Do you want a SUPER high quality of life while you live abroad as a digital nomad?
Consider Spain as a top choice for your new home base.
The food, culture, and people make this European destination a top pick for nomads who want an amazing lifestyle. It’s not quite as cheap as the typical go-to’s in Southeast Asia, but it’s well worth it if you can afford it.
Read on for my quick review of being a digital nomad in Spain.
How to Be a Digital Nomad in Spain
In this post I’ll cover a few key aspects of life as a digital nomad in Spain.
- The cost of living
- Internet / work environments
While I’m talking about Spain in general, I specifically lived in Sevilla aka Seville (southern Spain) and Barcelona (northern Spain).
If you go to Madrid, Cadiz, Malaga, San Sebastian, etc. – your experience may differ somewhat.
I’ve been to a few other places in Spain besides Seville and Bar-tha-lona, but if I could only choose two places to visit, I’d pick these two cities in a heartbeat.
Seville is a small, beautiful town with rich tradition, flamenco dancing, a canal running through the city, with delicious food and warm sunny weather.
Both of these cities have nearby airports. Barcelona’s international airport has plenty of cheap flights going to other European destinations.
The Cost of Living in Spain
Ok, so you’re going to travel the world and work online.
How much is this going to cost you?
If you’re used to living in places like Chiang Mai, Thailand, or Saigon, Vietnam… be prepared for sticker shock.
While my room in Saigon cost about $7/night, a cheap hostel room in Barcelona cost me 19 euros/night.
And during high season (summer months), I’ve seen hostels charge as high as 45 euros/night.
If you don’t care about the built-in social experience of hostels, you should consider getting an Airbnb. I’ve seen great deals on single bedrooms and you might get a discount if you book for at least a week.
I spend 6 euros for breakfast most days.
That’s a source of protein (e.g., salami, chorizo), some veggies (a pre-made salad), and maybe a coffee.
Small grocery stores are common and offer affordable options.
You can typically get a small sandwich and a coffee for just a few euros in most places. I paid 3 euros for a traditional sandwich with jamon and an espresso in Seville.
Lunch is often 8-10 euros.
Same for dinner.
Are you on a tight budget?
Just buy some bulk items like rice, canned goods, etc. and make your own meals. You can easily get your costs down to 2-3 euros per meal this way.
I bought a 6 GB data plan from Orange for 30 euros.
It comes with calling (unlimited I think in Spain) and texts… but all I cared about was the data.
BONUS: It seems that all the SIM cards work throughout Europe. So if you take advantage of the close proximity to other countries you’ll still be connected. (Maybe you should take that sleeper train that doesn’t come with wifi after all…)
Spanish Food Is the Best Food
The famous Jamón ibérico (Iberian ham), delicious paellas, grilled octopus, tasty meatballs, patatas bravas… the list of amazing food options to choose from never ends.
A local in Seville told me she eats 5 meals a day. <– I would too if I was eating Spanish food all the time.
Of course, most of these meals are small, with the exception of a large lunch right before siesta.
Want to nap after lunch? Go ahead, it’s part of the culture.
Southern Spain seems to embrace this tradition more so than the northern side, but it’s true, the time after lunch (typically beginning around 2pm I believe) is reserved for siesta, aka “nap time.”
Have a big lunch, go to sleep, wake up refreshed, go back to work.
Not so bad right?
In the US we also get “that 2:30 feeling”, but instead of listening to our bodies and taking a break, we instead load up on caffeine and power through. ‘Merica!
Beaches, Mountains, Vineyards, and More
Looking for a workout? Montserrat will tone those glutes. It’s just a short train ride north of Barcelona.
Working on your tan? Go to the beach.
Want to sample some quality vino? Head to the vineyards.
Just want to chill by the water and play your guitar? Walk down to the canal running through Seville and you’ll find a quiet and scenic place to relax.
Spanish People Are Warm And Happy
Spanish people are warm, happy, and easy to get along with.
Obviously a huge generalization… but in general, I’ve found this to be true.
This is my new friend Mercedes – pronounced, Mer-th-edes.
I owe my friendship with her in part to this stupid weighing machine.
I had just finished a workout and was on the hunt for potassium.
Standing in front of this device, trying to figure out the instructions, I looked like a stereotypical clueless tourist.
Mercedes saw me looking confused, and half laughing, half probably-wondering-how-stupid-is-this-guy, she showed me how the machine worked.
It was painfully simple… you just push the number associated with the item (every unpackaged food item has a number next to it on the shelf).
I looked like an idiot.
But soon we were talking, and shortly after she introduced me to one of the best places for tapas and drinks in Seville.
Mercedes educated me on life in Seville over the next few days.
Sitting by the canal at night, we talked for hours.
She’d grown up there. She knew the culture. She knew the traditions.
Mercedes loves her life, her family, her friends, and she uses food as an excuse to bring people together.
Food, beer, friends, family, more food, more drinking, more social time… not a bad life eh?
She showed me Triana, the old part of Seville.
Kids running around, grandparents talking over coffee, musicians playing their instruments in the street…
There’s a strong sense of community here.
I appreciate that. It’s something many Americans don’t have.
Wifi Is Everywhere and There Are Cafes and Hostels Galore
Wifi is not hard to find in Spain. You’ll find it at cafes, some restaurants, and all the hostels.
What’s more difficult is finding distraction-free environments to work.
For that, you might need to resort to a co-working space, of which there are a number of options as well.
Usually I just plug in my earbuds and work at whichever hostel I’m staying at, but sometimes I need a quieter, less social environment.
In these cases, I either find a place in the hostel that’s away from the main socializing areas – maybe an empty desk in a corner somewhere – or I find a cafe nearby.
Of course, with a SIM card you’re free to escape the social environments altogether and go outside. Considering the affordable SIM card prices, I highly recommend this.
Be warned – many people go to Barcelona to party and get crazy.
I stayed at two different hostels on this trip to Spain and they were wildly different experiences.
In Seville I stayed at the Black Swan Hostel, which I can easily say was the BEST hostel experience I’ve ever had.
Amazing and friendly staff, free dinners, good wifi, quality air conditioning, free excursions, and a rooftop terrace where I could exercise… it was perfect.
In Barcelona, I had a different experience.
St. Christopher’s Inn in Barcelona is GREAT… if you want to party.
Free sangria, cheap tickets to clubs, beer pong, loud music throughout the hostel… it’s the perfect place to let loose and go wild.
Since I don’t drink alcohol and I wasn’t interested in partying, it’s perks were lost on me.
I wouldn’t stay there again, but if you’re looking for a party, check it out.
HostelWorld and Booking.com both list countless hostels throughout Spain. This is a well-trafficked destination after all. So take a look and filter by price + number of stars before settling on a place.
The Final Word on Nomadic Life in Spain
- Great food
- Great adventures
- Great people
- Bountiful wifi
- Cheap SIM data plans
Sounds good right?
Remember, you’ll pay a little more than you would in Thailand or Vietnam, but you’ll have a great time while you’re there.
And you can always stop in Spain for a couple of weeks before heading to cheaper pastures.
What do you think of being a digital nomad in Spain? Will you go? Have you already been?