambra at sunset…hike the hills of green, northern Spain…explore castles both ruined and restored… For rich, fulfilling living, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Costa del Sol
The Costa del Sol—150 miles of Andalucian coastline that starts near Gibraltar and stretches eastward along the southernmost edge of Spain—is a major vacation destination with its share of crowded resort towns and tourist traps (think Malaga and Marbella). Yet it is also home to quaint villages and quiet, undeveloped beaches that the map-wielding masses have yet to find. Best of all, expats report that they can live in Spain with more affordable lifestyle, than in the United States.
"There’s no sales tax, and our property tax is very low compared with the States," says June Whitton, 76, who lives with her husband, Phillip, 74, in a three-bedroom condo in the town of Fuengirola. "Phillip is paying only $230 a month for the best medical insurance, and prescription drugs are one-third the price back home." The couple moved here from San Francisco 17 years ago after falling in love with the Costa del Sol on holiday. "There are social clubs, golf courses, hiking clubs, just about anything you could desire," she says. "The expats are very friendly and helpful. We make it one big happy family." As for the real estate scene, "it’s a buyer’s market right now." Of course it's not all about the money. There’s the "Sol" that comes with Costa del Sol. The skies are almost always bright and blue, making umbrellas almost as superfluous as winter coats. June Whitton calls it "heaven."
Orange Blossom Coast
Travel an hour north of Valencia and you’re in the heart of the Costa del Alhazar–the Orange Blossom Coast. Still largely untargeted by foreign vacationers and homebuyers, it boasts acres of orange and almond groves, as well as sandy beaches like those of the Costa Blanca. And it must be said that it shares some of the same high-rise developments…though that doesn’t deter hordes of summertime vacationers from Madrid and other large Spanish cities. With a population of just 12,000, Benicassim feels totally Spanish. Five wonderful sandy beaches stretch for almost 5 miles. And although there are some unattractive tower blocks, the backdrop of green mountains is unscarred by ribbon developments of bungalows. Criss-crossed with ancient pilgrim paths, these sierras are especially lovely at sunset when they take on a rosy pink glow.
There’s no one-size-fits-all destination. You really have to think about your own priorities and what you really want.
The beach? Maybe–but it might be too hot. A small village? Maybe–but if you have health issues to consider, you may want to be in a bigger community.
Retiring abroad isn’t for everyone. The happiest expats we meet overseas have one thing in common: They brought their sense of adventure with them. They went overseas ready to try new things, to be confounded, to be impressed, to be surprised. Living overseas works best when you’re pulled there and not just pushed. If your motivation for going abroad is entirely economic, brace yourself for disappointment.
Visa Requirements for European Union Citizens
EU citizens are required to obtain Spanish documentation when they wish to live in Spain and will need a foreigner’s card. Any EU citizen who wishes to live in Spain as a retiree needs to obtain EU form E-121 before traveling. This form entitles them to obtain health care in Spain, providing they have paid all relevant social security in their home country. If you are not entitled to a state pension in your home country you will need to demonstrate that you have a regular income from an alternative source.
Visa Requirements for Non-European Union Citizens
Non-EU citizens will need to obtain a visado de residencia from the Spanish consulate in their home country prior to traveling to Spain. This will be needed when you apply for residency upon arrival in Spain. The visado de residencia provides Spanish officials with permission to examine your financial situation.
The requirements for retirement visas do differ according to which country you are from but, in general, you will be asked to provide the following:
* Certificate from a public or private institution that proves you will be receiving a regular pension, together with details of that pension.
* Proof of any other sources of income you have together with the details of any properties in Spain you own.
* Proof of ownership of any property in Spain that you own.
Sources and Additional Information: