How to Retire to Spain

Retiring to Spain from the UK

Written by Owain Banfield
Written by Owain Banfield
7th May 2018 (Last updated on Thursday 11th April 2019)

Moving abroad can be a big challenge, but for many it is a lifelong dream to move abroad once they have retired. Compare My Move have put together this guide to retiring in Spain, so you can start planning your retirement ahead of time.

We'll cover important aspects such as healthcare availability and how to claim your pension in Spain, what effects Brexit may cause, and the most popular areas to retire in the country. So before you use Compare My Move to arrange your international removals to Spain, let's explore all you need to know about retiring in the country.

Best places to Retire to in Spain

Spain is a popular destination for retirement, as the latest official figures show that 44% of the 296,000 British citizens currently living in Spain are of the retirement age of 55 and over. But the process of choosing where to live in Spain can be quite a difficult task.

With so many great cities and areas to choose, all with their own unique benefits it can be overly confusing. However, knowing what you want out of your retirement will go a long way to helping you decide where you should live. Below we give some examples of the top places to retire in Spain and why they are a great option.

Retiring to Madrid

Of course, the capital of Spain was going to make it onto the list of good places to retire. This city has a rich history and is a hub of culture and incredible architecture. There are two major reasons why Madrid is such a great place to retire. The first is purely due to the amount of things to see and do in the city, giving you a rich and fulfilled life. This ranges from leading museums and art galleries through to bustling markets and festivals.

The second reason that Madrid is so great to move to is due to the close proximity to one of Europe’s biggest airports, allowing you quick access for return flights to the UK and to explore the rest of the world if you should wish.

However, as you might expect Madrid is not the cheapest place to retire to. For example, living costs for a single person in the city may be around €640 per month and rent on a one bedroom flat in the city may reach around €810 on top of that.

Retiring to Barcelona

Many love the idea of moving to Spain because of the great weather. One of the best places to experience this is in Barcelona. The city is similar in many ways to Madrid with a vast amount to do including sites such as the Sargrada Familia and Park Güell. However, as Barcelona is also based on the coast you get the added bonus of access to bustling beaches as well as less busy, beautiful ones within an easy commute.

With living costs in the city reaching around the €670 per month for a single person and average rent on a one bed in the city centre costing around €890, living in Barcelona is even more expensive than living in Madrid. However, if you take into consideration that the cost of living there is still 22.62% less than living in London, then it doesn’t seem quite as expensive.

Retiring to Alicante

If you don’t want to be spending a premium to live in Madrid or Barcelona then you may be asking where to retire to Spain cheaply. One very real option for this is the city of Alicante. On the south cost of Spain, this city benefits from year round warm weather and a relaxed way of life.

Living here is somewhat cheaper than other areas in Spain, with rent in the city centre reaching around €420 per month. This clearly plays a major factor in encouraging expats to move to the area as it is one of the top two most densely populated areas in the country with between 6.6% and 30.7% of the British population living there.

Retiring to Malaga

Another popular area for expats to retire to is Malaga. In many ways this areas has the same attraction as Alicante, benefiting from the world famous beaches of the Costa del Sol and year round good weather as well as much lower prices than other cities in Spain. It also sees similar proportions of the British population of Spain living there, with numbers in the region reaching between 6.6% and 30.7% in total.

Retiring to Malaga will see you spending roughly €460 per month on living expenses and around €530 per month on a city centre one bedroom flat, making it a very affordable alternative to other cities in Spain.

Planning Your Retirement to Spain

If you decided to take the plunge and move abroad, it can be difficult to decide exactly how you are going to start the process. In this section we walk you through the major elements you must consider in order to make your move as smooth as possible.

Where to Retire in Spain

We have already run through some top locations to live in Spain and that may have given you a good idea of idea of where you might like to move. However, there are some important elements that you should also consider when picking where you want to retire.

For example, good transportation links are going to benefit you massively, especially if you plan on not keeping a car in the country. The best areas for this is certainly in cities where public transport links are good. Cities like Barcelona and Madrid have their own metro system and other major cities have good bus, tram and rail links.

Being close to an airport may also be important to you as it will allow you to easily travel back to the UK and other destinations as well as allowing your friends and family from home to visit.

Finding a Property in Spain

Finding a property to live in Spain can be relatively straight forward as there are plenty of businesses out there that specialise in helping retirees find someone to buy or rent. However, it is also important to be aware of any laws or taxes you may face when moving to the country and pull them into your wider plans. 

Accessing Money in Spain

When you take into consideration the cost of living in Spain you will get a much better idea of how much money you will need in order to live there. Later in this article we will cover some more details on how exactly you can draw you pension in the country, however you will likely also want to access any savings you have in order to improve your quality of life.

Although there are a number of ways to do this, one of the best is to simply keep a current account in the UK and also open one in Spain. You can then easily transfer money between the two and access it quickly. This method also allows you to just access the money you need should the exchange rate be bad or take advantage of a good exchange rate and change more over as required. For further information, we've explored banking and more in our ultimate guide to moving to Spain.

Healthcare in Spain for Over 60’s

For those that move to Spain for work the healthcare system works in a very similar way to here in the UK, by making monthly contributions they can access the health service within the country. Also, anyone that holds a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is eligible for 3 months free healthcare, although after that things change a little. For those that do not work or make contributions the health service, they are not automatically registered for free healthcare.

Those that are in receipt of a UK state pension, long-term incapacity benefit or bereavement benefit are eligible for the same medical treatment as a local. However, unlike in the UK you will need to register to receive this. This can be done by filling out an S1 form, and bringing it along with your Registration Certificate (Certificado de registro), your local resident certificate (Certificado de Empadronamiento), and passport to your local INSS office.

Claiming your UK pension from Spain

Claiming your state pension whilst living abroad is relatively easy. In fact all you will need to do to collect your pension whilst living in Spain is either contact the International Pension Centre or send them through the international claim form. However, if for some reason you are only living in Spain for part of the year you will need to choose which country you would like to receive your pension in and then transfer the money yourself when you need it. It is also worth noting that once you are considered a Spanish resident you will need to pay income tax on your pension. How much this is widely varies, so you will need to seek professional advice on the matter.

For those that are receiving a state pension the state of politics in the UK is likely to also be of great interest. This is why you can still vote in the UK by post of by proxy up to 15 years after you have left.

Retiring to Spain after Brexit

Little is truly known about what it will mean for expat retirees in Spain after Brexit. This will likely widely depend on what deal is reached between the UK government and the EU. However, it is clear that the Spanish are keen to keep us moving to the country. This can be seen through the fact that foreign minister Alfonso Dastis made a statement late in 2017 announcing that expats will still be able to stay in Spain ‘even if there is no deal’. It is also likely that the Spanish will still want to trade with the UK so it is highly likely that a reasonable deal will be found.

Retiring in Spain Pros and Cons

To help you make your decision about whether to move to Spain we have outlined a number of pros and cons below:


Relatively cheaper cost of living to the UK

Moving away from friends and family

Warmer climate in much of country

Potential difficulty of getting by in English

Relaxed way of life

Need to fill out forms for healthcare and other admin

Experience a new culture

Potential to suffer from poor exchange rates

Learn a new language

Brexit may have a negative impact on your position

Can easily explore much of Europe by road

Potential to benefit from good exchange rates

Potential to provide friends and family with somewhere to stay abroad

Brexit may have a positive impact on your position

For further reading, you can explore our guide to Spanish culture, which explains many of the cultural differences and similarities between the UK and Spain.

Compare My Move in Spain

We hope this guide has left you fully informed ahead of your retirement in Spain. As retiring in Spain is many people's lifelong dream, you really do have plenty of time to get fully informed and fully plan your retirement. If you're still not sure, check out our guide to Retiring to France from the UK, as well as our guide to planning your retirement abroad

When the time comes, remember to use Compare My Move to get connected with up to 6 professional international removal companies to save you time and money when it matters most. Our network of international removal partners come fully verified by us and reviewed by you, so you'll be in safe hands on moving day.

Compare the best removal companies