Moving companies, DIY, ferry, motor rail or rent a van?
If you can afford it, why not put the whole enterprise of moving
to Spain with a reliable moving company? Maybe even a Spanish
removal company. However, many of us can't afford this option,
so I've also covered travelling to Spain by cross channel ferry,
or by taking the Motor Rail to 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.
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 highly 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).
Brittany Ferries travel from Portsmouth and Plymouth directly to Santander and Bilbao:
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.
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.
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.
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. www.wissemoving.com
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. www.vanrental.co.uk
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.
Accomomodation 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.
For visiting you will need short-term accommodation in Barcelona. For your long-term accommodation in Barcelona, visit this page which gives details of recommended Barcelona estate agents and private agents who deal with long term rentals in the city, as well as websites where you can search for property.
If time is short, you may even save money by using a flat finding service. Have all your flat viewings arranged for you for a day or days when you can visit Barcelona, and if you don't speak Spanish this is a great option: Barcelona flat finding service.
About my trip
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.
move to Barcelona was a temporary one, I planned to be here for one
year, however, over six years later I'm still here. I had help moving –
from my brother who offered to drive me to Barcelona in his car,
and from a friend, who came to Barcelona to help me move and to
do an intensive Spanish language course. So, 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 Banbury, 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, and as long
as you enjoy travel by boat (and the sea’s not too rough!)
it’s very enjoyable. There's plenty to do onboard: several
restaurants and bars, a casino, a swimming pool and even a cinema.
My brother caught the ferry back after spending a few days in
Barcelona with me and visiting a friend in the Pyrenees.