Last updated on December 21, 2022
Joni from ExpatsinBarcelona.com shares his top tips on moving to Barcelona and creating the life of your dreams!
So you’ve made the decision to pack your belongings and start the greatest adventure of your life by joining the many expats in the beautiful and historic city of Barcelona.
Here’s what you need to know to make it happen!
Do your research and have a monthly expense budget in mind before moving to Barcelona
Many people have the idea that living in a European country like Spain is exponentially cheaper than living anywhere else in the world.
While this is true in many aspects of living in Barcelona including food costs and cost of living; the nightlife such as going out drinking and clubbing can wash away your bank account if you’re not careful.
Be sure to spend your money wisely during the first few months to get a feel for what you’re able to afford.
Rent in Barcelona may not be as cheap as you think and may take a long time to apply for residency
A few years ago apartments for rent in Barcelona were notoriously cheap. Yet, over the past couple of years, apartments for rent have skyrocketed.
This has pushed low-income households outside the city center. According to our local sources, a 1-3 bedroom apartment for rent in Barcelona city center can cost around £1000 per month without bills.
If you’re planning on becoming a permanent expat living in Barcelona, keep in mind that opening a bank account and obtaining a residency permit of Spain may take several weeks or months
The cheapest neighbourhoods to live in in Barcelona are mostly located in Nou Barris (New Neighbourhoods): La Trinitat Nova, Ciutat Meridiana, Torre Baró etc. while if you are looking for a centrally located cheap neighbourhood that would be El Raval.
The most desirable and expensive neighbourhoods to live in in Barcelona are the so called upper ones such as Pedralbes, Sarrià, Les tres Torres, Sant Gervasi – Galvany, Les Corts and of course L’Eixample.
Be selective as to where you decide to rent/buy an apartment in Barcelona
Looking for a place to live in Barcelona can be quite time consuming. It is important to begin with a list of priorities that you are looking for in your ideal apartment for rent in Barcelona.
Are you looking for a cheap flat to rent in Barcelona? Peaceful streets? Cultural hot-spots? Funky architecture? Ideal location?
Whatever it may be, the city offers a wide variety of housing for every lifestyle. For example, the gothic quarter is where most expats in Barcelona decide to live first while getting acclimated to the cultural city life.
According to statistics, the majority of expats in Barcelona decide to move out of the city center after a few years.
Other great neighborhoods to live in throughout Barcelona are El Born for indie culture, Barceloneta for its beautiful beaches, L’Eixample if you’re looking for nightlife, Montjüic for the more active expats, Sarria/Sant Gervasi for some peace and quiet, and the list goes on and on.
Hire a relocation service agency or have a friend help you move
Getting settled into your new apartment can be difficult unless you hire a Barcelona relocation service agency to show you the ropes. You’ll also want to make sure you hire an international moving company that you will trust enough to manage shipping all of your prized possessions to your new home in Barcelona. Prices fluctuate dramatically, but this is definitely not an area that you’ll want to scrimp on.
Before even signing up for electricity, utilities and Wi-Fi, you will need to open a local bank account. It is important to keep in mind that this process can take several weeks to process.
Having a bank account in Spain is necessary because you can only pay your bills directly from your bank.
Hiring an agency to guide you through the relocation process will help you avoid unnecessary headaches and allow you to get settled more efficiently.
Learn as much Spanish as possible before moving
While you can get by in Barcelona without speaking Spanish, it is important to understand that locals respect expats who take the time to learn at least a conversational level of the Spanish language.
It will make your life much easier and will help when bargaining with the locals while shopping for groceries and furniture.
To put into another perspective, you are more likely to pay extra or even be scammed when buying goods or services if you don’t speak their native tongue.
You can learn Spanish by watching YouTube videos, downloading free apps on your smartphone or even with children’s Spanish books.
This is a great way to learn simple words and phrases.
Don’t expect the same hourly pay as back home
Many people become expats in Barcelona upon retirement in search of leisurely fun and endless relaxation. Others become expats because they crave a change of scenery in their lives.
It is important to remember that the more Spanish you know, the higher chance you have of landing a higher paying job.
However, there are still many English-speaking jobs in Barcelona. EU and Swiss citizens are able to work in Barcelona without obtaining a Spanish work permit.
Those moving from other countries are usually required to obtain a Spanish visa, work permit, and a NIE (foreign ID number).
Note: The minimum wage for employees working in Spain is €950 divided in 14 salaries or €1.108,33 if the employer prefers to only pay 12.
Ditch the car and ride a bike
If you plan on staying within the city or near your apartment, the recommended mode of transportation is riding a bicycle, walking, or public transportation.
Keep in mind, bicycle theft is very common throughout Barcelona so investing in secure bike locks is necessary.
By walking or riding a bike, you will save money on gas and parking fees while getting exercise and touring this beautiful city.
A T-Casual metro ticket costs €11,35 and is valid for 10 rides.
A monthly T-Usual ticket costs €40 and is valid for as many rides as you like.
Take a city group tour of Barcelona to get to know it intimately
Going on day tours is one of the easiest ways to meet new friends and other expats in Barcelona.
Whether it is a tapas and wine tasting tour or a simple sightseeing and landmark walk, you are sure to have an unforgettable adventure while getting to experience the beauty and timeless history of Barcelona.
There is a wide variety of tours available throughout the city, most can be booked online or over the phone.
Obtain health insurance in Barcelona
One of the most important things that expats in Barcelona expect to receive upon relocating is European health insurance.
This insurance card will cover you for simple emergency room visits while you are traveling but will not cover you if you are permanently relocating to Barcelona.
In order to enroll in the local healthcare as a resident, you must register online or make an appointment at Tarjeta Sanitaria.
Explore the local Catalan food and wine
Spanish cuisine is one of the many reasons you should be living in Barcelona. This city is home to thousands of different dishes from all around Spain. Expect to find plates from other European, African and Asian countries.
Our favorites are the fusion restaurants that combine many cultures’ cuisines. In Spain, tapas dishes are the most popular style of dish. Tapas are often shared among friends at the dinner table while enjoying an ice cold glass of beer!
Celebrate Catalan culture
The Catalans love their fiestas and celebrate countless cultural festival throughout the year. Here are a few essential events to get involved in and a little bit about each:
We hope you find these tips useful while planning your move to Barcelona. Hopefully your knowledge of the city has increased and provides some extra courage!
No matter how unfamiliar you are with being an expat in Barcelona, there are countless resources online to help guide you along this journey.