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Retiring in Spain

Retiring in Spain

There is a reason that some 70,000 British pensioners have chosen to retire in Spain. There are the amazing golf courses, complemented by its food and climate, which have been recognised by the World Health Organisation as the best in the world in terms of offering a healthy lifestyle. Not to mention that the cost of living in Spain is around 30-40 percent lower than in the UK, meaning that your monthly pension payments go significantly further in Spain than in the UK.

Besides all of this, there’s the fact that common membership of the EU made it almost as easy to retire in Spain as to retire in the UK. Obviously that’s all going to change with the UK set to depart from the bloc; however, the Spanish government has been eager to address the concerns of the British expat community in Spain. To this end Madrid announced in March that Britons living in Spain will be able to apply for a “foreigner identity card” before 31 December 2020 to prove their legal residency status. Once this is obtained, expats should find their access to services like healthcare and social security largely unchanged regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without an agreement.

So, Brexit notwithstanding, what are the administrative steps to be taken to settle down to retire in Spain?

First you need a residence permit, to get this you need to register at your local Oficina de Extranjeros who will then issue you with the permit. Once you have this you can register on your local town hall’s census (padrón), which brings a variety of benefits including the right to vote and free or discounted access to services such as sports centres and libraries.


Retirees living in Spain who are in receipt of a UK State Pension can choose to have their monthly payments paid into either UK or Spanish bank account. For the second option, you’ll need the international bank account number (IBAN) and bank identification code (BIC) numbers for your Spanish account.

If you have a private or workplace pension plan in place it is advisable to talk to a financial advisor before leaving the UK. They will look at the various pension funds and investments available to you as well as tax efficient options for structuring your assets and funds.

To retire on a modest salary in Spain, you might plan to spend around €17,000 a year, but to retire comfortably it would be good to have around €25,000. If you’re willing to budget and live cheaply, as little as €15,000 yearly will do.


Emergency cover in Spain is available to anyone, whether you are an EU or non-EU citizen. To qualify, if you live in Spain and receive a UK state pension or long-term incapacity benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You will need an S1 form, which must be obtained in the UK and certifies that you are of retirement age and have paid all the necessary social security taxes in the UK. You will then be entitled to the same benefits as a Spanish national.

Suscribe to an electricity provider in your new home

Suscribe to an electricity provider in your new home

If you just moved in your apartment and you find the electricity shut down, you should know that you will have to contact an  electricity provider and sign a new contract.

It is important that you do it as soon as possible, since subscribing to an electricity provider usually takes between 5 and 9 business days, so it is important that you do it as soon as possible if you want to have electricity in your home, whether it is for light or gas.

How to subscribe to an energy provider in your new home?

For everything to go correctly, you must contact the provider assigned to you according to your zone and request for a new contract. In this first step, you’ll have to give the contracted provider all the information they need as well as the contracted power.

The contracted power you will need is very important, since if you subscribe to a one that does not fit your needs you will have future problems, such as the common power failure.

To know what contracted power you will need for your home, we advise you to use a gas and light comparator that will help you know which light company to hire and which is the best electric company in the market Knowing the best electric company to subscribe to is important, as it will facilitate the management of supplies and save energy.

Another important aspect is the requirements needed to register to that new provider. To register the light with Endesa, Iberdrola or another company, you will need to provide a series of documents, as well as know the subscription price. For example, the documents you will need to subscribe are the following:

  • Name, surname and national identity document, whether National Document of Identity, or passport.
  • Exact postal address of the home where the subscription will apply.
  • CUPS Code (JE SAIS PAS CE QUE CEST) that will be provided by the company itself if it is the first time you request that provider.
  • Certificate or the Electrical Bulletin that states that the electrical installation is in good condition…
  • The current account number (IBAN) for the payments.

Once you provide the documents, most companies spend between 5 and 9 days to craft the contract. When registering, the user must pay fees divided into rights of access, engagement and extension, and are usually linked to the provider of electricity chosen.

To do this, we advise you to contact the company in question and ask the conditions of signing a new contract.

Create a sustainable and efficient home

To create a sustainable home, it is not only necessary to take into account electrical supplies, you should also consider consumption habits. The routines that are followed at home and the type of installation will be key to creating an efficient house.

Some aspects, such as good thermal insulation, the installation of LED bulbs or appliances with an A +++ efficiency label will be the key to energy savings. If you want more advice, Fotocasa gives them to you in your last article.

Getting your spanish driving licence

Getting your spanish driving licence

Apart from driving on the other side of the road, there are a number of significant differences with the driving experience in Spain, starting with the whole process of getting your licence. So in this article Sonneil will explain how to go about getting your driving licence from the point of view of a new driver who is starting from scratch.

In order to obtain a driving licence in Spain you must be at least 17 years and 9 months, but you can’t actually get behind the wheel of a car until you are 18 years and one day old. Once you have your licence it is valid in any EU member state.

So what are the formalities for getting your Spanish driving licence?

Well it all starts with getting your NIE, or national identity number. This involves downloading an EX-15 form, from the website of the Spanish Department of Foreign Affairs, filling it out and bringing it along with your identity card or passport and proof of your economic activity in Spain to the Spanish Foreign Office (Oficina de Extranjeria).

After paying a fee of around €10 you’ll receive your NIE.

You can also go to the Spanish embassy in your country to obtain a NIE that’s valid for three months. Next, you need to get an Empadronamiento, which registers your name on the census of the local town hall. This will require proof of your identity as well as proof of address.

Once in possession of these documents, bring them to your local Directorate General for Traffic or DGT office. You will also need to bring 2 colour passport-sized photos for your licence and a medical certificate (Certificado Medico) to prove that you are both mentally and physically able to drive.

Now you are ready to start your lessons.

There are no compulsory school hours to attend before you can do your test; however, unlike in the UK, there are no provisional licences in Spain, so before you pass your test, the only person you can drive with is a licenced instructor. The average price for a one hour lesson is around €25. On top of this you will have to pay for your theory classes. These can cost between €30-35 a month or a one-off fee of about €300.

The Test

The first test covers driver theory, which consists of 30 questions to be carried out within 30 minutes, allowing a maximum of three errors. The test is done by computer and allows you a choice of language. Be warned, preparation for the theory test in Spain is quite demanding and comes in the form of a thick manual containing 629 rules, including lengthy chapters on first aid and vehicle maintenance. All of which must be learned.

The second test is a practical one of 25 minutes and is performed in Spanish. It consists of questions about the vehicle, 5 minutes of driving towards a destination and a 20 minute driving tour following the instructor’s directions. If the practical test is not passed it must be repeated and you will have to wait at least 12 days.


There are numerous fees to be paid along the way towards obtaining your licence and different formulas available to get you through the process, but in the end, depending on the number of driving hours or the driving school chosen, the cost of obtaining your license will be approximately €650 to €1200.

It’s easier said than done, but that all there is to it! Time to start planning that road trip…

Things to consider when buying a property in Spain

Things to consider when buying a property in Spain

Buying a property is the biggest investment most people will make in their lives. Buying one abroad is an even bigger undertaking as it involves navigating a foreign legal and financial terrain. It is normal to feel daunted by the task, but like anything in life, the better prepared you are going into it, the more likely you are to make a success of it. That being the case, Sonneil has compiled a list of important things to consider when buying a house in Spain.

Location, location, location

A house gains in value if it is located in an area with high quality schools and with good communication and transportation routes to the main urban centers, so be sure to ask about these local amenities. It’s a good idea to ask about future development plans pending approval as these may affect the house or its surroundings, and find out as much as you can about how much other properties in the area have sold for recently.

Viewing the property

When visiting the your prospective property purchase take note of things like the orientation of the house, ventilation of the bathrooms and kitchen, the state of the electrical installation, the arrangement of partitions and doors and the ambient noise levels outside. Take photos and write down your observations in a notebook to better remember the property after you leave. Ask the seller about the building’s energy efficiency rating. Choosing a home with an A rating in terms of its energy efficiency means an estimated saving of 89% compared to an F rating, thus allowing you to save money while you save the planet.

The purchasing process

The deposit agreement

Once you’ve chosen your new home and are ready to start the process of buying it, then the legal and financial considerations come to the fore. This starts with the signing of the deposit agreement. The deposit is usually around 10% of the cost of the house. Once the agreement is signed you take on the rights and responsibilities of a buyer. If you later decide not to go through with the transaction, you will lose this deposit but if the seller cancels the sale, they will have to return the deposit to you.

The title deed

Next is the signing of the title deed. This part of the buying process must be done in front of a notary with both the buyer and seller present. The deed must contain a description of the property as well as explaining any mortgages or charges on the house, the final sale price agreed and how it will be paid, plus the taxes and expenses related to the sale.

Taxes and other charges

The main taxes to be paid are the property transfer tax (“Impuesto de Transmisiones Patrimoniales” or ITP) and VAT. Other expenses include notary costs, the payment to add your name to the property register and any costs related to the mortgage.

In the end, the total taxes, charges and expenses represent around 8% to 13% of the purchase price, depending on the autonomous community (Spanish region) in which you are buying.

If you have reached this far in the process, then congratulations, you are the proud owner of your own Spanish property!  

Relocating with my pet, what’s the paperwork?

Relocating with my pet, what’s the paperwork?

Moving to a foreign country with your pet requires proper planning. If you want to travel to Spain, regardless of the duration of your trip, it is best to check in advance the laws and regulations regarding the importation of pets. Legally, only dogs, cats and ferrets are considered household pets in Spain. Other specific regulations apply to the importation of birds and other animals. Rare or endangered species are prohibited from entering the country as pets.

You can get more information about the legal requirements surrounding the importation of pets to Spain from Ministry of Agriculture, Fish and Food.

First of all, your pet, be it a dog, a cat or a ferret, must be at least 15 weeks old. They must be vaccinated against rabies and have a blood test to check that the vaccine has been effective.The Spanish government does not authorise the entry of animals under 12 weeks because prior to this they won’t yet have received their rabies vaccination.

A maximum of five pets per person can travel to Spain, otherwise the rules for trade in animals will apply. The exceptions to this rule are in cases of competitions, exhibitions, training or sporting events.

To travel to Spain, your pet must also:

  • Have a European passport for the movement of pets indicating its owner and clearly identifying the animal along with a description of its markings.
  • Be vaccinated against rabies with a vaccine valid at the time of travel. The date on which the vaccine was administered must be included in the passport. Keep in mind that your pet is not authorised to travel within 21 days after the rabies vaccination. Given that the minimum age to vaccinate animals will be 12 weeks, dogs, cats and ferrets must be at least 15 weeks old before they can travel to Spain.
  • Be microchip or tattooed (if this was done before 07/03/2011) and as long as it remains clearly legible.

Your pet will have to undergo a blood test to determine the effectiveness of the rabies vaccine at least 30 days after the date of vaccination and no less than three months before the date of travel. The test must be done by an authorised veterinarian and in an approved laboratory.

The following describes the step-by-step process for obtaining each of the three documents you will need – the vaccination certificate, a veterinary health certificate and a sanitary export permit:

To begin, the pet must be reviewed by a licensed veterinarian and the corresponding certification issued by the appropriate professional association. The aim of the consultation is to assess the general health status of the pet, apply the rabies vaccine and deworm the animal. The veterinarian must issue a certificate of vaccination (against rabies and other illnesses) and an international health certificate for dogs and cats.

Certificate of vaccination

This document for dogs and cats, issued by the veterinarian, contains the following information.

  • The owner’s information (name and address).
  • Data on vaccination against rabies (place and date of application, type of vaccine, name of laboratory and commercial brand of vaccine, as well as the of veterinarian)
  • Specification of the duration of immunity; otherwise, it will be considered valid for one year.
  • Identification number of the animal (tattoo, medal or electronic chip).
  • Country of origin of the animal and countries in which the animal has resided in the last 2 years.
  • Results of the serological test applied to the animal (blood sample), including the laboratory data where it was practiced.
  • Results of the clinical examination performed by the veterinarian.

International health certificate

A valid health certificate issued by an authorised veterinarian. The health certificate should not only mention the basic information about your pet, such as its name, breed, age, colour, etc., but also your name, address and telephone number. Keep in mind that the documents must be presented upon arrival in Spain and therefore must be accompanied by a Spanish translation.

Sanitary export permit

This is a very important document, because without it, the animal will not get permission to board an airplane, even if you have already purchased its ticket. It must be presented at the port of departure (airport) before the customs authorities. This document is usually issued by the highest authority of agriculture and farming in the country of departure, which is usually the government department of agriculture.


Finally, it is also required that your pet be implanted with a microchip containing information identifying the animal and the owner. The microchip must comply with ISO standards 11784 and 11785, which allow, among other advantages, that the information can be decoded by any reader. In case the microchip does not comply with these standards, the owner must provide a reader that allows the microchip to be read at the port of entry in Spain.

Requirements for traveling by plane with pets

It is advisable to review the airlines requirements before booking your flights, as each has its own rules and standards for the transport of pets. Most, however, have the following minimum requirements:

  • All animals must travel in transport cages, which must be leak-proof and well ventilated. No part of the animal can be left outside the cage.
  • Small pets (generally of the weight and size, including the cage, equivalent to what is considered as hand luggage) can travel with the passenger, staying in their cage under the seat in front of you.
  • Pets of a size and weight greater than the equivalent of hand luggage can travel in the luggage compartment.
  • Only dogs or cats are allowed to be transported as hand luggage or as luggage. Other types of animals, including insects and reptiles, can travel as cargo.
  • Pets must register with the airline in advance of the trip.

When the animal meets all the requirements listed, the airline proceeds to grant the owner a boarding pass, with which the animal obtains its right to travel.

In the event that you are travelling with a guide dog or assistance dog, the animal may board with you at no additional charge and may travel in the cabin with you in the place indicated by the crew.

Transporting other animals to Spain

If you plan to import other animals (such as companion birds from non-European countries), you must comply with the specific regulations established by the Spanish authorities. Your bird must have a veterinary health certificate and an official declaration from the owner, translated into Spanish. Depending on your country of origin, you may have to get vaccinated against bird flu to avoid being quarantined.

A note on rules regarding the ownership of ‘dangerous animals’ in Spain

There are eight breeds of dogs that are considered ‘dangerous animals’ under Spanish law. These include: Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, Dogo Argentinos, Fila Brasileiros, Tosa Inus, and Akita Inus. Crosses of these breeds are also considered dangerous.

Therefore, to be able to have one of these dogs as a pet, you must meet a series of requirements, such as “being of legal age or not having been convicted of crimes of murder, injury, torture, crimes against public health, association with an armed gang or drug trafficking, as well as not being deprived by judicial resolution of the right to the possession of potentially dangerous animals.”

In addition, the owner of a dog considered potentially dangerous must have third-party liability insurance. Whenever you take a dog considered potentially dangerous out on the street, it must be kept in a non-extendable strap that does not exceed two meters and you must carry the permit that proves that you are allowed to have that pet.

Pet Insurance

When travelling with a pet it is a good idea to take out insurance.

Pet insurance can cover much of the expense of unexpected vet bills in case of an injury or illness, so the things you need to consider when choosing pet insurance should include questions such as:

  • Does the policy cover all chronic, congenital and hereditary conditions?
  • Is there a time limit on treatment per condition?
  • Is there a price limit on treatment per condition?
  • Are there flexible coverage options to fit your budget and needs exactly?
  • How well established is the company? How is it rated?

If you’re looking into taking out a pet insurance policy after moving to Spain, you can either go direct to providers or use a price comparison website.

Finally, a note on travelling with pets in Spain

If you want to travel with animals within Spain, the national rail company, Renfe, allows pets to travel on medium and long distance trains so long as they weigh less than 10kg and are kept in their carrier. On short distance services and metros, you can travel without any additional cost, but dogs must be on with a leash and muzzled.

Five ways to improve your Spanish skills

Five ways to improve your Spanish skills

Buying a home in Spain is more than just a financial investment. This is especially true if it’s your intention to move to Spain full-time, in which case it’s a complete change of lifestyle, and one that will only be enhanced, and made a lot easier, by the being able to speak the language. Thankfully, with the advent of the internet, learning Spanish is no longer just a matter of sitting in a classroom and being ‘taught’ the language by a teacher. While the traditional methods are still important, nowadays, they only form part of a more varied and stimulating learning experience. Below are Sonneil’s tips for the five best ways to improve your Spanish skills.


Apps have revolutionised our world in ways we never could have imagined before they became as ubiquitous as they are today. This is as true when it comes to learning a new language as it is in any other aspect of our lives. This being the case, here are some of Sonneil’s favourite apps for learning Spanish.


This is an excellent language learning app because its game-like format with satisfying bleeps every time you get an answer right, coupled with the feeling of rapid progress, is perfectly calculated to hit the reward centre of your brain and keep you coming back for more.

You start with simple vocabulary and progressively move to more complex sentences, all the while developing your reading, writing, listening and communication skills. The idea is to improve your language skills in just 5 minutes of training per day. This application is extremely popular because it is very effective!


Developed by a group of scientists specialising in the study of memory, Memrise ensures that every new word, once learned, will never be forgotten. A nice feature of this app is that it allows you create your own learning paths (courses) and add the words you need to know. You will be amazed, how quickly you will make develop your vocabulary. Another advantage of Memrise is its offline mode that allows you to continue to train even when you have no internet connection.

Google translate

Don’t forget the much-maligned Google translate – some of its results can be hilariously wrong, but there’s no denying that over the years it has improved exponentially. In its app form, it has a nifty feature which allows you to highlight text on any website and automatically translate it for you. This allows you to quickly check the meaning of a word you might be stuck on and move on quickly, without disrupting the flow of your reading by having to reach for a dictionary. You can even take a photo of an entire page of text and Google will translate the whole thing for you.

Change the language on your devices

This piece of advice doesn’t relate to an app as such, but to all our digital consumption in general. Given that our phones, laptops and other devices are such an integral part of our lives, consuming a large part of our visual attention, it’s surprising how often people overlook the language learning possibility that this presents.

Many of the operations we perform on our devices are done almost by muscle memory – we are constantly hitting the ‘send’, ‘reply’ or ‘post’ button without so much as a second thought, so changing the language shouldn’t cause much confusion, but will definitely help to embed these commonly used words in your memory. Of course there will be times when you are performing some less common task on your computer, so you might have to take out a dictionary or use a translator to get you through it, but this will only serve to reinforce what you have learned.


The arrival of high-quality online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have been a blessing for people trying to learn a foreign language. The ability to turn on subtitles from a host of foreign languages transforms a leisure activity like watching a tv show or movie into a learning opportunity. For those further along the language-learning path, you can watch Spanish-language content with English subtitles; and for the really advanced, Spanish-language content with Spanish subtitles. A bonus of doing the latter is that by watching movies and shows produced in Spanish-speaking countries you get the added value of an insight into those cultures and societies.  

Now, if you really want to turbocharge your language learning experience with Netflix, there is a new Google Chrome extension called Language learning with Netflix (LLN) which lets you watch shows with two sets of subtitles on at the same time – one in English and one in your target language. It comes with added features to turn your binge watching into a more active learning experience; for example, if you hover over a word it produces a pop-up dictionary, and clicking the word lets you hear it. You can also slow down the dialogue or automatically pause playback at the end of every subtitle, so you can learn line by line. There’s even a catalogue of recommendations for movies and shows that are good to study.

Another wonder of the internet is the access it gives you to many of the world’s tv channels, enabling you to watch live tv from just about anywhere in the world. In Spain there are more than 20 public channels, many of which stream at least some of their shows online. Here are some of the best to choose from:

RTVE: Radiotelevisión Española is Spain’s national broadcaster. It hosts several channels on its platform, each dedicated to a different theme: kids, sports, politics and music. Much of its news content and some of daily scheduled programming is freely available on the world wide web.

Mitele: This is a Mediaset online platform where you can find lots of talk shows, reality shows and much more. You can watch channels like Telecinco, Cuatro, FDF, Boing, Energy and Divinity.

Atresplayer: Like Mitele, Atresplayer is a privately-owned network of channels known for its dramas and political debates. Included in its package are popular channels like Antena 3, laSexta, and other minor channels like Atreseries, Neox, Nova and Mega.

For beginners to the language, much of what is broadcast on Spanish tv maybe too fast and advanced to comprehend, so it might be best to start off watching kids tv, which after all, is how young Spaniards learn their own language. With its simple vocabulary and repetitive nature, kids tv is perfectly suited to a beginner’s audience.


Podcasts really are the ideal format for language learning on the go, and further evidence of how modern forms of communication have revolutionised the experience. Here are some of Sonneil’s favourite for learning Spanish.

Coffee Break Spanish

This popular series of podcasts are, as the name suggests, perfect for enjoying during a break at work or whenever else you might find yourself with 20-30 minutes to spare during the day. Produced by Radio Lingua it features Spanish lessons led by experienced teachers. They have been going since 2008, so there is an enormous back catalogue of material to listen to where they walk you through all the elements of the Spanish language through teaching, dialogues, and interesting stories. The Podcast slowly works its way up and gets more and more advanced over time.

SpanishPod 101

SpanishPod101 offers free Spanish audio lessons every week ranging from beginner to advanced levels. The weekly lessons are available free for a certain amount of time before they are archived in the library, which can only be accessed by subscription. Besides access to the library archive, paying members also get access to other materials to accompany the podcasts. Each episode features a dialogue in Spanish, followed by a discussion in English of the main grammar points and new vocabulary. Whether you use the free or paid version, these podcasts are great for listening to interesting conversations from different parts of the Spanish-speaking world. Most of their lessons are quite short, ranging from a few minutes long to about 15 minutes or so.

News in slow Spanish

If you want to keep up to speed with the latest current affairs but you can’t quite keep up with the pace at which it is delivered on Spanish tv or radio, this podcast is an ideal stepping stone. It gives you news bulletins read at a much slower and more intelligible speed, making it perfect for students of Spanish. There are podcasts at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels and you can choose between listening to Iberian or Latin American Spanish. Basic access is free; however, paid subscribers get access to premium content such as episode transcripts and bonus grammar lessons that are not included in the free version.


With all this talk of modern approaches to language learning, it mustn’t be forgotten that old-fashioned methods like picking up a book or newspaper remain indispensable to the process. So here are the most important newspapers (printed and online) in Spain:

El País, El Mundo and ABC: These three constitute the newspapers of record in Spain covering the latest national and international news. They more or less occupy the centre-ground in terms of their editorial outlook.

Público: This is another widely read daily to the left-of-centre politically with a focus on social issues.

Eldiario.es: Politics and economics are the main themes here.

La Razón: A business daily with a focus on economic matters.

Conversation exchange

When it comes down to it, the point of learning a language is to speak it. And while this is the most daunting part, the fear of saying something stupid or being hopelessly unintelligible can only be overcome by getting out there and practising the language in conversation, preferably with native speakers. Now when you first move to Spain you may know very few people, or you may very easily find yourself stuck in an expat bubble. But don’t let these things hold you back. If needs be, there is always the option of language exchange – or intercambio de idiomas – as it’s called in Spain. There are a number of options for how to do a language exchange, depending on your circumstances and what suits you best.

Group exchanges

In this type of exchange, you meet in a bar or cafe to practice your Spanish in a group. Sometimes activities such as darts tournaments or film sessions are organised. This is ideal for extroverted people, who seek to make new friends and have fun learning. To get the most out of them, it is better that you have at least a medium level of Spanish, as group conversations in bars with background noise can be harder to follow. If the group chat isn’t your thing then find someone willing to meet one to one. There are many websites dedicated to language exchange, so it won’t take long to find people to meet up with, either as a group or in a one-to-one setting.   

Language exchanges by chat

If you live in a remote area or you are more interested in practicing your written communication skills, you can avail of language exchanges via webchat. There are many free websites where you can get in touch with people from all over the world without having to leave home. You also have the option of using Skype to talk.


When you learn a language, getting started and talking with locals can seem completely terrifying. We are afraid of ridicule, of people laughing at our grammatical mistakes, or being frustrated by our limited vocabulary. But if you really want to improve, you have to say goodbye to these fears. And in the end, most people will be impressed – and even grateful – to see you make the effort to communicate in their language. It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes, but don’t let your fear stop you from interacting with the locals – It is, in the end, the only way to improve.