Sunday, September 29, 2013

"How-To's" for Moving to Spain: Advice from the First Year

As a new auxiliar, and new arrival to Spain myself, there were many things I was unsure of when I first arrived in Madrid almost a month ago (seriously...a month already?!).  Being a chronic worrier I made sure to research as much as I could on what I would need to do, and how I would have to do it.  Luckily for me (and if you're doing the same program too), the Auxiliares de Conversación program is a very popular one and many past Auxiliars have out of the kindness of their hearts written a multitude of blog posts on how to deal with the different aspects of taking this leap of faith.
Don't forget to relax! source
Here are the blogs and blog posts that I used researching the program, learning more about life in Spain, and that I have used to help figure out how to jump through all the hoops you have to in order be settled.  Along with these resources I've added my own personal experience on the process.


Andalucía Bound-The 411 on Bringing your Phone to Spain

This is an excellent post that explains how you can bring your American smart phone (if it's GSM capable and once it's unlocked) to Spain and then breaks down some of the most popular cell phone companies in Spain.  I also researched two other phone companies that my Spanish friends talked about: Pepephone and Tuenti Móvil.  Unfortunately when I looked for some of the plans she talked about I couldn't find them or they were more expensive then they had been.  My luck right?

The problem with getting a phone is that most normal contracts need you to be staying in Spain for at least 18 months, aka they have permanencia.  You can either have traditional pay-as-you-go or find a contract that is sin permanencia.  In the end I chose Tuenti with their plan that is: 11€ per month (with taxes), 1 GB of data, 75 minutes of calls (establishment of calls included), and texts are 8 cents.  After the 75 minutes is used it costs (with taxes) around 18 cents to connect and 4 cents per minutes after that.  It was one of the cheapest plans I could find and like most plans in Spain, receiving anything is free.  Plus most Spaniards just use the app Whats App.

My problem is that my normal smart phone from home didn't have a SIM so I took an old one someone gave me, unlocked it, and realized that not only was it not an Android but that it wasn't even wifi capable. UGH! So after hating myself for a day I sucked it up and purchased an unlocked phone online, which (hopefully) will be arriving soon.


Vado a Spain-How to Find an Apartment in Any City in Spain
Oh No She Madridn't-How to Find an Apartment in Madrid

Our cute piso
For finding an apartment in Madrid I was very lucky.  I am living right near Sol with my boyfriend, the perfect location because I need to take the trains south to Getafe and he will start an internship just north.

I arrived September 4th around 10:00 am and before dinner that night we had found a piso in the location and budget we had wanted.  We had searched on multiple websites and found idealista to have the most selection of one-bedroom apartments.  Along with the appointments we had set up in advance from the site we called a few places we saw advertising open units on the street, generally this has seemed to be the most efficient way of finding an apartment.

Always make sure to see the apartment before you agree to live there or pay anything.  That is the only way whether or not you know you're getting the place you are planning on.  Don't be afraid to ask questions, look around, and take pictures before you make a decision.  But remember, Madrid is a big city and apartments go quickly.  Try not to take too long to decide if you like a place.  When we were touring our current apartment we saw that there were three other couples waiting to tour or wanting to make an appointment to tour the unit.  If we had waited then we wouldn't have our apartment.


Oh No She Madridn't-How to Get a Metro/Bus Pass (an Abono) [in Madrid]

The abono is a pass that covers the different forms of public transportation in the city where you'll be living.  For most auxiliars it is the cheapest way to commute to your schools multiple times per week.  The format for abonos has changed this past year, before the abono lasted for the actual calendar month, now they last for 30 days exactly. There are three types of abonos, but only two an auxiliar should worry about: abono joven if you are under 23 and abono normal if you are 23 and over.

New Abonos, source
When buying your abono for the first time the most important thing you need to know is which zone in Madrid you need.  The zone you pick should be the furthest zone out that you plan to travel to regularly, because the further the zone the higher the cost of the abono.  For example, Getafe is in zone B1 so I would purchase an abono for this zone.  Know that when you purchase an abono for one zone it also covers all the zones within it.  This means with an abono for zone B1 you are covered for the month in both B1 and A.  No need to get more than one zone.

Applying for your abono the first time is quite easy.  The best place is to do it online on the transporte website or make an appointment through the website at one of the offices..  You'll need a copy of your passport (or TIE if you have it), a carnet sized photo, and an address/phone number for the form (the form you can find online to fill out). The first time it will cost around 4 euro because you get the plastic card, but for the next months you just go to the kiosks for metro tickets to refill your card.

How to Empadronarse (In Madrid)

Spanish Sabores-How to Empardronarse in Madrid

This is, what seems to be, a new requirement for getting one's NIE and TIE in Spain.  While it may seem a little daunting and complicated, it was actually one of the easiest things I had to do for the whole residency process.  Once you are living in an apartment, you get the padrón to legally register that you are living in a certain city.  The easiest way to get the padrón is to have a signed contract with your name in it.

With that you make in appointment online in the district you are living within and bring the filled out padrón form, your passport, and your contract.  If you don't have a contract with your name, then you either need to A) Bring someone who is in the contract/or has a padrón in your apartment B) Bring your landlord to vouch for you or C) Have the police come to your apartment to vouch that you live there. [Much easier to make sure you get a contract when you get your apartment in the first place.]

I have a signed contract with my name in it so I just took that with me to my appointment (along with my passport and the filled out form).  My appointment was at 2:00 pm, during the lunch break so I would have less people, and it was the easiest and quickest thing I have done so far.  I live near Sol so I made the appointment at the office on Calle Atocha, I arrived a little and told the front desk I had an appointment.  They gave me a number and I waited for maybe five minutes before they were ready to see me.  During the actual appointment they took all my information, corrected any information I had filled out incorrectly in the form, and then asked questions (confirming my address and why I needed the document).  It took no more than five minutes and I had my padrón and that was that.

Make sure to to get this done before your TIE appointment!  It's free and painless, and will save you a headache later!

TIE in Madrid (Update 12/18)

The TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Entranjera) is the Foreign Identification Card that foreigner's need to legally live in Spain if they are not from the European Union. Before you can even apply for this card you need to apply for your NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero, Foreigner's Identificiation Number).Thanks to the auxiliares program I didn't need to file for my NIE on my own because the program took my information at the first orientation and applied for me.  

Back in October when the program had my NIE ready, I picked up my number and the date of my appointment from the auxiliares office and began preparing what I needed to get the physical card.  My TIE cita/appointment was back on the 21st of November at the Foreigner's Office in Aluche and despite all the horror stories I've read about, I had absolutely no problems.  Waiting in the line outside to submit my paperwork was the only semi-negative part I had.

To make your experience as painless as possible make sure you have all the documents you need taken care of beforehand, and like always make sure you have a copy of EVERYTHING.  For more information on what you need to bring, check out this website for what documents you need to bring to your TIE appointment.  If everything is all set at your appointment then they should tell you to return in 25 days to pick up the actual card (you'll need your actual passport and the sheet of paper they give at the end of your appointment).  I finally picked mine up the 18th of December sin problemas!  Talk about a relief!

GREAT Websites for Auxilares/Moving to Spain Information:

Spanish Sabores-Required Reading for Future English Teachers in Spain
Young Adventuress-Auxiliares de Conversación
Y Mucho Más
Sunshine and Siestas
Andalucía Bound
Oh No She Madridn't

I hope all this information helped, or will help, anybody else going through the of claiming residency and living in Madrid.

Feel free to comment on your experience with any of these process or ask any more questions you may have!


  1. Thanks for the shout out! I moved to Spain long before FB groups and bloggers...would have loved to have them!

    1. You're very welcome! It's been SO helpful having all these resources, kudos to you and all the others that went into this without all the prior auxs lending a helping hand!

  2. Thanks so much for the useful information you have posted here! Quick question, have you had any problems with delays in your payment so far...???? and secondly, what type of visa have you been granted? Does it allow you to travel throughout the other Schengen countries... Again, thank you for your wonderful posts. I look forward to your response.

    1. Well today is the first day of work in the program and we don't get paid until the end of the month. Hopefully it won't end up being late, but I've heard that Madrid is usually good about on time payments. And for the program you get a student visa that lasts 3 months, within that time you apply for residency in Spain and using THAT card (TIE) with your passport you're able to travel. But yes, while the visa is valid you can exit and enter to other countries.

  3. P.S. You might be interested in this program I found it and seems to be a wonderful opportunity for individuals looking to get their Master's degree within the field of education. You can get it for free + stipend + practicum! Maybe you can write about it. Cheers!

    1. And thank you! I've heard about that program but the only thing is that I've heard people say the Master doesn't really count as a "real Master's," even in Spain. The people I've heard do it usually use it as a way to legally stay longer in Spain. On my link for Auxiliares at the top of the blog I listed a few other programs in Spain if you're interested, one of my friends is doing one called Activa which I plan on doing a post about later from her experience. Thank you for your comments!