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Living In The Canary Islands- 11 Important Things To Know

Even though a part of Spain, the Canaries are closer to the African coast, offering the best of two worlds. Lush forests, looming volcanic landscapes, stunning canyons, endless stretches of dunes… Visiting the Canary Islands will offers a lot of unique experiences beyond beautiful beaches and seafront resorts but living in the Canary Islands gives you all the time in the world to soak in the atmosphere and call these beautiful places your home. In this guide, we’ll teach you everything there is to know about living in this gorgeous destination.

Let’s start from the beginning…

Choosing The Right Island For Living In The Canary Islands

tenerife island

Choosing one of the Canary Islands to live in mainly depends on the kind of lifestyle, environment, and community you want though all of the islands offer all three and even more. Below are the comparative insights of living in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and smaller such as El Hierro and La Gomera as drawn from Expatra.

Tenerife is the biggest and the most densely populated of the Canary Islands drawing many expats because of its lively communities, busy resorts, and varied landscapes. It offers the best of both worlds: lively tourist places in the south and quite verdant areas in the north. Tenerife is ideal for people who enjoy an active social life; the island has well-established expat communities.

The terrain of Gran Canaria is even more diverse than that of Tenerife and comprises beaches, dunes, mountains, and cities. Las Palmas, its capital, is famous for its vibrant cultural life and is perfect for those who want urban conveniences while remaining close to nature. The southern resorts of the island are favored by both tourists and expats, while the interior and the north present a more peaceful way of life.

As far as tourism is concerned, Lanzarote is way behind Tenerife and Gran Canaria, making it a more peaceful place. The prices are lower here, and this island is a paradise for water sports fans. A smaller expat community in Fuerteventura features a cozy atmosphere for the newcomers.

The smallest – El Hierro and La Gomera islands – offer solitude seekers people and nature worshippers. This archipelago provides a quiet, leisurely way of life among stunning scenery. Most expats living in this part of the Canary Islands usually look for a way out from the crowd of larger islands and value the small communities as well as the chance to be integrated fully into the local culture.

In a nutshell, when choosing a destination for living in the Canary Islands, your choice should correspond to your personal and career requirements. For those who enjoy both leisure and social activities, Tenerife and Gran Canaria put in place all that’s required and plenty of amenities and expat networks. Lanzarote offers a cheap relaxed beach lifestyle; El Hierro and La Gomera provide seclusion and a strong sense of community. Each of these islands has its features you may like or not like- thus visiting them and even living on some of them for a while is a good idea before you make the final choice.

Applying For A Residency

Canary Islands beach

Residency application in the Canary Islands is an important stage for those who are looking forward to living in the Canary Islands for the long term. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process, ensuring you’re well-informed and ready to embark on your new life in this beautiful archipelago.

1. Establish the residency Type

Initially, determine which kind of residence permit fits your case. The tasks that you’re moving for work, study, or retirement, demand certain requirements and vary in the types of permits.

2. Get a NIE (NIE)

The NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) is mandatory for any non-Spanish citizen who wishes to live in Spain. It is used for all administrative tasks such as the opening of a bank account, registering for healthcare, and filling out a lease. You can get an NIE at Spanish consulates in foreign countries or local police stations in Spain.

3. Secure Health Insurance

Health insurance is obligatory for all residents in Spain. If employed, you will probably be under the coverage of the Spanish healthcare system. If not, you should buy private health insurance that provides cover for everything.

4. Prove the Financial Means

In order to reside in the Canary Islands without working, you shall demonstrate that you have enough treasury to maintain yourself (and your dependants if any). This will make sure that you don’t end up as a liability to the state.

5. Apply for Residency

Having your NIE, health insurance, and financial proof the next step for you is to apply for the residency. The methodology of application can vary somewhat depending on the island and your particular situation, it’s better to ask the local Extranjería (Foreigners’ Office) for specific requirements.

6. Enroll at the Local Municipality

When you obtain the residency permit, you should get registered in the town hall of the place (empadronamiento). This registration is obligatory for utilization of services of the municipality and also serves as a confirmation that the person lives there.

7. Access to Health and Social Services

Provided that you have finished your residency and municipal registration, you can register for public healthcare and other social services. Just go to the health center closest to you and register to get a health card.

Cost Of Living In The Canary Islands

Canary Islands beach

The cost of living in the Canary Islands varies, depending on the island, your style of life as well as personal preferences. Nonetheless, it is often seen as very low price relative to many mainland European locations, providing a combination of value and lifestyle that is not seen anywhere else.

Housing

The costs of the accommodations on the islands as well as the areas of every island differ considerably. For instance, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, being more populated and expat- and tourist-favored, might charge more for rentals as compared to lesser-touristic locations like La Palma or El Hierro. Shared apartments in places like Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) or the south of Tenerife could vary a lot, but a budget range of €500 – €700 should get a nice one-bedroom apartment in a good location.

Utilities And Monthly Expenses

Utilities such as electricity, water, gas, and the internet can be approximately €100 on a monthly basis depending on use and on the size of your accommodation. To live in the Canary Islands with comfort, which includes rent, utilities, groceries, and leisure activities, for a single person it should be around €1200 and around €1,600 for a couple.

Food And Groceries

Groceries are cheap with most local markets providing fresh products at affordable prices. Eating out is also cheap and local restaurants meals are really great. Dietary preferences and habits would determine whether a single person’s grocery budget would be from €200 to €300 per month.

Transportation

The Canary Islands boast a strong public transportation system with buses running between all major towns and cities. Inter-island flights and ferries are subsidized at 75% for residents making travel between islands very cheap. The monthly public transportation pass would usually have a price of about €40-€60 or so, depending on the island and how much you move around.

Leisure And Entertainment

The activities on the islands are endless in the field of leisure and entertainment that are most realistic, they are also around nature, and beaches. The expenses can be different; however, because of many free or cheap activities outdoors, a person can live a rich social life without breaking the bank.

Healthcare In The Canary Islands

Canary Islands

Public healthcare in the Canary Islands is available to all residents who are covered under Spanish social security. This refers to employed, self-employed and EU-retired individuals receiving a state pension. A health card (tarjeta sanitaria) is provided to those who are registered and it gives them the right to use health care services at public hospitals and clinics. Public healthcare in the Canary Islands is of good quality with a broad range of hospitals and health centers located throughout the islands​​.

Apart from the public system, the Canary Islands also have a thriving private healthcare sector. Most residents and expatriates prefer to have private health insurance which would cover services not entirely provided by the public system such as dental care and quick access to specialists.

Health insurance is essential for expatriates moving to the Canary Islands for the residency application. While EU citizens may use their home country’s health provision, non-EU citizens need to demonstrate they have private health insurance in order to apply for residency. This insurance coverage should provide an all-inclusive medical cover to meet visa specifications and assure access to required health services.

Expat Community

The range of expats in the Canary Islands is very diverse, it includes pensioners looking for a sunny place to live in their old age, digital nomads attracted by the islands’ connectivity and lifestyle, and professionals who work remotely or in the local tourism and service industry. This stewing pot forms an interwoven fabric of cultures and lifestyles that gives newcomers the opportunity to find people like themselves or even adopt a whole new way of life​​.

Enjoying this post? Then you may also like this list of things to do in Nerja.

Job Opportunities

Canary Islands

Employment in the Canary Islands is diverse, with the nature of work greatly differing from island to island, but all of them are known for their immense landscapes and favorable climate. The main factor of the archipelago’s economy is tourism, however, there is also a chance with other industries. Here’s a look at the employment landscape in the Canary Islands.

Tourism and Hospitality

As one of the top holiday destinations, it’s not unexpected that the tourism and hospitality sectors are the biggest employers. Employment opportunities in hotels, resorts, bars, and restaurants are abundant, especially during tourist high seasons. The positions could range from receptionists and attendants to tour guides, cooks, even bartenders. Language skills, in particular English with also Spanish are widely sought here and this is an advantage for many expats.

Real Estate and Construction

There is a deep dive for second homes and rental units, a thriving market for real estate and construction jobs. The area provides positions for sales agents, property managers, and different construction positions. With the development of the islands and their increasing attractiveness to international investment, being proficient in more than one language can become an important asset to those working in real estate.

Education and Language Teaching

The need for English language teachers in the Canary Islands is constant, especially in the formal educational institutions as well as the private language academies. Teachers holding TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification have the chance to teach students of all ages. Furthermore, there are jobs for teachers in international schools where lessons are provided in English or other languages.

Remote Work and Digital Nomadism

Due to its remote location, peaceful vibes, and fast internet, the Canary Islands have become an increasingly popular destination for digital nomads. Areas like IT, marketing, graphic design, and content creation are some of the main niches most expats in the Canaries work in. Another recent development in this area is the introduction of the “digital nomad visa” by Spain, allowing non-EU citizens to live as well as work remotely in the islands.

Renewable Energy and Environmental Research

The Canary Islands are in the vanguard of renewable energy and environmental research, due to their unique ecosystem and adherence to sustainable development. Opportunities are also available in research institutions and in companies that work with wind, solar, and ocean energy.

The Property Market In Canary Islands

city near body of water during daytime

This guide to living in the Canary Islands couldn’t be complete without a few words about the local property market. In the Canary Islands, the property market provides a variety of opportunities from seafront apartments to country houses. Demand comes from the local population as well as a large number of expats and investors who are lured by the lifestyle of the islands. However, they vary greatly between islands, Tenerife and Gran Canaria being the most expensive due to the demand.

Pros And Cons Of Living On The Islands

living in the canary islands

Next, before we conclude this guide to living in the Canary Islands, we’ll share a few words about some of the major pros and cons of staying here.

Pros

Natural Beauty and Climate: The landscapes are beautiful and range from volcanic to lush forest to beaches and the climate remains mild all year round.
Relaxed Lifestyle: The speed of living is usually quite slow and easy in comparison with the cities of the mainland which positively influences the standard of living.
Community: Most islands have communities that are rather close and people know each other, providing a feeling of belonging.

Cons

Isolation: Island life can get lonely at times, especially on the smaller islands or if you are accustomed to all the services of the big city.
Cost of Living: Though generally lower than much of Europe, the price of imported goods can be higher due to transportation costs.
Limited Resources: Some islands may have shortfalls in some of the healthcare, educational, and recreational facilities.

Navigating The Islands

living in the canary islands

If you’re planning on living in the Canary Islands, you should know a thing or two about getting around. Exploring the Canary Islands is an adventure itself. The public transportation systems of every island comprise buses and taxis; they are usually reliable and cheap. With the resident discount offered to Spanish citizens, inter-island travel is well-linked by ferries and local flights. 

A Few Unique Things To Experience While Living In The Canary Islands

Last but not least, this guide to living in the Canary Islands couldn’t be complete without sharing a few unique experiences you can find only on the Canary Islands and nowhere else, starting with…

Visit An Isolated Mountain Village

masca valley

Hidden behind Los Gigantes Mountains lies one of the most remote and beautiful villages on Tenerife. Most visitors are left speechless after witnessing the natural beauty of this charming mountainesque village in the middle of nowhere. Once upon a time, there weren’t any roads and the only way to reach the village was by a donkey-taxi. Today, there’s a bumpy, narrow road leading to the village and a lot of tourist agencies organize day-trips to Masca. Talking about unique experiences, the Canary Islands are the only place where you can…

Hear The World’s Most Unique Language

Silbo Gomero is a communication system (or let’s call it a language) that consists of whistling. It has traditionally been used by the people of La Gomera to communicate across the deep ravines and narrow valleys of the region. Because of these unique geographical features, one can hear the whistling noises as far as 5 kilometers away! Sure, nowadays we have phones and other modern means of communication, but locals still think el Silbo Gomero is the best communication method.

If you’re around, focus and listen carefully- you probably will hear the whistling noise around the valley! It’s a very peculiar language and one that sure is difficult to master, but you should at least learn some basic Spanish before you go. For this, you can use Babble, one of the best language learning platforms online. Sounds interesting? Use this coupon and get up to 15% off.

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Talking about only in Canary experiences…

How About A 7-km-Long Volcanic Tube?

visiting the canary islands

Lanzarote Island is worldwide famous for its beautiful beaches but even more for the island’s volcanic landscape. One of the most spectacular things on the island is the 7-kilometers-long volcanic tube extending from La Coruna mountain to the coast with part of it being located below the sea surface. This spectacular site was created more than 3,000 years ago when the subterranean lava emptied into the ocean, leaving a molten river of lava underground.

This molten river of lava eventually cooled and developed a solid crust, creating a fascinating series of lava caves stretching across the island. Talking about volcanoes, the Canary Islands are one of only a few places on Earth where you can…

See A Snow-Covered Volcano

teide volcano visiting the canary islands

Even if you haven’t visited the Canary Islands, you probably heard about Teide National Park. It’s one of the main tourist attractions on Tenerife. The national park is home to the highest mountain in Spain and the highest volcano in the Atlantic. The Teide Volcano is also the tenth-highest active volcano in the world and one of only a few places on Earth where you can see a snow-covered volcano.

The volcano’s last eruption happened in 1909, and you can still see lava flows and huge craters in several different places across the island. If this sounds interesting, you’ll definitely want to…

See The Unusual Lava Formations Of Montaña Amarilla

visiting the canary islands

If you’re a fan of trekking and like to explore unusual lava formations, you’ll love Montana Amarilla. On this route, you’ll find an old volcanic crater and a natural landmark that was created after a volcanic eruption that will take your breath away. This natural monument located on the coast of San Miguel de Abona is a rare phenomenon that happens when lava mixes with seawater and can be found only in a handful of other places on our planet. And if this doesn’t impress you, perhaps you will be if you decide to…

Climb A Volcanic Rock

tenerife landscapes

Roque Nubio (Cloud Rock) is a dramatic natural formation that happens to be one of the world’s largest natural crags. Located more than 1,800 meters above sea level, this rock has been an ancient place of worship for the indigenous people of the island and a protected area since 1987. El Roque Nubio is a bit hard to reach, but once you get there, you’ll love the view. The Cloud Rock is located at the center of Gran Canaria, giving a fantastic 360-panoramic-view of the whole island. If this sounds interesting, then you should also…

Check Out The Iconic Rock Formations Of Roque Agando

roque agando

Roque Agando is one of the most spectacular views on the Canaries and a place you wouldn’t want to miss. This is arguably the most scenic trek on the islands even though climbing to the top is forbidden. The site has been a protected area because apparently, it had a great significance among the indigenous Barber inhabitants.

They built several sanctuaries and ancient sacrifice sites in the mountains and they were in good condition until the 1980s’ when they were rooted during the filming of a documentary. After this incident, the top of the mountain is inaccessible, but el Roque Agando is still one of the most spectacular sights on the Canary Islands. Talking about spectacular views…

Discover A Humid Subtropical Forest

Garajonay national park

The Garajonay National Park is one of the most precious natural wonders of the Canary Islands because the park is home to the largest continuous area of laurisilva forest. Laurisilva is a habitat that was historically present throughout Southern Spain and the North of Africa.

However, nowadays, Garajonay National Park is one of the last remaining places where you can see it. The forest is biologically diverse, but a lot of the flora and fauna inhabiting it is endemic with more than 50% of the species being officially protected by the authorities. Since national treasures of Spain are the topic, I just can’t forget to mention….

Enjoying this post? You may also want to check out our ultimate Northern Spain itinerary and our ultimate Spain bucket list.

Looking to rent a car in the Canary Islands? Save 10% on car rentals on the Canary Islands by using my AutoEurope link.

Looking for a cheap flight to the Canary Islands? Use this special offer from Qatar Airways to save up to 20% on all flights to the Canary Islands.

How did you like this guide to living in the Canary Islands? Is this a destination you see yourself living at? Let me know in the comments below!

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Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

Thursday 14th of March 2019

I am shocked by how many different landscapes and terrains exist on a relatively small group of islands! This looks like enough different terrains to fill an entire continent! Those villages also look like lovely places to stay. Thanks for sharing this truly beautiful place.

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 20th of March 2019

Indeed, Kevin! The Canaries are fascinating

Christine Rogador

Tuesday 12th of March 2019

I've tried a similar mode of communication in the jungle of Mexico and Borneo. It's cool to know that there's a name for it other than whistling lol. Also, such a great list of things to do in the Canary Islands.

Passport Symphony

Saturday 30th of March 2019

It's really cool to learn about that, Christine! Thank you for your comment

Roseline Christin

Tuesday 12th of March 2019

wow! Absolutely wonderful day at the sand dunes. Great Sand Dunes is a beautiful and unique National Park.

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 13th of March 2019

Indeed, Roseline- visiting the sand dunes truly is an amazing experience

Yukti

Tuesday 12th of March 2019

The Canary Islands has lot many things to do with wonderful beautiful nature scapes. Snow covered volcano must be a unique thing to witness here. Also, those lava formations look interesting.

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 13th of March 2019

There sure are Yukti- the Canaries are full of surprises :)

Janine Thomas

Tuesday 12th of March 2019

Wow! I have seen a snippet on National Geographic about the people of La Gomera and their ancient way of communicating. It must have been fascinating to witness it first hand. The island looks like a wonderful place to chill. I had no idea it was so beautiful.

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 13th of March 2019

It sure was, Janine. I hope you experience this someday :)