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MOVING TO SPAIN

Swapping Dublin for Madrid: The right escape from Ireland’s cost-of-living crisis?

Seventy percent of young Irish people are considering moving abroad to escape Ireland’s worsening housing and cost-of-living crisis. Could Spain’s capital offer solutions to those seeking a new home? Irish Madrid resident Cormac Breen breaks down the costs.

Swapping Dublin for Madrid: The right escape from Ireland's cost-of-living crisis?
Could swapping Dublin for the Spanish capital of Madrid be the right solution for Irish people looking to evade Ireland's cost-of-living and housing crisis? Photo: Diogo Palhais, Victor/Unsplash

More than a million people in Ireland (out of a population of 5 million) are struggling to make ends meet.

That’s according to the Irish government’s latest Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) survey, which also saw four in five Irish people acknowledge that they have less money than a year ago. 

Ireland’s cost-of-living and housing crises are affecting young people in particular, so much so that another survey carried out for the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) found that 70 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the country are considering moving overseas.

Finding a home to rent in Dublin for under €2,000 has become almost impossible, even small one-bedroom flats are going for €1,500.

So, could Spain’s capital offer what young Irish workers and graduates are after? Madrid is certainly an exciting and varied city with lots to offer, and although it’s not on the coast, it certainly boasts better weather than the Irish capital.

READ ALSO: Where do Spain’s Irish residents live?

Is it possible for Irish people to find work and accommodation in Madrid relatively easily and have enough money to cover costs and save up?

English teacher Cormac Breen, who swapped Dublin for Madrid, explains what his countrymen should factor in.  

Average wages

As of 2022, the minimum monthly salary in Spain stands at €1,166 gross for a 40-hour work week. Despite this, the average monthly salary in Madrid is about €2,000 gross, about €300 higher than the national average.

Comparing this to Dublin, where the average weekly wage in 2022 is €850 a week, or about €3,683 gross per month, it is clear to see that salaries are much higher in Ireland. 

Earning considerably less may worry you, but as you read through this article, you’ll see how you will also be spending less in Madrid than in Dublin.

Job prospects

You’re probably familiar with the fact that Spain isn’t renowned for its great career prospects, but native English speakers often find they can access jobs that aren’t as easily available to Spaniards.

Many of them work in the education sector as teachers, particularly in private language academies.

Salaries range from about €1,200 to €1,400 a month net for about a 30-hour working week but with fluency in English being such a sought-after skill in Spain, there are endless opportunities to supplement your income with private classes which can earn you about €15 to €25 per hour. After Brexit, there are fewer UK nationals who can move to Spain to work as language teachers, so young Irish people will find it easier to get work and take advantage of their EU status. 

READ ALSO: The most in-demand jobs in Spain in 2022

There’s also remote working for a company, Irish or otherwise, from Madrid. The rules on remote working from Spain are a bit of a grey area sometimes, but you will generally be expected to pay taxes in Spain if you settle here

The Spanish government is also set to introduce a new startups law and digital nomad visa which will go a long way to remove the current bureaucratic hurdles that exist for non-Spanish residents wishing to work remotely from the country. Although this visa is aimed at non-EU remote workers, there are parts of the legislation which are geared towards making Spain a better place to set up a business, including for Irish and other EU nationals.

READ ALSO: New self-employed workers in Madrid to pay no social security tax

Accommodation

Irish salaries are among the highest in Europe but so are rental prices, with Dublin in particular proving to be very expensive to live in (recent figures place the average monthly rent in Dublin at just under €2,000).

According to comparison website Expatistan.com, on average housing in Dublin is about 79 percent more expensive than in Madrid.

If you’re looking to rent a place for yourself, or to share, prices in Madrid city centre will of course be higher, especially in more touristy areas and trendy neighbourhoods such as Chueca and Malasaña.

Finding a place slightly outside the centre can often offer cheaper rents, and more modern buildings. Renting a studio flat will cost you about €800 to €1,000 a month while a one or two-bedroom apartment can cost upwards of €1,200 per month.

Sharing a room is the most economical choice in Madrid, with a room in a shared flat costing on average about €400 to €600 a month. 

It’s worth remembering as well that finding a place to rent in Spain’s big cities is also becoming harder than it was, even though prices and the lack of rental units isn’t as severe as in Ireland. 

READ MORE:

Maximilian Vitzthum

Madrid’s main street – Gran Vía. Photo: Gregor Schram/Unsplash

Utilities

Like most European countries, Spain has seen a sharp increase in the cost of utilities, with heating and electricity in particular becoming much more expensive. Even so, it may still work out to be cheaper than bills in Ireland, where the average household’s annual electricity bill in 2022 is expected to be €2,120.

All in all, you can expect to pay about €50 to €80 a month if you are sharing a flat in Madrid, with bills rising to about €100 to €130 per month if you rent a studio or one-bedroom flat.

Spanish homes normally have to pay for heating, electricity, water and internet access. How much you pay a month will largely depend on your usage, and whether you are sharing a flat or renting your own place.

Water tends to be the cheapest utility, costing about €10 to €20 per month. Shopping around can help you find the best deal on internet packages which often come with landlines or mobile services included. Prices start at €20 per month depending on whether you want to pay just for wi-fi access, and what speed of internet connection you want.

Transport

Dublin is the second most expensive city in Europe for public transport costs. Spain and Madrid on the other hand have recently introduced big discounts on public transport (or made it completely free) to help people deal with rising inflation.

Madrid has an extensive public transport network, incorporating metro, bus and light rail along with a range of individual options such as bike and scooter hire schemes. Having a car in the centre is not really necessary given the costs involved with parking and fuel, and most people prefer to take advantage of public transport as their primary means of commuting to work and moving around the city.

Transportes Madrid offers a range of options for those wishing to take advantage of the vast transport network, with the monthly pass by far being the most popular. For a 30-day pass, giving unlimited access to the entire transport network, prices start at about €25 for under 26’s, rising to about €55 for anyone above this age. In an effort to tackle costs, the transport authority introduced an almost 50 percent reduction on the cost of a 30-day pass meaning that someone under the age of 26 can expect to pay as little as €10 euro for their monthly pass, while someone availing of the standard rate now pays about €32.

READ ALSO: 12 Madrid life hacks that will make you feel like a local

The Crystal Palace in Madrid’s huge El Retiro Park, in the centre of the city. Photo: Maximilian Vitzthum/Unsplash

Enjoying life in Madrid

Dublin residents will know full well that eating out or having drinks can be pretty expensive. Not so in the Spanish capital.

From restaurants, museums, theatres and trendy bars to nightclubs, food markets and sports, Madrid has something for everyone.

And even if you’re on a tight budget, you won’t miss out on what this city has to offer.

A night out in Madrid usually involves food and alcohol. A glass of beer or wine in a modest city centre bar or terrace, can cost as little as €2 or €3 while a copa such as a gin and tonic, can cost about €7 or €8. Trendy wine and vermouth bars, cheap and cheerful cervecerías, late night dance bars, and some of the best nightclubs in Europe, Madrid’s nightlife has something for everyone.

A meal in a standard restaurant can cost from €20 to €25 for two courses and a drink between two people. For €12 to €15, you get a two-course meal, along with a dessert and drink as part of the popular menú del día

The city contains impressive and sometimes free public amenities, such as parks, gyms, swimming pools, sports pitches, museums, exhibitions, and theatres. A monthly gym membership costs between €20 to €40. Tickets to live music or cultural performances can cost as little as €10, but range upwards towards €100 for international acts. Madrid unfortunately lacks a beach, but it is very close to the mountains where you can enjoy hiking all year round, and for those with a bit of extra cash, skiing in the winter.

Madrid costs breakdown

With the above considerations in mind, here is how much you should expect to spend living in Madrid as a single person, renting a room in a city centre flat on a monthly income of about €1,600.

Rent: €600

Utilities: €50 – €80

Transport: €10 – €30

Food: €200-€300

Activities/Entertainment: €100+

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MOVING TO SPAIN

CHECKLIST: Everything digital nomads moving to Spain need to consider

Spain’s Startups Law is 100 percent going ahead after its very last ratification by the Senate and Parliament. If you’re a remote worker who’s now planning to come to Spain, there’s a lot more apart from the enticing law to consider beforehand, from costs to location.

CHECKLIST: Everything digital nomads moving to Spain need to consider

Spain’s Startups Law has now been completely ratified by the Spanish Senate and on Thursday December 1st was voted in definitively by Spain’s Parliament in one final vote, meaning that there are no more obstacles for the legislation to jump through.

In other words, it is a reality and there is no looking back or toing and froing for a law which has continued to receive support from all sides of the political spectrum in these very final stages.

In these last stages, the Spanish Senate added several amendments relating to better perks for serial entrepreneurs (people who start multiple businesses), incentives for startups in rural communities of Spain and denying the condition of “startup” to companies that have partners that “present risks”.

In a nutshell, Spain’s Startups Law is considered a first in Europe, with lots of incentives and tax benefits for foreign startups, less bureaucratic obstacles overall and favourable conditions for non-EU remote workers and digital nomads, including a residency visa.

The following two articles cover everything that you should know if you’re looking to benefit from the new law as a startup in Spain, but in this article our focus will be on non-EU remote workers and digital nomads and what to consider with a move to Spain.

Here is a list of what digital nomads should consider if they’re thinking of taking advantage of Spain’s new legislation.

Spanish residency and taxes   

The new digital nomad visa is particularly promising for non-EU digital nomads from countries such as the UK, US or Australia for example, as until now getting a residency permit for remote work hasn’t been at all easy, with the best option being to apply for the self-employment visa which requires a business plan, proof of guaranteed earnings and more. It will also be available for remote workers with a contract for an overseas company.

Digital nomads will be able to benefit from Spain’s Non-Residents Tax (IRNR) at a reduced tax rate of 15 percent for the first four years, even though they can spend more than 183 days a year in Spain and are therefore technically fiscal residents.

You can read in more detail about what digital nomads stand to gain in terms of taxes and a residency visa in the article directly below.

READ MORE: Spain’s new digital nomad visa – Everything we know so far

Where to move to in Spain as a digital nomad

This will be one of the most important decisions that you have to make, but again we have you covered.

From the best places for co-working and digital nomad culture to the best place for cost of living and for integrating into Spanish culture, the article below gives you an overview of some of the most popular destinations for nómadas digitales.

FIND OUT: Ten of the best cities for digital nomads to move to in Spain

Then again, you may be interested in enjoying a quieter life in rural Spain. You’ll sometimes see news stories about the offer of free accommodation in quaint Spanish villages that want remote workers, but these quickly get filled.

One of the best ways of finding the right place is by searching yourself, the article below explains how to do it.

FIND OUT: How to find Spanish villages that are helping people to move there

And do you really know what life in rural Spain will be like? Here are some points to consider.

READ MORE: Nine things you should know before moving to rural Spain

Rental costs

Spain is generally seen as having a very affordable cost of living, but it greatly depends on where you move to in the country. 

According to Spain’s leading property search portal Idealista, who released a report earlier this year, the most expensive cities to rent in Spain are San Sebastián and Bilbao at around €901 a month, followed by Barcelona and Madrid with €875 and €848 a month respectively.

The Balearics, the rest of the Basque Country and the area around Marbella also have above-average rental prices.

The cheapest places to rent are in the interior of the country around Teruel, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, Zamora and Palencia, while Almería and Huelva were the cheapest coastal cities averaging €504 and €477 a month.

As inflation rises, rents are increasing, so you may find that they are higher come January 2023.

You’ll also have to consider temporary accommodation for when you first arrive in Spain, the article below should help you with that.

READ MORE: How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive 

General costs of living

As with rent, the general cost of living varies greatly, depending on where you want to base yourself within Spain. Barcelona, Madrid and places in the Basque Country generally have the highest cost of living, while places in central Spain and inland Andalusia have some of the lowest prices.

It’s worth keeping in mind that if you choose Barcelona, the cost of living has risen by 31 percent in the last five years. According to the annual report by the Metropolitan Area of ​​Barcelona (AMB), the minimum wage needed to be able to live comfortably in Barcelona is €1,435 gross per month.

You will need similar amounts for Madrid and the major Basque cities but will be able to get away with earning less in some of the smaller towns and cities.

Keep in mind as well that Spain is yet to disclose what the minimum income will be for digital nomads to be able to access the visa.

READ ALSO: 

Costs of co-working spaces

You’ll find co-working spaces all over Spain, mostly in the main cities but, even in small villages that are trying to attract more people because of depopulation. 

According to the latest report on the Status of Coworking in Spain in 2020-2021, Barcelona has the most coworking spaces, followed by Madrid.

Málaga, Seville and Granada, however, have the greatest offer of coworking spaces at the most affordable prices.

Co-working spaces are available to rent in Spain by the hour, day or month and also have the option for private offices for meetings and calls. 

According to the report, in 2021 the average price of a desk in a co-working space was €188 per month.

If you want to find out more about renting in Spain, check out The Local’s page on renting here

Internet speeds

Internet speeds are generally good in Spain, across much of the country, even in small villages. 

According to the Speedtest Global Index, Spain has an average broadband download speed of 154Mbps and an upload speed of 107Mbps.

For mobile speeds, the average download speed was 35Mbps and the upload speed was 10Mbps. Phone internet speeds were slightly faster in the bigger cities such as Barcelona and Madrid.

Healthcare in Spain

Even though the Startups Law will not be tweaked anymore and all that needs to happen is that it comes into force, one of the matters that still hasn’t been mentioned by Spanish authorities is what healthcare options will be available to holders of digital nomad visas. 

Will they need to get a private healthcare scheme as is required for non-lucrative visa applicants which can be expensive especially if you have pre-existing conditions? Will they be able to pay social security fees or the convenio especial pay-in scheme to access public healthcare? 

Whatever the outcome, Spanish healthcare has a good reputation although in recent times there have been protests about the lack of doctors and health workers in the country and consequently longer waiting times. 

Private healthcare options are affordable for people with no pre-existing health conditions.

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