lauantai 15. kesäkuuta 2013

EXPRESS GUIDE FOR A STUDENT EXCHANGE IN MADRID



Are you waiting for the best year of your life to begin? There is one thing I can say. Madrid has a lot to offer to you, make the most of it. This express guide is made to facilitate your adjustment.  I hope you will find some good tips for your stay.  

Before the exchange
It is not a disaster if you forget something since you can buy almost everything in Spain. Here is a little checklist for you to help to get started

  • Make sure your passport and EU health insurance card are valid for your whole stay
  • Take a copy of your passport, Travel insurance and your EU Health Insurance card. Keep them separate in a safe place
  • Bring couple of passport photos (you need them for example for the Abono Transportes, transportation card)
  • Make sure you have all your vaccinations check
  • Don’t forget your personal medicines in case you need them
  • You can get discounts with your student card so don’t forget to take it with you
  • Consult your bank about the prices of withdrawals. ATMs with a sign “Telebanco” work with most of foreign the cards. 



Living
Compared to other cities Madrid is more expensive to live. Most common is to rent a room from a shared flat. Rents in the centric zone are around 300-500€/room in a good condition. The houses in general are old but sometimes you might get lucky and find a fully renovated room.

In most cases your rent does not include extra costs (gastos) such as water, electricity, gas and Internet. These extra costs are divided between you and your roommates. In the winter you probably pay more due to heating expenses. The costs per month should be around 50€ depending on the house and the use. Remember that electricity in Spain might be more expensive that you have got used to. The deposit is often one month’s rent.

In general the houses in the heart of the centre are old. Start your search above Gran Vía Street. Good zones are for example Chamberí, Malasaña, Argüelles and La Latina (old but artistic)

IMPORTANT!
DO NOT SIGN ANY RENTAL AGREEMENTS BEFORE YOU HAVE SEEN THE HOUSE!
Pictures can lie.



Safety 
Use common sense while you are out in Madrid. There are lots of pickpockets, thieves and beggars. 

  • Prefer bags with zipper especially if there are lots of people around.
  • Keep your phone and wallet in your bag or pocket while you are at cafes. Not on the table. This is important in Madrid since the thieves often steal from tables.
  • Don’t let your bag unguarded.
  • Keep your wallet in the safest place.
  • Take with you only the things you know you will need.
  • As a girl don’t walk home alone from a bar.
  • If despite all you get robbed, close your credit card immediately and go to the police.

Remember that the Spanish law obligates everyone to carry an ID always.

The tap water in Madrid is drinkable. According to some researches, it is the purest tap water in Spain.



Telephones
A Spanish prepaid SIM card will safe money in the long run. Ask for the offers from different operators. The most common are Movistar (a bit expensive), Orange, Yoigo and Vodafone. Some cheap operators such as Happy Móvil don’t work outside Spain.

A lot of Spanish people use Whatsapp to send messages. You can ask prices for 3G Internet from different operators. For example Yoigo and Vodafone have 3G Internet packages for prepaid phones. Price for the Internet is 8-10€/per month. Yoigo for example has one called Bono 8. You can activate it at their stores or by calling 622. When you leave, just remember to deactivate it.



Transportation
It is recommended to buy a monthly pass called Abono Transportes since Madrid is a big city and you will probably need to use the public transportation a lot. With Abono Transportes you can use the public transport (metro, bus, cercanías) unlimited/month. You can buy the card from some of the tobacco kiosks (Estancos). You need a copy of your passport and a passport size photo to obtain the card. The price depends on your age and the selected zone. People under 23 can buy the Abono Joven. No student discounts available.



Socializing
Before you come it is advisable to learn at least the basics of Spanish as they don’t necessary speak English. Spaniards use hands (although not so much as the Italians) while speaking and sometimes their speak may sound dramatic. This however, is their way of talking. The social distance is also often shorter than you might have got used to. The Spaniards love socializing but rather than inviting you to their home they go out in public places and spend time with their friends in bars or in restaurants.
Even though you wouldn’t speak Spanish fluently you should try to speak as much as you can. That is how you learn! Especially in Madrid people pronounce purely.

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