The Canary Islands are a group of seven islands, just off the Saharan coast of Africa, which belong to Spain. Nominally part of Europe, they are well over 1,000 miles from the southernmost part of that continent, and they enjoy a special economic and duty free status. The islands are mainly reliant on tourism for their income, attracting around 1.8 million tourist per year to enjoy what is often described as the world’s best all year round climate.
Property and Travel
There’s a wide range of property for rental on the islands, with a one bedroom apartment ranging from $400 USD per month in large towns and rural areas to $500 USD in resort areas. The latter will almost always have the benefit of a communal swimming pool. Larger 3 bedroom properties will rent at about $900 to $1300, and larger resort properties will usually have a private pool. Electricity charges go from $60 USD at the lower end, rising considerably for larger properties with air conditioning and a pool pump.
A litre of gasoline is currently $1.13 USD, with diesel about 5 cents cheaper per litre. Taxi transport is a little below average for Europe, allow just over $1 USD per kilometre, and there are good bus services, with most journeys costing around $4 USD.
Food shopping is on a par with most of Europe, although as almost everything is imported, the choice is limited. For a couple, eating well, you’ll be spending about $140 USD a week, and you’ll pay a slight premium if you are buying in the smaller shops in the holiday resorts, as opposed to the larger supermarkets in the main towns. Alcohol is cheap, thanks to the duty free status – a bottle of local beer is about $1.20 USD, cheap wine is under $2 USD a bottle and a good wine is around $6 USD. Litre bottles of local Gin and Rum can be bought for about $8 USD, and even premium brands are no more than $17 USD.
The Atlantic waters that surround the islands provide a huge array of fabulous, healthy and inexpensive fish.
Cooking at home is the best way to keep costs down, and focusing on local produce will do so even further. Locally grown vegetables include potatoes, several types of bean, onions and various other root vegetables. There’s a wide range of fruit, and the local pork is exceptional. The Atlantic waters that surround the islands provide a huge array of fabulous, healthy and inexpensive fish.
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Tap water can be drunk, but as it’s desalinated, the taste isn’t great, so most people buy bottled mineral water at about $2 USD for 5 litres.
Eating out varies considerably. In the resort areas, there’s a huge choice of international cuisine, and you can pay anything from $20 USD to $40 USD a head. But visit the towns and villages outside the resorts and you’ll find astonishing value for money, with tapas dishes starting at $1.20, and many places offering a “Menu del dia” with three course and a beer or wine for just $11 USD. Look out for “Sociedades” in every village – these are family run bars which offer great food at very low prices.
Duty Free Goods
Once again, thanks to the lack of duty on luxury goods, perfumes, cosmetics, cameras and jewellery are all much cheaper than on the mainland of Europe, and many people come to the islands specifically to buy those things. Cigarettes and cigars are incredibly cheap – you can buy 200 of the former for as little as $7 USD.
Several of the major European retailers have clothes shops on the islands, and prices of most clothing is on a par with Europe – Levi’s Jeans are $50 USD, a surf style T Shirt is about $17.
All the islands have markets – some are pure food and craft markets, but many have huge tourist markets. The largest is at Teguise in Lanzarote every Sunday, where there are several hundred stalls, offering local produce, designer goods (many fakes!), clothing, aloe vera products, bed and table linen and many more interesting and unusual items. There are bargains to be had, but you must negotiate! The farmer’s markets are fabulous for buying the freshest local produce direct from the farmers at bargain prices.
If you like to drink and smoke, then The Canary Islands will save you a fortune! For those of us who don’t, the overall living costs are on a par with most Western countries. If I were to plan to live here for a month, I’d budget $1300 USD– that would get me a reasonable apartment, cover my food shopping and bills and leave me enough to enjoy a few trips out.
Ever consider having a beachside retirement travel adventure someplace a little off the beaten path? Mike Cliffe-Jones is a British citizen, but he has lived in Lanzarote, The Canary Islands for 15 years and he wrote this post to give us an idea of what life is like and what it costs. Mike runs the website Lanzarote Information – an English language web portal which offers tourist information about the island.