When you arrive in a new city, the only thing that you want to do is go out and start enjoying your new life. Yet, you have to pass through some not so exciting steps. So, be patient: these things will take you a little bit of time, but they are as necessary to your stay as having fun.
Three weeks ago, I arrived in Madrid, impatient to visit the city and start my internship at ROOSTERGNN (do you want to follow my footsteps and complete a journalism internship seminar in Madrid? Read my article How to get an internship in Madrid!)
Despite my excitement, I was forced to dedicate my first days to build up my Spanish life. Dear Plaza del Sol, I’m sorry, see you when all the bureaucracy will be done.
But what are the most important things to do when you arrive?
1. Get the Metro Pass
Madrid’s public transportation system is excellent. Having a metro pass is extremely useful; it allows you to take all means of transport: metro, cercanías (Renfe trains) and buses.
If you are less than 26 years old, you can get the Abono Joven. It costs only 20 Euros per month! Don’t forget to have a look at the official website of Metro de Madrid: your Abono Joven pass gives you access to some additional discounts. For instance, last week I went to a great exposition on Cleopatra for free using my metro pass! (Those over 26 can also check out the Metro de Madrid website to find out prices for “older” people!).
Getting your pass is quite easy. You can choose between two alternatives: order it online and receive your tarjeta at home, or set up an appointment in one of the public transport card management offices. There are many of these offices in the city and it will be easy for you to find the one that is closest to your new home.
My tips: I warmly recommend the second one: it is the quickest! In fact, it takes about a week to receive your card by mail.
2. Get a Spanish phone number
Nowadays we are lost without our smart-phones. Getting a Spanish number was the first thing I did when I came here, even before getting my Metro pass. In Spain, there is a huge variety of phone operators. Each one offers a variety of rates. There are also websites where you can compare all the different rates. In my opinion the best one is Rastreator.com. Phonehouse is also efficient.
My tip to avoid bad experiences: One thing that I’ve found out for myself: don’t trust the first advertisement that you see! It’s better to ask for information or to read opinions on the web. In fact, I got a number with Tuenti, because the possibility of calling international numbers without limits sounded very attractive to me. Actually, when I call Italian numbers people cannot hear me very well. In my mother’s words my voice sound “like a robot one!”. So, be careful! For international calls, you can always have Skype as a back-up option.
You can also consider pay-as-you-go cards that you can recharge at places like Corte Inglés and even some local supermarkets. Look for signs like “recarga tu móvil aquí”.
3. Download useful apps
Have you done the two first steps? Perfect! Now you can go anywhere and if you got data with your new phone plan, you can access the internet anywhere, too. (By the way, if you didn’t spend the extra amount to get data, there is free wifi on all EMT buses, the red ones, so a good way to explore the city is to hop on a bus and use the wifi!).
What’s next? Download the best apps that will help you not to get lost, or to find out what to do.
My two favorite apps: Madrid EMT, available both for Apple and Android, is essential. Thanks to this app you can get valuable info about public transport. The apps include waiting times, stations, stops and route planners.
Also, many apps with maps are available. Maps me is the one that I prefer in terms of apps. Nevertheless, I think that Google Maps is always the best choice.
Do you want to know where the closest bar is? Cañas y tapas will lead you to the best bars of Madrid!
4. Subscribe to Facebook pages
There are plenty of Facebook pages who will help you to be up-to-date about events in Madrid.
My favorite pages: Madrid Free and Madrid y Yo are without doubt the most useful ones! You cannot imagine how many free activities take place in Madrid everyday. It’s unbelievable! Workshops, expositions, yoga classes and so on!
5. Open a bank account
If your stay is going to be very short (like mine! I am having a great time in Spain, but whenever I think that I must go home soon, I get sad!), you can avoid this step. However, if you are remaining in Madrid more time, I highly suggest opening a bank account. Almost every bank offers free accounts for young people. Madrid is full of banks!
My tip: If you don’t want to open a bank account you can withdraw money at Liberbank’s cash machine. You will not pay any commission. Also, be sure to inquire with your bank back home about whether they will charge you. I also advise telling your bank you will be abroad to avoid getting your card blocked for security reasons once you withdraw abroad.
Please also note that credit cards are not as commonly used in Madrid as in the U.S. for example, and many establishments will prefer cash for small amounts (e.g. a couple of beers). Splitting bills is also not as common here.
Now you are ready: your life in Madrid can start! What about some shopping? Check out this article (in Spanish) if you want to discover the most original shops of the capital!
Hope you will enjoy Madrid as much as me!