Do you want to study in Spain? Have you been temporarily relocated to Spain for work? Or are you taking a gap year or sabbatical there? There are a lot of reasons to move to Spain for a year or more.
Living in Spain for over a year is truly the ideal amount of time. Why? 6 months isn’t enough to get the full experience, and several years may be too long for you to be away from your home or country depending on your personal situation. If you’re preparing for moving to Spain for a year, discover this essential checklist.
What to do on or before arrival in Spain
- Get your documents in order:
- Visa/NIE: In order to stay legally in Spain, you need a visa or some sort of legal residency such as a NIE.
- Work/study documents: For work, you will need to register your work contract, social security number, and tax documents. For studying, you will also need a student visa and documents such as the NIE.
- Bank account: Open a bank account in Spain to deposit your salary or make payments easily. Most banks will require your passport or NIE document.
- Healthcare: If you work in Spain, you will get coverage through the public healthcare. But if you’re studying or in another situation, you will need to get healthcare coverage by taking out private insurance.
- Figure out your transport options: Depending on where you need to go on a daily basis, you will need to figure out your route and transport options. Buy a monthly pass for bus or metro, or buy/rent a car if you need to take long trips or go somewhere that’s not well-connected.
- Get to know your neighborhood- Just like back home, there are places you’ll go each day besides your apartment, such as the bank, grocery store, gym, park, doctor, or dentist. Locate the closest or best one.
- Visit the tourist attracts/hotspots - Every city in Spain has tourist attractions. Get these out of the way first so you can move onto the real spots where locals frequent.
What to do between 3-6 months in Spain
- Find a community or network of friends - There are many groups for expats, otherwise you may meet people depending on your interests, hobbies, or work/studies. Try to make friends with locals as it will make your experience more genuine.
- Try the Spanish cuisine - Where else in the world can you eat authentic jamón? The food culture in Spain is unique, and you won’t get this experience anywhere else. Go out and eat the different tapas, drink a caña or copa, and try regional Mediterranean meals like paella and suckling pig.
- Visit all the major districts of the city - By this point, you should know the ins and outs of your neighborhood and the main tourist destinations, but you will also want to explore the city’s other districts. Find out what characterizes each neighborhood. You may be surprised at the new places you find like new stores, bars, restaurants.
- Go to the doctor/dentist for a checkup - Keep your health at the forefront of your mind. Just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean you need to skimp on healthcare. Make sure to renew your prescriptions and investigate any colds or illnesses that come up.
What to do before 1 year in Spain
- Deepen your knowledge of the Spanish language - For most of your time, you may have gotten by on a few essential words and phrases, but you should take advantage of your final months in Spain to immerse yourself in the language. Take a course, speak only Spanish with your friends or roommates, watch show/movies in Spanish. Now may be the only time you have to be exposed to Spanish on a daily basis.
- Visit different cities or regions in Spain - Spain is incredibly diverse and if you have the time/budget, you should absolutely take advantage of the easy transport options and small size of the country to travel. Check out my ultimate Spain travel guide.
- Take part in cultural activities/events - See a Flamenco show, go to a football (soccer) match or a bullfighting match, take long lunches and late dinners, eat the 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s...essentially, find out what it means to be Spanish.
- Go to world-famous Spanish festivals - Las Fallas in Valencia. Feria and Semana Santa in Seville. The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. La Tomatina in Buñol. There are many infamous Spanish festivals that you should attend. Do your research and plan ahead.
What to do when leaving Spain
- Get your documents in order, again - End your housing contract, deregister as a resident in Spain (important for tax purposes), cancel your healthcare, close your bank account, etc.
- Stock up on Spanish souvenirs/gifts - There are some things you can only get in Spain, like a fan, castanets, flamenco dress, cava... Your friends and family back home will want something especially Spanish, and you’ll need something to remember your time.
- Pack or ship belongings - First of all, get rid of things you don’t need or that you already have back home. If there are things you must take that you can’t fit, look into shipping them home or flying with extra luggage (at an extra fee).
- Buy your airplane tickets home - Don’t wait until the last minute to purchase your tickets. Depending on the time of the year, it can be very expensive.