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Go Expat in: Moving to Gran Canaria

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This Moving to Gran Canaria introduction is brought to us by Matthew Hirtes.

Go expat in… Gran Canaria

If the surf doesn’t impress you, the turf surely will

Enjoy a year-long holiday by living in or around the popular resorts located in the south of the island. More metropolitan types will prefer residing in the capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain’s eighth-largest city. For those who truly want to go local, the stunning interior’s your best bet for a slice of rural paradise. Where you’ll get some land with your property.

Although more and more parents are putting their children into English-language academies, away from the tourist areas you’ll struggle to make yourself understood in your native tongue. Like the rest of Spain, there’s a distinct lack of vegetarian options when eating out. If you live in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, prepare to share summer with a big black cloud as the panza del burro (donkey’s belly) descends over the city.

In and out
Gran Canaria airport (LPA) lies roughly equidistant from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Playa del Inglés, the island’s main tourist resort. So whilst it’s 24-odd km from airport to capital, it’s just over 30km between LPA and PDI. There’s a two-day ferry service to Cádiz on the Spanish mainland, although you might want to check out some of the other Canary Islands which are considerably easier to get to by air or boat.

You’ll find the best state schools, both primaries and secondaries, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. If you want a British-style education, dig deep for one of the private schools. The most hightly-rated are the American School, British School, and Oakley College. All of these are based in the north of the island, apart from the British School which also has a primary close to Meloneras in the south.

Shop until you drop…
Beware the shops and supermarkets in the resorts whose prices are inflated to take advantage of tourists who are too relaxed to travel for more reasonable prices. The not-too-far-away Vecindario, off the main GC-1, has a couple of shopping centres which offer more bargains. The best shopping centre, though, is closer to Las Palmas. Las Terrazas offers open-air shopping with Atlantic views and discounted prices at the many outlets.

Property types
Architecture is not a Canarian strongpoint. Buildings, especially the newer ones, are more functional than attractive. Most people in both the capital and the major resorts tend to live in apartments/flats. You’ll find larger properties in Las Palmas’ stockbroker belt, Tafira Alta, as well above Maspalomas in Montaña la Data, favourite of the jet set. For something completely different, the cave houses in the island’s highest village of Artenara and Gáldar’s Juncalillo offer Stone-Age design with 21st-century mod cons.

Market watch
One-three bedroom apartments, €75,000-€250,000.
Detached Villas, €300,000-€1,000,000.
Country fincas/cave houses €100,000-€300,000.

Further reading

In Praise Of
“Being able to drive with your car window down is great. Before, that treat was reserved for summer holidays in the south of France.” Lex Thoonen

“Gran Canaria has a much more relaxed vibe than the Spanish mainland. Slow living is where it’s at.” Pam Gardiner

Are you an expat in Gran Canaria? What do you like/dislike about it? Let us know below.

About your questions…

Sorry – but we do not offer relocation advice on an individual basis through Spain Buddy. There are a number of relocation experts who are better placed to advise you on your new life in sunny Spain.

58 Responses to Go Expat in: Moving to Gran Canaria

  1. Arne February 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Hi, great advice. Any advice on getting a six month rental in las Palmas? Best to just pop by a local letting agent when i get there? I have 2 kids age 4 and 0. What part of town is best?

  2. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper February 25, 2014 at 11:02 am

    HI Arne. Normally I would say to wait until you arrive, so you can get a real bargain. Perhaps book a hotel for a couple of weeks or a month. However – you are heading over with 2 very young children… so you wouldn’t want to leave anything to chance. In your suggestion, I would recommend that you speak to some agents before you go.
    Elle xx

  3. Ana March 24, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    Hi. thanks for the article – loved it. next step for me is to read the book :). i have visited GC 2 times, preparing for my third trip here and I absolutely love it there. I am considering more and more to “turn my vacation destination” into my home. So, I started looking for jobs, now seems kind of hard, as most vacancies seem to be for unqualified work, or summer student offers. So, I am still looking, not giving up, but if you have any tips and tricks on how to find a good job there, would appreciate if you could share from your experience. Many thanks and good luck with your future projects.

  4. Anna Celina Fiori March 27, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Hello, we are relocating from Italy and would love to live close to the American school where my son will go; do you suggest an area? I don’t want to live in the city. We are opening an organic restaurant and juice bar (vegetarian/vegan/mini market with concious products) on the 4rth of July everybody welcome!
    Will be contacting Remax property agency as well; We have 10 days to find the house and embrace our container full of dreams. Thank you so much for having such a useful blog.

    Anna Celina

  5. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper March 27, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Good luck with the move Anna. It sounds like you’re already well on your way to settling in. Am sure Remax will help you out.
    Good luck with the restaurant too. When you open – submit it for free to our sister site with this link too: http://www.canarynightlife.net/submit-a-listing/
    Elle x

  6. Matthew Hirtes January 23, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Blimey, just seen this, Anna Celina. Hope this article was of use. Love your restaurant.

  7. alex bramwell January 26, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    The Canterbury School is also a good option with an infant deptartment in the south.

  8. Matthew Hirtes January 26, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Thank you, Alex, for correcting my oversight. A good, albeit expensive, option. If you require a more comprehensive overview of the educational opportunities available to your family on the island, this will come in handy: http://grancanarialocal.com/gran-canaria-education-our-good-schools-guide/

  9. Beth February 2, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    Am American and speak Spanish. I’m living in So. France but winters are too cold here! I also enjoy the Spanish culture. Looking to move to Las Palmas area in the future, next few years at latest. I definitely like the idea of very close to big city / cosmopolitan area where I can still get my fix on art museums and culture and night life, etc. and yet be living at the sea right near it (ideally walking distance or not far drive). Is there a nice coastal area close enough to Las Palmas that is not run down or is clean and nice to live in near there? Also, how far away do I have to live to escape the grey skies from Palma and still be living near it? And what nice towns (not too tiny, but coastal please) would you suggest if I still want year round good weather (I’ve heard the north gets grey and cloudy often?)?
    Working is not an issue as I work from home (hopefully WIFI is good there!) I have also considered the area in East where the French Lycee is located as my girls might go to school there if you recommend any coastal towns there..Thanks!

  10. Matthew Hirtes February 3, 2015 at 12:23 am

    Well, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Las Canteras is quite possibly Spain’s best beach. If you wanted to live further south, how about La Garita: http://www.grancanarialocal.com/la-garita? Wifi’s pretty tops.

  11. Beth February 3, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Thanks for the input Matthew! Can I ask what you and others like about Canteras beach? Is it relatively safe/clean? How many minutes walk to historic center of Las Palmas? Any idea of cost of decent 2 bedroom apartment at beach?

    Also, is the population varied in age or will I be mostly with retirees? I am 45 years old and would hope there is a social life to be had :)

  12. Matthew Hirtes February 3, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    It’s just a beautiful beach, Beth. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s got the cleanest air of any Spanish city. It’s also the city with the 2nd most favourable climate in the world. The province is also one of the youngest in Spain, so have no fear on the fogey front. Just look: http://www.spain-holiday.com/Las-Palmas-de-Gran-Canaria/articles/the-top-10-las-palmas-de-gran-canaria-nightspots. Regarding property, it depends how close you want to be to the beach. First line can be pretty pricy.

  13. Beth February 4, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Great! I do also have 2 daughters, but I am sure there will be plenty of children/families as well in the area. But I am curious also about the weather in the North as I keep reading it’s much colder and grey certain times. Can you tell me when that is and is it also wet? Or what temps are we talking about anyway? Thanks again for all your help!

  14. Matthew Hirtes February 4, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Generally, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s colder and wetter than the south of the island. Now, during the Carnaval which goes on until the end of the February, is the rainy season. It’s been one of the coldest winters I’ve ever experienced here. The south-west of the island’s best for the weather. Lots of microclimates here.

  15. ben June 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Hi All!

    So me and the wife are dreaming of moving us and our clan to GC! (Us and 3 kids 8,5,2).

    The pace of life suits us but the main reason is that when we are in GC our oldest sons chronic asthma and eczema completely disappears when we are there!

    We are just back from out latest holiday to the island (4th year now) and his asthma is playing up and we all have colds due to the dirty English air.

    Just a quick question for you guys…

    My line of work is quite niche and I do quite well here in the UK for work but I’m hoping I can carry on in GC. I’m an industrial abseiler and I carry out a lot of work on the many cliffs in the south west preventing land slides and adding cliffs stabilisation, I also do a lot of work on wind turbines.

    So my question to you guys is have you ever spotted any “rope techs” dangling around out there? If so please let me know so I can chase our dream and a much better outlook for our boy!

    My wife is also a qualified early childhood education teacher and registered child minder and would love to work out there too, but we both need to learn Spanish so we can imagine there won’t be much work for her until then, but if you have info for her please let me know also

    Thanks for your time in reading this and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Ben :)

  16. Matthew Hirtes June 6, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Sorry, Ana. Only just noticed your message. Have you considered teaching? If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

  17. Matthew Hirtes June 6, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Hi Ben, Thanks for getting in touch. I wish I could say the same about my dermatitis clearing up over here. But I do live in the city, nevertheless the one with cleaner air than any other Spanish metropolis, rather than the country. Well, we definitely have wind turbines over here. There are plenty of international schools and English academies over here that would employ your wife. Whilst it’s important for both of you to learn Spanish, it’s more key for you to learn it for reasons of employment. Hope this helps, Matthew

  18. Elaine Heenan July 8, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Hello,I see you are giving good advice. I hope you can help me. I am a 55 year old woman, living in Ireland.
    I want to move to gran canaria within the next 2 years. Is it easy to find a house outside the city, may be a small village or on its own. I do home care for the disabled. Also I drive a bus. Would there be any work like that out there.
    I have been searching the www but finding it very hard to find anything, until I came across you.
    Please help.
    Thanks Elaine Heenan.

  19. Matthew Hirtes July 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    It’s pretty easy to find the sort of property you’re looking for, Elaine. Especially as it’s very much still a buyers’ market on GC at the moment. There would be that sort of work available, yes. But you would probably need to speak Spanish. There are some Facebook groups which advise people about job vacancies and the like.

  20. Elaine Heenan July 8, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    Thanks Mathew. Yes I am getting private spanish lessons. Would the houses be a lot cheaper where I am looking?.
    Do you know where I should look for a bank re possession.
    sorry for all the questions.
    Thanks Elaine

  21. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes July 9, 2015 at 12:27 am

    But exactly where are you looking, Elaine? Vecindario’s probably the best bet for cheap property as they overbuilt there. However, it’s not exactly easy on the eye.

  22. Elaine Heenan July 9, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Sorry. Gran canaria, I don’t really mind where as I will be driving, not in any city. Rural or village is best as I like peace and quiet. And where I can work as a senior care assistant.
    Thanks Mathew.

  23. Matthew Hirtes July 9, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Well, Elaine, I go into more detail in my book about the various sections. But I reckon the Valle de Agaete, located at the end of the GC-2 would be perfect. Let me know when you can make the move. And if you have any further questions, just shout.

  24. Mrs.Maria Horner October 25, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    I am a 50 yr old British divorcee who bought an apartment in Puerto Rico this year. I intend to spend more timeout in Gran Canaria and possibly relocate eventually. I would love to meet other expats. I very much enjoy walking. I’ve just booked a last min flight arriving 26th Oct for this week before heading back to UK to start new job. Any help much appreciated

  25. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes October 25, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Maria, many thanks for your comment. There are numerous GC-related groups on Facebook that you can join. Let me know if you need help finding them.

  26. Geoff Bateman October 27, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Ah but the shopping Mall with Carrefour is brilliant. We are also thinking of retiring to GC as we have been 8 times in the last 9 years, so we know the area well. One question is about health. Do they have a free health service or do you have to insure yourself. We are in our 70,s.

  27. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes October 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Gran Canaria’s in the Mid-Atlantic, Geoff, but it’s European when it comes to its health service. Yes, it’s free. This is not the United States.

  28. jade December 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Hello. I know basic Spanish and want to move to the south of GC. I know the island well but I want to know about local Infant schools my son will be 9months when I go for a visit to look around at apartments and schools. Is there fees for local spanish schools. What are the school hours for infants if I work?

  29. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes December 10, 2015 at 12:39 am

    Hi Jade, there are no fees for Spanish state schools. Hours tend to be 9:00am to 1:00pm. You have to pay extra for lunch and for after-school activities if you want to keep your child in the school whilst you work. Best of luck, Matthew

  30. jade December 10, 2015 at 1:37 am

    Thank you Matthew that was a great help.

  31. Desislava December 24, 2015 at 10:49 pm


    I’ve been on Gran Canaria before 2 years and I had amazing time there for the 8 months I spent on the island. At this time I found a job really quickly in Playa del ingles, the first day I started to look for it and I found it (waitress). I woild like to move now there for a longer time, but I would like to ask if my first expirience was just a luck or is still possible to find job fast, not for a day, but for week or two. I have degree in Tourism, speak English, basic Spanish and German. I plan to be there in the begging of February or March. Is it a good time to do it or is better to wait for the begging of the summer.


  32. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes December 26, 2015 at 12:06 am

    Hi Desislava, Luck certainly played its part. I’d recommend setting up something in advance if you can. There are various FB groups which can help. Gran Canaria’s a year-round destination, so the time of the year’s not that important. However, winter tends to be very much the Scandinavian season. Best of luck, Matthew

  33. Desislava January 2, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Thank you Matthew!

  34. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes January 2, 2016 at 10:42 am

    You’re very welcome, Desislava.

  35. Sally January 28, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Hi, we will shortly be moving into our new flat in Las Palmas and are looking to install a water filtration system. We found a company called Filtrosalud, who install and then service the system annually. Unfortunately, as they are based in Tenerife it is not cost effective for them to come to Gran Canaria. Any ideas of how we can go about getting a whole house water filter fitted for showers as well as drinking?

  36. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper January 28, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Sally. I could have recommended someone fabulous if it was for Lanzarote but I can’t help with Gran Canaria. Perhaps if Matthew sees this message he may know someone?

    Over to you Matthew.

    Elle x

  37. Sally January 28, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Hi Elle, What a shame, fingers crossed there is someone out there who can help us. Thank you so much for taking the trouble of replying.


  38. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper January 28, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    There should be someone. If Tenerife and Lanzarote both have someone, then GC should have.
    E x

  39. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes January 28, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    Hi Sally, I posted an enquiry on a FB group I belong to. Cutting and pasting the first reply I’ve received: “Matthew – you can contact Nadine on 696 468 168 – they install full filtration systems for both domestic and business”. Hope that helps. Best of luck with your move, Matthew

  40. Sally January 30, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Hi Matthew, just picked up your post, many thanks for that, we’ll contact Nadine and let you know how it goes.


  41. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes January 30, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Best of luck with that, Sally.

  42. A.J. LAWRENCE February 2, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Hello, Matthew. Thank you for the insight in your article and comments. I’m thinking of moving my family to Gran Canaria this coming summer. To get a better feel of things, my wife and I are coming February 18th through the 22nd to visit some schools and drive around. Do you know of any real estate agents that would show us around some rentals, so we can better understand the lay of the land?

    Cheers and thank you!

  43. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes February 2, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    You’re very welcome, A.J. This article might come in handy: http://grancanarialocal.com/gran-canaria-property/. Best of luck, Matthew

  44. Natalie February 6, 2016 at 5:06 am

    Hi I’m wanting to move to gc very soon but I need advice on schools that are free to attend and speak English and also cheapest place to rent!! I’d find bar work so I’d need to b able to commute each day thank you

  45. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper February 6, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Hi Natalie – I’d be very surprised if there was a school that taught in English that is free. However, Matthew will be able to advise with more accuracy. If your kid/s are young enough though, they’ll slot nicely into Spanish state schooling.
    E x

  46. Vicki Hughes March 10, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Hi everyone. My husband and I might be moving to GC from UK this August if he gets the teaching job he has applied for. Looks very promising. We have a house in UK which we will rent out so we will be renting over in GC until we know for sure if we are staying longer than 12 Months. Our only concern is that we would need to rent a place that allows pets (1dog and 2 cats). Does anyone know if this is a huge problem or not? In UK we’ve managed it but most placed don’t allow pets. Any advice would be great. Also does anyone know the likely cost for flying pets from UK to GC?


  47. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper March 10, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Renting somewhere that allows pets shouldn’t be too much problem but speak to your agent and they’ll bear your fluffies in mind.

    Not a clue on flight prices for pets… you’ll need to speak to airlines for that I’m afraid. be prepared to dig deep though.

    E x

  48. sara keenan May 9, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Hi Matthew, I just ordered your book here in the US and can’t wait for it to come! I traveled to GC last month spending some time in Las Palmas and hiking from Galdar to Maspalomas and back over the course of a week. I fell in love with the island. It has similar plants and geography as California, where I live. It is very much like a Hawaiian island except for two things: life is affordable and islanders are happy to meet you. We are hoping to visit more and retire there in 4 years. What does an American expat have to do to qualify for medical coverage? I could afford to retire now if I didn’t have to budget one million dollars for health insurance in the US for the next 30 years until I’m 90. So we are looking to “jump-ship” from the New World. Looking forward to reading and learning. Thank you!

  49. Jane June 13, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Hi thanks for this article it’s great. I have the opportunity to teach in GC down the South at The British School. I am married with 2 boys aged 11 and 14. My question is this. Would my husband be able to get a job? He is a qualified joiner and has licences to drive lorries, in the UK he has his own business M&J Property Services.

    We also have cats and dogs which we would bring with us.

  50. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes July 19, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Hi Sara, Thanks for your lovely comment. Hope the book’s arrived. Regarding your medical coverage question, this site should be able to provide the answer: http://comoconsultingspain.com. Best wishes, Matthew

  51. Matthew Hirtes
    Matthew Hirtes July 19, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Jane, Glad you liked it. Most GC jobs, with the obvious exception of the one you’re being offered, require a good level of Spanish. However, the south of the island is home to quite a few Brits who have managed to find a job without mastering the local language. Best of luck, Matthew

  52. isabelle October 8, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Hi Matthew,

    I bought your book before coming to L.P, we decided to move in very short notice (few days). Everything is fine, however it is difficult to meet over expats. My son is only 16 months and goes to Dr Sanchez because it is super close to my apartment and I think moving to Tafira or anywhere nearby the American school where my son will start in a year. Do you know some mom expat clubs or else (my job is based in the US but I am working a lot in Western/Eastern and South Africa.

  53. Gustavo massacrito. November 29, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    I would like to move to gc from cabo verde,i am an interpreter speak french,spanish,english and portuguese.Could i get a job there.

  54. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper November 30, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I would say that your language skills would be useful, but only you know how employable you are.

  55. Tom January 12, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Are there any English ex pat groups that socialize on a regular basis? Also, any writer S groups and/or tennis clubs?

  56. Matthew Hirtes January 15, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Hi Isabelle,

    Sorry for my tardiness in getting back to you. People tend to meet up at The British Club in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, but this is probably an older crowd. There are also language exchange groups which are a handy way of meeting people: https://www.facebook.com/LEGIntercambio/

    Best of luck,


  57. Matthew Hirtes January 15, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    There’s the British Club in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Tom. They organize regular poetry meets. There are tennis clubs too, but padel is increasingly more popular.

  58. Hanna Pryce August 31, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Are there any American groups to join at GC ? ??

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