Category Archives: Relocating to Spain

Driving in Spain – the law

The Internet is home to lots of conflicting advice about the legalities of driving in Spain, especially as an expat from the UK.
Is your UK driving licence valid? How long can you drive a car on UK registration plates?
In the light of recent stories about an increased number of people being stopped and paperwork expectations being enforced more strictly than in the past this article explains some of the basic information about motoring law in Spain.

What do you need to pay attention to if you want to ensure that you are driving legally in Spain and are not going to have any problems if the Guardia Civil stop you to check your paperwork.

“Circulation permit” – this is the official document with technical details about the car. It has to be carried at all times. Failure to produce this document or having an out of date ITV results in a 500€ on the spot fine. If you are driving a UK registered vehicle this is the ‘Vehicle Registration Document’.

ITV certificate – You have a legal obligation to carry the certificate from the most recent ITV test and to have displayed the sticker. Not doing so results in a fine from 10€ to 200€. If you are driving a UK registered vehicle this is evidence of your most recent MOT.

Driving licence – Failure to carry a driving licence carries a fine starting from 10€. If the licence is out of date this rises to 200€ and if you cannot prove you are legally permitted to drive (eg. You are banned or don’t hold the correct licence for the vehicle being driven) it rises to 500€.

Insurance – You do not now need to carry your insurance documentation and proof of payment but it is advisable to do so as this may still be asked for if you are stopped. If your insurance is not up to date, which can include not having paid the most recent premium, your car will be confiscated and you will have a fine of between 601€ and 3,0005€. In addition, if you were involved in an accident you would be personally liable for the damage to any other vehicles and for all medical costs for any injuries.

Driving with a UK registration plate:
This is becoming increasingly enforced so I would advise checking the details and making sure you are legal. If you bring a car over to Spain on UK plates and are on UK insurance then check you are covered by that insurance. Most companies only allow for 30 days of cover. This is extremely likely to be checked if you are stopped and the above notes about insurance would then apply.
You are legally allowed to drive a car on UK plates for up to six months. If you are stopped it is your responsibility to provide evidence of when the car was brought over (eg. Ferry tickets). To bring your UK car onto Spanish registration plates is best done by employing the services of a gestor. The cost is likely to be around 1000€-1500€ which will include the registration tax and annual licence fee.
If you have UK plates that are beyond the six month period and you are stopped be aware that you can be forced to pay the IVA (VAT) on the assumed Spanish value of the car. This is currently 21% and is paid in addition to the bills above for transferring the car to Spanish registration plates. (Eg. If a car is valued by the Spanish authorities at 10,000€ then should you be stopped outside of the six months the IVA due would be 2,100€ and you would then have to pay the registration fees above to transfer the car to Spanish plates.) In the past people have been given a period of grace after being stopped to deal with this transfer but increasingly it seems the fines are being applied immediately if the car is not legal.

This advice is offered as a plain English overview of some of the most important laws affecting expat motorists in Spain. If you wish to add anything else relevant please do send your additions to submissions@ukteacherinspain.com

The European Driver’s Handbook from the AA contains regularly updated advice on driving in Spain and other European countries. It is essential reading for anybody needing a quick overview of the motoring laws of European countries.

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Spanish Sundays – Easter week or Semana Santa

Semana Santa is the Spanish name for ‘Easter week’ or ‘Holy week’. During the 16th century the catholic church wanted to tell the story of Easter in a way the average man could access. They chose to do it using street processions depicting scenes from the death and resurrection of Jesus. That tradition lives on now in colourful street pageants throughout the week.

Semana Santa Alzira

Easter parade in Alzira, Spain

Despite appearances, the Easter parades are well structured and and each element carries its own symbolic relevance.

Drums being played in an Easter parade in Alzira, Spain

Drums being played in an Easter parade in Alzira, Spain

Each segment of the procession in Alzira is represented by a different brotherhood, each bearing their own standard.
Most include a band playing sombre music, sometimes only a single drum beat. The strange looking hats are representative of mourning.

A standard is carried to indicate the brotherhood responsible for the coming part of the procession

A standard is carried to indicate the brotherhood responsible for the coming part of the procession

The heart of the procession is the ‘imagen’, a carried biblical scene depicting a section of the Easter story.

An imagen is carried through the streets of Alzira, Spain

An imagen is carried through the streets of Alzira, Spain

Spanish Sundays is a regular feature of this website and provides a window into life in Spain. To view more articles like this use our on-site search feature and type “Spanish Sundays”. If you live in Spain and would like to contribute please send your article, accompanied by images, to submissions@ukteacherinspain.com


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Spanish Sundays – An invitation

Spanish Sundays is a popular weekly post looking at aspects of living in Spain and this week the invitation is open to anybody living in Spain to make submissions. In an effort to broaden the article to cover more of the peninsula anybody is invited to contribute.

Spanish Sundays posts are from 400-800 words and can include up to four images. If you want to share your experience of living in Spain send you article to:
submissions@ukteacherinspain.com
If you wish you can also send a short biography and a photo of yourself to be included with the article.

For now then, a look back over some of our recent Spanish Sundays articles.

Spanish Sundays – Fallas
Fallas is the regional fiesta for the Valencian autonomous region of Spain. With events running from the start of March until the 19th March it is allegedly the second biggest fiesta in the world after the Rio carnival.

Spanish Sundays – Fuengirola and Malaga
Fuengirola is on the Costa del Sol and is located in Andalucia. The sunrise over the sea is spectacular and a feature of this area of the Spanish coastline.

Spanish Sundays – A photo tour of Alzira
Alzira is located around 40km to the South of Valencia and 20km from the coast. Enjoying the coastal climate of the Mediterranean it doesn’t have the high and low temperature fluctuations of central Spain.

Spanish Sundays – Denia
Denia is a coastal town in the north of Costa Blanca. About midway between Benidorm and Valencia, Denia has a large marina and regular ferry services to Mallorca and Ibiza.


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Spanish Sundays – Fallas

Spanish Sundays is my regular weekly post that steps out of teaching and provides a window into Spain. This week, Fallas.

Fallas is the regional fiesta for the Valencian autonomous region of Spain. With events running from the start of March until the 19th March it is allegedly the second biggest fiesta in the world after the Rio carnival.

Fallas is about colour, ultimately about fire and consistently about noise. The noise of Fallas is something that cannot be described. From early morning fireworks to wake the city the noise never stops. Perhaps the most spectacular noise of them all is the mascleta. The video below is of the mascleta in Alzira at 2pm on Sunday March 15th, 2015.

No video can possibly do justice to the noise of a mascleta. (If you need to hop straight into the action fast forward to 4.30 and see the ground shaking finale.) An explosion of fireworks set off at 2pm each day the mascleta shakes the ground and the force of the explosions blows back on the crowd as the smoke fills the sky and blocks out the sun.

Smoke from a mascleta in Alzira, 2015

The smoke from a mascleta blocking the sun

But Fallas is more than just noise. In the final week before March 19th towns fill with the most intricate and brightly coloured models.

Fallas model in Alzira 2015

Fallas, Alzira 2015

Standing several stories high these models dominate the streets of every town. They reflect a full year of work in design and construction and sometimes have a satirical message. They exist just for a moment and then on the evening of March 19th, an evening known as the ‘crema’, they are burnt in an elaborate firework spectacle that last through the night with the final models disappearing in flames in the early hours of the morning.

You can see pictures of Fallas and watch videos but nothing on screen will do justice to the largest fiesta in Spain.

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Spanish Sundays – Fuengirola and Malaga

A little later than usual here is this week’s Spanish Sundays post, this time providing a view of Fuengirola and Malaga. I was fortunate to be there this weekend for the conference of the National Association of British Schools in Spain.

Fuengirola is on the Costa del Sol and is located in Andalucia. The sunrise over the sea is spectacular and a feature of this area of the Spanish coastline.

Another feature of the area are the fish barbecues that are located along the beach.

Sardines cooking in a boat shaped barbecue on the beach in Fuengirola, Spain

Sardines cooking on the beach in Malaga, Spain

Dotted along the beach in Feuenirola and Malaga are barbecues, often in the shape of a small fishing boat. Restaurants adjust their menus daily to reflect the availability of the day with everything served on the day it is caught. We spent our lunchtime at the restaurant above on the Paseo Malagueta, Malaga. The food was delicious but if I had to provide a recommendation I would say go with the sardines.

This coastline has good communication both with other cities in Europe and with the rest of Spain. Malaga has an international airport and also is a terminus for the Spanish fast rail network, the AVE.


Rosetta Stone Spanish language-learning software

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Spanish Sundays – A photo tour of Alzira

Alzira is located around 40km to the South of Valencia and 20km from the coast. Enjoying the coastal climate of the Mediterranean it doesn’t have the high and low temperature fluctuations of central Spain.

For this week’s Spanish Sunday blog post I am taking a photo tour of the town of Alzira.

Church dominating the skyline of Alzira

Mare de Déu del Lluch

The first sight on approaching Alzira is the church that looks down on the town from a hillside to the south. Mare de Déu del Lluch has views to Valencia in the north and across the Ribera Alta countryside towards Xativa to the south.

Rio Júcar, river in Alzira

The Rio Júcar flowing on the inland side of Alzira

Alzira is built on the banks of the Rio Júcar. With fertile orange groves all around the town and stretching towards the coast, the marsh lands growing rice for paella, much of the industry around Alzira is based on farming.

A steam train preserved on the northern edge of Alzira

Preserved steam train in Alzira

Alzira is on the main train line connecting Alicante and Valencia. Services into Valencia are frequent and well priced. During the day the service runs on the hour and delivers passengers to the centre of Valencia for around 7€.

Arabic walls from the time Alzira was a moorish settlement

Ancient Arabic walls

The inland edge of the town still retains the ancient Arabic walls. Remembering a time before James I liberated the town from the Arabs, these walls are just one of many Arabic influences in the design and architecture of the town.

The plaza Mayor in Alzira, the centre of the town

The Plaza Mayor in Alzira

The Plaza Mayor, or main square, in Alzira is fringed with orange trees. Bars and restaurants serve a variety of food and drink and the plaza is always busy, even through the winter months.

The town hall or ayuntamientio in the old town of Alzira

Alzira ayunamiento (town hall)

The old town of Alzira is a maze of narrow cobbled streets. Amongst the bars and churches is a central square that is home to the ayuntamiento (town hall).

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In the land of the blind…

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. Welcome to Spain, a land where a failure to enforce regulation encourages any cowboy to step forward as an expert.

I moved into my current house here in Alzira last summer. Just on the edge of the town and in a pleasant urbanisation, many aspects of being here are fantastic. With a south facing aspect and sun on the terrace all winter there’s plenty for which we can be grateful. Today however has uncovered once again the scourge of Spanish society – the cowboy workman. With seemingly nobody enforcing regulations, pretty much any tradesman, despite the sign writing on his van, could well be a complete and utter cowboy.

My first experience of this was soon after arriving here in Spain. The gas boiler I had at the time wasn’t working, so without hot water or heating, I called the landlord. José, my genial landlord turned up about a week later to take a look. He spent twenty minutes running water from each of the taps in the house and checking the pilot light before declaring that it was clearly not working and he would need to call an expert. Now, I imagined a boiler suit wearing official with a badge to denote his professional affiliations, so was a little taken aback when a gentleman in his mid seventies turned up with a black tar cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. After establishing the fact that this chap with his thickset, yellow, nicotine stained beard was in fact the expert, I led him through to the boiler and watched him perform his magic. In this case, with the lit cigarette still burning from the corner of his mouth, he lifted the front of the boiler and gave the gaze of what he clearly considered to be an expert analysis. With the cigarette waving dangerously from the corner of his mouth he tapped on any exposed pipes. With nothing happening he turned to me and asked if I had a spanner. When I was unable to oblige he changed his request to a screwdriver. Having provided him with the tools of his trade he then proceeded to bang ferociously on any pipe using the aforementioned tool. When the boiler still failed to light he shrugged and announced, with the pride normally associated with a job well done, that I would need an expert.

Which brings me to today’s events. Today’s clowning around started at around 9am when two guys turned up to install a new immersion heater. I had suggested to the landlady that a gas boiler may be a more sensible option when I complained that the 40 litre immersion was insufficient to service a family home. Today saw the installation of a new 70 litre immersion. The two tradesmen turned up at 9am and after a little poking around at the old system decided they needed ‘materials’. Now, to anybody living in Spain, a workman short of materials in the morning is an accepted code for “we’re going to a bar for breakfast and may be back before lunch”. The nearest DIY store is about two minutes away. Clearly these were large materials as they both left and took the van. Two hours later they returned looking well breakfasted and carrying the two bolts that had been missing at 9am.

The ensuing drilling, draining and general procrastination took until 3pm. Two men worked for six hours a piece, on paper at least, in order to install one immersion heater. (Let’s not discount the breakfast time as I’m sure they won’t when they submit their bill!)

There’s a lot to love about small town Spain but the lack of regulated and professional tradesmen is not on the list. At some point I imagine the regulations will come and customer expectation may even be the driving force for change. Until then, we will have to continue to enjoy the theatre of ‘have a go’ workmen trying in vain to fix the nation’s electrical and gas appliances.

In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king!

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Preparing to move abroad – learning a language

Are you preparing for a move to live and work in a different country? If your move takes you to a country where a different language is spoken then it may well be worth preparing before you leave. Any effort you can put in before you move may well make those first few days and weeks in your new home easier.

When we were considering moving to Spain one of the most useful pieces of advice I received was “learn the language”. Statistically, people who make an effort to learn the language when they relocate abroad are more likely to have a positive experience and more likely to remain in their host country.

In 2008 when we were looking to move abroad we registered with a local evening class and spent two hours of each week studying. This was successful for us as it gave us a structure and an incentive. Once I started becoming more confident with the basics then I invested in a CD language course and a number of books. All of these were helpful, but mainly because I already had a weekly class that kept my interest and made the language learning a regular part of my week. The investment in a language learning course before moving really does help. It is tempting to think that when you move it will be easy to learn the language but if you are intending working in your host country then your first few months are likely to be spent adapting to a new job. You may not, at least initially, have time and energy left for study at the end of your working day.

Transparent Spanish Complete Edition

Transparent Spanish Complete Edition

Moving to a different country and a different culture can be quite isolating. Learning the language is an important part of enjoying social interactions in the same way as you do in your home country. Simple aspects of day to day life like asking where a product is in a shop or passing the time of day with a neighbour are all impossible if language is a barrier.

We always offer lessons to our new teachers which are entirely voluntary but extremely popular. Those teachers who have made an effort to begin their language learning before moving do adapt to life here in Spain much more quickly.

The second language aspect of moving abroad to teach is understanding how to help pupils who almost certainly do not have English as their home language. The main difference that you may find in working with a high proportion of pupils with English as an additional language (EAL pupils) is that you become aware of the need for a technical knowledge of English. Children will have questions and without a confident technical knowledge of English then providing the right answers and support is impossible. One way to improve your knowledge of English is to enroll on a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course. This may not be essential for the teaching job you are taking abroad. However, the improvement to your own knowledge of English grammar will make you better equipped to support EAL pupils.


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i-to-i professional TEFL certificate – 140 hours

Anything you can do to improve your own language knowledge, whether that be the language spoken in your host country or your knowledge of English, will make adaptation to living abroad easier.

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Spanish Sundays – A weekend in Denia

We spent this weekend in a hotel on the edge of Denia.

Outside view of Hotel Les Rotes, Denia

Hotel Les Rotes – Denia

Denia is a coastal town in the north of Costa Blanca. About midway between Benidorm and Valencia, Denia has a large marina and regular ferry services to Mallorca and Ibiza. We stayed in Hotel Les Rotes, a four star hotel and a part of the MR Hotel chain. The hotel and grounds are extremely well kept and the standard and cleanliness of rooms was also high. We had breakfast included. Breakfast is served in the restaurant adjacent to the outside swimming pool. With fresh fruit, cheeses, meats, breads, cereals and the option for cooked eggs and bacon the breakfast catered for most tastes.

Denia is a popular town and features in some holiday brochures for flights coming in to Alicante. Between Denia and the next resort, Javea, is an area of protected countryside.

Octopus hung out to dry in the sun on the beach near Denia

Octopus drying in the sun

Denia is a well developed town, no doubt in part due to the money brought in by the large marina. Many of the restaurants specialise in fish dishes using locally caught products. The picture above was taken outside a restaurant on the beach just outside Denia.

A menu featuring only five dishes

A short and disappointing menu

By the port in Denia is a maze of cobbled backstreets with a range of bars and restaurants. Denia and Javea are both attractive towns and worth visiting. The coast is an excellent place for diving or snorkelling with crystal clear seas. Most of the coastline in this area is rocky although Javea also has a sandy beach.

Costa Blanca walking guide
by Gill Round

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Spanish Sunday

A brunch and a walk on the beach in Cullera.

Chivito

Chivito – The perfect Valencian brunch

Sunday afternoon and the weather from the last few days has changed. There was a brief flurry of snow in Valencia at one point this week but nothing like the images of stranded motorists that have made the international news.

It was great then to wake up to a warmer day today and a feel of spring in the air. One of the real highlights of working in Spain is the weekend. With a workload that is manageable, without any intervention needed from Nicky Morgan, and weather that rarely interferes with plans, weekends are relaxing.

Everywhere Spanish Audio Course

After a slow start to the day we headed out to the beach at the nearby town of Cullera. Breakfast was a Chivito, a traditional Valencian bocadillo. Think Spanish style all day breakfast. With pork slices, bacon, cheese, fried egg, lettuce, tomato and mayo it is a high calorie, high flavour weekend brunch.

Palm trees

Palm trees – Cullera

The sky today was clear and the temperature in the sun felt like an English summer afternoon.

Cullera beach

Cullera beach

In the summer Cullera beach fills with sun-worshippers and the sand disappears beneath a kaleidoscope of sun shades. In the winter it is a different scene and the beach is almost deserted. The weather must be warming as today there were people in the sea for the first time this year. Spanish weekends definitely help the sensation that workload is reasonable here and that work and life are better balanced than they are for colleagues working in the United Kingdom.

Rose by the water

Cullera beach

Transparent Spanish Complete Edition

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