We helped Mat and Kat move to Valencia from the UK in December 2016. They run their own small business building websites, and have an 8-year-old dog called Stanley. They want to share their experiences of moving to the city with you. Mat said “I wish someone had written this for us so we knew what to expect!”
Although we loved where we lived in the UK, we were looking for a new adventure. With nothing holding us back, we decided to live abroad for a few years.
We’d heard good things about Valencia so in November 2015 we came to Spain on a scouting trip and drove from Malaga to Barcelona over a week, with Valencia mid-way along the route.
We scored each town and city that we visited out of ten, and made notes like “Very sad, full of holiday apartments and you can’t take dogs on the beach.”
Our notes for Valencia read “A really lovely green, friendly city. It has a good climate, great architecture and food, and there’s a 9km long park through the city centre that was an old, diverted, river. It’s flat enough to cycle around, and has an international airport.” Click here to see the complete journey. It was the Goldilocks city – not too hot in summer, not too cold in winter. Big enough to be interesting but not too big. It suited us perfectly and we were really excited.
Once we’d decided to move here, we started looking for people to help us move. We contacted Linda and arranged a Skype call to talk about how she could help, and what kinds of services she offered. Linda is very friendly and overflowing with enthusiasm. We had a long chat about our needs, which were:
- We work from home, so we needed an apartment with space for an office in a quiet area
- We have a dog, so the area needed to be dog-friendly
- We didn’t want to have a car, so we needed to live somewhere central or well-connected
I was really impressed with Linda’s understanding our needs so we hired her on the spot for a one-day orientation tour of the city.
We booked a one-week stay in Valencia in July 2016, in a small Airbnb close to the main train station. On the second day of our visit, Linda and her partner Janis came to pick us up in their car and we spent the day learning about Valencia.
Pro tip: When you’re on a day trip with Linda and Janis, take geotagged photos of all the areas of the city you visit, there’s a lot to see and you don’t want to forget which areas are your favourites.
Linda and Janis took us to six different areas of the city, each one offering a different experience. Some we weren’t so excited about, like El Cabañal, and some we absolutely loved, like Benimaclet. I wrote up our thoughts in a blog post which you can see here. We were overwhelmed with the options.
Once we returned to the UK in July, we started preparing for the move!
Running our own business meant that it was going to be tricky to find a time when we could close the office for the move, so we decided to move during the Christmas break. The public holidays slowed down the process of apartment hunting and obtaining documents and bank accounts, but we still managed to view properties between Christmas and New Year.
Initially we planned to fly from the UK and ship our possessions, but this turned out to be costly. Flying a dog as cargo to Spain from the UK costs around £1500! Next we looked at hiring a van, but very few van rental companies let you take a van overseas.
Finally we found the wonderful J-Hire who also supply drivers. We arranged with their driver, Paul, that he’d take us to Spain. Having a driver was great for many reasons:
- Paul knew the ferry crossing, Spanish roads and the route, so everything went really smoothly
- We had enough stress without also having to drive ourselves
- Paul brought the van to our house, helped us pack, and helped us unpack in Valencia
- He took the van back to their depot in Alicante afterwards
We booked a space for us, Paul and our dog on the ferry, and started packing! It was a great opportunity to declutter and we sold most of our furniture and possessions – a very liberating experience that you can read more about here.
Pro tip: if you’re bringing possessions in a van, buy double-wall cardboard boxes that are all the same size – you’ll be able to fit more boxes into the van if they are the same size.
Once we had a moving date we contacted Linda, who made appointments online for us to get our Spanish ID number (called a NIE) once we arrived, and we arranged to view apartments. Linda suggested that it might take a month for us to find somewhere to live and move in, so we rented an Airbnb for a month. Valencia has hundreds of Airbnb apartments, so there was a lot of choice.
We got a Pet Passport for the dog, and had a long chat with our local vet about vaccinations and treatments. We bought a year’s worth supply of flea and worm treatment, but it turns out that all the UK brands are available here so we didn’t need to do that.
We told our clients that we were moving to Spain, and without exception they were supportive and encouraging. We bought a VOIP phone through Vonage, so that we could keep a UK phone number while we were abroad, so clients could talk to us without the expense of an international phone call.
Paul the driver arrived perfectly on time at 8am on Tuesday the 20th December. I’ll never forget that morning – very cold and wet, a perfect day to move abroad.
We got the van loaded in a couple of hours, put the dog in the back in his new cage and said goodbye to the UK.
At the ferry port the customs officials asked us the usual questions and scanned the dog’s microchip, then waved us on. We were really grateful to have Paul because he knew exactly which lane to get in to board the ferry, and helped orient us on the boat.
Pro tip: if you book a kennel space for your dog on the ferry, bring a bed for them – although the kennels are heated so the dog won’t get cold, the cages are just plain steel with no padding. Kennels get booked up well in advance so reserve one at least six months before you want to travel.
We’d heard horror stories about the Plymouth – Santander crossing (the Bay of Biscay can be very rough) but for us it was as flat as a pond. It’s an 18-hour crossing but it passed quickly: we had dinner, watched a movie, and then slept for eight hours in our cabin. Standing on the deck as we pulled into Santander was really thrilling.
In Santander we had our first realisation that they do things differently in Spain – the customs official just waved us through, didn’t look at the Pet Passport and didn’t want to look in the van. It’s an eight-hour drive from Santander to Valencia, and once again we were really glad we hired a driver as it made the journey interesting rather than tiring.
The distance on the road signs counted down gradually: 300km, 200km, then 100km. Finally, just after sunset, we could see the city lights. We’d arrived in our new city!