Assuming you’ve at least started applying for your visa you’re ready to start preparing to move to Spain.
What are your first steps? (Use the links to skip directly to where you want to go).
- Plan when you’ll arrive
- Plan where you should arrive
- Book a flight
- Book in-country transportation
- Accommodation While Apartment Hunting
1. Plan When You’ll Arrive in Spain
How far in advance do you want or need to arrive? You will need to find an apartment and get your bearings (find the nearest bank, phone store, etc). If you arrive too early you’ll be living off of your savings for too long. If you arrive too late you’ll be trying to start school and get your life sorted out.
How long does it take to settle in?
To settle in: as in, to have an apartment, a phone plan, internet and a bank.
We can’t answer that because it depends on when you’re going. But obviously you want an answer so we’ll give you this generic guess: 1.5 weeks. One week might be enough but factor in weekends and stuff, you might as well give yourself a couple extra days. Especially if you’re going to be jet lagged.
So if school starts on October 1st then September 19th ish is a good time. Ish. This might change for hotel/flight prices or your destination. But keep September 19th in mind.
This is a guess because it depends on your region, that region’s housing situation back in 2008 (when the economy crashed). It depends on if there are any factories or universities that change the real estate market. Also it depends if you’re on an expensive island or poor little city.
If you’re super worried about where you’re moving (because it’s a big city or an island) check the Facebook pages specific to your region to see how long it took other people to find apartments. Search “Auxiliares de Conversacion Madrid/Andalucia/Mallorca.”
If you want to get to Spain earlier to have fun – keep in mind it would be better to stay after school is over. You will probably have more fun after school ends because you’ll know your area better and how to travel better. Also keep in mind Spain shuts down in August. Many places just shut down (and the tourists get crazy). You’ll have less tourists in June when your contract is over. So if you want to come early to travel, consider just staying late to travel.
2. Figure out Where to Arrive
While you might think Madrid is the best airport, you might end up spending more money flying to Madrid then taking a bus down to Malaga.
- look at the nearest, biggest airports in your area
- look at local transport options and prices to/from these airport
- then start looking at prices for flights if you want the best deal.
We did a big post on it here.
3. Book a Flight
Everyone always has some sort of advice: “the best time to buy flights is three months on a Thursday if it’s raining and your cat meows three times at 4 pm.” Sure there are tricks to buying tickets but they change.
The consistent tricks are this:
- you have to clear your cookies or use a private browser or you will pay more
- don’t use Safari (Mac owners are charged more)
- It’s usually cheaper to fly on September 11th
- If you look too much you will change the price on yourself. Look 1-2 times on a private browser then book it.
- it isn’t always cheaper to book a round trip ticket. Sometimes it really is cheaper to book one way. Check both one way and round trip.
In 2017 it was cheapest to fly on the 19th (Tuesday).
In 2018 there were a lot of cheap flights on September 18th (Tuesday).
So it looks like Tuesdays/Thursdays are good days to fly into Spain.
We recommend looking but not booking through Kayak. Kayak didn’t pay us, obviously. I said don’t book through them. But they have an option to check nearby airports and to check 3 days before/after. You will find the best day and place to fly into.
Then clear your cookies/open a new private browser and go directly to that airline’s website. Book through your airline not through a secondary site. When you book through Expedia, Booking, Travelocity you risk a lot. They can change your seats, change your flights and totally screw you if things go wrong. When you work directly with the airline you remove a middle man.
- We flew through Norwegian from Denver. They’re bare bones, we had to pay extra for everything – but they keep things cheap.
- The flagship airline for Spain is Iberian Air which has discounts for students.
- STA Travel (not paid to say this) is also a pretty good resource for students/young people if you’re overwhelmed or have never traveled before.
4. Book In-Country Transportation
Unless you were placed in a city with a major airport, you’ll be looking at either a train or a bus ride after your flight arrives. It might help to find the closest train station then figure out how to get a bus from there. Again, we did a huge post here but we’ll summarize it real fast again.
Booking a train journey is very simple. All trains in Spain are run by Renfe. It will be about 3 times more expensive than the bus but will be much faster. They don’t have train lines everywhere, so you may only be able to get close to where you live.
- If your new hometown lacks a train station, you’ll need to use a bus.
- If you’re hurting for money buses are almost always cheaper than trains.
The largest and easiest bus company to use is Alsa. Use their website to book tickets in advance. The website is not capable of calculating transfers, and planning a trip with one or more transfers can be a headache.
If you live in a small city you won’t see connections with Alsa. You will have to use some kind of local bus line to get home. For example you can make it to Jaen via Alsa but you can’t take an Alsa bus to any of the villages near Jaen (Martos/Torredonjimeno, etc) – you have to take the local bus.
Google the route you want (ex “Jaen to Martos autobus”) and look for a website like this. Check the timetable and just make a note of it. You can’t book these ahead and will need to pay the bus driver directly.
5. Accommodation While Apartment Hunting
Since you’ll be arriving 1.5 weeks before school starts you’ll need somewhere to stay while you apartment hunt. Both times we’ve stayed in an Airbnb for about 5 days. Which we highly recommend. We stayed in a private room (not a whole private home) which meant we had access to a local who we could ask about local properties.
If you create an account with this link, and book, you’ll get a discount and we’ll get a discount. Yay.
If there are no Airbnb options then check for a hostel. It’s not fun to stay in a hostel but it’s better than spending over 100 bucks a night on a hotel. Some hostels are 9 euros a night for a shared room. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before know just to bring a lock for your locker but other than that it’s quite safe.
Split the cost with another Auxiliar
Get on Facebook and ask around – chances are other Auxiliars are moving to your city at the same time. Not only can you split the cost of a hotel/airbnb but you can apartment hunt/apartment share together. If you’re sharing a room consider sharing a room with a Spanish roommate you can share with a fellow Auxiliar.
Stay with an Auxiliar who already lives there
Besides splitting a cost, you can always ask if anyone already living in your future city. See if they are willing to let you crash on their couch for money/food/beer.
Someone from your school
This is uncommon but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If money is really tight or you’re in a strange place (in terms of apartments) you can always ask someone at your school if they’re willing to let you crash on a couch while you look. You can also check CouchSurfing to stay somewhere for free.
How long should you book for?
We recommend booking accommodation for 4-5 days minimum. You can always try to extend your stay if you can’t find an apartment in that time. You don’t want to pay for 1.5 weeks but have your apartment ready to go (and have to keep footing a bill for an Airbnb you’re not staying at anymore).