Parking Blues in a white Andalucian village

Blue parking zones in Torrox

Look out for these street signs!

It’s the same the world over!

Finding a parking space is getting more and more difficult, no matter where you live. You might have thought it would be an easy matter to park your car in any one of the pretty white villages in the Axarquía but, in some of them, it’s almost impossible.

The difficulty seems to arise because there is no time restriction. Once you’ve parked your vehicle, you can stay as long as you like – which is all very well when you can actually find a space in the first place!

Two years ago, to try to alleviate this problem, the town hall in Torrox introduced Blue Parking Zones (Zona Azul) around the centre of the village.  This means that during certain times of the day, if you park where there are blue lines painted on the ground, you need to display a parking disc with the time correctly set to coincide with your arrival time.

Buy one these parking discs for €1, from local shops

Buy one these parking discs for €1, from local shops

The reusable parking discs can be purchased from most of the shops in the village for a one-off payment of €1. Once you have your disc, each time you park in the Blue Zone during ‘working hours’ (Monday to Friday, 9am – 2pm & 5pm – 8pm) you need to set the time on your disc to your time of arrival and the gap on the disc will indicate when you need to leave. You must display your disc, clearly visible, on the dashboard of your vehicle.

Within Torrox village, you are restricted to ONE hour of free parking.  Outside of these times, including weekends, there is no restriction. This means that if you arrive at 1.30pm on any weekday afternoon, you can safely park until 5.30pm without a problem.

Of course, if you overstay your allotted time, or fail to display a disc, you will be faced with a hefty financial penalty.

All pretty straightforward you might think.

Blue zone parking

Parking within the blue parking zone

The Blue Parking restrictions were extended to certain areas of the coastal area of Torrox Costa, last summer. On the coast, parking is restricted Monday to Friday, 10am – 10pm and on Saturdays between 10am and 2pm. The scheme apparently works the same way as in the village, with the difference being that on the coast you are entitled to park for TWO hours free, instead of one.

This means, I presume, that you will need to purchase a different parking disc for €1 from a shop in Torrox Costa, as the gap indicating your allotted parking time (two hours) on the disc would be different from the one you can use in Torrox village (one hour).

With me so far?

Blue Zone parking signs at Torrox Costa

Different Blue Zone parking signs at Torrox Costa

What is confusing (to me, at least) is the extra part at the bottom of the sign that indicates that during July and August the maximum time for parking is two hours. Does this mean outside of the restricted hours, too? Or that you are only allowed to park once (for two hours) and then you have to clear off?

Confused?  I know I am!

Of course, there have been some disgruntled drivers who object to the timed parking restrictions but, from a personal point of view I think the Blue Zone parking scheme works very well within Torrox village, as I really appreciate being able to always find a parking space since the system was introduced.  However, the scheme down on the coast at Torrox Costa is pretty confusing.

Are Blue Parking zones appearing in a white village near you? What do you think about them?


Cost of Living in Spain Series: Watching The Currency Market When Buying And Selling Spanish Property

House in Spain

When I got to point #2 in a recent article entitled 10 Ways To Save Money When Buying Your Spanish Property, it had me casting my mind back almost nine years to when we were about to buy our first property abroad, here in Andalucía.

We had sold our house back in the UK in record time, and were renting a town-house in the pretty, mountain village of Frigiliana.

Having never rented a property before, it seemed sensible to see if we liked the area as a place to put down roots, as well as to experience the full range of the seasons of the year, before we actually bought somewhere. After all, the weather may have been hotter in summer or cooler in winter than we had imagined – and indeed, it was!

We made many house-hunting trips to various towns and villages, both inland and along the coast towards Málaga, and eventually as far along the western Costa del Sol as Estepona. For various reasons, but mainly because of fewer high-rise buildings and built-up areas, we decided that the Axarquía region, to the east of Málaga, was the place for us.

We knew we would be transferring a sizeable chunk of the proceeds of our UK house sale via a currency firm (into Euros) to pay for our new house, so we took the opportunity to keep an eye on the fluctuating currency market.

As a result, we were able to jump in right at the top, to bag a cool €1.50 euros for each £1 sterling.  This gave us almost ten thousand euros more than we had originally been expecting, which was enough to put a brand new kitchen with matching appliances into our new property. Quite a bonus!

And yes, I do know that the market could have gone the other way, but on this occasion, it didn’t.

Blue door in Frigiliana, Spain

Over the next few years, the British Pound made a steady decline against the Euro until it almost hit parity (when £1 only bought €1.08, at its lowest rate).  This meant that for many British expats living in Spain and relying on an income, savings or a pension from the UK, their income in real terms had reduced by almost one third.

Then, of course, came La Crisis, as it is known in Spain, when the difficult economic situation has meant that some British expats who may not have carefully planned for their future (as well as some who did) have been left in the unfortunate position of having to sell up and return to the UK.

Things have improved a little over the last few years, with the current exchange rate against the British Pound being €1.26 as of today’s date (15th July 2014).  But there are still anguished mutterings amongst British expat house sellers that they are having to accept lower prices than they paid for their properties, several years ago.

I want to look at this in more detail, using reverse psychology to see if the situation is really as bad as they think.

Key in house door

Back when I bought my house in January 2006, with the exchange rate at £1 buying €1.50, a €300,000 euro house in Spain actually cost £200,000.  To keep the figures simple, let’s assume that almost nine years later the price of that house has not risen at all and is sold today for €300,000.  Converted back into British Pounds (again keeping it simple, so let’s use €1.25 for each £1) then the initial £200,000 investment now converts from the €300,000 sale price, to £240,000 an increase of 20%, due entirely to currency fluctuations.

Even if that self-same house were sold for only €280,000 (€20,000 less than was paid for it) the conversion into British Pounds would be £224,000 – which is still an increase of 12% over the £200,000 that was initially paid for the property.

So maybe the situation is not quite as bad as some people imagine.

Rooftops of Frigiliana, Spain

Of course, my example above is a simple one and does not take into account any of the following:

  1.  Capital gains (or any other) tax which might become due once the house is sold.
  2.  Where under-declarations were made at the time of purchase (when everyone in Spain was expected to pay for part of the price of the house in cash,  and furtively sneak  €80,000 to the vendor in a plastic, Mercadona shopping bag).
  3.   Legal and/or estate agents fees.

Whilst the above example is only applicable if someone is selling up in Spain and moving back (or at least sending their money back) to the UK,  if you are selling and want to re-purchase in Spain, because of the current housing market, you are now in a powerful position to negotiate prices when buying your next property.

Stairway to Heaven

To illustrate my point, I have only used simple, rounded figures, and it’s always wise to take legal and financial advice when making substantial property purchases.  

The purpose of this post is to indicate the advantage of never under-estimating the fluctuation of the currency market, which is a point often missed, or at least not discussed, as it should be.

This post is not meant to offer legal advice, merely an observation.



King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicates in favour of Prince Felipe

Here is a screenshot of this morning’s royal Spanish website (which has subsequently been changed):

King Juan Carlos abdicates

After 39 years on the throne, King Juan Carlos I of Spain has informed Mariano Rajoy, the country’s Prime Minister, that he is to step down in favour of his 46 year-old son, Crown Prince Felipe, “for personal reasons”.

Once one of the world’s most popular monarchs, Juan Carlos has been plagued recently not only with ill-health, but with a series of personal scandals which has sent his popularity amongst Spaniards, plummeting.

An amendment to the Spanish Constitution will now be rushed through parliament to permit the king to abdicate.



Voting for took place yesterday (22nd May) in the UK for both local and European elections, but we have to wait until Sunday 25th May before election day arrives in Spain.

Thanks to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, I am entitled to suffrage (the right to cast my vote) as an EU citizen (UK expat) living in Spain, in both the local and European elections provided that:

  1. My name is included on the official Town Hall Register (Padrón Municipal), and
  2. I have indicated my desire to be included on the electoral roll

As I have done both of these things,  my census card (Tarjeta Censal) has duly arrived through the post confirming my municipality, and informing me of where my polling station will be (Cómpeta Town Hall).

Cómpeta Town Hall

On election day, I will need to take along my photo ID (passport or driving licence) as proof of identity and my census card to cast my vote.

Providing a person is registered on the Padrón and the Census, then they will still be entitled to vote even if they have not received their census card through the post, though it might be best to check with the Town Hall where their Polling Station will be.

Unlike the system in the UK where voters place a cross (X) next to the name of the person they wish to vote for – here in Spain it is the party for whom you cast your vote.  Each political party will have already chosen their list of candidates who will represent them, and these lists can be found inside the voting booths.

All I will need to do is pick up the paper listing the candidates for the party I choose, place that list into an envelope, take it to the official at the electoral table, prove my ID and then slot the envelope into the ballot box.

In the Spanish voting system not only are you are not required to mark an X against the name of the person/party you wish to vote for, but if you do mark the paper, your vote would be spoiled.

On Sunday, the people of Spain will be voting for 54 MEPs.  Polling booths are usually open from 9am – 8pm (but times may vary).

The list of parties that you can vote for in Andalucía can be found here.

Have YOU voted in Spain?  Is the system different where you live?