Retiring in Spain

Hello everyone,

Why did you choose to retire in Spain? What are the advantages compared with your home country?

What were your main considerations when deciding to move? For example, taxes, ease of transferring your pension, etc..

Are there any specific formalities you had to go through as a retiree moving to Spain (for example, is there a particular retirement visa)?

What is Spain's healthcare like? Have you had any good or bad experiences dealing with healthcare professionals?

Do you have any tips for other retirees in Spain?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


Not really an answer to your question because I didn't quite get around to retiring.

From a practical point of view our status as EU citizens made the move from one country to another dead easy - equal treatment with the home population on almost everything- things like moving money, buying a house, sorting health care, getting a driving licence and all the other detail.

One of the things that I liked about Spain, even before we moved here, was that people would ask questions as they talked - Do you have children? Where do your family live? - and other questions of a like nature. In the UK the second question, after name, was What do you do? A method to immediately pigeonhole people but also a sign that the mentality in the UK is work related.

Spaniards work hard but for most of the ones that I've met the time spent on other things, such as family, friends and leisure activities, is much more important than paid work.

Work had taken over my life in the UK. Here life is about much, much more than work.

I didn't really retire in the conventional sense, I was more of a economic migrant.  Having lived a fairly itinerant life as a younger man and married and divorced more than I should have, I was left with very little other than a UK state pension.  My wife and I rented a small cottage in Somerset by the rates were a heavy drain on our finances.  We knew Menorca well having lived there for a few years in the past.  We had family there and many old friends so when we sat down and compared what it would cost us to rent a small property here it quickly became obvious that our pension would go further on a small island.  Although utilities would cost more or less the same, community charges would be less, we would spend far less on petrol and road tax and with some land we could grow a fair bit of our own fruit and veg.

At that time the exchange rate was exceptionally good and sterling was certainly over valued.  This meant that we could have occasional nights out and even trips to Majorca once a year.  With Brexit the currency has plunged and we have definitely felt the pinch.  However, the beaches are only 10 minutes away, the people are wonderful and make us feel welcome and we love our small but private home.  We have joined the reciprocal medical system here and hope it stays that way as the service is excellent

On the downside, we don't see our children and grandchildren as often as we would like and I miss many of my old friends back in the UK.  I worry that I am not learning the language as quickly  as I would like and wonder how I would get on if I had to be admitted to hospital.  But people say we look fit and suntanned and in spite of the high humidity Menorca is a healthy place to live.  We are into our third year now and plan to stay here as long as circumstances allow.  Our only option is to live in the present moment and enjoy every day as it comes.

Why did you choose to retire in Spain? What are the advantages compared with your home country?
- Cost of living is half of home country and quality of life is 2-3 times better. Most fruit I can pick from my own trees, I can afford a whole villa with garden and sea view for the price of a close of an apartment of 40m2 or even just 2 rooms without bath in the suburbs elsewhere and here it is more sunny and I need much less heating and cooling.
The country is also more free, with less people paying attention to one, a consequence of being more anarchistic. The most laissez faire part is Galicia.

Are there any specific formalities you had to go through as a retiree moving to Spain (for example, is there a particular retirement visa)?
One can get the temporary NIE at an embassy abroad and swap it months later for a less temporary but still temporary NIE for 5 years. It required showing a rental agreement, health insurance, income from abroad (not a lot was needed), registering with the town (empadronamiento),  This is for EU citizens.  And opening a bank account of course which required showing income plus a passport. Also get a local prepaid cell phone number, where again a passport needed to be shown.
People with existing conditions need to get a 121 form from their national health care to show to the Spanish health care authority. Otherwise one is uninsured.

What is Spain's healthcare like? Have you had any good or bad experiences dealing with healthcare professionals?
Health care by the state is like a third world country. Barely equipped clinics, limited opening hours, long travel distances in rural areas (you're toast if you have a heart attack in a rural area). State clinics often have young inexperienced little knowing docs, especially emergency rooms in weekends. Many older cos are also subpar and rather listless. They do their spiel of pills or scans but have no idea how to think, improvise.
Private clinics usually have the same docs as at state clinics but now you get helped quicker so you pay for jumping the queue. They are still limited in knowledge even though they have better tools. This is also inherent to their poor English skills. They cannot follow new developments abroad that easily.
There are exception, but in general health care professionals have very poor foreign language skills.
Imagine also that often your clinic or doc will not be available during the long siestas, late at night and in weekends or on holidays. Not sure when they work then.
The insurers, which abound, have poor networks, usually NO state clinic, so  no academic nor local clinic of the state is in their network and they close in weekend etc. most of the times except a few large ones. There is no decent dental industry as the profession is highly protected. There is also barely ant dental insurance.
Pharmacies abound and  it is easy to get a lot without prescription, even f prescriptions are required. 1 in 5 pharmacists is serious and will open all day but most close in siestas, weekends etc. Often the staff at pharmacies is very ignorant unless one finds the pharmacists himself available.
each pharmacy has a different interpretation of laws. At some one can get boric acid and at some they tell it is forbidden by law.

Do you have any tips for other retirees in Spain?

Get your health care insurance in order and make sure it contains treatments abroad like for cancers or heart conditions because you will not get the best care here. Make sure to insure for home care.
Always check what networks insurers provide as those differ greatly in quality.
I recommend Galicia if you want to avoid the unhealthy heat of Southern and Eastern Spain.
Keep your retirement funds, bank cards, credit cards and a forwarding address as well as a cell phone for smas by home banks and authorities in your home country (banks rob you blind here in fees) and use  Transferwise (from outside Europe) or SEPA (form inside Europe) to transfer at very low cost if at all. Extend both yoru passport and drivers license BEFORE leaving as they will give you a very hard time here in red tape Spain and you're often  more prone to be denied for health reasons.
Make sure you move to an area where there are good inexpensive vets if you have pets. Most vets here charge outrageous prices, have monopolies and offer poor care. This is NOT a pet friendly country. Pets are treated here in an utilitarian way often as guard dogs and most bus companies and trains will not let them on board. Across the border in Portugal that is quite the opposite.
Also, Spain will tax your property, world assets, world income so eat up your pension. Think twice therefore. Across the border in Portugal oen gets 10 years income tax free as retiree. Spain is oen of very few countries with world wide taxation and taxes are huge here, up to 50% income tax and 21% VAT plus import costs from teh 1st EURO of value by a scheme that the post office will collect for customs of minimum EUR 5.34 even for your own stuff!. Do not bother bringing your own car. Cars are cheap here. take a used Diesel for about EUR 2000/2500 and you'll be set, driving relatively inexpensively.

Advice to all: learn Spanish or you isolate yourself and miss great experiences. It also makes you more independent.

I have just completed my residencia. So now feel more relaxed about my life here in Spain. The process was a bit tricky at first but a friend put me in Contact with a couple Private Healthcare insurance professionals in Spain both English . Whilst they arranged the appropriate Medical insurance they also had a lot of information about residency which they willingly shared. Seems they speak to many people who are applying for residency and again once they have een through the process.

The result is that they were a fountain of knowledge and i felt at ease being able to phone them on pretext of medical but then throwing a few more questions in the pot.

The medical insurance was all done online and Andy talked me through the proposal form. I had a few pre conditions which i thought may increase cost but it didnt  one was accepted the other excluded.

I dont often recommend but we had such good help and they always provided translations for all paperwork. Price was low compared to my previous BUPA insurance literally 60% cheaper

So  my thanks to Andy and Francis of Tailor Made Healthcare Spain web

I am with DKV insurance and in my area i have 65 private medical centres i can use within 20 minutes east or west  so to say private insuran e has no network is wrong. I also have 4 major private hospitals within that radius.

We used Tailor Made Healthcare Spain to set my policy up. Did it all in English and they provide translated documents. Once policy active we have had Wellman and Well Woman checks and all cancer screening done all within 10 days of getting insured . Fantastic having that facility worth every penny of the 144 a month we pay for the 2 of us

Just a warning i did not know but when you medical insure through a Spanish bank and its cheaper than insuring direct with the same Medical Insurance company its because the bank has a highly trimmed down version of the policy that they offer nationally.

I was about to sign up with my bank Sabadell then came in to contact with an English Medical Insurance Agency offering Spanish medical insurance . Bank policy was 6 euros a month cheaper but much of the cover had lower limits.  I was nearly fooled

I can't say that  I agree with paperdetective about healthcare in Spain.

This is the WHO ranking - top 25

World Health Organization Ranking; The World’s Health Systems

1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany

And this is an article I read a while ago

Spain is ranked eighth in the world for its standard of healthcare, according to new research.

The Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ), published in the UK journal The Lancet on Thursday (The article is dated 19th May 2017) , studied the quality of healthcare in 195 countries by measuring mortality rates from causes that should not be fatal in the presence of effective medical care.

The study analyzed death rates from 32 such diseases and conditions over the period 1990 to 2015 and found that nearly all countries saw their rating improve over the years.

Spain scored 90 points out of a maximum 100, placing it eighth in the world rankings, above the healthcare systems of Italy (89), France (88), Greece (87), Germany (86), the UK (85) and Portugal (85).

Andorra topped the Index with a score of 95, followed by Iceland (94) and then Switzerland in third place on 92 points.

Sweden and Norway made up the top five and 13 of the top 15 countries were in Western Europe, joined by Australia (6th) and Japan (11th).

The UK placed 30th and the US 35th.

At the bottom end of the table was Central African Republic on only 29 points.

The average score across the board improved from 40.7 points in 1990 to 53.7 in 2015, and 167 out of 195 countries “significantly increased” their HAQ rating during that time, said the study.

Inequalities had widened, however. The gap between the leading country and the last was 62 points in 1990 and 66 points in 2015.

The study also compared the HAQ scores to countries’ level of development on the so-called socio-demographic Index (SDI) and found that some, such as the US and South Africa, achieved a healthcare quality and access rating that was lower that what should be expected for a country of that level of development.

This is a “warning sign that heightened healthcare access and quality is not an inevitable product of increased development,” said the study.

If every country had reached the maximum HAQ for their level of development, the average result would have been 73.8 in 2015, 20 points higher than what was actually achieved, “a clear indicator of untapped potential for healthcare improvement worldwide,” said the study.

Some, however, achieved higher than expected levels of healthcare in 2015, including Peru, the Maldives and Ethiopia.

South Korea, Turkey, China also recorded large improvements over the years.

Spain scored the maximum points (100) in its treatment of diptheria, tetanus and measles and just one short of the perfect score when it came to maternity and respiratory treatment.

It’s lowest scores were in treatment for Hodgkins Limphoma (64 points), Leukemia (66), gallbladder disease (74) and skin cancer (74).

Some Corrections to the posts

EU citizens who come to live in Spain are required to register immediately.  Those who are here for 3 months PERMANENTLY, or for a total of 183 days in a year must register on the EU Citizens Register.  NIE’s  are only appropriate for those who not resident.

NB The term Residencia ONLY applies to Non EU citizens. It was abolished in April 2007 for EU Citizens.  Using the word 'Residencia' when referring to EU citizens only confuses new comers.  Maybe a bit like saying a passport when you mean a visa !

NIE’s for non EU citizens once issued are permanent.  There was a short time when the certificate had only 3 months validity. That was to prevent people moving to Spain and failing to register on the EU Citizen’s Register.

The process of applying for EU Citizen’s Registration cannot be started before one arrives in Spain, as one is not resident until they arrive.

For those who just require an NIE as they intend to open say a bank account in Spain, buy a property as a holiday home, etc. but not reside, can make that application at Spanish Consulates outside  Spain.

Medical cover for residents must provide 100% cover for all medical conditions so any policy with reduced cover is never sufficient for residency.

Retired UK citizens who are qualified bu thepr Nat, Ins. payments,  can obtain an S1 certificate from DWP which meanss they will get medical cover in Spain, which is free to them but paid for by DWP at a flat rate of around £3,000 p.a. per `person.   (NB  That may change with Brexit).

PS      Beware of incorrect advice, although if you do not know what is correct,  I cannot imagine how you will be able to tell the wheat from the chaff. 

Wrong info often makes simple proceedures,  say like registering on the EU Citizen's Register, difficult !

Johncar wrote:

Some Corrections to the posts

PS      Beware of incorrect advice,

  NIE’s  are only appropriate for those who not resident.


Indeed. … -e-number/

If you have any dealings at all in Spain you require an NIE.
If you are a resident you definitely need one, without one you wont get a job, start a business, study, pay taxes and so forth.

So yes I agree....

Beware of incorrect advice,

This what I mean about misleading info,

As I said,   if one not going to live in Spain but wants to open a bank account etc. then  they need an NIE. 

If they are moving to Spain, so that including taking up work,  they must register on the EU Citizen’s Register.  In doing so, if they do not already have one, they are assigned an NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero).

If moving to Spain one is not permitted to apply for just an NIE, they must register.

PS   JB80, Some the info shown on the web page you quote is not correct. 
One example:-
                         Quote    NIE number certificates however are only valid for 3 months from the date they are issued.
An NIE Cert does not have an expiry date.  They did but that proceedure lasted for just a couple of months, and is now out of date.

As said,  there is a lot of mis-information out there !

Ho, ho I like a good barney.

The expiring NiE was not in place for a couple of months. It was in place for 3 years. 3 monthly renewal and You maintained the same NiE number.

Two years ago i went to buy a motorbike it was all paid for . I presented my NiE that i had had since 1999 and they advised when they presented it i was refused  it was not acceptable. I then had to go to police station complete a fresh form to be given NiE same number. They made it clear that if i used it for anything where tax was involved after a further 3 months it would need renewing .

NIE certificates for a very short period were  marked as valid for only three months.

The reasoning was that it would deter people who were staying longer than three  months failing to register on the EU Citizens Register as required by law.   

Of course the actual number was still valid forever-

As I say it was for just a very short period and the certificates then reverted to being valid for ever.

Of course 'I might be wrong'   but I have worked with the National Police for twenty  years assisting with hundreds of applications  for NIE's,  along with other paperwork, so please feel free to make up your mind who knows and who is mistaken.

Whatever your experience is The proof is in the pudding mine was a true life experience using my NiE to make a purchase

What one police station in one region say is often very different to the information given in another. People where we are get turned down for residency in La Linea office then travel 20 minutes to Algeciras and get an approval.

When i went for residency I had to upgrade my medical insurance and provide a No Copago insurance for residency yet my neighbour went to another station and was approved with a policy that has a high amount of copago.

Frans   Whatever your experience is The proof is in the pudding mine was a true life experience using my NiE to make a purchase

With my extensive knowledge, I know that there are some police,  just like others in society who are not too sure how to enforce regulations, so it may be that at one police station on one ocassion one person will get it wrong, as maybe in the case you cite where  apparenty then medical insurance cover which was not  as required  by the government department of immigration:- … s/hoja091/   et Al

Your ONE ‘true life experience buying something’ would imply that the seller has a greater knowledge of the law than those whose job it is to implement the law.

The requirements for NIE, EU Registration are the same throughout Spain as they all come from the Government Dept of Immigration. ç

Quoting places where maybe on just one occasion the police may have got it wrong is not helpful. 

That is a problem with ' personal experience' (2 years I see from your profile) which cannot be other than very limited,  as opposed to years of practice doing the job for 20 years  (having lived in Spain  30 years, prior to the introduction of NIE's).

Just to clear a couple of things which are not too evident above.

The NIE is necessary to achieve anything in Spain, so if you plan to reside here you will need one.   The so called "Citizens Register" is actually an integral part of the NIE registration as may be evidenced by the attached copy of my certificate (Certificate of Citizen's Registry of the [EU] Union) - this is not an ID and must always be accompanied with your passport.  However, if you have a Spanish driving license, that may also be used and is widely accepted as ID (because it has a photograph). 

Prior to this certificate the authorities used to issue an NIE card which did, in fact, have a validity and, periodically, had to be renewed.  I can only assume that the gentleman above that could not buy his motorcycle was using an expired NIE card.  The attached certificate is permanent and as far as I am advised, will remain so even after Brexit.

NB : I believe a new ID (NIE) card is now being supplied. in lieu of this certificate.

If you wish to vote on EU issues, you should register at your local town hall (Adjuntamento) to be added to the EU Citizens Register but this is not mandatory.  After Brexit it might will [might] not be possible at all to vote/register.

Another document which is always useful to have is a Cert. of "empadronamiento" which may also be obtained from your local town-hall.  This document serves several purposes but we used it to obtain residential discounts on local transport and also for flights to and from the islands (Balearic & Canary Isles) and the mainland.  It also serves to obtain promotional discounts on local rates (IBI), depending upon where you reside.

For those of you interested in retiring in Spain, David Wise wrote a nice and interesting article in the Ocio magazine which is a free publication on the Costa del Sol (see page 35 of the April issue here: … april_2017)

If you understand Spanish, this is the site to go to, which explains all : … e-registro

Sorry, I couldn't upload a copy of my NIE Certicate so here is a link to a similar one. It can be valid for 5 years or Permanent:

Metcomm      ,
The NIE is necessary to achieve anything in Spain, so if you plan to reside here you will need one

Sorry but am I sure you are confusing NIE and EU Registration.   

The latter is now being issued in credit card sized stiff paper (I have had credit card sized one since July 2014 but I know it was available for some time before that). They are valid when first issued for 5 years but can  in effect ‘automatically’ be renewed and then becomes permanent-  They are applicable only to EU Citizens. 

Non EU citizens have RESIDENCIA which are ID documents and not available to EU citizens.

If one does not have an NIE when they apply for EU Citizen Registration (the greed card) then the number that is on the card is one’s NIE.  A person who is required by their circumstances to become resident cannot make an application for just an NIE.
If one wants to open a bank account, buy a property etc. before they become resident then they need an NIE and must apply for just an NIE. Although for a short period the actual certificate had validity of only three months, but that did not last long and it reverted to permanent, as it was in about 1987 when it was first issued.

This thread concerns "Retiring in Spain" and thus the NIE and EU Registration are processed as one of the same, at least in Mallorca!  When my NIE card came up for renewal, they gave me the permanent certificate, as I'd previously mentioned.  This certificate is the combined "EU Registration" and the NIE.  I don't recall ever having to make a separate EU Registration .... as far as temporary residents or those that don't wish to register their residence here (of which there are thousands), that's a separate issue which should not be covered in this thread.

Met , As I said you are confused. 

Met  Quote Sorry, I couldn't upload a copy of my NIE Certificate so here is a link to a similar one

If you read what it says on the form "Certificado de registro de ciudadano de la Unión"    you will see you pasted a copy of an EU Registration Certificate , not an NIE Cert..

QUOTE If one does not have an NIE when they apply for EU Citizen Registration (that is the greed card) then the number that is on the card is one’s NIE

So what I said applied to you.

NB     Your EU Reg. Card  bears a number which is your foreigners identity  number, (Número de Identidad de Extranjero )

Met  as far as temporary residents or those that don't wish to register their residence here (of which there are thousands), that's a separate issue which should not be covered in this thread.

I stand corrected.  But in my defence many people who will be looking for info here will be even more confused than you,  so I was hoping to clarify the situation for THEM,.

This site is similar to Facebook in that there is a lot of misleading or just plain wrong information.
Conversely, at least everyone is polite here.

Don't let yourself be fooled by other postings on health care in Spain. Now if you are use to subpar care maybe this will do for you. Some countries mistreat their citizens as well. The WHO listings means nothing. I run several international patient support groups and hear the horror stories every day from fellow patients in the UK, Netherlands, Ireland, USA, Germany etc. Check what I am telling you yourself. Compare the networks of providers in the area you want to live. Only near or in big cities you will find average clinics. But that is by far not the entirety of Spain. Living in cities is expensive.
So, as soon as you go rural the story is as I said before, barely any clinics, poor staffing, long distances to major clinics, ignorant and unmotivated docs etc.
The state is also really not part of private insurer networks. Only if you add state insurance (now 285 euro per month as a contractor, you get the additional access to state clinics/ Otherwise absolutely not. And their out of pocket rates are absurdly high to cover state losses.
There are no serious clinical trials or medical conferences in this country. providers have to go abroad for that. That is already telling. Do not gamble your life and finances on not knowing. Get informed and do not go by opinions or anecdotal experiences.
As to insurance, get well informed about claims experience. That is the final piece of information anyone needs to assess an insurer, not just the networks.
Sorry, but the WHO list is a total fabrication. It is based on subjective standards not objective ones. Imagine, the worst countries with the longest waiting lines are in the top? That alone makes no sense.
As to American expats,sorry, but if you are retired, yoru Medicare is not providing care abroad. If you then have a pre-0existing condition that is serious, you will not qualify here for any private insurance. State insurance is usually also no option for you since you may not work here. It is also tricky because you will become tax liable with your world income and assets and that starts already with assets from EUR 50K.
Maybe you have an option of buying a residency here. Some have with a couple of 100 thousand if they buy a property. Still, once they have their claws in your with an immovable property you'll be cleaned out.
Consider taking out a US based insurance for expats. there is a growing number of those altough they are barely taking care of preexisting conditions and they are at least twice as expensive as Spanish insurers some even thrice. Also consider that your dollar has lost so much value off late. That means you can afford a lot less here unless your pension is in EUR.

Wow that was the best info about the subject I've ever heard from any social media thank you for your experience and heads up I am looking forward to retire in Spain within one year

Thank you @Johncar for some excellent information and clarification. I would just add:

NIE = Número de Identidad de Extranjero, which is the number to identify foreigners in Spain. You can EITHER apply for it separately (i.e. you just want your NIE to buy a property / open a bank account, etc.) OR you get one automatically when you get your residence permit (in either case, it's included on your permit/certificate).

TIE = Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero, which is the biometric identity card (in a uniform EU format) which is used to demonstrate a foreigner's right of residence (and right to work) in Spain.

"Padron" = Certificado de Empadronamiento, which is the paper you get when you register your address (usually with proof such as your rental contract or deed/nota simple) with your local town hall. This paper is a proof of address in Spain, similar to your Council Tax statement in the UK. Normally, you need this as part of the documents you provide when applying for your Certificado de Registro, or your TIE.

Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Union = is the little certificate you get when you apply for residence in Spain (if you're an EU citizen, as we Brits were, until very recently). There are 2 key points in relation to this:

(a) it is NOT an identity card (while the TIE is).

(b) as per Brexit / the UK withdrawal agreement, your certificado remains VALID, but they do now recommend that you exchange it for a TIE. … ficate.pdf

hello to people retired to spain from uk, could you tell me if i live in galeria , countryside will i be able to get my groceries delivered say 2 weekly.  And if i get satalite tv will i be able to get channels like freeview, quest red, and english programmes ? im hoping to retire early next year from lytham st annes in lancashire , to spain but country side area of galeria.

i lookforward to your reply
kind regards
Anne xx

hi im retiring to spain soon from uk, will i need a nie , . can i get english tv and freeview channels in rural spain ie galeria.  many thanks

Very thoughtful post.
Thank you.

I am reminded again that ‘Life is the art of compromise.’

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