With tourism between the UK and Lanzarote in a state of flux, we thought we’d use this time to talk about permanence. It’s a LONG READ but we hope you’ll find it interesting and useful if you’re considering making Lanzarote your permanent home beyond a holiday.
Perhaps it’s because you’ve found yourself re-evaluating what’s important to you in the past months or perhaps you’ve always longed for warmer shores. Either way, we’ve seen an increase in messages from people asking us for guidance on moving from the UK to Lanzarote in recent weeks. It’s a big decision and only you know what’s right for your family but hopefully we can add a little light from our personal experience.
Let’s start with the most important aspect of life abroad: safety. Lanzarote has been relatively protected from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve suffered loss of life and many of our residents tested positive, but the overall levels are much lower than mainland Spain and the rest of Europe. Today we harbour less than a dozen infected persons, all of whom are either returning residents, tourists or immigrants seeking help from nearby Africa.
Our lockdown was extremely strict, and the population proactively adheres to the sanitation rules. Both residents and tourists wear masks in public spaces (any street or building where you might encounter another person) and all shops require handwashing on entry. If you’re coming from abroad, your temperature will be checked at the airport and you’ll be required to complete a form giving your contact and location details for use if anyone in your vicinity tests positive later in your stay.
The tourism authorities have pushed for testing at origin and/or arrival for many months now but so far this hasn’t come to force. That said, clinic on the island offer a low-cost test and many of us have opted to take this test for our own peace of mind, especially if we work in the entertainment and leisure industries. Both the public and private hospital provide testing when symptoms are suspected and the process is swift, with numbers reported in our local press on a daily basis. You’ll feel relatively safe here, certainly safer than in the UK we would imagine, where compliance is more debatable.
Beyond COVID-19, healthcare is always the top consideration for a permanent move. As new residents you will be expected to ensure you are covered and remain covered as long as you live here. On arrival, most people who intend to live here permanently take our private Spanish health insurance, which is a requirement for residency status unless you already have a local job on the island and therefore can be enrolled in the public healthcare system immediately. Be sure to buy a policy with no co-payment (optional payment towards costs in the event of illness) as you’ll need to demonstrate this at the residency meeting.
Beyond accessing the system, the healthcare options here are excellent. The public hospital in Arrecife is large, well equipped and besides having lengthy waits for some operations or procedures, considered to be capable of assisting with any illness you may encounter. The private options are also growing and many people who hold a private policy opt to select from hospitals throughout the archipelago, with choices in larger cities such as Las Palmas being possible if you wish to use them. In an emergency, even the public medical team will fly you to the ‘big islands’ if it becomes necessary.
Right to Remain
With healthcare ticked off the list, the next biggest question is on the legal right to stay here as a British citizen. Right now, it’s fairly simple. The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement covers everyone who is legally resident in Spain by December 31st 2020, which is when the transition period ends. If you’re thinking of coming, this is the date to mark in your diary. After this date, whilst we are sure you’ll still be able to apply for residency, the process may be harder, take longer and may even be more expensive. It’s also worth considering what will happen to the £ to Euro exchange rate beyond January and that’s a question to seek financial advice on before moving your assets.
As for money and banking, there are plenty of options. Most people open a non-resident account here in Spain that they can change into a resident account once their paperwork is in order. You need to demonstrate that you have some funds available to you when applying for residency and this is a good way to do so. A few months living expenses should suffice for a family. To assist you with the process of opening a bank, demonstrating your savings and applying for residency, hire a “Gestoria”. These are wonderful teams who help with paperwork and can save countless headaches. When we moved we hired one before travelling, emailed with them for some weeks and met them in person on arrival. They helped with everything from our application through to general advice and were worth every Euro we spent.
Check online reviews before selecting your bank. Whilst some offer access to products and advice in English, others may be better at actually providing useful customer service. Banking is slower in Spain. Meetings with staff are often in person rather than online and getting things done can be frustrating. Some of us avoid the issue altogether by using a digital bank, such as N26. It’s an easy way to access and move money here or abroad but may not be good enough when it comes to needing a loan or seeking a mortgage in the future. The choice is yours. Simplicity or depth of access. Either way, you’ll use a debit card as you do in the UK and you’ll access cash using the normal ATMs, which often have a language option.
Buying / Renting
Living in Spain is considered to be cheaper than the UK and this is true in many ways. The equivalent of council tax is cheaper, eating is cheaper, travel is cheaper. However, rent, especially on Lanzarote can actually be more expensive. Resorts charge a premium simply because a room rented to a tourist for one week can pay more than the same room rented to a resident for one month. If you can buy, a mortgage payment will be less than the equivalent rental. Expect to need a deposit of 30% if you’re coming here from abroad or 20% if you’ve been a tax paying resident for some time. You’ll also need around 10% for fees and taxes when buying a home here. Most of us rent until we have saved enough to get out of that loop. And we consider cheaper areas (inland, or the capital, Arrecife) unless we specifically need a resort.
Selecting where in the Canary Islands to live is a big and rather fun problem to have. Even on our relatively small island, each area is truly unique. You’ll know the resorts and their particular quirks, but other towns offer better value. Try exploring San Bartolomé, Tías, Mala or Haría to get more living space for your rent whilst maintaining a feeling of Spanish living and island charm. For ease of access to the rest of the island, San Bartolomé is perhaps the most central. Our capital, Arrecife is usually not the first choice for new residents but can be an interesting option. It’s multi-cultural, compact and vibrant but it’s not the “Lanzarote” you’ve seen on holiday. It’s a developing place full of opportunity if you speak Spanish and/or have experience of living in a more diverse town elsewhere. We adore it but it’s not a resort nor a village.
We can’t speak of the education here as we have no experience of the schools, but we have made plenty of friends who themselves thrived in the local academic process. Expect lots more outside experience for your children and a choice between local Spanish schools and paid-for private (multi-national) options. There’s a British School in Tahiche and the facilities for UK students in Costa Teguise appear to be excellent. Do your homework so that theirs becomes less stressful and children will thrive on this safe and welcoming island. It has to be said though that for further education, many local children leave the island or focus on tourism, for which we have a specific university establishment.
Living in Lanzarote
So, is it easy to live in Lanzarote? The simple answer is yes.
Of all the options in Europe, this is one of the easiest to make a life in. English is widely spoken; Spanish is not hard to pick up and the culture embraces new members of the community. That said, unless you work in tourism (and that too is suffering right now), jobs are not so easy to find and we don’t have multi-national corporations to work for if you’re stuck with the English language and/or hoping to transfer your secretarial or project management skills for example. In those cases, Spanish is a must. Otherwise, you’re going to consider self-employment and right now, that’s not the easiest option anywhere in the world.
Community is a huge aspect of life no matter where you live and Lanzarote has more than one community. Yes, the expat community is an easy integration but also limits life to a small circle of friends and of course opinions. The larger community here is one made of people from all nations. We have a great mix of people from the local islands, Spain itself, Portugal, Africa and many groups from South America. We gel well and we enjoy each other’s welcome. The Lanzarote people respect the British but also expect some level of integration. Once you do, it’s greatly rewarded.
Beyond health, work, money and home, the big draw to Lanzarote is of course the weather. It’s true that we rarely speak about the sunshine because it’s just so normal here. When rain comes it’s unusual and usually only for a few days at a time. The wind causes havoc but it’s easy to shelter. Hot days are common, especially those during the ‘calima’ (a sand storm) which can roast to the extreme but again they pass in the same week they came. If anything, the weather always changes. Shade in the morning will bring sun in the afternoon. Forget predicting a few days ahead, it never makes sense. Just go with the flow, knowing the sunshine is coming.
There is so much more to say about moving to Lanzarote but in current times it’s hard to really voice the reality. Compared to other places, this one is safe, it’s welcoming, it’s relatively easy, it’s possible and it’s unique. We know that during the worst of COVID-19, we felt protected. We know that during political storms, we felt respected. It took some months to ‘understand’ the process here and the paperwork seemed confusing but all-in, it’s a simpler life than the UK. Nobody yearns for riches, nobody cares where you came from, the beach is nearby, and no matter if it’s posh or simple, your house will always leak when it rains. There is a simple ‘togetherness’ that removes some of the worries of the world.
Our economy will suffer due to COVID-19 and even more so now that the UK has determined us an unsafe place. This is odd to us of course but we imagine it’s more deeply political than a question of reality. Having lived in Lanzarote for a few years, we see the world of the UK, USA and Big Europe as slightly odd. Very obsessed with rules that are only sometimes enforced but so very numerous. Fighting between cultures and castes that makes no sense. Work that pays bills that rise as you work. All of this is alien to life on the volcanoes, where the most important thing is that you can see the horizon and have fruit in your hand.
So, if you’re considering moving here, come. Bring some money and spend it here. Be prepared for a change, both in your lifestyle and your head. Things get much calmer here in this small space. Find yourself a little Finca in the hills and wonder why the rest of the world is so loud. Eat an Arepa in a café and forget about Nandos. It’s hard to truly describe what it’s like to live here but if we had to, we’d say it’s a bit like “slowing down” and very much like “growing your heart”. It’s home, anyway.
Find a house : http://www.suecoxinmobiliaria.com/
Find a flight : Erm, no comment right now, try Easyjet!
Find a digital bank : https://n26.com/
Find advice : https://www.gov.uk/guidance/living-in-spain
(We are not commercially affiliated with any of the above).
Alex + friends