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A Guide to Spain - The Country

Living in the Sun - International Property Sales

Information kindly provided by Living in the Sun -

The Country

Making your dream into  reality is but a few steps away. When buying a home in Spain you are buying a lifestyle, and as the location for holidays, retirement, letting or permanent residency, Spain has no equals, particularly if you are searching for year round sunshine. Its climate has been described by the World Health Organisation as among the healthiest in the world. When Britain is frozen or flooded you can virtually guarantee that southern Spain will be bathed in sunshine.

The cost of  property in Spain is relatively low compared with many other European countries and provides excellent value for money. Spain is a full member of the EU offering you immediate advantages with the right to travel, retire or work there. Spain is a popular country for the purchase of retirement or second homes, and your investment or home is likely to  appreciate considerably. Holiday lets and selling your property in the future, should you wish, should not be difficult.

 There has never been a better time or opportunity to buy your dream home in Spain – you, too, can then enjoy Living in the Sun

Climate Flora and Fauna Population& History 
Language and Education
Currency Air and Seaports, Transport Medical
Crime Work in Spain Income Tax  




Spain occupies 80% of the Iberian Peninsula ( the remaining 20% is occupied by Portugal) which is located in the south west of Europe. In the north, Spain borders France & Andorra, with the Pyrenees mountains forming a natural barrier. The southern tip of Spain is just 16 km from Africa across the Straits of Gibraltar.

Spain has five mountain ranges crossing the country providing stunning elevated landscapes inland and forming a vast plateau known as the meseta . Inland Spain is well worth exploring, too. Spain has two thousand kilometers of coastline, including miles of spotless sandy beaches offering endless recreational opportunities including the pleasures of just doing nothing.


Enjoy all your meals al fresco – breakfast on the terrace and even that last late night cap can be enjoyed outdoors. 

Hardly surprisingly the overwhelming attraction for most visitors is its excellent climate. Spain is the sunniest country in Europe – its Mediterranean coastline, from the Costa Blanca to the Costa del Sol, enjoys an average of over 300 days sunshine each year. Here, summer temperatures can be over 30 degrees C (86F). 

Annual rainfall is just 230 to 470mm (9 to 19in). In winter the daytime temperature on the Costa Blanca & Costa del Sol often reaches a pleasant 15 to 20 degrees C (59 to 68F) when the Spanish habitually dress in overcoats and visitors in shorts or swimsuits.  

Average Coastal Temperatures Degrees C


























Flora and Fauna

Spain has more varieties of wildlife than any other country in Europe. It is the only home in the world to some of the rarest species on the planet such as the Spanish Imperial Eagle or the Liberian Lynx. Small numbers of brown bears inhabit the high mountains but these are, sadly, threatened with extinction so you would be privileged indeed to see one. Wolves can still be found in parts of Spain, their numbers are growing but they are very unlikely to disturb your Spanish idyll. One of the most common predators in southern olive groves is the common genet, a night stalking, domestic, cat size carnivore which rarely comes near habitation.

Spain is a bird lover’s dream with 70% of Europe’s bird species either visiting or breeding in Spain, including storks & red legged partridges. Rare birds of prey such as the black vulture and Eleonora’s falcon can be seen if you get lucky. 25 different bat species inhabit mainland Spain and the countryside abounds with butterflies of many colours and varieties.

Flowers and plants abound where sufficient water supplies permit contrasting dramatically with the dry arid regions of the high sierra.  

Population and History

Traces of man reach back hundreds of thousands of years to the Neanderthal era. The Ligurians arrived from Italy in the Megalithic period and the Iberians arrived from Africa. The Phoenicians arrived in about 1100 BC and built several towns including one on the site of Malaga. The Greeks introduced the vine & olive to the region in about 600BC and they were followed by the Carthiginians. The Punic Wars ended Carthage’s control when it was forced to surrender its Spanish possessions to Rome in 201BC. The province then became a wealthy and important part of the Roman Empire. Rome ruled for five centuries leaving Spain a Christian country.

The fall of Rome allowed entry to the Vandals and Visigoths but the last great invasion came from Africa in the eighth century when the Moors conquered most of the country. As the Christian kingdoms united the Moors were gradually driven out of Spain, the final catalyst being the marriage of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile in 1474.

The power of the monarchy subdued Spain for several centuries supervising the rise of the Spanish Inquisition which exerted horrific random authority over the lives of helpless Spaniards. The story of the last three Habsburg kings is one of steady decline, leading to disputed succession culminating in the arrival of Philip V from France. When Napoleon came to power he engineered the abdication of the current king and handed over the crown to his own brother, Joseph Buonaparte. The French were later overthrown with the help of the British and the nineteenth century was an unstable time for Spain.

Underneath the political turmoil the country was becoming industrialised and a group of Spanish writers and philosophers known as the Generation of 98 began to reassess Spain’s position in the modern world. Spain wisely opted out of the First World War and the 1920s brought prosperity under a military dictator. The 1930s brought the Depression with internal revolts and strikes. Two groups formed the Nationalists and the Republicans and the Spanish Civil War began. In March 1939, General Franco, representing the Nationalists marched into war torn Madrid and the conflict was over.  

Thirty six years of Franco’s rule saw Spain become a police state. Spain avoided joining World War II and concentrated on building a strong economy. Franco died in 1975 and King Juan Carlos took over the reins of power. He has guided the widening of democracy and religious tolerance. Spain is now a member of the EC and has the fastest growing economy in the continent.  

The estimated population of Spain is 39,000,000. The foreign community is growing but not extensive and confines itself mostly to coastal areas.  The Spanish enjoy meeting new people and are friendly and welcoming. Visitors and residents alike find themselves rapidly becoming members of the local community. Spend time in your nearby bar or restaurant and you’ll be a local in no time at all.  

Language and Education

Many Spaniards speak good English and if you are intending to spend most of your time with the expatriate community then you will get by with little or no Spanish. Your life will be fuller and more interesting if you learn a little, basic Spanish and it is a very easy language to learn because it is phonetic. You will find that it helps you to appreciate the Spanish way of life and opens many doors that remain firmly closed to tourists. Spanish courses are available in most resort towns and big cities.  

There are literally tens of thousands of foreign children currently being educated under the Spanish education system which consists of state-funded schools supported by a comprehensive network of private schools, many of which are foreign and include a considerable number of British institutions. 

90 per cent of all children, in Spain, between the ages of four and five attend nursery school and over 55% of students remain at school until their 18th birthday. Of these, a further 25% go on to vocational training and 30% to university. Spanish universities are comparable with any in Europe but suffer the same problems in that most are overcrowded. It's not unusual among expatriates to send their children to British or American universities if they can afford to do so because courses tend to be shorter with far more flexibility than is the case in Spain.

Of particular significance to anyone with children who may be contemplating a move to Spain is the simple fact that the younger a child is when s/he enters the Spanish school system, the easier s/he will be able to cope. Some expatriates choose to start their children's education in Spanish nursery and primary schools and then switch their secondary education to a private school.

Most foreign children cope well with being educated in Spain be it private or state education. Living in a foreign land is an adventure for most of them which offers both change and challenge and they rise to the occasion.

Information about Spanish schools, both in the state and private sectors, can be obtained from Spanish embassies and consulates abroad and from foreign embassies and educational departments in Spain. For information about British schools in Spain try


Spain’s currency is the Euro. The country has a very efficient banking system.  

Air and Seaports - Transport

Air - Flights are plentiful and easy to book. For the Costa del Sol fly into Malaga. For Costa Blanca fly into Alicante. British Airways & Iberian Airways provide this service at a price. Inexpensive charter flights are common from many European countries, including Britain. Around 70% of people visiting Spain from Britain do so on a charter aircraft. Various no frills airlines fly into these airports and their prices are not expensive. Check their web pages and keep an eye on Teletext  

Sea - Ferry travel can be advantageous as you get to bring your car with you if you want.  Brittany Ferries travel from Portsmouth to Bilbao and P&O operate from Portsmouth to Santander. 

Road - You can, of course, cross by ferry or tunnel to France and then drive. This will take you at least two full days driving and will entail one or two nights hotel stay.  Half way through France near Poiters is a good Chambre D'Hote which also does evening meals (the owners used to run a restaurant and the meal includes wine) - have a look at

Once in Spain you drive on the right.  As with all trips abroad it takes a little time to acclimatise your driving skills but generally speaking, driving in Spain is a  pleasurable experience. It is easy and inexpensive to hire cars in Spain. Speed limits are 120kph (75mph) on the expressways (autopistas), 100kph (62mph) on other roads and 60kph (37mph) in built up areas. Seat belts are compulsory. Traffic coming from the right has priority on roundabouts. 

Officially you cannot drive a foreign plated car in Spain forever. The maximum time of use per annum is 6 months and, in theory, for the other 6 months you need to park the car in a garage. Checking is very lax, however.  EU members can drive in Spain on their foreign driving licence without an international driving licence. Non-EU members have a real advantage  when they buy a car on tourist plates and stay as a non-resident. They do not have to pay the 16% IVA (VAT) and neither do they have to pay the Spanish special vehicle registration tax of 12% - 28% saved.

Europeans can avoid paying the 12% special registration tax. When buying your car all you have to do is ask and the car will be fitted with a tourist plate, rather then a full Spanish plate. You will have to renew this plate every year, which will cost you approximately 25.000 pesetas. You can repeat this as many years as you want. Buying a car on Spanish plates can save a lot of complications and has certain advantages, such as being easier to resell and coping with payment in Euros. The rules are that you have to have a residency or own a property or be able to present a certificado de empadronamiento (certificate to show that you are a registered inhabitant of the community). If you are a non-resident driving through Spain, you may find that the Spanish police are empowered to demand payment on the spot for any traffic violation you commit. They will impound your vehicle, if you are not able to pay up. This is all legal as their orders are to ensure that the fine will be paid.

Under Spanish law, motor vehicles and trailers must be insured when entering Spain. Green cards are not usually necessary.

The following categories of car insurance are available in Spain –

Third Party (responsabilidad civil obligatoria or seguro obligatorio) is the minimum legal requirement 

Third Party, Fire & Theft  (responsabilidad civil obligatoria, incendia y robo)

Full Comprehensive  (todo riesgo)- this is only usually available for vehicles up to 3 years old.

Driver & passenger insurance (seguro de ocupantes) is usually optional in Spain and can be added to your policy This allows the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident to claim for bodily injuries, including compensation for incapacity to work or for compensation to beneficiaries should he be killed.

 Insurance premiums in Spain are amongst the lowest in the EU.


Over 90% of Spanish residents are covered by the public health system (INSALUD), including residents retired from an EU member state and in receipt of a state pension as well as for those in employment and contributing to Spanish Social Security, plus their dependants.

The lifestyle and climate of Spain place the Spaniards among the world's healthiest people, with life expectancy in Spain being the highest in the European Union. In particular, the level of heart disease is among the lowest in the world; this is probably due to the diet although the relaxed way of life cannot be ruled out as a potential health benefit! In addition, the warm dry climate is recognised as being beneficial to sufferers of rheumatism and arthritis.
The quality of medical facilities in Spain is very good, as would be expected in a modern western society. Spending on health care in Spain is at the average for the EU with government-funded and private health care providers operating alongside each other to good effect. 

 It is normal for those who are not either paying Spanish Social security or receiving an EU state pension to have private health insurance and proof of such insurance may be required when applying for a residence permit. Before moving to Spain, you should check with your local social security offices and make sure you have completed the relevant forms for temporary or permanent residence in Spain. Spain's public health benefits include free or subsidised health care (including general and specialist care, hospital treatment, maternity care, basic dental care) and subsidised medicines.


Although the crime rate in Spain is probably the lowest in Europe, it is, sadly, on the increase.

Crime in the resort areas is of the non-violent type and consists of pickpocketing, burglary and breaking into vehicles, particularly those with steering wheels on the wrong side! All of these crimes can be prevented with a little forethought.

Normal and sensible security precautions will deter the burglar – locking doors, closing windows when out, leaving lights on, - all the normal things you already do in your present home.  

Work In Spain

Jobs in Spain are plentiful. Along the coast most jobs are seasonal as with the UK coast largely on Most qualifications obtained in the UK and Europe are recognised in Spain. Whatever job you end up doing, If you intend to work in Spain make sure you get a contract from your employer which is at least 6 months long. This will also protect you and give you the same rights as a Spanish employee. Your employee will deduct national insurance and tax. In general Spanish wages are less than those in the UK but bear in mind that the cost of living is less and the lifestyle better. In general working hours include a 'Siesta', which is a 2-3 hour break between 2-5 in the afternoon. This is when most businesses shut down, re-opening in the cooler hours of the evening.

 If you are an EU citizen, you can enter Spain as a tourist, go to the INEM (the National Institute of Employment) and register as a job seeker just the same as a Spaniard. Then you look for work. Jobs in Spain are plentiful. Along the coast most jobs are seasonal. Most qualifications obtained in the UK and Europe are recognised in Spain. Whatever job you end up doing, If you intend to work in Spain make sure you get a contract from your employer which is at least 6 months long. This will also protect you and give you the same rights as a Spanish employee. Your employee will deduct national insurance and tax. In general Spanish wages are less than those in the UK but bear in mind that the cost of living is less and the lifestyle better. In general working hours include a 'Siesta', which is a 2-3 hour break between 2-5 in the afternoon. This is when most businesses shut down, re-opening in the cooler hours of the evening.

 Once you have found your job, you must go to the nearest Spanish police station which has a departamento de extranjeros, taking your job contract, passport, medical certificate issued by an authorized examination centre, and four photos. Fill in the application forms and wait for your permit to be granted. Along with the tarjeta comunitaria, you will be issued an NIE, a numero de identificacaon de extranjeros, your Spanish tax identification number. You must also be registered by your employer for Spanish Social Security.

Your new employer will usually steer you through the entire process and if you later change your job your new employer will handle the paperwork.

The other sort of work permit applies to persons like plumbers, carpenters or business operators, who wish to work as self employed. This is called working "on your own account" the cuenta propia. It is often called autonomo as well, because the worker pays into the Spanish Social Security system under a different plan from the employee. In many cases the self employed person can choose to set the amount he wants to pay, as long as it is above a certain minimum. (Ask your Consulate for details relating to Social Security).

The situation for self employed people is a little more complicated, but it is no more complicated than it is for Spaniards themselves. Remember that "equal treatment" means that those persons applying for self employed permits will have to go through a series of fiscal licences, opening permits and inspections just like Spaniards trying to start a business.

European professionals who want to work in Spain are already finding it much easier to have their professional qualifications standardised to Spanish regulations and to set up their practice in Spain.

Doctors, dentists, nurses, veterinarians, architects, lawyers, insurance agents and hairdressers now experience fewer difficulties when they want to render their services in Spain. Other professions also will find restrictions relaxed.

With the new legislation, 120 foreign architects are already certified in Spain. The same is true for doctors and dentists, who formerly found a labyrinth of paperwork confronting them before they could practice in Spain. Now the recognition of foreign qualifications has been greatly simplified and speeded up.

Income Tax

Income tax in Spain is below the EU average. Spain has made a major design change in its income tax system to take the country into the new millennium. A lot of the rates have dropped, especially for low incomes. The Spanish tax ministry, which is known as the Agencia Estatal de Administración Tributaria, but still called "Hacienda" by many, has been making the tax-payer's burden a lot easier, as it is now a lot more user-friendly, but this does not mean that Big Brother is not watching you. You can read all about these principles in a Spanish Ministry of the Treasury booklet, called Taxation Regulations for Foreigners. (Publication F-9)  

Employees income tax is deducted at source by employers i.e. pay as you earn. Self employed people pay their income tax quarterly.


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