The Mole Diaries: Alicante
Yoli Sanchez is studying Spanish and Italian at the University of Liverpool, and has just finished her first semester as an Erasmus student in Alicante, Spain, and will be shortly going to study as an Erasmus student in Palermo, Sicily. Here is Yoli's insider guide to living in Alicante: where to live, transport connections, packing, travelling around and the University of Alicante.
1. Where to live
Let’s start with the basics… From my experience, the majority of Erasmus students in Alicante live by either the Plaza de Toros, a ten to fifteen minute walk to the city centre, shops, bars and beach; or Plaza de los Luceros, a more central location close to the main shopping areas. Both places have excellent transport links to the university by bus or tram. I would estimate that the average cost of a shared flat in both locations is around €220-270 per month. For example, I paid €240 monthly, including all bills and internet, for a room in a shared flat near to the Plaza de Toros.
Before arriving in Alicante I wondered whether I should live in the university’s halls of residence or in San Vicente, the area near to the university campus. However upon reflection I am glad that I decided to live in the centre, as the other Erasmus students that lived by the university did not enjoy it.
Some useful websites to search for accommodation are ErasmusEnAlicante.com and EasyPiso.com; I especially recommend the latter. It is worth joining the Erasmus groups on Facebook as people tend to post about spare rooms. I personally stayed in a hostel for two days when I first arrived and then arranged to view the flats that appealed to me. Alicante is relatively small for a city so it is easy to view a number of flats in one day by foot.
As I briefly mentioned, there are many transport links throughout Alicante although it is a relatively small city. You can take the tram or number 24 bus to the university which takes around 15-25 minutes depending on where you get on. The easiest way to save money on travel is to buy a bus pass which gives you 30 journeys for around €26, or 10 for a smaller cost. There are other buses that go to the hospital, shopping centres and of course, the airport bus which costs €3.85 and comes very frequently throughout the day. The tram line also goes right up the coast to Benidorm and stops at some of the lovely surrounding towns such as San Juan and El Campello. Here's the Subus website for bus links.
In terms of travelling around Spain, Alicante also has a good airport, train station and coach station where you can catch an ALSA coach numerous different cities. Tickets are generally fairly priced and you can get extra discounts if you book online and use your Erasmus Student Network card.
3. What to pack
Although Alicante enjoys mild climate all year round, with temperatures around 20 degrees in December and January, packing warm winter clothing is a must! Believe it or not, it does rain sometimes and it does get a little chilly during the winter – once you get used to the heat of summer anything below 20 degrees feels cold! If you are going in the first semester, I would definitely recommend packing beach wear as the weather stays quite hot until the end of October and you can’t miss the lovely city beach, Playa del Postiguet. Check out the weather averages here!
4. Places to see
The main attractions in the city itself are the beautiful beach and Castillo de Santa Bárbara, a 9th century castle-cum-fortress on Mount Benacantil. You can either climb or take the lift up to the top, but it is 100% worth seeing because it has breathtaking views of the entire city, sea and mountains. Playa del Postiguet, the city’s beach is lovely, but tends to get quite crowded during the warmer months. If you’re looking for a prettier and quieter beach, with views of the mountains and clear sand, la Playa de San Juan in the nearby town of (you guessed it) San Juan is perfect. Alicante also offers many shopping districts, Plaza Mar, Gran Vía and three Corte Inglés department stores along with lots of amazing restaurants, pizzerías and ice cream shops such as Borgonesse on La Rambla and Pinocchio on Calle Castaños. The main party areas are in the old town, el barrio and along the port, with the general meeting point for Erasmus students being the Central Market.
Finally, here are some nearby places that are definitely worth visiting:
- The city of Elche
- San Juan
- El Campello
- La Isla de Tabarca
- Los Fuentes del Algar
5. La Universidad de Alicante
The university’s Centro Superior de Idiomas offers free Spanish language courses for international students. You can take this class as an extra to help you improve your Spanish, but it does give you five extra credits to put on your Erasmus Learning Agreement! The University of Alicante campus itself is very beautiful with lots of palm trees, fountains and has stunning views of the surrounding mountains, especially from the library.