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The Alhambra Garden in Granada, Spain
The Alhambra Garden in Granada, Spain
The Alhambra Garden in Granada, Spain

Retire in Spain

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: What is it like to retire in Spain? Retirees share their experiences living in Spain.

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What is it like to retire in Spain?

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"We love Salamanca. It is a university city, so there are lot's of young people. We don't own a car, so it's nice to live where we can walk everywhere. There's always something going on, plus the city is a Unesco World Heritage site so it's quite beautiful. The weather can be difficult in the summer though: high temps and no air-conditioning. There are cultural events and a vibrant night life. I am not aware of any expat community here," commented one retiree living in Salamanca, Spain.

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What advice do overseas retirees have for others considering retiring abroad?

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"Spain is a wonderful country. No matter how trying the visa process is, don't give up," said another retiree in Salamanca.

What are the most challenging aspects of retiring in Spain?

Live in Spain? Answer this Question

"Not speaking the language. Also adjusting to the meal hours and realizing that most stores are closed between 1:00 to 4:30. You may have trouble buying clothes if you are tall or overweight; the Spaniards tend to be smaller and thinner than many Americans," explained one retiree living in Salamanca.

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What are the most rewarding aspects of retiring in Spain?

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"Making new friends, walking everywhere, feeling like a part of the community. The cost of living is cheaper, so we can travel. The culture of tapas is not bad either," remarked another retiree in Salamanca.

What are healthcare services like in Spain?

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We asked retirees if they have access to good medical care in Spain. They wrote:

"Yes. When we were applying for our visa we purchased insurance with Sanitas Health. It costs 150 euros ($165) a month. We have only used our insurance to refill our American prescriptions," explained one retiree living in Salamanca.

How do I meet people in Spain?

Live in Spain? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in Spain about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Marbella is a great place to meet new people with so many cultural activities, sports and clubs to join. The area of Marbella even has it's own social networking website called www.yourmarbella.com where residents and vistors can meet people, find out places to go, clubs to join and much more. There are clubs in the area which meet regularly based around expats, i.e. The American Society and hobbies i.e. Golf Societies," said a retiree who moved to Marbella, Spain.

"I read every local magazine, newspaper, flyer in the town..almost all were free and in the tourist office, real estate or rental offices, newspaper stands, etc. I checked out any group or club for common interest. Luckily a branch of the American Club is located in many areas...or International Club or cultural and hobby groups. I found ex-pats from so many countries in each and every group. Attend a meeting..might be in a cafe...automatically, one has found a common denominator. I have found that ex-pats are the friendliest people. Many have lived in the area for quite some time..they are a wealth of info and oft-needed advice. Besides immediate acquaintances, the foundation of good friendships can begin.and through them one begins to meet even more people. I think the most important thing one gains though is a feeling of confidence..one actually KNOWS SOMEBODY to have a coffee or drink..even just to say hello to walking along a street..It's a great feeling and helps ease your sense of aloneness. I also heartily recommend a stint at a language school," said another retiree in Nerja.

"The best way to find contacts and all information is to try the web sites www.marbellago.com; www.marbella.com and www.andalucia.org. Also local english language newspaper www.surinenglish.com," commented one retiree living in Marbella, Spain.

"Getting out and about is a good way. Most socializing is done outside the home (in bars, restaurants, clubs). Take part in activities such as sailing courses, cineclubs, sports clubs, language classes. learn a bit of Basque at a Basque language school - the local people will appreciate you making the effort and it's a good way of meeting people," explained one retiree living in San Sebastian.

"Men - Rotary International; women - Barcelona Women's Network; both - American Society of Barcelona; Protestant Church - St. Peter's," said another retiree in living in Barcelona, Spain.

"Definitely try out the International Newcomers Club. Though they have one or two men in the group...they are very open to more. They do many fun things during the week and have activities such as wine tasting parties on weekends. There is at least one event monthly and you meet many fantastic people. The American Women's Club is also nice, but they are oriented towards community service and raising funds for charities. They do have monthly meetings and have a club house with a large lending library," explained a retiree in Madrid.

What is life like in Spain?

Live in Spain? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in Spain what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Lifestyle in Valencia is about family, friends and enjoying the Mediterranean lifestyle," remarked another retiree in Valencia.

"Marbella has a mix of a thriving city based on the tourist and property industry combined with a large ex pat retired community and wealthy 20/30 somethings driving ferrari's and wearing Cartier," said a retiree who moved to Marbella, Spain.

"SINCE I'm retired, work places wouldn't be relevent for me. But all of the above have their position of importance," said another retiree in Nerja.

"Marbella is the international centre of the Costa del Sol, also called 'The California of Europe' because of its marvellous year round climate and 'Costa del Golf' due to their being a golf course round every corner! Very leisure orientated with the full range you can imagine (plus many more!). However, it still has its Spanish heart and style. The life of the Andalus is well known for its easy acceptance of everything. For them and many expats, life still revolves around the family," commented one retiree living in Marbella, Spain.

"Quality of life tends to be the key word. the Basques work hard, but don't let work come before family and friends, socializing . And there is no obvious difference between social life and family life - people socialize WITH their family rather than doing things separately," explained one retiree living in San Sebastian.

"Priorities: work, work, work - and enjoying the excellent weather (the three S's, which can be "sun, sea, and sex" or "swimming, sailing, and skiing" - about the same thing)," said another retiree in living in Barcelona, Spain.

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What do I need to know before retiring in Spain?

Live in Spain? Answer this Question

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Spain, they said:

"The following applies to anywhere bt applies to my wife and living on the Costa Tropical. 1. Establish Goals for how you want to live your life 2. Choose a location wisely based not only on geography, weather and climate but also based on the local cultural opportunities and transportation infrastructure. 3. Try out the place, visit the place and give it a dry run 4. Consider health care, it doesn’t matter how old you are 5. Figure out the local housing market to establish your new home 6. Check out the cost of living to know if your budget plan and goals work 7. Understand the Visa requirements 8. Get a grasp of the local culture 9. Be aware of local opportunities for sports, leisure, entertainment and cultural activities 10. Become familiar with issues relating to taxes and banking 11. Work out issues relating to communication technology. I have written a short book called "Renaissance in The Sun" Its virtually FREE. You can find it on Amazon and Kindle. Its about life and Spain," said another retiree in Spain.

"I would advise to do a lot of research especially if you are moving with children. Understand the Spanish education system and be prepared to learn Castellano and a little Valenciano," commented one retiree living in Valencia, Spain.

"Don't expect to be one of the Ferrari driving glitterati overnight, but work hard and Marbella can be a great place to live. There is an old saying about Marbella - The man who arrives with money will depart with experience, and the man who arrives with experience will stay with Money," explained one retiree living in Marbella.

"Know that everything will be different from all you have ever known..see it as a new world to explore..not what you will be deprived of. Allow for periods of frustration and loneliness..after all, you're experiencing 'culture shock'," said another retiree in living in Nerja, Spain.

"Start learning Spanish and applying the tan cream now! Visit for a short time first to confirm that year round sun and limitless leisure opportunites are for you! If you have a family, find the school place(s) first, then the home and the office and work location can come after," explained a retiree in Marbella.

"I would encourage them to do so as San Sebastian is a great place and quite possibly the most beautiful small city in Europe. It's important however to either have a good job set up before you get here or barrels of money as San sebastian vies with Barcelona and Madrid as being Spain's most expensive city, especially as regards housing," explained one retiree living in San Sebastian.

What type of recreational activities are there in Spain?

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"There are city facilities throughout different area that have swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, skating park, fitness room. It's easy to use them and inexpensive," said another person who retired in Granada .

"There are tennis clubs, plenty of good hiking trails, beautiful parks. The city have several sport complexes that have swimming pools, tennis courts, paddle balls, basketball and soccer," remarked another retiree in Granada.

"Hiking and skiing in Sierra Nevadas, One hour bus ride from coast. We are near tennis park, though tennis here limited," explained one member in Granada.

Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in Spain?

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"There are plenty of neighborhood shops for fruits, meats, bread, or seafood in most neighborhoods. There are also bigger stores like Mercadona, ALDI, El Corte Inglés that have everything in one place. I personally like the small shops so I can personally know them and practice my Spanish," remarked another retiree in Granada .

"There are many big stores like El Corte Inglés, Mercadona and Carrefour and most expats shop. There are many smaller neighborhood stores in every corner. It's very easy to find grocery stores here," explained one member in Granada.

"Every corner has a local grocer. There is also Carrefour and the Corte Ingles mid-town. We also found two great small Asian markets, one Chinese, one with Indian food," said another retiree in Granada.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

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Get a Quote

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Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

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Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Spain GuideSpain Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Spain.

Spain Forum Spain Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Spain on our Spain forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

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An index of all of our site's Spain information.

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Help others in Spain by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Spain.

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Expats in Spain offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Spain.

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