About Spain

The cost of living in Spain

A high quality of life without breaking the bank. Read our guide to find out all about the cost of living in Spain.

Cost of living in Spain

Updated 15-5-2024

General cost of living and standards of living in Spain

Spain is a very popular destination for expats, especially those moving from Britain. Its location on the sultry Mediterranean Sea, laid-back culture and low living costs have an appeal that is difficult to resist for those moving to sunnier climes.

General cost of living in Spain

Spain receives a mixed review on the OECD Better Life Index, which measures standards of living. Although the country ranks above average for work-life balance, housing, health, community and safety, it ranks poorly for income, employment, education and environmental quality. The highest Spanish city in Mercer’s quality of living survey is Barcelona (43rd), which is below London but ahead of New York. Madrid, meanwhile, ranks 46th.

On average, households in 2020 spent about €2,250 per month on all costs. This was, however, much lower than previous years. With all costs taken into account, it’s worth budgeting around €2,500 for a household of two.

The amount of the population at risk of poverty in Spain was 22% when last measured in 2018, higher than the EU average of 17%. Women, young people, those who have reached a lower level of education, single parents, and large families are the groups most likely to be at risk of poverty in Spain.

The cost of living in Madrid

The cost of living in Madrid is cheaper than many other capital cities.

The Spanish capital ranks 67th in Mercer’s 2021 cost of living survey, meaning it is considerably cheaper to live in than London and Berlin.

Below is a comparison of Madrid’s cost of living to other main cities, taking into account the costs of food, housing, clothes, transportation, entertainment, and personal care:

  • 53% cheaper than New York
  • 43% cheaper than London
  • 40% cheaper than Los Angeles
  • 27% cheaper than Munich
  • 16% cheaper than Brussels

Cost of living in Barcelona

While Mercer ranks the standard of living in Barcelona as just below that of London, the cost of living in Barcelona ranks 84th in its charts, meaning it is much cheaper than many other major cities:

  • 51% cheaper than New York
  • 41% cheaper than London
  • 37% cheaper than Los Angeles
  • 24% cheaper than Munich
  • 13% cheaper than Brussels

The cost of living in Valencia

Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city – the total population of its metropolitan region is around 2.5 million people. It boasts a historical center and beachfront areas.

The cost of living in Valencia is typically cheaper than Madrid or Barcelona:

  • 61% cheaper than New York
  • 52% cheaper than London
  • 49% cheaper than Los Angeles
  • 39% cheaper than Munich
  • 30% cheaper than Brussels

Cost of living in Sevilla

Sevilla is Spain’s fourth-largest city with a metropolitan population of around 2 million.

Plaza de España, Seville
Plaza de España, Sevilla

Despite being one of Spain’s most beautiful places, Sevilla boasts a highly affordable cost of living:

  • 61% cheaper than New York
  • 52% cheaper than London
  • 50% cheaper than Los Angeles
  • 40% cheaper than Munich
  • 30% cheaper than Brussels

Wages and salary in Spain

The principle reason for Spain’s mixed result from the OECD is likely because salaries are notoriously low in relation to inflation. The average disposable income per household in Spain is just €20,686 a year, well below the OECD average of €28,965. Minimum wage and average salaries in Spain remain low compared to some other European countries.

The cost of housing in Spain

There are significant differences in the cost of property throughout Spain. Properties in Madrid, Barcelona, and most other coastal cities are comparatively more expensive than rural areas and less popular cities.

If you are looking to rent property in Spain, average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Madrid is €660–880 per month, or €1055–€1530 for a three-bedroom one, depending on how close to the city center you live. In Barcelona, prices are slightly higher: €710–€890 for one bedroom and €1105–1540 for three bedrooms. In Sevilla, Valencia, and other coastal cities, rents are somewhat cheaper.

Housing in Spain

If you are buying Spanish property, the average property price per square meter in Barcelona and Madrid is around €3000–€5,000 (€150,000–€250,000 for a 50 square meter apartment). Larger family homes in more exclusive areas of both cities can cost as much as €600,000–€700,000.

Expats living near the Spanish coast should expect to pay slightly higher prices than other cities in Spain, although there are some exceptions.

The cheapest areas to live in Spain are Extremadura, Aragon, Navarre and Castile-La Mancha. The most expensive places to live in Spain are the Balearic Islands – Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca. If you’re looking for a place to stay or live, check out the following sites:

Cost of utilities and communications in Spain

Utility bills in Spain

Some Spanish utilities are reasonably affordable in comparison with other EU countries, however, the cost of electricity and natural gas in Spain is among the highest.

Average monthly electricity bills are approximately €113, but bear in mind that heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer might affect this. However, the mild climate often keeps electricity costs in check, although in some regions temperatures can fall below zero in winter. For more information, read our guide on utilities in Spain.

Telecommunications in Spain

The cost of broadband is comparable to other countries in western Europe and typically comes in packages with telephone, television, and mobile in Spain.

A basic package will start at €20–€50 a month for a 12-month contract. You can read more about getting a phone, internet and television in Spain in our guide on mobile networks in Spain.

Cost of healthcare in Spain

If you are registered as a resident and have a Spanish social security number, you will be entitled to access certain Spanish healthcare services free of charge. For some treatments you will have to pay a contribution, so check this with the region you live in as the healthcare systems differ from one region to the next. Dental care in Spain is not covered by public healthcare.

Cost of healthcare in Spain

If you want to ensure you are fully covered for a wide range of medical treatments or zero payment, you will need to consider private health insurance in Spain. Basic packages start around €30–€50 a month for young people between the ages of 20 and 30. The cost goes up with age, and most private companies have an age limit above which they won’t insure customers.

The cost of childcare in Spain

Compulsory schooling in Spain starts at six years old, so working parents with young children may need to arrange childcare in Spain with nurseries, pre-schools or independent childminders.

State-sponsored pre-schools are free of charge and accommodate children from the ages of three to five years old. The alternative is a state nursery, which usually charges according to the family’s income. To take advantage of the state system you have to be registered as a resident with a social security number.

Childcare in Spain

For children up to the age of three, you can also consider hiring a nanny or au pair. The latter requires lodging and food together with a minimum salary of €70 a week. If you only work part-time, a nanny can be a cost-effective solution, with costs averaging €9–15 an hour.

Study costs in Spain

State schools in Spain are funded by taxpayers. Providing you are registered as a Spanish resident with your local town hall, foreigners can send their children to a Spanish primary school or a Spanish secondary school with no tuition fees, excluding books and small donations.

Lessons are conducted in Spanish, and in Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia, and Valencia, classes are sometimes conducted in the local dialect. Read more in our guides to education in Spain and primary schools in Spain.

If you prefer to send your children to a bilingual or private school in Spain, fees vary widely depending on the city and the reputation of the school. Some schools, however, are partially subsidized and cost around €700–€800 a year.

There are also plenty of international primary and secondary schools in Spain, with fees ranging from €2,000–€10,000+ per year. International schools follow the same curriculum models found in the US, UK, France, and several other countries.

University costs in Spain
University of Valencia

University tuition fees in Spain

If you’re looking to study in Spain, the affordable cost of living makes the country a good location for university students. The average tuition fees for a bachelor’s degree at a public university ranges from €750–€2,500 a year. Here are some examples from some popular Spanish universities:

  • Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona): €1,200–€2,900 per year for EU undergraduates, €6,800–€11,600 per year for international undergraduates. €1,800 for EU master’s degree students, €5,750 for internationals.
  • Universitat de Barcelona: €2,500–3,300 (master’s degree, contact the university for bachelor’s degree fees)
  • Universidad Autónoma de Madrid: €350+ per year for undergraduate degrees, check their website for exact details of credits

If you prefer to attend a private university, tuition fees are substantially higher and can reach up to €20,000 per year. Read more in our guide to Spanish universities.

Cost of food and drink in Spain

Groceries in Spain

The supermarkets in Spain offer excellent value for money. Staple foods such as milk, bread, and eggs often cost under a euro and the choice of cheap wines, beers, and cheese is unbelievably low. Indeed, the average Spanish household spends around €380 on food and non-alcoholic beverages per month. Here are some costs of basic items from the most popular supermarket in Spain:

  • Generic white or brown supermarket bread – €0.60–€1.50 (Gluten free: €2.75)
  • Apples (per piece) – €0.30–€0.40
  • Box of six eggs – €0.95–€1.20
  • One liter of milk – €0.60–€1.50 (Dairy-free alternatives: €0.70–€1.40)

Restaurants in Spain

Eating out needn’t be too expensive either. You can find nice restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona serving traditional Spanish food for decent prices. Expect to pay around €10–€15 per person in an inexpensive restaurant and around €40 per person in somewhere more upmarket.

The exception is American fast-food chains which at €7–€8 for a McDonald’s value meal is expensive compared to local options. It is also a custom in some Spanish regions to offer free or low-priced Spanish tapas with your drink. If you know which Spanish bars to go to, you can eat while you drink for next to nothing.

Beer, wine, and spirits in Spain

From a deep Rioja to a craft beer, Spain is a big name in alcoholic drinks. Not only does it produce 10% of the EU’s alcohol exports, but Spanish drinkers consume about twice the amount of alcohol per person than the world average.

Alcohol in Spain

A local beer in a restaurant will set you back around €2.50, while an imported one costs about €3. This is more expensive than Portugal, but cheaper than France and Germany.

If you buy your own beer in a supermarket, it will cost between €0.88-€1.50 depending on where it was made and the size. Most spirits (vodka, gin, whiskey) cost between €6–15 for 700ml if buying from a supermarket.

Coffee in Spain

According to Numbeo, the average cappuccino will cost you €1.63. That’s much cheaper than Germany and France, but more expensive than Portugal.

The cost of public transport in Spain

There are extensive public transport services in Spanish cities, which include buses, metros and taxis at affordable prices. Spain also has an efficient high-speed train network. You can often save money on long journeys by comparing your options for flights, buses, and trains on platforms such as Omio.

Bus services are run locally, so fares vary slightly depending on where you are. Numbeo suggests that a single fare costs €1.50 in Madrid and Valencia and €2.40 in Barcelona. If you are planning to commute to work, you can invest in a monthly travel pass to access buses and the metro at a discounted cost.

People over 60 are entitled to a tarjeta dorada (golden card) on RENFE trains, which costs €6 for the year and gives you 25–40% discounts on fares depending on the time of day and type of transport.

Buying train tickets in Spain

The cost of taxi fares change dramatically from one city to the next, and the larger cities are not necessarily more expensive than the smaller ones.

Before catching a taxi in Spain, you can find out the cost of your journey beforehand by using an online taxi fare calculator or via services such as Uber or Cabify, which have limited services in some cities.

Leisure activities in Spain

Clothing in Spain

A summer dress from a chain store costs around €30 in Spain, which is in line with other EU countries. For a pair of good-quality jeans, expect to pay around €70. Running shoes cost also cost around €70, which is in line with many other European countries.

Sports in Spain

If you want to join a gym, you can expect to pay about €35 per month, which is quite similar to most other EU countries. You can read more about joining a sports club in our guide to sports in Spain.

The average cinema ticket in Spain costs €8, which is much cheaper than in the UK and in France.

Taxation and social security in Spain

Expats that live in Spain for more than 183 days are liable to pay Spanish taxes.

The minimum threshold for filing a tax return in Spain is €22,000 a year on your worldwide income. If you earn less than this, you do not need to submit a tax return unless you: are self-employed in Spain, earn more than €1,000 a year from rental income, have capital gains tax of more than €1,600 or it is your first time submitting a tax return on personal income.

In 2021, the thresholds on personal income tax in Spain are:

  • Up to €12,450: 19%
  • €12,450–20,200: 24%
  • €20,200–35,200: 30%
  • €35,200–60,000: 37%
  • €60,000–300,000: 45%
  • Over €300,000: 47%

Expats that work in Spain are liable to pay social security and pension payments. The fees are taken directly from your salary by the company and cover you for unemployment, maternity leave, and retirement.

Pension costs in Spain

Self-employed expats that earn more than the minimum wage must pay social security as part of their tax liabilities. The minimum threshold covers you for retirement, but does not cover you for loss of income or unemployment should your business fail. If you want a better pension when you retire, you can pay more social security.

Find more detailed information in guides to social security and benefits in Spain and taxes for self-employed people.

Assistance with living costs in Spain

Spanish residents are entitled to receive financial help in certain situations.

Since 2020, it has been possible to claim minimum living income if you are on a low income. The amount you receive depends on your income, assets, and the make-up of your household – a single person can receive €469.93, while a family of five or more can receive €1033.85. You may claim this after living in Spain for a year.

If you are on a low income and have a chronic illness or disability, you might be able to receive an invalidity pension of €402.80 a month. If you receive this pension, you might also be entitled to housing benefits to assist with rent payments. There are also payments available for temporary incapacity and permanent invalidity.

Child benefits in Spain begin at €341 per year for famillies earning under €12,536. For children with disabilities, this goes up to €1,000, regardless of the family’s income. Families with children over 18 with disabilities can receive €4790.40–€7,185.60 per year.

Parents of children with a serious illness can receive benefits if they have to reduce their working hours to look after their child. This amounts to 100% of an incapacity benefit, paid at the amount that working hours have been reduced by.

Spain also offers unemployment benefits of €527.24–€1,482.86 per month, depending on the size of the claimant’s family. There is also an unemployment allowance available for those who do not meet requirements for the benefit.

As well as governmental financial help, there are several innovative ways to save money in Spain. For example, platforms like Spliiit allow you to share the cost of subscriptions.

Useful resources