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Living in Spain – A Guide for PhD Students

Written by Chris Banyard

Doctoral students living in Spain can gain first-hand experience of the lifestyle and attractions that bring so many visitors to the country. If you choose to study a Spanish PhD, you can enjoy Mediterranean cities, towns and beaches and a rich cultural heritage.

The guide covers useful information about moving to Spain for your doctoral studies, including accommodation, living costs, work permits, setting up a bank account and getting around.

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Student life

With large numbers of international students, Spain has plenty to offer during your PhD. Your doctorate will be no holiday, but Spain’s sun, sea and sand will mean you can work in a comfortable and relaxing environment.

Culture and tourism

Spain is a popular tourist destination, with its hot Mediterranean climate. However, there’s more to Spain than beaches. Spain also has the third largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites in the world and has produced many famous artists and innovators including Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudí, and Miguel de Cervantes. There are also lots of lively cities and exciting festivals to explore, and, if you plan your research effectively, you can enjoy late afternoon siestas in the sun.

Sport and leisure

Football is big in Spain, with some of the best teams and players in the world. The excellent Spanish climate means that sociable outdoor activities are often popular, with lots of beach and water sports and countryside walks to take part in. There are also plenty of shopping options, and lots of opportunities to enjoy the vibrant Spanish nightlife.

Food and drink

You may already be familiar with famous Spanish cuisine – olives, cured meats, paella, grilled seafood and tapas are popular and perfect in the Mediterranean sun. Spanish cheese, wine, sherry and beer are also deservedly famous, and available all over the country.

Find a PhD in Spain

Ready to start browsing some current PhD opportunities in Spain? Alternatively, you can look at our other guides to PhD study abroad.


You can find several forms of accommodation during your PhD in Spain. The overall price varies depending on your location and housing type and size.

Accommodation types

Types of accommodation available in Spain are:

  • Dormitory housing – university-run student accommodation and student villages (colleges mayores) similar to UK halls of residence. Situated on or nearby the campus, usually single rooms with shared facilities.
  • Homestay – Spain’s Vivure i Conviure programme, where you can stay with a Spanish host family.
  • Private housing – standard rented rooms, apartments and flats privately run by a landlord or letting agent.

For more specific information about all forms of accommodation, you should contact your university’s international office.

Accommodation costs

The cost of housing in Spain can vary significantly depending on your location. Madrid and Barcelona have higher rates than the rest of Spain, but overall living costs in Spain are slightly lower than in the UK. You can expect to pay around €500-900 per month for student housing. Your prospective university can provide you with further information about the accommodation options that they offer.

Living costs

The cost of living in Spain is fairly affordable compared to the rest of Western Europe. You can expect to pay around €900-1000 per month, budgeting €500-900 for accommodation, €300 for food and €200 for miscellaneous costs.

Prices in Spain

The following table gives an indication of prices for some common expenses during a PhD in Spain:

Student Cost of Living in Spain - 2024
Restaurant Meal €12.00
Cinema Ticket €8.00
Monthly Travel Pass €31.50
Monthly Utilities €125.44
Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

Working during your PhD

You can work in Spain for up to 20 hours a week as an international PhD student, subject to some regulations. Your employer must register your residence and receive your Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE) as well as apply to the Spanish Foreign Nationals Office for permission to hire you.

If you are a non-EU / EEA / Swiss student you may also need to update your study visa, register at your local National Institute of Social Security (INSS), and obtain as valid work permit from the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country.

Be aware that your right to work while studying can be withdrawn if you’re deemed to be making insufficient progress on your doctorate.

For more information about working in Spain during your PhD, you should contact your university’s international office or your local Foreign Nationals Office.


The Spanish currency is the Euro (€ or EUR).

Spanish banks are split into two types:

  • bancos are private banks similar to most international banks
  • cajas are state-owned, often local, banks that aim to function with social responsibility

Most Spanish bank accounts can be opened before arriving in the country, although it is typically easier to do once living in Spain. You will usually need:

  • a passport
  • proof of address
  • proof of current student status
  • your Foreigner’s Identity Number (NIE) and certificate

Your bank account may take several days to open, and usually requires some small administrative fees.


There are lots of transport options available in Spain. Most travel services will offer student discounts and deals for PhD students.

Rail travel

Train travel is a popular way of getting around Spain’s towns and cities and are usually frequent and comfortable. The Spanish Speed Train (AVE) crosses through the whole country for fast and convenient journeys.

Air travel

There are around 70 airports in Spain, most of which are managed by Aena. As a popular tourist destination, Spain’s airports have regular connections to most of Europe and the world’s major cities.

Inner-city travel

Walking and cycling are simple options for getting around in Spain, but for longer journeys most cities have convenient bus and taxi networks. Additionally, many major Spanish cities have extensive underground metro networks for quick assess around each city.

Find a PhD in Spain

Ready to start browsing some current PhD opportunities in Spain? Alternatively, you can look at our other guides to PhD study abroad.

Last Updated: 03 January 2024