Bilbao and Basque country, sit between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic Ocean. Bilbao is the financial and industrial capital of the region and is known for its exceptional architecture, art and food.
If you are considering moving to Bilbao, the various costs listed below will help you make an informed decision on what costs are involved when moving and living in the wealthiest region of Spain.
Quick Bilbao Facts:
- Population: 345,821 (2018 estimate).
- Official Language: Spanish (de facto) with many other languages being spoken, including Basque, English, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Portuguese and Polish.
- GDP Per Capita: €33,896 (2019)
- The Romans: The Basques were the only people to be given self-rule by the Romans and the only non-Romanised people in Western Europe.
- Currency: Euro (EUR). As of early 2023, $1 USD = €0.94 EUR, £1 = €1.14 EUR, $1 CAD = €0.69 EUR, $1 AUD = €0.64 EUR
1. Moving and Shipping Costs to Bilbao
Below are sample international shipping rates to Spain from various countries around the world.
2. Bilbao Housing Costs
Rental costs in Bilbao are on par with Madrid but purchasing a house is substantially more expensive. That said, housing prices are very affordable compared with other major cities around the world and there’s a large selection of different housing types, from small studios to villas. Prices vary from area to area, but the figures below will give you an indication of what’s available at what price.
Monthly Rental Prices in Bilbao:
- 1 bedroom flat (apartment) in City Centre: €935+
- 1 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: €780+
- 3 bedroomed flat in City Centre: €1,400+
- 3 bedroomed flat outside the City Centre: €1,100+
Bilbao Home Purchase Prices:
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy in City Centre: €3,700+
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy outside City: €2,700+
Bilbao Housing Cost Comparison:
This is how rents in Bilbao compare with other cities around the globe.
- London is 60% more expensive
- New York is 73.7% more expensive
- Los Angeles is 64.4% more expensive
- Toronto is 45.8% more expensive
- Vancouver is 49.6% more expensive
- Sydney is 53.1% more expensive
- Melbourne is 33% more expensive
- Dubai is 46.6% more expensive
- Paris is 38.9% more expensive
How to Save on Housing Costs:
- Share a Flat or House: House and flat shares are very common in Bilbao, especially among students and young professionals. With a house/apartment share you will have your own room, or, for a cheaper option, you can share a room. The bathroom/s will be shared with other people in the house. There are many flats available for shared rental as well. Have a look at Piso Compartido, Erasmusu, Spotahome and Nestpick to find someone you can get on with to share the costs with you.
- Different Areas – Different Prices: For those who enjoy nightlife, Casco Viejo is for you. The Old Town is always busy, full of tourists, students and locals seeking out the best tapas. Indautxu is also perfect for those who enjoy music, food and wine. Next to Casco Viejo is the more upmarket suburb of Abando with its art galleries. Deusto is on the mountainside and is home to the university. This area is quiet but close to the nightlife of Bilbao, should you want it. There’s a selection of housing, from apartments to large houses. Uribarri is close to the old town but is more unassuming. It has reasonably priced accommodation to suit most people.
3. Bilbao Food, Grocery and Restaurant Costs
Bilbao is famous for its food, and it has more than its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants.
- Inexpensive Restaurant: €14.00 – €15.00
- Takeout Coffee: €1.60 – €2.00
- Bottle of Coke: €2.00 – €2.50
- 1L of Milk: €0.90 – €1.00
- Loaf of Bread: €1.40 – €1.50
- 12 Eggs: €2.75 – €3.00
- 1kg Chicken: €9.00 – €10.00
- 1kg Beef: €13.00 – €18.00
- 1kg Apples: €1.80 – €2.00
- 1kg White Rice: €1.30 – €2.00
This is how restaurants and food prices compare with other major cities in the world.
- New York restaurants are 41.2% more expensive and groceries are 49.5% more expensive than Bilbao.
- Los Angeles restaurants are 33.8% more expensive and groceries are 33.5% more expensive than Bilbao.
- London restaurants are 23% more expensive and groceries are 5.4% more expensive than Bilbao.
- Paris restaurants are 14.6% more expensive and groceries are 30.9% more expensive than Bilbao.
- Toronto restaurants are 22.4% more expensive and groceries are 24.4% more expensive than Bilbao.
- Vancouver restaurants are 17.6% cheaper and groceries are 27.2% more expensive than Bilbao.
- Sydney restaurants are 24.9% more expensive and groceries are 34% more expensive than Bilbao.
- Melbourne restaurants are 21.4% more expensive and groceries are 34.7% more expensive than Bilbao.
- Dubai restaurants are 18% more expensive and groceries are 4.6% cheaper than Bilbao.
Bonus Tips for Cheaper Food, Restaurants and Groceries:
- Know Your Supermarkets: Eroski is a well-stocked supermarket which won’t break the bank. BM Supermercados has a good selection of fresh foods. The cheapest supermarket in Bilbao is Lidl’s, which is a supermarket chain found all over Europe. Mercado del la Ribero is an excellent food market which claims to be the biggest in Europe. It’s set on three floors and has absolutely every type of food you could wish for.
- Find Cheap Eats: If you search, you will find good food at fair prices in the city. Have a look at the following sites to see which restaurants tantalise your taste buds – Eurocheapo, World Travel Guide and Nile Guide.
4. Bilbao Alcohol Costs
Bilbao has a well-earned reputation for its selection of bars and clubs. The following is a list of basic prices of beer and wine from the supermarket and restaurants.
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a restaurant/pub: €2.20 – €4.00
- Bottle of imported beer at a restaurant/pub: €2.70 – €3.50
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a supermarket: €0.80 – €1.50
- Bottle of imported beer at a supermarket: €1.70 – €2.00
- Mid-range bottle of wine at a supermarket: €5.20 – €6.00
How To Drink For Less in Bilbao:
- Keep an eye on the local papers and websites for specials over weekends and public holidays.
- Bilbao has many bars and clubs which offer their guests specials at certain times of the day or evening. Have a look at the following sites to find where your favourite tipple is on special – Yelp, City Seeker and Foursquare.
- Walk around the areas which house the tertiary institutions to find the best alcohol deals.
5. Bilbao Transportation Fares
Bilbao’s public transport system consists of bus routes and recently opened metro routes. The buses and trains are clean and run on time.
Here are some example ticket costs.
- Adult single – €1.27
- One day ticket for bus and metro – €5.00
- Monthly season ticket for bus, tram and metro – €40.00
How To Save Money on Public Transport:
- Buy a 50-trip ticket. This can be shared by up to ten people, for €32
- Buy a 70-trip ticket, which costs €38
- Buy a bike. There is a good system of cycle lanes all around the city
- Walk. Depending on where you live and work, walking is certainly an option.
6. Cost of Internet in Bilbao
Here are some sample broadband internet prices from early 2023 for unlimited downloads, based on a 12-month contract:
- Ono: €59.40 a month (Fiber broadband up to 600mb)
- Orange: €30.95 a month (Fiber broadband up to 500mb)
7. Cost of Clothing, Personal Items, Gym and Leisure
Bilbao’s hottest month is August, when the average temperature is 21°C. January is the city’s coldest month with an average temperature of 10°C. The wettest month is April, when an average of 120 mm of rain falls.
Here are some clothing prices, together with other useful prices.
- Pair of Jeans: €90.00 – €100.00
- Summer Dress: €30.00 – €40.00
- Running Shoes (Trainers): €80 – €100.00
- Business Shoes: €110.00 – €150.00
- Short Doctor’s Visit (15 mins): €65.00
- Deodorant: €5.00
- Shampoo: €2.50
- Toilet Paper (4 rolls): €1.70
- Gym Membership: €30.00 – €70.00 per month
- Movie (cinema) Ticket: €8 – €10.00
Source: Numbeo and Expatistan
8. Cost of Owning a Car and Driving a Car in Bilbao
Everyone in Spain drives on the right. Driving in Bilbao is not a problem but finding somewhere to park often is.
If you’re moving to Bilbao from within Spain, you’ll be able to keep your license but need to update your address with our new Bilbao one at your nearest traffic office.
If you live outside the EU, then you can drive on that licence for six months. If your foreign licence is not in Spanish, then you must obtain a Spanish translation or get an International Driving Licence. After this six-month period, you must obtain a Spanish driving licence.
If you are from an EU country then you will need to get a Spanish licence after being in the country for two years. However, you must register your details with the Central Register of Drivers and Minor Offenders after six months. Note that persons under the age of 18 are not allowed to drive in Spain.
Residents of certain countries can exchange their licence, other people will need to take a Spanish driving test – both written and practical. Expatica.com has useful information in English for expats wanting to drive in Spain.
If you are taking a car with you to Spain, you can drive it for 6 months without registering it in Spain. After the 6 months period, you have 30 days to register it.
Here are some other sample costs of owning and operating a car in Bilbao:
- Volkswagen Golf: €20,000
- 1 litre (¼ gallon) of Gas (petrol): €1.66
- Registration Fee (if any): the cost depends on the size of the vehicle and its CO2 emissions.
Ways To Save Money on Driving in Bilbao:
- Car sharing or pooling is one way to save money. Try Carpoolworld.
- Taxis can sometimes be a cheaper option, especially if you are going to have to park all day. Neither Uber nor Lyft are available in Bilbao at the moment.
9. Taxes in Bilbao
No matter where you live in Spain, you will pay the same rate of tax. Sales tax, or VAT (Value Added Tax) is 21% in Spain and is included in the price that is advertised.
If you own a property in Spain you will need to pay IBI tax. The amount varies depending on the size of the property, the services you receive and the area it’s in. Note if you rent a property, it is the owner who pays IBI, not the tenant.
Finally, if you decide to buy a flat or house in Spain, you’ll have to pay various taxes and fees. There is a property transfer tax of between 5% and 10%, VAT is payable at 10% on new properties, notary costs, title deed tax and land registration fees are between 1% and 2.5% of the purchase price and legal fees will cost between 1% and 2%.
10. Flight Costs from Bilbao
If you do make the move to Bilbao, here’s approximately how much it will cost to fly to other major world cities based on lowest, one-way fares from Skyscanner as of early 2023:
- New York: €240
- Los Angeles: €390
- London: €30
- Paris: €30
- Toronto: €300
- Vancouver: €580
- Dubai: €270
- Sydney: €800
- Melbourne: €700
- Cape Town: €650
- Hong Kong: €630
Other Tips on Moving to Bilbao:
The costs and pricing above should give you a good idea of the cost of living in Bilbao but perhaps the following extra tips will make your move go smoothly.
11. Moving to Bilbao Alone
Moving anywhere can be a lonely experience, but moving to a new city can be rather daunting. Here are a few tips about settling into Bilbao.
- Meetups: Bilbao has many free meetup groups you can find on Meetup.com. Join Big Data, Software Craftsmanship, Vegans and Vegetarians, Bilbao Walking and many more.
- Attend Local Events: Bilbao is a busy and arty city with many regular events. Find out what’s going on from Bilbao Tourism, Trip Advisor and Bilbao.
12. Moving to Bilbao with a Family
Bilbao has a lot to offer families. History, culture, architecture, green spaces and parks, good food and the ocean. Here’s some extra food for thought.
- New Parents (or parents to be): Mum Abroad is an excellent site which will give you information on antenatal classes, postnatal classes and general parenting. It’s an interactive site so you can ask for information directly.
- Live in a Family-friendly Area: Abando is a quiet upmarket suburb which runs along the river. It houses the Guggenheim Museum and art galleries and has a selection of apartments and small houses suitable for families. Deusto is in the mountains and home to the university. It has apartments and houses with gardens.
- Find Things To Do With The Kids: Trip Hobo and Trip Advisor all have great ideas for activities and events your kids will love.
13. Moving to Bilbao for Work
Moving to Madrid for work is one of the most common reasons people choose to move. The unemployment rate in Spain rose to 18.75% during the first quarter of 2017, however, Bilbao has a relatively strong economy and there are jobs available. If you want to guarantee a job, you really need to speak Spanish as there are very few jobs available for those who don’t speak the language. While it is possible to move without a job, it makes sense to ensure there are jobs in your field before you make the move.
Bilbao is the financial and industrial capital of Spain. Many of Spain’s most profitable companies have their head offices in Bilbao. There are also a good number of multinationals.
Here are a few things to consider when moving for work:
- Salary: The costs we outlined above should give you a rough idea of how much more you’ll want to be making to make the move worthwhile. You can also check salary ranges on sites such as Glassdoor and Payscale.
- How to Find Work: If you want to have a job lined up before you move to Bilbao, but aren’t sure where to begin, the following sites are good places to start: Xpatjobs, Randstad and Bizkaia. You may also want to google recruiters in your industry, as they can often help land you some initial interviews as well.
14. Moving to Bilbao from Australia
There are a few Australians living in Bilbao. Here’s more food for thought:
- Size Comparison: If you compare the population size of Bilbao with the population of a city in Australia, you’d be looking at a city 10% larger than the Sunshine Coast.
- Join Expat Groups: Both InterNations and Expat.com offer ways of meeting up with other Australians in Bilbao.
15. Moving to Bilbao from Canada
There are a few Canadians who have chosen to live and work in Bilbao. Here are a few extra points to consider:
- Size Comparison: If you compare the population size of the city of Bilbao with the population of a city in Canada, you’d be looking at Victoria, British Columbia.
- Join Expat Groups: Both InterNations and The Canadian Expat offer ways of meeting up with other Canadians in Bilbao.
16. Moving to Bilbao from the United States
There’s a small American contingent living and working in Bilbao. If you’re considering it, here are a few bonus tips:
- Size: Bilbao’s population is roughly the same as Arlington, Tx.
- Expat Groups: Meeting Americans who are already living and working in Bilbao is an excellent way to make friends and learn how to integrate quickly into your new life. InterNations and Expat.com will enable you to meet other expats from the States and other countries.
17. Moving to Bilbao from the United Kingdom
There’s a small group of Brits living and working in Bilbao. If you’re considering it, here are a few bonus tips:
- Size: If you compare the population size of Bilbao with a city in the UK, you’d be looking at Fife.
- Expat Groups: Meeting Brits who are already living and working in Bilbao is an excellent way to make friends and learn all about living in the city. Have a look at the following sites to find people from home – InterNations and Expat.com.
Hopefully, the tips and costs above are helpful. If want to get started pricing out how much it will cost you to move to Bilbao you can start by comparing moving quotes here.