Sep 18, 2018 | Guests, Life, Relocation
Do you intend to move to Spain with your family this year, and maybe buy a property? If so, you’ll already be thinking about sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun, with a tall glass of sangria by your side. That said, before you can get working on your tan and enjoy la vida española, you’ll need to sort through some practical things and pay attention to our Currency Exchange Tips.
For example, how can you transfer your money from the UK to your Spanish bank account at a top exchange rate? Well, to ensure you maximise your euro total, and start your new family life in Spain on the best foot, please find below 10 easy tips. Keep these in mind, and exchanging currencies to move to Spain will be ¡muy facil!
Our 10 Currency Exchange Tips:
1. Plan your money transfer well in advance.
Are you thinking about moving to Spain with your family in the next few months? If so, start looking at transferring money to your Spanish bank account now.
This is because, the sooner you look at exchanging currencies, the bigger the window you give yourself for an outstanding exchange rate to become available!
2. Talk to a friendly, professional currency dealer.
Is this your first time transferring a significant sum of money to Spain? If so, speak to a friendly, professional currency dealer.
He or she will explain the process and answer your questions in straightforward language, without any jargon. This way, you can put your mind at ease.
3. Transfer your money with a foreign exchange broker, instead of your bank.
When we transfer money to Spain, it’s tempting to use our local bank. The thing is though, the banks know this, so they offer inferior exchange rates.
Instead, a foreign exchange broker can get you a significantly better currency rate, to make moving to Spain with your family a breeze.
4. Accept a good exchange rate as soon as it arises.
When you exchange currencies, our impulse is often to wait and see how high the exchange rate goes. The thing is though, the foreign exchange market is highly volatile.
Given this, instead of trying to “time the market”, exchange currencies when a good rate arises. This way, you’ll receive the euro total you need!
5. Keep an eye on the foreign exchange rate with Google.
To keep an eye on the foreign exchange rate, and find out when sterling climbs, you can simply use Google.
Just enter “GBPEUR” into the search engine, and Google will return the current exchange rate, as well as a historical exchange rate graph. This way, you can see if the exchange rate is favourable!
6. Don’t exchange currencies at the “low of the day”.
On a given day, the exchange rate fluctuates. Today, for example, the pound to euro interbank exchange rate has moved almost 0.5 cents!
As a result, to lift your euro total when you move to Spain, ensure you don’t exchange currencies at the “low of the day”. This is the point when the exchange rate is lowest!
7. Transfer your money with a currency broker that’s “FCA authorised.”
To make sure that your money is highly secure when you exchange currencies, use a foreign exchange specialist that’s “directly authorised by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA.)”
This means that the currency dealer will adhere to all UK regulations to transfer funds, and protect your money!
8. Avoid banks or currency brokers that charge fees or commission.
In 2018, you can transfer your money to Spain while paying 0% in fees or commission. This way, you save the highest possible amount, to lift your euro total in your Spanish bank account!
So, when you speak to a currency broker, ask them to confirm that they charge 0% fees and commission.
9. Get peace of mind with an International Transfer Receipt (ITR).
When you transfer money abroad, you’ll like to know that your money has arrived safely in your Spanish bank account as soon as possible.
To get this peace of mind, ask your foreign exchange broker for an International Transfer Receipt (ITR). With this, you’ll receive quick, clear confirmation that your money transfer has been successful.
10. Protect yourself against volatility, with a forward contract.
To guarantee that you get the euro total you need when you move to Spain with your family, you can set up what’s called a forward contract.
With this, you lock in today’s exchange rate, so you know well in advance what euro total you’ll receive in your Spanish bank account. This way, you’re protected against currency volatility!
With these 10 tips in mind, transferring money for your move to Spain will be a cinch. So you’ll enjoy less stress, and more ¡siesta under el sol!
This guest post was written by By Peter Lavelle at foreign exchange broker Pure FX , https://www.purefx.co.uk
Telephone: +44 (0) 1494 671800 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
May 11, 2018 | Relocation
No matter how excited you are about moving to Spain, there is very little that can distract you from the daunting process of packing up your whole life to move abroad.
In our article How To Calculate the Cost of Moving to Spain, we provided you with a free online calculator to work out your own personal costs when planning your relocation. In this article, we are going to show you how to save money by using removal companies who will make the packing process a lot less stressful.
This guide of tips compiled by award-winning removal comparison company, Compare My Move. They’ve put together a few hints and tips on what to leave behind, what to donate to charity and how to help the removal company.
Step 1 – Have a Clear Out
Moving to a new house in the UK is a great way to have a thorough clear out of the rubbish you’ve built up over the years – but when you’re moving the items that make up your life overseas, you become brutal with what you must get rid of. Packing up and moving to Spain is the perfect opportunity to go through everything you own from clothes, hats, shoes to books, kitchen appliances and cutlery and decide if you really need it.
Most of your stuff can go to charity shops, be sold on eBay/Gumtree or pass on to a friend or family. You could even have an American style ‘yard sale’ for your neighbours, friends and family to truly give your unwanted items to a good home. Alternatively, any unwanted toiletries, towels or shoes can be put to beneficial use in a local women’s shelter or a homeless organization.
‘Flamingos Vintage Kilo’ in Malaga is an opportunity for you to replace the clothes you donated or sold with the chance to grab some bargains as you’ll be charged per kilo, not per item. ‘La Señora Henderson’ in Valencia is another affordable vintage, second-hand clothing shop.
- TIP – Let the removal company know any additional services you wish to use such as packing services or dismantling/reassembling furniture and the number of items you’re taking, for an accurate quote.
Step 2 – Plan Your Move
It’s highly recommended to hire a removal company to help get your items to Spain quickly and safely. Most companies offer a packing and unpacking service designed to make your life easier.
After you’ve figured out what’s going to charity and what’s coming with you that’s when you can arrange your move to Spain. You can tell the removal company exactly what they can expect to be packing and unpacking. If you don’t choose a dismantling/reassembling service, make sure you dismantle all the furniture you plan on taking abroad.
We understand it can be awkward to take every item of furniture with you. It could be useful to keep some of it in storage, which is a service widely offered by removal companies. The idea could be that these items could be sent over to you in Spain once you’ve settled in, giving you a bit of time to put aside money for the second removal delivery.
If you’re worried about not taking enough furniture with you, then the money you make from donating and selling your unwanted items gives you the opportunity to buy second-hand furniture from charity shops or local upcycling businesses once you’ve moved to Spain.
Like Martha’s Homestore and Cow and Ghost Vintage, both independent shops selling upcycled furniture and vintage homewares in Wales, ‘Mercat del Encants’ in Barcelona offers you the chance to help furnish your new house with over 500 stalls to get stuck into.
- TIP – Don’t surprise the removal company on the day with an extra item you decided to pack, this will only delay the process, cost more money and most likely annoy them.
Step 3 – Hire a Removal Company
A removal company will do most of the hard work for you to ensure you have everything covered for your move to Spain, but you should know in advance if there’s anything they don’t cover.
International movers will pack your items professionally for a safe arrival in Spain, offering high quality and strong packing materials. Most companies also offer a dismantling/reassembling service for your furniture, saving you a lot of work.
However, when getting a quote for your move, it’s essential you check the optional add-ons the company provides. International Removals Insurance is a specialist type of insurance that will cover your belongings during transit when moving from one country to another. It’s vital you have this insurance as it covers any damages your items could face travelling via sea freight etc.
Questions to Ask –
- Communicate with the removal company on what exactly you can and can’t take, this will make packing easier for both you and the removal firm.
- If you’re planning on taking your pet with you, find out if the removal company will provide a service for this.
- Find out exactly what you’re paying for. Ask how much each additional service is and avoid any hidden fees.
Step 4 – Leave Behind
- Toaster, kettle, microwave, TV etc. Don’t take up space by packing kitchen appliances that could likely already be in your new house in Spain if it’s furnished.
- Furniture. You can sell most of your furniture and start fresh in Spain with new items.
- Consider putting items into storage such as wardrobe, bed, sofa, heavy and bulky furniture, photo albums/personal keepsakes.
- Books, DVDs, old birthday cards that you’ve kept over the years shouldn’t all be coming with you to Spain.
Step 5 – Don’t Forget to Pack
Important Documents – driving licence, birth certificate, marriage certificate, tax documents, payslips, details for your new home, a map of the area in Spain, passport, credit and debit cards, mixture of pounds and euros.
- TIP – These should all be kept together in one folder and in your hand luggage in case they get misplaced during the move.
Essentials – tablets or medication, sun cream, plug adapters until you sort out appliances and sunglasses.
- TIP – Don’t worry about packing toiletries like shower gel, shampoo or soap. These are all things that are widely available in most shops in Spain and will take up unnecessary room.
Travel Bag – deodorant, face and body wipes, toothbrush, tissues, pain killers, phone and laptop along with the chargers, and all the important documents stated above.
- TIP – It’s always a good idea to pack a travel bag separate from your items that are with the removal company to reassure yourself you know where they are if you need easy access.
Clothes – moving abroad is a good chance to donate a lot of your unworn clothes to charity.
- TIP – vacuum pack the clothes you wish to take to Spain so you’re not taking up too much space.
Furniture – if your personal belongings are moving via airfreight, your items need to be professionally packed.
- TIP – Don’t forget to dismantle furniture if you’re not opting for a dismantling/reassembling service
Get a Quote Now!
This guest post was written by Martha Lott. Martha is a content writer for UK house removal comparison website Compare My Move. Last year, Compare My Move helped more than 65,000 movers save time and money on their house removals costs.
Sep 4, 2017 | Property, Relocation, Where to live
Many people dream of buying in Spain – flights are generally economical and take a little more than two hours, the quality of life (and the wine!) is very good, plus property prices are very reasonable compared to much of the UK. But while some dream, others turn it into a reality. You may be surprised to find that a second home in sun-drenched Spain could be within your reach.
While living the UK has its high points, the weather and the warm beer aren’t among them. This could explain why there are more than 2.5 million online searches for property in Spain from British residents each and every month, according to Rightmove’s research. These property seekers are looking for a balance between affordable plane fares and short flight times so they can enjoy a long weekend away or a permanent move but be able to head back to the UK at short notice for work or to see family and friends.
The top destination for British property-seekers is – sunny Spain! The average price of property these bargain-hunting Brits are seeking is €156,940, which won’t get you much – if anything at all – in many parts of the UK. Rightmove has also found that the most popular locations for Brits seeking holiday homes abroad tend to be in the top holiday hotspots too. So which is the most popular destination? Alicante and the Costa Blanca resorts of course.
Alicante has the most of those 2,513,374 enquiries a month with people searching for an average price per property of €126,054. Mallorca is second with an average price search of €397,813 while Malaga comes in third where the average enquiry price is €191,830.
What’s so attractive about Alicante?
With about 320 days of sun each year and an average temperature of 29oC in August and 11o in January, it’s no wonder the Alicante region is so appealing. Plus many budget airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, Monarch and Norwegian fly into Alicante airport, which is the fifth busiest airport in Spain, so it’s easy to get to.
Alicante province includes the attractive Costa Blanca resorts with hundreds of kilometres of sandy beaches to soak up the sun or try watersports. This is a fabulous area for sports such as:
- cycling along the same routes you’ve seen in the Vuelta de España
- sailing in the same waters as the Volvo Ocean Race round-the-world yacht teams
- playing tennis on the same courts as David Ferrer
- playing golf on competition courses
- or simply sampling yoga on the beach; horse-riding in the mountains; paragliding; rock climbing; stand-up paddle and so much more.
It’s a paradise for food lovers too. You can visit the markets to buy the finest selection of fresh shellfish and fish, such as the special Denia red prawn, or head to the restaurants to sample some of the many rice dishes including paella and arroz a banda (rice cooked in fish stock).
With vast beaches, super theme parks, great nightlife, glorious mountains, traditional little Spanish villages and bustling cities, there are so many reasons to buy property in Alicante.
What’s magnificent about Malaga?
Malaga is Spain’s fourth busiest airport since it serves the city and the entire Costa del Sol resorts. It’s another favourite with budget airlines so you can enjoy an affordable flight to your chosen destination. The Costa del Sol is a long favourite with British expats and holidaymakers who can choose from the `fun in the sun’ resort of Fuengirola to the chic Marbella resorts and everything in between.
With endless sunny days, an average temperature of 26oC in August and a lovely 12oC in January, it’s no wonder that so many people head to the Costa del Sol throughout the year. As well as topping up the tan, people love the region for its countless golf courses to test all handicaps as well as amazing water sports facilities, particularly around Marbella and the swanky Puerto Banus.
Many people are also fascinated to learn there are impressive ski resorts in the region. It takes about 90 minutes to drive to the Sierra Nevada for skiing or snowboarding. It seems incredible that you could be skiing in the snow in the morning and then one hour later be having lunch on the beach – but it’s absolutely true!
Food lovers can sample fresh fish or shellfood straight from the sea; or try the cold gazpacho or salmorejo soups to beat the summer heat; migas made with bread, garlic and olive oil; or rabo de toro (oxtail). Simply delicious!
With its selection of beach resorts, mountains, white villages, historic cities, culture and friendly welcome, it’s no wonder so many people are looking for property in Malaga and its surrounding district.
Your next move?
If you are looking for property in Malaga or Alicante, please take a look at the Move to Malaga website for further information. Our contact details are there so you can get in touch to let us help you make your move to Spain.
Tell me how you can help me save time and money on my purchase …
Apr 3, 2017 | Relocation, Where to live
New Series: What Is The Real Cost of living in Spain?
Welcome to our new series of posts looking at the cost of living in Spain. In this introductory post, we will inform you of general costs and provide you with great sources of information that you can use to calculate your own budget.
Your own personal cost of living in Spain will depend on the size of your family, your chosen destination and, of course, your expected standard of living. The information we provide serves as a guideline and it is up to you, to be honest when making your own calculations. A “Tapas in Malaga” kind of lifestyle budget will be nowhere near a “Popstar in Marbella” kind of lifestyle budget 😉
When talking about why they made the move to Spain, many expats will say the quality of life is one good reason while others point to the sun which seems to be constantly beaming down from the sky. Great food, endless fiestas and friendly environment are also major attractions.
Pensioners find their money goes further in Spain than in the UK and other north European countries, despite the poorer exchange rate compared to a few years ago. However, workers, unless they are self-employed with most of their income earned from outside Spain, will find the wages to be disappointingly low. That said, it is still fair to say your money goes a long way. For most people, the cost of living in Spain is generally lower than in their home country.
As we mentioned, in future articles we will be looking in detail at the cost of living in the top Spanish destinations for expats but now we are going to give a general overview of how much you need to live in Spain.
Living costs vary between the regions and from resort to resort – the top cities of Madrid and Barcelona are expensive but Spain’s third largest city of Valencia is surprisingly cheap. Likewise, the Balearic islands and swanky resorts such as Marbella will cost more than living in Torrevieja or Malaga. It’s worth bearing that in mind if you are still unsure of where to move to in Spain. You will find that some of the most expensive Spanish cities also have the highest incomes. For example, the cost of living in Barcelona is 30.17% higher than the national average, San Sebastian is 27.85% higher and Madrid is 22.72%. However, while. the average salary in Spain is about €23,000, in Madrid, it is €36,000, €33,000 in Barcelona and €29,000 in San Sebastian. Figures also show the cost of living in Madrid or Barcelona is still 40% cheaper than London.
Cost of living in Spain: Day to Day Expenses
These data are based on 26070 entries in the past 18 months from 2114 different contributors.
Last update: March, 2017 Source: Numbeo.com
Tips for reducing your own cost of living in Spain: Food shopping
It goes without saying that you’ll also need to adapt to your new life in Spain, particularly when doing the weekly grocery shopping. Buying everything in one large supermarket is often not the best option.
In Spain, the indoor markets are great for buying fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. This is simply because you can buy as much or as little as you want – no pre-packed stuff there!
Each supermarket has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Lidl can be great for meat, frozen and fresh veg, and fruit while Mercadona is a favourite for toiletries and bread. Other top supermarkets in Spain are Carrefour, Consum, Dia, Supercor and Aldi. (Click on the supermarket’s names to access their websites and compare prices)
Take your time with the food shopping. Visit new places and embrace the change. And it goes without saying, that you should always try to buy fresh products that are in season.
The best idea is to be versatile – as a Spanish teacher advised: “If chicken is expensive then eat fish. If potatoes are dear, eat rice instead.”
What you will find, in almost all parts of Spain, is that it’s much more affordable to go out to eat – and a that is a great way to start integrating.
Internet and mobile phones:
Cost of internet packages vary along with the speeds but, thankfully, fibre optic is making a breakthrough in many areas. The best deals are with Movistar, Orange and Vodafone, although you’ll need to check what their coverage is like in your area. You may also find firms in your area offering packages too.
If you think your children would benefit from being taught in English or following the British curriculum, you will find many private international schools in Spain. There is more information in our articles about international schools in Malaga and Alicante.
A litre of petrol is currently about €1.28. Use this website to check current petrol and diesel costs in your chosen destination: https://www.elpreciodelagasolina.com/
The results show you the location of petrol stations near to where you are …
Cost of Living in Spain: Monthly Expenses
Rent can be anything from about €450 to over €5000 (subject to your requirements) and location. For researching rental prices in different areas, the best online sites are Kyero, ThinkSpain and Idealista.
This article will help you to decide on the best location for you: http://movetomalagaspain.com/property-finder-malaga/where-to-live-in-malaga/
This article explains how to use portals to check out specific rental properties in different destinations: http://movetomalagaspain.com/how-to-find-your-ideal-long-term-rental-in-spain/
Use this table to calculate the rent in your chosen area: http://www.fotocasa.es/indice-alquiler-inmobiliario__fotocasa.asp
TIP: Rent prices are rising and good rental properties are difficult to find. Be ready to act quickly as soon as you find something you like!
Here is a breakdown that serves as a guideline as to where your money will go
Cost of Living in Spain: Annual Expenses
You will also need to factor in annual expenses such as:
- car insurance (average of €600 a year)
- house insurance (contents and building is from €129 with Linea Direct)
- travel insurance (from €70)
- health insurance if not eligible for SIP card (from €40 a month for a 30-year-old male)
Check out our article on how to save money on insurance in Spain
- car tax (€90 for a four-year-old family car)
- municipal taxes (about €125)
- IBI tax as a homeowner (depends on property value but from €200 to €800)
You should budget for a further €1,800 to cover these annual bills.
If you run a business, you will have to pay:
- tax on earnings
- IVA (the equivalent of VAT) of 21% which you collect from your customers
- any insurance needed such as public liability insurance.
You can read more in our articles about the costs of setting up a business in Spain as a freelance and whether it is such a good idea or not.
As you can see, many costs are fairly low in Spain, especially the fun ones such as having an after-work drink or dining out. When you add the other benefits of living in Spain such as the sheer beauty of the country, the crazy fiestas and the attitude of the locals, it’s worth every penny!
Take the first step towards living in MALAGA or ALICANTE. Contact us now!
Mar 16, 2017 | Relocation
Let’s get your relocation off to a great start by helping you calculate and hence budget for your own personal cost of moving to Spain.
People move to Spain for many reasons.
- the cost of living is cheaper,
- the weather is better,
- the scenery is stunning
- the quality of life is ideal for people of all ages.
While the day-to-day expenses and property prices are certainly much lower than in the UK and other north European countries, there are other expenses to budget for before packing your bags and flying to Spain for good.
To help you calculate your cost of moving to Spain, we have listed the main expenses while you are researching your relocation as well as for when you first arrive. We have also made a handy calculator so you can work out your own individual cost of moving to Spain.
Expenses Prior to Relocation:
Research and viewing trips to Spain
Before you relocate to Spain, you’ll need to select and check out different areas. We recommend at least two or three visits before you move to Spain.
Visiting at different times will highlight issues such as a potential area bustling in summer but a total ghost town in winter. The location is always the top priority. Use these trips to get to know the transport links, what the area feels like, how the schools compare, whether you like the local bars, restaurants and shops. Once you select a particular area, you can start looking for property.
- You will, therefore, need to budget for flights for you all at least twice, maybe three times. We recommend avoiding peak summer, Easter and Christmas. Not only are flights expensive at these times, schools are closed and rental agents will be reluctant to organise property viewings. Use a comparison flight booking site such as Skyscanner to see the best flight deals and, if you live close to an airport, the earlier or later flights should be less expensive. Set Up Flight Search and Save Money!
- Budget for accommodation during your trip. If possible, move to a different area every few days. Try to stay in different locations whenever possible. Spending time in an area gives you a much better feel for a place. You can often secure great deals using Booking.com (add my link!)
- Budget for Car hire. You will need a car if you are really going to explore every part of your chosen destination in Spain. Prices vary a lot, from €20 for three days to more than €100 and, while it pays to shop around for the best deal, it may pay to stick to the companies you know and trust.
- Budget for Food. Supermarket shopping if you are in an apartment or dining out. We would suggest it’s ideal to eat out a couple of times at different places, so you can start looking for your favourite restaurants and start integrating with local residents. Look out for the lunchtime set menu (menu del dia) as these are great value and can cost from €8 or even less. You will need at least €20 per day per person for food and drinks.
- Budget for Spending money. On top of this you will need some cash for extras such as petrol for your hire car, bottled water, sun cream and a few other essentials. A further €20 a day should cover these, depending on how much petrol you use – at the moment it’s about €1.23 a litre.
Expenses Preparing for Your Relocation:
Rental Deposits and Agency Fees
Unless you really know an area, it is strongly advisable to rent before buying property in Spain. This is another big expense. In most parts of Spain, you will need to pay at least one month rent, a deposit plus a fee to the agency for finding the property for you. Contracts vary so always read them through thoroughly or instruct a solicitor to have a look.
It is not unusual to pay a deposit equivalent to two months’ rent while agency fees are often one month’s rent. So if your rent is €500, your initial outlay could be €2,000 (one month rent in advance + agency fees + deposit). Long-term rents are usually for one year and if you cannot supply adequate references or a work contract, you may be asked to pay the full 12 months in advance!
If you decide to buy a property in Spain, you will need to add an extra 10% to 15% on top of the purchase price to pay for expenses and taxes.
- Transfer tax – this is paid on second-hand homes and varies from region to region. It is usually about 8% of your purchase price. For new builds you will pay IVA (equivalent of VAT) at 10%.
- Stamp duty – this is between 0.5% to 1.5% of the property price
- Land registry fees from 0.1% to 2%
- Notary fees from 0.1% to 2%
- Legal fees of from 1% to 2%
If you are taking out a mortgage, there are additional fees for setting up the mortgage and legal fees of 1% to 2% of the property price.
If you are not paying into the Spanish social security system (ie. you are self-employed in Spain or have a Spanish work contract) you will not be eligible for a Spanish SIP card to access the public health system. You will need private medical insurance.
Unless you have a pre-existing medical condition, private health insurance may cost less than you think. Obviously, the rates vary a lot depending on how much cover you require and your age. As an example, a healthy person in their 30s may pay around €40 a month. It can be €100 or more for older people. You can also opt in to get a SIP card which will cost €60 a month for under-65s and €157 for 65+.
You will also need insurance for your household contents. For this budget around €100+ annually for a basic package. Budget also for vehicles.
Pet insurance is another option – that is around €15 a month – but you may find your vet has an annual plan of about €100 which covers an annual check-up and injections.
Getting Your Belongings Shipped Over
Bringing furniture over to Spain can be expensive with quotes of between €3,000 to €7,000, depending on the size of your house and how many items are being loaded. A cheaper option is to hire a van, using a one-way van hire rental option, if you don’t have too many belongings. Even then you have to factor in the insurance, petrol and tolls, overnight stays or the cost of taking the ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander or Bilbao and then driving halfway through Spain.
Moving to another country is a good opportunity to declutter – you could hold a garage sale or take part in a car-boot sale to help finance your trip. Also, some furniture from the UK will not look right in Spain, so you may want to buy new. Obviously, you will not want to get rid of personal belongings so it pays to look at removal companies which take part-loads or look at other options. For instance, British Airways will let you take 10 suitcases per person with prices ranging from £36 to £120 per piece of luggage when booked online and £40 to £140 if booked at the airport. You could also check out luggage shipping companies which can cost from £41 for each bag.
The Final Cost of Moving To Spain
Factor in the costs of your final one-way trip to Spain for all the family. If you do not have much luggage, then flying will be the cheapest option. Otherwise, you can drive through France and Spain, trying to avoid as many toll roads as possible as these can be expensive. Just the trip from Calais to Alicante, for example, will cost €298.66 – €127.10 in tolls and €171.56 in fuel for an average family car – and will take 17 hours 30 minutes to drive 1,848kms.
Catching the Brittany Ferry from the UK to Spain is less stressful and can cost from £229 for two adults, two children and a car one-way. With a pet, it can cost from £258.50, so just a few pounds more. The onward journey to Alicante will cost a further €106.86 – including tolls of €31.70, and €75.16 fuel.
If your dog, cat or ferret does not already have a pet passport, it is essential to start planning this well in advance. They will need the passport to show they have had their rabies injection and are microchipped. One vet is quoting £14.50 for the microchip, £42.80 for the rabies vaccination and £20.00 to issue the passport, so a total of £77.30 for a dog. While another vet charges £115.26 for the passport. Other vets may charge more, so you should always ask for a quote. The costs are about the same for a cat.
There are companies who will transport your pet to Spain but we think it is less stressful for them to be with you. Many hotels will accept pets so there won’t be any problems when you drive over with them (ensure you pre-book these in advance). The ferries have kennels at the top of the ship and some have pet-friendly cabins – there aren’t many and they get booked quickly so secure your cabin as soon as you know your moving dates.
Children’s School Fees
Unless your children are very young and are able to pick up the language easily, or they already speak Spanish at a decent level, then private education is the most likely option
They will be taught Spanish along with English but can follow the British education system, which will be familiar to them. Moving country and finding new friends can be difficult enough without having to learn subjects such as maths or science in a new language.
Costs vary depending on their age and the school but budget for around €500 per month for nursery or primary education up to €1,000+ for secondary schools. On top of this, they will need a new uniform and to pay enrollment fees. Enrolment fee could be another €500 and the school may ask for a similar amount as a deposit too.
Buying or Hiring a Car
If you are bringing your own car to Spain, you will need to change it to Spanish plates or sell it to someone returning to the UK. It may be easier to rent or buy a car once you arrive. Monthly car rental rates are cheaper than short-term leases and you may be able to get a car for a month for around €3 to €10 per day. Second-hand cars are not cheap to buy in Spain but will certainly be more economical than long-term car rental. As an example, a 2008 Seat Ibiza is being sold for €2,995 and a 2009 VW Golf for €8,999. (prices march 2017)
Extra Expenses For Your Rental Property
If you are renting and, therefore, not bringing all your belongings over until later, you will need a few items for your home. Although the house will have all the furniture and kitchen equipment you need, you may want to buy sheets, towels, duvets and pillows. The larger supermarkets are the cheapest places to go shopping unless you have a Primark nearby. Allow for a further €200 for a family of four for these items.
Stocking Up On Essentials
Your first shopping trip is going to be more expensive than usual as you will have to restock everything in your kitchen cupboards and bathrooms. Salt, pepper, butter, olive oil, herbs, spices, tinned goods, milk, coffee and tea are some of the essentials on the list along with washing-up liquid, cleaning products, shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser, sun cream and shaving foam. This can easily add up to another €75 to your final bill.
Now you’ve moved in you will want to keep in touch with friends and family back home as well as find out all the news in your new hometown. That means sorting out your mobile phones, internet and satellite TV. Internet packages vary and not all companies can cover all areas, so check who can provide good internet speed in your area and then ask for quotes. With your mobile, you can change your SIM card to a Spanish one rather than invest in a new phone. Vodafone and Orange are available in most areas while Telefonica/Movistar have the most extensive coverage. You will also find English firms offering good deals in phones, internet and TV packages such as Freeview or free to view packages through the internet or a satellite dish so you can watch your favourite programmes on BBC and ITV among others. Mobile phone and internet charges can be from €20 a month, depending on usage and speed. For a landline, mobile and fibre optic with Movistar, will be about €80 a month. British TV can also be provided for a setup fee or others charge a monthly fee, also about €20. Satellite TV, such as Canal+, is expensive – about €60 monthly – and, although Sky cannot officially be set up in Spain, there are ways around it. You will be charged for the dish and box to be set up – say €100+ – and then have to pay your monthly subscription as usual.
There are always unexpected extras when you move home, such as the TV packing up or you realise you left something behind. It is, therefore, worth having at least €250 put by for these minor hiccups. Then, if your careful planning means your move to Spain runs smoothly, you can treat yourself to a day out to celebrate your new life in Spain.
Use Our Online Calculator To Calculate Your Cost of Moving To Spain…
Simply access the spreadsheet, make a copy of the file to save on your own PC, input the values in the YELLOW cells and the sheet will do the rest for you.
Select “File” and then “Make a copy …” You can then access and edit the tool whenever you need to.
We hope you find this information useful. We’d love to receive your input and feedback in the comments … If you have ideas how to improve the tool, please let us know!
Moving to Spain is not cheap, nor always easy, but is it worth it? Our Instagram photos may give you an answer 😉 Have a look!
CONTACT US about Your Move to Spain!
COMING SOON: How To Calculate The Cost of Day to Day Living in Spain
Lisa’s Book Available on Amazon
Feb 1, 2015 | Relocation
Our cheeky munchkins
As a regular reader of our blog, you will know that we are always sharing our stories and reasons why Spain is great for kids to live and to grow up. If you read any of the interviews we have given (links on our About Us page) you will see many of the reasons why.
In this article, we will share, not only our reasons, but also many other people’s opinions on this matter.
We are not comparing Spain in contrast to any other country. We are merely sharing opinions on Spain.
Here are our main reasons why Spain is great for kids to live and to grow up:
- A Longer Childhood: I really cannot say exactly why, but it is widely agreed that There appears to be less social pressure on them to grow up and act like adults. Age is not a barrier. It is not frowned upon for a teenager to cuddle and coo over a baby or to play with a toddler. You may be interested to read this article: Give Britain’s kids their childhood back
- Safety: Spain has a relatively low crime rate. Parents do not live in fear for the safety of their children. It is wonderful to have strangers in the street come up to your children, to talk to them, embrace them, even to take your baby out of your arms. (I can imagine some parents cringing at this very thought).
- Healthcare: Both our children were born in Spanish state hospitals. We have always contributed to the Spanish healthcare system and we have no complaints whatsoever. Spain has excellent healthcare for children. Waiting times are non-existent
- Language-Learning: Expat children living in Spain grow up learning at least two languages. Their mother tongue, Spanish and other local languages, depending on where you live. There are believed to be many advantages to learning more languages and we believe it to me an amazing gift to give to a child of any age.
- Outdoor Lifestyle: Thanks to the weather, in most parts of Spain and particularly in the South, more time is spent outdoors than indoors. Sports facilities are in abundance in all villages and towns. Playing on the beach, or in the open countryside, in clean fresh air, is a normal occurrence rather than a rare holiday treat.
- Family First: The family unit in Spain is generally very tight. Children grow up with great respect for family members and appreciating the family unit. They develop a special pride in their family. Respect for elders is inherent. Even though, children may not see some relatives as often as if they lived in the same country, when they do meet up they enjoy quality time together.
- Great Food: Living in a different place is a great opportunity to encourage children to try new foods. You can see some of our children’s favourite Spanish dishes in this post (click here). “Children’s meals” are not typical in most Spanish restaurants. It is more typical for families in Spain to share plates of food. Meal times are often family times. Fast food is yet to impact Spanish eating habits. How often have you seen people walking down the street eating their lunch in Spain?
- Holidays: Spain is famous for its ferias and festivos. There is often any excuse for a holiday in Spain. Although it may be more challenging for some parents, based on their work schedule, for those of us who work for ourselves and have flexible working conditions, regular holidays are part of the routine. What child doesn’t enjoy a holiday? Whether it’s a week at home with more trips to the beach or fun family days out, the children enjoy more family time.
- Children are Welcome Everywhere: Ok. There may be some exceptions. But, in general, you will not need to worry if your children will be welcomed in most establishments in Spain. No matter what the time or location, your children will be not only welcomed but welcomed with open, loving arms.
And you don’t need to just take our word for it. Here is what a few of our Twitter and Facebook friends’ replies when we asked them if and why they thought Spain is a great place for kids:
Karen Carter Southall (@weddingsaboutsp) The climate offers a more outdoor lifestyle, where the countryside or the beach is often their playground and imagination, is the key. Family values count and diet is generally healthier.
Pete Carter: Clean air, fresh living, mixing with nature, outdoor activities that aren’t rained off, fresh produce (inland anyway).
Diana Berryman (@soc1albutterfly) Kids get a chance to still be kids here. There is less pressure to grow up too fast, family values are still strong and kids are still respectful of their parents and grandparents.
Lynsey Drake (@lynzinthesun) Swallows & amazons lifestyle. always interacting with adults as kids go everywhere with you. They become aware of being a minority. Not as materialistic. Bilingual. I’m now in a different area now though with 2 late teens and am not sure if Spain offers all the opportunities. But I wouldn’t have had their 1-16 years anywhere else
Abi Dean: Kids are welcomed, cherished and doted on in all aspects of life – their teachers greet them with a hug and a kiss in the morning, you’ll never have to worry about anyone tut-tutting at you in a restaurant, and in the summer you can sit and enjoy a relaxing glass of wine at a beach cafe whilst watching your kids playing because every generation will be out enjoying the evening together
Mike Cliffe-Jones (@mikecj) Warm, safe, family focus, sporty, outdoor, lack of cynicism.
Sarah Hawes: Its safe, food is healthier. People are outside in the fresh air more. The need to constantly be in fashion is not a priority …. and … they respect their elders. So lots to aspire to.
Maya Middlemiss (@casslar) Children are at the heart of Spanish culture, and welcome everywhere – not marginalised or excluded as they can be in the UK.
Richard Middlemiss: For the kids, a safer less paranoid society where it’s ok to enjoy kids, even to pat them on the head or hug ’em even if they’re not your own….not that I’d do that to the ‘orrible little tics of course! They have a longer childhood but in a lot of ways a less inhibited childhood certainly than I had. They are multilingual and see sunshine almost every day. Ok it’s not Newcastle but it’s not bad!
Rebecca Eisen: Kids are always welcome in restaurants, cafes, bars no matter how much noise there making, traditional flamenco dancing lessons for girls and boys and fantastic places to explore
Marina Nitzak (@luksmarbella) Safe, happy, family and outdoor based environment and activities, local authorities that constantly improve public facilities, multicultural open-minded atmosphere where from early age kids learn languages, international traditions and share their heritage at the same time. Very entrepreneurial and positive in encouraging youngsters to take initiative in their own projects too. But most of all I think I have to come back to safety and security, absolutely priceless for parents I think.
Carol Byrne (@carolmarybyrne) From the mouths of babes, or mine anyway. Isobel says: the freedom, learning a new language is great, I like the culture but not making Morcilla and you learn a lot of manners and lots from chatting with the old people in the village. I like smaller numbers at school here too
Fiona Flores Watson (@seville_writer) Cheap, good food, no “kids’ meals” nonsense, lots of sunshine, can play outdoors, embraced by society.
Heidi Wagoner (@wagonersabroad) A simple, family friendly lifestyle. Back to the roots of family time, outdoor time getting out on the paseo for social time and a great sense of community. Kids are allowed to be kids and are accepted everywhere.
John Wolfendale (@johnwolfendale) You are heroes just for having children eg people make space for you in the supermarket queue, you get tolerance even support in restaurants, the idea that children shouldn’t go in a restaurant seems madness (or even in the UK weddings!!! weddings without children…how crazy is that when its the whole point of getting married!?!): health service, doctors will see children on the same day nothings too much trouble: respect for the family and for elders, no yob culture (although they are learning this from the northern europeans): food mediterranean diet so much healthier eg every meals starts with a salad and no butter, strangers will smile at talk to play with your children no like in the UK where if you smile at a child the police will come and arrest you, entertainment, the mountains, the beaches, the rivers all a few minutes away not a major traffic jam away. Climate for being outside most of the time, family events happening all the time: being cuddled I confess I teared up when the teacher gave my boys a hug when they came back from the summer holidays. I was lucky to get the cane.
What do you think? Tweet us your thoughts to @FamilyInSpain and feel free to share this post and ask your friends for their opinions too.
If you are thinking about Moving to Spain with Children, check out our book on Amazon HERE.
Read the answers posted on our Facebook Page here …
Mar 25, 2015 | Relocation
There are so many factors to consider when Moving to Spain with Children. As parents, we can often spend too much time worrying and thinking “What if?” …
Don’t waste time worrying. Start researching now. Ask Questions. Find answers. It’s all part of the incredible journey of Moving to Spain with Children.
Here are our 6 Top Tips for Moving to Spain with Children to get your journey started …
Get the TIMING right:
- Timing: as in the right time in your child’s life
- Timing: as in the time of year
- Timing: in relation to your own life
Is you child too young or maybe too old to move to Spain? Are you certain they will cope with a huge change in their life?
Research weather patterns, local holidays and school term times before planning flights and removal dates.
Why are you thinking about moving? Is this the best time, not only for your children, but also for you?
Really research your LOCATION:
Whether you are looking to invest money in a property or a simply looking for a rental property, choosing the correct location is fundamental to, not only the success of your move, but also your future happiness in your new home. This is also why I encourage you to rent before buying when first starting a new life in Spain. Yes, I agree that rent can be dead money. However, until you are certain you have the correct location for you, the dead rental paid will probably be a lot less that the expense incurred by the purchase of the wrong property.
If, however, you have visited a place many times, at different times of the year then buying a property may be a suitable option. Just don’t rush into it.
Make an effort to learn the LANGUAGE
In my opinion, too many people move to Spain without learning to speak Spanish. I’m not saying you need to be fluent, but I am suggesting that it should be a personal goal to at least make a really big effort. Being able to at least start a conversation with a Spaniard, in their own language, will truly enhance your chances of integration and open so many more exciting doors for you.
Invest in some dual language Cd’s to watch with your children. Play online language-learning games. Use flashcards … There are so many great methods for language-learning these days.
Watch out for our free Spanish language-learning articles, coming very soon.
Research EDUCATION options:
One of the first decisions about education is usually whether to enrol your children in a Spanish state school or a private international school. The availability of state schools and international schools in Spain varies by region. It is really important to carefully research the schools in the area you plan to make your new home before you plan your move to Spain.
In some areas of Spain, it can be difficult to secure places in a school, before having an address in Spain. Speak to the schools you are considering before making any definite decisions about your property.
Be prepared to learn new CUSTOMS and PROCEDURES
Spain is very different to many other European countries. Too many people move over here with the “But, back home they …” attitude. Do yourself a huge favour and leave that attitude (if you ever had it) behind.Be prepared to slow down. Get ready for a more relaxed pace of life. If it doesn’t get done today, it will get done tomorrow or maybe the day after! Stressing about it will not get it done any faster.
Be prepared to slow down. Get ready for a more relaxed pace of life. If it doesn’t get done today, it will get done tomorrow or maybe the day after! Stressing about it will not get it done any faster. You have a lot to learn. Prepare yourselves for the onslaught of the Spanish donkey-style bureaucratic system
Note: Burro is Spanish for donkey. Burrocracia is Spanish for bureaucracy 😉
Get a Copy of OUR BOOK and let us do a lot of the work for you!
The above tips are a quick summary of only a few of the many issues we cover in our guide Moving to Spain with Children.
To read some of the lovely reviews people have sent in, and to have a look inside at what essential topics are covered, pop over to Amazon (click here) and have a look.
Mar 14, 2015 | Life, Relocation
Many people think about moving abroad with children, but not everyone fulfills their relocation dream. There are so many uncontrollable outside factors. There are, however, many other factors that you can control.
I have received so many beautiful comments, reviews and emails from my recently published book Moving to Spain with Children, that I am planning a second book.
Book one was written to assist people in the decision-making process when thinking about moving to Spain with children. It was not written to sell the dream. It includes essential information and personal anecdotes.
My second book will share our love of this wonderful country, where we have chosen to enjoy our family life. Spain is such a wonderful place for children to live and grow up. It will include more practical and essential information and a few more personal stories.
Today, I would like to share the opening chapter with you.
Photo by Sheila Roberts Photography
This is the moment I decided that I would be moving abroad with children. I didn’t know which country it would be. I left that to destiny …
I remember the moment well. I was stretched out on the rocks, soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine, on the island of Malta. I was enjoying a week of sun worshiping with mum and a close family friend.
It was early afternoon, the rays were beating down, the only sounds were the occasional splashes as the waves gently lapped against the rocks on which we lay.
And then they arrived. The same group as yesterday. Shrieks of laughter and excited chatter, at a rather loud volume, broke our relaxed silence. A group of young children hurtled onto the beach, discarding any excess clothing as they ran and launched themselves into the crystal clear waters.
School was over for the day and this was their way of spending the summer afternoons.
That was the moment.
Although only twenty years old, that was the moment I realised that that was the kind of life I wanted for my own children.
The actual thought of one day getting married or even having children had never actually entered my mind. But the seed was planted. I’m known for planting seeds.
That day in Malta was back in 1990.
Skype chats with clients from here.
As I write this, November 2014, I am sitting in the midday sunshine in my garden in southern Spain. I am anxious to get finished as my two amazing children will soon be home from school. My work will be put aside and we will sit down at the table to enjoy our main meal of the day, as a family.
As in many Spanish households, our main meal is enjoyed at lunchtime. On weekdays, my husband collects the children from the school bus at around 2.20pm, they walk the 5 minute stroll back to our house (funnily enough we are the only ones who walk, this is commented on by all the elderly neighbours), and we all sit down to together to eat, discuss the day at school, homework and make plans for the afternoon.
The seed that was planted 24 years ago developed incredibly strong roots and is now producing a bumper harvest. A harvest big enough to be enjoyed and shared by many. A harvest full or experiences, knowledge and roller coaster rides.
When people ask about where we live and what we do, they often refer to us as “lucky”.
I hear myself saying “we’re really lucky because…” when talking about our children, our life and what we do.
Yet, in all honesty, “luck” is only a very tiny part of the big truth. We never take what we have for granted. Most days I hear the children chiming “Yes mum. You always say that mum”, giggling, as I point out how blue the sky is, how amazing the sunset is and how big and blue the sea looks.
Enjoying family life in Spain may appear to be a dream for many people, but the reality is often very different. However, if you are prepared to put the effort in the results can be better than you could ever have imagined.
In Spain, family comes first. Children are not only seen but also heard and welcomed with loving, open arms. Children stay children for longer.
When we chose to have children, we chose to change our lives. Living here allows us to do this.
Would we call that “luck”?
Photo by Sheila Roberts Photography
Do you remember the moment when you knew you would be moving abroad with children? When you decided you wanted to offer your children a better life, by moving to another country? We’d love to hear your story.
If you are moving to Spain and are considering the Malaga, Costa del Sol region, Contact Us now.
If you are thinking about moving to any part of Spain, Look Inside our Book and send us your questions. We are here to help you get it right first time.
Apr 8, 2016 | Life, Relocation
Using A Good Currency Broker For Sending Money To Spain And From Spain Can Save You A Lot Of Money!
With the current volatility of the currency markets it is more important than ever to make sure you maximise your money.
Exchange rates are moving around a lot more than normal so it is key to have not only a currency broker on your side that can get you a great rate of exchange, but also one that is proactive and will make you aware of any opportunities that arise.
I recently had to exchange some Euros into Pounds to make a purchase in the U.K and for many years I have been using and recommending Daniel Wright from www.currencies.co.uk to all of my friends and clients.
By using Daniel, on this particular transaction, I saved over £1000 on the exchange and also saved roughly another £800 by timing my transfer and buying at a good time.
Those of you that still use banks should seriously consider getting in touch with Daniel to see how he may be able to help you too and those who are already using a currency broker should also get in touch to see how much he can save you. I have dealt with many currency brokerages over the years and he has been head and shoulders above the rest in terms of his price and efficiency.
The Pound has had an awful run of late and Sterling exchange rates are down against all major currencies and with the referendum on the ‘Brexit’ causing major uncertainty out there for the U.K economy it is likely that investors and speculators alike will steer clear from the Pound in the coming months.
If you are in the position that you need to carry out an exchange in the near future then feel free to contact Daniel for a no obligation chat or a free quote on email@example.com or by calling him on 01494 725353 quoting Family Life In Spain and he will put you down for the preferential exchange rates I have negotiated for our readers.
Contact Daniel and Start Saving Money Now!
Aug 23, 2016 | Guests, Relocation
6 Top Tips for Surviving Expatriate Life with Kids
I love how many people we virtually “meet” on social media. It really does make the world a smaller place and enable us to exchange stories and ideas with like-minded people.
This article is a guest post written by our Twitter buddy @BGSmith.
BG Smith leads study abroad programs for his university in Spain, and on the side, produces videos and blogs on surviving expat life with a family of 6. For more insight and adventures, subscribe to his YouTube Channel Expatriate Snippets and follow the Expatriate Smiths blog.
Over to you Brian …
We’ve often been asked what it’s like to bring a family of 6 to Europe–usually following an indirect inquiry about our sanity. So I thought it might be apropos to pen this blog post with the top six considerations of traveling and living in Europe.
1. Be Flexible with Your Living Conditions
Across the board, living spaces in Europe are generally much smaller than they are in the U.S. Apartments tend to be two bedrooms or less, and we have learned to fit all four of our kids in the same bedroom, using bunk beds, or putting some kids on a couch if necessary. Hotels may be a good alternative, but even they are much smaller than in the U.S. Shortly into our first expatriate experience, we finally gave up on finding an American-size hotel room that fit us all, and looked for multi-room bookings that were cheap enough to “vale la pena” (as they say in Spain). While Booking.com seems to be a good resource for European hotels and homes, we have also had varying success with Ibis hotels. Their rooms are extremely small and basic (usually a bed, bathroom, shower all in 100 sq ft), but they’re also extremely economical.
2. Go local with Food
After traveling to so many countries, and living for long periods of time especially in Barcelona, we often have friends who ask for restaurant recommendations. Problem is, we don’t go to any restaurants. I mean…we don’t even go to restaurants in the U.S.–we have 4 kids. Not only is it pricey, but “Smith, Party of 6” isn’t always the most relaxing dining experience. No, we don’t do restaurants in Europe, especially since in many cities, the dining experience can be much longer (up to 2 hours or more). Instead, we do “Grocery Stores”. Yep, Grocery Stores. Especially Aldi, Lidl, and Mercadona. WE also do outdoor markets. I’m a firm believer that you learn a culture by its home-cooked meals, and grocery stores are the ground floor. We love to dive into the new and different foods, and we often let the kids choose what they want. Of course, some grocery stores are more difficult than others, esp. Croatia where we didn’t have the advantage of an easily translatable romance language, and the Croatian Kuna has an uneven exchange rate against the euro and dollar. Either way, though, we’ve found that you can get the same, and sometimes better, food in grocery stores than restaurants, and it’s always cheaper. (Below, some favorite grocery foods in Italy and Spain)
3. Level Up on Going Green
From meticulously dividing garbage into up to four different categories and putting out the right receptacles on the right day in Italy to paying for utilities in HomeAway and AirBnB rentals, life in Europe can be much more conservation-minded than life in the U.S. Europeans like to save energy and live green. The value of conservation may even carry over to laundry, as few apartments in the places where we’ve lived (Spain and Italy) have had a dryer; and washing machines in Europe take 2-3 times longer than U.S. counterparts (up to 3 hours for a load to finish). But one thing we’ve learned, is that welcoming the change in lifestyle is actually something our kids have enjoyed–in fact, in Italy, hanging the laundry out became one of the coveted chores.
4. Hang with the Locals
One of the most significant opportunities to grow has been interacting with locals while we’re abroad. It’s a chance for all of us (not just the children) to see from another’s viewpoint and thereby broaden perspectives. For this reason, I always encourage my boys to jump into a futbol (i.e. soccer) game with local kids at a park. Whether it’s been France, Spain, or Italy, the kids have always figured out how to work around the language differences–playing seems to have a language all its own.
We have also religiously attended our church services on Sundays, no matter where we are. This has often meant staying for 2-3 hours of church services, depending on our travel schedule, even when we may not speak the same language as the congregation. In Spain, my fluency in Spanish has made it easier, but the more we’ve gone to Church, the more the kids figure out how to communicate and get around the language barrier, to the point that the oldest have often said they don’t need me to translate for them, even though they don’t speak Spanish.
5. Don’t Always trust the Travel Gurus
Despite what travel gurus like Rick Steves preach, the Euro Rail System is NOT inexpensive or frugal, especially with a family of 6. Inexpensive flights can be a good alternative–even commonly derided cheap airlines like RyanAir aren’t as bad as billed, as long as you know the conditions/specifics of traveling with them. (EasyJet is particularly constricting on their carry-on baggage policies). If booking a flight, don’t fall into the “you can book flights once you get here” trap…it’s best to plan ahead, as Euro flights, just like US flights, are much cheaper a month or two before your travel date.
A good alternative is rental cars. Yes, they can be somewhat expensive (up to $100 a day) but renting from a carrier in an airport is cheaper, and car prices vary by country. Generally, we found them to be more expensive in the UK, and extremely cheap in Spain ($50 for an entire weekend for a car that fits 7). If you book online early enough, they can be the cheapest option for travel. Of course, if you drive, tolls and gas are worth examining (especially in France and Spain), but Michelin has a great website for figuring out travel costs.
A few travel laws you’ll need to keep in mind if you drive in Europe: 1) If you’re renting in Switzerland, Austria, or Slovenia, make sure you get a highway “vignette” sticker, or you’ll be slapped with a huge fine; 2) You will get caught speeding…by a camera. There are a ton in Europe. On the bright side though, the average speed highways can be fun (esp. in Italy where people driving sports cars sit on the side of the road for a few minutes just so they can push 120 MPH). 3) Make sure you follow traffic signs, especially the zone traffic limitato signs. Risking it just because you don’t see a cop will lead to a steep fine (like I found out in Padova). There are cameras everywhere.
An important side-note on Europe travel is how walkable cities are. It’s a blessing and a curse. Driving in large cities is difficult, and often forbidden (esp. in Italy), but it also means that everything is fairly close (or at least a 15-20 minute walk). Bonus: It’s also the most enjoyable exercise in the world–amazing sites and cardio at the same time. It also means a lot more walking for kids who are used to taking a car everywhere. At least a month prior to our trips to Europe, we like to take long walks around our home in the U.S. to get them ready for the “Euro-Cardio”. Also, we’ve found it essential to always bring water bottles when we go sight-seeing, whether it’s hot or cold. Some cities, even major ones (I’m looking at you Paris), have no public drinking fountains. Having a water bottle has not only saved us a few Euro, but it’s also saved us a ton of frustration when kids get thirsty. (BTW, Barcelona is the overwhelming exception here, as there are fountains all over the city).
6. Don’t Slack the Sight-seeing
While we try to avoid the American tourist experience as much as possible, we also believe that sight-seeing can be both exciting and educational. In fact, we tend to see everything we can in an area (sometimes more than locals see). Of course, sight-seeing with 4 boys can be difficult, especially when museum-meandering and architecture-admiring usually isn’t on the top of their list. So, to engage them more, we invite our kids to choose a country, city, or location, and do the research about the area themselves, choosing where to go, what to see, and why to see it and put together a powerpoint presentation about it. This usually includes guided Internet research and at least one trip to the library (bonus). We then reserve a night when they can officially present the idea to us, and when we visit the location, the child in charge gets to be the official tour guide, leading the visit, and talking about interesting historical, cultural, or other significant facts about the location.
Most recently, this led to a weekend road trip around Catalunya, to the Roman ruins of Tarragona and the beach castles of Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar.
Another thing we’ve found that works with endless sightseeing is to give the kids a travel journal, where they can draw some of the cool places we visit.
To be fair, sometimes living abroad has to involve the usual video-game playing and TV watching downtime for the kids, despite how much we, as adults, would rather spend every moment taking in the beauty of the culture around us. However, we’ve discovered it’s a balance thing…downtime makes the sight-seeing easier to do and the kids more amenable to the activities. Not to mention, downtime can be a great motivator, especially when visiting cities where there’s a lot of walking.
Overall, expatriate life requires flexibility and, to be honest, isn’t for everyone. Setting expectations, however, is the first step in ensuring a good experience for both parents and kids.
Do you have any Tips for Surviving Expatriate Life with Kids? Do share them with us 🙂