27 Jan, 2010 @ 16:27
5 mins read

Does it costa bit more in Spain?

WITH the Christmas period now a distant memory, the main thing looming for most people is one almighty credit card debt.

Rising bills and over-priced goods then are the last thing we need with 2010 threatening to be yet another testing year financially.

So a recent survey by British consumer magazine Which? was troubling to say the least.

It revealed that Spain was more expensive than Britain when it came to several basic necessities.

In fact, when the costs were weighted according to the minimum wage – 8,736 euros per year in Spain compared to 12,235 euros for Britons – the results were a blow for expatriate bargain hunters.

However, if you feel compelled to ring your friend’s and brag about the fuel savings that can be made, you may want to think again – especially if you were about to use a mobile phone.

It emerged that the annual supermarket spend per person in Spain is considerably more than in the UK, with Spaniards spending 836 euros and Britons spending just 619 euros, some 25 per cent less.

It also revealed that due to a distinct lack of competition, broadband users in the UK paid just 476 euros annually, compared to a whopping 919 euros in Spain.

In light of these foreboding findings, the Olive Press decided to take a deeper look at the cost of living both here and back in the UK.

And the good news is that the situation is not quite as bad as Which? portrayed. In fact, it emerges that there are plenty of things more expensive in the UK.

First and foremost is the price of petrol that is notoriously expensive back in Britain.

After converting to euros, UK petrol has increased by 0.28c since 2009 and now costs 1.26 euros per litre, while diesel rose by 0.17c to 1.29 euros per litre.

Petrol in Spain is still reassuringly cheap in comparison standing this week at 1.09 euros per litre, while diesel stays at just 0.99c.

In short, it is 16 per cent more expensive to fill up a 50-litre petrol tank in the UK, costing 63 euros compared to a more bearable 54.50 euros in Spain.

However, if you feel compelled to ring your friend’s and brag about the fuel savings that can be made, you may want to think again – especially if you were about to use a mobile phone.

For the pay-as-you-go rates offered by international mobile phone giant Vodafone is much cheaper for our British colleagues.

After taking into account slight exchange rate differentials it costs 0.22c a minute to make a UK call compared to 0.28c here in Spain.

It may instead be more economical to send a letter as, when it comes to the price of stamps, Spain appears to be slightly cheaper.

Although the cost of a stamp for a letter to anywhere in Spain has risen by 6.25 per cent to 0.34c this is still cheaper than a first class stamp in the UK at 0.44c.

Furthermore, there are a number of extremely popular everyday goods on which discerning expatriates can save themselves more than a few bob.

Fans of spicy chorizo and lentil soup will be pleased to hear big savings can be made on toilet paper.

A four pack of Andrex in the UK costs an eye-opening 2.31 euros, while in Spain a similar brand (Sandrex) weighs in at just 0.72c.

Meanwhile, a trip to your local grocer (in my case in Ronda) not only proves that local, wholesome produce tastes better, but it saves vital euros too.

In Spain, six eggs cost just 0.95c compared to a pricey 1.64 euros in Britain.

Better news still, for eager expatriate price-watchers is that, per kilo, a Spanish (non free range) chicken costs just 2.35 euros, as opposed to 3.04 euros in UK supermarket Tesco.

Fans of fruit will also find that it is much cheaper to reach the holy grail of ‘five a day’ here in Spain.

A kilo of red grapes, for example, costs 2.80 euros here, while exactly the same amount costs 5.40 euros in the UK.

And orange lovers will be brightened up with the news that they are almost double the price in the UK, costing approximately 0.35c anc just 0.20c here.

Almost all fruit and veg worked out cheaper in Spain, apart from oddly, carrots, which cost 1.25 euros per kilo compared to just 0.85c in a UK grocer.

But it is not just the healthy produce that can save expatriates a few welcome centimos, but also the perennial vices, cigarettes and alcohol.

Smokers are certainly well catered for in Spain, with cigarettes costing around 30 per cent less.

According to Which? a packet of 20 Lambert and Butler currently costs 6.37 euros in the UK, while in Spain it costs just 3.45 euros.

Meanwhile, a night out in Spain also fares better when judged against UK standards.

Although, on average, a double measure of spirits costs around six euros in Spain, it is at least double the amount poured out in the UK.

What’s more, if you’re more of a beer lover then Spain is most definitely right up your street as well.

When it comes to a bottle of San Miguel it costs 1.50 euros in Ronda, compared to 2.28 euros in the similar-sized UK city of Canterbury.

A half pint of beer however, costs roughly the same price, with a tubo of beer (the equivalent of a half pint) costing about 1.50 euros in both countries.

On top of that, eating out will generally prove to be cheaper here in Spain.

The ‘Menu del Dia’ – introduced by former dictator Franco to ensure that all citizens could afford a well-balanced, three-course meal – is still widely available.

Although the cost has gone up since the euro came in, and fluctuates by the year, it is rarely more than eight euros – far cheaper than the three-course offerings most UK restaurants could offer.

And if you’re now considering jetting back to the UK to harp on about the savings that can be made, then further money can be best saved on flights.

It emerges that paying in euros – as opposed to pounds – will often save you up to 10 per cent.

Indeed, budget airlines no longer take note of the exchange rate when it comes to the extra charges bumped onto their flights.

Therefore, a customer paying 15 pounds to check-in a bag from Malaga to London is paying just 15 euros in Spain.

However, despite the cheaper flights, alcohol and food, technology lovers in Spain will have every right to feel disillusioned.

For when it comes to the latest gadgets and gizmos on offer, Britons abroad look set to pay over the odds.

When comparing both Currys and Spain’s Fnac hardware websites game console lovers will discover that a Playstation 3 in Spain will cost 299.95 euros compared to 285 euros in the UK.

Furthermore, an Apple iPod Touch 64GB GamePlay is 36 euros more expensive in Spain at 359 euros compared to 323 euros in Britain.

Finally, when it comes to Spain and the UK’s most popular tabloid press, there is only one winner.

Daily paper Diario Sur costs 1.10 euros, while your ‘super soar away’ Sun emerges victorious at just 0.34c.
The Mail doesn’t fair badly at 0.57c nor the Times at 1.03 euros.

We could go on for pages, but all in all it appears that comparing prices in Spain to the UK is a veritable mine field.

One thing’s for certain, the halcyon days when everything was cheaper in Spain are most certainly over.

But, while it might costa bit more in Spain these days, if you keep your wits about you when out and about shopping you will definitely make savings.

And if it all gets a bit too much, then treat yourself to a stiff, but generously-measured gin and tonic and enjoy the sunshine (well, sometimes at least!).

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

Do you have a story? Contact newsdesk@theolivepress.es


  1. £1.28 for diesel in UK? I have a local dealer next to where I live, not one of the big supermarkets(they are even cheaper)and I pay £1.14. Not saying it’s cheaper, it clearly isn’t, but I have never seen diesel anywhere near that price.

  2. Paco – please concentrate. The article says that petrol in the UK is 1.26 euros a litre. Which is about £1.14!

    And Spaniards spend an average of 836 euros a year at the supermarket? 16 euros a week!? I think the writer of this article ahould try concentrating too”

  3. Obviously the writer of this article has not tried to get a menu of the day down here on the Costa del Sol – please let me know where you can get one for 8 euros!!!!

  4. with all respect to the guy who wrote this piece he should try shopping where i live as it is very expensive. The local supermarkets have all put their prices up and now there is less choice. Near me there is a huge Iceland and it has to be the busiest supermarket on the coast due to its good value food. The place is packed with all nationalities including Spanish all looking to save money. It way not be the highest quality food but it is the cheapest by some way.

  5. Alicia, the Menu del Dia in the Hospital Civil in Malaga, while very healthy, is also only €7.60 for 3 courses: if you look elsewhere (and not in the typical tourist & expat dives) then you can find a very good bargain.
    Mark, i’m guessing you live near Las Lagunas, in which cas try the LIDL, you’ll find it’s cheaper than Iceland and just 100 yards away: refrain from buying your produce in Hipercor, Dunnes Stores and making the long journey to the Morrisons in Gib. And if all else fails, Fuengirola indoor market isn’t that bad, just stay awy from the Supersol

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