Madrid Expat Series

What to Pack If You Are Moving to Spain

If you are planning to spend a semester abroad in Spain or live here for a few months, you must pack your belongings wisely. Why? Because they might be a few things that you may not find on the shelves here. Or if you manage to get them in your hands, you will pay ridiculous money for them. Do not stress, after a while, you will figure everything out and find replacements for your favorites products or realize you are better off without them. Who knows?

On this post, I will go over the things that you must bring with you if you use them frequently or think that you would miss after a while. What should I bring in my bags?

1. Deodorant

No matter what deodorant brand or type I bought in Spain, it just didn’t work for me. Even buying the same products that used to work for me back home, in Spain, they were different.
In Europe, new skincare and hygiene products and other chemical products need to be tested for safety before they can be put on the shelves. And the number of toxic ingredients banned from being used are huge compared to the few banned ingredients in the states. It’s a pity that my body cannot control himself with less harmful chemicals.

If you are like me and prefer solid deodorant, then bring your own. The most common type of deodorant used here is spray, you will find a lot of variety in this area. Bar deodorant in Spain is closed to non-existent.

2. Natural Health Supplements

The healthy lifestyle is now slowly growing in Spain. Some superfoods are very hard to find or insanely overpriced. Foods like frozen açai, powdered peanut butter, nutritional yeast, vegan alternatives… you get the idea. Vitamin supplements are cheaper in the US than in Spain.

Although they are really into fitness, you will find every sports gear and tools.

3. Pancake Mix & Syrup

If you can make pancakes from scratch, good for you. You won’t need this one. But, if you are like me and really love your boxed blueberry pancakes, then bring one with you. You can find plain pancakes boxes at supermarkets. Familiar brands will be available at insanely high prices. Same goes for pancakes syrups.

Photo: Lancome

4. Face Makeup Products (if you have medium/dark skin)

Most Spanish people have light colored skin. When you visit cosmetics or big department stores they are many shades of light colors to choose from but not in the medium dark side. It’s almost impossible to find a perfect match.

5. Food

A special announcement to all vegans. Veganism is not that common in Spain. Therefore, you will find limited options while dining out and in the supermarket as well. Keep this in mind when packing if you are vegan. Also, coconut oil and peanut butter are expensive and most times imported from the US.

Yes, you will find peanut butter here. But the old school plain and simple alternative. If you took a step into other nut kinds of butter or are into more creative flavors, like salty or crunchy for example, my advice is to bring them with you.

In the European Union, they have banned specific artificial flavors and colors used in foods because they have shown to be prejudicial to our health. Some examples are the yellow #5 and red #10. These artificial colors are commonly used in cereals. Products like Fruit Loops, Kraft Mac & Cheese, BBQ sauce, and others that include this ingredient in their American version, will taste and look, different in Spain. Follow this link to learn more about artificial ingredients used in our food.

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

6. Spices

Pure vanilla is hard to find in Spain and very expensive. Sames goes for almond extract. If you like to bake and want to show off your skills in Spain, you must bring these key ingredients with you. If you love the Everything But Bagel seasoning and are too lazy to make your own. Bring it! Hot sauce. Bring it!

7. Latin Products

Even though Spain has always welcomed Latino immigrants over the past decades and has over 3 million Latinos living in Spain, some Latino products are still tough to find. Or the quality or price or the products available makes them difficult to replace the ones we used to have back home.

Venezuelan Fresh Cheese Guayanés

Since this type of cheese cannot be refrigerated to preserve its unique taste, it brakes the Spanish law supermarkets need to follow when handling cheese. Since all cheeses in Spain must be refrigerated.

Banana/Plantain Leaves

Especially during Christmas we get a bit homesick and wish we can replicate some traditional foods from our home countries. Dishes like Mexican Tamales, Venezuelan Hallacas, and Puerto Rican pasteles are easier to take with you frozen. But, if you are highly skilled in the kitchen and want to make them yourself you must take some banana/plantain leaves frozen to Spain.

Adobo & Sazón (Puerto Rico)

This one goes to my fellow boricuas. You can find adobo at precise locations in Spain. Like, for example, the Mercado Las Maravillas in Madrid. But be warned, it’s ridiculously overpriced.

On the other hand, sazón is not available for sale in Spain. It’s actually banned in the EU. You know how sazón gives that unique color to our food, that we all love. Well, sorry to break the news to you, but it has artificial colors, like Red 40, that have proven to be carcinogenic. Therefore is banned in Europe.

Other Latin food products worth mentioning: Achiote/Anoto Seeds, Sweet Pepper, Casabe Bread

Kitchen Gadgets

Also, they are a few kitchen tools that you may want to take with you to Spain. You can always improvise with what you have. You can make tostones using two plates or take a tostonera with you. Your choice. If you are from Venezuela, you can use a flat grill or take a Budare with you. But keep in mind that you will not find such clever products for sale in Spain.



In the end, it depends on how long you are staying and how open you are to new things and to adapt. This list is based on my and close friends experience. But you may find yourself missing other products. If so, leave them in the comments below so I can update the list and help others in your situation. Remember, you can always count on friends and family that come visit you to bring the piece of home you are missing.

Now that you know how to pack before arriving in Spain, you might be curious about how to pack on your way back. If so, you might find this Spain Shopping Guide interesting.

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  • Reply
    Katie B | and then monday
    June 8, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    What a unique spin on packing for extended travel or moving. I never would have thought about things we take for granted or as super easy to get like pancake batter or deodorant.

  • Reply
    Sarah Gray
    June 11, 2018 at 5:47 am

    This is such good information to have! It is such a pain to make a life change and not be prepared for the little things that will be missing.

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