Thinking about moving to Spain in 2023?

From rich history and culture to delectable cuisines and famous tourist attractions, this southwestern European country offers a laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle that is sure to impress.

Whether you’re drawn to the bustling streets of Barcelona, the cultural heritage of Madrid, or the serene beaches of Alicante, Spain is a vibrant and diverse destination that’s sure to leave you with lasting impressions.

Not only that, but Spain boasts warm weather, an affordable cost of living, an efficient public transportation system, a welcoming atmosphere, friendly locals, and multiple festivities, making it a great place to call home in 2023.

However, before packing your bags, there are some things you should know first.

We don’t want you to make the same biggest mistakes a lot of people make when moving to Spain.

So in this article, we will uncover the 7 biggest mistakes people make when moving to Spain, helping you navigate the challenges and ensure a smooth transition to your new Spanish life.

  1. Not Learning Spanish, Even The Basics

Spanish is the official language of Spain which is spoken by over 90% of the population.

And while English is widely spoken in major cities and tourist areas, getting by could be challenging since there will be situations where speaking Spanish is essential, and you’ll find yourself at a disadvantage.

Another example where speaking Spanish is crucial is when going to the bank or seeing a doctor.

Besides, this language is used in all government and legal documents, as well as in most businesses and schools. So if the reason for your relocation to Spain is to study or establish a business, you need to start learning the language as early as now.

In fact, Spanish is the second largest language in the United States, and there are 400 million Spanish-speaking people worldwide.

With that, it is vital to be prepared and study Spanish as early as possible. You can do this by enrolling in a language school, taking online courses, textbooks, tutors, or even apps like Busuu. (it’s better than Duolingo in my opinion).

  1. Underestimating Costs Of Living, Not Planning Financially

The cost of living in Spain varies depending on the region you plan to stay, but overall, it is still generally lower than in the rest of Europe.

According to Numbeo, a website that provides information about the cost of living in different countries, the cost of living in Spain is, on average, 31.6% lower than in the United States. Regarding rent, on average, Spain is 54.3% lower than in the United States.

And while these percentages are enticing enough to make you rush the process of relocating to Spain, there are still other factors you should consider and costs you should prepare for upon moving in.

This includes expenses such as rent, utilities, transportation, food, and healthcare, which can be relatively expensive.

If you plan to stay in Spain’s famous cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, living costs are higher than those in rural areas.

Let’s take Barcelona and Alicante, for example, to give you a price comparison.

A one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Barcelona costs €1,085.43, and for a 3 bedroom, it will be €1,764.73. Meanwhile, in Alicante, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs €656.67; a 3 bedroom will cost €1,025.

There’s an evident huge price difference between these two cities, and with that, renting costs vary depending on the location you choose to stay.

Still, renting in Spain is cheaper than in other European countries.

Regarding healthcare, Spain’s healthcare system is considered one of the best worldwide, mainly because it is free for the public and available to every Spanish resident.

This is because the country’s locals’ or workers’ social security contributions help support its public healthcare system, per Internations.

However, suppose you’re a tourist or non-resident of Spain. In that case, you are not eligible for this healthcare.

Meanwhile, there is still a way to be entitled to the health benefits of Spain as someone who moved into the country, and that is to apply for a SIP card. The SIP card is a personal and non-transferable card that gives you access to the Spanish Healthcare System, and the requirements to apply for one depend on your current status, such as if you’re a Spanish resident, employed or self-employed, etc. In order to apply for SIP you need to obtain NIE number first.

Do your own research first, and compare the cost of living in various regions of Spain.

This will then help you create a budget plan that includes all expected expenses and allot an emergency fund.

  1. Neglect To Obtain Proper Documentation: Visa, Work Permit, Residency Permit, NIE, And TIE

Let’s first talk about NIE. This abbreviation means “Número de Identificación de Extranjero,” which translates to “identification number for foreigners.” The NIE number is unique to every person who is not a Spanish citizen but is living or working in Spain. The NIE consists of one letter at the beginning, followed by seven numbers, and another letter at the end. For example, M-1234567-S.

The NIE serves as an identification number that helps distinguish foreigners in Spain. Its other purpose is to help you with your various legal and financial activities, such as opening a bank account and filing taxes which is extremely important, especially if you have any transaction or payment that involves the Spanish Tax Office, purchasing property, or completing numerous paperwork.

Simply put, NIE is essential in any financial or professional matters you will do in Spain. Now, how do we apply for NIE? The process of applying this vital document is simple because all you have to do is set an appointment at a Spanish Police Station. As for the documents needed for submission, make sure to prepare a form called EX15 in Spanish, a passport with your visa stamped, complete the Modelo 790-012 form, and pay the associated tax at a bank or ATM in which the cost varies, and lastly, provide evidence or proof of why you need an NIE. After that, your NIE will be processed in the next few days, and it will be a number printed on a white piece of paper in A4 size.

For TIE, it stands for Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or basically a Foreigner Identity Card that contains all your identification details in Spain and serves as proof that you are a resident of the country and is only required in non-European Union (EU) nationals living in Spain. Applying for this document is likewise simple, like NIE; all you need to have is a working permit or residency permit and already have your NIE Number.

  1. Underestimating Bureaucracy

Moving to a new country is undoubtedly exciting, but it also comes with challenges, such as the processing time of your legal papers.

This inspires individuals’ biggest mistake when moving to Spain: underestimating its bureaucracy. In fact, according to multiple Quora users who shared their experience, they considered Spain’s Bureaucracy as one of the slowest and worst worldwide, with some describing it as a nightmare.

This is mostly due to the fact that it would take not only months but years to process documents, especially if you’re a non-EU citizen whose process is more complicated than EU citizens.

In addition, the Spanish Government is not that lenient when it comes to processing things, whether in person or online that’s why getting necessary documents will not be as quick as you want it to be. Remember to also prepare the necessary requirements about a specific document, such as a work or residency permit, before submitting your application so there will be no need to submit additional papers that will prolong the process. With that, you will need to be very patient and understanding. Besides, you also have no choice since this is the only way to acquire essential papers you will need during your stay in the country.

  1. Failure To Secure A Place To Live Prior To Arriving

Another biggest mistake people make when moving to Spain is the failure to secure a place to live prior to arriving.

This is because most people would love to see a place in person before committing and paying for it.

However, since you are moving to Spain and not just staying one or 2 months, I suggest you book and Airbnb for the first month. This way you’ll get a monthly Airbnb discount and will have time to find a long term rental place in Spain.

If you don’t know which places are best to live in Spain, we have a top three list that will help you decide and save time to look for online. We also included an estimated rental cost according to Numbeo, so you could include this on things you will budget.

Best Places to Live in Spain

  • Madrid

First on this list is Madrid, Spain’s capital city and the most populous area in the country. One of the reasons this is considered the best place to live in Spain is the employment opportunity you will get aside from the tourist attractions it features. This is because Madrid is a competitive place and the most accessible place to look for a job, according to Housing Anywhere, attracting professionals worldwide. Besides, the salary is competitive but still varies depending on your career.

As for the estimated monthly rent, if you decide to acquire a place here, the 1 bedroom Apartment in City Centre is priced at €990.45. For the same apartment outside of the city centre, it will be €748.33. This is surprisingly cheap compared to other places in Spain, like the next on the list, which is Barcelona.

  • Barcelona

Another best place to live in Spain is Barcelona, which is also a famous option for individuals as it offers a vibrant and diverse-cultural atmosphere that boasts multiple historical architectures the country is known for, such as the La Sagrada Familia Basilica.

Aside from that, this second-largest city in Spain offers a delicate cuisine that most tourists and locals alike love.

Regarding transportation, Barcelona is accessible to any neighboring places you would like to visit during your free time or even to your work if you’re employed in this city.

As for the estimated monthly rent, if you decide to acquire a place here, the 1 bedroom Apartment in City Centre is priced at €1,085.43. For the same apartment outside of the city center, it will be €854.45.

  • Valencia

Next on the list is the third-most populated municipality in Spain, Valencia.

This city is considered among the top locations for people to live in Spain as it is most famous for being the City of Arts and Sciences.

Moreover, it offers multiple beautiful infrastructures such as cathedrals, museums, beaches, etc.

As for the estimated monthly rent, if you decide to acquire a place here, the 1 bedroom Apartment in City Centre is priced at €818.68.

For the same apartment outside of the city center, it will be €594.57.

With the given price estimation, this city is second among Spain’s cheapest but best places to live.

  • Alicante

Meanwhile, if you’re not into staying in big cities like the first three, an excellent option for you is Alicante, which is located on the southeastern coast of Spain and gives you an exceptional Mediterranean climate.

This city boasts multiple serene beaches and picturesque mountains, perfect for an outdoor-oriented lifestyle, especially if you’re into activities that involve hiking, cycling, and water sports.

As for the estimated monthly rent, if you decide to acquire a place here, the 1 bedroom Apartment in City Centre is priced at €656.67.

For the same apartment outside of the city center, it will be €585.71.

With the given price estimation, this city is the cheapest among these lists of best places to live in Spain.

  1. Ignoring Culture Shock or Not Embracing Spanish Culture

Experiencing culture shock is one of the most common things you will feel in any country you will decide to move into, and Spain is no exception.

However, this shouldn’t stop you from embracing Spanish culture since it can lead to isolation, misunderstanding, and not making any connections.

Culture shock happens when you feel confused or uncomfortable with a new culture.

One of the most common examples of what could come as a shock to foreigners coming to Spain is the eating schedule of the Spanish.

Their meal times are far different compared to other countries.

While most breakfasts are spent eating around when you wake up or 8 to 10 in the morning, their lunchtime is when things become confusing.

Most of them won’t eat lunch until around before or after 3 pm. Considering the time gap between breakfast and lunch, adjusting to this eating schedule can be difficult, especially if you’re used to eating small breakfasts since waiting for 3 pm will make you very hungry.

Not only that, but their dinner time is also as late as their lunchtime.

Spaniards will eat their dinner around 10 pm or even later. So if you feel like the time will make you very hungry again, eat a heavy snack between lunch and dinner.

It is essential to recognize such culture shocks so you can easily adapt to their local customs, traditions, and way of life and help you experience new things, engage with the local community, and appreciate the uniqueness of Spanish culture.

By doing so, you can develop a much deeper connection or relationship with your new home, and there will be no missed opportunities you will regret later on, considering that you will be staying in Spain for an extended period of time.

Aside from that, it’s vital to be proactive in learning about and adapting to Spain’s cultural norms and practices so you will know how to respect their history properly.

This will also become a way for you to connect with others and make your new life in Spain bearable.

  1. Inadequate Research

Last but not least, one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make when moving to Spain is not researching, especially with the country’s culture, customs, language, and legal requirements.

Not only that, but researching healthcare, education, employment, housing, and cost of living is also crucial.

Moving to a new country might be exciting, but not doing proper research may result in unexpected challenges or difficulties once you arrive.

With that, researching before moving to Spain or any country is crucial as it will give you the basic information you should know and help you prepare ahead for a smooth relocation and successful integration.

If you don’t know where to start, you can look for the legal requirements needed first, such as acquiring a visa, working permit, and residency permit.

Knowing these things is essential as this will be the first step in moving to Spain.

Without these legal documents, there will be a massive chance for you not to be approved.

By conducting thorough research, you can anticipate potential challenges, prepare accordingly, and make informed decisions about where to live, find a job, budget your savings, etc. Through research, you can gather valuable information about finding a suitable living place, securing employment, managing your finances, and much more.

By investing time in research, you’ll be able to steer clear of unexpected surprises, adapt more quickly to the Spanish way of life, and fully embrace the opportunities that come your way in your new home.


  • Is Spain a good country to relocate to?

Spain is a good country to relocate to as it has a lot of things to offer, including its warm weather, rich history, diverse culture, vibrant lifestyle that you can adapt to, well-regarded healthcare system, affordable cost of living, multiple job opportunities, etc. that people around the world come back for. It’s a beautiful country to consider but thoroughly research it first because this could still relate to your preferences and circumstances.

  • Is it safe to move to Spain?

Spain is a safe country to move to as it has a relatively low crime rate compared to many other countries. According to Global Index 2022, Spain ranked as the 29th most peaceful country in the world. As per Numbeo, the crime index is 35.56, while the safety index is 64.44. However, petty theft and pickpocketing can be common in tourist areas, crowded places, or public transportation, so it is advisable always to be cautious with your surrounding and keep an eye on your belongings no matter where you are. Also, don’t easily trust anyone since scammers are roving around this country.

Now that you know the 7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain, it is time to ensure that you won’t do the same and start taking proactive steps to avoid falling into the same traps. With this knowledge in hand, you can ensure a smooth journey upon moving to Spain and make the most out of your new Spanish life. From learning the language to doing proper research, you can surely navigate your way to the bustling cities in this country without worry.

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About the Author


Content Manager & Editor

Maria became location independent in 2016 when she quit her job and became self-employed. She is currently traveling around Spain while working on her own projects. Email her at maria @

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