Spain is officially still one of the cheapest countries to live in! In a recent survey by the UK Post Office, Bulgaria achieved the accolade of the cheapest, but Spain was a very close second. In fact, the survey found that a coffee on the Costa del Sol at €0.90 was even cheaper than Sunny Beach, a similar tourist destination in Bulgaria. This part of Spain is about half the price of Sorrento in Italy, and even 12.7% less overall than it was in 2014.
So, how does this bear out for those of us who live here? Generally well, although where I live on the Costa Brava, the prices are higher than in many other spots in Spain by the sea. Restaurants have kept their prices down, though, and you can usually expect to pay between €1.50 and €2.50 for a glass of wine, or perhaps around €3.00 in a very smart hotel or upmarket bar. Compared to Britain, this is still excellent value; when I am in London or even Yorkshire with my family, I am shocked at the cost of drinks every time we go to a pub – especially a small glass of wine, which is often at least £4.95.
Of course, living somewhere is different to spending time there on holiday, as there are all the usual utility and other regular payments to be made, but when I talk to family and friends in the UK, I realise that we actually have a pretty good deal here in Spain. Then I ask myself, am I living here just because it is cost effective? Certainly not. I am living here because I enjoy the so many “free” things - more sunny days than not, spending more time outside the house than in, many, many evenings on my terrace with friends - or on theirs, a stroll along a beach, music in my town square, waking up to blue skies, chatting to my local friends for rather longer than just a “hola” and “adios” (people have time to talk here; there are much less likely to be just dashing around), and, of course, living life at a slower pace altogether. None of these things cost 1 céntimo.
Nor do the friendships made with locals and others. This costs nothing more than time and a little effort. You can’t afford to be shy, you need to make contact, so speaking Spanish goes a long way to helping you - but there are people from all over the world living in Spain, and many will speak English even if they originate from Holland, Germany, Japan, France or any other non-English speaking country. The British expats won’t be far away, and for many this is comforting, but as an expat who has lived in several countries, I have to say trying to speak the local language will open up so many great new experiences and relationships that I think it is without doubt one of the best things you can do to fully participate in the life of Spain. This may cost a little money, but it’s worth more than 100 Sangrias on the beach.
By the way, the Spanish don’t usually drink Sangria - they prefer beer or wine or even “tinto de verano” - summer red wine - which is similar to Sangria but less alcoholic. It is made with red wine and a slightly sweetened soda called “gaseosa” or even lemon-lime soda and for those with a less sweet tooth, a splash of soda. It is never expensive and is a pleasant way to enjoy a drink around a pool or on the beach. Personally, though, I prefer my wines unadulterated; it’s all a question of taste.
Speaking of alcohol, I really do recommend that you try a Spanish cider. Asturias is considered to be the region that produces the best, but I often ask for a cider on a hot afternoon and it may well come from other areas of Spain. It is less gassy than British cider; more apple-y and really refreshing. It’s also inexpensive.