Spain Explained

Living in Spain during the winter

Last updated on September 13th, 2019 at 09:09 am.

People who have property in Spain fall into one of two groups – resident or non-resident. You are a non-resident here if you live less than 183 days in Spain – and these don’t need to be consecutive days.

However, there is perhaps another group within the non-resident category; those people that are semi-resident and live in Spain during the winter. They could hardly be described as tourists, they are not officially resident but live in a kind of no man’s land in between.

It’s understandable why people would want to do this. For those people who have retired and live in northern Europe the milder winter weather of Spain is a definite attraction. In most coastal regions it is rare, even in the coldest months, to see snow.

It might still be chilly during the winter but most days the sun shines and it’s not raining. Put this in contrast to the weather in the north of Europe where you are likely to be snow bound, the temperatures stay well below freezing for months on end and there is very little sunlight. Which would you prefer?

Thousands of people every year take the decision to live in Spain during the winter time. Many of them may have operated this cycle every year and have become used to its foibles. We share with you our tips for long term stay in Spain.

Enjoy the better weather

Living in Spain during the winter brings a number of benefits. Of course, the weather is milder and you can take part in so many different activities. It makes a terrific amount of difference to be able to sit outside and eat, take a walk or ride a bicycle in the middle of winter without getting a frozen jaw.

Many people find that the winter ailments they have in their home country disappear during a winter spent in Spain. Rheumatism, arthritis and breathing problems can all be alleviated by the milder climate. The opportunity to take more outside exercise makes a difference too.

It can also be cheaper to live in Spain. It’s true that electricity prices have risen recently and it is not as cheap as it once was, however, with lower heating bills and the opportunity to enjoy a menu del dia for as little as 6 or 7 euros, a retired person can generally find that their money will go further whilst their quality of life is better.  

Avoiding the summer

With all these advantages to living in Spain during the winter, why wouldn’t you want to stay there in the summer too? Of course, many people do, but many residents find that they much prefer the winter to the summer. In summer it can be very hot and touching around 40º. This heat is oppressive for some people and the crowds can make it worse.

It’s not true of all parts of Spain, but some places are mobbed in July and August. And not just by foreigners. Spanish people generally like to holiday at home and are just as keen to visit their own coast as someone else’s. This can mean that certain areas become very busy indeed at this time of year and those with alternatives in their home country may choose to ‘absent’ themselves at this time.

What about your property when you’re not there?

However, if you are someone who has decided to live in Spain during the winter you will also benefit from the fact that in many areas accommodation is most easily let during the summer season. If you do have your own property here and vacate it in June, July, August and September, you should have no problem finding people to rent it, if you want to.

If you don’t rent out your property whilst you’re away then you will need to consider whether you employ someone to help look after it and maintain it. Even if you decide not to do this you may well want someone to get it ready for your return. If you are leaving your property for long periods you might want to consider the kind of security you have and perhaps introduce an alarm if you don’t have one already.

Of course, there is another alternative to either renting out or paying for someone to take care of your property whilst you’re away. Many people choose to let family and friends use their property during the summer. This can mean that your family gets maximum benefit from the property, particularly if you have younger family members who want the hustle and bustle and summer madness that you’re so keen to avoid.

Less red tape

Another big advantage of only living in Spain during the winter is that you don’t have all the paper work to do that comes with being a resident here. You can maintain your current tax, health care and other arrangements in your home country. All you will need is an NIE which is your foreigner’s identity number. Other than this you can continue to hold the paper work you have already, including your European driving licence.

There will be decisions to make and tasks to do, but far fewer than if you’d taken residency. For example, you will need to consider how far you go on making it a real winter home. Do you invest in the internet? What do you do about transport? You will need to consider carefully whether you buy a car, rent one or manage without.

All in all, it is a very attractive option and one that many foreigners put into action year after year. If you used to think you can’t have the best of both worlds, maybe this is one time you can.  

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Pat Boorman

13 October, 2019 5:00 pm

I have sent you an email about the position of people overwintering for 5 months filing currently as no- Residente and May have problem with schengen 90 day rule. My observation is one should apply for Residencia requiring Health Insurance being on padron and proof of income even the 22000 Euro stipulation but it still does not make you tax resident if you continue not to be in Spain more than 183 days. I once wrote to you and you told me if I went for Residencia I had to pay Spanish tax but think this is wrong. Would greatly appreciate clarification as coming 30/10 and thinking what to do to guarantee Nov-April out of the cold. I am 75! Regards P

Oscar Paoli

17 October, 2019 2:34 pm

Once Britain leaves the EEC you can stay in the Country for 90 days, you then have to leave for a period of 90 days before you can return. In the question of wish to spend 5 months here this would not make then a Tax Resident but in order to stay for this period over the 90 days, you would possibly have to obtain permission for an extension and may be visa, more information can be found on the Government web site and for Spain this site is available in English. All information depends on if there is a deal or no deal.

To be a Tax resident and have residency and pay Taxes here you need to be in Sapin for 183 days, which by spending 5 months here you would not comply with, all important is that they will require Health Insurance to cover the holiday over here as the EHIC card will no longer apply after a certain date also pending Deal or No Deal.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Pat Boorman

30 November, 2019 2:08 pm

I have read carefully and thank-you for reply. However the position post Brexit for overwintering still unclear to me. I own a flat in Spain without hipoteca and I use it November to April. I am retired have UK pension and obviously can pay my way.However how do I avoid having to leave Spain to comply with Schengen on 31st January when I never need to exceed 182 days in fact another 2 months and a few days into April is enough? Can the Spanish Extrangero Police Office give me a temporary Spanish visa even if I have to pay something for it. I have difficulty in getting a reply to this but believe there may be 3rd country options available with lax conditions as I am a property owner paying IBI Basutoland Domicile and filing annually a No Residente 210 with Hacienda.

Oscar Paoli

16 December, 2019 11:55 am


This is a bit complicated case, since the United Kingdom, for now is part of the EU but not a country in the Schengen area, freedom of movement is more restricted. You may be here a maximum of 90 days within 180 days.
You can stay here longer but you have to apply for a visa or spend the majority of the year here and get a Residency permit in Spain. Your query about the visa is a very specific and detailed case, you can see if it is possible to get a “Visa on Arrival” that allows you to extend the stay for another 30 days. But this it not offered by all countries and I see no mention that Spain offers it. It cannot be based on a visa or entry permit from Third Countries since the United Kingdom is not included in the list of countries with that condition.

In regards to your stay from November to April, which is 6 months, is usually the minimum to be considered a resident here in Spain. It is true that it the norm is to measure from January to December but it is always possible for the Spanish Hacienda to realize it and require you to justify its residence in another country, and if not doing so or not being able to do so, you will be considered resident in Spain for tax purposes. It may be unlikely, but a possibility.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Pat Boorman

30 November, 2019 2:16 pm

Thank-you Oscar. But given only requiring 5 months how does one satisfy the Spanish police to stay 2 months beyond the 90 days.Can they issue a special Spanish visa to property owners of many years overwintering but within 182 days

Pat Boorman

9 May, 2020 4:56 pm

With Brexit finalising probably in December of this year 2020 we will be affected by the Schengen limitation of 90 days in 180 on a rolling basis. For the next winter season if we arrive say 1st November 2020 and stay to say 31st March 2021 as No Residente owners wiould the 90 days be counted from day of arrival ( within transition period) or from the date Schengen actually applies 1st January 2021. Does make a difference! Hopefully something can be done for pensioners in this category with the Spanish longer term. This business is good for Spain. A great help to our people and people keeping well out of the cold helps NHS particularly as we may our own health care anyway with Insurance or privately.

Pat Boorman

9 May, 2020 5:04 pm

A slightly different question Will the 90 days start counting this coming winter start from 01.01.2020 or if you come a month or two earlier from that date ? Makes a difference!!

Pat Boorman

9 May, 2020 5:07 pm

Sorry error in short ultimate post 2020 read 2021. Appreciate much your comment


17 May, 2020 11:37 pm

It looks as though flights will be resumed soon from Uk and overwintering may be possible later this year. But would appreciate if you know Oscar when the clock starts ticking on Schengen? I think has to be 01.01.21 so if you go 1st November to Spain could still have 5 months – 2021/22 maybe something different?

Oscar Paoli

19 May, 2020 9:56 pm

Dear Mr. Boorman,
This point is still unclear, we have still no official information about how it will be after 12/31/2020, so unfortunately we still have to wait to know more about how it will be. Please feel free to contact us later this year as we shall have more details then.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Pat Boorman

19 September, 2020 10:27 pm

Hello Oscar. Brexit negotiations not going well.I am coming to Gran Canaria 31 /10 so will enter in Transition period. I will leave in late March next year if not ‘interrupted’and have return flight booked. Think it will be OK. But entering after 31/1/2020 will be subject to Schengen. However there are 3rd country visitors who come to Spain and the islands who get visa for leisure a month or two more ie for non lucrative purposes and I think people like me who have pied a terre’s for Overwintering will be looking for help over the next year so can continue to do this with the right visa documentation. We clearly should not be applying for Residence as less than 183 days per year. As things are unclear this winter I will be looking around when I get there for a lawyer who can help me with this. If I get any good results will post to you if I am permitted.Regards

Oscar Paoli

21 September, 2020 7:57 am

Dear Pat,
Thank you for your message.
Wishing you all the best of luck and should you need any assistance please do not hesitate to contact us at or call us at 0034 966 703 748.
With best regards,
Ábaco Advisers


25 November, 2020 11:01 pm

I read now from the UK Government emails that time spent in Spain before 31.12.2020 will not count so you can stay 90 days from January1st. But of course this will not apply in future years. Ie in 2022 and onwards. I have never read on hear any information about any visa that might be available to a British resident overwintering in excess of 90 days as a 3rd country national

Pat Boorman

17 April, 2021 4:07 pm

Now towards the end of time possible for Residence under the Withdrawal Agreement terms. But for ‘Swallows’- those who live habitually in UK and have for many years sheltered during winter in Spain andIslands in pied a terres bought solely for this purpose plus maybe a week or two at other times for fiestas etc. But now 90 days between November and April are a few weeks short but not enough usually to get near to the 182 days allowed limit for filing Modelo 210 with Hacienda as Non Resident. The trailing Schengen counting not a help either. What can be done to extend time in Spain to avoid returning to UK in depth of next winter? Something like a paid for permit would benefit both countries.

Pat Boorman

17 April, 2021 4:13 pm

No sign yet of any new visas or permits that will facilitate Overwintering next winter beyond 90 days but within 182 days. Many only need another month or six weeks. Maybe we should be writing to Pedro Sanchez in Madrid!


5 June, 2021 1:40 pm

Hello Oscar. Now most of us who overwinter are limited to 90 days in 180 and we need normally another 30 or 60 for Nov-to March inclusive. Spain does not have an easily useable visa for people like us who not in Spain long enough to be really Resident ie less than 183 days. But are people who contribute all year round to IBI and electricity and pay Modelo 210 to Hacienda. Thinking whether could use the Non Lucrative Visa and just cancel it each year when leaving until such times as a more user friendly visa might show up. but looks lot of paperwork for people with 2nd homes that the Spanish have known often for many years me 11!Most of us would prefer to pay for a visa than sell and buy or rent somewhere else ’!

Oscar Paoli

8 June, 2021 10:15 am


At the moment there is no type of visa for this type of circumstance, where the person would be in Spain for more than 90 days but less than 180.

We hope that there may be an agreement at some point between Spain and the United Kingdom, but for now the visas are the same as any non-EU country.

With the non-lucrative visa you can live for more than 90 days. And go through several renewal processes until becoming a permanent resident in five years.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Vivien Blackstock

21 August, 2021 8:22 pm

Hi there,
I’m retired and would like to know a rough cost of living in Spain from January until early march
Thank you

Oscar Paoli

24 August, 2021 8:31 am

Hi Vivien,
It will depend on the area, size of the property, are you paying rent or do you own the property, your daily routines and so much more, so it is very difficult to say unfortunately.
Sorry for any inconvenience caused.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers