Integrating into life on the Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol Integration

If you’re renting long term on the Costa del Sol, or own a property here, then you want to fit in and integrate into the community. This is important if you plan to build a life here for yourself and your family.

Now of course, one reason why we love the Costa del Sol is how international it is, and there are plenty of strong foreign communities which will welcome you with open arms while you find your feet. However, if you really want to call the place home and get all the benefits of living in Spain, then we recommend doing your best to fully integrate into the Spanish community as well.

One of the best ways to do this is learning the lingo and back in January, we gave you some great tips on how to learn Spanish and have loads of posts with useful Spanish phrases and vocabulary so check it out. So if you’ve been meaning to start learning, get yourself into a class, or start learning online – there’s no time like the present!

However, it’s important to note that integration doesn’t start and stop with the language, it’s about your attitude to the area and your willingness to get stuck in. If you have a young child, take the plunge and put them in the local Spanish primary school, you will give them the gift of being bilingual and understanding this wonderful place like a native and they can help you lots as they grow up! Don’t get us wrong, this isn’t easy if your Spanish isn’t strong, but it gives you a great motivation to learn, and an opportunity to meet lots of people and start a social circle in Spanish, plus it really is an amazing thing to do for your child.

If you don’t have a child, another great way is to join the local municipal gym and do exercise classes. It’s the cheapest way to get fit and you will start to recognise faces and say hello to people in your neighbourhood, without needing to speak to them too much until you’re ready. This is a great starting point for integration, as a few friendly faces go a long way.

Another top tip is to keep an eye on your posters in your local Town Hall offices, or Facebook pages. These will tell you what’s going on, which is not always easy to know when you first move. Ask your foreign residents office to put you on their mailing list too, so you’re informed. Once you know, you can join in with the great community events and start to become a real part of your area.

This can all feel a little bit scary at first, and integration doesn’t happen overnight, but little by little you will start to feel accepted and comfortable in your community and once this happens you will stay the course and really call the Costa del Sol home. We have lots of useful information on living in Spain on our website to help you get started and a great range of Costa del Sol long term rentals so we can help you make life here a reality. Please let us know if we can help!

Andalucia is a great place to work

Andalucia is a great place to work

Relocating to the Costa del Sol is a dream for many, and Andalucia is the third most popular place for those from abroad to work in Spain. Living and working on the Costa del Sol offers amazing lifestyle benefits for expats such as great climate, more relaxed way of life, access to amazing sports facilities and a brilliant family life. According to a report from the Ministry of Employment and Social Security released in August, at the end of July there were 189,802 non-Spanish workers paying into the system, a nearly 5% increase compared to last year.

The increase is no surprise, as the economic outlook continues to improve in Spain, the real estate market is starting to really boom again and this is driving employment and positivity in many different fields. There has been a marked increase of job opportunities being advertised, particularly in the real estate and hospitality sectors. If you’re interested in checking out job opportunities and researching into working on the Costa del Sol, read our article about working on the Costa del Sol, where we have links to papers which have good job sections, forums and recruitment agencies to make things easier.

However, be prepared for a shock when you look at salaries, they could be a lot lower than you’re used to at home. Don’t just look at the salary figures though, work out what your living costs will be and then see what you will have in your pocket at the end of the month, you may be surprised just how well off you feel, even taking a drop in salary. It’s also amazing what a great life you can have here and spend very little; this is definitely not just a numbers game!

We are passionate believers in the quality of life on the Costa del Sol and help thousands of people each year to relocate by offering them affordable long term rental properties and plenty of advice and on the ground expertise. We have all lived here for a long time and so have probably been through what you’re going through and we love it here. Check out our 7 reasons why expats love the Costa del Sol we hope it will inspire you to take the plunge.

It’s a good idea to try before you buy and rent long term before putting a foot on the property ladder. This enables you to try a few different areas and be flexible enough to chop and change if job opportunities or schools take you to a new area. With long term rentals starting at just 400€ per month here and the rental market in the UK being so strong, you can probably rent out your current property and rake in a tidy profit compared to renting here. This not only gives you some income, it also makes the move less daunting, as you still have a property back home and can always go back if your situation changes.

We have lots of great information about living in Spain on our website, including the vital things to know about healthcare, education and learning the language, so please have a browse. If you like the sound of life here, get in touch with us and find out how we can help make it happen!

Advice for going Back to School on the Costa del Sol

Back To School

It’s September and those of us lucky enough to live on the Costa del Sol can enjoy beautiful sunny days and warm nights, without the crowds – it’s one of our favourite times of year. However, it is also the time when reality returns, the kids head back to school and work begins again in earnest, so we wanted to give you some advice to manage the back to school rush.

The International Schools head back earlier, starting around the 1st or 5th of September, but the Spanish schools take longer to return, with most starting around the 12th of September.

If your child goes to a Spanish school, or will be starting this year, don’t be alarmed not to have received any information. It’s quite normal to wait until the beginning of September to know anything at all, something which causes a lot of nerves for international parents. The teachers arrive back at the beginning of the month and then a few days later you can expect to see pieces of paper outside the school gates telling you things like start times, parents’ meetings and book lists. The book shop closest to the school, may already know what books are required, so go and ask them if you want to get ahead of the game. It’s also a good idea to find your school’s AMPA (PTA) on Facebook, as they often post the important information so you don’t have to be at the gates every day.

For parents of 3 year olds starting Spanish school for the first time, you need to be prepared for shorter hours for the first week at least. They try to ease the kids in gently with just a few hours the first day, increasing it gradually over the first week. Some schools take this even further into the first month, which is tough for working parents, but works well for children who have never been away from home before. Make sure you ask as soon as you can so you can make arrangements.

There will normally be a parents’ meeting the week before the start of school, or a few days ahead of the start date. This is an important meeting as you will meet the teacher, be given book lists and information about what the children will be studying that term. The date and time for this will normally be posted in front of the school, so keep your eye out from the beginning of September.

At this meeting they will also tell you how much money you need to pay for materials for the year if you have younger kids, normally between 20 and 50€. You will be informed about a bank account to pay this into and this money enables the teachers to do their projects, decorate the classrooms and generally make the year more interesting for the kids.

Ask if there is a class What’s App group and make sure they have your number, as this is an excellent source of information throughout the year, even if your Spanish isn’t that great. There are often days which spring up when the kids have to dress up, or bring something in and if your child isn’t very good at giving you the bits of paper they come home with, this is a very important resource!

Reach out to the class representatives and any other non-Spanish parents and try to make connections, even if it’s just to say that your Spanish isn’t very good. If you show yourself to be approachable, you will have better chance of making friends, as well as getting people that you can ask if you’re not sure about anything.

This is a stressful and expensive time of year for parents, especially if it’s a new school, but don’t worry, you and your kids will soon get into the swing of things. Just know that most parents haven’t got a clue what’s going on either, so you can be clueless together. Ask your child and hopefully they will help you though it!

Have a great term! You can find more useful information about healthcare, language learning and education on the Costa del Sol on our website and we can help you settle in to your new life here, providing quality long term rental properties and lots of practical advice from experts who have been through it all themselves.

Schools on the Costa del Sol

Schools in Marbella

Here in Spain we are in our final month of the very long school summer holidays, which begin around the 20th of June and end around the 10th of September and preparations for the new school term are beginning, so we thought it would be a good time to look at the education options for international families living on the Costa del Sol.

The first one is the Spanish state system, which is a free and a great idea for young children to allow them to become bilingual and really embrace the culture of their adopted countries. People often worry that the children won’t be able to cope with the change or the language, but our experience is that children under the age of 6 are super-flexible and take everything in their stride, between 6 and 8 more is required of them at school so they may need some extra help, but can still do it with support. Older than that it is tricky f them, but not impossible if you are all committed.

Please note that the normal admissions period for the September start is between the 1st and the 31st of March each year, so if you wish your kids to start next September you need to get prepared early! Here’s the Junta de Andalucia Education website with all the information you need. If you need your child to start mid school year, it is possible, but it depends on available places, so you’ll have to go and visit your local schools and find out the options.

When you’re making a decision, what we would suggest is that you consider yourself as a parent and how you would cope with the education system in a foreign language first, as this tends to be more of an issue than the kids. You need to have a pretty good level of Spanish, or be committed to developing the language fast in order to be able to handle it. If you can manage it, your kids will be able to, and for both parents and kids, it’s a brilliant way to integrate yourself into the community.

If your Spanish isn’t at a high enough level, you have older children, or your move to Spain may be temporary then the international school system would be better for you and there are loads of really great options here. There are over 20 international schools here which follow different curriculums including UK, German, Swedish and the International Baccalaureate. There are also a number of bi-lingual schools, which can be an excellent option if you want to make sure your child develops Spanish.

Here’s a list of some of the best known International Schools on the Costa del Sol and we’re lucky in that here the costs of private education are a lot lower than in the UK or elsewhere, so it can be an affordable option. As there are so many options, we’d suggest touring the schools closest to you, arranging meetings with the head and then putting your child in for a trial day with your favourites. This will give the whole family the most information possible and allow you to make the right decision for you. These schools are very flexible with when you start at the school and the applications process is shorter and less complicated than the state system and of course you are doing it in your native language, so it’s a lot easier. However, now that the economy is improving, the international schools have all seen a big increase in admissions, so there may not be spaces in all, so be prepared.

The Costa del Sol is a wonderful place for bringing up a family, with a wonderful lifestyle, great access to sports and outdoor activities, the chance to learn a new language and grow up in a place where they love kids. If you want to try out the lifestyle for a year and see how the family settles in, then renting long term on the Costa del Sol and trying an International School for an academic year is a great option.

We are here to help you find the perfect long term rental property and support you with our local knowledge. Browse our website for information on living in Spain as well as information about renting long term and of course an excellent selection of long term rental properties on the Costa del Sol, or contact us for any advice or information you need to make the move.

Growing your own on the Costa del Sol

Growing your own on the Costa del Sol

Southern Spain is a paradise for keen gardeners, with an amazing climate in which almost anything will grow! You can grow your own fruit, veg and herbs, even if you just have a window box or a terrace, but obviously you’ll have some limitations in terms of what you can have.

There’s an ever increasing interest from people around the Costa del Sol to grow their own, and so organizations and Town Halls are responding by providing allotments for the community.

Arboretum Foundation has launched a new project for Marbella, 70 more organic urban allotments which will encourage sustainable development and bring together the community. This will take the total up to 100 allotments in total, which have been snapped up by keen gardeners in the area.

In May, work began in Casares Costa to create 200 100m2 plots for residents of the area. These plots are particularly designed for retired, unemployed or low income families or individuals to help them to put food on the table.

There are similar projects running in Mijas and in addition to allotments provided by the Town Hall and community groups, it is often possible to rent small pieces of land to grow your own. Speak to your local Town Hall or community group to find out what the options are in your area. If you draw a blank, then why not speak to the owners in your community and find out if they’d be up for creating a community garden in your urbanisation. It’s a great way to bring everyone together and to produce delicious, seasonal, organic fruit and veg.

If you love gardening, tell us when you’re searching for your long term rental and we’ll try and find you a property with a garden, or land. Most villas have decent gardens, many of which have fruit trees and with the permission from the landlord you can create a small veg patch. It’s also amazing what you can grow in pots on a sunny terrace; salad leaves, tomatoes, chillies, cucumber and more can all be very productive in pots if they are well looked after.

If space is important to you, then look further inland around Istan, Ojen and Coin for properties with large plots. Please tell us when you start your search, as we may have to cast our net a little wider than normal if you want a plot to cultivate. However, if you want to make sure that the work you do doesn’t get lost when you move, then an allotment can be a great choice which can keep your long term rental search more flexible and give you more options for locations and property types.

Take a look at our Costa del Sol long term rental properties on our website, or drop us an email with your requirements and we’ll try and find you that perfect place.

Exploring the world from Malaga

Malaga-Airport-DeparturesFollowing on from last month’s post about travelling between the UK and the Costa del Sol, this month we wanted to talk about why living and working on the Costa del Sol is so great if you’re a frequent flyer to other parts of the globe, and tell you why things are getting even better!

Málaga airport offers flights to over 100 destinations in 25 countries, so it’s a brilliant place to live near if you love travel or need it for work. There are a large number of UK airports with direct and low cost flights as we’ve said, as well as over 16 destinations within Spain, but what about if you’re looking for something a little further afield?

You could fly to Bologna in Italy, which was recommended by Rick Stein as a great place for a long weekend for it’s amazing food, charm and beauty and looked amazing. Check out the programme and let us know what you think?

Or what about visiting the place where east meets west – Istanbul, to shop ‘til you drop in the huge bazaar, visit the Blue Mosque and take a boat down the Bosphorus? You can have a romantic break in Paris or Venice, or sample the delights of Salzburg or Sofia, all from Malaga airport!

We’re thrilled to see that Delta has also resumed their direct flights between Malaga and New York, after testing the route last summer.  The flights are daily and due to be running all year round, offering an amazing 2,700 weekly seats in 2016. Prices start from under 800€ return, find out more and book on the Delta Airlines website.

If you don’t see the destination you want from Malaga, check the flights from Madrid or from London, as this gives you much more flexibility and options. It can also be cheaper than a direct flight, so shop around. Remember as well, that on the Costa del Sol you’re not far from Gibraltar, Seville, Jerez and Granada airports, so make sure you check out all the options. We’d recommend Skyscanner for finding the best deals, you can find some amazing bargains if you’re flexible with when you travel!

If proximity to the airport is important to you, we’d recommend placing yourself on the train line from Malaga to Fuengirola, as this will give you the easiest route in. Renting long term in Benalmadena is a good option if you want to have everything on your doorstep, a strong international community, great schools, medical facilities and things to do.

This two bed Benalmadena apartment is an excellent choice, as it’s great value for money, in a quiet secure complex above the town itself, yet with good transport links down to the centre. The complex has a swimming pool and it is within walking distance of a 4* hotel with great facilities. From just 525€ per month as a long term rental, it would make an excellent and affordable base close to the airport for frequent flyers. Let us know if we can help you find the perfect long term rental on the Costa del Sol!

Travelling between the UK and the Costa del Sol

transport options to costa del solOne major reason that the Costa del Sol is such a popular destination for British expats to live and work is how easy it is to travel back home and have visitors come to see you. It’s just a few hours travel time from the UK, yet the climate and the lifestyle couldn’t be more different. With many low cost airlines flying out of different regional airports in the UK to Malaga, the competition is fierce and therefore prices are kept down.

Michael O’Leary has announced some great perks for travellers with Ryanair, including decreased ticket prices and simplifying and reducing tariffs for luggage and cases. Something of interest to residents of the Costa del Sol who need to travel regularly to see family or for work is that if you join the My Ryanair Club, you will get a free flight for every 12 flights reserved from October. These are just a few of the range of improvements announced by Ryanair last month and you can read the full list here

As we mentioned back in February, anyone living on the Western Costa del Sol should also consider flying from Gibraltar airport, which now has more routes than ever before and as a small airport is very quick and easy to get through. Firefighters gave a water salute and there was an official guard of honour to welcome the first Monarch flight into Gibraltar on the 1st of May and EasyJet’s route from Manchester will start on the 3rd of July. This will make this an increasingly attractive option for anyone west of Estepona.

If you don’t want to fly, or you have a lot of possessions to move over if you’re relocating, driving can be a good option. It is a journey of 1,400 miles from Marbella to London, which would take around 23 hours, traffic dependent. However, if you have a few days then it can be a really nice trip and a great start to a new adventure in the sun.

Alternatively, there are some good value bus routes from London to Malaga with eurolines and Alsa for around £100 and a travel time of just under 35 hours. This is a slow way to travel, but if you have big bulky luggage and don’t want to drive it can be a good option.

Finally, train lovers might want to ride the rails. You can go from London St. Pancreas to Malaga in between 17 and 22 hours, with three or four changes along the way. While not the most direct, or cheapest route it does allow you to have a wonderful journey and visit Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, before riding the superfast AVE to Malaga, so it can be a great way to combine an amazing holiday with the start of your new life in Spain.

However you get to the Costa del Sol, life here is amazing and it’s great to know that it’s very easy to get back to the UK or have friends and family over to stay. If you fancy trying life on the Costa del Sol, but don’t want to over commit, we’d suggest arranging a long term rental property in your favourite area. This gives you a great way to try to lifestyle, explore the area, look for a job and start putting down roots, without being too tied.

Long term rentals on the Costa del Sol are also surprisingly affordable, normally being the same as a one week rental in the summer and starting from around 400€ per month. Let us know if we can help you make your dream of living in the Costa del Sol a reality, by finding you a great place to live.

Looking forward to summer 2016

Summer 2016 MarbellaThe sun is shining and it’s starting to feel a lot like summer, so we thought it was a good time to look ahead to what’s going on this summer, as there’s loads of brilliant things being announced all the time.

There’s a packed schedule of live music events, including over 20 stellar acts at Starlite 2016 including Robert Plant, Santana, Tom Jones and Alejandro Sanz. As if that wasn’t enough, Seal is performing at the Puente Romano in July and Simply Red will be in Fuengirola in August.

The beach clubs will be opening their doors at the end of this month, with regular events starting in May and ramping up throughout June, July and August. Once the beach clubs are open, there’s always something going on!

If you’re an art lover, head to Malaga to enjoy the summer shows, which include Jackson Pollock’s Mural at the Picasso Museum.

Foodies should make a beeline for Fuengirola for the Feria de los Pueblos at the end of April, and the Malaga Gastronomy Festival from the 29th April to 5th May, not to mention Estepona’s great ham festival in August. Read more about food festivals on the Costa del Sol

Remember that the ferias begin with Marbella’s Feria in the second week in June and continue on throughout July and August, so keep your eyes peeled for your nearest one.

Don’t miss the San Juan celebrations on the evening of the 23rd June, it is a really magical experience where people light bonfires on the beach and party all night long. We recommend heading down to Sabinillas for the coast’s biggest San Juan party with bonfires like art works.

You will be the envy of all your friends living on the Costa del Sol in the summer and there’s always something going on. It’s such a treat to be able to just head to the beach or to the pool after work, enjoy sundowners at your favourite beach bar, or stroll down the promenade late into the night on one of the many balmy summer evenings.

If you’re planning to move over to the Costa del Sol before summer to enjoy all of this, then don’t delay in sorting out your long term rental property. Once the summer starts (from June onwards) then most landlords will choose to let their property short term and that will be a lot more expensive for you – a week’s holiday rental is generally the same price as a whole month long term. Please contact us for a list of good long term rentals in your preferred area before May to ensure you get a good selection, or browse our properties online. We look forward to hearing from you!

Using the Spanish Health System

bigstock-Closeup-portrait-of-a-woman-ho-95914568If you’re living on the Costa del Sol, then you will need access to medical care. Although it’s a very healthy place to live, and life expectancies are long, you need to feel protected should you, or your family fall ill.

The Spanish National Health system is generally very good, with excellent reputation for specialists and we’re lucky to have a wonderful hospital on the Costa del Sol. There are many local health centres which you can join depending on where you live.

You need to get a NIE number and a social security number, then register on the padron in your local Town Hall. This “padron” shows officially where you live and enables you to register for both schools and your local doctor’s surgery.

As long as you, or one member of your family is working and paying their Social Security payments you are all entitled to healthcare. If you aren’t both working, then one of you needs to be a “beneficiario” on the other’s card. Some Doctor’s surgeries will allow you to register as a dependent in the surgery itself, others will ask you to go to your nearest social security office to do it. Here is an excellent guide to getting healthcare in Spain which goes into much more details about the different ways to register and the ins and outs of the system.

Once you’re registered you can make an appointment in person at the surgery, but we recommend using the website of Salud Responde  which allows you to do loads of things from home including making an appointment, choosing a doctor, changing contact details and downloading forms. There is also a mobile phone App of the same name, which enables people to book appointments with their doctors and health centres, which has seen a lot of traffic in 2015, as more people use mobile devices.

The main problem for foreigners is ensuring their level of Spanish is up to visiting the doctor, as it can be tough to explain what’s wrong and understand complicated diagnosis or instructions on what to do. Some doctor’s surgeries in the most popular expat areas and the Costa del Sol hospital have volunteer translators on hand to help you, but it’s best to be prepared to speak Spanish if you can.

There are lots of ways that you can learn Spanish. One great resource is Notes in Spanish, where they do regular audio recordings about different topics to help you hear the vocabulary and be able to pronounce it properly as well as understand it in a spoken setting. They have a podcast all about illnesses and doctors with both phrases and vocabulary that will help you to deal with visiting the doctor.

If this is too daunting for you, then there are loads of options for private health cover including the biggest players such as Sanitas (like Bupa). Shop around, as prices vary hugely and it depends on what you need as to which service is right for you.

One popular option here on the Costa del Sol is Helicopteros Sanitarios, which is a middle option as it is a home doctor’s service, where they will come to your home to treat you, as well as having some clinics where you can pop in for an appointment. They also have ambulances and helicopters which can take you to a national health hospital quickly, treat you on the way and help you on arrival to the hospital, briefing the doctors before handing you over to their care. In an area with few ambulances and big distances between hospitals this can be a good option and is a lot cheaper than the more comprehensive health insurances.

For more information on living on the Costa del Sol, the benefits of renting long term here, or advice on where to live please browse our site. We’re here to help you find the best long term rental property and make yourself at home here, so please don’t hesitate to ask.

Improved flight routes to Gibraltar for 2016

Improved flight routes to Gibraltar for 2016Great news for anyone living on the Western Costa del Sol and using Gibraltar airport – both Monarch and EasyJet have announced new routes starting this summer.

Monarch will be running flights from London Gatwick to Gibraltar four times a week from May 1st, with a mix of early morning and afternoon departures. This adds to Monarch’s flights into Gibraltar, from Luton, Manchester and Birmingham.

EasyJet are also starting a new service which will connect Manchester and Gibraltar from 3rd July. It will run twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, with pricing starting from under £40 one way. This adds to EasyJet’s existing flights from Gatwick and Bristol into Gibraltar.

These new routes show the increasing importance of Gibraltar and its capabilities to handle more passengers since the new terminal was completed in 2012. In addition to Monarch and EasyJet, British Airways runs a route from London Heathrow to Gibraltar and you can also fly to Tangier and Cassablanca with Royal Air Maroc Express.

For anyone living from Estepona to Sotogrande, Gibraltar is a much easier airport to use than Malaga, not simply because of the distance to travel, but also because the airport is much smaller so it is much easier and quicker to get through. Travelling through Gibraltar is very low stress, with less walking and queuing, the only downside is some flights struggle to land due to high winds and a short runway, so there are some delays because of this.

Bus connections are not as good as from Malaga, but there are buses from La Linea to most parts of the coast. There are buses leaving La Linea for Estepona at 6.45, 8.30, 8.50, 10.00, 12.15, 14.30, 16.30, 18.30, 19.00 and 20.00 Monday to Saturday. It takes 1 hour 30 minutes to reach Estepona, going through San Roque and Sabinillas, amongst other destinations on route.

If you’re being picked up, or collecting friends and family, you can park in La Linea and walk across, to avoid taking the car over the border. It’s an easy five minute walk across from the airport to Spain.

For more information on living on the Costa del Sol or advice on where to live please browse our site. We’re here to help you find the best long term rental property and make yourself at home here so please don’t hesitate to ask.