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Nine things you should know before moving to rural Spain

With remote working becoming more common in Spain, more people are swapping cities for villages for a quieter life in a beautiful natural setting. But what do you need to know before making the move to the Spanish countryside?

Nine things you should know before moving to rural Spain
The picturesque village of Camarasa in Catalonia. Photo: Erwan Martin

Village properties are much cheaper

You’d probably already guessed this was the case, but to give you a more exact idea, a recent study by property website Idealista found that properties in villages with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants were on average 52 percent cheaper than homes in provincial capitals.

The average price per square metre for rural properties in Spain is €834/sqm whereas in the big cities its €1,729/sqm.

If you’re looking to move to a village which is within driving distance of the region’s capital, the biggest price differences are in villages close to Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, San Sebastián, A Coruña, Salamanca and Zaragoza, all of which have rural properties at least 60 percent cheaper than in their provincial capitals.

They’re generally underpopulated

Even though Spain’s population has grown by more than 15 percent in the past 20 years, a third of Spanish municipalities have lost 25 percent of their population.

Eighty percent of villages in the regions of Castilla y León, Extremadura and Asturias have lost residents in the last two decades, whereas in Madrid and the Balearic Islands this rural underpopulation has been far less marked (6 percent).

There aren’t that many young people

In 2019, there were 311 villages in Spain without a single inhabitant under 20 and 402 “pueblos” where more than half the population was over the age of 65.

That means that if you have a family with young children, you should consider what it will mean for them to not have any friends nearby, and there’s a chance they might have to travel far to go to school.

The region with most villages with no young people is Castilla y León (168) followed by Castilla y La Mancha (69) and Aragón (47), all in Spain’s interior.

It’s worth noting that this trend isn’t as manifest in Spain’s coastal regions. 

The main street in the village of Valderrobles in Aragón. Photo: Vane Montes/Pixabay

Many offer incentives for you to move

If you need some convincing before choosing to move to rural Spain, maybe the prospect of being paid to relocate to a specific village or getting a job or rent-free home will do the job.

There’s a constant turnaround of villages in Spain offering incentives to individuals and families for them to move to their village.

One of the latest comes from the village of Olvés in Aragón in northeast Spain, who are offering a free house and “all the discounts” possible to whoever takes up running the village’s only bar.

The trouble often is finding the latest offers and taking advantage of them in time, as there generally tends to be a fair amount of interest from city dwellers in Spain who want to start a new life on the cheap “en el campo” (in the countryside).

The aptly named website yorepueblo.es (I repopulate) can prove useful in this regard, although it’s temporarily down at the moment for site improvements. Another option is actualidadempleo.es which often lists villages offering jobs and free accommodation.

Even a Google search for “pueblos que necesitan gente para vivir y trabajar en 2020” (villages that need people to live and work there in 2020) can prove useful.

The internet in Spanish villages is getting better

An increasing number of villages and regional authorities are realising that if they want to attract new inhabitants who are of a working age, especially with the advent of remote working in Spain due to the pandemic, they need to offer good internet speeds.

There are recent reports from villages in Gran Canaria, Aragón, Cantabria and other regions in Spain deciding to install fibre optic internet to attract remote workers, and Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica announced in October it would help bring free Wi-Fi to 1,000 villages in Spain as part of the EU’s WiFi4EU programme.

READ MORE: 500 Spanish villages that are getting free Wi-Fi.

Could remote working also mean more remote living?

A recent report in Spain’s El País newspaper titled “How teleworking is giving wings to empty Spain” highlighted how a number of Spanish villages have indirectly benefited from the coronavirus lockdowns and travel restrictions, with more digital workers choosing to make rural Spain their new home.

Aside from the improvement to rural internet speeds mentioned earlier, the acceptance and normalisation of remote working – something which was relatively novel in Spain before the pandemic – is resulting in more young people weighing up the pros and cons of living in a city or a village. 

The lower cost of living, the comparative amount of freedom that can be enjoyed in terms of mobility restrictions (with the threat of new lockdowns looming) and even the increasing number of rural coworking spaces dotted around Spain are all contributing to a change in mentality among many remote workers.

Speaking Spanish is a must

This usually applies to living in Spanish towns and cities as well, but in a rural setting, where residents are far less likely to have an international background or speak English, having a good grasp of the Spanish language is pretty much essential.

If you’re an English speaker who doesn’t think they can learn Spanish, you can always consider moving to one the villages in Spain where Brits outnumber locals, although you will obviously not get to truly experience what life in Spain is like.

Spanish people in rural communities are friendly and will probably want to stop to chat if they bump into you on the street.

Logically, you are far more likely to feel like an integral part of a close-knit community if you can communicate with them, whether it’s at the local bar, shop or hardware store.

You may also be able to offer your neighbours English lessons, as regional authorities with large rural communities such as Extremadura and Aragón are already trying to promote foreign language learning among villagers to help boost tourism opportunities.

Plenty of opportunities to do good and do business

If you want to make a difference and help to improve the lives of people in rural communities in Spain, there’s a growing number of organisations that will welcome your help and any bright ideas you may have.

READ MORE: How Spaniards are helping to save the country’s 4,200 villages at risk of extinction

There are already initiatives such as adopting an olive tree, offering meals on wheels to remote villages and repopulating villages with newly arrived migrant families.

There may be an invaluable service that you can provide to a village in Spain that you turn into a business as well, offering local solutions to local problems.

Village life isn’t for everyone

Even though there are signs that repopulation and modernisation is breathing new life into many villages across Spain, most of the usual challenges that come with living in a rural setting persist.

There are fewer shops, services, health centres, schools and kindergartens. Jobs are few and far between and many properties aren’t refurbished and will need to be made more energy efficient and habitable (remember that much of Spain’s interior is scorching hot in the summer and bitter cold in the winter).

On the other hand, you may make huge quality of life gains by moving to a peaceful, natural setting where you have a simpler but more fulfilling day to day.

The decision, as well as the choice of location, is ultimately yours.

Moving to the countryside appears to be experiencing a rebirth in Spain currently, with new websites such as venteaviviraunpueblo.com (cometoliveinavillage.com) offering Spaniards and foreigners the chance to handpick the Spanish village that’s right for them.

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PADRON

Can I get my padrón online in Spain?

The padrón certificate is a handy multipurpose document you receive when you register with your local town hall in Spain. It can often be frustrating having to apply for it in person, so are you able to apply online instead?

Can I get my padrón online in Spain?

Empadronamiento is a registration process which adds you to the census of your local area. The associated certificate – el padrón – provides you with official proof of your address.  

For your local town hall, or ayuntamiento in Spanish, it serves the purpose of knowing exactly how many people are living in the area, which in turn helps them receive adequate funding for public services.  

But your padrón certificate is very useful for you too, as many official processes in Spain require you to prove your address.

For example, you may need it to get your driving licence or to register as an autónomo (self-employed). 

READ ALSO: 16 things you should know about Spain’s padrón town hall registration. 

Technically, you should apply for your padrón within the first three months of moving to Spain, or if you move home to a different area within Spain.

You may also need to reapply for it if you need it for another official process and it is older than three months.

If you’ve already been living in Spain, you’ll know that getting documents such as your padrón can take longer than you probably hoped for. This can be very frustrating, particularly having to first get a prior appointment (cita previa) from your town hall, as this ends up stringing out the process.

Being able to apply online instead of in person could save you a lot of time and should make the whole process easier, but is it possible?

Can you apply for the padrón online in Spain?

The short answer is yes, it is often possible to apply for your padrón certificate online. However, it may depend on the area you live in.

For example, if you live in Barcelona or Madrid, you are able to apply for your certificate for the first time online or renew it online too.

Those in Barcelona should visit the relevant page of the Ajuntament website here where you can fill out and submit the online form.

Those in Madrid can fill out and apply for the form here, while in Valencia, you can apply via the following link here.

You will simply need to follow all the steps, filling out all your personal details as you go and then submitting it at the end. 

Remember, you will also need to have digital copies of your ID documents such as passport, TIE or other residency cards, the deeds if you own the property where you live or your rental contract if you are renting.

You may need a digital certificate or [email protected] to be able to officially identify yourself during online processes, but this may not be necessary for all town halls, it will depend on what type of system they have set up.

For example, if you live in Granada and have your digital certificate, you can apply online, but if you don’t, then you will need to apply for it in person.

In Madrid, those who don’t have a digital certificate can apply for the padrón via e-mail.

In some other areas, you may be able to apply to renew your certificate online, but if you’re applying for the first time then you will still need to go in person.

As is so often the case with official matters in Spain, there is no standard procedure which applies across the board for getting a padrón online.

You may ask one civil servant who tells you it is possible, then turn round and quiz another funcionario, who completely rules it out. Perhaps you’re better off first Googling “solicitar padrón a través de internet” (apply for padron online), plus the name of your town to see if it is an option.

‘Spain is different’, Spaniards often say in English when being critical about their country. When it comes to applying for a padrón online, Spain and its 8,131 town halls most certainly are different.

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