Skip to Content

7 Biggest Mistakes When Moving to Spain: Everything to Know

7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain

Biggest mistakes when moving to Spain you should think about? Now that we’ve moved to Spain and have navigated all the intricacies of the process, we want to share the biggest tips and whatnots when thinking and deciding about moving to Spain.

Moving to Spain can be a sun-soaked dream with its vibrant culture and relaxed lifestyle. However, like any major life change, it requires thorough planning and research to avoid common pitfalls.

The excitement of a new start in a picturesque country is undeniable, but grounding this anticipation with practical considerations is important.

With a strategic approach to your move, you can immerse yourself in the joys of Spanish life rather than getting tangled in avoidable mistakes.

Understanding the common blunders others have made on their journey to Spain gives you a leg up in your planning process.

Being well-informed is key to coping with the local bureaucracy or managing one’s expectations about the lifestyle.

Research is not just about where to find the best paella or the sunniest beaches; it’s about knowing the intricacies of Spanish life, from legal requirements to cultural nuances.

Embrace the planning phase as an essential step toward a successful move, ensuring that your transition to life in Spain is as smooth as it can be.

Top SIM Cards to Use in Spain
Best Things To Know Before Visiting Spain – 30 Cool Facts about Spain
Best Places To Visit in Seville Spain – 22 Best Things To Do in Seville
Vegetarian Food In Spain – 50 Best Spanish Vegetarian Dishes And Vegan Food In Spain


If you are really in a tight budget for accommodation, you can sleep in a dorm room for €15-30. For mid-budget hotels prices start at €60-80 and if you want luxury hotels start from €120.



Two of our favorite travel insurance: Heymondo Vs Safetwing cheapest travel Insurance. You can get for $135 USD your Heymondo Travel Insurance with Heymondo discount code valid for 90 days. Read our full comparison of Genki vs Safetywing Travel Insurance Review and the comparison Heymondo vs Genki

1. Underestimating the Complexity of Spanish Bureaucracy – Biggest Mistakes When Moving to Spain

Mistake: Many expats find Spanish bureaucracy overwhelming due to its complexity and the slower pace of administrative processes compared to other countries.

How to Avoid:

  • Educate Yourself About the System: Learn about the different types of visas and residency permits and what documents are required for each.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: Consulting with a local immigration attorney can be invaluable. They can provide insights and help navigate the maze of paperwork, ensuring you meet all legal requirements.
  • Prepare for Delays: Patience is crucial. Start your applications as early as possible and anticipate delays.
7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain
Madrid’s popular street, Gran Via, 7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain

Spanish bureaucracy may be more complex and time-consuming than what you’re accustomed to. Your success in moving to Spain will hinge on your grasp of visa requirements and the efficient handling of legal paperwork.

Navigating Visa and Residency Requirements

To legally live in Spain, you’ll need to secure the appropriate visa or residency permit. Mistakes here can set you back significantly.

If you’re from a non-EU country, you’ll likely start with a visa that matches your intent, whether that’s for work, study, or retirement. For example:

  • Work Visa: Necessary if you intend to work in Spain.
  • Student Visa: Required to engage in academic studies.
  • Non-Lucrative Visa: This is for those who can support themselves without working locally.
  • Digital Nomad Visa: A new addition that is ideal for remote workers.
  • Golden Visa Program: Aimed at investors, this can lead to legal residency.

Post-Brexit, UK nationals must also navigate these requirements. Once in Spain, you’ll need to apply for a Foreigner Identity Number (NIE), which is essential for all financial and legal processes.

Dealing With Paperwork and Legal Documents

Handling your paperwork efficiently is pivotal. Prepare to deal with various documents, such as:

  1. Residence Permit Application: To legally reside in Spain.
  2. Empadronamiento Certificate: Registering with the local municipality is crucial and is done at the town hall.
  3. Work Permit: If your visa allows, this permit is your authorization to work.

In addition to dealing with the national bureaucracy, keep in mind you may also encounter regional variations, as Spain has autonomous communities with their own rules and procedures.

Be vigilant and thorough to avoid paperwork delays that can impact your relocation plans.

2. Poor Financial Planning for Your Move to Spain

7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain
The beautiful city of Toledo, Spain

Mistake: Underestimating the cost of living and the nuances of managing finances in a new country can lead to financial difficulties.

How to Avoid:

  • Research Cost of Living: Different regions in Spain can vary significantly in terms of living costs. Research the specific area you plan to move to and plan your budget accordingly.
  • Open a Local Bank Account: This is essential for managing your finances effectively in Spain. Choose a bank that offers services for expatriates, which might include English-speaking staff or international transfer options.
  • Plan for Exchange Rate Fluctuations: Keep an eye on currency exchange rates as they can affect your cost of living and financial transfers from abroad.

When moving to Spain, managing your finances effectively is crucial. You’ll need to navigate banking, adjust to the cost of living, and understand the tax and employment laws to avoid financial pitfalls.

Opening a Bank Account in Spain

Opening a local bank account is one of your first steps toward financial stability in Spain. Look for banks offering accounts for expats or newcomers.

Keep in mind that some banks may require your foreign identity number (TIE) before opening an account. Here’s what you typically need:

  • Identification: Passport or national ID card.
  • Proof of Address: Utility bill or rental agreement.
  • Economic Activity: Employment contract or proof of enrollment in an educational institution.

Transferring money to your Spanish bank account can be costly due to exchange rates. To minimize these costs, consider using international money transfer services that offer competitive rates.

Cost of Living and Budgeting

Understanding Spain’s cost of living is essential for your financial planning. While it can be lower than in some European countries, it varies by region. Here’s a basic monthly budget outline based on averages:

  • Housing: €600 – €1,200
  • Utilities: €100 – €200
  • Groceries: €200 – €400
  • Healthcare: €20 – €100 (private insurance)
  • Transportation: €20 – €150

Anticipate these expenses and create a budget. Also, consider unexpected payments such as the menú del día for enjoying local cuisine or additional heating costs during cooler months.

Understanding Taxes and Employment Laws

Navigating taxes and employment laws is vital, as these can affect your income and legal status. If employed, taxes will be withheld from your paycheck. Self-employed individuals must adhere to a different set of tax protocols. Here are some specifics:

  • Employment Laws: Prepare for strict work contracts and understand your rights.
  • Tax Rates: Progressive, ranging from 19% to 47% depending on income.
  • Healthcare Contribution: Included in your tax payments if you’re employed.

Remember, tax rates can impact your net income, so account for this when budgeting. Additionally, it’s important to comply with all employment laws to avoid legal issues.

3. Cultural Acclimatization. Ignoring Regional Variations

7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain
One of Spain’s preserved and most important fortress city, Granada

Mistake: Spain is incredibly diverse in terms of culture, language, climate, and even local laws. Ignoring these differences can lead to uncomfortable surprises.

How to Avoid:

  • Understand Regional Characteristics: Research the specific characteristics of the region where you will be living. This includes local customs, dialects, and even typical weather patterns.
  • Visit Before You Move: If possible, visiting the area where you plan to live can provide valuable insights into local life and help you prepare for the move.
  • Learn the Local Language: While Castilian Spanish is widely spoken, regions like Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia have their own languages, which are co-official.

When moving to Spain, embracing local customs and the Spanish language will significantly enhance your transition into your new life. This is key to overcoming cultural shock and forming a deep connection with Spain’s rich cultural tapestry.

Experiencing and Respecting Spanish Culture and Traditions

Spanish culture is known for its vibrancy, from siestas and fiestas to its rich culinary traditions.

As an expat, showing genuine interest and respect for these cultural aspects will earn you respect and a warm welcome.

Participate in local festivities, understand the typical menú del día, and adapt to the Spanish schedule, which can include later meal times and shop hours.

  • Cultural Insights:
    • Siestas are common and may affect business hours.
    • Festivals and traditions vary by region, offering a variety of experiences.
    • Familiarize yourself with local customs to avoid unintentional offense.

4. Neglecting Language Preparation

Mistake: Over-relying on English or not learning the local language can isolate you and hinder your ability to integrate into the community.

How to Avoid:

  • Take Spanish Lessons: Start learning Spanish before you move. Even basic communication skills will greatly enhance your daily life and interactions.
  • Practice Regularly: Once in Spain, practice your Spanish with locals. This will accelerate your learning and help you feel more at home.
  • Use Language Learning Tools: Utilize apps and online courses to continue improving your language skills.

Overcoming Language Barriers

Spanish is the official language of Spain, and a basic knowledge of it is essential for daily interactions.

While many Spaniards speak English, especially in larger cities and tourist areas, don’t rely solely on this.

Consider enrolling in a language school to improve your Spanish skills. This will help you in various aspects of living in Spain, from reading official documents to socializing with neighbors.

  • Key Actions:
    • Take Spanish lessons regularly.
    • Practice by immersing yourself in local activities.
    • Use language learning applications to boost your proficiency.

5. Overlooking Health and Education Systems

Mistake: Expats sometimes assume that accessing healthcare and education will be straightforward, similar to their home country, which isn’t always the case.

How to Avoid:

  • Research Healthcare Options: Understand how the Spanish healthcare system works and ensure you have the necessary health insurance coverage.
  • Prepare for Education Needs: If you have children, research the local education system thoroughly. Look into both public and international schools, depending on your children’s needs and your location.

Healthcare and Education

As a resident of Spain, you’ll want to have your health insurance sorted to access the Spanish healthcare system, which is known for its high standard of care.

  • Health Insurance: Make sure you have valid health insurance to be eligible for healthcare services.
  • Healthcare System: Familiarize yourself with the local healthcare facilities and find a doctor who can communicate in your preferred language.
  • Education: If you have children, research the local education system to find suitable schools and understand the enrollment process.

6. Misjudging the Cost of Living

Mistake: Many expats move to Spain without a realistic understanding of local costs, which can vary widely between rural areas and cities like Madrid or Barcelona.

How to Avoid:

  • Detailed Budgeting: Prepare a comprehensive budget that includes rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, and extra for leisure activities.
  • Monitor Spending: Keep track of your expenses closely in the first few months to avoid overspending and adjust your budget as needed.

Housing and Settling In

7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain
Spain Madrid

When you move to Spain, finding a comfortable place to live and understanding the healthcare and education systems are crucial for a smooth adjustment to your new life. It’s important to navigate these aspects with care to avoid common pitfalls.

Finding the Right Place to Live

Your hunt for the perfect home in Spain should weigh the differences in the cost of living between cities and rural areas. Consider these key factors:

  • Location: Costs are typically higher in cities like Barcelona and Madrid than in rural areas.
  • Budget: Align your housing expectations with your income, as the average salary may be lower than what you’re used to.
  • Housing Market: Research the market or work with a local realtor to find housing that meets your needs and legal requirements.

Practical Insights for Daily Living in Spain

In Spain, daily life features vibrant cultural experiences and practical challenges. Understanding how to navigate cities and making social connections can significantly enhance your time living in the country.

Transportation and Navigating Cities

You’ll benefit from a robust public transportation network in bustling cities like Madrid and Barcelona.

Familiarize yourself with the Metro systems, which are typically the quickest way to traverse these cities. Metro passes can be economical, especially if you’re traveling daily.

  • Madrid: Opt for a “Tarjeta Transporte Público”—a reloadable public transport card.
  • Barcelona: The “Hola BCN!” travel card offers unlimited travel for several days.

When enjoying the nightlife, remember that public transport is limited at night. Cities like Madrid offer 24-hour bus services known as “Búhos” (owls) that can safely get you home.

In coastal cities like Alicante, the TRAM connects you across the city and nearby towns, making exploration a breeze.

7. Isolating from the Local Community

Mistake: Focusing solely on expat communities can limit your understanding and enjoyment of the true Spanish culture.

How to Avoid:

  • Engage Locally: Participate in local events and festivals. This is a great way to meet people and experience the local culture.
  • Join Clubs or Groups: Look for local clubs or groups that align with your interests. This could be anything from hiking groups to local culinary classes.
  • Volunteer: Getting involved in community service is not only rewarding but also a fantastic way to meet locals and integrate into the community.

Making Social Connections and Networking

Engaging in local communities is crucial to establishing your social network.

Barcelona and Madrid are known for their international and expat communities, providing ample networking opportunities.

  • Join local Facebook groups or platforms like Meetup for events and gatherings.
  • Dive into activities that reflect your interests—be it sports, language exchanges, or culinary clubs.

When seeking to connect with locals, showing an interest in learning Spanish goes a long way. Even basic efforts are often appreciated and can open doors to deeper cultural experiences and friendships.

Frequently Asked Questions on Biggest Mistakes When Moving to Spain

Moving to Spain is a dream for many, but it comes with its own set of challenges. To help smooth your transition, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the most common pitfalls and how to navigate them.

What should I consider to avoid common pitfalls as an expat in Spain?

As an expat in Spain, you should prioritize learning the Spanish language to facilitate better interaction with locals. Additionally, adapting to the Spanish lifestyle and understanding regional cultural differences can help you avoid common social misunderstandings.

How can the challenges of finding a suitable place to live in Spain be navigated?

To navigate the housing market, start your search early and consider both online listings and local real estate agents.

Be mindful of the cost variations between different regions and cities, and be prepared for possible upfront costs like rental deposits.

What are some unexpected drawbacks to living in Spain that one should be aware of?

One potential drawback could be the siesta culture affecting shop opening times or unexpected cancellations due to weather conditions.

It’s also important to note that there are multiple languages in Spain, so be prepared for regional linguistic differences.

Could you explain some reasons expats might have regrets after moving to Spain?

Expats may regret underestimating the cost of living or failing to consider the long-term complexities of integrating into a new culture. Additionally, neglecting to handle paperwork promptly can lead to significant delays and frustration.

What is critical to know before deciding on a long-term stay in Spain?

Before committing to a long-term stay, you should understand the visa and residency requirements, the healthcare system, and the tax implications of living in Spain.

Assessing the stability and quality of these services is critical.

What are the challenges associated with the bureaucratic process of moving to Spain?

The bureaucratic process in Spain can be slow and complex. It often requires expats to navigate a series of legal and administrative steps for visas, residency permits, and other official documents. This can be challenging without proper guidance or patience.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Please note that we only recommend products and services that we have personally used or believe will add value to our readers. Your support through these links helps us to continue creating informative and engaging content. Thank you for your support!