The archipelago of islands that make up the Canaries has long attracted expats from around the world, looking for beautiful beaches, a relaxed pace of life and friendly communities suited to family living.
While the Canaries are an autonomous region of Spain, geographically, the islands are closer to Africa – resulting in a warm climate year-round.
Whether you plan to retire to Gran Canaria, take advantage of the low house prices in Lanzarote or settle down in the rustic, peaceful settings of the smaller islands, such as El Hierro and La Gomera, creating a careful budget to ensure you have full control over your relocation and living costs, is key.
Chase Buchanan’s Canary Islands team, based in Tenerife, have put this article together to explore some of the primary living costs you should consider, as well as an overview of the tax environment and potential outgoings linked with visas for foreign nationals.
Canary Islands Average Living Costs
One of the first aspects to bear in mind is that the Canary Islands include eight habitable islands. There are, therefore, variances in the living costs between the larger, more populated islands such as Fuerteventura and Tenerife and smaller islands like La Graciosa.
Irrespective of where you choose to live, the region is significantly more affordable than the UK, the US and much of Northern Europe, with only slightly higher prices around the tourist areas. Compared to London, even the biggest cities offer low living costs. As a quick comparison:
- Las Palmas, in Gran Canaria, is 40.1% less expensive than the British capital, with property rentals costing 71% less.
- Santa Cruz, in Tenerife, is equally affordable, with general living costs 47.5% lower and rental prices 72.6% lower.
A family of four relocating to Tenerife would need an average budget of €2,148 (£1,875) per month to live comfortably, excluding accommodation, rising slightly to €2,382 (£2,078) in Gran Canaria. A single person would need a rough monthly budget of between €598 (£522) and €661 (£577), respectively.
If you choose to purchase a home or retire to one of the smaller islands within the archipelago, you may find that properties are less widely available. However, the lower demand for holiday rentals makes the property market considerably more accessible from a cost perspective.
Budgeting for Life as an Expat in the Canary Islands
Public transport is widely available, ranging from buses and taxis to ferries and island-hopping flights. Most expats choose to purchase a car, although you can also hire a vehicle or even ship your existing car. Shipping companies charge roughly £1,000 to £1,800, and you can drive for six months before replacing your foreign registration plates.
Expats should note that cars less than six months old will attract much higher customs levies than older vehicles, and you will need to pay import duty of up to 13% of the vehicle’s value.
Families with children should also budget for education costs, depending on whether they anticipate enrolling their children in a local, private or international school. Education is compulsory up to age 16 in Spain, with free tuition at state schools for residents.
International schools often provide bilingual classes and follow the UK National Curriculum or International Baccalaureate. Many provide tuition towards the bachillerato – the qualification children need to apply to a Spanish university.
While costs will differ between independent Spanish private schools, international schools and higher education facilities, the average price of a private school placement is around €7,200 (£6,260) per year.
The British School of Gran Canaria charges €6,038 (£5,249) a year for primary school students and €7,800 (£6,780) a year for sixth-form pupils. Fees at the British School of Tenerife range from €5,375 (£4,672) a year for nursery places to €6,085 (£5,290) for sixth-form tuition.
Planning for Tax Obligations Overseas
Just as it is important to budget for living costs, from grocery shopping to school fees, transport and accommodation, expats should consider their tax profile and how their liabilities may change following an international move.
Because the Canary Islands are an autonomous region, the tax rates payable on income, business profits and pensions may differ from other areas in Spain. In 2023, the main tax rates you may need to be aware of include:
- Income tax bands range from 18.5% on incomes of up to €12,450 (£10,800), extending to an upper tax bracket of 50.5% on earnings of €300,000 (£261,000) and above.
- Flat-rate non-resident tax rates – normally based on 24%. Expats relocating to Spain from other EU countries pay a reduced 19% tax.
- Reduced business tax rates, with a 4% corporation tax levied in the Canary Islands ‘Special Zone’ (ZEC), which is favourable when compared to the 25% business tax rate in mainland Spain.
Part of the reason goods and services in the Canary Islands are more affordable is that the General Indirect Tax (IGIC) is also lower, with a current sales tax rate of 7%.
Should you need advice around your tax liabilities related to investments, assets, property and other wealth, we advise contacting the Chase Buchanan team for a more detailed overview of your finances and how your tax residency position may impact your reporting obligations.
Our earlier article: Spanish vs Canary Islands Tax Policies is also a useful resource and explains some of the other variances you should be aware of.
Canary Islands Visa Options for British Nationals
Finally, as an expat planning to relocate, we’d always suggest you review the types of visas, residence permits, and work permits you may be eligible for. Visas often affect the tax bands you will fall into, particularly if you are unsure whether to apply for long-term residency or remain a non-resident for tax purposes.
Any non-EU national living or working in the Canary Islands for 90 days or more must have a valid permit. There are temporary residency options which allow you to remain there for up to five years, whereas a long-term or permanent residency visa means you qualify for the same tax treatments and the right to work as a Spanish resident.
The non-lucrative visa is a popular option, which allows UK citizens to live in Spain, provided they can show they have the financial resources to support themselves and any family members relocating with them.
Expats must invest in the Spanish economy, with many opting to purchase a home worth €500,000 (£435,000) or above. If you apply for this visa, you should ensure your budget incorporates the cost of buying property and other expenses linked with the buying process, such as estate agency fees and ongoing property taxes payable annually.
For more information about the cost of living in the Canary Islands, applying for a long-term visa, or planning your relocation budget, please get in touch with the Chase Buchanan Wealth Management team at your convenience.
*Information correct as at November 2023