Posted in Spain, Spanish life

Transferring money from Canada to Europe

I did a lot of research when it was time to transfer a lot of money to buy our dream house in Spain.  It can be overwhelming to find the best way to move large sums of money in a timely manner at the best possible currency exchange rate.

The first step will be to open a Spanish bank account.  I will have a separate post on the subject of opening a bank account and why it is a good idea to get a mortgage even if you don’t need one when buying a property.  The actual opening of an account is relatively easy if you already have an NIE identification number which you obtain when you apply for the long-stay Visa. You can read the past blog here.

I read countless articles and blogs online to find the best and easiest way to transfer money.  I checked the currency rates daily and made comparisons  using different companies.  The two best companies to move money from Canada to Europe were Transferwise and Currencies Direct. 

I made several transfers with the two companies. Transferwise is my favorite way. There is a smart phone application which makes the process seamless. You can also use the website online access.  With Currencies Direct, you can do it online for amounts of less then 25,000 British Pounds but must speak to someone on the phone for larger amounts. In both cases, you must have a bank account in Canada and Europe. 

The exchange rate is about the same. When you compare online, the Currencies Direct rate will appear superior for amounts of more than $60,000.  They also say there are no fees but don’t be fooled.  When it was time to actually do the transfer, the rate was inferior and I had to negotiate with them to get the equivalent transfer amount as Transferwise.  For the big transfer, I preferred to use Currencies Direct because I felt more secure with speaking to a human instead of using the smartphone application.

You can use this website to compare rates by companies but this is only an indication, not a guaranteed rate. These are posted rates for large amounts. Transferwise uses the mid-market rate which is more accurate. Only the application will give you a guaranteed rate at the time of initiating the transfer. Cuex website link here.

There are several choices when making a transfer.  With Transferwise, on the smartphone application, I choose “pay an invoice”, it’s fast and has no additional costs. You then need to go to your bank’s internet bank site and pay the invoice in the name of Transferwise with your account number.  You get notifications at every step.  It takes about 3 business days to complete the transfer.  It is very efficient and painless.

With Currencies Direct, you must first make a wire transfer in the Currencies Direct bank account in the country of origin; in Canada, they use Bank of Montreal.  This requires you to fill out a wire transfer form with your own bank and pay a fee.  With our bank, Vancity, based in Vancouver, we paid $20 per wire transfer.  Vancity called us to verify our identity and then wired the funds to Currencies Direct.  It takes only one or two business days to transfer the funds to Currencies Direct’s bank account. Someone from their UK office contacts you when the funds have reached their account.  You then need to decide whether you want to make an immediate transfer to your Spain bank account or delay to a future date.  You can also decide to transfer only when you get the currency exchange rate you want.  The rate is somewhat negotiable as well if you can clearly demonstrate that you would have done better with Transferwise.  Since I was making big transfers, I would “squeeze” them a bit. For those who know me well, know that I can be very well prepared and persuasive!  It is worth asking. 

It definitely takes more steps with Currencies Direct but you have more flexibility in when to actually do the transfer if you have time to wait for the best rate.  Of course, waiting can also work against you.  It can be stressful to exchange large sums of money.  I did several transfers over several days to hedge my bets.  Our timing was very poor with a low Canadian dollar this past December and January.

Now that our large transfers are done, I will use Transferwise for our regular money transfers.  Their rate is highly competitive and there is no need to contact my bank or talk to anyone. It’s direct and super easy with the app.

Here are the two websites link. I do not get any compensation whatsoever and these are not formal recommendations. I merely share my own personal experiences on this blog.


Currencies Direct

Posted in Spain

We bought a house in Spain!

You may have been wondering why I have not been writing much lately.  I have been very busy.  On January 31, 2019, we moved in our new house in Spain.  Yes!  We bought a beautiful house on the Costa Del Sol.  After much research and soul searching, we just could not resist buying our own house.  We love our life here in Nerja, Spain, have made wonderful new friends and really feel at home.  We plan to be here 6 to 9 months a year for at least the next 4 or 5 years.  

In the next few blog posts, I will walk you through the process of opening a bank account, transferring money from Canada to Europe, finding the best currency exchange rates, looking for real estate, obtaining a mortgage and buying the forever second home in Spain.  I will also discuss the tax aspects of spending more than 183 days a year.

In the meantime, take a look at our new house located halfway between Nerja and Frigiliana, a short 5 minute drive or 40 min walk between the two towns. The house will be rented for the summer months.  I have copied the link to the rental agency website who will be managing the property for us when we are not here.  On this site, there is also a virtual tour of the property if you want to see the whole house.  It is a beauty, with total privacy, incredible views of the Mediterranean, east, south and west terraces, two sunrooms, a pool, jacuzzi, sauna, in floor heating, fireplace and much more.  

Stay tuned in the days ahead for my blogposts where I will share everything I have learned in the process of buying property in Spain.

Here is the link to view the rates for your dates and book our house.

Here is El Gavilan, or Sparrowhawk in English. We are looking for a new name to make it our own.
The terrace conservatory on the ground floor where we entertain or lounge in the afternoon. Our guests also have access to this room and the full ground floor is equipped with a separate kitchen.
The west terrace. Perfect for sunset dinners.
Living room with the upper sunroom behind.
Fully equipped and very functional kitchen.
Master Bathroom.
The house has a total of 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. This is the master bedroom on the top floor.
Amy Lou loves the pool, the pond and the immense mediterranean garden. We count 23 different fruits trees garden designed by the previous British owners.
You can see the full length of the property along its wall and the beautiful sea views.
Posted in Spain, Spanish life, Travelling with a dog

The single most question I am asked is: What to wear in winter on the costa del sol?

We have been in the south of Spain since October 28 and the weather has just been fantastic. We only had a handful of overcast days and hardly any rain. Temperature ranged from 18 to 24C on average. Quite pleasant for walking, hiking, biking and sitting on a terrace, sipping wine and watching the world go by. It gets much cooler at night however or on cloudy days. So, even in the fall, you will need a warm sweater at night.

It is noticeably cooler this week in Nerja officially the start of winter my Spanish professor said today. For a Canadian it feels much more like a sunny day in October however.

Early mornings and evenings are cool, sometimes going down as much as 4C, in January, February and early March, so you will definitely need a jacket for going out at night but in the mid-day sun, it is still very warm and you will be happy to be in a t-shirt and even having a hat if you are sensitive to sunlight.

So the best thing you can do, is wear layers. T-shirt, sweater and a scarf is my daily attire in January. That is the way I start the day and as soon as I am walking in the sun, the layers come off. The sun is incredibly strong here and when it comes out, it is hot! In the shade however, you will want to put back your sweater or cardigan. On cloudy days, you may need a fall jacket. I have a short leather jacket which I find perfect for evenings and on cloudy days.

Jeans or a dress with tights works best for me. Terry wears his shorts everyday and jeans at night. I have a paid of boots as well for evenings but you can do without that if you wear closed shoes or runnings.

As far as Amy lou, the fashionista is concerned, she wears a “cooling” dress on really hot days and a fleece on especially overcast days. Rarely do we need to put on her rain coat, although, February is coming and it is known as the rainiest and coolest month of the year!

To summarize, t-shirts, shorts, jeans, sweaters, wrap or scarf and a light fall coat for evenings is what you will need during winter months on the costa del sol and a fleece for your small dog!

Here are a few pictures of daytime activities this month with friends visiting and with my wonderful weekly hiking group.

Posted in Spain, Travelling with a dog

Home is where friends are. Part 1 of the advantages of going to the same destination.


(Amy Lou and Perri her best friend in Spain)

Six months away is a long time.  It is a totally different experience than going on a 2 or 3 week trip.  When you are spending so much time away, going to the same destination has many advantages.  For us, coming back to Spain immediately felt like coming home.  The most important reason for this, we figured, is the fact that we made friends here last year and stayed in touch through the summer.  We have only been back in Nerja for one week and we had an invitation for a delicious dinner, a long walk and breakfast with another and a visit from Amy Lou’s BFF.  It made it heart warming to be back.

If you are planning a long stay somewhere and may want to come back to it, make sure to be open to meeting people.  We met most of the friends we have in Nerja through the Spanish school, either a teacher, another student or a friend of a student. That was a start.  Having a dog also opens the door to meeting like-minded people.  We also met people by going hiking with a group and going wine tasting.  I might want to volunteer at the local Food bank or the dog shelter later this winter.  There are many ways to meet people.  The important part is to be open to it and be receptive to new experiences.  Home is where the friends are and the welcome we had this week sure makes us feels like we are home here now.

A big thank you to Jan for bringing a huge box of cookies and dresses for Amy Lou, to Carol and Lars for that delicious, full of flavor dinner with perfectly paired wines and to Sandra for taking me on walks with these incredible views.


Traduction en français pour mes amis et la famille

La maison est là où sont les amis. Première partie des avantages d’aller à la même destination.

Six mois, c’est long. C’est une expérience totalement différente de celle d’un voyage de 2 ou 3 semaines. Lorsque vous passez autant de temps à l’extérieur, vous rendre à la même destination présente de nombreux avantages. Pour nous, retourner en Espagne a immédiatement donné l’impression de rentrer à la maison.  Nous pensons que c’est dû au fait que nous nous sommes fait des amis ici l’année dernière et sommes restés en contact tout au long de l’été. Nous sommes de retour à Nerja que depuis une semaine et déjà nous avons été invités à un délicieux souper, à une longue promenade et à un petit-déjeuner avec un autre et à la visite de la meilleure amie d’Amy Lou’s. Ça faisait chaud au cœur d’être de retour.

Si vous planifiez un long séjour quelque part et souhaitez y revenir, veillez à être ouvert à la rencontre. Nous avons rencontré la plupart des amis que nous avons à Nerja par le biais de l’école d’espagnol, qu’il s’agisse d’un professeur, d’un autre élève ou d’un ami d’élève. C’était un début. Avoir un chien ouvre également la porte à la rencontre de personnes partageant les mêmes idées. Nous avons également rencontré des gens en randonnées de groupe et en participant à des dégustations de vin. Il y a beaucoup de façons de rencontrer des gens. Il suffit d’être ouvert à de nouvelles expériences. Chez nous, c’est où sont les amis et l’accueil que nous avons eu cette semaine nous donne l’impression d’être rentré chez nous.

Posted in Spain

Back in Spain for another sunny winter

(View from our apartment in Malaga. We are here for 6 nights before returning to Nerja until April)

We are now back in Spain after a fabulous summer in Vancouver Canada. As you remember, we decided to come back to Spain for another winter because we liked it so much last year, felt right at home, made friends and could not let the residence visa expire.

To be in most European countries (part of the Schengen area) for more then 3 months, you must obtain a residence permit. It sounds strange but whether you want to be here for 6 months or permanently, you have to get the same type of visa. We had to jump many hoops last year and pay a fee to qualify for the residency permit. You can read all about it here Rules about going 6 months in Europe . This visa must be renewed after one year and then again 2 years later. I will soon write a blog post on our visa renewal process. It is not terribly difficult to get but there are many steps and paperwork required.

Are we crazy, you may think? Why go through so much trouble just to go to Spain for more than 3 months when there are so many other places you could go to for the winter? Well, if you came to Spain for an extended visit, you would likely understand. The fact that it is sunny most of the time, is a very safe country, a well organized society, happy people everywhere, very dog friendly, makes Spain an ideal place for us to spend several months.

So, we are here again, on the Costa del Sol, for another six month experience. I will be updating the blog regularly with information about renewing the residence permit, traveling with a small dog and lots of information about the wonderful Spanish culture. I hope you that you will follow us on our journey again this year.

French translation

Nous sommes de retour en Espagne après un été fabuleux à Vancouver, Canada. Comme vous vous en souvenez, nous avons décidé de revenir en Espagne pour un autre hiver, car nous avons tellement aimé l’année dernière, nous nous sommes sentis chez nous, nous avons connus de nouveaux amis et nous ne pouvions pas laisser le visa de résidence expirer.

Pour être dans la plupart des pays européens (faisant partie de l’espace Schengen) pendant plus de 3 mois, vous devez obtenir un permis de séjour. Cela semble étrange, mais que vous souhaitiez être ici pendant 6 mois ou de façon permanente, vous devez obtenir le même type de visa. L’année dernière, nous avons dû franchir de nombreux obstacles et acquitter des frais pour pouvoir obtenir un permis de résidence. Vous pouvez lire ici tout ce qui concerne ce sujet. Rules about going 6 months in Europe Ce visa doit être renouvelé au bout d’un an, puis à nouveau deux ans plus tard. Je vais écrire un article de blog sur notre processus de renouvellement de visa. Ce n’est pas très difficile à obtenir, mais de nombreuses étapes et formalités administratives s’imposent.

Sommes-nous fous, vous pensez peut-être? Pourquoi traverser tant de difficultés juste pour aller en Espagne pendant plus de 3 mois alors qu’il ya tant d’autres endroits où vous pourriez aller pour l’hiver? Eh bien, si vous veniez en Espagne pour une visite prolongée, vous comprendriez probablement. Le fait qu’il soit ensoleillé la plupart du temps, est un pays très sûr, une société bien organisée, des gens heureux partout, très favorable aux chiens, fait de l’Espagne un lieu idéal pour passer plusieurs mois.

Nous sommes donc de retour ici, sur la Costa del Sol, pour une nouvelle expérience de six mois. Je mettrai régulièrement à jour le blog avec des informations sur le renouvellement du permis de séjour, les voyages avec un petit chien et de nombreuses informations sur la merveilleuse culture espagnole. J’espère que vous nous suivrez encore cette année dans notre voyage.

Posted in Spain

What is it like coming home after 6 months in Spain?


Kitsilano neighborhood Vancouver, Canada

My husband Terry, our Yorkshire terrier Amy Lou and I, have been back from Spain since May 1st. Six months away from home is a long time. What is it like to be back, you may wonder? It first feels a little weird. It may sound cliché but you do come back changed a little.

Luckily, we returned to a sunny and exceptionally warm month of May in Vancouver. We did not see rain for a month and had few cloudy days. This made for an easier transition and nice welcome home.

Vancouver is such a beautiful city where everything is lush and green. We really enjoy the ubiquitous bike lanes and renewing with our active lifestyle. It is amazing to see that it is the most insignificant things that you miss, like the grocery stores, Shoppers Drug Mart (I know, this is silly eh!), the variety of restaurant cuisine, and of course your own stuff! Your bed, your home, your pots and pans and everything that you have accumulated instead of just what can fit in a large suitcase.

Like I said, six months is a long time and because we liked Nerja and the Costa  del Sol so much, it felt like we “cheated” a little on Vancouver. It feels like we fell in love and now have a mistress in Nerja. Spain has stolen our heart. Ha Ha!

Jokes apart, Vancouver and Canada in general is such a great place to come back to and the summer weather is usually quite nice. We didn’t really want to leave Spain but we are happy to be back especially knowing that we will be right back in beautiful friendly and warm Nerja in November!

Hasta Luego!! I will continue the blog posting in the fall. Thank you for following us on our retirement journey!

Posted in Spain, Spanish life, Travelling with a dog

Last post about our six month experience in Spain.

Photo: Nerja, Spain

Six months away from home is a long time, but for us, it felt like we actually were home in Spain. It is easy for a Canadian to feel at home in Spain because it is very easy going and the people are similar to Canadians in many ways. Here are the things we loved about Spain and things we liked less which are very few.

Starting with the positives:

More Sunshine: There is a lot more sunshine in Spain than in Vancouver. Even if it was the rainiest and coldest winter in 50 years we were told, we found the winter here like a sunnier version of May or June in Vancouver. The sunshine usually comes out at some point even on forecasted rainy days.

Longer days: In the depth of winter in December, the sun comes up at 8am and goes down at 6pm. Compare this to Vancouver winters where the sun comes up at 8:30am and goes down at 4:15pm, that is a major improvement for your mental health.

Milder winter: November and April are like summer in Vancouver at about 18 to 24 Celcius with slightly cooler evenings in November. You can still have 20 Celcius days in December and January but it generally hovers between 12C and 16C. February is the most unsettled month with a mix of overcast, rain and sunshine,  usually all in the same day. March is usually nice we are told but we experienced torrential rain and downpours like I have never seen, even in Vancouver. Everyone here kept saying, “no es normal”. Unfortunately, most of our guests came in March.

More outdoor living: you spend tons more time outdoors. Long lunches in the sunshine are a way of life in Spain. We loved our lunches sitting outside basting in the sun and watching people go by.

Dogs anywhere on terraces: For a dog owner, this is such a welcome change from Vancouver where you can’t have your dog on any terrace or café. We could have Amy Lou with us everywhere and she was a big hit for waiters and passerbys.

Cheaper food: Our grocery bill was 40%-50% cheaper than in Vancouver.

Cheaper booze: Beer and Wine is incredibly inexpensive here. Even fine wines are more affordable and there is plenty of good wine to have even in grocery stores.

Cheaper restaurants:  Spaniards go out to eat A LOT! And that is reflected in the restaurant prices. There are restaurants everywhere filled with people especially for lunch everyday and dinners on weekends. The big cities have the most excellent fine dining and international restaurants. But the small cities or pueblos also have amazing selections, all at discounted prices compared to what we pay in Vancouver. We found restaurant prices to be about 40%-50% cheaper than in Canada or the States. Also, you don’t see much fast food here. People prefer their privately owned restaurants to food chains which is so much more authentic to me!

Cheaper mobile phone service: Our cell phones plans in Canada cost us $140 per month with tax. In Spain, we pay 20 Euros or $30 Canadian.  WHY are Canadian mobile phone plans so expensive? This is a ridiculous difference.

No cable need w antenna: If you have a house, you can have perfect TV reception with an antenna. If you don’t care about cable, that is a clear perk.

Cheaper real estate: House prices are not cheap on the costa del sol but significantly less expensive than Vancouver. A nice 3-4 bedroom house and 2-3 bathrooms with a pool will cost about 600,000 to 800,000 Euros or $1m to $1.2 million. The same house in Vancouver would be 2 or 3 million if you could find it. A 2 bedroom condo would be about 300,000-500,000 euros compared to $700,000-$1.5million in Vancouver. This is oversimplified of course but it give you an idea. There are also more affordable detached homes with a view.

Cheaper rent: if you prefer to rent, a two bedroom apartment would be approximately 400 to 600 euros per month or the equivalent of $600 to $900 per month. Short term rentals cater to tourists and are more expensive of course. Apartments go for $75 to $150 per night in high season or $250 to $350 per night for a house. We rented in the winter months and paid $2000 per month which was a very good deal for a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house with a pool and view of the Mediterranean.

Grow your own fruits & veggies year-round: the weather is conducive to gardening and growing your own fruits and veggies year round.

Fast and inexpensive travel in Europe: You can easily and affordably travel everywhere in Europe for weekends or longer getaways. Think about spending a weekend in Paris one month and Berlin the next! What a pleasure without the long flights and expensive tickets.

Here quickly are more positive to travelling or living in Spain:

Very good medical access and quality care

Easier to meet people

You will never get the restaurant bill until you ask for it.

Spaniards are clean people; Garbage collection daily, Beaches swept daily, Sparking clean toilets, alley way, etc

You can drink beer on the beach

Less rules and regulations about everything

No obnoxious drunks

The best thing we liked about Spain is the Spaniards! They are chilled, polite, friendly, and happy people!!

Here are the things we liked less:

More expensive energy

More expensive cars

Not as good grocery stores

No shoppers drug mart, I miss our SDM!!

Not as good restaurants in Nerja but great in Malaga

Some owners leave their dog poo on the street but this is about to change with new regulations and DNA poo testing to fine the ones who don’t pick up after their pets! Wow!!

That’s it…we could not find more things we like less. As you can see, we loved Spain and can’t wait to go back for another winter in the sun!