Everything you need to know for your year abroad in Spain

Everything you need to know for your year abroad in Spain Don Quixote by TheRogue

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 20th January 2012 and has been read 13824 times.

If you’re planning on moving to Spain for your year or semester abroad, you will be thinking of accommodation, bureaucracy, bank accounts and much more. It might be wise to read our Culture Shock section for more tips about Spanish working hours, politeness and more before you set sail to the Iberian Peninsula. Read on to find out what you should do when you arrive, how to sort out lodgings and what to look out for regarding money issues and more...


Take a look at our Student Accommodation in Spain article to get the very best list of websites out there to help you find your ideal pad. Remember that Spain usually only has flats for rent in big cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona and Seville, so sizes will usually be displayed as m² as opposed to a lengthy description of rooms and kitchens and so on. You should also check whether the flat comes with central heating or air conditioning, depending on your location.

It is also worth bearing in mind that many Spaniards tend to flatshare - especially students. Adverts and anuncios are posted up around universities, or alternatively, you can find something to suit your needs on the websites provided in our previous article. There are many estate agents on the market, but watch out for any surcharges (agency fees etc) going through one of them will incur. However, if you’re looking to find accommodation privately and face to face, there are hundreds of notes stuck on lamp posts and on balconies with the words ‘Alquiler’ scribbled onto them - jot the number down and call! It might seem like a bit of an odd way to publicise a flat for rent but that’s the way things are done here.

Deposits tend to be one to two months rent. Charges and bills are generally not included and you should ask before signing anything if water bills are included in the rent. Make sure you get your contract looked over by someone in the know (a lecturer, friend etc) so you know what you’re letting yourself in for. If you are subletting, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about it. Similarly, if you are on a roll-over contract (i.e. replacing someone who’s left), ask if you can get a copy.


The health system in Spain is very much similar to the rest of the European Union in the sense that you will be covered by your EHIC card for minor problems (doctor’s appointment, over the counter medicine, antibiotics receta etc). For a full list of what you are covered for under the EHIC and who to speak to whilst you’re out in Spain, go to the NHS’ website to find out more


To help you pick up the language, it’s a good idea to invest in a little notebook to jot expressions, vocab and regional fillers down. If your baggage allowance will allow it, it’s a good idea to bring along a language dictionary just in case. If you’re one of the lucky few travelling with a Kindle or i-Pad, you could get your hands on a virtual format of a dictionary instead, to leave more space for an extra pair of swimming trunks instead.


It’s really important you get insurance cover for your time away in case something goes wrong. Of course, we don’t mean to paint a worst-case scenario setting, but even little things, such as having your favourite glasses stolen, can add up. Getting insured can sometimes come as an obligatory requirement for your foreign uni or work placement which means it is paramount you get it sorted before you leave. Even if insurance isn’t compulsory for your time away according to your activity, should you miss out on a flight, fancy taking a short trip somewhere or have certain valuables with you on your year abroad, take a policy out anyway to ensure you’ve got peace of mind while you’re away. Read more about insurance right here.

Discounts and more

You can bag great discounts at the cinema, clubs and gyms if you hold an ISIC card to show your student status. Travels in the country and its neighbours can become cheaper if you are under 25, via the train or on a bus, if you have your student card with you. If enrolling at university in Spain, you will be supplied with a card anyway but if you wish to stay at hostels and such like, it’s still a good idea to invest in an ISIC card as it is internationally recognised.  

Bank accounts

You could bring your UK bank card with you, but you may be expected to pay a commission when taking money out in euros, as well as a small fee. To set off these costs, you might be contemplating setting up an account in Spain. The most common banks in Spain are La Caixa and Santander. To open an account you will need proof of address, your passport, proof of occupation (a letter from your employer or university), your student card and your NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros). For a list of common terms used in bank statements and current account paperwork, have a look at this list.


Here’s our pick of the best websites in Spain:

España es cultura Universia Salir


Read more about what you could get up to during your spare time thanks to our article on Extra-curricular classes on your year abroad in Spain. ¡Feliz viaje!

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