Hey Guiris! I’ve decided to take a minute to get back to the very basics of moving to Madrid in this post: what to pack! This list applies to anyone and everyone, despite the duration of your stay, so read on and feel free to add additional items you seasoned guiri’s have found helpful in the comments.
The following essentials have been discussed and hashed out among numerous guiris here in the city, so you can feel confident when you’re preparing your suitcase that you’ll be ready for any adventure that Madrid may bring you! Let’s get started:
1. Your passport!
You might be thinking, “this is obvious,” but that doesn’t make it any less important! Even if you’re from a European country, this vital ID is necessary to complete visa processes, take weekend trips to Morocco, and even to check into the occasional hostel.
2. Smart Phone (unlocked)
This is the easiest way to bridge the gap between your home country and your new life here in Madrid. With all your original contacts, photos, apps and more, your smart phone is a great tool to help you navigate your new home. Grab a new SIM card at one of the many stores in Madrid (Orange and Vodafone offer pay as you go SIM cards, and Movistar offers monthly contracts if you already own the phone), or pick one up at your Spanish or teacher training academy. I know AIL Madrid offers them at the front desk and rents smart phones as well, all you need to do is ask!
In a city that’s sunny 65% of the year, a good pair of sunglasses will take you far. You’ll find them perfect for days in the park, walking to class or work, or a weekend lunch on one of Madrid’s many terraces.
4. You favorite bathing suit
This item is easily purchased here, but make sure you have one either way. Madrid’s warm seasons (spring, summer, and winter) bring access to all the city’s public pools, as well as many private ones (motivation to make new Spanish friends!) In addition, the beach is less than a two hour train ride away, just waiting for you and your long weekend!
5. Light, simple layers
You can ski or hit the beach within just a few hours of Madrid, so flexibility and layering are your best friends in the varied climates of this beautiful country. A scarf to throw over your shoulders is invaluable when visiting a church or visiting the mountains, as is the ability to take it off and bask in the warm rays in the park or at the beach.
6. A secure purse/bag
I want to take a moment here to say I’ve never felt unsafe in Madrid. Be it dusk or 5am, my personal safety (as a young foreign woman) has never caused me a moment of worry or distress and I couldn’t be more grateful to have that feeling of security. That said, like any big city, the center has a few pickpockets. The easiest way to combat this is to have a purse with a zipper/magnet or, for the gents, to keep your wallet in your front pocket: yes, it’s that easy!
The first day I arrived in Madrid I was given a copy of Hidden Madrid, a book full of walking tours and historical information about the nooks and crannies of this expansive city. This book, combined with a good pair of walking shoes, has exemplified more than anything what almost everyone who visits Madrid says: “the best way to get to know the city is by foot!”
If you arrive in Madrid without the ability to plug in your electronics, don’t worry: just stop by a ferreteria and they’ll set you up with what you need. But it’s definitely easier to arrive with at least one converter so that you can stay charged and in touch throughout your arrival and have one less thing to think about.
9. A camera/phone
For those of you who have already lived here for a while, I’m guessing you feel the same as I do: some of my most cherished memories now belong to Madrid and I have the photographic evidence to prove it! Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a photographer, you’ll want something to start documenting your new life and adventures in Madrid.
10. A kindle (or whatever form of book you prefer)
I recommend a kindle simply for easy transportation: when you’re traveling or commuting, having a compact entertainment source with a variety of books can be hugely helpful! I joined the hundreds of readers on the metro right after my move here and have never looked back. It can also be the perfect companion for a sunny afternoon in the park or at a café, or lend a helping hand when it comes to practicing your Spanish: try reading a book you’re familiar with in your native language, but in Spanish!I started with Pride and Prejudice; the translation is simple and the vocabulary is useful in everyday life.
11. A weekend bag
Madrid is one of the best connected cities in Europe, with high speed trains reaching every desired destination within the country and cheap flights available to all the neighboring countries. Whether you want to hit the beach in Malaga, walk the streets of Avila, or take a quick weekend trip to Paris or Rome, having an overnight bag can make the decision to go that much easier (and help you avoid problems with RyanAir baggage regulations!)
Bringing a small treat, a style of music or dance, or even new mindset to share with others is one of the best ways to make new friends and expand your new life in Madrid! Every time I visit home, I come back to Madrid with a bag full of maple candies, chocolates, and various arts and crafts to distribute among madrileños and guiris alike. What’s your country or state known for?
My final note regarding packing is this: don’t over think it and pack light! Madrid has great shopping opportunities for all budgets, and you’ll be able to find anything you meant to bring but forgot. Whether you want to avoid baggage fees or feel like discovering what all the Spaniards are wearing before selecting your own wardrobe, going light is always the best option!
So, get packing and come to Madrid: we’ll be waiting for you!