Useful Tips to Live in Spain
So, you’ve decided to come to Spain! The next step is preparing for your exciting new adventure. Feeling a little lost about where to begin and what you should know? Don’t worry! Here are some tips to live in Spain that will help you out.
Before you leave for Spain, here are some things you should definitely do with your bank in your home country:
Make sure you let your bank know you will be out of the country. Tell them that you will be in Spain, and any other countries you might travel to. Additionally, it is important to tell them for how long you will be away. You don’t want to get to Spain and pay for some delicious tapas, only to find out your transaction is blocked from your home country!
Another important tip to live in Spain is to make sure your cards, credit or debit, have the international chip. This will guarantee that you will have no problems paying when you don’t have cash on you.
Check with your bank to see what the international fees for taking out money at an ATM are in Spain. This will prevent any future “surprises” in your bank account, and you will have a better idea about the exchange rates. The Spanish bank fees differ from bank to bank; however, your own bank will most likely have a flat rate.
If your home country has another currency other than the euro, make sure your order some from your bank to bring with you before your trip. You’ll want to ensure you have some cash on you to pay for a taxi or bus if needed, or a snack at the airport.
You might want to consider opening up a Spanish bank account if you are staying in Spain for more than 3 months, or if you are planning to work there. With the Spanish student visa, you are allowed to work up to 20 hours. See the requirements for getting a Spanish student visa here. The most popular banks differ depending on the region, however these are the most common ones:
- La Caixa
To open up a bank account, you will need to bring your physical passport. You will need to present your NIE number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero), which will be on your Spanish student visa in your passport.
If you are not a member of the EU or don’t have an international phone plan, be sure to take the following into account before your trip:
Suspend Your Local Contract and Unlock Your Phone
If you are planning on getting a Spanish SIM card, check with your local provider to suspend your contract. This way, you won’t be paying for two phone plans at once. Next, you’ll want to unlock your phone so you can use an international SIM card. You can read up on how to do that here.
Alternatively, you can choose to remain with your local provider and get an international plan. Be sure to talk with them to see what your options are.
Research Spanish Phone Providers
In Spain, there are a lot of different phone providers that you can choose from. The most common are:
It’s important to investigate what plan would work best with your needs. You can sign up for a contact when you get to Spain and get the SIM card. Generally, the plans in Spain are a lot cheaper than countries like the USA. You’ll need your passport and/or NIE number to sign up for a contract.
The most common and easy way to communicate in Spain is by Whatsapp. You can text and make calls for free with this app when connected to wifi. This will not only be useful for talking with your new local friends, but also with your family and friends back home.
You’ll want to research a lot of topics before arriving to your new home. Here are a few basic tips to live in Spain based on the city you’ll be staying in:
Seeing the Sights
Make sure you thoroughly research the different monuments and historical sites in your city. This will allow you to take advantage of all that your city has to offer. You don’t want to leave at the end of your stay without experiencing the “must-sees”! Most major cities have city tour buses that are a great way to get acquainted with the city, and make a mental checklist of sights you want to return to.
What is the main method of transportation in your city? Is it the bus? Metro? Walking? Biking? It’s a good idea to look into this so you can be prepared. When you arrive to your new city, you will know if you need to invest more in comfortable walking shoes, a bus or metro card, or a bike.
Student or Youth Discount Cards
Most major cities will have some type of student or youth discount card that you can apply for. This will be extremely useful if you want to visit a lot of local attractions in your city and save money.
CUSTOMS AND CULTURE
When you first meet someone in your home country, what do you do? If you usually shake hands with someone, Spanish customs could be a bit of a culture shock. In Spain, it is customary to kiss the person you are meeting twice on the cheek. Furthermore, if you have plans to meet with a Spanish friend, chances are they are not going to arrive exactly on the decided time. Anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes late is considered “on time”.
PACKING FOR SPAIN
One of the biggest packing tips to live in Spain is that you should pack light. Pack things that can easily be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits; chances are you’re going to want to buy clothes in Spain anyways.
Backpack Carry On
If you are wishing to travel a lot during the weekends, or in general, it is recommended that you bring a backpack to use as a carry on. This will be extremely useful, as you won’t have to check a bag for a short trip. It also will save you from packing too much!
A comfortable pair of walking shoes is essential for your stay in Spain. You’re going to be doing a lot of exploring in your new city, and you don’t want to kill your feet in the process. A comfortable pair of sneakers will be your best friend.
Make sure you pack some EU adapters to bring with you. You can also buy some of these when you arrive to Spain, but it is a good idea to bring one or two in case you need to charge your phone while you’re waiting at the airport.
While there are many pharmacies in Spain, the exact brands that are available in other countries aren’t widely available. If there is a medicine you need from your home country, make sure you pack enough to last your stay.
One of the best features of Spain is its delicious cuisine. Here we will give you some tips to live in Spain based on food:
If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, make sure you know how to say what you’re allergic to in Spanish. It’s also a good idea to make a list of restaurants or supermarkets that contain specialty foods such as gluten free or vegan, if that pertains to you.
If you’re coming from a country like the USA or England, Spanish eating times can take some time to get used to. Here is a breakdown of the most common times to eat:
- Breakfast: 8am
- Mid-morning Snack: 10:30am
- Lunch: 2pm – 4pm
- Afternoon snack (merienda): 5pm
- Dinner: 9pm – 11pm
When do the kitchens open?
As you can see above, the eating times in Spain are quite late. This is something you should keep in mind, as most restaurants do not serve food after 4pm or before 8:30pm.
In Spain, it is not customary to leave a 20% tip when eating at a restaurant. This also applies to any other service where you would usually tip. If the service was exceptionally fantastic, a tip of a euro or two will suffice.
We hope that with these tips to live in Spain, you feel more prepared and less nervous for your adventure. Contact us today for more information on the many ways you can come to Spain!