The quality of life in Spain is alluring. The country is relatively large and varies enormously – culturally, climatically and economically – from region to region. That said, common to most of Spain is a welcoming society, decent infrastructure and the opportunity for a somewhat affordable cost of living.

Living expenses in Spain have indeed increased recently, while the average Spanish salary hasn’t entirely kept pace. That said, either retired or earning a decent salary, foreigners can likely afford a high quality of life. Plus, expats living on a budget will find ways to save constantly.

Barcelona is the priciest Spanish city to live in, followed by the country’s capital, Madrid. It was ranked as the 75th most expensive expat city out of 227 cities in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2023, while Madrid was ranked 83rd. Still, even Spain’s largest urban centres are significantly less expensive than popular European destinations such as Geneva, Berlin, and Milan.

Cost of accommodation in Spain

Generally speaking, the closer a property is to the coast or city centre, the pricier it will be. This is particularly true of the Mediterranean coastline. This trend is due to a passion for Spanish beaches, shared by locals and foreigners alike.

Short-term summer rentals for any coastal property can be among some of Spain's most expensive real estate, while long-term leases are usually cheaper.

Needless to say, the sky is the limit for high-quality accommodation in prestigious locations. That said, there are also some exceptional bargains to be found.

Cost of transport in Spain

Public transport in Spain is moderately priced, with buses providing an excellent, low-cost way of getting around the country. The rail network also provides good value for money. Although costlier than normal trains, the high-speed AVE network allows expats to travel between different parts of the country fairly quickly.

While getting a taxi can be quite costly, expats can take advantage of ride-sharing and carpool apps to find the best route and rate to suit them.

Cost of groceries in Spain

The cost of supermarket food in Spain is equal to prices found in a country such as the UK. Food is surprisingly expensive relative to average Spanish wages. The inverse is true when eating out, a pursuit that can be of tremendous value. 

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Spain

Expats who take advantage of restaurants that offer an economical menú del día (menu of the day), which is usually a generous three-course lunchtime meal, will find eating out affordable. Similarly, alcoholic drinks are fairly cheap, which isn’t surprising given the vast quantities of wine Spain produces.

It's also possible for expats to enjoy free and low-cost outdoor activities in Spain. The country boasts many gorgeous beaches that lend themselves to swimming, snorkelling, surfing, and boating experiences. 

Cost of education in Spain

Expats can send their children to state schools in Spain at no cost, as long as they have registered for their Certificado de Empadronamiento (Certificate of Residence) at their local town hall.

Private schooling is available, with fees varying wildly depending on the specific school concerned, its location and the language and curriculum it teaches. An English-language private school in the centre of Madrid will, for example, be more expensive than a Spanish-language private school in the provinces.

Many expats choose to send their children to international schools in Madrid or other urban centres. This allows students to continue studying the curriculum of their home country and removes the challenges presented by the language barrier. Some international schools in Spain charge high fees, so expats planning to pursue this option should ensure their budget can accommodate this.

Cost of healthcare in Spain

Spain’s healthcare system is highly regarded globally for its effectiveness and almost universal coverage. The public healthcare system, known as the National Health System (SNS), provides quality medical services to over 99 percent of the population. This system is characterised by well-trained medical personnel and an extensive network of hospitals and medical centres.

Despite the high standard of care, the system has challenges. Longer waiting times for specialist appointments and certain procedures can be a source of frustration. This has led to the popularity of private health insurance, which offers an alternative for those seeking faster access to non-urgent and elective procedures. Private health insurance plans vary in cost, but they allow individuals to supplement the public system and mitigate wait times.

Cost of living in Spain chart

Prices may vary across Spain, depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Madrid in February 2024.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
Three-bedroom apartment in the city centreEUR 2,100
Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centreEUR 1,420
One-bedroom apartment in the city centreEUR 1,190
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centreEUR 870
Food and drink
Dozen eggsEUR 3.16
Milk (1 litre)EUR 1.05
Rice (1kg)EUR 1.43
Loaf of white breadEUR 1.54
Chicken breasts (1kg)EUR 3.90
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)EUR 5.37
Eating out
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantEUR 60
Big Mac MealEUR 9
Coca-Cola (330ml)EUR 2.47
CappuccinoEUR 2.41
Bottle of beer (local)EUR 1.14
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)EUR 0.22
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)EUR 27
Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)EUR 121
Taxi rate/kmEUR 1.20
City-centre public transport fareEUR 1.50
Gasoline (per litre)EUR 1.65

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