Andalucía (or Andalusia with its English spelling) makes up a large part of southern Spain and is known for its beaches, natural beauty and vibrant culture.
It's also known for its many pueblos blancos or white villages rich in tradition and filled with friendly locals. This is the guide for you if you're thinking of moving to a quiet, beautiful and affordable place in sunny Spain.
Andalucía also boasts several famous cities which are great weekend trips and while many great sources of information can be found there, this guide will focuses on tips and advice for moving to a small town in the region.
|Municipal square in Baena, Cordoba|
Andalucía has eight provinces: Malaga, Huelva, Cordoba, Granada, Almería, Sevilla, Cádiz and Jaén. They all have similar websites and sources of information, so wherever you choose to move, you can apply what you read here to your province of choice.
Note: The purpose of this guide is to give some tips and secrets that you won't find through tourist information offices, or in your Lonely Planet book. I've listed prices in American dollars for ease of comparison.
Get the best for less in Andalucía
Rents are reasonable here especially if you are willing to put in the leg work. You can find listings on Mil Anuncios or En Alquilar. There are plenty of apartments available in these small towns as everyone is looking to maximise their income after economic difficulties began in the 2000s.
|Typical town houses in Andalucía|
- Pound the pavement. Walking around town is a must if you want to find a bargain. You will see plenty of for rent signs and can enquire with the local estate agents.
- Ask everywhere. You can enquire about available apartments in shops, bars and public buildings. Everyone always knows a cousin or an aunt with a spare room.
- Sacrifice on location. If you live a little farther from the coast then rents can be a much cheaper. In an inland pueblo blanco you can rent a three bedroom furnished town house for around $300 per month. The same place on the coast might be as much as $1000 in high season.
- Be flexible. Most landlords will let you rent on a month to month basis, so be willing to move if you find a cheaper or better alternative. You'll have plenty of options as it is a renter's market.
- Share. While most of us crave the privacy of our own apartment, and it is certainly affordable, bills can add up. Electricity, water and gas can be as much as $150 per month, and many small towns don't offer basic cheap Internet packages. Sharing can be a good way to keep costs down.
Spain is renowned for its quality seafood, wine and olives but you can easily end up with an plate of sloppy pasta or bland stew if you're not careful. You have to be willing to forgo spacious sterile restaurants and enjoy simple tastes to get the best food here:
- Stay healthy. A lot of Spanish food is salty and fried which (while delicious) means its not too good for you. Remember to ordering a variety of food and don't forget to order a salad as dishes rarely come with vegetables.
- Know your limits. Ordering the right quantity can be tricky as restaurants offer different sized dishes as tapas, porciones or raciones. Ask the waiter about sizes and start with one dish per person. It can be tempting to order more when each dish is only $5, but you can always order more later.
- Don't expect breakfast - Spaniards don't really do breakfast. People tend to eat churros or a sandwich when they have time in the late morning. Figuring out how to order the right morning coffee is a must too.
- Deal with it. A lot of restaurants and cafés work from a huge menu with limited ingredients. This can mean that many of the listed dishes might not be available, so have a second option in mind.
- Do it yourself. Small towns don't have too many options for varied international food, so if you are craving a hearty Ramen or a good burger, you might be better making it yourself.
Small towns in Andalucía have a higher proportion of elderly residents and few expats. This means there is not always a thriving social scene but it is still possible to have a good time and meet people if you know how.
|San José festival, Baena, Cordoba|
- Look at the calendar. Every town has a well maintained municipal website which provides up to date information on upcoming events. Andalucía holds thousands of festivals each year, you can find more information about them here.
- Get sporty - Even the smallest of towns here have thriving municipal sports centres that run football leagues and running races. Running clubs are very popular here and can be a great way to get to know other fitness enthusiasts.
- Stay out late. Eating dinner at eleven and staying out until sunrise is common practice, so if you want to party with the Spanish, you'll have to reset you body clock.
- Check and double check. People in small town Andalucía prefer speaking to listening. To avoid any miss communications about meet ups, confirm times, dates and places in writing to make sure you were heard.
- Love the great outdoors. Spaniards spend a lot of time outside and central parks with their cafés become the social hub on summer evenings. You will also see a host families walking and cycling the country trails at the weekend.
- Relax on the train. While trains are not the most cost effective way to get around, the service is clean, safe, quiet and fast. All major cities are well connected. A one hour trip will cost roughly $20.
- Buy your ticket in advance. Local bus services can be infrequent an unreliable. Get your return ticket as soon as you can so you can check departure times, and avoid being stranded if the seats sell out.
- Ride share - BlaBla Car is a more comfortable and often cheaper alternative to local buses. One hour can cost as little as $5. The website is well trusted and used and drivers offer places in their car for a small fee. Look for your journey 24-48 hours before travel, then arranging a pick up time and location is all you'll need to do.
- Know the cheap routes. Some inter city routes are much more expensive than others. Local buses charge around $10 for a one hour trip. Check if Socibus serves your journey as they offer a great value service.
- Get your own transport - If you are in a small town, buying a car or bike might be your best option. There is a thriving market for second hand vehicles and petrol is cheap too.
Andalucía's smaller towns are certainly not retail paradises. Most of the shops are functional Chinese run bazaars or construction superstores. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your town.
|Shopping in Granada Andalucía|
- Support local businesses. Many people in Andalucía are employed in the agriculture industry, so by buying local brands (e.g. oil, wine) you help the community. Small corner shops and deli's will appreciate your business much more than the supermarket chains.
- Go on a shopping trip. Especially if you are looking for clothes or specialist goods, take advantage of the shopping districts in Andalucía's bigger cities.
- Buy direct - The locals are trying to make a buck where they can, so numerous second hand sales groups have sprung up on Facebook. People also sell bulk items (ham, oil) and bespoke items (furniture, jewellery) direct to customers.
- Market day. Find out what day the market comes to town. Items like belts, bags and toys can be found at a cheaper price and in greater variety.
- Go online - For those thousands of things you can't find in your small town, go online. The postal service is fairly reliable and it can be more convenient that making trips to the cities every month.
How to find a job in Andalucía:
|Spainwise TEFL Jobs fair 2016 - Cordoba|
- Take a course - One way into a job, can be to study your CELTA or Trinity certificate with International House or other schools. They often need part time teachers and can help with applications.
- Know the season - Academies generally recruit in May and June. Contracts run from September to June with summer school work available too. Spainwise run a website and recruitment fair dedicated to TEFL jobs in Spain.
- Get a NIE - Companies prefer EU citizens as it negates visa requirements, but to work in Spain, you will also need a foreigner number and employers will look favourably on those who already have the right paperwork.
- Be adaptable. Most academies offer classes for children as young as three up to adults. It is common to teach four or five different age groups and levels every day, so you will need to be adaptable in your classes.
- Get to know Cambridge exams. The vast majority of English students in Spain are studying for a Cambridge certificate which they need for University or work. A good knowledge of KET, PET, FCE and CAE exams is essential to work in Andalucía.
There are also plenty of other ways to earn more Euros and you won't have to apply for hundreds of permits and licences to get going either.
|Work online in Andalucía|
- Give classes. If you have some other skill, you can always teach exercise, design, music, dance, or even give therapy. If you speak Spanish, just mention what you do, people are always interested and can suggest a price to charge ($15-20 per hour is normal).
- Volunteer. Andalucía is well equipped with organisations that offer opportunities to help with construction, social activities, education and language. You might be offered work through the people you meet on the program.
- Work away offers a host of opportunities to work in the area from farm work, construction, child minding and working in hostels and expat businesses. Accommodation is often included.
- Be a digital nomad. Your income will be paid dollars and you don't have to be a web design expert to work online. Some ideas are Audio transcription, Affiliate marketing, Gambling loopholes, Writing articles, Surveys, and a host of others from Moneystepper. $1,000 per month is a comfortable living wage.
- Get creative. Andalucía is a very artistic region, so if you are a musician or artisan, you will find a market for your products.
How to be successful in Andalucía:
|Be successful in Andalucía|
- Don't expect to do everything sat in front of a computer. You will go round in circles searching for non existent information, so just get out there and look for it!
- Don't expect good service. People are less driven by time or money pressure, so you won't get the service you are used to. Getting angry or upset with people will make people less likely to help you. Your concerns won't be important to local people, so just focus your energies on what you can accomplish.
- Don't keep nodding - people like to keep talking and will repeat stuff at you for hours if you let them.
- Don't always ask the locals. Recommendations can be great, but people lead quite sheltered lives in rural Andalucía and won't always be able provide relevant knowledge about other towns and areas.
- Don't play favourites. Competition for your business can be fierce so be sure not to stick to a small number of places.
- Do check the time. Don't get caught out by siestas or Mondays. Lunch times are less busy at tourist attractions, but remember to check the days and times when they're closed. As people live a late lifestyle here, many restaurants might not open until 8 or 9pm.
- Do keep some secrets. The locals are serial gossips, so if you have any personal information that you don't want the whole town to know, don't tell anyone.
- Do things in person. One trip to go and see your landlord is much quicker than four phone calls and three emails. People here are used to face to face contact.
- Do meet and greet. People really appreciate a cordial greeting and you'll find yourself accepted quickly if you stop to say hello.
The Andalucía toolkit:
Cost of living