A Guide to the Regions in Spain for Auxiliares de Conversación

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regions in Spain

It’s that time of year again. The applications are about to open for the auxiliar de conversación teaching English in Spain program that I’ve done for the past two years. Let the mayhem commence!

With many many posts on here about being an auxiliar, from tips and tricks, to expat stories, to travel and tapas advice to problems with the program, I’ve written about it all. I get a lot of emails and messages about the auxiliar program, and now what many of you are asking about are the regions. There are 17 regions in Spain and it can be daunting to pick the one that will be home for you over the next year. Let me help!

With over 3 years experience living in Spain, I’ve traveled around most of the peninsula and always have an opinion. I decided it would just be a good idea to share here my opinions and thoughts about all the different regions (comunidades autónomas) in Spain to help you decide more when you pick your top 3 choices for the application.

Before you chose, you need to ask yourself some important questions about what kind of experience you want. Do you want to live  in a remote place or somewhere convenient to travel around Europe? Do you want a big city or would you be ok with a small village or commuting? Do you know any Spanish already-some regions are bilingual or have very heavy accents which makes learning Spanish trickier. I always used to laugh at people who would tell me they wanted to go to Spain to learn Spanish and then they go to Barcelona. And finally, the auxiliar program is notorious about paying us late, some regions are better about it than others. For example, Galicia usually always pays on time whereas in Murcia, you’re guaranteed to go months and months without seeing a penny. Do you have a lot of savings and are planning to work outside the schools in Spain? Some things to think about.

Here’s Spain’s take on the different regions, not too far off base.

regions in Spain

Here is my take for the different regions around Spain including my thoughts on the payment and language situation.

Make sure to check out my page with a budget breakdown for over 30 cities in Spain before you make the move to help plan expenses. Seriously, I spent over a month collecting all that data and building it up as a resource. Share the love.


regions in Spain

Auxiliar program: yes, with many spots

Notable cities: Seville, Granada, Córdoba, Málaga, Almería, Huelva, Jaén and Cádiz

Paid on time: Depends, Andalucía is a huge region with thousands of auxuliars, the payments depend on where the funding comes from, and some people will be paid on time, others not, and some schools will lend money while others can’t

Language: Spanish, though Andalucía is famous for it’s very thick accent, andalú, it can be challenging when you first arrive, even knowing Spanish. I lived in Spain for a year and spoke Spanish fluently and I struggled my first few months in Córdoba

Thoughts: Andalucía is a popular choice for the auxiliares because it’s seen as “traditional” Spain, with flamenco, bull fights, the ferias and Semana Santa. It is known for being more laid back than the rest of Spain but it is also seen as “lazy and poor” by others. At the risk of being called a racist blogger (again) Andalucía is rather known for it’s gypsy/Romano population. Many people love living there, it is very beautiful and there are many amazing cities and festivals to experience; seriously, they know how to party in the south. I have written a lot of posts about Andalucía and living in Córdoba though ultimately I preferred living in the north; it felt more modern, at least in my opinion. Córdoba, Sevilla and Málaga are all on the high-speed AVE train line which means you can get to Madrid in around 2 hours and there are airports in Málaga and Sevilla.

Read more: 5 Reasons to Go to Southern Spain

Castilla la Mancha

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: No, they cut it last year because of funding issues in 2012

Notable cities: Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Toledo

Language: Spanish, easy to understand

Thoughts: Castilla la Mancha is the land of windmills and Don Quijote, vast and sprawling, it is home to beautiful cities and is very historical. Toledo is one of my favorite places in Spain, and worth a trip there, no matter where you are living. It’s on the high-speed AVE train line that connects Madrid to the south coast.

Read more: Photo Friday: Castilla la Mancha


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Noble cities: Murcia

Paid on time: No, late every year, and very very late at that, totally inconsistent

Language: Spanish with a heavy accent typical of Andalucía and southern Spain, dropping “s”s and slurring words together.

Thoughts: I haven’t been to Murcia nor have I heard much about it. They seem to have many problems with the auxiliar program there and many people leave early, huge payment problems. I feel like it gets a bad reputation and I am sure there are many people who like it. It is very traditional with beautiful beaches and the ancient city of Cartagena is worth a visit and the people are very welcoming, something very typical in southern Spain and in less tourist-trafficked destinations. It is close to the airport in Alicante for travel and near Almería and the beautiful remote beaches of southeast Spain.

Read more: Why I Hate the Auxiliar Program-there is a long comment in there about someone who lived in Murcia and the problems she had there. I have nothing nor know of any blog posts about Murcia. Anyone got any links to share?


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Notable cities: Badajoz, Cáceres, and Mérida

Paid on time: Late but sometimes the schools would advance payment, depending where you are placed.

Langauge: Spanish with a very heavy accent distinct to this region, known as extremeño.

Thoughts: One of the lesser known regions in Spain, it is very traditional and beautiful. It’s right next to Portugal and between Madrid, Castilla y León and Andalucía which means you are well situated to travel around Spain. It’s central and unknown, so if you are looking to blend in and have an authentic year abroad without lots of foreigners, Extremadura is the place for you.

Read more: 10 Reasons Why I Love Caceres from the infamous Will Peach


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: No, they cut it last year because of funding issues

Notable cities: Valencia and Alicante

Langauge: Spanish and Valencian. Spanish is spoken everywhere but they also speak a local dialect called Valencian, similar to Catalán.

Thoughts: Valencia is a very cool city and it was a very popular choice for the program before it was cut, mostly second-years were placed there. It even has a Starbucks (swoon)! Famous for its fire festival in the spring (Las Fallas) and its beaches in the summer along with its paella, Valencia is a beloved city in Spain. Unfortunately it is extremely corrupt and in huge debt problems along with Cataluña which is one reason why it was cut.

Read more: Check out Zach’s blog, Not Hemingway’s Spain, an expat living in Valencia for more info


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, huge program, only region that requires 16 hr work weeks and offers 1000 euro monthly stipend, also starts Oct. 1 and ends June 30 instead of May 31.

Notable cities: Madrid and Alcalá de Henares. Madrid is both a city and a region, so you might have to commute

Paid on time: Yes for the most part. Some funding comes from different sources, so some people have been paid late, but for the most part, people are paid on time

Language: Spanish. The Spanish spoken in Madrid is easy to understand and some of the most “typical” Spanish you will hear around Spain.

Thoughts: the cost of living is higher in Madrid but you are paid more which evens it out. Barajas airport is there so you can fly all over Europe cheaply and easily. Madrid is a beautiful city with a lot to do and see, and there are lots of young people there now because of the job market and studying. It’s a great place to be located in Spain but there are also a lot of Americans and tourists there which can downsize your hopes for a truly “local” experience. It’s so big that you can find your niche.

Read more: Expat interviews with Lauren from Spanish Sabores and Casey from Gee, Cassandra

Castilla y León

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, also starts Sept. 15 and ends June 15 instead of October 1-May 31.

Notable cities: Salamanca, Valladolid, Segovia, Burgos and León

Paid on time: Yes, this year they paid 3 months late.

Language: this is the region that is where modern Spanish was born, so it’s very easy and clear to understand everyone. It’s a great region to learn Spanish though it is known for having people who are “cold” whatever that means. Salamanca is a big university town, and I had the time of my life studying there from 2007-2008. It is close enough to commute to Madrid and also Portugal and the north and there are many beautiful cities and castles there. The famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage runs through northern Castilla y León. This is a great region to “go native.”

Read more: about Castilla y León here


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes with plenty of spots

Notable cities: Santiago de Compostela, Vigo, Orense and La Coruña

Paid on time: yes

Languages: Spanish and Gallego. The Spanish spoken here is very musical because of the Gallego and Portuguese influence. Gallego is one of the official languages in Spain and it’s a romance language which means it’s not too hard to pick up. There are bilingual schools.

Thoughts: Many people chose Galicia as their third choice or get placed there by as a last resort. I think it’s because Galicia is simply so far from the rest of Spain. It’s a pain in the ass to get there but it’s worth it. There are several airports, and you can even fly into Porto, Portugal just south of the border, which is a beautiful place. Galicia is known as the Ireland or UK of Spain because it’s very verdant and green. It rains a lot but the coast is beautiful and the food is great. It is also very cheap. I have heard nothing but good things about the auxiliar program in Galicia. Whoever is in charge knows what they are doing and it sounds like the best organized region of the bunch.

Read more: About Alisa’s experience as an expat in Galicia


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, small amount admitted, competitive. Most people here are 2nd years

Notable cities: Oviedo and Gijón

Paid on time: Yes as far as I know

Langauge: Spanish

Thoughts: I would live in Asturias if I had the chance and I haven’t even been there! It’s supposed to be an amazing little region, very green and mountainous with the famous Picos de Europa mountain chain on it’s south side and then a rugged, beautiful coastline. The only downside is just how far it is from everything else, it’s very isolated. For the most part, the best food in Spain can be found in the north (in my humble opinion) and Asturias is well-known for their food and their hard cider. Also, Vicky Christina Barcelona, anyone?

Read more: Jessica from Hola Yessica’s take on Oviedo and Gijón


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Notable cities: Santander

Paid on time: as far as I know, yes

Language: Spanish

Thoughts: Beaches and cows, that’s what I think of when I think of Cantabria. It’s a small region that is also overlooked but I’ve driven along the coast there, and it’s beautiful. There are green forests, mountains and beautiful seaside towns. it’s also smack in the middle of many other beautiful cities like Oviedo, Bilbao and Burgos. It also has an airport.

Read more: Erik’s an expat in Cantabria, check out his blog for more info

Pais Vasco

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Notable cities: Bilbao and San Sebastián

Paid on time: Paid in three month stints, once in the beginning of December, in March and in May.

Thoughts: I LOVE the Basque Country! Great food, interesting culture and history, nice people and a beautiful landscape. Seriously, it’s one of the most beautiful regions in Spain with lots to see and do. It’s more expensive than other regions but it’s manageable and you make more money giving private English lessons. San Sebastián is one of my favorite cities in Spain, and it’s right next to France so you can easily travel around the north. Bilbao has a major airport and is a fun city on its own. The Basque country is industrialized and modern.

Check out my friend Liz’s guide of why you should chose to live here.

Language: Spanish and Basque (Euskera). There are two official languages in the Basque Country, so all signs, many schools, ect are bilingual. Basque is unrelated to any other language in the world which means it’s very difficult to learn, read and pronounce but it’s very interesting and very cool to learn about. Everyone speaks Spanish, only in the remote villages will be Basque be spoken predominantly, so you don’t really have to be concerned about learning it since everyone speaks Spanish

La Rioja

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Notable cities: Logroño

Paid on time: No, but most of the time the schools advanced the money to the auxiliars

Language: Spanish, easy to learn, the “typical” Spanish is spoken here

Thoughts: I love La Rioja, end of story. A tiny region smack in the middle of northern Spain, it’s sandwiched between many of the great northern cities, Pamplona, Bilbao, San Seb, Zaragoza. It’s very beautiful here with all the vineyards and mountains and it’s very cheap to live there. The downside is it’s a 4 hour bus ride to Madrid and the trains up there aren’t all that great. There are lots of buses that are cheap and easy to get around. Logroño was named the gastronomic capital of Spain last year so the food there will blow your mind. I can’t say enough good things about La Rioja.

Read more: My Rioja posts are here and many articles I’ve written about it here.


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: No, they have their own auxiliar program geared mostly towards Brits.

Notable cities: Pamplona

Languages: Spanish and Basque, schools are bilingual, has the most advanced language learning programs in Spain and Europe, most schools teach 4 languages, highly educated kids here

Thoughts: I love Navarra, it’s one of my favorite regions. Most people only go to Pamplona during San Fermín in the summer, which is a very fun and debauched festival, but there are many other lovely places to visit in this region too. It’s very diverse because of the Basque influence and the landscape is awesome because it’s at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. It’s near a lot of great northern cities but far from Madrid and Barcelona.

Read more: Here are all my Navarra posts


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, small amount admitted, competitive

Notable cities: Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel

Paid on time: Yes, as far as I know

Language: Spanish, clear no heavy accent

Thoughts: I’ve been to Aragón half a dozen times and I really love. Zaragoza is a big city in Spain and completely overlooked by tourists. It’s a great modern region to be based, with big cities and you can fit right in with the locals without huge crowds of tourists. Zaragoza has an airport and it’s on the high speed AVE train line between Madrid and Barcelona so you can get around Spain quick. Zaragoza and Aragón are a great place to have a very integrated, “Spanish” year abroad.

Read more: I wrote about Zaragoza here


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: No, they cut it last year because of funding issues

Notable cities: Barcelona, Girona Lérida, and Tarragona

Langauge: Spanish and Catalán, Catalán is one of the official languages in Spain. Unlike the other bilingual regions, people here speak Catalán for the most part and some people can be rather haughty about it and not want to speak Spanish to you.

Thoughts: I’m not the biggest fan of Barcelona but I love Cataluña. It is a very magical region that’s very different from the rest of Spain, hence the strong separatist movement. There are lots of little towns and the Costa Brava will blow your mind it’s so pretty. Ultimately it doesn’t feel like the rest of Spain which can be both positive and negative, depending on what you are looking for.

Read more: I stayed in Girona for the TBEX travel blogging conference in September and fell in love with this smaller city. I also stayed in Besalú for a few days at the BlogHouse. Read about Barcelona here and here.

Las Islas Baleares 

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, small amount admitted

Notable cities: Palma de Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza

Paid on time: Yes as far as I know

Langauges: Spanish and Catalán

Thoughts: I spent a weekend in Mallorca 5 years ago and I can’t wait to go back one day. Crowded mostly during the summer months, the Balearic Islands are equally as beautiful in winter. Lots of foreigners living on these islands but they have their own unique culture and language thanks to the Catalán influence. There are regular flights to the peninsula and around Europe, and the cost of living is only a little higher than the rest of Spain.

Read more: Casey has spent some time in Mallorca, see what she’s got to say about it on her blog Gee, Cassandra

Las Islas Canarias

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Not for Americans, only British Council teachers are placed in the Canary Islands

Notable cities: Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma

Languages: Spanish, though it’s such a big destination and beach capital, most people speak English along with German and many other European languages because of the tourists and expats there.

Thoughts: The Canary Islands are a very popular beach destination in Spain, warm all year round, though living there all year round might be more challenging to some. It’s a solid 3 hours flight from Madrid, which is hefty if you want to travel a lot, though many of those flights are on budget airlines. I’m not a beach destination traveler, but I totally fell in love with Lanzarote when I went for a long weekend last February. Definitely a great weekend getaway from Europe, especially in winter.

Read more: I spent a long weekend in Lanzarote, read about it here.

*Images for Valencia, Extremadura, Asturias, and Murcia came from my Wander Pinterest board

*Funny Spain may source

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128 Comments on “A Guide to the Regions in Spain for Auxiliares de Conversación

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  1. Hey Liz,

    First of all, I want to say thank you for taking the time to compile such an extensive and well-researched piece about all of the different regions! Even though I think I have my mind made up about my picks, your photos are inspiring me to get to some new regions before my first year ends!

    Anyway, I am writing to ask you a question that you may or may not have the answer to — but am hoping that you can help me out:

    So, here’s the situation: I am a current auxiliar and am stressing out a bit about my renovación. Surprise, surprise, my school director is taking forever to get my recommendation form back to me despite having asked for it right when we got back from break. I was hoping to have it ready to go by the time the application period opened, but alas, I must wait a bit longer it seems.

    I am wondering if you know about how many auxiliares sign up to renew their contracts each year? I am eager to get a good number (as I was able to last year — and get my first choice region) and am getting nervous that my chances are dwindling to successfully change to my new first pick as other auxiliares are renewing ahead of me.

    Have you heard from other second years about their renovaciones and how often they ended up getting their first pick if they were trying to switch into to a new region? Do you think that it will help that I’m not applying for the most popular ones?

    Well, thanks in advance and keep up the good work with the auxiliares posts. I only wish I could have seen your site sooner when I was applying for the first time last year — confused by nearly everything about the process! Although, I did see when I was googling “auxiliares de conversación” today — truly the only way I ever find the right link to Profex — that Young Adventuress comes up within the top few hits! Way to go, hopefully other prospective auxiliares are getting linked to your blog before they decide to commit to this somewhat arduous and complex application process!

    Best, Olivia

    1. Hi Olivia, thanks for comment!

      Don’t stress out, 2nd years get priority so you are almost guaranteed to get your first pick. They place all of the second years before they place any first years or third year renewals. Also I think you can fill out everything online and submit the papers later, right? I can’t remember. Pressure on your coordinator but don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get your first choice. Just make sure it’s not one of the regions that was cut last year.

      Hope this helps and feel free to email me with questions, dudas, o preguntas — [email protected]

    2. Hi Olivia!

      I just wanted to comment that there is no need to stress! I completed my application to reapply VERY late last year (I don’t think my school even forwarded it to me until a month after the application period opened, this year it was sent to me directly). The portion that the director had to fill out was pretty minimal, so check and make sure s/he knows what to do if they’re taking a long time!

      In spite of applying late, I was still assigned a region and given my preference at the end of May, at the same time as all the other auxiliares that I knew. (My preferences were 1.Cataluñia, 2.Valencia, 3.País Vasco, so actually after having been initially assigned Cataluñia, I was switched to País Vasco when they closed the program in the other regions, but they clearly made the effort to give me my choice.)

  2. Well done, Liz! Love this so much.

    I reapplied yesterday (inscrita 5, woo) but chickened out and put Andalucia as my first preference again 😛 I had some thoughts about heading up north but I just love the south so much. I’m dreaming of being placed in my beloved Granada again.

    I plan on visiting the north a lot though! I think I will do less international traveling this time around and try to see more of Spain. I need to see the Basque Country and joder, I have lived in Spain twice now and have never been to Castilla y León! For shame!

    PS I put La Rioja as my second choice, thanks to this blog 😛

    1. If you love Andalucia, stick around! I loved it but I was dreaming about the north the whole time I was in Cordoba. Definitely check out the north, it’s really amazing!

      OMG you picked La Rioja as a choice because of my blog??!?!! that made my day 😀

  3. Wow, I find you chart incredibly insulting, and what’s worse, you seem to genuinely find it an accurate or humorous representation of Spain.

    1. Hi Sophie, I don’t remember saying that I “genuinely find it an accurate or humorous representation of spain”

      It’s also not my chart, but go ahead with your self-perceived notions of my stereotyping the various autonomous communities of Spain.

      Did you find the rest of my 3000+ word article insulting as well?

      I hope not because I worked forever on it hoping to provide future auxiliars a glimpse into the different communities to help them chose.

      Ultimately I hope people find this article helpful 🙂

  4. Wow, chica, you really did your homework! I thought this was such a thorough post; there was plenty of info I didn’t know about the way the program worked in other autonomias. I didn’t know, for example, that British Council auxiliares could be placed in Las Canarias.

    I had a terrific experience in Madrid with this program and agree that the city has a lot to offer. (International jet-setting, nightlife, museums, and intercambios, anyone?) If I had to choose another region, it’d def be in the north–Basque Country, Galicia, Asturias etc.

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