Being an expat in Valencia: a guide to housing, work, and culture in Spain

Being an expat in Valencia can be an amazing experience, but finding a job and adjusting to the unique Spanish lifestyle takes time. Read our tips to help you adapt in record time.

13 min read

Spain is one of the liveliest and most exciting countries in Europe, and Valencia is an ideal place for expats to experience the country's charms. People who choose to live in Valencia are often attracted by the simple, relaxed lifestyle — although living in a large Spanish city still has its share of stress.

The good news: In general, the cost of living in Valencia is more affordable than in other European cities such as London, Paris, or Amsterdam. The earning potential may not be as high in Valencia, but many people find the warm climate and cultural richness more than make up for it. Expats who thrive in Valencia tend to focus less on the potential drawbacks and more on the positives, such as:

  • The Mediterranean weather — temperatures are mild and moderate all year round.
  • The lower cost of living compared to other cities in Europe, including Madrid and Barcelona.
  • The beautiful beaches — with easy access right in the city, it’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and practicing water sports.

Ready to learn more? The following guide covers what you need to know about being an expat in Valencia so that you can adapt to your new life in record time.

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The expat community in Valencia

Thanks to its lower cost of living, mild climate, and urban beaches, Valencia is a very popular city among expats. The relatively low cost of living in Spain and the growing number of companies will likely make Valencia even more attractive for expats in the coming years.

So, how many expats actually live in Valencia? According to figures from the City Council, 133,568 of Valencia’s residents are expats or foreign-born. 

That all adds up to a robust community of people to meet and interact with, and you should have no trouble finding bars and events that cater to the expat crowd. 

Most social media platforms have groups created specifically for expats living in Valencia, which you can easily join to meet people.

Expat housing in Valencia

Because you may be interested in either renting or buying, let’s look at some key facts about how both housing options work in Valencia.

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Basics of renting in Valencia

If you’re planning to rent an apartment or a house in Valencia, you can expect to pay an average of €10.50 per square meter per month, according to estimates from the Idealista portal. To give you an idea, that’s about €525/month for a 50-square-meter apartment. But that’s not all.

Valencia is a popular destination, and the rental market reflects this. Even so, it’s not impossible to find an apartment at a good price — you just have to search a little harder. 

Most rental contracts in Spain are valid for 6-12 months, although it’s generally possible to renew them for the same period.

When calculating a budget for rent and moving costs, be sure to factor in a security deposit equivalent to two months' rent, plus a one-time fee of a few hundred euros if you use a real estate agency to find your home. 

If you want to be closer to the city center, opt for a smaller apartment. Also keep in mind that a furnished rental usually costs more than an unfurnished one — although if you choose an unfurnished place, you’ll have to budget for the furniture yourself.

Basic aspects of buying a home in Valencia

Valencia may be a popular destination for expats and Spaniards alike, but don’t worry — the real estate market isn’t out of control (at least, not yet). There are good reasons to invest in a house in Valencia. 

If you’ve decided to buy a property, the average price of housing in Valencia as of 2023 is €1,362 per square meter, according to the Idealista portal.

As with renting, the price to buy a house can vary dramatically depending on the area. The most expensive houses and apartments tend to be located in affluent neighborhoods, such as  L’Eixample and Ciutat Vella. 

You could limit your property search to less expensive areas such as Rascanya,  Benicalap, or other districts further away from the center.

Buying a house in Valencia can make a lot of sense for those who are in love with the local culture and know they want to live here for many years. 

But you have to go into the decision with your eyes open. When comparing prices, think beyond just the purchase price of the house. You should also take into account the financing costs and other expenses that you may have to pay when purchasing property, such as hiring a real estate agent to help you find a home, a surveyor to inspect the building, and a lawyer to make sure the paperwork is in order.

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The best places to live for expats in Valencia

The most popular and in-demand neighborhoods in Valencia are:

  • Ruzafa: The most fashionable area of the city, it’s a mix of traditional and modern and has a great social and cultural scene.
  • El Carmen: This neighborhood is full of students and people with an artistic, bohemian bent. That gives it the most alternative atmosphere in the city.
  • Patraix: A neighborhood very close to the city center, it’s full of public services and a major hospital.
  • Pla del Real: Close to the Turia Garden, this neighborhood has a wide range of bars and spots for nightlife. 
  • Benimaclet: The quietest option in Valencia, it’s also very close to several universities.

Finding a job in Valencia

Valencia is home to a growing network of companies, so job opportunities are much easier to find than ever before. Booming sectors such as manufacturing and the automotive industry make Valencia a particularly attractive place to look for work. In fact, companies like Inmo Alameda  and CaixaBank are always on the lookout for local talent.

Getting a residence permit for Valencia for non-European expats

One major difficulty for some people wanting to live in Spain: residency status. 

If you’re not an EU citizen and you want to move to Valencia for work, you’ll most likely have to find a job and a company to sponsor your residence permit or visa

Expats have to complete a number of formalities when they arrive in Spain. Before moving to Valencia, it’s best to familiarize yourself with what you need to do.

Getting a residence permit for Valencia for expats from the EU

If you come from an EU member country, you’ll have no problem settling in Valencia, although you’ll still have to complete some formalities.

Expat salary expectations in Valencia 

If you’re imagining getting a job in Spain with a large salary, you may need to rethink your expectations. Compared to other major European economies, such as France and Germany, the average base salary in Spain is not very high.

According to the Spanish Statistical Office, the average base salary in Valencia is €25,914 per year, which is equivalent to an average hourly rate of €12.27. This is higher than the average base salary across the rest of Spain, which is €25,896 per year.

If you’re looking for a job in Valencia, keep in mind that a place can seem more or less expensive depending on how much money you earn. If you can, negotiate a salary that equals or exceeds the average salary in Valencia.

Cost of living in Valencia

Living in a city like Valencia doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically save more money. People who live in Valencia tend to earn higher salaries than their suburban or rural counterparts — but they also tend to pay more for essentials such as rent and food. 

Valencia in particular is known for its high prices for everything related to leisure, entertainment, and restaurants. It’s also pricey in terms of housing — although cheaper than in Madrid and Barcelona, it’s still more expensive than in other Spanish cities.

Keep in mind that the cost of living in Valencia includes not only essentials, but also activities that allow you to really explore the local scene. If you’re looking for a quick way to balance your main expenses, check out our 50/30/20 calculator, designed to help you divide your income among three major categories: basic needs, disposable income and savings/debts. Or, input your specific expenses into our monthly budget calculator to get a clearer idea of your monthly spending.

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Healthcare in Valencia

Healthcare in Spain is free and generally high quality, but you’ll have to register with the Social Security system in order to access it. There are different ways to do this, depending on where you live and what your situation is. 

Check out our complete guide on how to register for Social Security in Spain, which includes everything an expat living in Valencia needs to know.

Education in Valencia 

If you plan to study in Valencia as an expat and you already speak Spanish, you probably won’t have any difficulties. In Valencia, you can also choose to study other languages such as English, French, or German. 

Looking for a study program in Valencia in Spanish? We recommend exploring the programs of the best universities in Valencia, including:

  • Universidad Politécnica de Valencia: This public school is usually very highly ranked among European universities, especially for telecommunications engineering and mechanical engineering. 
  • University of Valencia: Considered the sixth-best university in Spain and the best in Valencia, this public school offers courses in science, arts and humanities, or health sciences, among other subjects.
  • CEU Cardenal Herrera University: This private university is a pioneer in offering studies in Valencia in subjects like pharmacy, journalism, or veterinary medicine.

Education in Valencia (for non-Spanish speakers) 

If you plan to study in Valencia as an expat and you don’t speak Spanish, you might encounter some difficulties because Spaniards aren’t generally fluent in English. Although more and more programs are becoming available in English, the vast majority of courses are taught only in Spanish or Valencian.

That said, universities such as Universidad Internacional de Valencia offer more courses in English.

Looking for a study program in English in Valencia? We recommend checking out programs at the best universities in the city, including:

  • European University of Valencia: It has a wide range of undergraduate, master’s, and postgraduate degrees and courses, many of them in Spanish and English. It’s a private school.
  • University of Valencia: This public university offers some courses in English, mostly in business, economics, tourism, and law.
  • ESIC Business & Marketing School: This private school has numerous campuses around  the country, and one is located in Valencia. Most of its courses are in English.

Children’s education for expats in Valencia

As in many other European countries, the school year in Spain usually runs from September to June, with a break in the summer. If you have kids, you might choose to enroll them in a local public school, which is free. Classes will almost certainly be taught in Spanish in public schools.

You can also choose a private school, where teaching may be in English or another language, and there may also be a religious component. Some of these schools can be quite expensive, especially the internationally oriented ones.

Getting around in Valencia

As a major communications hub, Valencia is well connected to the rest of Spain. This makes it an ideal starting point for expats who want to explore the country. 

Valencia also has a modern network of trains, buses, and trams that allow you to travel relatively quickly to any point in the city.

Public transport in Valencia

Public transportation is a relatively affordable and reliable option. A single public transport ticket costs €1.50 and is valid only on the same day of purchase. 

Other options are also available. For example, you can buy a  10-trip ticket, which costs €8 and has no expiration date. Or, you can opt for monthly passes that cover unlimited travel in the metro zone of your choice.

Keep in mind, however, that bus and intercity train services may be less frequent on weekends. To help you plan your route, the Spanish rail network RENFE has a website available in a range of languages, including English, Spanish, Catalan, and Basque.

Cycling in Valencia

More and more expats living in Valencia are choosing to cycle to work, school and social events. Cycling is especially easy if you live in central neighborhoods such as the old city center and Malvarrosa beach.

If you decide to travel by cycling, you can expect to pay between €250 and €1,000 for a bicycle, depending on the quality you’re looking for.

Driving in Valencia

Car-sharing apps such as Uber are available and becoming increasingly popular in Valencia, although there may be a surcharge at peak times. Cabs are also common, and fares are usually not too high.

If you plan to drive yourself, keep in mind that parking in the city can be expensive and traffic can be a hassle. 

You can exchange your driver’s license for a Spanish one if it was issued by a country that has an agreement with Spain. Otherwise, you’ll have to get an international license or apply for one once you settle in Spain.

Cultural differences in Spain and Valencia

Valencia is a large, multicultural city where many people live together in relative harmony, but Spanish culture is still very important here.

Some expats find it difficult to adapt to the Spanish way of life, while for others, it’s exactly what they’re looking for. For example, punctuality isn’t exactly a priority in Valencia. You might schedule dinner for 8:00 p.m., but people don’t start arriving until 8:15 p.m. Although it may be frustrating at first, look on the bright side: It also gives you a little leeway when you’re running late!

Other things that expats find a bit strange in Valencia are:

  • The strict rules about paella: It’s true that the best paellas are found in Valencia, and locals have high standards for how the dish should be made. They’re usually offended by the paella that’s eaten elsewhere — Valencians call it “rice with stuff.”
  • The love for fire and gunpowder: Once you’ve attended the celebration of the Fallas, you’ll understand how strongly Valencians feel about fireworks.
  • Putting their best face forward: Spain is the country with the most cosmetic procedures in Europe, and Valencia has the highest proportion of these procedures per inhabitant.
  • Greetings and farewells: Spaniards usually greet each other and say goodbye with a small kiss on the cheeks. Often, it’s just an air kiss and there isn’t any actual contact. One exception is when men greet other men — in this case, a warm handshake is customary.
  • Spanish slang: Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, but there are many differences between countries. Spain is no exception, and terms that are familiar in Argentina, Colombia, or Chile might be completely different in Spain. You won’t have any trouble getting by in Valencia with your Spanish, but to really participate in the culture, we recommend learning the local slang. Spaniards will appreciate it.
  • Siesta time: Even if you’ve never been to Spain, you may be familiar with the concept of the siesta: a break in the day between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm that in some parts of the country is used to take a nap. In a big city like Valencia, with its cosmopolitan atmosphere and pace, it’s not very common for stores and restaurants to close in the afternoon, and you won’t find many people taking a siesta here.

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Managing your money as an expat in Valencia

If you’re preparing to move to Valencia, you may be feeling some stress about how to maintain your saving habits in a different city and country. 

The good news? N26 makes it easy for you. With our fully online bank account, you can set daily spending limits to help you stay on track with your budget goals and use Spaces to create sub-accounts for different needs.

Oh, and speaking of bank accounts, you probably need more information to get started. See our guide on how to open a bank account in Spain for the whole process.

Frequently asked questions about being an expat in Valencia

Is Valencia a good place for expats?

Thanks to its climate, lower cost of living, coastline, and all the activities and experiences it offers, Valencia is an ideal place for expats. Plus, it’s also an educational and professional hub, which makes it an interesting destination for people from all over the world.

Where do expats in Valencia live?

Expats in Valencia live all over the place, but the highest concentrations of expats tend to live in international neighborhoods located in the Ruzafa and El Carmen districts, among others.

Can I live in Valencia without speaking Spanish?

It can be difficult to live in Valencia for a long time without speaking Spanish, at least at an intermediate level. Even if you can manage, you won’t get a full experience of the local culture. You’ll also find it more difficult to do basic tasks such as shopping, filing a tax return, or getting around.

Is Spain friendly to foreigners?

Spaniards are usually quite friendly to foreigners. Still, it’s a good idea to make an effort to learn their language and respect local customs. Spaniards who see you at least giving it a try will likely be impressed and warm up to you more quickly.

Can I live and work in Spain if I don’t have an EU passport?

Yes, you can live and work in Spain if you’re not a citizen of another EU country. To find out what options you have, visit this link.

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