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Moving to Spain: What’s more expensive than in other countries?

Moving to Spain: What's more expensive than in other countries?
Photos: JORGE GUERRERO, LLUIS GENE / AFP
Many foreigners decide to move to Spain for the great weather, lifestyle, food and crucially its cheaper cost of living. But some are surprised to learn that several costs are higher here than in their home countries.

Most of the more higher-than-average costs in Spain are linked to communications, technology and official matters, meaning that those who move here to do or set up a business have to pay out more than they initally might have thought. 

Internet

In 2020 internet prices in Spain were among the highest in the whole of the EU. Home internet consumption has of course skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic with many needing it to work from home, keep in contact with friends and family, and for entertainment. According to a report by the Digital Economy and Society Index in 2020, only Belgium, Cyprus and Ireland were found to have higher internet prices than Spain. Prices typically vary between €30 to €55 per month for line rental and internet services, depending on what internet speed you want. This is true for mobile phone internet services as well as home internet services. 

Netflix

Not only is the internet more expensive in Spain, but it was found that internet-based services such as Netflix are also more costly here than in other countries. The comparison website Comparitech did a study at the end of 2020 on Netflix subscriptions, quality and price around the world. It discovered that in regards to the standard Netflix plan, Spain ranked fifth out of the top ten countries with the most expensive Netflix plans, costing €11.99 per month.

Banking services

It’s common for banks in Spain to charge a monthly or quarterly fee for their services, something that is virtually unheard of in places such as the UK. This is typically in the region of €25 per quarter, but varies between banks. Additional bank charges in Spain include paying for bank cards or replacement cards. Many readers have also discovered random maintenance fees added to their accounts throughout the year.

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Starting a business or going self-employed

The high social security payments in Spain, make starting a business or going self-employed here much more expensive than in many other countries. Currently, autónomos (self-employed people) pay €283 a month at the min­imum rate, regardless of whether they earn anything that month or not. Self-em­ployed work­ers in Spain cur­rently pay the highest monthly so­cial se­cur­ity fees in the EU, higher than the €14 per month in the UK, €50 a year in the Netherlands or Ger­many’s €140 for work­ers who earn more than €1,700 a month. One thing to keep in mind though is that paying this social security in Spain gives you access to public healthcare, allows you to get sick pay, as well as maternity and paternity pay, which is unlike the self-employment schemes in other European countries.

READ MORE: Self-employed in Spain: What you should know about being ‘autónomo’

Postal services

Spain’s Correos postal service is another matter that many find expensive when moving to Spain, compared with their home countries. In January 2021, the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) found that for sending parcels within Spain and internationally within Europe “prices are not affordable for private customers compared to the average prices paid by the rest of the European Union”. The price of stamps for letters has also been steadily increasing since 2015.

Official documents and bureaucracy

In Spain, you need a form for everything (or even two or three), and most forms typically come with a fee attached, in order for them to be processed. This could be anything from applying for your residency documents to applying for planning permission to do renovations to your property or paying for help in submitting your tax forms.

In fact, many people in Spain have to hire a gestor in order to help them navigate all these official documents, a profession that simply doesn’t exist in many other countries. This is someone who is a cross between a consultant, an administrator, an adviser, and an accountant, who can help you with several official matters, as trying to do them yourself can be a minefield. Of course, this comes at an extra cost too as gestor fees typically cost around €25 to €75 per month.

Add this to translation fees too and you’ll soon begin to see why you’re spending a lot more money to live in Spain than you thought you would be. 

READ ALSO: What does a ‘gestor’ do in Spain and why you’ll need one

Electricity

The price of electricity seems to fluctuate a lot in Spain. In some years, it is one of the most expensive countries in the EU for electricity bills, but in other years it’s not so expensive. For example, in 2020 Expansion.com listed Spain as having one of the highest electricity costs in the EU, only being surpassed by Italy. Last year, the prices lay somewhere below €30 per megawatt, while in other countries they barely exceeded €20 per megawatt.

READ ALSO: The hidden costs of moving to Spain


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