Moving Abroad? How To Select The Country, Town & Make The Move

So you’ve decided you are moving abroad, or even better, you are moving to Spain?


We are often contacted by Couples, Families and Travelers planning their move to Spain. For some it is open-ended and for others it is for a couple of months, so they follow that Schengen Visa rule.  Either way they ask the same questions:

“How did you choose Spain?”

“How did you choose Almuñécar?”

“How did you find your long-term rental?

Moving Abroad - How to Choose location and find rentalWe have answered these so many times via email, I thought I should just write-up a post and share or info with you.  There is no big secret, but sometimes these are the types of questions that hold you back.  They can stump you when you are in the planning stage and I get that.  It is difficult to just take that leap of faith and hope you find a place before you arrive.  If it makes you feel comfortable, you can select a place before you arrive, via the internet.  For us, that just wasn’t going to work.  We need to “feel” a location and see the accommodation before we commit.

So, let’s get into our details for you.  I can only share our experience and the process we followed when deciding to move abroad.  You will need to make your own plans and adjust to suit your needs, desires and comfort level.  This process could easily be adapted to any country and location, because moving abroad is moving abroad right?  Well, for some the location is selected for them, due to employment.  If you are like us and are location independent, then this is the process that worked for us when moving abroad.

“How did you choose Spain?”

Lucky for us, we have answered this one before.  We wrote all about how we selected Spain as our country of choice.  Of course spreadsheets were involved and a checklist of criteria.

Our Process To Select A Country (Moving Abroad)

  1. Define your criteria
    (What do you need to survive? Any barriers (Language, Visas, Working, Driving, Living Conditions, etc)?
  2. Define your budget
    (How much can you afford? Estimate the cost of living?  What are you willing to live without?)
  3. Define your goals for moving abroad.
    What are you trying to get out of this?
  4. Mash it all together and see what you come up with

We considered several countries and once we trimmed it down to wanting to have the kids fluent in Spanish, that narrowed the scope.  Our next step of the process was decided if Europe or South America better met our needs.  Of course, Europe won that battle for this international move.  With the thought in the back of our minds that we can always follow-up with South America later.

“How did you choose Almuñécar?”

I highly recommend a scoping trip.  At least a week or so to check out the areas you have researched.  Once we had agreed on Spain as the country, we followed the  same exact process for a location within Spain.  Of course the Criteria were the items that changed in our Matrix.  Within Spain we knew we wanted a Sea View, so that puts us along the coast.  We wanted a warmer climate in the winter, so that leaves the Southern Coast.  We decided to check from Valencia to Málaga along the coast, as we only had 8 days.  We did some preliminary research online and decided the Western and Northern coasts, weren’t what we were looking for.

Many beaches in Almuñécar

Our Process To Select A Town

  1. Define your criteria
    (What do you need to survive? (Stores, Transport, Tourists, Alive in Winter, Real Spanish)
  2. Define your budget
    (How much can you afford? Estimate the cost of living?  What are you willing to live without?)
  3. Define your goals
    What are you trying to get out of this?
  4. Plan a scoping trip.
  5. Mash it all together and see what you come up with

Going into our scoping trip, we were certain we would like the towns between Valencia and Alicante best (Jávea, Dénia).  They looked perfect on paper, but once we arrived we didn’t really think they were right for us.  They were nestled between the mountains and sea, but the access wasn’t the best.  One small mountain road in and out, just didn’t work for us.  Also the towns themselves felt very touristy and while fun to visit, it didn’t feel like home.  We did fall in love with Calpe, but felt it was a bit too far from airports and a little too small.

Prior to our scoping trip, Almuñécar wasn’t even on our radar.  We just followed the N340 (small coastal road) towards Málaga and happened upon Almuñécar.  We stopped for lunch and ate at a Chinese restaurant right along the beach.  There was also a playground out front on the beach, so the kids went to play and made instant friends.  We walked about 2 blocks into the pedestrian only portion of old town and BAM! It hit us and we all “felt” it.

Almuñécar felt like home!

Many beaches in AlmuñécarWe spent the remainder of the day exploring the town by foot and car.  Everything just felt right and we could all instantly visualize a life here.  We just couldn’t contain our excitement and had no desire to look any further.

Making the Move Abroad

The Big Day arrived and it was time to take that Plane Trip Across The Pond!

Once we arrived in Spain we decided to take 2 weeks to further explore the coastline and “double-check” our initial impressions.  This time we started up in Barcelona!  Once again, we were convinced that Almuñécar was right for us.  Here are a few posts on our experience finding a place to live.  The process we followed

“How did you find your long-term rental in Almuñécar?”

Our process to find a long-term rental:

  1. Determine your location and criteria
  2. Define your budget
  3. Select a short-term rental for your arrival.  Just a place to crash and be able to cook and get a good nights sleep. (1 week is a good start)
  4. Hit the internet and pound the pavement and work with a Realtor.  Get a feel for the neighborhoods, look for signs and really get to know the area.  Go on-line and look for rentals.  I recommend looking at long-term as well as short-term.
    1. No matter what you are looking for, if you find the right place propose something that works for you.  I had standard scripts I had handy in a word document explaining our situation, our plan and a little about us.  I had one handy for items listed as a short-term rental, requesting they consider renting out long-term with a promise of a 12 month commitment.  I had a similar script handy for those already listed as long-term.  I scoured the internet and reached out to several on the first night.
    2. We only had email as means of communication, so that made things a little more difficult.  I would recommend purchasing a cheap pay as you go phone, so you can be contacted easily.  We found that working with a Realtor limited us a little, they of course only showed us the properties they had listed.  While it was helpful having them show us around and give us bits of info, we found it easiest to look online.
  5. Make appointment, View properties and Make a choice.

We found our property via owners direct and it was a holiday rental.  I sent an email asking if he would be interested in a long-term let for 1 year.  Of course I did the same with about 40 other properties and we visited maybe 9 and fell in love with what we have.  It is cheaper to rent an apartment short-term and look for a long-term property, than it would be to stay in a hotel.

We had to pay our first months rent plus a 2 months rent as a deposit. It is specified in our contract, these funds are not the first and last months rent.  They are instead the equivalent amount to two months rent as the deposit only.  Each owner can do what they like, so I would have at least 3 months rent available to cover move in.

Our place is a 3 bed 2 bath town home/apartment in an urbanization and is €550 a month. Our owner decided to include water and electric in that price too.  A few months after moving in, we asked about the cost of those utilities to ensure we were not over using.  He said those utilities were averaging about €60 a month for our family of 4.  

Wagoner rainbow Wodara Interview

From what I have seen around, we have a good deal as we have a spectacular sea view and utilities included.  There are similar properties around that are a little less, but don’t have the sea view and a less ideal location for us.  On the flip side there are also plenty of similar properties that are more, but likely have a larger terrace or more modern furnishings.  

I do recommend only booking something for a week when you arrive… then look in person for the long-term.  Not everything is as it seems in pictures on the web and many properties may not even be on the internet.  

Agencies will only show you what they have on hand and many people don’t list with an agency, so look at all options.  Here are a few of the property search sites I have used for both long-term and short-term.

These are the great tools we use to find self catering rentals, hotels, or house sits.

Good luck to you and let us know if we can be of any help.

37 thoughts on “Moving Abroad? How To Select The Country, Town & Make The Move

  1. This is so VERY helpful and appreciate this input. My hubby and I have been thinking of moving abroad for years, now we have a 3 year old, and would love to do it even more for all of the same reasons you have mentioned. I ave been patrolling your blog for a few days now and find it EXTREMELY helpful so far and have even booked marked a few pages for me to return to. I am an analytical personality myself (opposite to my husband who goes with the flow…good balance, lol), but sometimes, I have a hard time figuring how how to start something new, and your blog has been perfect me. One question I have in regards to this post is, what does one need to be abroad in terms of the country? For example, what needs to be in place as far as what the Country itself requires of you to live amongst them as a resident, and how do you find that out? For example, since you are “non-working” did you not require Visas? We have highly considered Spain for the exact same reasons you have chosen. What do schools require of children (transcripts, vaccinations, etc) to be able to participate and where do you find info like this?

    • Hi Kristine, so glad this was of help to you. It is fun to dream, plan and then make it a reality. Yes, we do have a visa for Spain, it is the non lucrative visa. We write all about that process as well as the kids and school in the blog. I think you will find most of the answers on our “move to Spain” section, which may be accessed from the home page as well. Take a read through that and feel free to ask more questions!

  2. I must admit, I’m very inspired by people who decide to pick up and move to a new country. I’m not sure I could do it myself, but it’s wonderful to follow others’ journeys!

    • Thanks Maria. No, it certainly isn’t for everyone, but we appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment.

  3. Incredibly useful stuff here – although I’m sure the key was when, like you say, it “felt like home.” Plus sorting the finances out of course!

    • Thanks so much Sarah. Yes, that is the ticket! “felt like home”. Ah, finances? Doesn’t money just grow on trees? 🙂 Yes, of course the money matters too.

  4. This is such a great post with expert advice. We have been thinking about moving abroad when our kids go off to college. This gives me such good ideas about how to get started with this process. I have been a little overwhelmed thinking about how to get going.

    • Hey Dana. You bet it is overwhelming, but if you break it up into bite sized chunks and take baby steps, it isn’t so bad. Where are you thinking of going as empty nesters?

  5. Really great advice. I especially like your suggestion of doing the scoping trip. That is key. It helped us nail down St. Margarets village in London when we were moving with our baby across the pond.

    • Thanks Jody. How long were or are you in London? How fun. Alan and I lived in Chiswcik for about 3 yrs in the late 90’s and loved it.

    • Thanks Amber. It is all about the baby steps, then the big task isn’t so bad. Just like being a toddler and taking those baby steps.

  6. Excellent advice Heidi. I have to admit I just went with the flow, but in my case I re-located solo back in 2003. So I followed where friends were, and then moved around a bit with my partner a year or two later after we met.

    We have also been to Almunecar, as we lived for a while in Nerja.These days we have land here just on the border of the Communidad Valenciana and Catalonia.

    • Hey Jackie, thanks for stopping by. We love Valencia too. Yes, most often we go with the flow and sometimes we have it all planned out. Living in Spain for a while has us in more of the “go with the flow” mode more often.

  7. Super informative! My parents moved from London to Perth, Australia in the 80s – a place where they didnt know anyone to a country they´d never been too. Lucky it all turned out ok. Seems like you were much more prepared!

    • Hey Carmen. Well we have moved countries a couple of times, so that helps. We lived in London a few years about 17 years ago and even that was an adjustment for us Americans. 🙂 How exciting to move from London to Perth.

  8. This is great advice. It looks like you found a perfect place to live. I think being so organized must help a lot!

  9. That’s the best Alyson, when opportunity just knocks and you can answer! Sometimes, you have to make it happen all on your own and get to pick when and where. Either way, it is awesome.

  10. Hi! When we moved abroad we decided on Cairns Australia. A job came up in Port Douglas James did the interview via Skype from Africa and got it, that’s how we ended up moving up there, pure chance!

  11. I am sure that people who lives in abroad have both happy and sad experiences. Because loneliness is the major challenge which everyone faces at first. So, you should prepare yourself emotionally and physically to start your life there.

    • Hi Veni, thanks for your comment. Yes, it can be a bit lonely if your aren’t prepared. Just make sure you are connected to a social circle via the internet, prior to departure and you will have to do loads of legwork to keep in touch. Try to get involved in your new local community as well. We are finding loads of others to connect with in our town, Spain and around the world. I am loving it and have been lucky enough not to be lonely. That said, it would be nice to have a hug and a laugh with some family and friends, but skype will work for now.

  12. Hi Heidi, We plan to be in Spain this year in time for the beginning of the school year. My husband is of Spanish descent, so we want to give our Aussie kids the opportunity to experience the other side of their culture and heritage, perfect their Spanish and take time out as a family to enjoy the wonderful Spanish way of life.

    • That is great Kristy. We are so excited for you. Isn’t it amazing how things just move along, once you have made the decision and commitment? Kudos to you and your family.

  13. Your blog has made me realize two things. 1) Ocean’s rock! 2) I need to travel abroad. Thanks for the inspiration.

  14. Thanks for this informative post. It sounds all very easy and logical when you write it like this but it can be so hard to think this way when overwhelmed with choice!!

    • I know what you mean Sharon. It is overwhelming. There are too many choices. The best thing to do is pick a few and focus on that. I need to remember that too, as we are planning our next moves.

    • Oh that is great Kristy! I hope this helps. Do let us know if you have any questions at all and we will do our best to share what we know or try and connect you with someone who does. What is your current plan?

  15. You’re so organized! I more or less jumped on a plane and came to Thailand. I tried to figure the rest out after I got here. But things usually have a way of working themselves out. Personally, I find it easier to go than to plan. Although it is definitely wise to do at least a little planning where you’re going to need visas.

    • Ha! Thanks Manfred. Sometimes I am organized to a fault, but shhh don’t tell. We usually plan so we have options, but once we are there we go with the flow. It is more work that way, but with kids you need to have some options.

  16. Heidi, this is great advice. Looks like your perfect planning helped you find the right place. Even if, as you say, Almuñécar wasn’t originally on your radar.

    • Thanks Matthew, yes it worked for us. I tend to over plan so we have options and a rough guide, but we don’t always stick to the plan. We often blow with the wind as well.

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