Moving to a new country/city is a pretty big deal, and it can be difficult to figure out what to do first in the face of a giant to do list. With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of some of the most important things to get out of the way, (abono, NIE, Spanish classes, etc), all of which will make life a little easier while you figure out the details. So, with a title in honor of High Fidelity, here are the top 5 things you should do when you move to Madrid:
1. Get your Abono (transport card)
Obtaining your metro card is, fortunately, quite easy in Madrid. There are some great detailed abono guides out there, but the easiest way is to go the office in Sol or the tobacco shop on Fuencarral (next to the metro Tribunal) with your passport. Once there, you can fill out the application form and take your picture. During this process, you will need to choose your metro zone (Madrid metro is organized by zones, radiating out from Zone A in the center): if you study or work in the center, you only need Zone A (the cheapest) but be sure to check what zone you need before you go get your abono!
Once you have this little red card, the world is your oyster and you can top up every 30 days using the machines in any metro station (just put your abono in the machine and it will tell you how much to pay). You can use it on the bus, metro and cercanias lines, and it will save you quite a lot of money. If you’re here for less than three months, it’s still worth it!
2. Make an appointment to get your NIE card
Even if you’re from a country in the EU, you need a NIE card to open a bank account and various other legal matters (or, if you’re American, for any stay longer than 3 months). It’s also the most recognizable form of ID in Spain, making it easier to use throughout the city. To get your NIE appointment, see our earlier post or ask your school/company for the details related to your nationality.
3. Sign up for Spanish classes
Now that you’ve worked out the legal details, time to get started on becoming a Madrileño! The best place to start is with Spanish classes or an intercambio with a native partner. My fellow guiris and I have tried many different Spanish academies, but the overall winner for quality vs price is AIL Madrid Spanish Language School. All their teachers are native (and super caring and enthusiastic), and I have had a great experience in all the courses I’ve taken there. They offer tons of different kinds of courses, so you’re sure to be able to find the right one to fit your schedule/ needs. In addition, the school has a great sense of community and you’re likely to make tons of new friends!
4. Register with your embassy
Most countries have Smart Traveler programs, which allow you to register with the embassy for the amount of time you’ll be in Madrid (I know the US embassy does this for sure). Visit the website of your embassy in Spain and register online (all you need is your passport number). They will send you any important updates regarding your country, as well as holding parties for national holidays etc. This is not a necessity, but can help you feel comfortable and up to date.
5. Have a glass of Spanish wine
The best way to gain confidence while practicing your new Spanish skills is to loosen up with a glass of wine! You’ve moved to a country with some of the best wine in the world, so make the most of it: hit the winding streets of this ancient city, sit on a warm terraza in the sun, and soak it all in! Your Spanish adventure has begun.