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Travelling Spain with Two Dogs & a Parrot

With a good internet connection, I can work remotely from anywhere, so my husband Rob & I took advantage of this & are travelling Spain with our pets & everything we own packed into an estate car with roof-box.

Our Long-Term Rental
31 May 2019

After a few days enquiring at various agents & online, we found a house to rent for the rest of 2018.  Eva at Ideal Property in Alhaurin el Grande did very well & we viewed three properties in the same week.

The first, although close into Coin, wasn't fully furnished & didn't have much outside space.

The second, right on top of a hill, had more than enough land & 360 panoramic views, but was so far up an unmade lane, it would take ten minute to reach the main road & likely trash the car - unless we bought a 4-wheel-drive....

The third house was out of town & rural, but not far off the main road & looked as perfect as we'd find with lovely views. We even had a friendly landlady who even spoke a little English.

So we committed to rent for seven months, as six months from June would be December & we didn't fancy trying to find a place so close to Christmas

I needed to ensure we'd have an internet connection to our new home as soon as we moved in so I could work without interuption.  Eva had recommended a couple of companies with English speaking representatives.  One didn't answer the phone & the other did, but then wouldn't proceed because we didn't have a Spanish bank account.  We knew we needed an account, just hadn't got around to it & this was the push we required.

So off to the bank we went.

After a short wait in Sabadell Solbank, we'd opened a non-resident current account with the lovely Susana which was nice & straight-forward!

I called Conred back who said an engineer would be in touch to survey the property.  He was, the day after, & went straight to the address.

Only to report back with this Whatsapp photo to show that these trees would block the signal from the mast.

As the other providers would 'apparently' be receiving their signal from the same direction, I resorted to 4G & we took a trip to the Movistar shop to find out more.

We had to go back the following day to collect our activated phone & data sims, then later on, the Movistar engineer called to install the modem.  However, he didn't speak English & our Spanish was nearly non-existent so we waited until the following day when we were signing the rental contract & asked Eva to assist.  We signed the tenancy agreement in person with the landlady the day before our rental was oficially to begin & received the keys with approval to install wifi.

Eva helped us to call the engineer & organise for us to meet him a couple of hours later at the local service station & we led him to the house.  Only to find we didn't have keys to either sets of the large new metal gates across both drives leading down either side of the property...

This Dominion engineer was the first Spanish service provider with an impatient & downright aggressive attitude that we'd encountered.  All others throughout our journey & experiences in Spain had been consistently friendly & accommodating, but this guy, who didn't speak English, wasn't at all happy.

It was Friday afternoon & perhaps he'd had a trying week....

Eva to the rescue once again.  Firstly to speak to the engineer & explain the situation, that it wasn't our fault & we weren't actually as incompetent as appeared, then to direct us down a narrow overgrown path between fences, past the water storage tank & up to the house with the grumbling engineer in tow.

The 4G modem/router was setup & we unloaded a few of our belongings, but as the trek down the long grassy path was awkward, couldn't empty the car as planned.  However, we'd agreed to return a couple of hours later to meet Belen, our landlady, who promised to bring the correct gate keys smiley

All good.

Later we unloaded more belongings & although informed we could stay in the house that night, we'd planned to packup & clean our Air B&B home the following morning then move in on the official rental date.

I was once again impressed with our productivity due to the efficient Spanish telecoms providers:

  • Monday - call Conred & request installation
  • Tuesday - engineer site visit to notify us they couldn't assist
  • Wednesday - sign-up with Movistar
  • Thursday - return to Movistar shop for activated mobile & data sims
  • Friday - engineer visit to install modem.

In the UK, I once signed a lease on a house at the end of July & (apparently due to the London Olympics that summer) Openreach couldn't connect my phone & internet (a wire from the pole directly opposite the terraced house without a front garden) until the beginning of November...

However, this particular story isn't over just yet!



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Our Car Options & Implications
17 May 2019

Since landing in Santander in September 2017, we'd been travelling in our own aging spacious blue Honda Accord estate. A car which we loved & which was spacious enough for all our possessions & pets.

However, by May 2018, we'd had problems with the battery & other repairs were becoming necessary, but we thought that importing old 'Blue' wouldn't really be cost effective.

We'd also discounted taking Blue all the way back to the UK for an MOT due to time & expense, whilst Rob was concerned about long-term driving in a right-hand-drive car on the right.  So we'd tentatively planned to buy another used vehicle by September 2018 latest.

Whilst in Portugal, we'd spent a considerable amout of time looking at cars for sale online & options for buying there as we already had a Pt Fiscal tax number & bank account.

Then we looked in Spain & as a bigger country, there was more choice, together with the advantage that Spanish cars don't require an ITV for the first four years, then until the vehicle is ten years old, an ITV is only necessary every two years.

This, we thought, would allow the opportunity to travel eastwards for a couple of years before returning to just over the border in Spain when necessary.

We researched but frustratingly, there still doesn't appear to be an MOT equivalent valid throughout Eurozone.  Surely road safety regulations are more-or-less standard across Europe?

Further research then revealed that to either import a vehicle, or buy a car in Spain, we'd need an NIE number (necessary, as it turned out, for any large purchases or contracts in Spain) & proof of address (from long-term rental agreement). If we bought in Portugal, we'd also have needed a permanent address there. So much for travelling & only staying a month or two in any one place.

The world is just not set-up for a nomadic lifestyle.

So we revised our options:

  • MOT Blue in the UK for another year in September 2018 - a long drive & expense from Southern Europe
  • Import Blue into Spain - need an NIE, proof of permanent address & lots of paperwork
  • Buy a used car in Spain - need an NIE, permanent address & bank account
  • Buy a left-hand-drive car in England - a long drive back to Spain, or both ways if Rob returned to the UK in Blue
  • Hire a car in each country we travelled to - we'd need a large one, worry about the dogs (hair, mud, sand etc), we often rented homes off-road (exluded from hire car insurance) & have to negotiate swapping at each border
  • Pay someone with residence in Spain to buy the car - we'd transfer the funds & 'our' car would be in their name until we could arrange a transfer, subect to having an NIE, address & bank account etc, etc...

There seemed to be no option but to stay in Spain for six months which could have tax implications on my income, but we'd deal with that issue later...

Our travels at that point in May 2018 had brought us to Alhaurin de la Torre, near Malaga, so whilst staying in the temporary Air B&B accommodation, we popped into a few estate agents to find a long-term rental.

With pets, our needs were quite specific - a simple studio apartment just wouldn't suffice.

"You've picked the wrong time to look for a house."

we were told.

"It's the start of summer, you'll be lucky."

&

"We had lots of rentals last month, but not now." we were informed.

Why had we loitered in the Algarve for three months when we could have been in Spain much earlier!

Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing?

We continued looking for a home & even considered a cheap apartment rental that we wouldn't actually live in, but use just for the address.  That could have still been cheaper than the returing to England options.

Meanwhile, not being too confident to negotiate Spanish admin & authorities, we contracted a Gestor to help us apply for our NIEs as fortunately we didn't need an address for that process!

The Spanish tax system, admin & red-tape for doing anything is notoriously well-known so I expected & was prepared for this. However, we obtained our NIE numbers without a problem:

  • Friday - email a Gestor I'd found in Torremolinos via Google
  • Monday - initial free consultation with the Gestor who then completed application forms
  • Wednesday - meet the Gestor at Torremolinos Police Station & after an hour's wait, produce passports & hand in paperwork
  • Friday - meet Gestor to collect NIE documents & pay his bill.

No hay problema!

It would likely have been more of a hassle in Malaga due to the sheer numbers of applicants & the appointment system that the authorities have to run as a result.  But I'd researched this, hence heading to Torremolinos wink



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Easter in Western Andalucia April 2018
02 May 2019

We were in Sanlúcar de Barrameda for a month over Easter in 2018 & my brother & sister-in-law joined us for the first week. Of course we headed into town for the church parades &, after a Winter out-of-season, enjoyed the buzz of people on holiday enjoying themselves.

Sanlúcar had a lot to offer, but we actually preferred the nearby coastal town of Chipiona & often setoff in the car with the dogs in the back to walk them on the extensive beaches on the outskirts, heading back to town for a beer or coffee afterwards.

It's strange how we warmed to a particular place,or not, & couldn't really pinpoint why.

We loved Galicia & our nearby town of Sarria, but then didn't feel at all comfortable in Marco de Canaveses in Northern Portugal just a few hours drive away.  This was strange as we'd travelled in Central Portugal a number of times & loved it! Moving on from Sanlúcar, we really enjoyed Conil de la Frontera for our next home base & would definitely like to return there.  The Atlantic beaches in South Western Spain are wonderful with the advantage of lots of out-of-town areas where dogs were allowed.

One evening's drive along the coast took us to the Trafalgar lighthouse peninsular & the Ohana beach bar with music playing.  We do love these unplanned & unexpected surprises & stayed a while, though neither of us were dressed for dusk, did feel cool & were bitten by mozzies.

Max is very much a people-dog & will make friends with anyone for a fuss so spent all his time with another couple who thought he was really cute.

Roxy had taken to travelling very well considering how nervous she'd been & always happily settled down under the table in the various bars we frequented.  In fact, very much a creature of habit, she'd often head straight for the closest beach bar as soon as we reached the beach, before we'd even had a walk wink

Rob usually reacts quite badly to insect bites & there were a fair few mozzies that Spring in Sanlúcar.  His hand swelled-up quite badly & we were tempted to head to the hospital.  However, we decided to try the advice of a Farmacia first where Rob showed both hands & was issued with anti-histamines & some topical cream.  Fortunately this reduced the swelling quite quickly & eased his discomfort.

We discovered that Sanlúcar is famous for it's annual beach horse-race & there were horses everywhere, carriage rides in town, horses were being ridden down the roads, exercising on the beaches, grazing on waste land & even in the back garden of the house opposite to our rental.

We did know that Spain had many street & stray dogs, but after Portugal, where emaciated, matted-haired dogs are frequently chained up, we did notice more pet dogs being walked on leads on the Spanish streets. A refreshing change & less upsetting for us, being animal lovers & very fond of dogs in particular.

We made the most of our time in Western Andalucia, visiting historical Cadiz & beautiful Seville. Whist Ronda was just over an hour's drive away, I knew we'd be within easy striking distance from our next home near Malaga, so we saved that visit until later.  However, on occasion we were thwarted by the car battery draining & being unable to start the engine, though this was sporadic & didn't really follow any pattern.  Our plan was to either import our aged, but beloved Honda into Spain, or buy a second hand, left-hand-drive car.  It seemed that we'd be best off looking for a used car in Malaga & hoped that more delaers would be able to speak English there due to the sheer numbers of ex-pats in that area.



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