Americans in Altea/Alicante Area

Hello all,
My wife and I are retired Americans.   We are currently in Altea looking for housing. We have received the NIE and will pick up the tarjeta in a couple of weeks.
We would really like to connect with other Americans in the area for advice about housing, health insurance, banking, driver's licenses, buying vs. leasing a car, etc.
Thank you.
Rick

Hi Rick,

Hopefully members will guide you soon. Have you read the articles of the  Living in Spain guide ? They are a good source of information, so i suggest that you go through them.

Any questions, feel free to pen them down here.

Cheers,
Bhavna

Rcb.   

Do you mean an NIE, which is just a fiscal ID number which does not confer any rights to live in spain.  An NIE certificate is not a card but an A4 piece of paper.   

Or maybe you mean a RESIDENCIA, which is a permit, which is a plasticized card with a photograph and a fingerprint.   It allows a non EU national to live in spain

Rcb.   

Do you mean an NIE, which is just a fiscal ID number which does not confer any rights to live in spain.  An NIE certificate is not a card but an A4 piece of paper.   

Or maybe you mean a RESIDENCIA, which is a permit, which is a plasticized card with a photograph and a fingerprint.   It allows a non EU national to live in spain

Hi Johncar,
Yes, I meant the residencia, the card with the photo and fingerprint. That tarjeta is ready in about 2 weeks. Thanks

We are in Valencia, not Altea so our local experience is different.  However, I'll point out that the first 3 years we were here, we did not have a car.  We were able to do almost everything we wanted to do with the exception of 2 things

1) Pick up our high school age boy at his school (30 km or so away) when he had special events; or go there for parent teacher meetings.  We could get there via train/bus but it made a 30 minute trip into a 90 minute trip
2) Day trips around Valencia to sigthsee, eg, Benidorm, Denia, Granada (bit more than a day there); Sagunt

Other than that, we appreciated NOT having a car more than having one.  Now we have one, and we have used it 6400 km in 15 months.  About 1/2 of that was item 1 above.

Housing
A little economics/cost analysis will show that renting can be attractive as compared to buying; if you want some more detailed insight into that we can discuss via email.  Rents are very reasonable and if you are not tied to a city/barrio, it does give you the freedom to change your mind and move, if you like.  We have been in Valencia 4 years, and are now in our 3rd apartment.  The first move (apt 1 to 2) ended up being a mistake, we should have stayed in the first one.  But by renting rather than buying, we were able to fix that problem

Other things to consider.
Where you are getting your residence card (either police or extranjeria, depending on locale), they should have asked you for your empadronamiento.  If you haven't gotten that yet I suggest you do.  It's easy; it doesn't cost anything; and it opens up doors later on.

Welcome and Regards

On the aspect of health insurance:
That is a requirement for holding a residence visa.  I've read here and elsewhere that another option is to buy in to the same medical delivery system Spanish people have but I've never looked into it.
We have medical insurance with DKV; there are some other companies as well in Spain.  The cost seems reasonable to me (Eu 300/month for 4 people); it's not one of their bare-bones policies.
We've had good experience thus far with the insurance, and with medical care in Spain.  I suspect if you do a lot of reading on medical care here, you'll find horror tales, and you'll also find medical miracles; that is the nature of anecdotal information.  But from my standpoint, it's been very good so far (4 years here).

Driver's License:
Some countries allow you to "trade in" your previous license for a local one; not Spain.  You have to take the test.  And I believe you have to take driver's training in order to take the test. 
I did not look into avoiding the driving training, as I was not sure I would really be able to teach myself the Spanish driving rules.  It took me about a month to go through the theoretical part, and I was glad I did it that way.  They have MANY more rules and things to know here.  The extra stop lights, and what they mean, are particularly arcane.
I think it was Eu250 for lesson, EU 60 or so for the written test, and then I did 4 or 5 practicals at Eu 25/30 apiece.  So around Eu 500 to get to the driving test. 
But now I have a real life Spanish driving license! I also still hold my US one, which I use when I am there and also for identification purposes in US

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