The last blog finished a year after we first had the thought of moving to Lanzarote and six months into our new life. So what’s happened since and has it all worked out for us?
The short answer is a resounding yes! It’s hard to believe that in January 2017 we’ll have been here four years. We have had some ups and downs, mainly with work, but that’s pretty normal for Lanza. We love living here and we haven’t regretted a single moment. Sally has had to go back to the UK a few times as her Dad was taken very ill but I had no desire to go back. Sally finally persuaded me to visit in September 2016 and I’ll admit that it was lovely to see our families.
We’ve found Lanzarote to be a fabulous place to live with a great lifestyle, low cost of living and lovely year-round weather. Apparently my blog has encouraged people who have been thinking of relocating here to finally take the plunge and change their lives for the better.
However, it’s not right for everybody. Lanzarote embraces some people but chews up others and spits them out and we’ve seen many come and go. But we’ve found that it is usually down to attitude. Come here with a positive outlook, prepared to be flexible and to do what it takes to make it work you’ll probably be okay. But if you are too fixed on what work you will or will not do and you are looking for a great salary from the start you’ll be lucky to last six months because it is unlikely to happen.
We have also discovered that when you’re dealing with officials and the notorious Spanish paperwork, the easier you make it for them, the easier they will make it for you. Take all the necessary original documents and colour photocopies with you. Quite rightly, very few officials do, or will speak English so, if your Spanish isn’t good enough, take someone to translate.
Working Life in Lanzarote
Wages in Lanzarote tend to be a lot lower than in the UK but so is the cost of living. And the quality of life is so much better. We work less than half the hours we previously had to, just to make ends meet.
When we moved here the recession was at its lowest point, work was hard to find and jobs with contracts were like gold dust. Now there are plenty of jobs being advertised and there has been a clampdown on the black economy meaning that more employers are offering contracts, although plenty still don’t.
My first job here was working in the Penny Lane bar while trying to establish myself as a freelance writer and Sally was going to various hotel pools selling products for Suncare.
Suncare products are natural and great quality – we still use them – but it takes a certain mind-set to be able to sell them day in, day out. A friend of ours has been with them for years and makes a good living but Sally found that, being commission only, the earnings could be very hit and miss. Some days she would work for six hours and barely cover the cost of her petrol, which she found extremely disheartening.
She took various other jobs in an effort to improve her income. She worked on a market stall selling beautiful hand-made jewellery, which she loved, but again it was commission only. She took jobs in two different bars only to be told that her face “didn’t fit”.
Eventually she was offered some cleaning work in holiday villas and apartments, but for only €5 per hour which was appalling. However, she learned many tricks of the trade and it led to her being offered more work at €8 and then, as she grew a reputation for quality and reliability, this increased to €10 plus per hour. Cleaning is a valued occupation here and good cleaners are highly sought after. Sally now has many private clients of her own as well as occasionally helping out on holiday lets. She also works at Teguise market on Sundays clearing tables at a food outlet.
I worked in the bar for around a year until the owners, with whom we’re still in touch, decided to relocate to Fuerteventura. I then took a full-time office job, not something I had envisioned in Lanzarote, selling activity holidays around the world with sports such as diving, surfing, kite surfing and wind surfing. I’m not a salesman but I did okay as it wasn’t a hard sell and the customers already wanted to do the activities so I just had to tie them in with the accommodation.
Then friends of ours, who have a shop called A Little Bit Bazar in Tías, which sells imported British goods, asked me to work part-time in the new branch they were opening in Playa Blanca. I jumped at the chance as it would only be two and a half days a week and it would get me out of the office job. I also now have four days free in which to write.
The great news for me is that I now have regular writing work and I have had over 100 articles published! These have been in the UK, Spain, America, Canada, South Africa and Pakistan among others. In addition I edited two novels for an American author which have been published and I have proofread and edited many articles, training manuals and even two philosophy white papers. I also edited a cook book written by Chris King, owner and award-winning chef of Kristians, in my opinion the best fine dining restaurant in Lanzarote.
In addition I am a staff writer for Lanzarote Information which was such a useful resource when I was researching our move to the island. If you click on the link you can see some of the articles I’ve written about different aspects of the island. I try to encourage tourists to get out of the resorts and see some of the unique landscapes that Lanzarote has to offer.
My website is still a ‘work in progress’ and I’m open to constructive criticism. I still have to do other work to supplement my income, but nowhere near as much as before.
The Realities of Life
Lanzarote isn’t perfect, although it comes pretty damn close! But there are some little annoyances.
In the UK we take free banking for granted. When we opened our accounts with Santander here we were assured that there were no charges but what we weren’t told was that was only for the first year. After that we got charged for our debit cards, some transactions and transfers. We were also supposed to pay a certain amount into our current account every month and keep a minimum balance of €500. So we had money sitting in the savings account earning hardly any interest while we got charged for not meeting these criteria. But how do you play the game if you don’t know the rules?
I have recently opened a new on-line account with BBVA which claims to be fees free, but we will see!
Another bugbear is the internet, which is particularly important to me as all my writing work is on-line. If you don’t already have a landline it’s almost impossible to get one installed, particularly where we live. Our previous landlord was told he could have a phone line if he paid €250,000 to have the road dug up!
At first, I tried a dongle from Orange for my internet, which could be a bit hit and miss. A company called JMA came and assessed our property but there was no sight line from the roof to the communications masts on either of two mountains at Femes and San Bartolomé
Then we contacted Telecomunicaciones Lanzarote, known locally as Satellite Gary, who installed a satellite receiver on the roof. We now get a massive 6Mb download speed! I know that sounds pathetic compared to the speeds available in the UK, but it’s enough for me to work and we can stream TV. The internet occasionally drops out when the weather is bad but fortunately that is not very often here. If that does happen, I just have to take the laptop to a bar to work – oh, how I suffer!
Ordering goods for delivery from outside the island is something else that causes annoyance. You can be charged more in import tax than the items cost. I bought something on Ebay in the UK for less than £10 and when the post office tried to deliver it I was told that I would have to pay €13 for tax and administration. I told them to send it back.
A friend of ours had a delivery of computer equipment by courier and the driver made him go to a cash point and draw out the €120 fee before he would leave the goods.
The trouble is that the charges seem to be random and dependent on the delivery driver or who is in the customs office that day. It was announced months ago that the tax would be abolished for goods under €150 but there is no sign of it happening any time soon.
Customer service can be a problem in shops here and Trading Standards appears to be non-existent. They are fine when you’re buying something but if you find a fault and try to return goods, they don’t want to know. This doesn’t apply everywhere and with more mainstream European outlets opening the situation is getting better.
If a shop won’t refund or replace faulty goods you need to ask them for a complaint form which they are obliged to give you. Often that is enough to make them act but, if not, you fill in the form and give one copy to shop, keep one copy and take the third copy to the police to denounce the store. To do all this is a pain and I think they hope that you just won’t bother.
These little niggles are a small price to pay for living in Lanzarote and I certainly wouldn’t let them stop you from moving here.
So, What are the Positives?
Once you become a resident and start paying into the system you become entitled to health care which is excellent. I only have experience of the medical centre in Tías and they were brilliant. It’s a 24 hour facility with a minor emergency department, although for anything more serious you will be transferred to the hospital in Arrecife.
Sally was asked to thoroughly clean a bar and kitchen which had just changed hands. Unfortunately, the place had been fumigated the day before and the new owners didn’t realise that she shouldn’t have cleaned until the bar had been aired for 48 hours. Not only that but, as Sally’s face began to swell, we found out that she has an allergy to the cockroach spray.
When it got to the stage when she could barely see she went to the medical centre where she was rushed to a private room and put on a drip. Her normally low blood pressure was through the roof and she was attended by six staff until her condition stabilised. After two hours she was given a prescription and allowed to go home and within a couple of days she was back to normal.
Prescription drugs are much cheaper here and some medication that is only available on prescription in the UK can be bought over the counter for a fraction of the cost.
A big advantage being a Canarian resident is that we get half price fares on flights and ferries between the other islands and the Spanish mainland. We just go to the Ayuntamiento to get a Certificado de Viaje (travel document) which is valid for six months and costs a whole Euro! We use the cheap flights to explore various regions of Spain and take short breaks around the Canaries.
The system has been computerised so that you shouldn’t need the travel doc but, having had a couple of problems with airline officials, it is safer to have it.
We also use the buses a lot to travel around the island, so we got a residents’ Bono Bus pass which gives you 20% off all fares.
Sometimes we get one bus to Arrecife bus station, have a look at which is the next bus to depart and wherever it is going is where we’ll have lunch (there might be wine involved!).
Staying with travel, it’s really cheap to run a car here compared to the UK. We pay less than €35 for car tax, diesel is currently around 87 cents a litre and unleaded petrol is around 95 cents. The equivalent of the MOT test, the ITV, costs €36.18 for a petrol engined car and is every two years for cars up to ten years old and annually after that.
However, buying and selling a car privately can be complicated and around 10% of the car’s value has to be paid in tax. This is usually paid by the buyer unless otherwise agreed with the seller. You also need to check there are no debts associated with the vehicle as these stay with the car and will be inherited by the buyer.
Eating and drinking, in or out, can be as cheap or expensive as you choose. There is a surprising amount of produce grown on the island and it can be bought very cheaply from the farmers’ markets, but is also widely available in shops.
In our town, Tías Fruits is an old-fashioned style greengrocer where around 70% of the produce is from Lanzarote with the rest coming from other islands or the mainland.
The large supermarkets have excellent meat and fish counters and there is a huge range of local goats’ cheese available.
If you can’t resist buying goods from ‘back home’, you’ll pay more than you’re used to but even those prices are coming down with increased competition.
As for eating out, there are places to suit all tastes and budgets from fine dining restaurants to simple, local bars serving wholesome home-cooked tapas dishes.
At one of our favourite tapas restaurants, we had a couple of large beers, three or four tapas and a bottle of wine for less than €22!
And of course there’s the fabulous climate and the laid-back lifestyle which, to my mind, go hand-in-hand. When the sun shines you feel better and with the slower pace of life it has to be beneficial to your health.
In the UK we felt as though we were constantly running but getting nowhere. I had high blood pressure and was almost constantly stressed out, conditions which I left behind when we moved to Lanzarote.
As I write this we are approaching our fourth Christmas here. Sunset in London is at 15:51 whereas the sun will be shining on us until around 6pm. On Christmas day, as on previous ones, we are planning to have a BBQ on the terrace.
We do have rain of course, and storms. We have recently had some significant rainfall but this has the benefit of bringing out the greenery, flowers are blooming everywhere and the island is at its most beautiful.
At the end of the last blog we had just moved into a fabulous apartment, and we loved living there for 3½ years. However, our landlord lived above us with his wife and kids, and they are a lovely family, but as the three boys were growing older they got noisier and more boisterous. Additionally, they got a dog which hated being left on its own so, while they were all out at work or school, she would howl and bark for hours on end making it impossible to concentrate on my writing. So we decided to look for a new home.
At the moment long-term rental accommodation is very difficult to find but, on our first day of looking, we just happened to go to a bar to see a friend whose boss just happened to have an apartment on which her tenants had just happened to give notice. She showed us photos of the place and we said we’d take it subject to viewing. We were so lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
We loved the house at first sight and we moved into our new home in July 2016. It’s in a beautiful, peaceful, rural location with stunning views, but within easy walking distance of Tías and Puerto del Carmen.
It only took us three weeks or so to get our residencias but we’ve heard that it can now take more than three months just to get an appointment.
Many ex-pats were concerned about what effect Britain leaving the EU would have on them. We have been assured that it won’t affect those already resident here and paying into the system, but it might become more difficult for people wanting to move here after Brexit.
Spain has decided that ex-pats who are resident for two years must change their driving licence to a Spanish one, despite this not actually being passed in law. There are large fines being imposed for non-compliance so we took the path of least resistance and changed ours. Many people are resisting the change as they don’t want to let go of their British or Irish licence but, if you return home, you can just change it back without losing any entitlement.
Everyone had told us that we would be required to take a medical and a driving assessment, both of which we would have to pay for, but we didn’t have to do either. It was a fairly simple process which took three months from start to finish, the delay being caused by the DVLA in the UK taking their time to supply information.
For transferring money from the UK, I recommended Foremost Currency, and I still do, but it’s worth signing up with two brokers and comparing their rates. I now also use Currencies 4 You who don’t charge a fee and their exchange rate is usually great, but sometimes Foremost, who charge £10 per transaction, still beat them. Many people here rave about Transferwise but I check their rate each time and they have never yet matched the deals I get. The more beer money for me the better!
There is always something going on in Lanzarote – the Canarians love to party! Many of the events are free to attend and well worth seeking out, like the candlelit classical concert in Arrecife with the orchestra on a floating raft; rock concerts on the beach; the ceremonial wine harvest; horse racing and the many carnivals and fiestas throughout the year.
Life’s a Beach!
Four years ago we took a gamble but it paid off and we have not looked back. If you’re thinking of doing similar you have to weigh up the pros and cons in relation to what is best for you and your family. But, if it’s what you really, really want, go for it because it’s no good thinking later, “what if?” You might fail, but you might end up like us, living the dream.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment.