For the 2014-2015 school year, I lived in A Coruña (Galicia), Spain for 9 months. It wasn’t my first time living on my own let alone in another country for that matter. However, it was my first year as a language assistant through the North American Language and Culture Assistant program. And it was also my first time living on my own in Spain without the support of a study abroad program or friends.
The year brought a lot of changes and challenges but it was one of the best years of my life. I didn’t necessarily fall head over heels in love with the city of A Coruña like I did with Sevilla (Viva Andalucía! 😉 ) but I did love the natural beauty surrounding the city and the kindness and generosity of the Galician people who welcomed me into their lives. A Coruña provided a lot of opportunities for me to experience the local culture and language, have a few nights out on the town, beach days and take advantage of one of the lowest costs of living in one of the greenest and most beautiful regions of Spain. If you are planning on living or visiting this city soon, you will be in for a pleasant surprise and you will definitely not have to break the bank to enjoy yourself.
I’ve gathered up receipts and scoured my mind for all of the possible expenses, prices and information you will need to know before moving to or visiting the beautiful city and beaches of A Coruña and now I’m ready to share it with you. I hope this will help give you a picture of what the cost of living is like and why you should visit this city at least once if you make it out to Spain one day! (or are leaving to fly there tomorrow)
Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk numbers, shall we?
Rent & Utilities
In the City Center/Ciudad Vieja: 150-225 euros/month +utilities per person
Outside the City Center/Ciudad Vieja: 110-170 euros/month +utilities per person
As far as the living conditions in Galicia go, there are some really nice options for you in small towns (and cities too) for a cheap price but there are also plenty of old flats that haven’t seen an update in a long time. Mine was a mix of those two options and I loved the room I found -the flatmates not so much- despite not having a functioning gas oven and having to get used to cooking with gas for the very first time in my life. However, these things were not hard to get used to and I adapted pretty quickly. And, luckily I met some nice girls who would let me come over and use their oven to bake. This almost always turned into a baking party and we got to know each other well. However, I would like a working oven next year (hint, hint, Santa. If by any chance you’re reading this, haha).
Renting an apartment or room in Spain is fairly easy to do provided that you speak at least intermediate Spanish, you bring someone with you who does or your potential landlords may speak decent English (the latter is not too likely in Galicia). There is no background or credit check like there would be in the US but you will have to pay a deposit which is usually equal to the first month’s rent (but should legally not be more than 2 months).
You will also probably have to sign a contract that will require you to live there and pay rent for 6 months to a year. Read those papers very carefully as two friends’ contract (both auxiliares) stated that their landlord did not allow them to have boys staying the night in the apartment or to be there very late. I’m not even kidding but I do wish I had thought to take a picture of their rental contract when they showed it to me. Plan to expect the unexpected and above all, respect your landlord’s (reasonable) wishes. It will make your experience living there that much more pleasant and enjoyable.
Getting on your landlord’s good side is always recommended unless your landlord happens to be crazy or really mean and shady. Unfortunately, these things happen no matter where you are around the world. If you have a problem with the landlord or one of the roommates and you can’t live with it, I would look for a new place, ends things on good terms with your landlord and then leave as soon as you’re able.
**Disclaimer: Keep in mind that you’ll have to give at least 15-30 days notice to your landlord before you leave.**
Utilities (gastos) are usually separate and deal with your water, butane (gas) and electricity bills. They won’t all come to your house (in paper form only) on the same day or even in the same month and you may have to leave money for the last month’s cycle of bills before you leave in order to cover it. Electricity bills seemed to come every two months and water, every three months. Some landlords will add this total up and divide it by the number of people living in the flat and write it on a piece of paper for all of you. But, chances are you will be responsible for calculating this yourself so make sure you keep track of it each month.
I lucked out and found an affordable room in an apartment outside of the city center and about a 25-minute walk one way to my school. Though it was quite far from the center, it had plenty of other perks. Perks such as: it was just a 15-minute walk one way to Playa de Riazor (one of two main beaches) on foot and my neighborhood was surrounded by numerous stores, supermarkets and a couple of cultural centers (like the Agora) nearby. What’s more, is that it was an entirely pedestrian street and no cars -except delivery trucks or those with parking spots at a couple of garages- could drive on it. It was also the street where a lot of immigrants lived and a lot of people from the city mentioned it in so many jokes. I learned to live with it and laugh it off.
I paid cash each month for the room and paid around the day I moved each month that followed. I would text the landlords or they would text me and once we agreed on a time to meet at the flat, they would come over and I would pay them 170 euros. No more, no less. I didn’t have to sign a contract but I did have to live there for at least one month and promise to clean up after myself in the kitchen and clean periodically. They only had two rules: you had to clean and no guys were allowed to live there. A guy could sleep over but no guy could move into one of the rooms…which was fine by me. Guys can be messy!
(Hindsight: I would recommend finding an apartment that requires you to sign a contract as the landlords that don’t are less likely to pay taxes on the rent money that they receive from tenants, which is illegal. Lesson learned!)
My total: Gastos: included; Deposit (fianza): 50 euros; Rent: 170 euros. (220 euros for the first month)
The price of food at the supermarkets and fruit shops was very affordable in my opinion. So affordable, in fact, that I would rarely spend more than 20 euros per shopping trip. If I did (and it usually happened at Mercadona, a Walmart-like supermarket but not quite as big), I would stare blankly at the number at the register or on the receipt a little shocked. My next thought would be, could I eat all of this food?! The answer was typically yes and eat I did some days. 😛
This one tidbit alone should give you a very good idea of how inexpensive food is in Coruña and Galicia as a whole. These prices are ones that I have personally seen thanks to countless shopping trips to the various supermarkets, fruit shops and butcher’s shops around the city.
Dry goods 1 loaf of bread: 1-3 euros (depending on the brand of sandwich-style bread)
Pasta (500g): 70-1,40 euros (more for higher quality); or couscous (what I usually bought): 1,50 euros/1 kilo
Rice: 1-2 euros (depends on the type, white, brown, Basmati, etc)
Dry Lentils: 99 cents
Dry Chickpeas: 99 cents
Maria/Digestive cookies (4-5 packs in a large package): 1-1,30 euros or less
Fresh bread: As low as 30 cents per loaf!
(The following prices are per kilo; 1 kilo = 2.2lbs)
Apples: 80 cents to 1,45 euros (depends on the type)
Bananas: 99 cents to 1,50 euros (mostly from Las Islas Canarias)
Tomatoes: around 1 euro or less
Potatoes: 49 cents or a little less (potatoes are so cheap!)
Carrots: 70 cents
Strawberries: 1,75-2,50 euros (depending on whether they’re in season-winter and spring- or not)
Oranges: 80 cents to 1,40 euros for at least 1-2kg (depends on the type and if it’s for juicing or not)
Milk: 1.25 euros/1.5 liters (Milk from the region next-door, gorgeous Asturias!)
Eggs: 1.35 euros/dozen
Chicken breasts: 3,99 euros on average
Local cheese: 3-4 euros
Other Spanish cheese (e.g: sheep/manchego/oveja) around 5 euros and up (depends if it is freshly cut at the counter or not)
(The following prices are roughly close to 1L which is equal to 33 oz)
Wine – Boxed: less than 99 cents
Drinkable: 2-5 euros;
Fancy: 6 euros and up
Beer: as cheap as 20/can
Liquor: (about the same as the prices in USD; Mexican and South American liquors were a little more expensive)
Tinto de verano (inexpensive wine mixed with seltzer water-Gaseosa- and lemon juice or lemon Fanta; my go-to drink): 1.25 euros/1.5L of a quality brand, Casera.
Water bottle (500ml): 15-20 cents for store brand
Water jug (5L): 59 cents [Go for the big water jug! It’s hard to carry more than one at a time but the price is SO worth it and almost all the water is natural mineral water, not just spring or tap water.]
*Bonus*: Gaseosa – This drink tastes like seltzer or club soda but it is so much more than that. Shout out to my brother for getting me hooked on this very simple yet refreshing drink for only 0.25 cents/1.5L bottle! Sooo good but best to add it to other drinks to enjoy a sparkling drink. 🙂
My experience: I already knew how to cook a few things before I arrived in Coruña as I have already lived on my own for a few years. I can’t cook a fancy Thanksgiving meal (but I’m grateful for the fellow expats in Coruña who did that for me, though!) but I can cook enough things to where I won’t get bored for a while. So I cooked a ton at home and was always coming up with new creations and trying out new recipes. My inspiration didn’t necessarily come from Pinterest as you would think but rather Instagram. And, the last time I lived in Spain for a longer period of time (for a whole semester in 2010), I wasn’t allowed to go into my host mom’s kitchen for any reason so being able to cook in this country was something I longed to do! Imagine that.
My total: Between 80 to 100 euros each month. I spent about 20 euros weekly on average but sometimes I bought more (or less). I could fill a whole small basket of groceries at Mercadona and only spend about 22 euros or so. It was crazy. Getting all that food home wasn’t too bad as I lived just a 5-minute walk from the store or even less for other grocery stores. I had a lot of options and so do you! 🙂
Hot Tea: 1,10-1,90 euros
Cafe con leche: 1,10-6 euros (depends on where you go and the location- touristy or not-)
Water (cold): 1 euro
Water (room temperature and from the tap): Freeeee!
Espresso: 1,20-1,40 euros
Wine (glass): 1,50 to 4 euros
Caña: about 1,50 euros
Cerveza (small bottle): 1,60 euros+ (price depends on whether it’s local Estrella Galicia beer or craft beer) Tapa (high end/near tourist sights): 2.30 euros
Tapa (low-cost or student geared bar): 1 euro to 1.70 euros, sometimes free with your drink but that depends on the establishment
Average price for Menu del Dia: 8-10 euros for a first course, a second course, bread, drink, and dessert or coffee. That’s a very nice deal!
My experience: An example of one of the menú del días that I had during my first week in Coruña at a restaurant near the train station. You get a lot of food and sometimes can’t even bring yourself to eat dinner in a few hours you get so much!
As I mentioned above, I personally cooked and ate at home a lot during my 9 months living in Coruña. Other people that I’ve talked to who’ve lived or currently live there have said that you can eat out all the time it’s so affordable. You could but it would get a lot costly when some foods and drinks can be purchased at the supermarket for a fraction of the restaurant price. Also, if you go out all the time and just order from a familiar menu (or get stuck in a rut and order the same thing each visit), you are more likely to get tired of the food quicker than most people. The restaurant options in Coruña are very diverse but after a while -especially if you’re not used to eating out a lot like me going out to eat may get boring. You won’t have to worry about tipping the waiter (they don’t do tipping in Europe unless you feel that the service was spectacular and so you are welcome to tip) but the menu items don’t change very often and you may get tired of the food.
Also, if you’re sensitive or allergic to certain foods or need to be on a specific diet (example: I needed to switch to a high unsaturated fat diet this year for health reasons), cook at home. Produce is SO cheap in Galicia (see prices above). Take advantage of that and turn yourself into a master chef or take a cooking class! There are many options available so don’t limit yourself to just eating out or eating instant meals. 🙂
My advice: Split your time between cooking at home and going out with friends. Spain is all about enjoying food and drinks with friends and family so take savor that and jump into their dining culture. If you want to try out a new restaurant, maybe wait to do it with a friend or two to make the experience more enjoyable on a weekend or weeknight so that everyone can go. It’s fine to go alone (as I have done countless times) but there are some food experiences that are meant to be shared with others.
Bonus: If you’re an American or you like American style breakfasts, visit a little place called Migas Dulces Bocados, an American inspired cafe and bakery on Calle La Torre, 102 Bajo. The owner started the cafe about three years ago and she makes the best American style pancakes and pastries in the city! She grew up in Washington DC but moved to Galicia over a decade ago because her parents are from this region and most of her family lives over there too.
She speaks perfect English and perfect Spanish as she was raised in a bilingual home. Normally, you can put maple syrup and butter on the pancakes but ask her if she has any fresh fruit that day and she will be glad to top your pancakes with whatever she has on hand! One of my friends even asked for whip cream and luckily she had it the night we went. Head on over there on a (rainy) Saturday or Sunday morning to get your American breakfast fix all for under 4 euros (includes coffee or tea and a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice). You won’t leave disappointed!
My total: Around 40-50 euros/month; less during the winter months and less when I was about to travel at the end of the week.
Single ticket (bus): 1.30 euros Price/ride with regional or city bus card (which works for the airport and city limit buses too!): 85 cents! (university student price: 35 cents!!!)
Taxi (starting price): 4,40 euros (approximately) + extra mileage; a taxi from the airport: about 15-20 euros
Many people will tell you that A Coruña is a very walkable city and it is. However, if you live in Riazor or Los Rosales (the furthest point from the city center), you will need to take the bus to get home and also to work/school. Most places are about a 20-minute walk (or even less if you live in the city center (downtown) but some places are very far and a bus makes things that much easier. And if you factor in the rainy fall and winter (and sometimes spring or summer haha) days, walking will appeal to you even less. The weather is known to change often here so be sure to check the weather report before you go out and take your umbrella even though some of the rain will be a light mist. (Or it could hail in February so be prepared for anything!)
My experience: I was fortunate enough to be placed in an elementary school that was 25 minutes away on foot and 50 minutes round trip. I would always take the bus to/from school if it was raining, especially on the days when it rained very hard (and a temporal —storm system— or a ciclogénesis was passing through the area).
My total: 10 euros every two weeks on average. I would load this amount in cash onto my card at an Abanca ATM on Calle Barcelona or Calle San Andrés. On drier weeks, the 10 euro credit (saldo) would last me almost 3 weeks. On rainy weeks where I would take the bus to/from school each day, it would last just about a week (1,70 euros/day) and a half.
About a month before I left, a friend of mine gave me her Transporte Galicia card that’s good for travel around the whole region. (Purchase the newly introduced Xente Nova card from 2020 onward) You will get the bus card price -which is usually under 1 euro per ride- in any city in the region of Galicia when you use the card and you can even use it on the airport bus in Santiago de Compostela (where Ryanair is based) and only pay 85 cents to go to the airport! All of these savings will add up, especially if you find that you’re going to Santiago a lot for flights. (The normal RT price for the airport bus is about 5 euros!)
Pro tip: Just last month another friend of mine told me about a trick with using the city (or regional) bus card. If you scan your card on the bus and then catch another bus within a 30-45 minute time frame, your next bus ride will be free and counted as a transfer (just like on a subway or underground system). I learned about this two days before I left the city but better late than never, right? I’m glad I can pass on that tip on to others and use it more myself when I go back to visit.
Pair of shoes: 10 euros+ (more for real leather of course)
Shirt: around 10-15 euros
Jeans: 20-30 euros+
Dress: starting around 10 euros+
Accessories: reasonable; buy ordinary items at places called bisuterías (costume jewelry shops) and fancy nights out -if you have any- at joyerías but don’t break the bank!
My experience: Though I lived on a shopping street with dozens of stores around me, I didn’t do much actual shopping. Most of my shopping was grocery shopping and window shopping when I did shop, I chose to stay close and went into several of the small stores around my flat. A lot of my friends frequented the big and flashy Marineda City mall (that was also next to IKEA and Lidl) but I did not. The short answer is, I didn’t come all the way back to Spain to go to malls every week. There’s nothing wrong with doing so but I wanted to get a break from malls for a few months. I also wanted to experience the local culture firsthand so I opted for smaller shops. I even made friends with two ladies who own two different stores and have some more people to drop in and visit when I go back to visit Coruña. Isn’t that nice?
My total: Averaged 20-30 euros per month. I took advantage of going to a few of Coruña’s thrift and resale stores in and near Riazor and bought (and replaced) things during rebajas -winter/summer sales- which saved me even more money. I also brought a lot of practical and re-wearable clothes for a couple different seasons that held me over for quite a while before spring and summer hit. I’m a smart shopper as well as a bargain shopper but I really focused on price and quality this time around and was pleased to find both in many of the stores in Coruña. 🙂
Cinema (regular theater): about 6-7 euros; (Forúm Metropolitano): 1,50-2 euros per international film showing
Musical/drama: 23 euros+ (based on a visit I made to the Opera House to see Los Miserables)
Concert ticket (average): 10 euros+ (depends on how well-known the artist is)
Club entrance: average 6 euros (free for ladies often and on student nights)
Soccer/Football game at Riazor Stadium: 25 euros + (depends on the fame of the away team; FC Barcelona tickets were starting at 95 euros one time!
Basketball game: around 5-10 euros (but I got in free thanks to two players coming to my friend’s school haha!)
Gym Membership: 10-15 euros/month, sometimes more [I never had one.]
Casa del Agua (multi-purpose center aquatic sports, classes and sauna and steam rooms): see website for all the info.
Frozen yogurt (Medium bowl, two toppings): 3 euros
One scoop of ice cream in a bowl or cone: 1,60 euros (average)
Churros con chocolate: 1,20-1,50 euros (for a medium cup of chocolate and two churros)
My experience: I can count how many times I’ve gone out (as in go to clubs or bars) on one hand in Coruña. The city has great nightlife especially around the beaches (Riazor and Orzan) but some nights it’s hit or miss. I also had to walk quite a ways home and winter in the city was pretty dreary (though it definitely could’ve been worse) with plenty of rainy nights. I wanted to focus on getting healthier (read: not staying out all hours of the night) and I did a lot of stuff during the week (like go to cultural events, conversation nights, etc) and used my weekends to relax, write and travel. I had done my fair share of going out when I was a young 21-year-old student and didn’t really feel like repeating the same routine this time around in Spain, although I was in a new city.
Everyone is different, however, and if you’re under 25 (unlike me at 26 as I write this), you may just want to stay out all night and go dancing. Go for it! Just make sure you do things you want to do and not be forced into doing things you’d rather skip out on. Your social life is important but your own personal happiness while abroad is a whole lot more important!
My total: About 10-20 euros per month.
Cell/mobile phone plans
Orange: about 15 euros a month (on a pre-paid plan) for 1GB of data, 1000 messages and 50 minutes of calls (check the website for more information and to be sure the prices for the plans are current). I heard the best things about Orange and their coverage and data plans so that’s the only one I can really recommend. Pepefone was also another one that was very cheap and good for people who mostly used data for Whatsapp or other low data apps.
My experience: I brought two phones to Spain with me last fall. One was my locked Verizon iPhone 4 with no SIM card slot (go, Verizon!) and the other was my cheap 9 euro prepaid Vodafone flip, no T9 phone that I used as a study abroad student. (The kind where it takes you forever to peck out one message…you know what I’m talking about, right?!) I used my house phone to make local free calls, the prepaid phone for calls to mobile phones when I needed to and then my iPhone on Wifi for everything else. I went whole days without Wifi and was sometimes better off for it. I had some communication challenges here and there but after a while, I got used to it. It was good to disconnect so to speak while I lived here and I would recommend others try it if only for a month or a couple weeks.
My total: 5-10 euros on my prepaid phone only – and for the entire 9 months, I was there! (I spent about $2/month adding money to my Viber app to make calls home to US cell phones and talked to everyone else via Skype or Viber itself (if a friend/family member had it too).
Available Stores and MallsGrocery/Supermarket
Gadis (there is literally one on every corner there are so many!)
Familia (a mix of Dia and Eroski but the stores tend to mark down items a lot and they sell Eroski products for less than the actual cost -even if it’s just 10 cents less- so this quickly became one of my top places to shop. I LOVE finding a good deal!)
Dia (also Dia Market and my favorite grocery store in Spain; I even have their Dia Club membership card!) Eroski
SuperCor (more expensive but open as late as 2 am (most days) which makes it a good supermarket to “fall back on” when you’re in a pinch or can’t go shopping)
El Corte Ingles
Pull N Bear
….and most other big name stores you’d find in big cities or internationally including all stores are part of the Spanish clothing conglomerate called Inditex.
My experience: I spent most of my money in grocery stores when it came to shopping in the city. I didn’t even go to the huge mall (Marineda City) until May 2015.
Confession: I didn’t come all the way to Europe to go to huge malls when I could just go to them in the US. It was fun not to go to malls and be able to visit as many local shops as possible to get the real feel of the city. Everyone’s different and comes to Coruña for different reasons so don’t feel obligated to do what I did. Although I would recommend it every once in a while. 🙂
My total: (See total underneath shopping)
Miscellaneous Items/NeedsImportant Spain residency related expenses
TIE Fees: 15 euros Renewal Fees: 15 euros
Autorizacion de Regreso (Permission to return while renewal forms are processing): 10,30 euros
Photocopy (per page): 10-15 cents
Passport size photos (per sheet of 6): 5 euros
Haircut (female): 7-8 euros+ (more for shampoo, drying and styling)
Haircut (male): 6 euros+ (more for shampoo and drying)
Manicure: 7 euros+ Pedicure: 11 euros average
Eyebrow wax: 3-4 euros
Upper lip wax: 3-4 euros
Highlights: 15 euros+, sometimes more/less
Cough syrup: 7 euros (which lasted me one cold and two rounds of allergies)
Prescription pills: (go to the pharmacies when you arrive; less than 5 euros per pack usually)
Other Items Tissues (per pack): 10-20 cents (Scottex brand was so smooth, like Puffs in the US)
Toilet Paper (per 12 pack): 6-8 euros; store brands will be cheaper but I liked Renova
Shampoo (300ml to 1L): 1,50-6 euros (American brands like Garnier and Pantene will be more)
Conditioner (200ml to 1L): (about the same as shampoo)
Body Wash: 99 cents – 4,00 euros (store brands are the cheapest of course)
Shave gel: (about the same as the US, though I didn’t buy any and just used conditioner)
Soap (bathroom, 500ml): 99 cents – 1,25 euros (get the olive oil-based soap from Mercadona! 😉
Soap (kitchen, 1,5L): 1-1,99 euros
Candles: 1,50-2,50 euros on average
Air Freshener: about 1 euro for a store brand (more for Glade or other name brands)
Flowers: 3 euros+ Houseplants: 5 euros+ (depends on the type of plant and how nice the pot is; I bought spider plants.)
My experience: What’s not on this list is cosmetic procedure costs and by that, I mean laser hair removal. I was in need of several sessions of it (which my insurance plan MAPFRE offered a discount on sessions which helped a lot) during these past few months. It was about 60 euros per session (for 3 zones at 20 euros per zone) and I did those for 7 of the 9 months. I bought a lot of the miscellaneous items above in the very beginning but most of them lasted for a long while (or were one time purchases like the TIE paperwork fees) so I didn’t need to buy them every month. The laser hair removal appointments that I had were usually scheduled for the end of the month. I only have a couple of sessions left and I’m excited about that! I may go into detail about the area of my body I’m treating another day for another post but I haven’t decided yet. If you were wondering where all my money goes each month, it was usually to rent, food, travel, and laser hair removal appointments.
My total: It was about 70-80 euros each month including the laser hair removal appointments. I did less traveling than most people I met as I had to be able to afford these treatments each month and stay on track with them and the hair growth. The good news is that I’m almost done and can then save or put this money towards more trips next year! 🙂
GRAND TOTAL: 1100 euros (the 700 monthly stipend, 100 euros in private English classes, 200 euros in steady freelance translation and marketing projects <–more in busier months)
-1000 euros (I spent anywhere from 50 euros to upwards of 250 euros for 4-7 day vacation trips)
+/-100 euros leftover each month (which was then spent on tickets to the USA)
And there you have it! I hope to save more money next year so that I can have a bit more of a cushion but as you can see A Coruña is NOT an expensive city at all. You can live a full and active life here just as you would in your home country and even save a little bit of money too. How much you want to spend is up to you and your hobbies. Just make sure that YOU are happy with your spending here and you will have a great time, whether your visit lasts one day or a full year!
Be sure to enjoy Coruña in all its seasons:
Don’t forget to see the city’s sights – both during the day and at night! (Not a complete list but something to get you started.)
Torre de Hércules (Hercules Tower)
Plaza de María Pita (María Pita City Square)
Parque de Monte de San Pedro (San Pedro Park)
And leave some room to try the famous pulpo a la gallega (polbo a feira -en Galego-) at least once!
Even if you’re not a seafood lover or have an aversion to it, this dish is a must-try. Even if you just take a bite off of someone else’s plate and don’t eat anything else. The flavorful olive oil, slightly spicy paprika and salt sprinkled on top of the succulent pieces will send your taste buds into shock. It’s a seafood dish unlike any other you could possibly taste and it is worth the try. It’s also a dish that originates only in this region of Spain and they have perfected the recipe over and over again. And hey, wouldn’t it be cool if you could add octopus to your list of weird foods you’ve eaten? Be adventurous – you came all this way for an exciting experience didn’t you? 😉
Have you visited or lived in Coruña before? What did you think about the cost of living? Are there any things you would add to my list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!