Where’s The Best Place to Live in Spain?

We are often asked where is the best place to live in Spain.

Guess what we answer?

If you read our posts and follow us on Twitter and Facebook, you will see all the photographs we post. Most of them are from where we think the best place to live in Spain is. It is, of course, our, hometown of Mijas in the province of Malaga. We must also point out that it is Mijas Pueblo, the village, not the coastal area. Mijas Pueblo and Mijas Costa are two very different areas, but we’ll talk about that another day.

Here are a few pictures to give you an idea …

The Malaga province has so much to offer. It is not just all about Marbella or the Costa del Sol!

If you’d like to know more about the different areas of Malaga, read our post about the Malaga province HERE.

education in Spain

Here are our A to Z Reasons for living in Malaga

… maybe the best place to live in Spain ???

Airport: Malaga’s International  Airport is a modern state of the art terminal that is being continually improved and updated. It is the fourth busiest airport in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca. It offers flight to over 70 destinations worldwide with passenger numbers in 2011 close to 13 million. The majority of traffic through Malaga Costa del Sol Airport (or Pablo Ruiz Picasso Airport as it is also known) comes from within the EU, although there are regular flights to Moscow, Riyadh, Kuwait, New York and Montreal.   For more details visit this website: Aena 

Beaches: The extensive beaches on the Costa del Sol, their diversity and climate have transformed the region into the best holiday destination. Enjoy them in the summer and almost all the year round! Malaga boasts more than 160km of coastline with a multiplicity of beaches. Malaga is proud to be home to many blue flag beaches.

best place to live in spain

Chiringuito:  Malaga’s coastal region is simply littered with beach bars of all types. The most traditional and the most frequented by both tourists and residents alike are the little chiringuitos which traditionally serve locally caught fish and seafood. The image of sardines being cooked in a sand filled fishing boat is a popular image of this region.

Donkey Taxis: In Mijas, in the early 60s, visitors to the village asked if they could photograph the workers travelling home on their donkeys and have a ride themselves. This soon became a regular occurrence and the donkey taxi was born. Donkey-Taxis are today an institution in Mijas and one of its main attractions.

best place to live in spain

Education:  Whether you are looking for a state-run Spanish or a private International school for your children, you have plenty to choose from.  Educational options exist from pre- school nurseries, primary, junior, secondary and further education.  (Read more about  Schools in Málaga here).

Feria & Flamenco: Málaga is home to flamenco and fería. Every village and town in the province enjoys ferias throughout the year. The main Málaga fería takes place each year in the month of August. If you have not experienced the Feria de Málaga, be sure to add it to the top of your “to-do” list! Flamenco is performed by young and old, male and female. Flamenco is passion!

Golf: Spain has a huge number of golf courses, approximately 500, more than 70 of which are in Andalucia. What is more, the Costa del Sol is home to the highest concentration of greens and fairways to be found, not only in Spain but, in the whole of Europe. Not without reason has the Costa del Sol, with the finest golf facilities in Europe, become known as the Costa del Golf. It´s simply a golfers paradise! The 160 kilometre stretch of coastline, from Nerja in the east to Manilva in the west, is home to over 50 golf courses all of which are ideal locations in which to enjoy this popular sport. Add the fabulous year round climate and it’s most definitely golfing heaven.

Holidays: Where better to spend your holidays. The Costa del Sol in Malaga is one of Spain´s most popular holiday destination for a multitude of nationalities. It is a great place to own a holiday home whether it be for your own use or as a source of income.

International: Due to the diversity of nationalities who live and also visit the Malaga province, there is a very international and cosmopolitan feel to many areas. This applies predominantly to coastal areas, however, there are many inland towns and villages that are also inhabited by a high percentage of non-Spanish citizens.

Jamon: Jamon Serrano, Jamon Iberico … Spanish cured ham. A local delicacy and a common starter or tapa.

Kids:  What does Malaga have to offer for children? Here´s just a few options to look out for: Water parks, Tivoli, Crocodile Park, Selwo Adventure safaris park, Selwo Marina, Sealife Benalmadena, numerous outdoor free parks inc Parque La Bateria, Parque la Paloma ….

Lifestyle: The number one reason for moving to Malaga!

Montes de Malaga: Montes de Málaga Natural Park is located quite near the capital of the Costa del Sol and can be said to serve as a “green lung” for the city. This park – found in the central-western zone of the Baetic Range – encompasses a mid-mountain landscape of gentle topography, criss-crossed by small valleys populated with extensive pine forests. It offers a range of outdoor activities and some amazing food. Look out for the famous “plato de los montes”.

Nightlife: The province of Málaga and the Costa del Sol have one of the most thriving nightlife nationwide. From beach bars and restaurants, bars, or pubs to nightclubs. Malaga offers both traditional and exclusive establishments. The towns come alive at night.

Olives & Olive Oil: Olive groves line many a road in the Malaga province. Unlike the bitter olives tasted in some other countries, Spanish olives, particularly the manzanilla variety are juicy and even sweet. Iberian olives are usually cured and eaten, often after being pitted, stuffed (with pickled pimento, anchovies, or other fillings) and packed in brine in jars or tins. And, of course, almost everything is cooked in olive oil!

Proximity: The excellent location of Málaga Province and Costa del Sol, plus the effective road infrastructure make it easy to access them by air, by road, by sea or by rail. Málaga’s size, the road infrastructure and modern vehicles make the province easily accessible from different Spanish locations. Málaga Airport is located 8 miles from downtown and well connected  with Costa del Sol. The airport is the chief of all Spanish airports and one of the original locations with the first airline that was established in Spain in 1919 .The most important traffic in the airport is the European Union. London Gatwick is the destination with the most travellers, followed by Manchester, Dublin, London-Luton, Paris Charles De Gaulle and Brussels.

Quitapenas Bodega: Home to one of the most ancient wines of Spain. Although a relatively new DO compared with the many other wine regions of Spain, Malaga produces the distinctively flavoured wins such as Moscatel,  Malaga Dulce, Malaga PX, Vegasol and Vegasur. Visit the bodegas website for more details visit this website:  www.quitapenas.es

Recreation: The province of Malaga offers a multitude of recreational activities to suit all ages and interests. Watersports, golf, ice skating,  inland rural activities, water parks, theme parks, animal rescue centres, bars, restaurants, shops. Whatever your favourite past time, you will be almost certainly able to find it here.

Sierra Nevada: Ok we are cheating a bit here as the Sierra Nevada is actually in Granada! However, it is only a 2 hour drive from Malaga and so is a popular option for day trips or weekends away. It is also possible to ski in the snow and swim in the sea on the same day! Details about Sierra Nevada here:  http://sierranevada.es/

Tapas / Tinto de Verano:  Tapas are a wonderful Spanish tradition and can be found in many bars in Malaga. Tapas are small plates of food that are a great way to test the local specialities. Tinto de verano is a refreshing summer drink. A mix of red wine and lemonade poured over ice and topped with a slice of lemon. Beware of drinking too many in the sun!

University:  Málaga University (UMA) is a public institution which promotes outstanding research and teaching within the European Higher Education Area. The institution follows an educational model to promote competitive, quality teaching which is employment-orientated and accredited in Europe. Its vigor and growth over recent years have resulted in it becoming a reference point for universities in Spain. University School of Nursing (Provincial). Plaza Hospital Civil. s/n, 29009, Malaga (Spain).

Villages: Famous for its whitewashed villages scattered around the province, this is where you can experience the “real Spain of old”. In contrast to the modern and cosmopolitain coastline areas, the white washed villages of Malaga maintain their cultures and traditions.

Weather:  One of the reasons why the Costa del Sol has become a world-class travel destination is the Mediterranean climate: mild all year round with an average temperature of 18º C. In the summer, temperatures rise to 25º C-30º C, whereas in winter they never go below 14º C during the day. There are hinterland areas, however, where the climate is continental and therefore marked by greater diurnal and seasonal variations in temperature.

X … marks Malaga as the spot to move to!  (and if you want another substitute for the letter X: Xavier Dupre designed the Malaga font)

Yurts & Glamping:  Glamping (glamorous camping) is a growing global phenomenon that combines camping with the luxury and amenities of a home or hotel. Also called boutique camping, luxury camping, posh camping or comfy camping, glamping allows travelers to experience nature without the hassle of finding camp space, carrying their tents, and erecting and taking down their own tents. Lodgings at a glamping sites include structures such as yurts, tipis, pods, bell tents, safari tents, tent cabins, and tree houses. Find some glamping options here:  GoGlamping.com

Zoo Bioparc Fuengirola champions a new model of zoo based on respect for nature and the preservation of natural species, a model which has already established itself as a flagship for Europe. What Bioparc Fuengirola represents is a different concept of zoo.  A zoological park where animals live side-by-side, recreating their natural habitat and so fostering their development at all levels. For more information: Visit http://www.bioparcfuengirola.es/en There are also Marinas, Crocodile Parks, Selwo Safari Park and many other places to visit animals in the Malaga area.

For more information about this beautiful area of Spain, contact :  Costa del Sol Tourist Board – Plaza del Siglo, nº2 – 29015 Málaga  Tel:  +34 952126272 Fax: 34 952225207  info@costadelsol.travel   www.visitcostadelsol.com

So, what do you think? It’s a pretty great place with lots to offer. Where do you think is the best place to live in Spain?

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Molly previously compared Barcelona and Granada. Read her thoughts here.

Would you like to write about your chosen home in Spain? If so, please get in touch. We’d love to tell everyone about where you live.

Thanks for reading and we hope you love Malaga as much as we do!

PS: Do you want to know a little secret? Well, if we didn’t have children we’d probably head off to the province of Cadiz … but that will have to wait for a few years yet 😉

If you are thinking about Moving to Spain, our book will answer a lot of your questions …


To BUY on Amazon.es Click Here!

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You can see videos about out adventures on Our Family in Spain YouTube Channel.

quiz about spain

CLICK HERE to take our fun Quiz about Spain

Education in Spain: 5 factors to consider when choosing a school.

choosing a school

One of the most important decisions you have to make, when moving to Spain with children, is choosing a school to send your children to.  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. Hence, it is advisable to carefully research the schools in the area you plan to make your new home, before you plan your move to Spain.

When choosing a school in Spain for your children, the following factors should be considered:

The age of your child:  From experience, (this is only my personal opinion and to be taken or left as you choose),  I would highly recommend enrolling any child aged 6 years or below in a Spanish state or Spanish speaking private school, whether it be a nursery or primary school.  At this age they are sponges and you may be amazed at how quickly they integrate and pick up the language. I clearly remember our son´s first word after only a few days … “mío”!

Your knowledge of the Spanish language: I am lucky to have a pretty high level of Spanish and my husband has a good conversational level. However, we often have to use Google in order to complete our 7 year old’s homework assignments. I truly believe that many expat children struggle in school due to the lack of available support at home, as a result of  a lack of language ability. My advice would be that once you are unable to help your children with their Spanish homework then you should consider either moving them to a private/international school or, as a more economical alternative, source a home tutor.

Financial commitments:  Private schools are not cheap. State education is a much cheaper option. This school year we have seen quite a sharp increase in foreign students joining our children´s state school. Unfortunately, these are not children that have just relocated, these are older children that were previously in private international schools who, due to the downturn in their parents economic position, have been forced to end their private education.  Needless to say, they do not find it easy. This is not to say that any child older that 6 or 7 will not adapt. Children are amazing and they never cease to amaze us.

Your desired level of integration in Spanish life:  This may seem like a strange consideration,  however,  we have met many people that have no interest whatsoever in integrating with the local Spaniards. Their children have attended private schools and have picked up the language randomly, as children do, by chatting with other Spanish children. As a result, their children have integrated in a minor way in their town/village yet the parents continue to mix in their own circles.

I am in no way stating that if your children do not attend Spanish state school that you will not integrate. Nor am I saying that by putting your children in the local school will you be accepted as part of the local community.  In our village, everyone seems to know our children and I have worked hard at always being involved in meetings, school trips and activities in order to be accepted by the local mums. Now, after almost 3 years, we seem to be considered as part of the community … As a parent, you need to decide what you want and what you think is best for your child and your family.

School Timetables:  In Andalucia, the State school timetable for lessons is 9am until 2pm. In most schools, there is a canteen option (at extra cost) and extra curricula activities (at extra cost) and an early morning drop off option (at extra cost). In other parts of Spain the schools close for a 2 hour lunch and continue lessons in the afternoon. Private/International schools tend to follow the traditional UK timetables of 9am until 4pm or 5pm.

Whichever type of school you chose, do consider the implications of the timetable and  transportation options.  It is very easy to soon get fed up of spending half your time as a school taxi.

These are only 5 of many considerations when selecting a school for your child. We look forward to hearing your suggestions and ideas …

Read more of our experiences of Education in Spain here.

By Lisa Sadleir

Family Law For Expats. Myths Debunked Nº2 : English Law will apply wherever we live in the World


In the second of our series, Lucy Greenwood an international family lawyer at The International Family Law Group LLP (IFLG), de-bunks the common myth that English Family Law For Expats will apply wherever we live in the world if we are English and/or married in England.

Over to Lucy …

family law for expatsMany couples think that because they are English (or one of them is) or they married in England, English law will always apply if they split up, even if they are then living abroad. They forget that when they live in another country the laws relating to that country also commonly apply to them.

There are a number of points to make about this Second Myth as the answer is not altogether clear-cut, as I will explain below.

Family Law For Expats. Myths Debunked Nº2…

Firstly, if an English national and a non-English national marry there is immediately a chance that at least two countries and possibly more (e.g. if they live in a third country even if neither of them originated from there) might hold sufficient connection for one or other of the couple to start divorce proceedings in a country besides England.

Let’s take some examples:

Example 1

Two EU nationals from different EU countries (except Norway).

An English person marries someone from Spain. They marry in England and they decide to live in Spain. They have been living in Andalucía for 5 years and have two young children aged 2 and 4. Both children were born in England, but save for the immediate periods surrounding the times of their children’s births the entire family have always lived in Spain.

If they separate and want to divorce:

The only country in which they could divorce would be Spain.

(This is because the only remaining connection to England is the fact that one spouse is an English national and still considers England to be their true “home”. Under the relevant EU legislation, where a couple have a connection with another EU country and at least one of them resides there, then a spouse cannot rely on one of the spouses’ sole nationality/domicile to bring proceedings in that other country).

Also, because this applies throughout the whole of the EU (except Norway), if the same couple in the example above lived in England with their children instead of Spain, they could then only issue proceedings in England.

Because in the first example their children are also living in Spain any issues relating to the children would have to be dealt with in Spain; including arrangements for the children and perhaps relocation (if, for example, the parent with English nationality wants to move to England with the children and the Spanish parent does not consent to the children moving countries).

Therefore, this is an example where despite the fact one party was an English national and despite the fact they married in England because they have moved to another EU country, English law no longer applies.

Example 2

Two English nationals living in Spain (NB: Spain could be swapped for any other EU country except England or Norway)

If in the above example both of the spouses were English nationals and both felt England was their true “home”, but they were living in Spain for the same time as above, then either party could decide to issue divorce proceedings in England or in Spain. This is because unlike relying on only one spouse’s nationality, the spouses’ joint nationalities/domicile will be given equal weight to where the couple reside, when which country in which to issue divorce proceedings is being considered.

Let’s assume for now divorce proceedings are issued in Spain.

Owing to EU legislation in whichever country one spouse first issues proceedings, that country secures the location of the proceedings.  Therefore, in this example divorce proceedings are issued first in time in Spain, so England can no longer be an option for being the venue for divorce proceedings. It must be Spain as proceedings were issued there first in time.

So what law will the Spanish courts use?

Well… if the proceedings had been issued in England, then English law would apply.

You might think therefore that it would definitely be Spanish Law that would apply in Spain…but in this example where both of the spouses are English, not necessarily!

Let me now explain about something called Applicable Law, which arises in many EU countries (outside of England and Norway).  It is a completely alien approach to English lawyers (and many are still unaware of its existence and relevance, but it does arise in other EU countries!)

family law for expats

Don’t sit there worrying … Take action!

Applicable Law

In many EU countries (but not in England or Norway) where both spouses originate from another country and when they separate they live in say, Spain and one spouse issues divorce proceedings there first, the courts can (and in some cases should but don’t always know that they should) deem the case to be more appropriately dealt with by “applying” the national laws of the couple.

In our example where two English nationals marry in England but live in Spain for over a year and issue divorce proceedings in Spain, it would mean the Spanish court could apply English family law to the Spanish-based proceedings! This might sound bizarre, but it is true!

However because English law compared to many other EU laws is particularly complicated (as it is far more discretionary than many other EU countries’ laws which are commonly in a codified format) the quality of the foreign judges’ “application” of English law is very variable.

English family law is also often far more generous to the weaker financial party than many other countries throughout the EU and the world. For example, under English family law there will not be automatic ring-fencing of inherited assets or pre or post-marriage assets. English family law facilitates the use of some or all of those types of assets, if they are required to meet the weaker financial parties’ reasonable needs (sometimes even where a couple have selected a particular property regime abroad prior to marriage, including a pre-nuptial agreement which are not binding in England).

Spousal maintenance is also commonplace in England (where there is a significant disparity in income between spouses and a payment from one spouse to the other is needed to meet the shortfall of their reasonable income needs). “Needs” in English law is not necessarily basic needs, as the standard of living enjoyed throughout the marriage is a relevant factor when deciding a spouse’s reasonable needs.

In this second example, disputed aspects of the children’s’ arrangements upon separation, will still most likely take place in the country in which they reside (i.e. Spain). So if the couple still live in Spain and even if divorce proceedings take place in England, any aspects about the children’s living and care arrangements are still likely to take place in Spain (although sometimes the parents can elect to use England if the divorce proceedings are taking place there, but not always).

So how does “Applicable Law” work in practice where the foreign judges are not qualified to practise another country’s laws? 

The courts in Spain and other EU countries where Applicable Law is used rely on expert reports from lawyers in the country whose laws are to be applied.

In the case of English law, one English lawyer’s view of the outcome in a case can be very different from that of another English lawyer. Also sometimes English or other countries’ laws that are to be “applied” can make orders which are just not possible in the country seeking to “apply” them e.g. Spain might not be able to make some of the orders English courts can make!

Common anomalies arise about the relevance and division of pre-marriage assets, pensions as well as the duration of spousal maintenance which can have an open-ended term in England; whereas in most other EU countries a three year period might be deemed a lengthy duration for spousal maintenance.  Pension sharing is also commonplace in England but it is not in other EU countries.

It is also highly likely an EU court, including Spain would find a pre-nuptial agreement or pre-elected property regime binding.


So, as you might appreciate other countries whilst on the face of it might claim to “apply” another country’s laws, will inevitably interpret them in a different way influenced heavily by their own laws, culture and practices.

On the face of it therefore, whilst it might be true that even if you move to another country English law might still “apply”, it is certainly not always the case and in those countries where it is deemed to be “applied”, it is probably not interpreted in a way, which is recognisable to many English practitioners or judges! So beware, particularly if you are the weaker financial party in the marriage.

If it is of benefit to you for English law to apply, and particularly where another EU country could be used to issue divorce proceedings, it is very important that you seek specialist legal advice from an English international family lawyer and seek to issue divorce proceedings first in time in England, You should not seek to rely on the fact Spain (or another EU country) might potentially use “applicable law” in your case.

Even if you get a judge that knows they should use applicable law (and as I mentioned above many throughout the EU, particularly in the regional courts, do not even know they should!) the outcome is still likely to be very different to what it would have been if you had issued first in time in England, where English judges would be using only English law.

Furthermore many EU domestic family lawyers do not know of the benefits of issuing in your chosen country as opposed to seeking to rely on “applying” its laws. Some lawyers don’t even know that other countries’ laws can be “applied” in some circumstances in their courts!

Steps to take

Therefore, if you are in the sad position of thinking your relationship or marriage is ending and you and your partner have a connection via residence or nationality to different countries, please urgently and discretely (i.e. without notifying your spouse) get in touch with an international family law specialist before your spouse does so. If there is a connection to England, then you will need to contact an English based international family lawyer.

Pre-marriage agreements where spouses are nationals or even dual nationals of different EU countries can also be used to help to plan which EU country’s laws they wish to apply if they separate and divorce. I will be dealing with international pre-marriage agreements in a subsequent article.

For more information please contact Lucy Greenwood of The International Family Law Group LLP www.iflg.uk.com

7 Truths About Schools in Spain : State Pre-School

spain education

When we talk to families who are relocating, we advise them to research schools in Spain, before looking for property. Like in many countries, state schools have catchment areas. If you are deciding whether to enrol your children in Spanish State Pre-School, the following facts will help you make your decision.


moving to spain


Pre-school in Spain, known as Educación Infantíl, is for children aged 3 to 6 years.


moving to spain Pre-school, educación infantíl,  is a non-compulsory option. Children are not obliged to start school in Spain until they are 6 years old. It is, however, in my opinion, a fundamental part of their education.


moving to spain

In some regions of Spain, children are taught in the regional language ie. Catalán, Valenciano, Basque… This is a steep learning curve for many non-Spanish children. It is a fantastic opportunity but is it something you think your children can cope with?


moving to spain with childrenChildren start pre-school, in the year that they turn 3 years old. This means that some children are as young as 2 when they start. ie. If their 3rd birthday is in late September, October, November or December, they start pre-school in the September of that year.

moving to spain with children

No rigid target are set in pre-school, educación infantíl. Children are introduced to the subject matters that they go on to study in Primaria. In many schools, there is a lot of project based work. They learn to interact with others and to adapt to routines.


moving to spainMost pre-schools offer an adaptation period at the start of term, for the 3-year-olds. It is not uncommon for school to last only 30 minutes on the first day. It then slowly builds up to the full day which, in most, but not all regions, is from 9am until 2pm. Be sure to check the timetables of the schools where you are considering moving to.


moving to spainI truly believe that starting a 3-year-old child, of any nationality, in a Spanish state school is a fantastic way for them to immerse into the local culture and language. I am not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it in the long run.


For more articles and stories about schools in Spain, read the posts in our “Education” category.

My recently publish book covers education in more detail, if you click the image below you can have a look inside and read the reviews …

moving abroad with children


How Not Using a Currency Transfer Company Can Be Losing You Money!

I am continually surprised how many people, moving to Spain, tell me they haven’t even considered using the services offered by a currency transfer company.

It seems to me that too many people believe that their UK bank will give them the best available exchange rate.

Will they?

I don’t know for certain, but I seriously doubt it.

  • If your bank offers you the best exchange rate, what charges are incurred?
  • If your bank advertises a “no charge on foreign currency transfers” service, what exchange rates do they offer?

It is vital that you ask these questions before deciding whose services to use.

The fact is, people are often so busy trying to save pennies (or centimos 😉 ) on smaller transactions that they are losing pounds (or euros) on others. This is particularly true when buying property.

I really feel that anyone planning to move to Spain or buy property in Spain should get a quote from at least one Currency Transfer Company.

Are you planning to buy a property in Spain?

Are you planning to move to Spain?

Do you live in Spain and regularly transfer funds from your UK account?

Do you live in Spain and use a UK bank card for purchases or to withdraw cash?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you may get a shock when you realise how much money you have “given away”.

Don’t dwell on the past, take action now and improve your future.


The following infographic demonstrates how interest rate changes can affect relative costs between Sterling and Euros when living in Spain or buying property in Spain. The rates used in this example are quite different, but it will serve to highlight my point.

In future monthly posts, we will publish current comparative prices, based on actually daily rates.

For this example, we are showing you the comparative cost of items in Spain, when the UK exchange rate changes from 1.1€ to 1.4€ to the pound …

currency transfer infographic


A currency transfer company can save you a lot of money. They watch the rates and can guide you as to when is the best time to transfer funds.

If you’d like details of companies we recommend, simply Contact Us


A Legal American in Spain : Fred’s Residency Story.

How easy is it for an American in Spain to get residency? It can’t be that difficult can it? Surely, the Spanish government want to welcome wealthy non-EU citizens with open arms, don’t they?

Erm, yes they do, but only if they spend over half a million euros in property or invest big bucks in creating new businesses.

There are other ways, such as Pareja de hecho, marrying a Spaniard or being related to an EU national who has residency in Spain.

Sounds complicated? We’ve only just begun. I’ll pass you over to Arpy to share her adventure of legalising her husband, Fred, an American in Spain…



It’s been a long journey but here we are at last – my American husband Fred outside Malaga’s Comisaría de Policia with his shiny new Tarjeta de Residencía. For the next five years, he can whip this credit-card-size permit out of his wallet on demand or even just to show off, in shops, bars, cars and oficinas of this and that. 

Having arrived in Spain in 2003, we’d renewed the Residencía once already in Granada. But we’d moved house, then city, and never got the letter telling us we could pick up the card, so we lost track of the whole procedure.

Determined to get it right this time, our first move was to consult the oracle – Lisa Sadleir of Move to Malaga. She’s always generous with her time and her advice, and always steers us in the right direction. A blog on her Move to Malaga website has the details: Residency for Non-EU Spouse in Spain 

As you’ll see from the list on that blog, it took us some weeks to collect all the paperwork we needed, including but not confined to:

  • Visiting Bank to verify Fred’s UK pension and get signed copies of his bank account
  • Visiting our medical centre to get signed document that Fred is entitled to state medical care (courtesy of another little card from the Junta de Andalucía).
  • Visiting our landlord to get a signed document that we do indeed rent an apartment in the building he owns.
  • Visiting our local ayuntamiento (Town Hall) to get a signed document that we are indeed resident in Málaga (This is the Empadronamiento).
  • Visiting photographer for new photos right-sized for the Tarjeta.
  • Visiting copy shop to get every single page of Fred’s U.S. passport copied – even blank pages. This is important, the photo page alone is not enough.
  • Visiting U.S. Consulate in Fuengirola to try and get verification that we were married (in the States in 1992) and are still married.

The marriage part was best of all; it seems that our original marriage certificate, issued by a tiny office in Pennsylvania before our civil ceremony, wouldn’t do at all. (That was on our first visit to Immigration)

An American in Spain

Fred with the magical little card 🙂

Admittedly, the certificate looks like a supermarket discount coupon, but that wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t up to date. Why, we could have got divorced, and now my 70+ year-old ex-husband and I are just pretending to be married so that he can stay in the country! Putting it right involved:

  • contacting the Sheriff’s Office in the small town where the certificate was issued and asking a mystified official for verification.
  • Being told that the office couldn’t issue verification that we were still married because they didn’t know if we were. (Fair enough). They could only issue a note that said they hadn’t received a divorce petition.
  • Receiving the note and returning to Immigration.  No, this won’t do at all. We need something called an Apostille, for the marriage certificate and the bits of paper that say we don’t appear to be divorced.
  • Sending Fred’s sister, who still lives in Pennsylvania, to pick up the Apostilles in person and post them to us, certified, registered and for all I know, blessed.

The Apostilles arrive, each with an impressive gold seal like a Christmas chocolate coin. We return to immigration with our not quite twelve Apostilles. But this won’t do at all. We need to get each bit of paper and Apostille translated into Spanish. And not by just any old professional translator, but by a licensed ‘Traductor Jurada’. One document contains 20 words, eleven of which are our names and the US issuing judge’s name.

A couple of hundred euros and lots of email to-and-fro later, we return to Immigration. A nice lady goes through all our paperwork and bundles it up to be devoured by The System.

Weeks later we receive a letter notifying us to go to our local Comisaría and request the Residencía. We go to our local Ayuntamiento offices and ask where this is. When I go in there are three or four men with guns. They are very nice but don’t know why I am there. Finally, I understand that I’m in the wrong Comisaría – we have to go to the big yellow building beyond Corte Inglés.

The first time, we got to the Comisaría at 1.00 pm. By the time we got to the front of the line, they were closed. The second time, waving a letter that seemed to say the permit was ready to collect, we were ushered through many marble halls to a little office. Here, another nice lady hammered away at a keyboard for seven minutes, then told us to come back in one month.  I (mis)understood that they would send us a letter to let us know. Lisa knew better: “I wouldn’t wait,” she said. “Just go down there and ask for it.”

And Lisa was right. On this, our third pilgrimage, we were shown through a different entrance and waited at a big reception desk. We’d dressed up a bit, as we thought there might be a little ceremony…maybe cava and cake…a few shouts of “Olé”, and photos with the nice lady. Instead, she reached into a box at her side and handed over the card with just a hint of a smile. We signed and that was it.

Over our victory coffee and croissants, we looked again at the precious card. Fred’s face glows white against a white background, giving him a distinct halo. Yes, you might need the patience of a saint to achieve this coveted status, but if you do it the Lisa way, the road to residency is a lot less rocky.

Thanks to Fred and Arpy for sharing their story. As we always say “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” You just need to buckle in and get ready for the ride.

For more details and advice on moving to Spain: READ MORE HERE

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12 Common Myths: Family Law for Expats

Living abroad is not always easy. No matter where we live, we have to prepare for and think about many “what if” situations.

I’m not one to dwell on negative matters, one of my favourite expressions is:

family law for expats

But sometimes a little information and knowing who to turn to when the time comes is always reassuring.

On a recent visit to London, I met a very nice lady called Lucy, one of the partners at The International Family Law Group LLP. Lucy gave a short talk to a group of people, thinking about moving abroad. What she covered in those few minutes prompted me to speak to her and to share some of the information with you…

Picture 179

The freedom to live and work abroad often leads to people from different countries falling in love. But what happens if your relationship goes wrong?

There are many myths about what someone can and can’t do legally and what is right and wrong.

Wherever you are in your journey, whether you are moving abroad or already living there let us smash those myths and equip you with all you need to know.

Common Myths:  Family Law for Expats

Like all myths, they can lull people unto a false sense of security or cause people to believe they have no options – when usually they do. Remember this last point as you read on!

  1. I have to divorce in the Country where we married
  2. English Law will apply wherever we live in the World
  3. All marriages are legal and recognised in any country
  4. We are “Common Law” husband and wife so have the same rights as legally married couples
  5. I am allowed to take the children back to my home country if my relationship breaks down
  6. My inheritance, pensions and pre-marriage assets won’t be shared upon divorce
  7. England cannot make orders against foreign held assets
  8. If I divorce abroad and a financial order is made I will definitely be stuck with it
  9. Our property regime agreement or pre-nuptial agreement is binding worldwide
  10. I don’t have to pay my ex-spouse maintenance and if I do it is automatically time limited
  11. Child Maintenance is only ever a relatively simple calculation based on a percentage of my income and will only ever be ordered in the place the children reside.
  12. Any lawyer can do family Law with international aspects 


We will cover each of the above issues in future articles. Ensure you have subscribed for updates to be informed of new information as it is published!

Subscribe to updates as they are published!

Why visit an International Family Law Specialist and why would I want to speak to an English family Lawyer if I live in Spain?

International family law is not something to learn on the job. Fast decisions often need to be made about where best to issue proceedings and tactics generally. Lawyers don’t have time to go to books to check the law!

It remains a shocking fact that there remains a lack of knowledge amongst many family lawyers about international aspects of family law.  Many don’t even question when they meet clients with any English connection whether it is best to issue in Spain or England. Without knowing your rights and options, you can sadly lose out very badly by using a country to determine finances upon divorce which is less favourable to your position. There are huge disparities between the orders made upon separation or divorce in Spain compared to England. You, therefore, need advice from both jurisdictions to make the choice best for you.

Not all lawyers are the same! Using a specialist firm like ours will save you potentially a lot of money and sometimes even mean the difference between seeing your children regularly and not seeing them so often.

At The international Family Law Group LLP we have specialist lawyers in all aspects of relationship law covering these and more topics (e.g. international adoption, surrogacy). We also very importantly have a broad network of family lawyers with international family law experience worldwide with whom we have usually worked before so we can direct you quickly get the advice you need.

Speed is often of the essence particularly with matters between Spain and England or other EU countries as whichever spouse starts divorce proceedings in their chosen EU country (except Norway where different rules apply) means this determines where the divorce proceedings will take place and provided they had the right to issue there that is the end of the matter. There is often therefore a race to issue in your favoured country first in time (and it can be a matter of only hours difference in some cases!).

Subscribe to updates as they are published!

Thanks, Lucy!

As I said earlier, we can’t always imagine this happening to us, or to our friends, but if it does, we now know who we can turn to.

If you have any specific questions for Lucy, feel free to add them in the comments below or, if you do not want your questions shown in public, email them and you will remain anonymous. Email your questions

Getting Married in Spain: Get your FREE Guide Now!

Are you thinking of getting married in Spain? Don’t miss this opportunity to download this FREE guide. It’s full of essential information you need. Download it now!

Over to Karen, founder of Weddings About Spain dot com, who will tell you everything you need to know about getting married in Spain…

P.S: You will find the link to download the guide at the end of the post.

getting married in Spain

Destination Wedding at stunning Spanish Hacienda, Cortijo Capellania between Yunquera and El Burgo in Malaga, Spain. Ruth Joy Photography

Getting married in Spain ticks an awful lot of boxes.

  • For one, the weather will undoubtedly be good especially if you aim for a date between April and November.
  • Two: The backdrop for photographs is quite simply breathtaking from beaches to mountains to blue skies.
  • Three: You can combine the whole thing with a honeymoon and holiday for guests. It’ll turn into a week-long party rather than a few hours.

The wedding industry in Spain is huge and extremely professional. There are wedding planners at every corner eager to help you with anything and everything from venues down to the shoes. Utilise them if you can it will make the whole journey simpler and easier and less stressful.  They know their industry and although you may think it’ll be expensive, they can often make it more affordable in the long run just because of who they know and what they know.

[ctt title=”Spain is a great destination for getting married. FREE Guide to help you organise your big day! ” tweet=”Spain is a great destination for getting married: FREE Guide to help you organise your big day! via @familyinspain http://ctt.ec/UCac5+” coverup=”UCac5″]

If however you want to go it alone then my advice is to start with the venue.  There are hundreds of options available. Why not head inland and rent a beautiful and traditional Cortijo or villa. It could easily house some of your guests and all you need to do then is bring in the caterers and suppliers to you.  Failing that there are numerous beachside restaurants and hotels which cater for weddings. You just simply have to turn up!  Or there are people who hire marquees and there are chapels and even caves you can say your vows in.

Caterers, photographers, rings, outfits and transport – the Costa del Sol has an abundance of them all and you’ll just need to work your way through for information and quotes.

getting married in Spain

Destination Wedding at stunning Spanish Hacienda, Cortijo Capellania between Yunquera and El Burgo in Malaga, Spain. Ruth Joy Photography

When I got married last year my aim was to organise a big party without any pomp and ceremony. Budget was an issue, but I also wanted people to relax and enjoy themselves without the constraints of suits or seating plans.  I ploughed through contacts and compiled a list of options.  Always ask friends for contacts or ideas. Use forums too – first-hand recommendations are often the wisest choices.  You can easily ask for contacts via these two pages:

A quick trip to Gibraltar can sort all your legalities and this is probably the easiest option if you are a foreigner in Spain – far less paperwork and hassle and it is actually quite delightful to see couples in wedding outfits in the town celebrating afterwards or quite simply walking down to the street to the registry office, botanical gardens or to one of the hotels for their ceremony. 

All in all weddings abroad are becoming a hugely popular choice. Traditional or completely off the wall events can be recreated anywhere these days and because people will happily travel, there’s no excuse not to.

getting married in Spain

If you would like to sort your own wedding and need to know where to start, have a look at  www.weddingsaboutspain.com for a list of suppliers.

Meanwhile for more information on ‘How to Get Married in Spain’ you can download this FREE e-booklet via the link:  http://www.weddingsaboutspain.com/ebook/

Pets in Spain: Processionary Caterpillars and Poison Toads

Hazards For Pets in Spain

pets in spain

Processionary Caterpillars on our garden wall today … Eeek!


To be able to take good care of your pets in Spain, you need to be aware of potential dangers and hazards.

We are currently fighting a plague of processionary caterpillars that are invading our urbanisation and who seem to have taken a liking to our garden. Needless to say, we are keeping a tight control on Mika, our lovely German Shepherd.

Are you aware of the danger these little critters can cause?

The following information is taken from our book (Have a look inside here, on Amazon).

The information was provided by Rachel from Posh Pets. Please ensure you read it all and make sure you do not cause any unnecessary suffering to your pets in Spain. These are just two of the hazards you should be aware of when taking your pets to Spain.


Biting Insects, crawling critters these are essential things that you need to know about for you and your pets welfare

The Processionary Caterpillar

At the end of the winter when the weather is beginning to warm up, it is the time to warn pet owners of the dangers of the “candy floss” white nests that  appear rapidly in the fir trees above our heads!!

This is the nest of the PROCESSIONARY CATERPILLAR and they arrive in their thousands!! – They are dangerous to humans too but because dogs & cats are inquisitive & like to nosey about on the ground sniffing out what’s new – that is when pets get themselves into trouble.

The caterpillars get their name because they follow each other in a “procession” actually looking quite sweet, innocent and cute; they are dark brown in colour with white hair.  The caterpillars hatch from their nests and follow each other across a pathway or road making a definite line to their onward destination. It is at this point that we canines and felines wander up to the “little monsters” & have a good sniff to investigate the findings – & get into trouble.

If  your pet comes into contact with the caterpillars it is imperative that you wash well the area & get your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

The caterpillars are covered in thousands of tiny hairs which get hooked on the skin, mouth or nose – they imbed into pets and then literally “eat away on flesh”.

Avoid exercising pets in the pine forests until the end of April

The Poison Toad

If you notice your dog foaming at the mouth after messing with a toad, immediately rinse it out with water. If the dog eats the toad, you should probably get it to a vet or animal hospital right away. Here in Spain the giant toad can grow up to eight inches long and is very heavy. This toad is greenish-brown and covered with bumps. It has glands that can secrete a very toxic poison. The Giant toad is responsible for the death of many dogs. This toad will come into gardens and eat the dogs’ food. If the dog would grab the toad it would be immediately poisoned.

Pet owners might notice these signs: frothy salivation with vigorous head shaking, pawing at the mouth and continuous efforts to vomit, in coordination and staggering.

If you know of or strongly suspect toad poisoning, immediately rinse out your pet’s mouth with water before going to your veterinarian or an emergency clinic for treatment. Most toad poisonings occur in the evening or the night.

Unfortunately, there are no antidotes for toad venom intoxication, but many of these victims may be saved with symptomatic treatment, which reduces the absorption of toxin and controls the clinical signs of illness. Depending upon circumstances, your veterinarian may use a variety of drugs to control heart abnormalities, breathing problems and excitation of the central nervous system. The key to survival is rapid recognition of signs and prompt veterinary medical care.

move to spain

We would like to thank Rachel for contributing some essential information for anyone thinking of living with pets in Spain for our book: Moving to Spain with Children.

The other topics she covers are listed here:

  • Taking your Pets to Spain
  • An Essential Checklist for a safe journey with pets
  • Questions to Ask and Points to Consider
    Travel By Land
    Travel by Plane
  • Documentation Requirements EU Pet Passports
    Re-register Your Pet’s Microchip on Arrival
    Returning to the UK
  • Dangerous Dog License
    Update from May 2012 Dangerous Dogs
    Dangerous Dogs
    Dog Owner License Application
    Dog Registration
    Walking a Potentially Dangerous Dog
  • Hazards for Pets in Spain
    Leishmaniasis is a Serious Disease
    Vaccine Information
    Leishmaniasis Summary
    The Processionary Caterpillar
    The Poison Toad
    Tick Fever & Lymes Disease
    How will Ticks Affect my Pet?
    How do I Prevent my Pets from Getting Ticks?
    Are Ticks Dangerous to Humans?

Whether you are thinking about moving to Spain or are already living in Spain but still have lots of questions, have a look inside the book, there is plenty of information for everybody.

quiz about spain

CLICK HERE to take our fun Quiz about Spain

When Helping Families Move to Spain Sucks

helping families move to spain

Mum & Francesca

I love helping families move to Spain. Well, most of the time.

I am excited to be sharing a new post with you very soon, entitledWhy Living In Spain Is Great For Kids. I will be sharing comments made by many families who live or have lived in Spain. (Click the link to read the post now 😉  )

If you have read my book, (check it out on Amazon here), you will know that I do not believe in selling the dream. I educate and inform people. I want people to get it right and to enjoy family life in Spain as much as we do.

Anyone who moves to Spain with my assistance has very little, if anything, to worry about. I do not tell people what to think, I simply tell them the questions to ask themselves and guide them through the decision process.

There are very few more rewarding moments when than when families I’ve previously helped move to Spain, contact me out of the blue, to let me know how much they are enjoying living here.

However, there is a downside.

A downside that makes me feel like giving it all up.

Each time it happens, I question what I am doing. Do I want to continue?

So, when does helping families move to Spain suck?

Moving to SpainBasically, when they decide to go “home”.i.e. they pack up and leave Spain 🙁

It isn’t always a happy ending for all families who move to Spain. There are so many uncontrollable variables.

Thanks to some wonderful Family Life in Spain Facebook followers and some previous clients, I am going to share some stories with you about families who decided to pack up and leave Spain.

These stories are to hopefully make you think about your own situation before planning your move to Spain. Spain is a wonderful place to live. It is a great place to bring up children. But, it isn’t always easy. The more prepared you are, the more chance you have of success.

These are the questions I asked:

  • Please tell us a little bit about your family, including the age of your children
  • When did you move to Spain?
  • Why did you move to Spain?
  • When did you leave Spain?
  • What were your reasons for leaving Spain?
  • Did you enjoy your time in Spain? Please give reasons
  • What were your biggest challenges when living in Spain?
  • What do you wish you’d known before you made the move that you did not know beforehand?
  • If you had known that (stated in previous question) would you have canceled move to Spain?
  • What do you miss most  (if anything) about living in Spain?
  • Are you glad you tried living in Spain?
  • Anything else you would like to share …
family holidays in cadiz

Bike ride selfie with my kids!

I will share people’s stories with you and invite you, if you too have packed up and left Spain, to contact me if you would like to share your story.

I do love helping families move to Spain and I hope that our honesty and openness will benefit many more families in the future.

PS. If you have read my book, I’d love feedback and (cheeky request) a review on Amazon 🙂

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