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being an auxiliar / NALCAP series

Guide to Spain’s regions for auxiliares de conversación

A map showing the northeast area of Spain and part of France on a globe. Spain is yellow and France is green.

Picking your desired placement is a must when it comes to participating in a teaching abroad gig like NALCAP or other auxilar de conversación programs. Spain’s regions are diverse in their languages, climate, culture, and infrastructure. Picking the right one is a big decision, especially when there’s 17 autonomous regions and 2 autonomous cities to choose from. And if you’re applying to NALCAP, then you’ve got to pick your top three for the application.

So I’ve put together this post about the aux pay, climate, language(s), and the ‘togetherness’ of the program (like being paid on time!) in each region. Hence why this post is so long!

Strap in and grab a notebook. Time to pick where to live for the next year!

Andalucía (Andalusia)

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First down the region alphabet is the beautiful Andalucía

Basics: Andalucía the southernmost autonomous region out of Spain’s regions and the most populated. It is the second-largest in physical size. It has a pretty intense tourist presence in the bigger cities such as Granada, Málaga, and Sevilla.

Major cities: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga, and Sevilla

Languages: Spanish is Andalucía’s language. But keep in mind: Andaluz people tend to have really strong accents. I thought I was conversationally fluent in Spanish due to my involvement in Latin American immigrant education in the States, but when I arrived in Sevilla for my study abroad gig, I couldn’t understand a word they said.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers around 1,150 auxiliar de conversación positions in Andalucía.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Andalucía is notoriously hot in the summer, and that’s an understatement. Many residents flee north during June to August because of the summer heat. At one point during my studies in July, Sevilla got to be almost 115 degrees Fahrenheit / 46 degrees Celsius!

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Payment punctuality: Unfortunately, Andalucía has had minor issues in paying their auxes on time. It can vary by province or even city, or whether you are in a ministry-run position or Junta-run. I am with the Junta in my current (first) aux year in Sevilla! However, late payments are usually by only a couple of weeks in the few instances that this has happened, but a few auxes have reported not being paid until January. This is why budgeting for late payments is recommended!

My experience in Andalucía: I lived in Sevilla during my study abroad program and then again for the aux program. Like I mentioned above, it was insanely hot. If I hadn’t fallen in love with Sevilla’s culture and accent during my study abroad period, I would have not returned since I don’t tolerate heat well. However, the people are very friendly and the culture of Andalucía is incredible, so I knew I had to return to teach.


Recommended content:

Check out my TikTok for videos on my experiences in this region


Aragón

Next, the northern region of Aragón!

Basics: Aside from its major cities, Aragón is mostly rural. It has a lower-than-average population density. Aragón has fantastic nature scenes that are perfect for hiking through, and the villages are beautiful! Most of its placements are in the major cities.

Major cities: Zaragoza and Huesca

Languages: Spanish. Aragón’s accent is not difficult to understand.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers about 60 auxiliar de conversación positions in Aragón.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Aragón can get cold in the fall and winter, but the summers are pretty nice. It’s hot, but not very hot, and certainly not as hot as Andalucía, which is considered one of the hottest of Spain’s regions.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Aragón, so if you’re nervous about money, Aragón is a good choice if you want prompt payment.

Asturias

The beautiful northern Asturias!

Basics: This coastal region borders Galicia, Cantabria, and Castilla y León! It is very green and has many opportunities for nature-lovers to hike and see the scenery.

Major cities: Gijón and Oviedo

Languages: Spanish is Asturias’ primary language, but some locals also speak Asturiano. Some of Spain’s regions have another common local language they speak along with Spanish, and Asturias is one of them. Unlike some other regions where the local dialect is spoken in schools, it is not as popular here in the educational system.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers only about 25 auxiliar de conversación positions in Asturias. However, the program likes to prioritize second year participants being able to claim this region as their placement.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Like most of North Spain’s regions, Asturias is known to be pretty rainy, especially in the winter. But the summer months are described as gorgeous. Keep an umbrella handy at any time and some waterproof layers in the winter!

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Asturias, so if you’re nervous about money, Asturias is a good choice. But keep in mind that usually only second years get this region!

Cantabria

Cantabria is another beautiful northern region.

Basics: Cantabria is one of the smallest of Spain’s regions, and it is right next to País Vasco. It is a great choice for those wanting to experience city life but also get to see some greenery. From what other auxes claim, there’s plentiful places to see nature and hike. This region was one of my top 3 region choices on my NALCAP application.

Major city: Santander

Languages: Spanish is the only language spoken in Cantabria, and the northern accent is clear and easy to understand.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers about 76 auxiliar de conversación positions in Cantabria.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Like other Northern regions, Cantabria can be pretty gloomy and rainy. However, the seasons aren’t extreme, so you can experience pretty nice winters and tolerable summers.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Cantabria, so if you’re nervous about money, this region is a good choice if you want prompt payment.

Castilla-La Mancha

Castilla-La Mancha is one of Spain’s rural central regions.

Basics: Castilla-La Mancha is one of the larger lands of Spain’s regions, but it is mostly rural. It surrounds most of Madrid. Due to the rural landscape, you will experience fantastic pueblo life! However, it makes traveling to other parts of the continent difficult, but definitely not impossible. Past auxes talk about how pretty this rural region is.

Major cities: Albacete, Ciudad Real, Guadalajara, Talavera de la Reina, and Toledo

Languages: Spanish is the only language spoken in Castilla-La Mancha, and the accent is actually quite clear and easy to understand.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers 40 auxiliar de conversación positions in Castilla-La Mancha.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: The seasons here are considered quite extreme; very hot summers and freezing winters. It rarely rains here but frost and occasional snow happen in winter.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Castilla-La Mancha, so if you’re nervous about money, this is a good choice if you want prompt payment.

Castilla y León

Next, the huge region of Castilla y León!

Basics: This huge region has a lot to offer in terms of climate diversity and cost of living. Auxes like this area because the cost of living is relatively low and you get to experience the small city life. However, much of Castilla y León isn’t connected to the rest of Spain or Europe, so frequent travelers might want to pick another region.

Major cities: Ávila, Burgos, León, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, and Valladolid

Languages: Spanish is the only language spoken here and its accent is clear and easy to understand.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers about 105 auxiliar de conversación positions in Castilla y León.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Like Castilla-La Mancha, the seasons here are considered quite extreme; very hot summers and freezing winters. It rarely rains here but frost and snow may happen in winter.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Castilla y León, so if you’re nervous about money, this region is a good choice if you want prompt payment.

Cataluña / Catalonia

The popular region of Cataluña!

Basics: This region’s most well-known city is Barcelona. Cataluña gets to claim having the second biggest population in Spain!

Major cities: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Sabadell, Tarrangona, Terrassa

Languages: Spanish and Catalán. Catalán is a very dominant language in Cataluña. Cataluña, like País Vasco, considered itself its own country with its own language and culture. There are even groups that are pushing for Cataluña’s independence from Spain! If you are placed in this region, you’ll need to learn Catalán to help settle yourself into Cataluñan life and adapt to the ways of the locals. Be aware: Cataluña is not always a region option for NALCAP! Historically, Cataluña has not taken any auxiliars in some of their years and the option was not available in your NALCAP application in Profex.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers only about 22 auxiliar de conversación positions in Cataluña. These positions, when available, are always snatched by second years since they get priority. If you are a first year (or further down the food chain in 3rd year), don’t hold out hope that you’ll get this region.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, I think the pay could be 800€ for 16 hours of work, but I cannot find any information on it.

Climate: Cataluña’s climate is very diverse. Some areas closer to the coast have warmer summers, while northern areas see frequent snows around the Pyrenees. I encourage you to look further into Cataluña’s climite yourself depending on your desired or placed city.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Cataluña recently, but in previous years, people have reported serious problems.

Extremadura

Bordering Portugal, Andalucía, and las Castillas is Extremadura!

Basics: Extremadura is pretty rural, but the architecture is beautiful! This jewel of Spain’s regions was a significant filming location for the series Game of Thrones. It is perfect for those wanting smaller town life. Despite the rural infrastructure, this region is not boring. The cost of living is super low and the people are very friendly. It’s the perfect region to immerse yourself in the culture and learn the language.

Major cities: Badajoz, Cáceres, Mérida

Languages: Spanish is the only language spoken in Extremadura.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers 65 auxiliar de conversación positions in Extremadura. Sometimes this region has trouble filling the aux positions because it is not a sought-after region. This can be an amazing region for you!

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 935€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Summers are hot and dry and winters can be rainy but tolerable.

Payment punctuality: Historically, Extremadura has been great with prompt payments, but recently, some auxes have experienced short delays in their payments. These delays haven’t been more than 2-4 weeks.

Galicia

Galicia, famously known for the Camino de Santiago!

Basics: Galicia is home to the famous Camino de Santiago. This region has fantastic seafood and beautiful landscapes. The quality of life in this region is amazing and it is beloved by the aux community.

Major cities: A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense, Santiago de Compostela, Vigo

Languages: Spanish and Gallego. Gallego is a prominent language spoken in Galicia, and it is very common as it is spoken in schools and required for the public workforce. While it is absolutely possible to learn Spanish in Galicia, you’ll have a lot of fun focusing on Gallego!

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers around 200 auxiliar de conversación positions in Galicia.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 935€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Galicia is known for its rainy climate. If you select this region, bring an umbrella and a stylish rain poncho. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing but Galicia does get snow between November and May. Galicia is not one of the hot places out of Spain’s regions, making it a great choice for those who don’t mind the rain.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Galicia, so if you’re nervous about money, rainy Galicia is a great choice if you want prompt payment!

La Rioja

La Rioja is a tiny but mighty region!

Basics: La Rioja has notable wine and festivals. In fact, La Rioja is one of the most popular regions due to its gastronomy scene. The food is amazing and the quality and cost of living is incredible. There’s plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, sports, and other physical activity. One thing to note is that La Rioja is not accessible by plane. You will have to land in Madrid or Bilbao. This tiny region was one of my top 3 region choices on my NALCAP application.

Major cities: Logroño

Languages: Spanish is the only language of La Rioja. The accent is clear and easy to understand, and the small town life makes learning much easier and more authentic.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers only about 46 auxiliar de conversación positions in La Rioja. These positions are usually claimed by second years since they get priority selection in the Spain’s regions section of the application.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: The climate is continental. Winters are windy here and it doesn’t get very hot in the summer. La Rioja gets some rain occasionally, but the north receives more than the south.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in La Rioja, so if you’re nervous about money, this little region is a good choice if you want prompt payment.

Las Islas Baleares / Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands– home to Ibiza!

Basics: These Mediterranean islands are home to the famous Ibiza. The other three main islands are Formentera, Mallorca, and Menorca. The weather is great but because you are on the islands, it can feel a bit restrictive or confining due to limited transport methods to get to the mainland. Vacation homes and AirBNB have driven up the cost of living on these islands, so be prepared to budget if you don’t have savings to use during your year.

Major cities: Calvia, Eivissa Vila/Ibiza, Manacor, and Palma de Mallorca

Languages: Spanish and Catalán are the two languages widely spoken in Las Islas Baleares.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers around 145 auxiliar de conversación positions in Las Islas Baleares. You are more likely to get placed on one of the smaller islands like Menorca than Mallorca.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Temperatures can get pretty high in the summer like most of Spain’s regions. Luckily, the availability of beaches makes it easy to take time to cool off and enjoy the sun. Winters don’t get too chilly, so for winter-weather lovers (like me), these islands may not be the best choice!

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Las Islas Baleares, so if you’re nervous about money, this is a good choice if you want prompt payment.

Las Islas Canarias / Canary Islands

These famous islands are in the far south, making mainland voyages a bit difficult.

Basics: These islands are off the Moroccan coast and are known by fruit connoisseurs for their bananas. The surfing scene is pretty big and the diversity of landscapes draws thousands of people to the islands every year.

Major cities: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Languages: Spanish is the most spoken language in the Canarias, but you may find other languages spoken here and there due to the abundance of tourism. It may be difficult to get the true Spanish immersion you’re hoping for if you’re looking to be fluent.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers about 60 auxiliar de conversación positions in the Canary Islands. However, sometimes these islands have not participated in the aux program. Make sure you have a backup option if they aren’t participating during the year you’re applying for.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: The weather is pretty great all year round, hence the prosperity of the surfing scene. The winters aren’t very cold at all, and the summers don’t get blindingly hot like some regions. (I’m looking at you, Andalucía!)

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in the Canaries, so if you’re nervous about money, these islands are a good choice if you want prompt payment. Just be sure they are participating this year!

Madrid

Next, the famous central region of the Comunidad de Madrid!

Basics: There’s Madrid the city and then there’s the region that houses it: la Comunidad de Madrid. This means that placements in this region aren’t just in the city. You could be placed in a pueblo far from the city. But this doesn’t mean you won’t have fun! Madrid’s pueblos historically have given auxes fantastic experiences, so much so that people often renew in their towns. Check out My Travel BF’s post about teaching as an aux in Madrid.

Major cities: Madrid

Languages: Spanish is the only language spoken in the Community of Madrid. The accent is pretty clear and easy to understand. Madrid is a great place to immerse yourself in the language, especially if you’re in a pueblo.

Number of NALCAP positions: Despite its smaller size, NALCAP currently offers about 1,025 auxiliar de conversación positions in Madrid, making it a popular choice for auxes. If you pick Madrid as your first choice, the probability of getting a placement here is very high unless you applied pretty late.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 1000€ for 16 hours of work. But don’t let the higher pay fool you: this is because Madrid is considered one of the priciest places to live in Spain other than Barcelona, especially in the city center. Be prepared to budget or eat through your savings!

Climate: Madrid summers are pretty dry and kinda hot, with winter precipitation being common. Higher altitudes in this region get more wind and colder temperatures. Winters can get pretty cold but they’re not terrible.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Madrid, so if you’re nervous about money, this is a good choice if you want prompt payment.

Murcia

This coastal region Murcia is smaller but incredibly fun.

Basics: This small region on the Mediterranean coast has been given very positive reviews by past and current auxes. However, it isn’t very connected to the rest of Spain’s regions, making traveling difficult but doable. Murcia isn’t a very popular tourist destination, so learning Spanish will be an easy experience once you’re accustomed to the accent. The cost of living here is very nice, making it a good deal for your dollar when it comes to being paid as an aux!

Major cities: Cartagena, Murcia

Languages: Spanish is Murcia’s only language, but like Andalucía, the accent is thick and very difficult to understand.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers around 81 auxiliar de conversación positions in Murcia.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: Summers are nicely warm and winters are mild. There’s little rain in this region every month outside of April and October, when it can rain pretty heavily.

Payment punctuality: Currently, there haven’t been notable reports of late payments in Murcia. However, the program in Murcia has had difficulties in the past.

The beautiful northern region of Navarra is right on the border near the Pyrenees!

Basics: Navarra, known for the running of the bulls, is home to big cities and tiny pueblos. It is a very small region and is very rural in most places in the region. In the aux program, you’re likely to be placed in a pueblo. However, the cost of living is very nice and it’s easy to get to other parts of Spain.

Major cities: Pamplona

Languages: Spanish and Euskera/Basque are the primary languages. Euskera is more popular in the pueblos but is spoken anywhere in Navarra.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP only offers on average a mere 4 auxiliar de conversación positions in Navarra! This means that this is one of the hardest of Spain’s regions to get into, especially if you aren’t a second-year.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work.

Climate: There’s rain year-round. Summers are hot (but not as hot as those in Andalucía) and winters are cold.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in Navarra, so if you’re lucky enough to be placed there, you’ll be very happy with the prompt payment.

País Vasco / Basque Country

The wonderful País Vasco with it’s Euskera language and unique culture!

Basics: País Vasco is one of Northern Spain’s regions, and it is the most populous and most visited region in this area. Cultural identity is very important to this region, with many groups pushing for this region’s independence from Spain. There’s a lot to do here, so you’ll never be bored. The region is diverse in landscape, beautiful, and green. You’ll be introduced to the famous pintxos while in País Vasco!

Major cities: Bilbao, San Sebastián, and Vitoria-Gasteiz

Languages: Euskera and Spanish are the prominent languages in País Vasco. Eukera is a very important part of this region’s culture. It’s pretty difficult to understand and to learn. However, it’s spoken more commonly in pueblos. You’ll still hear Spanish spoken everywhere.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers around 108 auxiliar de conversación positions in País Vasco.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work, but País Vasco is a relatively expensive region, so be prepared to watch your budget.

Climate: Winters are cold, sometimes snowy, and rainy, and rain is present year-round. Summers are warm and dry.

Payment punctuality: There are no notable reports of late payments in País Vasco, so if you’re nervous about money, this is a good choice if you want prompt payment.

Valencia

Valencia, beautiful but a dangerous choice for auxes.

ADVISED READING: NALCAP series: Why you should NEVER teach in Valencia!


Basics: This region is not an aux favorite, despite its beauty. The bureaucrats here absolutely despise the auxes and have been working hard to chase them out by withholding payments, mistreating them, and even sending them to schools that don’t exist. We advise you to not apply to this region. The aux community is boycotting this region.

Major cities: Alicante, Castellón de la Plana, Elche, Valencia

Languages: Spanish and Valenciana. Valenciana is a very popular language in this region, so be prepared to study both to have an easier time navigating life in this region.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers around 936 auxiliar de conversación positions in Valencia. But in some years, the program has been cancelled entirely in this region.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, the promised pay is 1000€ for 16 hours of work, but many go months without being paid in this region. I highly advise against picking this region, and refusing a placement if you are placed here.

Climate: The weather is pretty good here. Summers are hot and winters are mild. You’ll see rain in the spring and fall for the most part. This region is pretty big so the climate is diverse. You’ll need to research for specifics for wherever you are placed.

Payment punctuality: Don’t count on being paid on time. A vast majority of auxes in this region have reported not being paid for months, and then when the pay comes, the next payment is also delayed. If you’re tight on money, not a good budgeter, or easily anxious, Valencia is not the region for you!


Once again, I strongly recommend you read my post about Valencia’s problems:

ADVISED READING: NALCAP series: Why you should NEVER teach in Valencia!


Ceuta and Melilla

These two autonomous cities in Africa rarely participate in the aux program but are incredibly culturally diverse.

Basics: Ceuta and Melilla are not one of Spain’s regions. Rather, these two small cities are autonomous cities and are located on the African continent. They have a mix of Spanish and Arabic culture with other bits and pieces thrown in to create a wonderfully diverse culture.

Languages: Spanish and Darija Arabic are the two languages primarily spoken in Ceuta and Melilla.

Number of NALCAP positions: Currently, NALCAP offers a mere 2 auxiliar de conversación positions in these autonomous cities… But only when the cities participate in the program! Don’t hold out hope on teaching in one of these cities. Their appearance in the program is rare.

NALCAP payment and hours: As of 2023, I believe the pay is 800€ for 16 hours of work, but the scarce participation in the program has left me with little info to find on the pay.

Climate: These cities are hot and dry! Expect temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit / 37 degrees Celcius in these cities. Occasional rain happens but not often.

Payment punctuality: I assume that pay is on time for these cities because there isn’t any information to suggest otherwise. The few appearances these cities have made in the aux program have made research difficult!


Afterword

A huge thank you to My Travel BF and their 2020 post about the basics of each of Spain’s regions. This post was insanely helpful for my first application to NALCAP. I’m so glad to be able to update and expand on their post three years later! If you’re looking for more information about traveling in Spain and even living in Germany, check out their blog.

Keep in mind that while the aux salary is a livable wage if you budget right, many auxes pick up giving private classes to supplement their income. Consider a side hustle if you’re living in Spain as an auxiliar de conversación. You won’t regret it!

Until next time. 🙂

Beka

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