Know Before You Go: Where to Live in Rota, Spain
by Lizann Lightfoot - August 31st, 2022
This article is part of our "Know Before You Go" series, which contains useful information for military families moving to overseas duty stations. This is an excerpt from the book, Welcome to Rota, written by Lizann Lightfoot. Lizann is now the Content Editor for PCSgrades and has approved the sharing of this chapter, originally called "Housing Options."
NS Rota Base Housing
If you are interested in living on base, you can begin your housing application before you move here. Use the Housing Early Application Tool (HEAT) to get in touch with the Housing Office and let them know your interest. Wait times for base housing vary greatly depending on family size, number of families PCSing, and number of families arriving.
Even though base housing is located at one edge of base, many people bike, run, or ride a motorcycle/moped to work, since the commute is only a few miles. The Commissary, NEX, and most other services are centrally located, so they are all 1-2 miles from the housing area.
The DoD school is located in the center of the housing area. There are numerous parks and playgrounds scattered throughout housing, and an outdoor swimming pool which is open during the summer months. There is also a base shuttle bus which runs through base housing to major points of interest on base during morning and afternoon work transit times.
Base housing is available to all military families, but you will qualify for certain areas of housing based on rank and family size. All houses include a full kitchen, complete with stove/oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, and microwave provided by the housing office. Houses are also equipped with a laundry washer and dryer, as well as central heat and air conditioning.
Water in Rota is safe to drink from the tap, and tests are conducted on base yearly to ensure water quality meets American as well as Spanish standards. (Water does not contain Fluoride, so you can either purchase bottled water with Fluoride added, or the base Dentist can prescribe Fluoride drops for your children.)
Maintenance of the house, common spaces, and all appliances is overseen by the base housing office, and repairs are made at no cost to military personnel. However, you are responsible for the maintenance of your lawn and outdoor space. If you do not bring lawn equipment, you can borrow it for free from the Self Help office, or hire a maintenance company.
All base housing has tile floors throughout the house, and tile walls in the kitchen and bathroom areas. There are pre-mounted curtain rods and towel racks. You are not allowed to drill into the tile walls, but you can drill into the concrete walls in other areas of the house. So do not bring any shelves or mounting pieces for the bathroom or kitchen, but DO bring your own curtains and rugs, because you will want them. The housing comes with pre-installed rolling blinds called persianas so you do not need to bring any window shades or shutters.
There are two areas of base housing. Las Palmeras houses were originally built in the 1960’s as duplex structures, but some are currently being renovated, so many are now spacious 3 or 4-bedroom houses, while others are still small 2-or 3-bedroom duplexes. All are single story concrete structures with fenced-in backyards. Las Palmeras is the location of the base school and housing pool, and is closer to most base locations.
Las Flores housing was built in the 1980’s as 2-story townhouses. Most have 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The structures have seen some aging, and a rolling renovation schedule is planned for the next few years. Housing layouts for enlisted and officer floor plans are available in the Naval Station Rota Welcome Aboard packet.
Living off-base near NS Rota
Many Americans prefer to rent a house or apartment in town, on the local economy. If you choose to live off-base, you will receive an Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) to cover the cost of rent and utilities. This is calculated differently than BAH. You can begin your house search before you move by contacting the base Housing Office and asking for a list of their approved local realtors. There are numerous other realtors in the area, who have not made the Housing Office waiting list.
Once you arrive, you will be provided temporary lodging for one month to allow you to find housing off-base. The Housing Office will conduct a briefing when you first arrive, lead you on house-hunting trips, and assist you in understanding lease agreements. Take the time to walk through potential neighborhoods and get to know the area before you make a choice.
It is common for Spanish homes to have bars on the windows and be surrounded by high fences. These are not signs of a high-crime neighborhood. Violent crime is low in Southern Spain, but petty theft is quite common, so objects left in unlocked cars or unsecured porches and yards are always at risk. The homes are quite beautiful, often with swimming pools or gardens, although in general yards are small.
Be sure to ask practical questions about your landlord or potential property: how will it be heated in winter and cooled in summer? How does the water heater/solar panel/ butano bottle system work? How and where do you get butano (gas) refills? What are average monthly utility bills? What responsibilities will you, the tenant, have for landscaping or general upkeep? Where is the nearest grocery store or market? (usually within walking distance). Pets of all sizes are usually welcome in Spanish homes, but it is good to ask about pet policies.
To rent a home or set up a Spanish bank account or utilities, you will first need to acquire an N.I.E. This is an identification number used for foreigners, and can be acquired at the Security Office on base. You will need to first go to the Banco Popular with exact change. Banco Popular will give you a receipt. Then go to the base Security Office. Show them the receipt, your passport, your military I.D., and your Spanish I.D. card. The N.I.E. takes 2-4 weeks to receive, so apply for it as soon as you arrive.