Student Guide for Studying in Spain

Category: Studying in Spain

  1. How to Select a University, School or Program in Spain
    1. Spain’s Top Universities
    2. How to Get to Spain’s Top Universities
    3. Spain’s Top Schools to Study Spanish
    4. Spain’s Academic Calendar
  2. How to Obtain a Student Visa for Spain
  3. How to Obtain Financial Aid to Study in Spain
  4. How to Find a Place to Rent in Spain
  5. How to Find an Internship in Spain
  6. How to Open a Bank Account in Spain
  7. How to Get Your Mobile Connection in Spain
  8. How to Adjust to the Spanish Culture
    1. What to Bring to Spain
    2. Times and Schedules in Spain
    3. Money in Spain
    4. Food and Health in Spain
    5. Safety in Spain
    6. Driving in Spain
    7. Miscellaneous Items

How to Select a University, School or Program in Spain

Selecting a university, school or program is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. Like with other decisions you will make, it could have consequences that will impact your life. The outcome of your education will depend not only on the institution and program selected, but also on your ability to adjust to a new environment and your commitment to reach your goals.

When selecting a school or university, you should consider the school’s student to instructor ratio, the characteristics of the faculty, the University’s reputation, its location and facilities, and the number of graduates that found employment and where. Following is a list of questions for international applicants to ask themselves regarding reliable institutions by Amy Kirle Lezberg, New England Resource Center for Higher Education.
Narrowing Your Choices

  • College or University? Public or Private?
  • In what country or region of the country? Urban, rural or other setting? Size of institution?
  • What can you afford to spend annually for your college education / What are the estimated total costs of the institutions you are considering? What Does The Institution Have To Offer You?
  • Is the institution and are any of its programs accredited?
  • What are the academic qualifications for acceptance and what are your chances of being admitted?
  • Does the institution offer majors/programs that interest you?
  • What will you be spending your time learning?
  • What kinds of electives/interdisciplinary courses are available?
  • Can you participate in any alternative learning experiences? Are internships available and/or required?
  • Are faculty members teaching in the field where they earned their degrees and regularly available for out-of-class conferences?
  • What libraries and other learning resources are available to you?
  • What orientation programs does the institution have for foreign students? Choosing Among Likely Alternatives
  • Is there on-campus housing for four years if you want it? Can you imagine living in the dorms?
  • What kinds of extracurricular activities are offered? Is there a variety of intramural sports for both men and women?
  • What is the role of any fraternities and sororities on campus?
  • Are there job opportunities for international students?
  • What is the makeup of the student body (male/female ratio; age range; ethnic composition; geographical distribution)?
  • Do you think you would be happy at this college? Where To Find Information
  • Look through college guides and web sites (many tour the campus)
  • Contact students at and graduates from the college in which you are interested and ask them why they went there and whether their expectations have been/were met

To help you pick the institution that is just right for your academic or professional needs, below we have listed some of Spain’s Top Ranked Universities, with a brief description of each.

Spain’s Top Universities

5. The University of Murcia

The University of Murcia

The University of Murcia, or the Universidad de Murcia, is the main university in Murcia, Spain. With 38,000 students, it is the largest university in the Región de Murcia. The University of Murcia is the third oldest university in Spain, with only the University of Salamanca (1218 AD) and the University of Valladolid (1241 AD) topping the school in this category. The University of Murcia is also the thirteenth-oldest university in the world. The University of Murcia was established in 1272 by the King Alfonso X of Castile, under the Crown of Castile.

The majority of the facilities and buildings of the University of Murcia are spread over two campuses: the older is La Merced, situated in the town center, and the newer, yet larger campus is Espinardo, located just 5 km to the north of Murcia. A third campus for Medical and Health Studies was recently completed next to the suburban area known as Ciudad Sanitaria Virgen de la Arrixaca, 5 km south of the city; and a fourth campus, located in the town of San Javier, now hosts the Sports Science faculty.

The motto of the University of Murcia is “To Understand the Causes of Things,” and the current president of the university is José Antonio Cobacho Gómez.

4. The University of Malaga

The University of Malaga

The University of Málaga, or the Universidad de Málaga, is a public university established in 1972. With more than 39,000 students and 2,400 lecturers/teachers, the University of Málaga offers 60 degree courses, over 40 doctoral programs, more than 50 Master’s Degrees, as well as 30 internal degrees and 100 courses throughout the academic year. Education takes place in 24 centers by appointed teachers in 81 departments. The great majority of the teaching is organized within the two campuses, although classes also take place in locations spread around the city centre, as well as in the towns of Ronda and Antequera.

The University of Málaga has 278 research groups, which are involved in 80 national projects and 30 European and International projects. In the last few years, the number of agreements and contracts with businesses and organisations has varied between 350 and 400 and an average of over 50 patents have been registered—30 of them of an international nature.

3. The Complutense University of Madrid

The Complutense, Pharmacy Department

The Complutense University of Madrid, or in Spanish the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, is a prestigious Spanish university, located in the nation’s capital of Madrid.

The origins of this university lie in the middle ages, when King Sancho IV of Castile created the Studium General on May 20, 1293. In 1499, Pope Alexander VI granted the request of one of its former pupils, Cardinal Cisneros, to convert it into a full university; this was named the Universitas Complutensis, after Complutum, which was the Latin name of Alcalá de Henares, where it was located.

The Complutense University of Madrid is the largest university in Spain, boasting nearly 98,000 students and nearly 9,500 staff members, of which nearly 6,000 are involved in teaching duties.

The campus is spread over a large area, with faculties in both the Moncloa and Somosaguas communities of Madrid, spanning a total of over 36,000 acres including the university gardens.

The Complutense University of Madrid is made up of university colleges located on two separate campuses situated in the Ciudad Universitaria:

Complutense Campus in Moncloa (central Madrid)
Complutense Campus in Somosaguas (south Madrid)

The university offers a wide variety of degrees and courses, ranging from Humanities and Arts to the Sciences. The university hosts a large number of international students each year and sends a similar number to its partner universities throughout Europe and the Americas. The Complutense University of Madrid has a wide network of international connections, including the Real Colegio Complutense at Harvard (United States); the Colegio de Altos Estudios Europeos “Miguel Servet,” in Paris; and the University of California Center at Complutense (U.S.), as well as other partnerships in a variety of European Programs.

2. The University of Valencia

The University of Valencia

The University of Valencia, or as it is locally known, the Universitat de València, is a university located in the Spanish city of Valencia. It is one of the oldest surviving universities in Spain, the oldest in the Valencian Community, and is regarded as one of Spain’s leading academic institutions.

The University of Valencia was established in 1499, and currently has around 55,000 students. Most of the courses are given through the medium of Spanish, but the university has promised to increase the amount of courses available in Valencian. Moreover, in some degrees part of the teaching is now in English.

The University of Valencia is located in the Mediterranean Spanish baseline, in the city of Valencia which is the capital and most populous city of the autonomous community of Valencia and the third largest city in Spain, with a population of just over 810,064 in 2014.

The University of Valencia has three campuses:

  • The Burjassot campus houses the colleges of Biology, Pharmacy, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and the School of Engineering.
  • The Blasco Ibañez campus hosts the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Philosophy and Educational Sciences, Psychology, Geography and History, Languages, Physical Education, Physiotherapy and Nursing.
  • The third campus, at Tarongers, houses the Schools of Law, Economics and Business, Social Sciences, and the School of Elementary Teacher Training, which recently moved from its previous location near the Blasco Ibañez Campus.

The University of Valencia is committed to keeping and establishing links with universities world-wide, either through bilateral agreements or by taking part in international programs and networks. Thanks to international exchanges, students from different nationalities and cultures live and work together at the Universitat de València.

The Strategic Plan of the University of Valencia is oriented towards excellence in teaching, research and cultural diffusion to society.

The current chancellor of the University of Valencia is Esteban Morcillo Sánchez.

1. The University of Barcelona

The University of Barcelona

Recently ranked as the top Spanish university in a recent survey, the University of Barcelona, known locally as the Universitat de Barcelona, is a public university located in the city of Barcelona in the Catalonia Province of Spain.

With 75 undergraduate programs, 353 graduate programs and 96 doctorate programs available to the school’s 65,000 students, the University of Barcelona was ranked as the best University in Spain in the 2011 QS World University Rankings, which also ranked the university the 148th best overall higher education institution in the world. The University of Barcelona’s worldwide subject rankings were: 74th in Life Sciences & Biomedicine, 89th in Arts & Humanities, 87th in Natural Sciences, 143rd in Social Sciences and 175th in Engineering & IT.

The University of Barcelona is the principal center of university research in Spain and has become a European benchmark for research activity, both in terms of the number of research programs it conducts and the excellence these programs have achieved. According to the 2014 CYD Report, it is the highest-placed Spanish university in terms of scientific output, with more than 20,000 papers published between 2007 and 2014, also leading the ranking of Spanish universities in terms of percentage of papers published in high impact journals.

The University of Barcelona has 106 departments and more than 5,000 full-time researchers, technicians and research assistants, most of whom work in the university, and 243 research groups as recognized and supported by the Government of Catalonia.

In 2014 the University of Barcelona was awarded 175 national research grants and 17 European grants and participated in over 500 joint research projects with the business sector, generating an overall research income of 70 million euros. The work of these groups is overseen by the UB’s research centers and institutes which collaborate with leading research institutions and networks in Spain and abroad.

The University of Barcelona is also home to three large research foundations: the Barcelona Science Park Foundation (PCB), which includes the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona (IRBB); the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS); and the Bellvitge Institute for Biomedical Research (IDIBELL).

It is a member of the Coimbra Group, LERU, European University Association, Mediterranean Universities Union, International Research Universities Network and Vives Network. Established in 3 November 1450, it is the fifth oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest universities in the world.

Transportation to Universities in Spain

Spain is a first world country with a highly-developed transportation system. The transportation system in Spain is defined by a broad network of interconnecting roads, railways, air routes, ports, and rapid transit such as; metros, subways, and underground transport, specifically in urban areas. The main forms of transport are usually centered in and radiate from Madrid, which is found in the center of the country and often connect easily to major cities in the surrounding areas. Moving around the country of Spain is made easy with so many different options. Let us focus in on traveling to some of Spain’s most prominent public universities.

Transportation to Universities in Madrid

The Autonomous University of Madrid is one of the most important universities in the country and is easy to get to. If you don’t have a car, you can arrive to the university by taking the Cercanias Rail Line, as the university conveniently has a train station right on campus. The name of this stop is Cantoblanco. If you happen to be arriving to the country by plane, you would have the option of taking the metro from the airport to a connecting Cercanias Rail Station and from there can get off right at Autonomous University of Madrid. Another option for getting to the school would be by taking a bus. Bus number 715, for example, comes from the heart of Madrid at Plaza de Castilla in terminal 13 and will take you straight to the University. There on consistent streams of busses on this route, generally at least every fifteen to thirty minutes. Taking a taxi is another way of getting to the university. If you are going from the Barajas-Madrid airport you will pay approximately 30 euros for the trip. A taxi is likely the most expensive option; however, it will be the most hassle-free, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area.

Another very popular public school in Madrid is the Technical University of Madrid. The university is approximately 18 kilometers from the Barajas-Madrid international airport. If you are flying into this airport you can easily find a taxi out front that can take you directly to the university. If you are looking for a more economical way to get to there you can also can take the metro. You would need to get off at Ciudad Universitaria and from there you a just a few steps away from campus. If you are coming from the center of the city, you can simply walk to the Technical University. It is about fifteen minutes by foot from the city center. This is a very well-known school and if you happen to get lost, just ask. People are general friendly and can help point you in the right direction.

Complutense University of Madrid is one of the oldest universities world-wide and consistently ranked at the top of Spain’s universities. Complutense University or UCM is a public university also located in Madrid. UCM has two campuses, the bigger one is found in the center of the city and you can most easily be reached on the Metro at stop, Ciudad Universitaria. The other, smaller campus is in residential area and can also be reached by the Metro and getting off at Campus de Somosaguas. UCM can also be reached by the suburban, EMT, bus. Depending on where you are coming from, your travel time and number of busses needed to take will vary. You can, however, map your route and consider further details on price and bus schedules at their website:

Transportation to Universities in Barcelona

Now, moving onto popular universities outside of Madrid, let’s look at a few schools in Barcelona. The Autonomous University of Barcelona, or Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, is a great school to attend for both national and international students. The school is located in Cerdanyola del Valle of Barcelona in Catalonia. The most recommendable way to arrive at UAB from the airport in Barcelona would be this following. Take the RENFE train at the airport to the Barcelona-Sants station. Once you are there, you will need to switch to a train that goes to Placa Catalunya. You should not have to wait very long, as trains come very frequently. When you are in Placa Catalunya station, you will need to look for trains the “Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya – FGC” written on them. You should take a FGC train towards Sabadell, line 52 or line 555 to the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona station. This may seem like a lot; however, this entire journey should only take you about a half an hour and its quite simple.

Pompeu Fabra de Barcelona or Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) is another highly ranked and internationally recognized university located in Barcelona. UPF can be reached by bus and is one of the best ways to get there. Since Barcelona has multiple bus stations and are very reliable, inexpensive, and timely, many students use the bus as their principle form of transportation. There is a bus station called “Estacion del Norte” which is located only 10 minutes by foot from the campus.

If you decide you would rather not take the bus, you can also get to Universitat Pompeu Fabra buy using the train (Renfe). Depending on where in the city you are coming from, you will need to take either the 1, 3 or 4 lines and your stop will be Arc de Triomf. For more detailed information on the Renfe services, you can visit their website directly at:

Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Barcelona Tech) is another top pick for international students. It is especially known for being “green” or energy efficient and is renowned for the in-depth research done there. The campus is located in an area with a good amount of nearby student housing. However, if you aren’t close enough to campus to walk, there is a bus stop on campus at Jordi Girona-Tinent Coronel Valenzuela on bus line 33.

Transportation to Universities in Sevilla

Most major colleges and universities in Sevilla can be reached by one of the following methods. If you are already in the city, you might just be able to easily walk to your university. Sevilla has spacious sidewalks and the city is generally very safe. Walking not only allows you to get some exercise, but it is often the quickest way to get around as you avoid traffic. Sevilla is a great city to get around in by bike too. They have many options for renting a bike if you don’t have your own. The Sevilla city bus is also a very efficient and economical way of getting around. So, if you are living in an area that is a little too far to walk or bike from, the city bus is your cheapest option. A one-way ticket costs €1.40 and if you are staying within the historical city center you can take buses C3 and C4, as they are generally the most useful. Depending on your travels, you might also want to look further into Seville’s tram and underground metro systems which might end up being the perfect option for you.

The University of Seville is essentially surrounded by multiple bus stops, which is going to be how most students who can’t walk will arrive to campus. You should, however, also keep in mind that there is a metro stop, Puerta de Jerez, located less than one block away from the heart of the campus.

Pablo de Olavide University is the second public university in Seville. This is one of the few places that can be easily reached by the Metro. Seville does not have an intricate metro system, but, Pablo de Olavide University is conveniently located on one of its few stops.

Transportation to the University of Valencia

The University of Valencia or Universitat de Valencia, is one the most prominent and popular in the area. It expands across the whole city, with three different campus’. If you are looking to travel to the Campus de Blasco Ibanez, you can get there either by bus (EMT) or by the metro on line 3 and make sure to get off on the Facultats stop. If you are traveling to Campus de Burjassot – Paterna, you can take the bus (EMT), the tram or the metro combined with a short bike ride. If you need to get to Campus dels Tarongers, you have the option of either taking the bus (EMT) or the tram.

Transportation to the University of Salamanca

Like Sevilla, Salamanca is a great city for walking and biking and has been set up to protect its pedestrians. If you chose not to walk or bike, you can also use the bus. The University of Salamanca can easily be reached by bus and you can use one of a combination of the 13 bus lines available throughout the city to arrive at your destination. Salamanca does not have extensive intercity transportation available, so make sure you take this into consideration while choosing where you will live and how far it is away from your university, as it is most likely you will either be getting to your classes either by walking, biking or by bus on a day to day basis.

Spain’s Top Schools to Study Spanish

If you’re looking to master the Spanish language, perhaps as a way to bolster your professional career or expand your cultural horizons, there is no better place to study Spanish than in the country of Spain, where the language originated.

Spanish language schools and universities in Spain offer an almost unlimited number of language acquisition courses, but which locations offer the highest quality programs?

To help you navigate the many Spanish language courses available, below we have outlined five of Spain’s finest universities and language faculties. In this list we have included a fair cross section of programs, selected by location, academic standards, reputation and trusted international and Spanish university ranking tables, like QS, Shanghai and IAIF. We have also included some essential information about each of these facilities and the cities in which they are located.

5. The University of Santiago de Compostela

The University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago Campus

The University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago Campus

With over 500 years of history, the University of Santiago de Compostela is a proud university with a noteworthy regional heritage. Despite its age and rich history, the University of Santiago de Compostela today is a campus that has evolved effortlessly with the changing times, and with roughly 39,000 students and 3,000 staff, the school also takes an active part in the European student mobility scheme.

The University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) began as a School of Grammar in the late 15th century and its internationally recognized Spanish as a Second Language (SSL) courses have been in operation for over 50 years. USC boasts small class sizes—15 people per class—which allows the program’s instructors to give each student an abundance of personalized attention. The quality of its Spanish language courses is well-documented, and there are programs available for all levels of language learners, from novices to experienced speakers

The University of Santiago de Compostela hosts a variety of Spanish as a Second Language courses that run at different times of the year, many of which combine Spanish language, history and culture, including many that offer class excursions.

The University of Santiago de Compostela—and the community that surrounds it–offers a number of opportunities for fun and cultural enrichment. The old City Center, for example, where the language faculty is located, is busy with bars, cafés and plenty of events, including concerts at the Plaza del Obradoiro, dances at La Quintana, the Magosto in November, the Festivales de Cortometrajes in July and August, and a myriad of venues, sports facilities and discounted offers that all USC students can access with their student card, both on and off campus.

4. Granada University

The University of Granada

The University of Granada

Located in one of Spain’s most beautiful and historic cities (Granada), Granada University boasts roughly 480 years of history and is extremely committed to serving its academic environment, the community and its people through excellence in research, service and tuition. Thanks to this commitment, the university has shot up sharply in national and international league tables and now boasts a combined student, lecturer, administrative and research staff population of over 70,000.

Granada University offers a variety of Spanish as a Second Language courses to choose from, from beginner classes, known as intensive, and to those that focus on Hispanic Studies, Language and Culture (entry into these various courses depend on the student’s level of Spanish mastery).

Only total beginners can enroll in the school’s intensive courses, with a duration spanning anywhere from 4-10 weeks in length. If you have studied Spanish previously, then you will need to take a level examination. Once you have been assigned a level, you can then choose from Hispanic studies, culture lessons and various other subjects, on top of the Spanish language program for which you qualify.

All of the teachers in Granada University’s SSL programs hold a degree in philology and many have further specializations in culture, history, art history and so on.

The charming city of Granada offers something for everybody. The most renowned and must-see attraction is the majestic Alhambra castle. In its shadow lies Granada’s cozy historical center; with cafés, Moroccan teterías, flamenco tablaos and salsa bars galore. Students on a budget will be pleased to know that there are free complimentary tapas to be had at almost every bar in town… simply by ordering a cool beer or soft drink.

3. Complutense University of Madrid

La Complutense

La Complutense

The Complutense University of Madrid comes with no less prestige or history than Santiago or Granada. First confirmed as a university in 1499, the Complutense University of Madrid is now the nation’s largest university and has an excellent name outside of Spain. With a staggering 100,000 students and almost 10,000 staff, the two university’s 145 square kilometer grounds sprawl over Madrid’s Monclova and Somosaguas districts, including forested university gardens.

Because of its international reputation, and its location in one of the most gloriously vibrant capital cities in Europe, the Complutense University of Madrid receives and enrolls a staggering number of foreign students seeking to study Spanish as a foreign language. SSL students get to share the Philology and Humanities faculty with local Spanish university students, making language exchange a daily social reality. Although the Spanish language program has only been running for 15 years, its quality belies its newness as a center for Spanish language acquisition.

One of major bonuses to studying at the Complutense University of Madrid is the enormous university library with over 2 million book titles, and a countless number of audio-visual and scientific resources. Students who enroll in one of the many SSL programs offered here are issued a University Card, which not only grants access to the library, swimming pool and sports grounds, but also entitles them to discounts at Madrid’s various attractions, sites and student-oriented entertainment and dining venues.

Complutense University of Madrid offers intensive courses, VIP packages and summer programs, as well as longer courses lasting an entire semester or full academic year.

Studying Spanish in Madrid, the nation’s capital, can be a wonderful experience, with countless things to do and see and some of the best cuisine in the world. In defining Madrid, the city is the Golden Triangle of Art, which includes the Prado Museum; tapas; world-class shops; cutting-edge night clubs; the Real Madrid Football Club, musicals, the Cibeles fountain, the Gran Vía; the Puerta del Sol and much, much more. In short, Madrid is a way of life and the absolutely perfect place to practice the Spanish you learn in the classroom.

2. Salamanca University

Universidad de Salamanca, inner patio

Those who have already dabbled in Spanish language studies may already be somewhat acquainted with Salamanca University, as the school and region is fairly famous for its Spanish language programs. Modeled in the image of schools like Oxford and the University of Paris, Salamanca University, located in the city of the same name, was founded in 1218. Today, the university is world renowned and is characterized by its emblematic façade of religious and mythical sandstone carvings, the famous Patio Las Escuelas, the high quality of teaching and the school’s mission: “The creation of knowledge for the service of humanity”.

With over 2,000 teachers and nearly 39,000 students, the University of Salamanca prides itself on specialist teachers. Its Spanish language courses feature just 15 people per class and the program is regularly monitored and updated according to constant course quality assessments. Whether you want to study for two weeks or a whole academic year, you can do this via the university’s flexible Spanish language scheme, which combines weeks and extra culture classes to tailor a program that meets your specific needs.

Salamanca University assigns a dedicated member of their staff to be in charge of arranging cultural activities for foreign students—a feature that sets it apart from other Spanish language institutions. All enrolled students receive a student card entitling them to access to university facilities such as libraries, sports grounds and computers.

The city of Salamanca is a beautiful, well-kept older city. By day, there are a number of important historical landmarks to explore, and by night the city comes alive, boasting a number of trendy nightclubs geared especially for students. You’ll also find plenty to do on the cultural calendar, and the friendly locals and affordable food prices will go a long way towards making your stay enjoyable.

1. The Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)

Columns monument at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Columns monument at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Ranked first on our list of top places to study the Spanish language in Spain is the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). Although not nearly as old as some of the other schools on our list (the Autonomous University was established in 1968), the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, as it is known locally, is committed to the contribution of knowledge and innovation and it aims to prepare students to take a real and active role in their chosen field of study and encourages them to make similar contributions to their respective communities upon course completion.

Despite being the new kid on the block, the UAB has quickly gained ground and surpassed much of its competition; it is currently classed as Spain’s number 1 university in the QS World University Rankings. According to one writer, “as a major advantage, and very unusually for Spain, UAB’s organization and administration is run so smoothly, and paperwork dealt with so effectively, that students can simply concentrate on their studies without having to worry about clumsy bureaucracy.”

The site at which language courses are held at the Autonomous University of Barcelona is situated in a UNESCO World Heritage building, the Casa Convalescència, just a short walk from Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. The university’s SSL programs have been in operation for over 25 years and there
are intensive courses offered throughout the year with roughly 15 people per class. Because foreign students share premises with Spanish students studying other modern languages such as English and French, there is always ample opportunity for Spanish language learners to participate in cultural exchange and conversation practice.

Barcelona is a very modern city with plenty to offer students. Its various barrios, with their individual personalities, cool boutiques, and edgy fashion, make the city very popular among students—especially younger students. As an added bonus, the city boasts relatively affordable accommodations, all set against a backdrop of one of Spain’s warmest and sunniest Mediterranean climates.

As you set out to explore Barcelona you can expect delicious food, white-sand beaches, the Gothic quarters, and scores of bustling bars, pubs and nightclubs of every variety. There are also hundreds of historical and cultural treasures to be found in the city, and Barcelona’s excellent public transportation system makes it easy for you to visit all of them.

Spain’s Academic Calendar

Note: Please  verify dates with your university as they may have been updated or changed.

Academic calendars for most Spanish universities are similar throughout the country: classes begin in October, and end in June. The first semester exams take place in February, and the second semester exams are in June. Nevertheless, there can be important variances in these schedules from one university to another.

Autonomous University Of Madrid (Spain)

  • End of September, classes begin for all students (new and returning students).
  • From the 20th of December through the 7th of January,  Christmas vacation.
  • 7th of January: end of first semester classes
  • 20th of January through the 8th of February: Examinations for subjects/courses given in the first semester. Also, make up exams will be given at this time, to those students who request them, and did not pass an exam during the last academic year. Also, for students who will be graduating or receiving a diploma, examinations may be taken in anticipation of subjects/courses to be given in the second semester.
  • 10th through the 17th of February, no classes scheduled.
  • 17th of February, second semester classes begin
  • 24th through 31st of March: Holy Week vacation
  • 30th of May: end of second semester classes
  • 2nd through 27th of June: exams for subjects/courses given during the second semester, as well as year-end exams. (Does not include University Entrance Exams)
  • September: Make-up examinations (date to be determined, the official schedule of these exams will be announced during the month of June)

University and major or department specific holidays:

15th of March
Proposal presentations for Doctorate programs.

27th of April
Announcement of course schedules for first and second cycle students (includes obligatory and optional classes) for all plans of study.

11th of May
Announcement of elective classes and specialty courses that will be available. This announcement will include maximum class sizes, times, semester given, exam dates and any pre-requisites.

2nd of July
Publication of the of the 2001-2002 academic year calendar. Includes courses of study, exam calendar, and any required internships, fieldwork or laboratory work.

16th through 20th of July
Phase A applications for entrance into 2nd cycle of studies.

1st through 5th of October
Phase B applications for entrance into 2nd cycle of studies.

2nd through 20th of July
Transfer of records for transfer students who, having studied at another university, wish to continue their studies at the UAM

Before September 17th
Responses to transfer requests from the different schools of study. Responses will also be communicated to students.

23rd through 27th of July
Registration for second through last year students who passed all June exams.

25th through 31st of July
Registration for first year students admitted in July.

24th September through 5th October
Registration for all other second through last-year students, and those students repeating classes from year one.

19th through 26th of October
Registration for first year students admitted in September.

9th of November
Approximate date of response for applications of confirmation of partial credit for studies, with responses also being sent to students.

Until 14th of September
Access to third cycle by students who have studied overseas.

17th through 21st of September
Pre-registration for Doctorate programs. Done directly in the department/school.

17th through 21st of September
Pre-registration for Doctorate programs. Done directly in the department/school.

Before September 28th
Departments will send information regarding third cycle students to their corresponding secretaries.

15th through 31st of October
Registration for doctorate programs.

November through February
First semester of doctorate courses.

March through June
Second semester of doctorate courses.

Before 28th of February
Official closing of first semester final grades for doctorate candidates

University of Alcala de Henares (Madrid, Spain)

  • Start of classes for first semester: end of September
  • From 20th of December through 7th of January: Christmas vacation
  • End of first semester classes: 17th of January
  • Exam period: 18th of January through the 8th of February
  • 24th through 31st of March, Holy Week Vacation
  • Start of second semester classes: February 10th
  • End of second semester classes: 29th of May
  • Exam period, including Saturdays, 1st through 30th of June

Below is a list of holidays for each of the schools/departments at the University of Alcalá de Henares, some of which coincide with holidays at other universities.

  • 15th of October, School of Documentation
  • 16th of November, School of Chemistry
  • 23rd of November: School of Biology
  • 30th of November, “Cardenal Cisneros” School of Teaching
  • 14th of December: School of Pharmacy
  • 18th of January: School of Law
  • 22nd of February, Schools of Business Administration, Technical Architecture and Tourism
  • 15th of March, Politechnical Department
  • 12th April: School of Economics and Business Administration
  • 19th of April “Cardenal Cisneros” School of Environmental Studies
  • 26th of April: School of Philosophy and Letters
  • 10th of May: School of Nursing of the INSALUD; School of Nursing of the University, and the School of Physical Therapy
  • 17th of May: School of Medicine

Holidays that affect only to the city of Alcalá de Henares:

  • 9th of October (Birth of Cervantes)
  • 2nd of May (Community of Madrid)
  • 6th of August (Holiday of the Holy Children)

Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain)

  • 1st October: Academic year begins. (Offices will remain closed)
  • 2nd October: First semester classes begin for first year students.
  • 7th of October: Classes begin for the semester for all other students, including optional and elective classes.
  • 27th of January: End of the first semester.
  • 28th of January through 15th of February: First semester final exams. No classes are given during this time.
  • 17th of February through 30th of May: Second semester
  • 31st of May through 30th of June: Final exams

Holidays for all majors, courses and departments within the university

  • 12th of October: Virgin of Pilar
  • 1st of November: All Saints Day
  • 6th of December: Day of the Constitution
  • 8th of December: Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • 26th of January: Saint Thomas Aquinas (patron saint of students)
  • 1st of May: International Labor Day
  • 2nd of May: Community of Madrid
  • 15th of May: Saint Isidoro*
  • 9th of December: The Almudena*

* These days are not holidays for all majors, schools or departments within the university.

How to Obtain a Student Visa for Spain

Citizens from the European Union do not need a visa for Spain. With a valid Identification Card or passport, they can stay as long as they want. However, citizens from all other countries will require a visa stamped in their passport if they wish to remain in Spain longer than 90 days.

Regarding Visas, the Spanish Consulate in New York has posted this information in their Web site:

A student visa is mandatory for any foreigner wishing to study in Spain for 3 months or longer. Citizens of other countries can travel to Spain without a visa for tourist or business purposes for up to 90 days, after which time a visa is required. The visa is processed in your country of residence prior to your departure. You cannot get the visa in Spain, and you cannot have it sent to you. The visa is affixed in your passport before you depart your country, and must be presented at the border Officials upon your entry into Spain.

All student visas are valid for a period of 90 days from your entry day into Spain, during which time you must contact the local authorities to acquire a student residency card. This “Spanish Student Residency Card” is then valid for as long as you are enrolled in the program in Spain.

Due to the overwhelming demand for student visas, it is important that you allow enough time for the Consulate to process your visa. On specially busy days at the Consulate, it is occasionally impossible to attend to all the applicants, so it is best to arrive early. Personal appearance is required in order to submit the documentation. We understand that this is difficult for some students. You must present the following documents:

  • Passport valid for a minimum of 6 months. Make sure your passport is signed.
  • 4 recent pictures, passport size (stapled on each copy of the application)
  • Original letter addressed to this Consulate General verifying enrolment as a full-time student in an official University or School in Spain, and verification of full payment of tuition. This is not the letter of acceptance that says: “congratulations you have been accepted…..” This must be a separate letter directed to this Consulate General of Spain, verifying your enrolment and payment of tuition.
  • Medical certificate. This is a letter typed on your doctor’s stationary verifying that you are in good health, free of contagious disease, drug addiction or mental illness. These items must be specified in the letter, and a medical doctor must sign it.

You must also submit one of the following items to guarantee living expenses while in Spain:

  • Letter from the study abroad program assuming full financial responsibility for tuition, room and board for the student during his stay in Spain. For many students this information is included on the previously mentioned letter of acceptance.
  • An account in a Spanish bank with a minimum balance of $350.00 per month of stay in Spain.
  • Proof of having received financial aid or scholarship covering expenses for tuition, room, board, and personal expenses during the stay in Spain (minimum of $350 per month).
  • Letter from parents assuming full financial responsibility for at least $350 per month of stay in Spain.

Plan your trip ahead of time! Be advised that answer to your application might take several weeks depending on each case.

For more information see the Spanish Consulate in New York’s Web site at

Find the Consulates of Spain in your country.

How to Obtain Financial Aid to Study in Spain

Financing your education abroad could be your most difficult task. Most governments provide financial aid for students while they study in their home country’s institutions, while offering little help to those who want to study abroad. Because internalisation of campuses and programs has become a major issue for many universities around the world, new financial aid options are becoming available for students who have chosen to go abroad to study. Usually the best source of financial aid information is the study abroad office or the office of international programs of your home institution.

For studying in Spain, the scholarship system administered by the Ministry of Education and Culture applies only to students with Spanish citizenship or those with legal residence in Spain. There are other forms of financial assistance for foreign students. It is granted by different national institutions based on bilateral agreements between Spain and other countries or programs for specific academic and research purposes. To apply for these, you should collect general information and consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Spanish Embassy in your country.

Students from Latin America should address their inquiries to the Instituto de Cooperacion Iberoamericana. Other State and private institutions grant financial assistance to a limited extent. As you know, applications for a grant or financial assistance should be submitted at the earliest opportunity and always before arrival in Spain.

To help you find resources, we are including links to financial aid information by countries or regions of the world. We will update our information, as we are able to find new sources.

American States


Becas publicadas en el Boletin Oficial del Estado
Becas Fulbright
M.A.P.Premios, becas, ayudas y subvenciones.

International Education Financial Aid

How to Find a Place to Rent in Spain

Spain is a very vast and diverse country so depending on where you plan to live, your expectations regarding finding a place to live will vary. Many people looking to study at a university will end up in a bigger city such as Madrid or Barcelona. So, let’s start there. We want to help you get off on the right foot and tell you what you want to avoid regarding how to find the best place for you.

As you probably guessed, a very useful place to start looking for your next place to call home is online. Idealista, is a very helpful site as they allow you to refine your search in a number of ways. You can choose whether you would like to rent on your own or share with another person, and they even give you the option to search for listings on sale if you are interested in buying. Then you get to pick from different types of housing such as apartments, flats, and rooms, among others. Lastly, Idealista, lets you chose from a list of approximately 100 different cities and areas within the country of Spain.

Although Idealista is a great resource, you do need to be careful as so many people use it. Once an apartment is posted, it is generally only available for a couple of days, so you need to be quick in responding when you find something you’re interested in. Also, it might be a good idea to actually CALL when you see something you like, as email conversations tend to take longer and the likelihood of getting what you want is generally decreased. You can also try Fotocasa, while Idealista is currently the most popular site for finding a flat, Fotocasa is also still widely used.

Facebook groups are another way to find a nice place. Erasmus groups are generally directed toward young national and international study abroad students. For the most part, every city and small town with a university or college will have a correlating Erasmus Facebook group. On these pages, students will post upcoming events, trips and information regarding housing and/or roommate searches.

Another great and very practical way to find a place to rent in Spain, if you are already in the area is by simply walking around. If you know which neighborhoods you are interested in, go, and check them out. Keep your eyes open and make sure to look up, as often times people rent the higher floors for living arrangements. If you see a sign that says “Se alquila”, either see if you can talk to someone there on site or make a note of it and call the number for more information.

As you are probably aware, the closer you are to the heart of a big city, the higher you can expect to pay. So before making your final decision, you will need to consider transportation costs verses the cost for living downtown. Keep in mind that most cities offer inexpensive forms of public transportation, so it might be worth taking the extra time to travel a bit to and from your university each day and save yourself some extra money on your rent.

If you decide you would like to split the rental costs with a roommate, it is likely that your roommate will be another foreign person. It’s common in Spain for students to share flats with each other and usually makes the stay more fun because you make friends more quickly. Be sure to not live with another English speaker! You need to force yourself to be immersed in the Spanish language.

More often than not, young people from Spain live with their families well into their twenties and even into their thirties. It is recommendable to not sign a long, multiple month lease before “testing out” your new roommate. Make sure that you get along and enjoy living together before tying yourself into an uncomfortable situation. Many people say that setting up some type of cleaning schedule is very helpful and helps keep all of the roommates on track with the cleaning and avoids frustration and a messy living space.

Before you sign anything, make sure that you have toured the place as opposed to just seeing pictures. You should also be sure to ask all the questions you have before you commit to something. We suggest you are clear on what appliances and furniture will be available to you if you will need to purchase anything, such as blenders, coffee makers, a bed, bedsheets, a fan, a space heater, a washing machine, a dryer, etc. You should know that generally, apartments are not furnished with clothes dryers or air conditioning and heating systems. Another important thing to remember to ask about is utilities. Be clear on exactly what is included and what you will need to pay extra on a month to month basis. Even if you’ve read that “all utilities are included” make sure go over what that means. Wi-Fi, for example, is not always considered a basic utility. Knowing all of this key information will help you make the best choice.

Make sure that you have enough money available/saved up for at least one month’s rent. Most times, you will be asked to pay for at least one month of rent up front as a security deposit (La fianza). This payment is usually used towards your last month’s rent or returned to you upon your departure after the apartment has been checked for damage.

Now, you need to keep in mind that it is very possible that the people renting out their spaces won’t speak Spanish. So, if you don’t speak the language you may either want to brush up on some basic phrases that will allow you to at least get this information you need to throughout this process or find a bilingual friend who can help you make these calls and close on a deal. You shouldn’t expect them to speak English and be patient if you don’t understand them or they don’t understand you. Remember, you are the foreigner now and it’s important to show respect.

How to Find an Internship in Spain

Have you ever considered doing an internship in Spain? You might be feeling hesitant because maybe you have never been there or maybe you don’t have very much experience branching out and traveling to different countries. However, just because you don’t know what to expect, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. An internship abroad, especially in a country as unique as Spain, will help you to learn so much. Not only will you gain an incredible international experience, but you will be surprised how much you learn about yourself. Having an experience like this can truly be life changing and give you the confidence to achieve your biggest goals and where better to do it as in a place as diverse and beautiful as Spain?

You should also consider how having an international internship would look on your resume. An experience such as this will help you stand out and it will also prove that you aren’t afraid to try new things, be independent and work with people of diverse backgrounds at the same time. Your potential new employer will feel more confident hiring someone with this experience and know that you would be more open to working in and adapting to a diverse work place.

You will be surprised to see how important some of the people you meet on in internship abroad become to you. During this experience, you will see the significance of friendship with people of diverse backgrounds and having internationally based work contacts is always a plus.

Now, if you have decided that Spain might be where you would like to carry out your internship, let us give you a few tips on where to begin and how to make it happen. While making arrangements, don’t stress yourself out and remember that this may be a once in a lifetime chance so just have fun with it, get as much as you can out of it and enjoy every step of the way.

It is possible that you don’t speak Spanish, which will require you to use your patience and resources as best you can, but it doesn’t mean the internship isn’t possible. Although many Spaniards don’t speak English, they often times need people within their businesses who do. That’s where you come in. If you’re not sure where to start, think about tourism. As Spain is such an interesting and popular travel destination for people all around the world, companies in this field need people who speak other languages, such as English.

Another direction you might want to look into is teaching English. Since so many people are interested in learning the language, there is almost always a high demand for native English speakers. So, if you are looking for a way to get involved with the people in your new community and really make a positive impact on their lives, teaching may be the perfect option for you.

You will need to do quite a bit of research to decide which industry you want to work in and what you would like the focal point of your internship to be. Consider your skills and future goals while making this decision. Another big choice will be which city you want to do this in. The most popular areas of Spain for internships are usually the bigger cities, such as, Madrid and Barcelona. If you, on the other hand, feel more comfortable in a more lowkey setting, places like Seville, Granada, Cordoba, and Valencia all have fantastic opportunities for international interns as well.

Madrid, Spain’s capital city, is one of the top choices for international interns. The city has so much to offer and explore. Whether you are interested in tourism, art, nightlife, politics, etc., Madrid will likely be able to fulfill your interests. In Madrid, you will be right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital. Barcelona is another great choice as it will give you the chance to mingle with the locals and make contacts from all over the world. Barcelona will allow you to enjoy the nearby beaches, explore incomparable architecture and culture that simple isn’t available in other cities. Although Barcelona is more laid back than Madrid, it’s opportunities are so unique and you can rest assured you won’t regret your time spent there. If you decide on going to a bigger city like Madrid or Barcelona, keep in mind that you will need to consider your budget, as like in any big city, rent and other expenses will be a higher.

If you aren’t comfortable in such big cities, Spain has other options that people have enjoyed just as much. Smaller cities such as Seville and Granada also have so much to offer. Their closer-nit communities all for a more personal experience. The tiled patios and cobblestone streets make for beautiful and inviting atmospheres. You will love exploring the city’s markets and historical sites. Since Spain isn’t a huge country geographically, you can still check out places like Madrid and Barcelona on weekends or holidays. Keep in mind that the country has great public transportation which allows for easy and quick weekend travel.

If you don’t know anyone who has travelled to and is familiar with Spain, a great place to start looking for ideas as to how and where to do your internship is, yes you guessed it, the internet. Inter-nations is a great resource for getting connected with expats from all over the world. You can put the word out that you are interested in doing an internship in Spain and you just might come across someone who can point you in the right direction. Another helpful page is the Erasmus Internship Facebook Page is also great as it is specifically set up for discussing just this. You can check the site frequently as new information is constantly being posted there. Internship positions are also advertised on various other sites, such as Spain-Internship.

One of the most highly recommended companies to go through for international internships is CEA Study Abroad, with headquarters in Arizona. They offer internship programs all over the world and work closely with and have multiple options in Spain, specifically in Alicante, Barcelona, Granada, Madrid and Seville. An internship through CEA are all pre-planned and provide you with support throughout the entire process. CEA is also recognized for their efforts in preparing participants with cross-cultural and workplace orientations, housing, social activities, excursions, airport pickup and around the clock support.

Internship Makers is another great place to look at for interning in Spain as they offer programs in Madrid and Barcelona. You can find more information about what they offer at If you are interested in going forward with doing an internship through them, they are very helpful and responsive throughout the process. You will first need to register and set up an initial phone or skype interview. If that goes well, you will need to decide exactly what type of work setting you would like to be placed in and then will be interviewed a second time for the specific internship you are interested in. Next you will need to sign a training agreement and start planning for your time abroad.

IES Internships is another popular choice for students looking to gain international experience through an internship in Spain. They offer a very competitive and beneficial program in Barcelona that will help set you apart from your peers and give you the knowledge, experience and confidence to attain your future goals. You can start finding out more and ask any specific questions at

So, start spreading the word of what it is you are interested in doing. Start doing some research and asking your questions. Your plans will start coming together you before you know it you will be on the adventure of a lifetime.

How to Open a Bank Account in Spain

Whatever your nationality, you have to justify your status as a resident or a non-resident if you want to open a bank account in Spain .

If you are a resident, you only have to go to a bank and show the resident ID to have an account opened.

If you are a non-resident, there are two options:

a) The first option is to go to the Dirección General de la Policía (in Madrid , it is located calle General Pardiñas, nº 90) with your passport (as well as a photocopy) and ask for a “non-resident certificate”. You will have to go back there within about 10 days in order to pick it up.

Once you have this certificate, you can go to any bank with your passport in order to have an account opened. This account will be operative from the very moment of the opening and the deposited funds will be available immediately.

b) The other option is to go to a bank with your passport and ask to open an account. In this case, the bank will have you sign an authorization to carry out the necessary procedures to have your non-resident certificate. They will charge you about €15,00. The account will not be operative until they receive your certificate and the deposited funds will not be available either.

There is no minimum deposit to be able to open an account in Euros. If you want to open an account in another currency, check out the minimum deposit.

Before you start any procedures, try to find out if there is a bank on your Spanish campus that has a special agreement with your host university. If this is the case, check out what documents they would ask you to provide; they might be willing to open an account without any certificate if you can show your host university student ID.

Remember that:

Banks usually have special discounts for people under 26.

Banks usually charge opening and maintenance fees.

Main Banks in Spain:

Personal banking, accounts and services:

Personal banking, accounts and services:

There are other savings banks depending on the town or province you are. Here is a list of the main ones with their Web address:

For Asturias: Liberbank

For Córdoba : Caja Sur

For Gipuzkoa y San Sebastián : Kutxa

For Zaragoza, Aragón y Rioja : Ibercaja

There are a lot more. You can use Google or Bing to search “caja de ahorros y monte de piedad de” followed by the name of the town or province where you are going to.

Personal banking, accounts and services:

There are also some foreign banks in Spain, such as:

Personal banking, accounts and services: click on the “Productos y Servicios” link in the left menu.

Online Banking

You can save money on account maintenance and fees on transfers with online banking.

How to Get Your Mobile Connection in Spain

Mobile phones

Contracts or pre-pay (top-ups)?

If you are a fanatic of the mobile phone, if you use it all day long to call your friends and you know that you are staying at least one year in Spain , you may be interested in a contract. On the other hand, if you are not spending much time on your mobile or if you know that you are not staying long in Spain , you will probably use a top-up system.

In any case, when you choose one of the services, don’t forget to mention you are a student and make sure you have your student ID with you; operators usually have special offers for students, especially when classes begin.

How to top up your phone?

If you have chosen a top-up system and you are running out of credit, it is easy: just go to a cash machine and select “recargar móvil” (that is “top-up mobile phone”) instead of “sacar dinero” (that is “withdraw money”). Then, just follow the steps that are displayed on the screen. Obviously, you need a card to be able to do that. If you do not have any international card like Visa or Mastercard, you will have to ask one in a bank in Spain . Learn more about it in our bank section.

There are other ways to top up your phone. It is usually possible to do it via the Internet, from a land line, from your mobile, buying top-up cards or going to a mobile phone shop. If the way of topping up your mobile really matters to you, you should visit the operators’ Web sites and check out the different top-up options they offer.

Mobile phone operators in Spain

Place the cursor on the “Particulares” tag to display their list of services: contracts, top-up systems, what they offer regarding international calls, mobile phones…

Place the cursor on the “Particulares” tag to display their list of services.

Calling abroad

You need to talk to your home university coordinator about the choice of your subjects? Or you just miss your family and friends and feel like calling them? There are several options to call abroad.

You should not use your mobile phone to call abroad as it could turn out to be more expensive than you thought and your interlocutor could even have to pay as well.

Calling via the Internet

If you have a computer, an Internet connection and so have your interlocutor, you can call via the Internet using Google Talk or Skype for example. The only tools you need are a microphone, speakers and a Webcam accessorily. To be able to use Google Talk, you will also need a Gmail account.


These are shops where there are several phone booths. If you do not have an easy access to the Internet, it may be a good option. You will be able to call your country in exchange for a certain amount of money per minute, depending of the country you are calling. It is usually quite cheap.

Cards for international calls

You can buy these cards in “locutorios”, newsstands or even from the cashiers in some shops and supermarkets. There is a variety of cards so you should compare several before you decide to buy one. Make sure it is valid for calls to your country: some are valid for any country whereas others are valid for specific countries only.

Once you have bought one of these cards, you have several options: you can use them from a land line (you can have an easy access to a land line if you are living in a family or sharing a flat), go to a phone booth or use your mobile phone. Keep in mind that you will not pay anything else than you card. Therefore, you could even use someone else’s land line or mobile phone; it would not cost them anything.

Then, just follow the steps mentioned on the card, that is: call a free number, compose your secret code and compose the number you want to call.

How to Adjust to the Spanish Culture

So, you’ve decided to study in Spain. How do you adjust to a new culture and life in a foreign country? How do you learn about that new culture’s mind frame? What happens when as a student you enroll in a foreign study program? How do you make the transition from your culture, your frame of reference, to one you have never experienced before?

When you decide to enroll in a study-abroad program, it usually means that you want to experience something new and different in your life. You may be motivated for many different reasons including; learning a new language, a sense of adventure, a different academic experience, a career building investment, or a reunion with “old country” relatives. Regardless of the reason, the experience is looked forward to with anticipation and excitement and sometimes, some misgivings, fear of the unknown, or fear of loss. It becomes a trade off.

While it is exciting to anticipate a trip, students know they will have to say goodbye, sometimes for many months, to family, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and lifestyle. Feelings of occasional sadness about this and doubts about leaving are normal. Taking a few moments and pictures to cherish and making arrangements for some kind of ongoing communication may be helpful. It is important to have made a decision based on a careful mental analysis of the pros and cons of making the commitment. Once that is done, then you can go back to that reasoning if fear or doubts accumulate.

If you are a student preparing to study abroad, another good way to get mentally ready for a trip is to learn as much about the country and culture in which you’ll be immersed as possible. You can be assisted with the nuts and bolts of getting ready (what to study, how to obtain necessary travel documentation, what to take, what to wear, where to stay etc.) by your school program officials, but the mental preparedness is up to you. The more you learn and understand about the country, its history, its customs, its food, its language, its geography, its politics, its music and popular culture, the more you will appreciate what you see, hear, taste, and smell once you get there.

There are many ways to access this information. Obviously, one of them is the Internet. Others may be reading books, talking to people who have been there, seeing movies about the country, or made by the country, learning as much of the language as you can before you go, or buying popular CDs of the culture.

One of the best and most fun ways to learn is to take a course in some aspect of that culture. This will help you learn along with others interested in the same thing. It helps give you a sense of endeavor or mission. For example Spain, if you know what the Royal Palace of Madrid or the Alhambra of Granada looks like, something about its history, architecture, and the people who occupied it, it will be far more exciting and awesome when you see it for real. Instead of being just another building, you will find yourself appreciating from foreknowledge its unique importance.

Once all the preparations are over and you have arrived in the new country, you will be delighted that your troubles have produced the expected results. It will be a great experience at first, but little by little, you will be faced with aspects of the new culture that you do not understand and frustration will begin to show and overwhelm you before you realize what has happenned. You will need to be aware that this is normal and will happen to every one in one degree or another. It will be best for you to develop—or at least be aware of the skills needed to communicate cross culturally.

What to bring to Spain

Comfortable cloths and shoes—new, nice looking jeans are fine; one dressy outfit; waterproof jacket; sweater; umbrella (in the fall); money belt (or similar to keep petty thieves away). Walking shoes (same issues as jeans)or other comfortable shoes. Bring a hat for the times we will be out sightseeing, especially in the summer or if the sun bothers you (the sun is hot). Your passport (and copy of it to carry with you when you are out), credit or debit card (and pin number), camera, medication, and lost of enthusiasm and energy.

If you are coming from the US or the west, also bring Melatonin or a similar remedy. You will have difficulty falling asleep because of the time change. It can also be taken to prevent jet lag (or so they say). You will need it!

Times and Schedules in Spain

The time in Spain is GMT+1 (6 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard time).

The following information is meant in general terms; and exceptions should be expected—nothing is cast in stone in Spain!:

  • Times meals are served at restaurants : Breakfasts: 7 to 11 am; lunch (this is the main meal of the day) 1:30 to 4:00 pm; dinner 9 to 11 pm. There are some restaurants where meals are served continuously (mostly fast food places).
  • Store hours: 10 am to 2 pm and 5 to 8 pm. Large department stores open 10 am to 10 pm. All stores close on Sundays (except the first Sunday of the month) and holidays.
  • Banks open Monday through Friday 8:30 (or 9) am to 2:00 pm. Saturdays until 1 pm.

There is a lot of activity going on until late hours of the night—if not all night.

Money in Spain

Currency: Euro. Currency exchange rates at

  • Euro bills: 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 euros
  • Euro coins: 2 euros, 1 euro; 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cent

How to get money in Madrid

There are ATMs everywhere, where you could get money. Make sure you have a valid pin and that your bank allows you to use your debit card abroad. If you will draw money from your credit card, make sure you know your pin number. You can get money from an ATM at the airport.

You can get money exchanged also at the airport. Just as you come out the luggage retrieval area, there is an American Express counter. You can get your traveler’s checks exchange there also—you may not be able to get them exchanged anywhere else other than an American Express office. Make sure you have some euros with you when you leave the airport. On Sundays and holidays, banks are closed. Sometimes the hotels will exchange money, but don’t count on it to be safe.

Food and Health in Spain


The typical Spanish cuisine is distinctively Mediterranean, and it is characterized by its tremendous variety in meat, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetables and fruit. Typical ingredients are olive oil, garlic, parsley, saffron, meat, poultry or fish, and fresh vegetables. You will be happily surprised to find out how good food can taste–Spanish gastronomy is among the best in the world. Please be aware that the Spanish diet with all its fresh fruits and vegetables and specially its olive oil could cause you loose bowls. If you think you might have a problem, bring some medication or other remedy with you.

Spanish water is safe to drink (except in public fountains where there is an “agua no potable” sign (this is not common). You do not have to buy bottled water, but it is convenient to have a bottle with you when you go out sight seeing. Water in Madrid tastes good, but not so in Barcelona. Although it is safe to drink, you probably will prefer to get bottled water when you visit Barcelona.

If needed, good medical care is available in Spain. You should contact your medical insurance companies prior to traveling abroad to confirm that your policy applies abroad and it will cover emergency expenses.

Safety in Spain

Spain has a moderate rate of crime and most of the 58 million tourist who come to Spain each year have trouble free visits. However, street crimes against tourists occur in the principal tourist areas. In Madrid and Barcelona there have been incidents of muggings and violent attacks. Criminals frequent tourist areas and major attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, outdoor cafes, Internet cafes, hotel lobbies, beach resorts, city buses, subways, trains, train stations, airports, and ATM machines. You should to carry limited cash, only one credit card, and a copy of your passport; leaving extra cash, extra credit cards, passports and personal documents in a safe location. If you are victim of a crime, report it immediately to the local police and to your Embassy or Consulate.

Driving in Spain

Driving can be hectic on the Gran Via in Madrid

Spain is the third most visited country on the planet. It’s no wonder considering the culture, tradition, historical sites, art, and beaches.

People coming to Spain to visit need to travel around the entire country to get a glimpse of all Spain has to offer, from the beaches of Malaga to the history of Madrid to the sites of Barcelona.

If you plan on driving around some of the major cities, be sure to get a compact car as finding car parking in Spain can be difficult!

Driving and car rental in Spain can be a little scary especially if you are accustomed to driving in the US. Sometimes lanes are nothing more than lines on a road, virtually ignored by many drivers in the city. Many intersections are administered through ‘rotondas’, which are circular intersections without stoplights. Some are very large and very chaotic so be sure to keep an eye out when circulating. Spaniards generally drive about 20 km over the speed limit.

Tourist can drive and hire car rentals in Spain with a foreign license for a period of 3 months.

If you are coming from a country outside of the European Union, keep in mind that some aspects of the driving code will be different from those in your country. Likewise, you could experience driving situations that are new to you.

For instance:

  • There is an overabundance of traffic signs, many you have never seeing before. The icon within the sign will give you an idea what it means, but the shape and color of the sign are extremely important.
    • A triangular sign with a horizontal base indicates danger; it tell you to be cautious.
    • A circular sign with a red edge indicates a prohibition. It tells you what you are not allowed to do.
    • A round blue sign is a compulsory sign; it tells you what you must do.
    • A square blue sign is informative; it gives you information regarding various aspects of the road.
  • You must drive on the right side of the road and on the right lane unless you are passing another car or you are within the city limits.
  • If there is no light or sign indicating otherwise, in an intersection the traffic coming from your right has the right of way except in a roundabout where you must yield to the traffic coming from your left.
  • If there is a crosswalk the pedestrian has the right of way, unless there is a traffic light indicating that you have the right of way.

As in any other country drinking and driving don’t mix well, so be careful not to drink—yes not even wine—If you are going to be driving. Remember the use of cell phones is forbidden while you drive unless you have hands free device.

Miscellaneous Things About Spain

Telephone codes: to call Spain dial 011 34 and number (9 digits).

  • Postage. Purchase your stamps at the post office or at any tobacco store. Here you can find out the correct postage for your country. Yellow mailboxes are located throughout the city. They usually have 2 slots: “Madrid capital” and “otros destinos.” Place your letter in “otros destinos.”
  • Electricity is 220 (110 in the US). If you come from the US bring and bring an electrical device, you must have a transformer to change the current and an adapter for the switch (with round prong).
  • Smoking is not allowed in public buildings. There are smoke free restaurants and restaurants with non-smoking sections.
  • Drinking: Wine is always served with your meals (lunch and dinner).
  • Tips. It is customary to tip at restaurants, but not as much as in the US because the service charge is included in the bill and waiters are usually paid on a salary basis.
  • Taxis. They are inexpensive, and you can find a taxi just about anywhere in the streets of large cities. In Madrid they are white with a red stripe. To know if they are occupied of free, look for a “libre” or “ocupado” sign on the windshield during the day. At night a green light shows they are free.

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