Cost of living in Malaga, Spain: July 2015

Cost of living in Malaga, Spain

If you are considering a move to Spain, either to purchase a property or just to rent for a couple of months, the cost of living will be very much in your mind.

Prices may be different in other parts of Spain, especially in bigger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, so bear in mind that the prices you are reading here are applicable to the area of La Axarquía – to the east of the city of Málaga on Andalucía’s Mediterrean coast.

The kind of lifestyle you choose to embrace is also an important ingredient in the financial mix.

My family eat fresh, locally-grown seasonal produce, buy mostly Spanish-branded foods at the supermarket, and eat and drink in bars and restaurants where the locals hang out.  This has not only saved us money, but we feel has also enhanced our experience of moving abroad.   If your choice would be to only buy internationally-branded foods and eat in tourist areas then you will find costs are considerably higher.

So, whether you’ve always dreamed of moving to southern Spain or you’re just curious, here is my up-to-date cost of living report.

Village houses in El Acebuchal, Andalucia, Spain

ACCOMMODATION 

Whether you choose to rent or buy is a matter of personal choice depending on how long you want to stay.  

My advice would be to rent for a full twelve months prior to buying so that not only will you get a good feel for the area, but also you’ll experience it through all the seasons.  This summer, Spain has been experiencing a long heatwave, but temperatures can be surprisingly chilly inside the house during the winter months.

It’s no secret that Spain has been gripped by a financial crisis over the past few years, but the signs are that things are improving.  House prices are up to 20% lower than they were in 2006/2007 and there are plenty of houses on the market for sale.   (For an idea of individual prices, search for estate agents on Google using the search terms: Axarquia, east of Malaga, or by the name of any of the villages or towns in the area including Nerja, Frigiliana, Competa, Torrox or any of the others I have written about previously on this blog).

Another key factor to bear in mind is the fluctuating currency exchange rate between your home currency and the Euro, especially if you need to transfer large amounts of money into Spain.  As I write, the exchange rate stands at an 8-year high and would give more than €1.43 for each British pound sterling (£1).  This has made a considerable difference to our income from when the rate stood around €1.08 a few years ago.

You can easily rent a lovely furnished apartment with 2-3 bedrooms, 1-2 bathrooms and a communal pool, on the coast but away from the main tourist area, for €450- €500 per month (on an 11 month contract).  If you choose somewhere further inland or nearer the city, prices will vary, but there’s no substitute for actually being here and asking around.  Lots of people know of places available for rent that will never make their way onto websites or an estate agent’s rental list.

If you are looking for somewhere to rent in the Axarquía area for a month or two, I have had dealings with, and can recommend Anubis in Torre del Mar.   Speak to Anna and tell her I sent you (and no, I won’t earn anything for saying that)!

Cepsa butane gas bottle

UTILITIES

Electricity: For a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom detached house in the countryside with a swimming pool, we pay around €100 per month. Our consumption is generally higher in the summer than in the winter as we have air conditioning units (cooling in summer and heating in winter) plus the swimming pool pump running for 8 hours a day.  We try to use the air conditioning sparingly – preferring to open windows during early morning and late evening and make use of the ceiling fans.  Although sometimes, especially in July and August, you just have to put the air-con on!

Gas: We do not have a piped gas supply here, so we use bottles of gas.  This is a common feature throughout many areas in this part of Spain. Gas prices in Spain are strictly controlled by the government, rather than the gas companies.   A year ago, a 12.5kg bottle of Butane gas cost €17.50. They are now €14.11 (a reduction of almost 20%), with an 11kg bottle of propane gas costing a mere €12.42.  For us, one bottle lasts (on average) four weeks for two people, although this could be longer in summer (depending on how many visitors we have), for all hot water, showers and cooking on a gas hob.

Water: Because we live in the countryside, approximately five kilometres from our home village of Cómpeta,  we do not have mains water.  When we bought our house, part of the purchase cost was for a share in a local water company. We have a 14,000 litre water deposit in which to store our house water. Our water share gives us an allowance of up to 17,500 litres of water each week at reduced cost, though if we use more than this, the price rises steeply. Needless to say, we don´t use this amount of water, even allowing for swimming pool top-ups and garden irrigation in the summer months. Our water company, Patamalara, send out their bills every two months, and some of the cost depends on the amount of repairs that have been undertaken on the system. Over the past twelve months our annual water bill has amounted to €119.

IBI or Council Tax: Paid yearly to the local council. This year’s bill is €337 – the same as it has been for the past nine years.  We don’t have a rubbish collection here as we live in the countryside, so we have to take all our household waste to one of the collection centres in a local village.

Telephone: Living in a mountainous area of the countryside, Telefónica (the largest fixed phone and ADSL operator in Spain) are unable to supply us with land-line telecommunications. We therefore rely on Skype (via the internet) for most calls (which are free to other Skype users, or by using credit, if not) and have a mobile phone contract with Movistar (also owned by Telefonica) which costs €11 per month for 800 MB of data and free calls (after an initial connection charge of €0.18).

Internet: We use a wireless internet option costing €29 (inclusive of IVA tax) per month, with unlimited downloads (within reason). Speeds up to 3 Mbps.

House and Contents Insurance: Based on the re-building costs of the house, including contents, we pay €241 per annum with Linea Directa.

Peugot 308 saloon

MOTORING COSTS

The cost of motoring in Spain has fluctuated considerably over the past few years.

New cars which until the last year or two were relatively expensive in Spain, now cost a similar amount in euros as their UK equivalent does in sterling.  But, the currency exchange rate is €1.43 for each British pound, meaning that at present, some new cars in Spain are considerably cheaper than in the UK, though this is not true of all marques – BMW for example.

Second-hand vehicles (often with high mileage) hold their values well in Spain, making a comparable model of the same age in the UK (for example) much cheaper.

FUEL: Unleaded petrol (gasolina sin plomo) 95 Octane was €1.52 per litre last year.  It is now €1.33 at the Repsol garage in Torre del Mar.

Diesel: (gasoil) at the same garage was €1.42 per litre last year and is now €1.16.

As in most countries, branded petrol stations such as Repsol are often more expensive for petrol and diesel compared to supermarkets and hypermarkets such as Carrefour.  The cheapest fuel prices in the Axarquía area at the moment are:

Unleaded: 1.269 €/l  at BALLENOIL, Camino Higueral El, 28  Vélez-Málaga
Diesel: 1.087 €/l at EROSKI, Avenida Juan Carlos I (at the El Ingenio shopping centre) because you can get a further 2% discount by using your credit card if you use the self-service, pay-at-the-pump option.

Click HERE for an interesting interactive map displaying the current cheapest petrol/gas stations in the area.

Car tax (Impuesto vehiculos traccion mechanica) is based on fiscal horsepower (which bears no resemblance to the mechanical horsepower of the vehicle) and is a means by which the taxation is calculated. This rate of taxation differs from village to village, depending on where you live.  For our car, a Peugot 308, the cost is €51.12 per annum.

Car insurance for a two year old Peugot 308 1.6 E-HDI (with Linea Directa – the Spanish equivalent of Direct Line in the UK), for fully comprehensive cover with legal assistance included, and an excess of €150, cost €570 two years ago.  However, last year we thought we could do better.  We asked for quotes from other insurers and threatened to leave Linea Directa unless they matched the price.  After initially refusing, they eventually relented and this year our premium was €426.

ALSA bus, east of Malaga

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Spain’s public transport system is relatively cheap and reliable.

Trains: Because of the mountainous terrain there are no trains running through La Axarquía, though you can catch a train from Málaga to many other Spanish cities, including Granada, Seville, Córdoba, and Madrid.  I can certainly recommend the AVE train (Spain´s equivalent of the Bullet Train) as an alternative to budget flights, with favourable prices being found in advance, online, via state-owned train operator, RENFE.

Buses: The main bus operator here is Alsina Graells (ALSA). Their website is in English, and from here you can study bus schedules and purchase tickets in advance of your trip.  There are generally plenty of buses between towns and cities, and they usually leave on time. Buses may be infrequent to remote villages in the Axarquía, with often only one bus per day or none at all at the weekend. The cost of a bus ticket with ALSA, from Nerja to Málaga, (approx. 60 kms) one way is 4.52 € or €8.18 for a return trip.

MY TIP: If you are over 65 years of age, a resident in Andalucía and registered on the Padron of your local town hall, you can apply for an Andalucía Tarjeta 65 (full information, link to download the form and address to send it to, HERE)  Once you have the card, you will not only be able to get 50% off bus fares with ALSA, but showing the card will get you a discount at many local attractions :)

Brujas - Ruta de la Tapa, Torre del Mar

ENTERTAINMENT

Eating out: Menu del Día (menu of the day, usually at lunch time) 3 course meal, including bread and one glass of beer, wine or a bottle of water) 8 – 10 €

Evening dinner for 2: (three courses) at a mid-priced restaurant, including a glass of wine 45 €

Tapas: small beer or glass of wine including a tapa 1-2 € (depending on whether it’s a tourist area or not).

Cinema ticket (International release, Yelmo cinema, Malaga) 4.90 €

Round of GOLF (18 holes, 2 players + buggy, Baviera Golf course at La Caleta de Vélez) 100 €

Cigarettes (pack of 20, Marlboro) 4.85 €

Shopping trolley in Mercadona supermarket, Spain

STANDARD GROCERY LIST

This is the up-to-date Standard Grocery List I have published previously.  The first price shown in black is as it was in February 2014, with this month’s prices in RED alongside.  

For the sake of comparison, I have once again used the largest Spanish supermarket – Mercadona.

Milk (semi–skimmed UHT, own brand), 1 litre   0.60 €     0.61 €

Loaf  (white, baguette 250g)   0.45 €    0.45 €

Loaf (white, Bimbo brand, 460g 100% natural)  1.49€        1.49 €

Butter (250g, own brand)    1.25 €       1.15 €

Sugar (1kg, white)   0.93 €      0.76 €

Coffee (ground, 250g, Santa Cristina)   1.89 €       1.89 €

Eggs (12, own brand caged, medium)   1.35 €         1.20 €  (special offer)

Olive oil (1 litre, extra virgin, own brand) 3€  3.85 € (5 litres 14.50 €) (5 litres 19 €) **

Rice  (1kg, long grain, own brand)   0.71€        0.71 €

Pasta  (1kg, own brand)   0.75 €       0.85 €

Pasta  (500g, wholewheat)   0.99€       0.99 €

Tinned tuna  (6 x 80g, own brand in sunflower oil)   3.35 €       2.98 €  (special offer)

Chicken breasts (1kg, boneless, skinless, packaged))  5.80 €         5.10 €   (or bought loose at the counter 4.65 € per kg)

Pork chops (1kg, packaged)  4.75 €        4.10 € 

Beef mince (Store brand, pre-packed, 700g)   3.80 €          4.95 € (now packaged as 1kg pack)

Fish  (1kg Salmon steaks)  10.75 €          11.65 € 

Fish  (1kg Dorada, Gilt-head bream)  6.95€         7.50 € 

Apples (1kg, green, Golden Delicious)   1.85 €            1.39 € **

Oranges (loose) (1kg)   0.79 €            1.15 € (or 0.91 €  per kg if purchased as a 5.5kg bag for 4.99 €) **

Bananas (loose) (1kg)   1.39 €        1.25 € **

Potatoes (loose) (1kg)   0.89 €        0.89 € 

Lettuce (1 head, Iceberg)   0.87 €         0.49 €  (special offer)

Red Peppers (1kg, loose)    1.89 €         1.99 €  **

Green pointed “Italian” Peppers (1kg, loose)    1.99 €              0.99 €   (special offer)

Tomatoes  (1kg, loose)    1.29 €          0.79 €  (special offer)

Coca-Cola (1.5 litre bottle)  1.09 €         1 €

Water (2 litre bottle)  0.42 €         0.42 €

Domestic Beer (1 litre bottle, Cruzcampo)  1.25 €    1.37 € (now bottled as 1.1 litre)

Imported beer (6 x 25cl bottles Heineken)  3.65 €           3.15 €

Bottle wine (medium priced)  3.00 – 3.50€       3.00 – 3.50 €

Colgate toothpaste (100 ml)   1.75€          1.55 € (now packaged as 75ml)

Pantene shampoo  (300 ml)   3.00€         2.90 € (now packaged as 270ml)

Toilet rolls (pack of 6, own brand)   1.98 €           1.98 €

Washing powder (Box, 35 washes, Elena brand)   4.87 €                4.87 €

** Seasonal changes

Currency Conversion from XE €1 = 1.08 USD
0.70 GBP
1.47 AUD
1.40 CAD
1.64 NZD
13.46 ZAR

So, tell me – HOW DO PRICES COMPARE WHERE YOU LIVE?

Looking after her geraniums!

Looking after her geraniums

One morning last week, I stopped to have a word with this lady who was cutting the dead flowers from her magnificent display of geraniums.

She told me that she only gave them water twice a week and, of course, they enjoyed the sunshine – (don’t we all?).  At the end of the season, she cuts the plants right back and takes them inside to store them.  After re-potting in January, she gradually reintroduces the plants outside (poco a poco) little by little to warm in the sunshine – and the following summer, they bloom again.

These geranium plants on her terrace are three years old.

So – now you know!

An Inspector Calls: Only this time it’s Alex Polizzi, the HOTEL Inspector

Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi with Karen and Sarah outside Hotel La Casa

Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi, with Karen and Sarah outside Hotel La Casa in Torrox pueblo. Photo: Twofour/Channel 5

Following last night’s airing of the show as the finale of the current series, I can finally reveal a secret I’ve been bursting to tell you!   Alex Polizzi, also known as “The Hotel Inspector” came calling, east of Malaga and, as someone who knows the area well, I was offered an opportunity to work with her.

The Hotel Inspector is a UK documentary television series featuring hotelier and business-woman, Alex Polizzi, in her quest to turn flagging hotels into profitable ventures. The programme usually features some of Britain’s worst-run hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments, whose owners appear to have no idea how to run a hotel.

So why, you might ask, would the Hotel Inspector come calling in southern Spain?

The background to this particular episode evolves over several years and focuses on two British sisters who, from 2005 to 2008, transformed a dilapidated building in the charming town of Torrox in the foothills of the Sierra Almijara and Tejeda mountains, into a stylish 8-bedroomed boutique hotel.

On the face of it, whether you love mountains, beaches, the hustle and bustle of the big city or the peace and tranquility of a white-washed Andalucían town, this hotel has it all. With spectacular views of the mountains, proximity to blue-flag beaches, many interesting places to visit nearby, being only a 40 minute drive from Malaga’s vibrant city and airport and, to cap it all, the town of Torrox is officially recognised at having the best climate in Europe.

However, soon after the doors of La Casa hotel opened to guests in 2008, the global economic downturn took hold, resulting in a fall in tourism and leaving the sisters struggling financially. Despite working long hours, the situation has changed little in the intervening years, with occupancy rates still low.

The cast of characters in this particular three-act drama includes British-expat sisters, Sarah Melton and Karen Atkinson, (with a quiet, behind-the-scenes role played by Sarah’s husband, Neil); Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi; various international journalists and bloggers from such publications as Condé Nast and The Telegraph; Andalucía-based luxury travel writer, Andrew Forbes …. oh, and Yours Truly!

Alex, Sarah and travel writer Andrew Forbes on the terrace at La Casa Hotel

Alex, Sarah and travel writer Andrew Forbes on the terrace at La Casa Hotel

ACT ONE involved one of the sisters getting in touch with the show after seeing an advert in a local English language newspaper on the lookout for expat hoteliers. After being chosen to feature in the programme, the hotel was visited by Alex Polizzi together with a camera crew, to make her assessment of how to transform the hotel’s fortunes.

It soon became apparent that La Casa was not the usual type of establishment featured on The Hotel Inspector and, in this particular case, the problem appeared to be the marketing and branding of the hotel (and the local area), rather than its service and quality.

ACT TWO began towards the end of March 2015 and featured the return of Ms Polizzi and her camera crew, together with a string of travel writers, in an attempt to market the area to them.

At the same time, the hotel was being rebranded with the launch of a new website, logo and promotional literature, plus the main players were interviewed on local radio about La Casa featuring on the Hotel Inspector show.

ACT THREE saw the sisters leading the group of journalists around some of the delights of Torrox village, as well as giving a taste of what this ideal location has to offer today’s more discerning traveller.

Our tour began in the main square of the village before moving on to the local Nevaillo olive oil factory where we were given a demonstration of how the oil is produced and bottled.

Next, we were whisked back-in-time to the 17th century hamlet of El Acebuchal – known locally as The Lost Village where, after a brief look around, we headed to the local tavern where we were treated to a sumptuous tasting-menu featuring home-made bread, tropical salads, wild boar, venison and chicken. Antonio's tavern, El Acebuchal Our final stop of the day was a guided tour of the famous caves in Nerja, discovered by five boys in 1959 and which has now become one of the most visited attractions in Spain.

After a brief rest and just enough time for a shower, our evening continued back at La Casa hotel with a delicious A La Carte dinner. The menu was extensive with a choice to suit all tastes including antipasto, prawns pil-pil, pork with mushrooms, oven-baked cod and lamb shanks followed by such delights as “icky-sticky pudding” and platters of Spanish cheeses and hams.

Of course, every step of the way, we were filmed and interviewed about what we had seen and experienced. At first this proved rather daunting, but it was amazing how quickly you got used to having a fluffy sound microphone hovering over your head and/or having a camera crew nearby.

It was an absolute delight working with Alex Polizzi who is a lovely lady and comes across just as naturally as she does on TV.  She is outgoing, very friendly and willing to pose for endless photos or exchange a few words with people who recognised her from the show.

Gaudi room at Hotel La Casa

Gaudi room at Hotel La Casa

La Casa hotel features seven individually designed double/twin rooms (mine was named Gaudi, after the famous Spanish architect) and a spacious suite with a private terrace. The en-suite rooms are comfortable and spotlessly clean with A/C for cooling or warmth, whatever the season.

There is a beautiful sun terrace with amazing views of the mountains and valley, a bistro restaurant serving delicious food and, rave reviews from people who have stayed have earned this #1 rated hotel in Torrox a Travellers’ Award on TripAdvisor for the past four years.

Early morning view from La Casa

Early morning view of the mountains from La Casa’s terrace

From 5th June, the hotel’s restaurant (also used by many people not staying as guests) will be moving to a new venue in the main square of Torrox, so if you are in the village, I’d certainly recommend a visit.

Karen and Sarah are attentive hosts, and whilst I arrived as a guest we parted as friends – testimony of which is obvious by the many people who return to stay at La Casa hotel, year after year.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Karen, Sarah and Neil all the best with Hotel La Casa and their new venture – the restaurant which will open shortly in Torrox village.

La Casa hotel is situated at Calle Baja, Plazuela de Barajas 3, just off the main square of Torrox village, with free parking nearby.   Telephone: (0034) 95253 5471    Website: www.hotellacasatorrox.com 

Disclaimer: Whilst I stayed at the hotel as a guest of La Casa Hotel/Twofour Productions, I was not asked to write any reviews or recommendations in return. Any views expressed here are my own, and I am happy to do so because I enjoyed my stay and would genuinely recommend a visit to the hotel or restaurant.

Come and visit La Axarquía, east of Málaga – it’s the AUTHENTIC Spain you’ve been looking for!

A Peep-show for 20 cents? I know just the place!

Near to the entrance of the old part of the village of Frigiliana is this rather splendid coin-in-the-slot “mechanical theatre”, known as La Casita de Información y La Fantasía (The House of Information and Fantasy).   You might remember these old-fashioned machines from when you were a child – you know the kind, where your coin makes the clown inside laugh manically?

Well, the one in Frigiliana isn’t an old machine, but a more modern version, crafted in the old-style way by a collaboration of artists known as Arte-matico de Bernado y Amigos.  

There are two quite large mechanical theatres back-to-back within the casita, both featuring marionettes, with one entitled “The Moor and his Parrot” and the other “Carmen and Dolores”.   If you were to put your 1 Euro coin into the slot (it’s 2 Euros if you’re a millionaire!), the former will talk about the history of Frigiliana, whilst Carmen and Dolores, depicting two old ladies from the village, chat together about “the good old days”.

So, what about the peep-show, I hear your scream?

Blue door with peep shows, Frigiliana

Look out for this blue door on Calle Alta (and notice the sign on the wall up the side street)

Well, you’ll have to climb up the steps to the upper part of Frigiliana and, as you wander along Calle Alta, keep a look out for this blue door.  

Can you see the peep-holes?

This time you have a choice of two peep-shows in the door – El Milagro de La Vida (The Wonder of Life) or La Esfera Mágica de Cristal (The Magic Crystal), and the good news is, that even if you are a millionaire, the price is just 20 cents!

The third show, to the right of the blue door will set you back 50 cents (also with no additional cost for rich folk) and this is called The Marvellous Seaview (Merveilleuse vue sur mer).

 Did you notice the sign on the wall, up the side street beside the blue door?

Well, here is the fourth (and final) peep-show in the upper part of Frigiliana village – The Fantastic Harem (Harem Fantastico).  This time, for us poor folk, the cost is 50 cents, (there is a reduced rate of 20 cents – but it’s not very clear how you qualify for that), whilst once again, the millionaires have to pay one Euro.

So there you have it!

What’s the cheapest peep-show YOU’VE ever seen?  On second thoughts – don’t answer that!

 

Torre del Mar: The Sun has Got His Hat On!

We’ve had a lot of cloud and rain during the past week.  Fortunately, Mr. Sunshine is never too far away, so this morning when he popped through the clouds, I hot-footed it down to Torre del Mar for a walk along the promenade.  

Banana flower - Torre del Mar

There is a lovely paved promenade at Torre del Mar, with beautiful gardens running alongside, and I’d only been walking for a few minutes when I came across this stunning flower on a banana plant.

Isn’t it magnificent? 

Boat club - Torre del Mar

A little further on, as I approached the Sailing Club, I moved from the paved promenade onto the hard, compacted sandy path on the beach, for a better view of the many boats stored at the club.

(You can see the clouds still threatening, over the mountains in the distance and indeed, as I write this, the rain has returned).

Sandy path near the boat club, Torre del Mar

Known as the Sendero Litoral, this sandy path runs from the Rio Vélez delta to the port at Caleta de Vélez  – a distance of 3.4 kilometres, and is popular with walkers and joggers.

Sandy path near the boat club, Torre del Mar

Do YOU have a favourite place where you love to walk when you get the chance?