On this post, I will cover the fun part of getting started in Madrid. I will write another post discussing the other boring stuff you need to get done after arriving in Spain, like setting up your health insurance, opening bank accounts, visa paperwork, etc. It has been two years since I arrived in Madrid not for the first time, but for the longest time (1 year).
I remember being very nervous; I was leaving everything behind. Quitting my current job, saying goodbye to family and friends and was about to start my Master’s Degree in Retail Marketing the next month. There was no turning back.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ― Helen Keller
I only knew one person, my boyfriend, who was picking me up at the airport and helping me with my five pieces of luggage. Crazy, right? We already had a place of our own, which even though it was furnished and he was living there for less than a month, we needed to make a trip to Ikea. Because who moves to a new place without setting foot in Ikea? We needed to get the apartment completely ready, mostly the kitchen and a working/study area. I would say that my experience moving to Madrid was a bit atypical. Not everyone has the opportunity to arrive in Barajas and from there go directly to what is going to be their home.
Over these two years, I have helped multiple students and young professionals get settled in the city. From experience what may help you the most is learning some Spanish or being with someone who can translate for you. You will be in touch with many professionals that struggle to speak English or any other language besides Spanish.
Bottom line, no matter the location, moving sucks! I only hope that these recommendations make moving to Madrid a little more simple for you.
1. Public Transportation Card
First things first, the first thing that I recommend that everyone should do is to get their Madrid public transportation card. You need to visit multiple places to start your new life in the city. So you better travel smart. You can obtain the card by making an appointment in one of the “Consorcio Regional de Transportes de Madrid” offices, some of them accept walk-ins (Sol), but expect long waiting lines. You will need to provide your passport or a Spanish issued ID like the DNI or NIE card. Come prepared; if it’s the first time you request the card, they will be taking a photo of you to use on your card. The cost of the card is 4 euros, and you can use it immediately.
If you already know someone in the city, you can also order the card online and receive it in the mailbox within a week at no extra cost. That is what I have done with family and friends that have visited me in Madrid. I go and meet them at the airport and bring their public transportation cards with me.
If you are 25 years old or younger, you get to use the Abono Joven, which is fantastic! For 20 euros you can travel by metro, bus or cercanías inside the Community of Madrid. The area even includes Toledo, which is an hour away from Madrid by bus and the round trip without the Abono Joven costs around 15 euros. If you are 26 years old or older, then the price depends on the Zone you choose to travel in, the bigger the area, the higher the monthly price gets. Zone A which is the city center costs 55 euros per month.
2. Get a Spanish phone number
Yes, you will need a phone number, not to navigate the internet but to make actual calls. You will be making most of the apartment seeings appointments over the phone. Also, you will need to open a bank account, contract services such as wifi, and much more. Don’t worry about the internet; there is free wifi almost everywhere in Madrid.
What most people do is that they use an old phone with their Spanish SIM card and then forget to charge it and only turned it on when they are expecting a call or a text. You can even get a prepaid phone for this. In Spain telecommunications companies are very cheap, you can get unlimited calls and 2Gb of internet for less than 20 euros. Two of the low cost and reliable telecommunications companies in Spain are Más Movil and Yoigo. I personally only have used Orange, and I’m happy with their service.
3. Get a room!
I would say that this part is the most complicated one. Nowadays most apartments are being posted in Airbnb and removed from the long-term rentals market. Individuals own most of the apartments available for rent in Madrid. The most common website used to search for properties is Idealista. On that website, you can contact the poster, schedule seeings and bookmark your favorites places. The Idealista app also works very well. The app has a very cool feature that allows you to search available properties in the Madrid city map after you can draw the area with your finger. They are also many Facebook groups that can help you find shared flats or housemates. The Facebook group with the most members (89k+): Pisos y Habitaciones de Alquiler en Madrid.
Apartments in Madrid are on and off the market in less than a week. Don’t waste time looking for a place to rent months in advance. It’s almost impossible for it to happen because the options change daily. Keep your mind open. You might want to consider sharing a flat instead of living on your own, especially if you don’t know anyone in the city. Also, Madrid city center is huge; you don’t need to be walking distance from Sol. You can take the bus or the metro and perhaps save some rent money. I also recommend to not make any contract agreements without seeing the place first because some pictures are very distorted from reality.
4. Visit a tourism office
Madrid has a lot of cool things to do: exhibitions, plays, music and sports events. You name it! The best way to know what’s going on in the city is to visit the tourism office. They give away free brochures that include all of the arts and entertainment activities for the following months.
Also, one must be prepared to show guests around. You can pick up city maps for free, learn about the opening hours of the city attractions and museums, which dates are free to visit and much more. I still have a book they made about Madrid neighborhoods, that explains the history behind every neighborhood and highlights what to do in each area.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide
5. Have a drink!
You made it! Now have fun and enjoy everything that Madrid has to offer. And perhaps start making new friends. Madrid social life is fantastic. You can meet people from all over the world. They are tons of events going up on Meetup all the time. Language exchanges, beer tasting, tech meetups, running groups, you name it. If you are like me and do not like to party until 6 am I bet you will find your favorite way to make friends in the city using this app.
Also, look on Facebook, they are multiple groups that organize events in the city and are always an excellent resource to find information about how to deal with situations like government appointments.
Hope these tips are very helpful in saving you time when you are starting your new adventure in Madrid. Enjoy your stay!