Our Top Tips for Surviving and Enjoying Expat Life in Spain 2017

As we mentioned previously, Spain is tightening its belt economically. The taxman is going for every centimo possible as the government looks for ways to reduce the national debt. We have been seeing this happen at the expense of taxpayers and business owners. However, the quality of life and Spain, in general, still make it worthwhile to moving over and living here.

Also, with Brexit just around the corner, with whatever that could mean for expats in Spain, it is more important than ever to make sure your paperwork is up-to-date and you are living legitimately in your chosen country.

To help you survive expat life in Spain, we have put together some ‘possibly boring but definitely practical‘ tips. We’ve also thrown in a few fun tips to help you get the most out of your life in Spain in 2017.


List One: Our ‘possibly boring but definitely practical’ tips for surviving expat life in Spain in 2017.


moving to spainIf you are a resident in Spain, check your residency card* is valid and up-to-date. Once it expires, you will have to start the application process again. It’s far easier just to renew it rather than go through the rigmarole of producing documents – and forming an orderly queue – all over again. (*The residency card is currently (January 2017) a small green credit card size piece of paper. This replaced the A4 green residency certificate, which is also valid. The old blue card with a photograph on it is the one that has an expiry date.)


moving to spainIf you are a resident but you only have the white NIE certificate, you should consider applying for your residency card now. Although the details still have to be worked out, when the UK does leave the EU obtaining a residency card is likely to be more complicated. Spain already wants assurances that you will not be a burden which is why it seeks proof of your finances and medical cover. These rules could be more stringent post-Brexit or once Britain triggers Article 50. It is not a difficult process but you just need to make sure you have filled in the relevant forms and take the necessary documents plus photocopies with you. We help you every step of the way in Chapter One of our online course on NIE, residency and the padron.

moving to spainCheck your driving licence and car paperwork. Make sure that the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) knows your current address which must appear on both your licence and car paperwork.  It is also useful for DGT to have your current address in case you should incur a traffic fine. If paid promptly, you can usually get up to 50% discount but if you don’t know about it, the fine can rapidly soar. Read our blog about our €900 traffic fine (which we fought against and won!) for a horrifying account of Spanish fines’ farce.  You can find out how to update your licence and car paperwork in chapter 10 of our online course on driving in Spain.

moving to spain with children

If you live permanently in Spain, you will need to swap your UK licence for a Spanish one. It is simple to do and might involve a simple medical to check eyes, hearing and co-ordination. It will be easier to exchange licences before your UK one expires. Again, our online course on driving will guide you through this process.


moving to spain with childrenLearn Spanish. We are constantly amazed at the number of Brits who move to Spain but never manage to pick up more than a few words of the lingo. To make the most of your expat life in Spain, we would definitely recommend you learn Spanish. It will help you integrate, it will certainly come in handy in an emergency and you can learn so much more about the rich culture and history through learning the language. To get the most of your expat life in Spain 2017, we suggest you make this the year you learn or improve your linguistic skills. Depending on which part of the country you live in, after conquering Castellano you may be inspired to go on to learn Catalan or Valenciano, for example, to really live like a local. For more ideas on learning a language in Spain 2017 to make the most of your expat life in Spain, sign up for Chapter 4 of our online course on language and Chapter 8 on integration.


January in Spain


List Two: Our 10 fun tips for making the most of your expat life in Spain in 2017

moving to spainStop worrying and go with the flow. We know Spanish bureaucracy can be frustrating, the queuing system confusing and the paperwork inexplicable. That is why we’ve set out easy-to-follow instructions in our online course to help you. But, even if you are learning Spanish and trying to integrate but feel progress is slow, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you have followed our advice in List One above, you have done a lot more than many others who enjoy expat life in Spain.

moving to spainGet out. Discover. Enjoy. We all know how much Spain loves to party with fiestas and ferias taking place every week somewhere in Spain. These fiestas are fantastic fun, such as the arrival of the Three Kings on 12th night; Moors and Christians battles; Sevilla feria spring fair; jumping over bonfires for San Juan in mid-summer; and carnival. Others are more sombre such as Holy Week with processions and palms. To keep informed about the fiestas and ferias around Spain, sign up for our newsletter.

camping in granada

Use your EYES to marvel at the stunning scenery

moving to spain

Remember the mañana mantra. Take life in the slow lane by becoming more Spanish. Your expat life in Spain is not supposed to be stressful. Don’t get worked up about the little things and if you can’t get something done today, then there is always tomorrow.


moving to spain with children

Remember the more the merrier. The louder the better. Forget about the British reserve and make some noise. If you’re having fun, then show it. Join in the dancing and singing during the fiestas. Invite your neighbours around for a barbecue. Laugh out loud at the little things that amuse you. Nobody’s watching because they’re too busy enjoying themselves!


moving to spain with childrenSavour the simple stuff. Remember why you decided to move to Spain. Was it the food, the beautiful scenery, the people, the culture? Whatever the reason, don’t get so bogged down by the little things that you forget why you decided to make your expat life in Spain. Every day, look up at the views, marvel over the range of fresh fish in the market, smile at the old guys putting the world to rights in the town square, and savour every moment of everything Spain has to offer.

Expat Life in Spain

Lisa & Joshua in a Padel torneo

moving to spain

Try something new. Spain never ceases to amaze us with each region having something unique to offer. Take time out of your schedule to try something new. It could be a new sport – padel or golf – a healthy pastime – like walking or cycling – or sign up for an art or photography course.


moving to spain

Taste the difference. Spanish cuisine is very hearty and makes the most of the regional, seasonal produce. Why not treat yourself to a menu del día which is typically Spanish. You could try migas, rabo de toro, pulpo a la gallega or puchero.

moving to spain

Do something typically Spanish. This helps you embrace the culture.  Learn to slice jamón so thinly you can see through it, or intricate lace-making, pouring cider the Asturian way, flamenco dancing or cooking a giant paella on an open fire.

moving to spain

Go exploring. Spain is such a vast country that it would take a lifetime to explore all of it. But we suggest you do the best you can by setting aside days for getting off the tourist trail and exploring the hidden Spain. Depending on your interests, you could visit a city which isn’t mentioned in the tourist guides, find a traditional village miles from anywhere or visit the national parks or mountains.

moving to spainJoin a group. To truly integrate, we suggest you join a group of people who share the same interests as you or sign up as a volunteer. On the internet, you can find groups of people who meet for excursions or activities. For older people, the U3A is active in many areas. Or volunteer to help others – you could join the Red Cross, help out at a local shelter for the homeless or animals. For further ideas of enjoying expat life in Spain, you can always sign up for Chapter 8 of our online course on integration.

Kids Adventure Activities in Tenerife

Remember to smile and have fun!


So, there you have just a few of our many tips for surviving and making the most of you expat life in Spain in 2017.

What do you have planned for 2017? Have we helped you make some decisions? Pop over to Our Family Life In Spain Facebook Page and share your ideas with us.

We have started 2017 with a bang! Thanks to readers like you, our family language project, Cooking With Languages, has been brought to life. You helped us raise over £5,000 via Crowdfunding. The campaign ends 30th January 2017 so you might still have time to bag yourself some bargains …


UPDATE: Our How To Move To Spain Online Course …

We are currently working on our online course, our project for 2017. As soon as it is ready, our Newsletter subscribers will be the first to know and, of course, the first to get the discounted price 😉




New Residency in Spain Application Procedure : Rants & A Confession!

A few months ago we informed you about the changes in the Residency in Spain application procedure, in our post entitled ¿Qué pasa España?

Our closing phrase was “Let´s see what happens next …”

So, guess what happened next?

At this point, please remember that I earn my living by helping people sort through the maze of Spanish red tape and bureaucracy via our business www.ccbspain.com. Many an hour is spent battling with authorities on behalf of my wonderful clients. To people’s utter astonishment, I openly admit to loving the challenge and am greatly rewarded by my client´s satisfaction.

Last week,  I visited the police station in Fuengirola, with two people who had just moved over to Spain and were due to start work ,and my husband (Yes… my own husband!) who needed to renew his old style residency card.

We followed the application procedure for the new residencia as detailed in our CCB Spain post Spanish Residency Update and within an hour and a half, which included paying the taxes at the bank (and that involved having to try 3 banks in the vecinity!) and having a coffee,  we walked out with two shiny new Spanish Residency Cards.

However, much to our frustration, we had not been able to renew my husband´s residency! Why?  Probably because the immigration officer on the desk was having a bad day!!! That is how I felt as we walked out of the police station having had to make a new appointment for a completely separate residency application … for somebody who has been a legal resident in Spain for almost 20 years, who owns a house here, whose children are in state school here and who pays a lot of tax here … rant over!

Our new appointment was for Monday 24th September, I say “was” because we were unable to get an appointment at Social Security, for another copy of a piddley piece of paper to show that his health insurance is covered by my social security payments, until Tuesday 25th!!!

Despite my ranting, we have to admit to have just not got round to renewing my husband’s residency card as we did not need it (That´s the confession, by the way.)  As a result, we have to start the application procedure all over again as detailed in our article Residency in Spain Renewal Update , we want others to learn from our mistakes and hopefully save them headaches too!

Wait! It´s not over yet …

To top it all, his passport runs out in October and we are going back to the UK for Christmas this year so we will now have to renew his passport and then delay the residency renewal until we have the new passport … and how blumin’ expensive are passport renewals these days!

So, the passport renewal applications are ready to be sent off. We will go to the social security office next week and then one day , maybe, in the not too distant future we will make another application to renew the residency … let´s hope the piddley paper from the Social Security office hasn’t expired by then … and people wonder why Spanish paperwork is such a nightmare!

Can you be bothered???  I´m sure many expats can not!

If you would like more details about the new requirements for applying for residency in Spain, please read our CCB Spain post  HERE.

By Lisa Sadleir

We’ve Been Driving Illegally in Spain … Luckily, We Got Caught!

family in spain

Driving illegally??

Have you ever been caught driving in Spain when you weren’t supposed to be? I mean, driving illegally in Spain. We have. We were driving illegally and we were caught. Thankfully!

Let me explain …

It was that short lull in the festive season. The few days between New Year and Kings. I was hoping to catch up on some work. Hubby had kindly taken the children down to the beachfront to play on their new scooters. Time for me. At last. Or so I thought. Then the doorbell rang …

“Felices fiestas” was the greeting I exchanged with our friendly postman.

He then handed me the envelope and asked me to sign for it. He had that knowing, sympathetic look on his face. The look he saves for when he hands over recorded delivery letters from Hacienda (the Spanish tax office) and, in this particular case, the Ministerio del Interior (the office that dispatches automatic fines).

“These envelopes are usually fines, aren’t they?” I casually mentioned to him. “Felices fiestas indeed.”

He ever so politely, continued to discuss the possibilities of the contents with me. He said the usual was a speeding fine, caught out by the automatic speed traps. As I opened the envelope I saw the registration of hubby’s car. Typical. He’d been caught speeding but as the car is in my name, I get the fine!

We, postie and I, looked at the contents of the envelope and discovered that the fine was €200 and the place of the incident was on the A7 road at KM 273. Ooh, my hubby was in trouble when he came home.

Then we looked at the box in bold, marked “Hecho que se notifica” that stated “No haber presentado a la inspection tecnica periodica, en el plaza debido, el vehicle reseñado”.

OMG! That was not good news. What had we done?

I thanked postie, bade him farewell and rushed inside to immediately phone hubby and tell him that he was driving an illegal vehicle.

My mind went into overdrive, as it often does about these things. What if they had an accident on the way home? What if they were stopped by police on a random check? What if? What if?

That was the end of any work catch up for me …

driving illegally in spain

So, what should you do when you receive a traffic fine via post, related to driving in Spain?

  • Check the registration of the vehicle (Matrícula) , the date (fecha denuncia) and location of the incident (lugar denuncia).
  • Clarify the incident. What are you being fined for? (Hecho que se notifica)
  • Confirm the amount of the fine (Importe total multa)

If you are guilty of the crime, (as we were!) …

Be aware that, if the fine is paid within 20 working days of receipt of the fine, you receive a 50% reduction for prompt payment. Needless to say, I was on the internet immediately with my debit card at the ready.

Paying a traffic fine in Spain is a relatively painless process nowadays. The country has come a long way in improving its online services for some, and I mean some, bureaucratic processes. Particularly processes that involve us paying money to official departments. (Yep, that was a bit of sarcasm there 😉 )

If you’d like to know how to pay fines online, have a look at my post “How to pay traffic fines in Spain” on our relocation website.

So, it’s a happy ending. Is it?

Well, kind of. But not quite. Not yet.

Hubby and children returned from scootering without having had any kind of accident or random police check. I had “saved” us 100€, by successfully paying the fine on time and receiving the 50% discount.

A quick internet search taught us that, as the van was classed as a commercial vehicle, the ITV test was due every two years, not every four years, as per normal tourist vehicles. OMG, we had been driving illegally for almost eighteen months! Thank the lord we found out before anything serious had happened.

However, a couple of black clouds still hung over us:

  • The van was totally illegal to drive until we passed the ITV (Spanish MOT) test. Being in full “festivo” period, getting anything done was even more challenging than usual. Luckily we have a second car.
  • The fine we had just paid was dated August 2014. 6 months ago!!! OMG. How many more were going to arrive ??? Only time will tell …

So, if you do nothing else, check your ITV expiry date now. If you are not sure when it should be renewed, find out. It is illegal so drive a vehicle in Spain without a valid ITV. Your insurance will not cover you in case of an accident.

Remember that, in Spain, you are responsible for finding out if you have any outstanding fines. If you do not ask or take action, they do not go away. They come back bigger and more expensive.

We have learned from our lesson and we hope you will too.

Don’t forget to read our post New Traffic Laws and Car Seats in Spain.

Do you have any traffic related experiences to share? Drop us a line if you do. We can all learn from each other’s mistakes 🙂
quiz about spain


CLICK HERE to take our fun Quiz about Spain

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

EU Pet Travel Scheme: Changes from 29 December 2014

If you are planning to move to Spain and bring your pets, please ensure you read the latest updates to the EU Pet Travel Scheme.

move to spain with childrenIn our book about Moving to Spain with Children, thanks to Rachel at Posh Pets Spain, we included an important chapter about taking pets to Spain. We cover topics such as:

  • An Essential Checklist for a Safe Journey with Pets
  • Tips for Choosing a Reputable Pet Transport Company
  • Documentation Requirements for EU Pet Passports
  • Re-register Your Pets Microchip when you have Moved to Spain
  • Dangerous Dog License
  • Dog Owner License Application
  • Hazards for Pets in Spain

Since the publication in November, there has been an update to the EU Pet Travel Scheme.

Changes to the EU Pet Travel Scheme came into effect on 29 December 2014. The changes are mainly designed to strengthen enforcement across the EU, increase levels of compliance and improve the security and traceability of the pet passport.

The changes give effect to a new EU pet travel Regulation (576/2013).

NOTE: If you already have a passport for your pets, you do not need to get a new one!

The main requirements of the scheme will stay the same. All dogs, cats and ferrets travelling with their owner will still require:

  • microchipping
  • vaccination against rabies
  • a blood test 30 days after vaccination (if returning or travelling from an unlisted third country)
  • a pet passport issued by an authorised vet (or third country certificate issued by an official vet)
  • a waiting period after primary vaccination and prior to travel:
    – 21 days if travelling from another EU country or a listed third country
  • a waiting period following blood sampling
    – 3 months if travelling from for unlisted third countries
  • treatment against the EM tapeworm (dogs only)

There are exceptions to some of these preparations in certain circumstances. If you are planning to travel with your pet you must read the detailed guidance at: www.gov.uk/pet-travelinformation-for-pet-owners2

eu pet travel scheme

Our pet “Mika”

What’s Changing and What You Have to do:

The key changes affecting pet owners are outlined below:

1. A new pet passport

A new style pet passport will be introduced from 29 December 2014. However if you already have a passport for your pet you do not need to get a new one. Existing passports will remain valid for the lifetime of the pet (or until all the treatment spaces are filled).
The new style passport will include laminated strips designed to cover those pages with the pet’s details, microchip information and each rabies vaccination entry. This will help prevent anyone tampering with this information once it has been completed by a vet. The vet issuing the pet passport will also need to fill in their details on a new ‘Issuing of the passport’ page and must make sure that all their contact details are included when they certify vaccinations and treatments.
The UK pet passport will also now include a unique passport number printed on every page . These changes will improve the traceability and security of the pet passport and enable us to contact the vet who issued the passport if anything goes wrong.

2. The introduction of checks across the EU

If you travel with your pet in the EU you may be asked for your pet’s passport when entering other countries. This is because all EU countries are required to carry out some checks on pet movements within the EU. You must make sure that your pet is fully compliant with the rules of the EU pet travel scheme before you leave the UK. In particular, you must wait 21 days from the date of your pet’s primary rabies vaccination before you travel (the day of vaccination counts as day 0 not day 1). Your vet can advise you on this point. If you have a new style pet passport they will put a ‘valid from’ date in the primary vaccination entry; this will be the earliest date you can travel. All pets entering Britain on approved routes will continue to be checked by the carriers either prior to boarding (for rail or sea) or upon entry (air).

3. A new minimum age for rabies vaccination

From 29 December 2014 your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before you can get it vaccinated against rabies for the purposes of pet travel. These rules will be the same across the EU and help pet checkers carry out compliance checks. It will also prevent very young pets being moved across the EU.3

4. New rules for those travelling with more than five pets

If you have more than five pets and wish to travel with them within the EU and/or return to the UK (unless you are going to a show or competition) you will need to comply with additional rules.

These include:

  • travelling from a registered premises
  • using an authorised transporter and
  • registering the movement on the TRACES system

If you are travelling from outside the EU you will also need to enter through a Border Inspection Post.

Shows and Competitions:
If you are travelling with more than five pets (aged over six months) and can present written evidence that they are registered to attend a show, competition or sporting event (or training for such an event) you do not need to comply with these extra rules and can continue to travel under the EU pet travel scheme. The evidence you provide will need to show at least the name of the event, together with the address and date(s) it is taking place. You may also be asked to sign a declaration confirming that you are eligible to make use of this exemption. This requirement may change – we’re consulting on some of these details – so you should check the website for up to date information before you travel.

5. Requirements for pets entering the UK/EU
If you are entering the UK (or another EU country) and your journey began outside the EU you must sign a declaration confirming that you do not intend to sell or transfer ownership of your pet. The format of this declaration is outlined in Part 3 of Annex IV to Regulation 577/2013. If you are not able to accompany your pet then you (or a person you have authorised in writing) must travel within 5 days of your pet’s movement. This rule applies both to travel within the EU and for movements from outside the EU.

6. Clearer definition of cat, dog and ferret
The new EU Regulation specifically states that the only species of pet animal that can travel under the EU pet travel rules are:

  • Canis lupis familiaris – domestic dog
  • Felis silvestris catus – domestic cat
  • Mustela putorius furo – ferret

The reason for this change is to make sure that wild animals can’t be moved under rules designed for pet travel.4 This change will not affect the majority of pet owners. However, if your pet is a hybrid (such as a
Bengal or Savannah cat, or a Wolfdog) then you must seek advice from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency before you travel. They will advise you on the import requirements for your pet. See ‘Contact us’ below.

eu pet travel scheme

Mika in the campo


Don’t forget…
• Your pet must receive the correct treatments in the correct order. In particular, your pet must have been microchipped before it receives its rabies vaccination. If your pet was vaccinated before being microchipped then it will need to be re-vaccinated after the microchip is inserted.
• If you take your pet abroad it may be exposed to diseases which we do not have in the UK. We recommend you consult your vet about your pet’s health and fitness to travel before you take it abroad. Ask your vet for advice on the appropriate treatments for the part of the world you are travelling to.
• The pet travel rules apply to all dogs, cats and ferrets travelling with their owners (including assistance and guide dogs). You are responsible for ensuring your pet meets all the rules for entering the UK under the pet travel scheme. Make sure you have had the procedures carried out in the correct order and that your pet’s documentation is correctly completed. If you do not, your pet may not be able to enter the country or may have to be quarantined on arrival. This will mean delay and cost you money.
• If you are bringing a dog, cat or ferret into the UK in order to sell it or pass it to a new owner (e.g. for rehoming), you cannot travel under the pet travel scheme. Instead you must comply with the rules of the Balai Directive. Further information is available: www.defra.gov.uk/animal-trade/imports-non-eu/iins/live-animals/iins-other-animalsbalai/iin-bllv-5/
• Stringent penalties are in place for those that break the pet travel rules in order to bring animals into the UK illegally. Pets that are non-compliant pose a potentially serious risk to both animal and human health. Anyone with information relating to illegal activity should contact their local Trading Standards office.

For further information on any of the changes outlined above or for enquiries relating to pet travel, please contact the Pet Travel Scheme helpline:
• Telephone: 0370 241 1710
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (closed on bank holidays)
• Email: pettravel@ahvla.gsi.gov.uk

This information was originally posted here.

Reproduced in the interest of our readers, with permission given here.

Everything you need to know about: Having a Baby in Spain

Having a Baby in Spain by Charlotte Humphries (A recently new mummy in Spain!):

However long you’ve lived abroad, it’s the momentous occasions which remind you that you’re living in a foreign country and that some things are just not the same as at home, wherever home may be. Having a baby is just one of those times!

Before and during the birth:

Book about Moving to Spain with ChildrenPrivate vs. State Healthcare

It’s important to get checked up as soon as you suspect you are pregnant and so first you need to decide if you’ll be going down the public or private healthcare route. It may not be as simple as making a personal choice when having a baby in Spain. Some private healthcare plans require you to have had insurance cover for a certain period of time before falling pregnant. On the other hand, some expats may not qualify for public healthcare under the social security system.

If you are not entitled to either state or private healthcare, you may have to “pay as you go” with a private doctor or gynecologist, or make a one off payment to an insurance company to cover your care during pregnancy and birth. If, on the other hand, you qualify for private and public healthcare, you may choose to visit both doctors in the early stages so that you can make an informed decision as to which system (and doctor) suits you best. Many choose to have their check ups with a private doctor and then give birth in a public hospital – often regarded to be the best place to have your baby if there is any risk of complications.

A private doctor will expect to see you monthly. He will give you either an internal or an external scan at each visit and arrange all the required and routine blood tests on your behalf. The state doctors may also see you regularly but will not perform as many scans (generally only from 12 weeks and all external). However, they also have midwives at their disposal who are very approachable and on hand to provide you with a huge range of advice (and some freebie samples!)

Antenatal Course

speaking SpanishSome future parents need the reassurance provided by an antenatal course prior to the baby’s arrival. Many of the public health centres run short courses in Spanish where midwives will take you through what to expect. Unfortunately most seem to be run during the day making it tricky for those who work.

If language is a problem or if the classes clash with your availability outside work, there are private options. On the Costa del Sol the most popular is run by two Irish midwives www.irishmidwife.com. The course is spread over four weekly evening sessions of about three hours. Both of the midwives have children themselves and extensive experience of working in the public and private hospitals in Marbella and Malaga and so are ideally placed to answer any questions you may have on which hospital to choose and what to expect. In the course they cover hospital policies, labour, exercise, breastfeeding, paperwork and much more.

The Hospital Birth

Home births are very rare in Spain and most babies are born in the hospital. Your first port of call if you go into labour is to check in at the URGENCIAS department. You should have with you your passport and social security card (if applicable) as well as everything you will need for you and the baby during your stay, and your birth plan (in Spanish). You can download a birth plan template HERE which may help you to complete yours.

Certainly in Marbella’s Costa del Sol hospital there is some provision for those aiming for a water birth but very few of the midwives are trained in this specialism and so it is available only to a few mothers to be on a first come, first served basis. You should include in your birth plan any preferences you have for pain relief (although they won’t hold you to it should you change your mind half way through!) There is no gas and air in Spanish hospitals (except in some private hospitals) but pethidine and epidurals are readily available.

The public hospital in Malaga also provides excellent care although it is regarded as more old fashioned in its approach to childbirth which some expat mums to be may find off putting.

While in the private hospitals you will be accommodated in a private room where your partner can sleep on a sofa bed near you, expect to have to share a room in the public hospital with one other new mum. In the Spanish health system, your family are expected to provide you with the support you need in the hospital – helping you to wash, use the bathroom, eat, etc. Of course, if no-one is available then the staff will help but the new baby’s father will be encouraged to stay overnight (or another family member) despite the fact that they will probably only have a rather uncomfortable chair to sleep on! It’s good practice for when the baby keeps them awake in the months to come!

The Spanish healthcare system has been accused of being too pro caesarian section, especially if you have had one previously. Spanish babies are, as a rule, smaller than northern European babies so you may find that you are encouraged down the surgery route if your baby is expected to be over 4 kg. In other European countries, fathers are allowed to be present in the operating theatre. This is not the case in Spain. Assuming the baby is healthy and there are no problems, after a c-section delivery the baby will be held near to the mother for a few moments skin to skin, before being whisked away to the father patiently waiting outside. The mother will then be taken down to the recovery ward for around two hours. During this time, baby will be washed up, weighed, dressed, thoroughly checked over by the pediatrician and given his or her initial injections.

Once mother and baby are reunited, the nursing staff will briskly assist with breastfeeding positions each time they check up on you both. The public hospital wards are busy, noisy places with lots of comings and goings – be prepared to be checked over regularly throughout the night whether or not you and your baby are getting some well deserved sleep! Door slamming is not unusual!

The public hospitals provide maternity towels, nappies, baby clothes, baby blankets, washcloths and hospital nightgowns (although you may be more comfortable in your own clothes post delivery). If you are struggling to breastfeed, need top up feeds or have decided to formula feed your baby then the hospital will provide ready made up bottles for you to feed your baby (although you will be encouraged to breastfeed if possible). The auxiliary staff are normally very helpful and won’t need much encouragement to take the baby off for a bath whenever required (my husband went along with the baby and learned how to bathe her, massage her and swaddle her very efficiently!)


When the hospital staff decide you and your baby are ready to leave the hospital they will discharge you separately. The baby will be checked over and signed off by the pediatrician; the new mother will be examined by the gynecologist before being given the all clear. The mother is issued with a “baja”, or discharge, plus any prescriptions needed for her immediate future care.

A number of documents are issued for the new baby including paperwork detailing any vaccinations already given and a baby book in which future healthcare appointments/vaccinations should be recorded.

The baby will also be issued with a very important yellow form which is vital for baby’s within eight days after birth. It’s called a Cuestionario para la Declaración de Nacimiento en el Registro Civil – check the information on this form as it must be 100% correct and duly signed by the midwife or doctor who delivered your baby. The hospital will also issue a certificate to confirm that the baby’s birth has not been registered by the hospital.

Talking of names, my husband was asked what the baby’s name would be while I was having my caesarean section. Thankfully we’d more or less agreed the name beforehand as it was recorded at this time! I’m sure we could have changed it if necessary but I suggest you either know 100% or tell them you are not ready to provide a name in order to avoid future documentary complications!

Back Home

In many European countries midwives or health visitors will visit the new mum and baby at home regularly after the birth. This is not the case in Spain where most new parents rely on support from their families. Midwives are available at local health centres if you need help and you will be encouraged to meet with a pediatrician, whether private or public, early on in order to check on baby’s progress.

On the Costa del Sol there are private English speaking midwives who are available to visit you at home (for a fee) to answer any questions you have, check on the health of new baby and mum, help with breastfeeding and general baby care queries. In addition, many run baby groups where you can meet up with other mums to trade advice, woes, achievements and concerns.

The Formalities:

Book about Moving to Spain with ChildrenRegistration

There are several formalities to complete before you can settle into your new life as parents. The most important in terms of time limits is to register the baby. It is mandatory if your baby was born in Spain, whatever your nationality. If you have signed on the Padron where you live, you can register the baby in your local Registro Civil. If you are not on the Padron then you will need to register the baby in the town where he or she was born. Click here for more information on registering your baby in Spain: https://familylifeinspain.com/how-to-register-a-birth-in-spain/. Remember to ask for a full birth certificate (Certificación Literal) if you intend to apply for a non-Spanish passport for your baby.


Obviously the passport application procedure is different for each country but for the UK, you now need to apply online and then send the required supporting documentation to Belfast. This includes baby’s original long birth certificate plus a translated, certified and apostiled copy, parents birth certificates and, in some cases, a grandparents birth certificate. Most towns have a business centre with staff who can check the supporting documentation for you as well as taking baby passport photographs which fulfill the strict criteria.

Social Security

Once you have been issued with a Libro de Familia by the Registro Civil, you can proceed with the other formalities. For us it was important to register her with Social Security so that we didn’t have to pay to have her vaccinated privately. As long as one parent is paying social security, the baby is entitled to cover (although by law a child cannot be refused public healthcare treatment in Spain). The procedure involved a few trips between the medical centre and social security office with various pieces of paper issued by each, and a lot of patience. Devote a morning to the job in order to get it all out of the way in one go and make sure you take your passports, NIE / residencia certificates and copies! We were also asked for proof that we had applied for the baby’s passport.

If you are claiming maternity and paternity pay, you’ll need to visit your doctor in the local health centre to be signed off and issued with the appropriate paperwork which also needs to be submitted to the social security office along with their form Prestación Maternidad-Paternidad por Nacimiento, Adopción o Acogimiento.


This is not as urgent as some of the other formalities but it’s useful to get everything done together. For more information on how to apply for your baby’s NIE, click here: https://familylifeinspain.com/spanish-paperwork-nie-residency-spain/

Registering your Child’s Birth in the UK

If you intend to return to the UK, you may find it helpful to register the baby’s birth there and so have access to a British birth certificate if required. The application is similar to a passport application and requires similar supporting documents. You can find out more information here: https://www.gov.uk/register-a-birth


Our Book about Moving to Spain with Children

We are very excited to announce that our book about Moving to Spain with Children is due to be published in November 2014.

As well as being available in kindle format, a print edition of Moving to Spain with Children will be published, thanks to UP Publications Ltd. This means that not only will you be able to buy the book online but also in certain bookshops (little shrieks of joy by mum here).

We will also be planning a promotional campaign to visit book fairs and other exhibitions over the following months. More details soon.

If you search online you will find a multitude of books about Spain; books set in spain; books about: moving to Spain; books about living in Spain and people’s stories about moving to Spain from UK. However, there is very little information available about Spain for children and almost nothing about Moving to Spain with Children.

Until now, that is.

To give you a taste of what to expect, we have included part of out Introductory chapter and also some feedback from individuals who have read the draft copy of Moving to Spain with Children. 

We look forward to your feedback too.

Moving to Spain with Children by Lisa Sadleir

Essential reading for parents

Spain is a wonderful place to live. It is the place I have chosen to bring up my children. Having lived here for over 23 years now, I cannot envisage living anywhere else (although I will never say never!). 

Living in Spain allows us, as a family, to appreciate that: we have more time with our children; we spend more time outdoors in the fresh open air; family comes first; material possessions are not important; people are generally very friendly and open; we are living an invaluable experience.

Every year, many people consider moving to Spain. Every year people make the move and sometimes it doesn’t work out and they return home (you know, the stories often published in the tabloids and UK sensationalist TV programs) . From experience, I am inclined to say that many failed relocations are due to inadequate research and incorrect advice (Health issues aside!).  


So, if you are moving to Spain, without a secure income and looking for work, please rethink. If you are planning to move to Spain in search of a better family life, please read on …

Welcome to Moving to Spain with Children, the aim of the book is to:

  • Give you food for thought
  • Provide factual info & sources of information
  • Share real life experiences

Warning: If you are looking to be sold the dream, put this book down now and buy one of the many other books on the market.

  • This book is not here to sell you a dream.
  • This book will show you the reality.
  • This book will show you what life in Spain is really like.
  • This book will tell you what you need to think about before deciding to make the move.
  • This book will give you a much better start to your life in Spain.
  • This book will become your invaluable source of thinking material and insight, in preparation for your move and during your first months in Spain.

In Summary…

Don’t even think of Moving to Spain with Children without reading this essential self-help manual. Compiled by a successful British working Mum who has experienced the relocation roller-coaster for you – the highs, lows and occasional shrieks of panic  – it could save you months of hassle and heartache. Chapters cover:

Timing your Move; Choosing the Best Location; Schooling; Paperwork; Learning Spanish; Healthcare; Property purchase; Starting a business …

… and other considerations crucial to ensuring a smooth transition to your new lifestyle.

With information that’s bang up-to-date and tells it like it is, spiced with the author’s own heart-warming anecdotes, you’ll arrive at the same place her own family is now – but in half the time: 

Living and loving family life in Spain!

If you’ve ever wished for the gift of hindsight, Moving to Spain with Children is just that: a gift of a book!


Read what people are saying about “Moving to Spain with Children” by Lisa Sadleir:

“The Bible for any parent aiming to live in Spain. Up to date, clear and full of vitally important information, Lisa’s book is a ‘must-have’ for any parent considering moving to Spain or here now with their children”.

Nick Snelling, Gandia  (Author)

“Essential reading for anyone considering moving to Spain with children, and in fact even without children, it is an excellent starting point.  Balanced, factual and practical, the content gives the reader a real idea of where to start and what to expect.  I wish it had been available when I moved here 6 years ago, and will undoubtedly save you time, money and stress.  The personal stories highlight the pitfalls, and are all classic “welcome to Spain” tales, but give a truly balanced view assisting you in making a fully informed decision”.

Kelly Lawlor, Vejer de la Frontera.

“With so many factors to consider when moving to Spain, this book is indispensable reading for every family. From critical factors such as healthcare, tax and gaining an NIE, to personal decisions such as schooling, languages and location, every major issue facing relocating families is well covered. ‘Moving to Spain with Children’ is an easy-to-read guide to make a thrilling challenge smoother and easier for anyone keen to reshape their lives.”

Caroline Angus baker, New Zealand (Author).

“This is the missing manual we could have really done with 7 years ago, when researching our own family’s relocation to Spain. What starts as a simple dream ends up being incredibly complicated, expensive and full of unknowns. Whilst there are many guidebooks available finding information specifically from a family perspective isn’t easy. It remains the best move we ever made, and if you are serious about making the move then you couldn’t have a better guide in your hands than this book right here” 

Maya Middlemiss, Denia, Alicante.  

“Lisa has produced an easy to read, yet invaluable guide for ‘Moving to Spain with Children’.  By asking the all important questions in a reflective way, (with lots of personal examples as well as stories and thoughts from other expats), Lisa has provided a valuable tool which can be read, shared with your children and discussed as a family. The book is full of resources to increase your knowledge about moving to Spain, making the journey easier as you set off, on arrival and as the months in Spain spread into years.  I am sure the book will be well thumbed!”

Ali Meehan, Malaga (Founder of Costa Women – costawomen.com)

“For many years, Lisa Sadleir has been offering credible, independent counsel to families considering relocating to Spain. This book offers a valuable overview, including honest and clear advice on important issues for a successful relocation, including getting to grips with the Spanish language and making steps to integrate into the community beyond the expat bubble.”

Andrew FORBES, Malaga.  (Journalist, Consultant & Editor)

“Excellent common-sense guide to the dos and don’ts of moving to Spain with a family in tow. Everything is covered from education to starting a business. My life would have been much easier if I had found a book like this 12 years ago instead of having to learn it all the hard way.”

Fiona Pitt-Kethley, Cartagena, Murcia.

“It is never easy to move abroad. It is even more difficult when this involves learning a new language and yet more difficult when children are involved. This guide takes you through the challenges one at a time and ensures that you can have a safe, hassle-free start to your new life. “

Steve Hall, www.thisisspain.info

“This book is an honest account of what it’s like to move to Spain with children: the good, the bad and the “mañana”. It’s packed with useful info and is a great tool for families to avoid the multiple pitfalls that can happen when thinking about living to Spain.”

Maxine Raynor, Madrid (Founder of www.moneysaverspain.com )

So there you have a taste of what is to come. To add your name to the waiting list and be advised as soon as Moving to Spain with Children is available, simply click the button here and add your email details.

sign up

We look forward to receiving your questions and hearing your stories about Moving to Spain with Children very soon. (We may include you in our next book!)

The following video is a recent TV interview where we introduce our projects: Our Book about Moving to Spain with Children and also our language learning activity books, Cooking with Languages


Spanish Paperwork Health Check : Beat the Burro and Murder the Monster Multa

Have you been living in Spain for one year or more? Have you ever carried out a Spanish paperwork health check? If you haven’t, now might well be the time to do so. It could save you a lot of money!

spanish paperwork health checkSIGN UP HERE to receive updates about our Spanish Paperwork Health Check …

If you have been living in Spain for any amount of time, you will no doubt be familiar with the headaches often caused by the infamous Spanish burro of bureaucracy. How many hours have you spent in colas only you be sent to another mesa to collect another piece of paper to be stamped at another mesa, which is probably closed by the time you reach it so you stomp home needing to return another day … ? (Yep, you get the picture!)

We know that Spanish paperwork can be challenging and always do our utmost to make it more simplified, however, there is an even bigger beast lurking … a beast that grows every day. A beast that, despite you not knowing it even exists,  is totally your responsibility. It is your actions that decides the size this beast will be when you finally have to face it … it’s the monster multa!

A multa (referred to as a “fine” or “penalty” in English) is a monster that comes in all sizes. If you commit the crime, you should pay the fine …  Fair enough, but what if you aren’t aware you’ve committed any “crime”? How are you supposed to know? Simply, in Spain, you are!

In Spain, if you are “lucky enough” to receive a multa, you can often half its size by prompt payment. However, if you are not aware of the existence of any multas in your name, be they from traffico (parking and speeding fines), social security, hacienda (the tax office) and many other entities, you may be very shocked at the speed at which these monsters mutate. A mere €60 speeding fine can easily reach €1000 …

If you are concerned at reading this, CLICK HERE to sign up for more news about our Spanish Paperwork Health Check …

We understand that many people think that they cannot deal with the Spanish paperwork and chose to either pay a lawyer or other company, quite substantial amounts of money, to sort matters out for them. However, this is usually when it is too late and a monster has emerged … maybe in the form of a frozen bank account or a stern letter from hacienda. At that stage, the monster has grown and it is going to be a costly and gruesome affair!

In designing the Spanish Paperwork Health Check, we plan to help you to murder the monster in the early stages of growth and ideally, prevent it from ever hatching … we will teach you to master the burro and take control. You will no longer need to fear the men in green (guardia civil / traffic police), nor the scarily official envelopes. You will be in control!

The Spanish Paperwork Health Check covers the following topics amongst others:

  • Residencia validity

A summary of requirements & steps to take based on your current situation

  • Health care entitlement … Do you need private insurance?

Instructions how to check on and offline

  • EU Driving Licences … Is it time to change to Spanish licence?

Summary of requirements & steps to take

  • Do you have any outstanding traffic fines?

How to check and save yourself receiving huge fines!

  • Do you have the correct address on your car paperwork?

How to change address yourself with DGT

  • Do you have the correct address at social security?

How to change address yourself

  • Do you have the correct address at hacienda (the tax office)?

Steps to take and check for any unexpected monster multas and embargos

Full details of our Spanish Paperwork Health Check will be published soon. If you would like to be informed as soon as it is published, SIGN UP HERE!  

Insurance in Spain

How to save money on insurance in Spain …

Choosing the best insurance in Spain for you and your family is not always as easy as in your home country. Most companies and websites only offer their own insurance policies. Insurance brokers are not a common as in other countries. This can make searching for insurance in Spain quite a tedious task.

Here’s a solution …

Following months of research we are happy to let you know of a reputable, independent insurance broker who offers all kinds of insurance policies for health cover, home and contents, vehicles, pets and much more, with policies from over twenty different insurance companies.

As an independent broker, they do the work for you, searching for the best policy for your insurance in Spain, whatever type it may be and for the policy that best suits your needs.

Let’s look at the different types of insurance and the next step to receiving a no obligation quote from our broker …

Who should take out Health Insurance in Spain?

Anybody who has not been a resident in Spain since 2012 and is not contributing to the Spanish social security system, either as an employee on a Spanish contract (receiving a nomina) or a self employed worker (autonomo).

(*Please note this does not include pensioners who have reciprocal agreements within member states!)

Most expats take out private medical insurance in Spain, not just for medical care, but also for ambulance and dental services. If you are not covered by the spanish social security healthcare system, it would be wise to take insurance sooner rather than later, so that you do not risk being uninsurable for medical problems which arise over the course of time and to avoid any unexpected and expensive medical bills.

For a no obligation health insurance quote, please send us the following information: (for each person to be insured):

Name, date of birth, place of residence,  contact email 

Upon receipt of this information, the insurance brokers will contact you with your no obligation quotes.

insurance in spainWhat should be covered by Car Insurance?

Basic car insurance coverage should include compulsory civil liability and third party insurance, plus other responsibilities derived from the vehicle catching fire or any damage that occurs. As in other countries, you also have the options of Fully Comprehensive (todo riesgo), Third party (teceros) with options that include windscreen damage (lunas), fire (incendio) and breakdown asisstance (asistencia en viaje).

Each company offers packages to suit all vehicle types. Remebber to ask about the excess on any insurance claims (franquicia).

To request a no obligation vehicle insurance quote please send us the following information:

Your full name, date of birth, make and model of vehicle, registrations number, address,  contact email 


Upon receipt of this information, the insurance brokers will contact you to request further details of your requirements.

DSC_1362Who should take out Home Insurance in Spain?

If you are renting a property in Spain, you may want to consider taking out a home content insurance policy (contenido). Many owners who rent out their property will insure only the building itself and their own contents such as furniture, fixtures and fittings. In the event of a fire or theft, you may well discover that your own belongings are not covered.

If you are a property owner in Spain, you should consider both building and contents insurance (contenido y continente). As in other countries, the value you place on the building and its contents will influence the price of the policy.

To request a no obligation home insurance quote please send us the following information:

Your full name, property address, contact email 


Upon receipt of this information, the insurance brokers will contact you to request further details of your requirements.

We do not want to dwell on this point but we would like to stress the importance of having the correct type of insurance in Spain to suit your own personal situation. It costs nothing to request a no obligation quote and it could save you a lot of money in the long run.

For any further assistance and quotes for different types of insurance in Spain, please complete this form and a broker will contact you:

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Renewing the Padron Certificate …a long story!

How complicated is printing a duplicate Padron Certificate? … Ask the Donkey!

Confession time (again!) . A short time ago, (actually I’ve just checked and it was twelve months ago), I wrote a rant about the idiotic bureaucratic system that we often face as residents in Spain.

Today, twelve months later, I have finally cancelled the private insurance policy we were incorrectly forced to take out to be able to renew my “illegal immigrant” husband’s residency status. The next step is to get him registered as one of my dependent’s on the social security for health cover.

So, we popped up to the pueblo this morning. We are lucky living in Mijas as the Town Hall are extremely friendly and helpful, despite having their hands firmly tied by the infamous red tape of the Spanish bureaucratic system and antiquated procedures.

Rather than walking down the three flights of stairs to where the Padron certificate issuing department had been the last time I visited, I decided to check at the information desk. Luckily I did as it had changed location, again.


Here is a brief outline of the scene that followed: (translated into English and names added for ease )


Me: Hi, I’d like an updated copy of our Padron certificate please

Maria: Do you not have access via the online digital system?

Me: I’m not sure, how does it work?


Maria dutifully scribbled some words down on a scrap piece of paper and handed it over to me.


Me: Can I have a new Padron certificate now though, as I’m here, I’ll try the online system later.

Maria: Yes but I’m afraid it will cost you €5 if I issue it and it will be free if you do it online.

Me: No problem. I’m happy to pay as I need it now and if I don’t do it immediately I will forget again and it will take another few months until I get sorted.

Maria: Ok, then you need to go over there to pay, then bring the receipt back to me.


So, we go over to the first desk only to be advised by Maria to go to the next desk.


Me: Hi, I’d like to pay for a new padron certificate.

Sonia: Can I have a passport please?

Me: Is the new padron certificate for all the family or just one person?

Sonia: Oh, I can’t answer that. You’ll have to go back to the other desk and ask Maria

Me: Oh, don’t worry. Just put it in my husband’s name then.

Sonia: That’s five euros please. Are you paying with credit card?

Me: No, I’ll pay cash thanks.

Sonia: Ok, then you’ll have to go and pay at the bank and bring me the receipt to issue you a receipt to take back to Maria.

Me: Ok, I’ll pay by card then.

padron renewal
I hand over my bank card to Sonia who nudges her colleague to ask her if she can process the payment, colleague grunts, staples a few more bits of paper. She asks Maria to give her the reference number which she duly types into her computer. She hands me the credit card machine to input my PIN. The receipt is printed and stapled to the invoice and handed to me. I thank them both politely and head back towards Maria’s desk.


By this time there is quite a queue at Maria’s desk. Hubby, (typically British in his politeness), heads to the back of the queue. I catch Maria’s eye, give her a smile and slip to the front of the queue. Before anyone has the time to notice, Maria is efficiently printing, logging and stamping our new Padron certificate.

I thank her politely for her friendly efficient service and wish her and her colleagues a lovely day.

I nudge hubby and walk out of the Town Hall, new Padron certificate in hand.

I will however be looking into using the online digital system in the future and will share my findings with you.

It is true to say that procedures are changing in Spain but at a donkey’s pace … the Burro will feature strongly in Spanash “burrocracia” for a few years to come. Just remember to be patient, be polite and give them a smile.

I’m sure many of you who already live in Spain can no doubt relate to this scenario. For those of you thinking about moving to Spain, just remember that the secret to successfully relocating to Spain is to bring your sense of humour with you and be prepared, typically by learning as much as you can beforehand and not stressing when things do not get done immediately. There’s always “Mañana” …


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