Is it just too expensive on Mallorca?
Jackie Smith, a retired teacher who divides her time between the UK and Palma, feels those in the hospitality business are particularly guilty of pushing up prices.
“Last year I went to one of my favourite beach restaurants and was surprised to see how much prices had gone up. When I asked the owner, he told me that he’d had such a bad season the year before, he needed to increase his menu costs. This seems like a very short term solution to me. He will be closing down soon because no one can afford to eat there!”
But Evaristo and Sally Lobo, owners of a popular and restaurant in Palma Nova, believe the situation is more complicated and that there are several factors that push prices up on the island. “The cost of property and therefore rental is very high considering what is on offer. The tax and labour laws make it difficult for us to stay open all year round and good reliable staff is hard to attract. You can spend a lot of time and effort training staff and then they disappear – this affects your bottom line,” says Evaristo.
“Despite the low cost airlines, getting here in holiday season can work out expensive for the average family as prices go up disproportionately and hotel prices go up too.”
Another expense can be a visit to the tourist attractions, where prices can be way over the top with no alternatives available. Take Sa Calobra for example, once you have made your way down to the bay, which is of course a beautiful place and well worthwhile, there is only one restaurant there and of course because of its capture audience situation prices for food and drinks tend to be well above average. So if you are planning a day-trip we recommend taking your own picnic to save yourself some money. The same goes for the airport – restaurant prices are incredible high for average or below average quality so be prepared and bring a snack particularly if travelling with children.
An alternative is to book “all-inclusive”, but as Evaristo puts it: “While all-inclusive holidays may be cheap, I don’t think they offer a long-term solution, as they maintain the island’s image as a package destination while pushing up prices in other areas. Taxi drivers lose fares, restaurants and shops lose business so everyone has to put up prices to cover the cost of living. I think the more independent traveller is going to look at destinations in Eastern Europe and find they offer a lot better value.”
A recent study showed that house prices in the Balearics continue to soar. They were the fourth highest in Spain in the last quarter, after Madrid, the Basque Country and Catalonia. Furthermore, a global house index report in The Economist magazine placed the Balearics third worldwide behind Hong Kong and South Africa for house price increases. Another study from El Mundo put the average price of a home in Spain at 8.1 times the GDP per capita, well out of reach of a large sector of the population, especially the average Mallorcan. But the island’s estate agents argue that property is expensive because Mallorca is a very desirable destination so prices come at a premium.
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Cost of living on Mallorca
Lisa and Lee Fox who moved from Stanmore in the UK two years ago feel that Mallorca still offers good value for money. “We are saving money on private school fees, petrol, grocery bills and eating out. Our biggest extravagance is mooring fees, which are expensive, but mooring is hard to find so they can demand their price.” One person who finds living here increasingly expensive is Becky Martin who grew up on the island and works in a local business. “I can’t really compare prices with other European capitals as I’ve only ever lived in Mallorca, but I think the cost of living on the island is definitely higher than the average income, which is low compared to other Western European countries. “Costs have escalated over the last 10 years. I have a decent standard of living because my partner and I work full-time and both earn an income. Many of my colleagues are single women and say that by the time rent, food and drink, petrol, and bills are paid, there is virtually nothing left at the end of the month.
“There are very few jobs for ex-pats on the island that pay well.” “Most of my friends are ‘yachties’ and earn a good living that way, but the nomadic life on yachts doesn’t suit everyone and if you want to be shore-based the choice of well-paying career is limited. Getting on to the property ladder here can be tricky, especially as the Spanish Banks are much more conservative than Northern European lenders. “Friends in my expat circle agree that saving money is difficult, but we live here because the positive aspects of living on this beautiful island outweigh the negatives. My advice for people living and working here is to get to know the island, the locals and the shops. Shop around and look for Spanish owned and run companies as they always seem cheaper to me than those owned by and directed towards foreigners. With a bit of savvy and careful money management even those of us on a typical Spanish wage can live a comfortable life here.”
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“Money makes the world go around” they say, and there’s certainly a lot of it sloshing around Mallorca – though obviously not everyone gets to see it. Whether or not you find the island expensive largely depends on where you have come from. For those who are used to London, Dusseldorf or Stockholm prices, Mallorca can certainly seem good value. Likewise, the cost of living might seem good to those bringing in a decent ‘European’ salary, but anyone earning more typically Mallorcan wages are likely to be increasingly feeling the pinch. And if you think freelancing is a viable alternative to working in the local economy, the steep monthly autónomo charges might soon make you reconsider…
The first and most pressing issue is housing, which has seen a worrying surge in prices in recent years. Companies such as Airbnb were largely being blamed for pushing up prices, especially around Palma, but the dramatic tightening of regulations on home-sharing platforms in the Mallorcan capital has had little or no discernible effect on rental or property rates. Like many of the world’s popular cities, investment in high-end properties has a knock-on effect through the rest of the market.
Leisure can be another costly outlay, if it involves somewhere that happens to be a tourist attraction. We’ve probably all sat down at a lovely seafront restaurant and opening the menu to eye-watering prices. And this can be true of many businesses taking advantage of a location’s popularity with tourists. Living on the island doesn’t make you exempt from paying tourist prices!
And you can’t forget Mallorca is indeed an island, with all the more complicated and costly logistics involved in getting products here. Those used to living on the mainland, with easy access to all manner of produce year round are often shocked how expensive imported food can be. Savvy shopping here means shopping more seasonally (as we all should anyway) to take advantage of low prices when the supply of certain items is high.
Taking advantage of the low tourist season too can also make for some serious bargains, with things like car hire cost plunging at certain times of the year. Bus and train travel around the island is also very good value, while the 75% resident discount on flights and ferries means super-cheap travel within Spanish territories. It is also always worth bearing in mind that many places offer discounts to residents, or drop their prices either side of peak season.
According to statistics website Numbeo.com, Palma actually scores what they designate as ‘low’ on their Cost of Living Index in comparison to other cities around the world. And taking into account everything from climate to health care, their Quality of Life Index rates the Mallorcan capital as ‘very high’. Unsurprisingly, it is only affordability of housing that doesn’t scoring particularly favourably.
Ultimately, there’s no question that the price of living on the island has gone up in recent years, with some of the more unavoidable life expenses carving an ever-increasing chunk from incomes that have remained largely static. Brits are feeling particularly squeezed, with Brexit pummelling the pound and hitting those on fixed UK pensions.
Like anywhere else in the world, Mallorca is not immune to the vagaries of economic forces, and its increasing popularity – especially amongst the wealthier elements of society – has led to an inevitable rise in costs. However, most of us certainly still agree that the positive aspects of living on this beautiful island far outweigh the negatives. They also say “the best things in life are free” and some of the best things on the island – the beaches, the nature, the climate, the culture – will thankfully always be just that.
What got the vote?
Here’s a round-up of opinions on what represents good and bad value on the island.
Good value for money on Mallorca
“A litre of unleaded petrol now costs £1.27 in the UK, in Spain it is 1.009 € per litre – that’s a big saving.” Ian, salesman.
“Seven days car hire in the UK cost me £185, I could have hired the same car in Mallorca for €130.” Simon, businessman.
“I’d say car prices are lower than in the UK. Some of the top of the range cars are cheaper still in Belgium or Germany, but you have to look at the cost of bringing a car to Spain, which varies depending on what vehicle you intend importing and its age.” Ian, salesman.
“I spent a fortune on bottled water in the UK – around £1 a litre. Here I spend 30c.” Lisa, housewife.
“Parking in Palma is fairly priced and at Palma Airport parking is very good value compared to places like Gatwick where it’s £145 for 7 days. Here I can leave my car at the airport for €76 a month or 50€ for a week. ” Tom, businessman.
In general taxis are reasonably priced in comparison to other large cities.
Groceries, toiletries, meat, fish and alcohol
“I think grocery shopping is reasonable although I believe it is cheaper on the mainland. Shopping around and using your local food market can save you money. Wine is much more reasonable than it is in Germany or England.” Rebecca, consultant.
“This depends a lot on the restaurants you choose. Puerto Portals is geared towards wealthy clients, but generally local restaurants and lunchtime “menu del dia” (12€ – 20€) represent good value. My family from the UK think eating out is a bargain. I like the fact I can go out for a coffee with a girlfriend and pay between €1 – €2 for a nice coffee con leche. In England I was paying over £2.” Lisa, housewife.
“I’ve found that the Spanish owned and run salons are much cheaper than those aimed at expats and holiday makers. Here I can afford to have my hair done much more frequently than in London. A cut, colour and blowdry costs me €67 at a Spanish salon in Portals. In London I’d pay at least £90 for the same.” Bin, publisher.
Too expensive on Mallorca
“Avoid it if you live here, food is ghastly and instead of coffee you get dishwater that’s thrown at you and then you are charged extortionately for the privilege.” Judy, retired.
“You are looking at about €80 a round of golf on the island, then there’s buggy fees. You can play on a lot of UK courses for that amount, so it’s not a huge saving – but you do get to enjoy your game on good courses in good weather.” Rick, regular visitor from UK.
“Don’t get ripped-off particularly with children – prepare a snack and avoid wasting your money on poor-quality food at the airport restaurants.” Joanne, business consultant.