Spain provides a seductively fine quality of life. The country is relatively large and varies enormously – culturally, climatically and economically – from region to region. But common to most of Spain is a welcoming society, decent infrastructure and the opportunity for a decent cost of living.

It's true that living expenses in Spain have increased over the years, while the average Spanish salary hasn't entirely kept pace. However, foreigners who are either retired or earning a decent salary will likely be able to afford a high quality of life. Plus, expats living on a budget will constantly find ways to save.

The country's capital, Madrid, is the priciest Spanish city to live in. It was ranked as the 87th most expensive expat city out of 209 cities in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2020, while Barcelona was ranked 102nd. Still, even Spain’s largest urban centres are significantly less expensive than popular European destinations such as Geneva, Berlin and Milan.

Cost of accommodation in Spain

Generally speaking, the closer a property is to the coast or city centre, the more it'll cost. This is particularly true of the Mediterranean coastline. This trend is due to a passion for the beaches of Spain, a love which is shared by the Spanish and foreigners alike. 

Short-term summer rentals for any coastal property can be among some of the most expensive real estate in Spain, while long-term leases are usually cheaper.

Needless to say, the sky is the limit for high-quality accommodation in prestigious locations. That said, there are also some exceptional bargains to be found.

Cost of transport in Spain

Public transport in Spain is moderately priced with buses providing an excellent, low-cost way of travelling around the country. The rail network also provides good value for money. Thanks to the high-speed AVE network, although more expensive than normal trains, travel between different parts of the country can be undertaken very quickly.

While getting a taxi can be quite costly, expats can take advantage of ride-sharing and carpool apps to find the best route and rate to suit them.

Cost of schools in Spain

Expats can send their children to state schools in Spain at no cost, as long as they have registered for their Certificado de Empadronamiento (Certificate of Residence) at their local town hall.

Private schooling is available with fees varying greatly depending on the school concerned, its location and the language and curriculum it teaches. An English-language private school in the centre of Madrid will, for example, be more expensive than a Spanish-language private school in the provinces. 

Many expats choose to send their children to international schools in Madrid or other urban centres. This allows students to continue studying the curriculum of their home country and removes the challenges presented by the language barrier. Some international schools in Spain charge exorbitant fees, so expats planning on pursuing this option should ensure their budget can accommodate this.

Cost of food and clothing in Spain

The cost of supermarket food in Spain equates with prices found in a country such as the United Kingdom and is surprisingly expensive in comparison to the wage levels of the Spanish themselves. The inverse is true when eating out, a pursuit which can be of tremendous value, particularly when expats take advantage of restaurants which offer an economical menú del día.

Similarly, alcoholic drinks are fairly cheap, which isn't too surprising given the vast quantities of wine produced by Spain.

Clothing is, however, relatively expensive. That said, there are certainly more than a few options as well as frequent sales in which expats can find reasonably priced, stylish clothes.

Cost of living in Spain chart

Prices may vary across Spain, depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Madrid in March 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 1,000

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

EUR 700

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

EUR 1,700

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

EUR 1,200


Dozen eggs


Milk (1 litre)

EUR 0.80

Rice (1 kg)

EUR 1.10

Loaf of white bread


Chicken breasts (1kg)

EUR 6.30

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

EUR 5.10

Eating out

Big Mac Meal


Coca-Cola (330ml)

EUR 1.90


EUR 1.90

Bottle of beer (local)


Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

EUR 50


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

EUR 0.20

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month) 

EUR 42

Basic monthly utilities (includes electricity, water, refuse)

EUR 130


Taxi rate/km

EUR 1.10

Bus fare in the city centre 

EUR 1.50


EUR 1.30