They say money makes the world go around and there’s certainly a lot of it in Mallorca – although not everyone seems to see it. Whether or not you find the island expensive depends on where you have come from, and whether you are retired or trying to earn a living here. For those who are used to London or Stockholm prices, Mallorca might seem good value. Likewise, the cost of living might seem good to those earning European executive salaries, but locals earning Mallorcan wages appear to be feeling the pinch.
Jackie Smith, a retired teacher who divides her time between the UK and Cala Fornells, 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 the popular Mocubar bar 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 daytrip we recommend taking your own picnic to save yourself some money.
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, rising about 17 percent last year. They were the fourth highest in Spain in the last quarter of 2004, 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.
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 fulltime 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.”
What got the vote?
Here’s a round-up of opinions on what represents good and bad value on the island. Do you agree? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel you would like to comment or tell us about your experiences.
“A litre of unleaded petrol now costs 85.6p in the UK, in Spain it is 0.92 c per litre – that’s a big saving.” Ian, salesman.
“Seven days car hire in the UK cost me £130 (€192), 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 Heathrow where it’s £62.65 (€92) for 7 days. Here I can leave my car at the airport for €76 a month. ” Tom, businessman.
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 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. Portals is geared towards wealthy clients, but generally local restaurants and lunchtime “menu del dia”(€7–12) 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.
“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.
“Trips through the tunnel to Sóller are now €4.70 one-way. This is too much, particularly for those who work there and cannot get the discount of €3 (as Sóller residents do) or those who would like to visit Sóller for a walk or to visit a restaurant.”