If you’re moving to Spain and bringing all your furniture and possessions you’ll need a reliable moving company. However, many people travel light, and can fly in with a few suitcases or drive a car or small van from other European countries. Therefore, I’ve covered travelling to Spain by plane, cross channel ferry, and by taking the Motor Rail to Barcelona.
How To Move to Barcelona, Spain
Airlines with flights to Barcelona
Here are the main airlines that fly between the UK and Barcelona:
Ferries to Spain
I travelled with Brittany Ferries because at the time they made a faster crossing directly to Spain. The good news is that Brittany Ferries have extended their routes to Spain and now leave from Portsmouth and Plymouth and land in both Santander and Bilbao.
If you book online with Brittany Ferries you get a discount. Beware though, if you book a return journey because it’s cheaper than a single trip, you will be charged more if you don’t use your return ticket.
I can recommend Brittany Ferries. The service was excellent, food was great, the cabin was small but very clean and everything ran to time.
Driving from Santander to Barcelona was easy; I think the most difficult part was arriving in busy Barcelona traffic at 7pm. It took about 8 hours which included several stops along the way to have a break from driving and to have something to eat and drink.
If you take the toll roads most of the journey is free of heavy traffic and it costs about €40 in toll fees for the whole journey (this price may have changed now).
P&O have stopped their direct ferry routes to Spain, so the only option if you travel with P&O is to take the ferry to France and then drive down through France to Spain.
DFDS Seaways also run ferries from Dover to Calais.
French Motor Rail
This was an option I seriously considered. You can drive your car on to the train in Paris and then relax on the train all the way to Narbonne (near the Spanish border). Again you can book a cabin and get a good night’s sleep. Narbonne to Barcelona is about a three hour drive.
Motor Rail has strict length and height restrictions for cars, so you need to make sure you are within the limits.
However, if you use the Motor Rail, you still have to get to Paris, so you need to look at options of getting across the Channel. There is Eurotunnel, of course, and various ferry companies. It goes without saying that you need to arrange your cross-channel journey to coincide with the check-in times stipulated by French Motor Rail.
Using a moving company
There are international moving companies that you can employ to do all the hard work for you, some specialise in moving to Spain. I recommend you look in your Yellow Pages and get some quotes. I obtained quotes from six companies and the prices ranged from between £500 – £1,000 (this was based on moving the contents of a small flat, not including furniture).
It can take up to two weeks for your belongings to arrive at your new address in Spain. These companies usually run a container load every week or every two weeks over to Spain and back. They wait until the container is full, then set off. As I had some very fragile items to pack, such as computers and a large screen, I decided not to choose this option. But if you are making a permanent move and have all of your possessions to move, I think this is probably your best bet.
International & Spanish removal companies
Wisse Moving are an international moving company based just outside of Barcelona in Calella. They will move your belongings to any country, but they have a regular weekly service between the UK and Spain so can offer part-loads making smaller moves more affordable. Their website is in English, Catalan, Spanish and German.
Hire a Van and Do It Yourself
There are companies that let you hire a van in the UK and drive to Europe, but usually you have to return the van back to the UK. However, there are now companies that let you do one way van hire and return the van to Spain (or vice versa).
VanRental.co.uk is a website which lists van hire companies that let you do one way trips in Europe. The site includes guides for drivers and van hire information for moving abroad.
Moving a car to Spain
You can bring your car to Spain and drive it here for up to six months without having to register it. After that period you must register the car with the local authority and pay Spanish road tax.
There is information on how to register your car or motorbike here: www.bcn.cat/hisenda (the site is in Castellano and Catalan). More details about bringing a car to Spain and driving in Spain can be found on the Barcelona Transport page.
The UK driving licence is recognised in Spain. If you have the old style paper licence, I think it’s best to apply for the new style licence with the photo ID part. Spanish authorities always need to see photo ID, and apart from being much more acceptable to the traffic authorities, it’s ideal to use as an ID card (which you must always carry by law) rather than taking your passport everywhere.
Accommodation in Barcelona
Before you actually arrive in Spain laden with all your worldly processions, you will probably need several reconnaissance trips to check out where you want to live and to find a flat.
Here are some suggestions for short-term accommodation in Barcelona. For your long-term accommodation this page gives details of recommended Barcelona estate agents as well as private agents who deal with long term rentals in the city. There are also links to websites where you can search for accommodation online.
If time is short, you may even save money by using a flat finding service. Have all your flat viewings arranged for you, and if you don’t speak Spanish this is a great option: Barcelona flat finding service.
My move to Barcelona
When I moved to Barcelona I decided to travel as light as possible. Most of my baggage was made up of work items – my personal items fitted into two backpacks. However, the car (an estate) was packed full of computer equipment and files for my work; I’m a graphic/web designer.
My move to Barcelona was a temporary one, I planned to be here for one year, however, several years later I’m still here. I had help moving – from my brother who offered to drive me to Barcelona, and from a friend, who came to Barcelona to help me move and then did an intensive Spanish language course. After looking at the various ways to travel: drive all the way through France, take the motor-rail through France or get the ferry to Santander, we chose the latter.
We travelled from Oxfordshire to Plymouth, where we took the Brittany ferry overnight to Santander. I can recommend this as a way to travel; you get a good night’s sleep (if you book a cabin) which prepares you for the drive ahead. There’s plenty to do onboard: there are several restaurants and bars, a casino, a swimming pool and even a cinema.
Living in Barcelona
Once you’ve made the move, found a place to live and settled into life in Barcelona, it’s time to enjoy the city, it’s culture and the many leisure activities available here. Get started with the top 10 free things to do in Barcelona.