Relocating to Madrid: the things that no one tells you
Relocating can be an exciting time, especially to a new country and city. You might be moving to Madrid as an extended-stay tourist, as a student, to find a new job, or maybe you are here just to learn some Spanish. There are plenty of new things to discover, new places to go…the world is your oyster. While you are already imagining yourself sipping sangria in the sun, do not forget that there are numerous bureaucratic and tedious issues you’ll have to worry about, both before arriving and upon your arrival. Thankfully we have got your back we are going to tell you all the things you need to know before you move to Madrid.
1. You will need all of the documents (literally)
Oh boy, buckle up. One big part of your move is making sure you’re legal to be here, getting all those working papers in order. There is nothing worse than being denied entry or access to something because you lack certain documentation.
One thing oft mentioned throughout this article is your NIE, or your tax identification number (the Número de identidad de extranjero). How you obtain that NIE depends on what you’re doing in Spain. The NIE itself is a physical card and serves as your identity card. If you needed it, a visa was printed in your passport but you will notice that the dates on this visa are only good for three months. This is because you will have to go and physically pick up your NIE from a police station. You will use your NIE to do everything: open your bank account, file a police report, check in at airports (for Schengen Zone travel), and even check in at rec-league sports.
- Finding a flat won’t be easy
It isn’t just the flat itself, you’ll also want to find the perfect area in the city. This process can be a stressful, but we promise you it will be well worth it when you finally drop your bags down! Finding the perfect place during your move depends on lots of factors: timing, flexibility, budget and, apologies for the cheesiness, also a lot of positivity. Oh yes, a little bit of luck always helps, too!
If you are looking to rent (either by yourself or with roommates), there are many websites which offer a plethora of options as well as Facebook groups. Idealista is one of the biggest classified websites in Spain, and fairly easy to use. It is completely free but this adds the risk of finding scam on the platform, so remember to read every ad carefully and to take all the due precautions before you pay any fee. Nestpick lets you compare several ads from different real estate portals, you can save your preferences and search via district, budget, time of rental and so on. It is pretty much a Skyscanner for apartment seekers, user-friendly, offers lots of filtering options and you can set email alerts to receive information without having to refresh the sites repeatedly.
Airbnb remains the go-to option for shorter rental periods, or maybe just to get a temporary accommodation for when you first move, while you look for your long-term flat. Platforms like Easypiso are ideal for shared accommodation, as they let you create your profile, describing your interest and the kind of people you’d likely want to live with.
Finding a place before arriving can be difficult as most homeowners would, understandably, want to meet you in person before signing a contract. If you want to have a place prior to arrival, going through an agency would be the best option. You will be charged an extra agency fee, usually a month’s rent payable to the agency, before being handed the keys. It does save you a large amount of effort, as they will be looking for places within your parameters, keeping you updated, and the like. At the end, it’s your decision if you wish to pay extra for this service.
Agencies or individuals will always ask for identification (NIE or passport) and will sometimes ask for bank statements or a copy of your work contract. This is to prove that you are able to pay for the apartment and will continue to keep paying. It is also quite common for leasers to ask for more than one month’s rent for the deposit. This varies on the leaser or condition of the apartment.
Neighborhoods closer to the center like Sol, Malasaña, Salamanca, Moncloa, La Latina, or Lavapiés will be more expensive. If you want to stay in the city but pay a little less, try looking at Tetuán or Legazpi.
- Yes, you will need a Spanish bank account
If you are relocating to Madrid on a long-term basis, opening a bank account is a necessary step. There are numerous banks in Spain: La Caixa, Santander, Bankia, Sabadell, Banco Popular, among others. There also some international banks, like ING and BBVA if you already have an account set up in one of their branches. Choosing the bank largely depends on your need and your type of stay. No matter which bank you go to, all banks will ask that you present your NIE. Some banks, like Santander, will ask for a justificante su condición de no residente if you are not a resident (i.e. student). Some banks will also ask for your passport as proof of citizenship. Choosing which bank, however, depends largely on your situation. Most banks have a yearly maintenance fee and this amount varies, once again, based on your personal situation in Spain.
- You may need to unlock your phone
You’ll want to start sending photos and updates of your time in Madrid ASAP to your friends and family, but you’ve got to make sure to get your phone plan sorted out. First step is to make sure your current phone is unlocked, meaning it can function with any SIM card and any network. Here’s a list that shows some of the newer unlocked phones, but I recommend checking with your carrier before coming. If not, there are plenty of little shops around that will unlock your phone.
There are many, many options for your phone plan in Spain. You can either choose prepaid or contract, with some options being under 10 euros a month. There are numerous companies: big name brands like Orange, Movistar, Jazztel, or Vodafone. There are also smaller brands like Yoigo, Pepephone, Amena, or Simyo. Prices will, of course, vary on your need and use.
The aforementioned big name brands offer package deals for your mobile phone and wireless plan. This option is geared to those who are looking at Spain as a longer term option as these deals are typically tied to one year-minimum contracts.
Lastly, if you haven’t done it already, download the messaging app WhatsApp as no one in Spain uses regular texting or SMS.
- Public transport works!
Public transportation is very reliable, well-connected and timely in Madrid. The metro is the most popular way to get around. There are also intercity buses, urban buses, and light-rails to help you get around. Getting an abono or monthly pass is a key step for getting around the city. It’s your monthly transportation pass, and you can get it at any of these locations.
There are also numerous buses and trains to take you from cities to pueblos (villages) and everything in between. Take a look at Avanzabus or ALSA, two of the biggest bus companies in Spain. For trains, check out RENFE. There is also a service called BlaBlaCar, a car-sharing service that is commonly used.
If you are looking at purchasing a vehicle, check if your country has an agreement with Spain to see if your driver’s permit is transferable. If you are a resident, you will have to go through a driving school in order to obtain a driving license in Spain. If you are not a resident or a short-term student, you can obtain an International Driver’s Permit which will allow you to drive or rent vehicles.
There are also numerous car-sharing options such as Car2Go and EMov. If you are looking to rent a scooter, check out ECooltra.
Taxis are also widely popular throughout Spain and Uber has become available in some cities as well.
- You will need to learn the language
The best way to truly enjoy another country and culture is to learn the language. If you’re looking for a quick way to learn, MeetUp.com has a wide range of intercambios (language exchanges) to check out. There is always a large group of people who want to practice their English in exchange for helping you with their Spanish. Facebook is another great outlet to find language exchange partners. There are a large number of language academies around Madrid as well if you are looking to go by a more academic route. But this is a great way to both learn a new language and make some new friends in Madrid!