Frequently asked questions – living in Spain

10 FAQs about living in and visiting Spain and Almería

Q1. DRIVING – Can I drive a UK registered car / motor cycle in Spain?
Answer – Yes, of course you can. You must have a full UK driving licence, Insurance which covers continental use, and a current MOT test certificate, and Vehicle Excise duty paid.
You must check your insurance certificate to see if there are any restrictions on use in EU countries. There may be a time limit, or the insurance may revert to third party only after a period of time. If in doubt CHECK with your insurer. Your MOT certificate must be current. If you intend to be abroad past its validity, you will need to have another test before you go. A car less than 3 years old, registered in the UK does not require an MOT. Your driving licence must be current for all of your stay. I recommend that you upgrade to a photocard licence if you do not already have one. This is not legally a requirement, but in my opinion,  the Guardia Civil in Spain are less likely to question a photocard licence as it is so similar to Spain’s licences. You must carry all documents in the car when driving as a non resident foreigner in Spain. Remember that you will need headlamp deflectors using a right hand drive car on the right hand side of the road.
If you move to Spain permanently you must register it in Spain within 6 months.

Q2. How long can I stay in Spain without applying for a certificate of residency?
Answer – officially only 90 days (on holiday). You can reset this by leaving Spain for 1 day – e.g. a trip to Portugal, France or Gibraltar overnight. Then another 90 days starts.

Q3. At what point might I become tax resident in Spain?
Answer – After spending 183 days (cumulative) in any Spanish tax year. Spain’s tax year is from 1st January to 31st December.

Q4. Can I have a bank account in Spain?
Answer – Yes, of course, but remember that there are no free banking accounts for non residents in Spain. Typical charges can cost up to €120 a year.
You may well be best advised to use a UK debit card to withdraw cash in Spain. Remember to tell your UK bank before you go abroad as they may block your card if they see foreign activity and consider it suspicious.

Q5. Can I buy a car in Spain?
Answer – Yes, but you will need a Spanish address registered on the voters register at a town hall (called the padrón) and also a N.I.E. (número identificación fiscal). You can arrange to have an NIE (equivalent of a tax number) through a solicitor or gestor.
Then remember that you will be liable to ensure the Spanish vehicle is taxed, tested and insured. In general, normal cars are not due an ITV (MOT) until they are 4 years old. Vans are different, see my page about Spanish vehicle tests.

Q6. Do I need to register with the authorities in any other ways?
Answer – apart from residency “Certificado de registro como residente comunitario” (after 90 days continuous stay) you may register on the padrón (voters register) at the town hall where you are living. The certificate that is issued (certificado de empadronamiento) can be very useful for administrative matters. You should register on the padrón if you spend a large proportion of your time at a fixed address in Spain. If you are permanently resident you should be on the padrón and also submit Spanish tax returns.

Q7. What if I get ill or injured in Spain?
Answer – Before leaving for Spain get a European Health Insurance Card (formerly known as E111) from the NHS website. The card is free. Do not use other websites as they may charge you for a free service! This card will cover you for medical treatment at public health service hospitals and medical centres in Spain.
If you need urgent treatment go to casualty (urgencias in Spanish). Take your EHIC and your passport.
If you need less urgent treatment go to a Spanish public health service doctor. Most towns and villages have a consultorio and again you will need your EHIC and passport. It is also worth remembering that pharmacies (farmacias) will give advice and medication for many common ailments.
Remember that an EHIC only covers basic treatment and you will have to pay for prescriptions. Also remember that in the case of death, it will not cover funeral or repatriation expenses, so consider taking out a private travel insurance policy.
The EHIC is intended for temporary visits such as holidays in Spain. Residents in Spain will need to make other arrangements for proper healthcare.
Good News for anyone living in Spain since July 2018
Since July 27th the PSOE government have introduced universal healthcare for ALL people resident in Spain.

Q8. What if I have an emergency in Spain, needing fire, police or ambulance?
Answer – Use your UK mobile phone to call the emergency services. The Spanish emergency number is 112 (not 999) and they have multi lingual operators. Ask for an English speaking operator if you don’t speak Spanish.

Q9. What is Spanish bureaucracy like to deal with?
Answer – Even if you are fluent in Spanish, they can be a nightmare. It is often better to employ a gestor or solicitor to get something done with officialdom. Even then, you have to chase them and check what they have done.

Q10 Can I drink the tap water?
Answer – Most Spanish people do not drink their tap water. In Almería it is very variable in quality and high in mineral content. When we lived in Arboleas we drank the tap water which had been tested and approved, but used a filter jug.
I would never recommend anyone drink tap water, so it is safest to buy bottled water. Supermarkets like Dia and Lidl sell big plastic bottles very cheaply.
Most towns have a “fuente” which is a public drinking water supply, often also used for washing clothes, but you would need to do your own local research before relying on the sanitation of the water. If in doubt, don’t take a risk. Water borne bacteria from contaminated supplies can be fatal.

Thanks for visiting this website. I hope you found this page useful.

Reviewed and revised 6th Nov 2018

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Information, blog and forum – life in Almería, Spain