8 Things You Should Do To Get Set Up in Barcelona

So you’ve made the decision to come and study Spanish in Barcelona…? Firstly, congratulations! You’re likely to have an unforgettable experience in one of the most dynamic and cultural cities in Europe. Secondly, it’s time to get prepared for the trip. 


Of course, before you travel you need to sort out a student visa  (if needed). And you should make sure you have the necessary economic means and health insurance cover for your stay. Remember also that Expanish offers housing for the first four weeks of your study program to help you get started. But there are several other things that most students will need to do once they arrive in Barcelona to get set up in the city. 


These are some of the most important things to remember to do once you are in Barcelona.


Get your NIE/TIE: Anyone staying in Spain for more than 90 days should apply for a Número de Identidad Extranjera (NIE). This is simply a foreigner’s identification number that is used for almost all administrative procedures in Spain. If you don’t already have a NIE when you arrive in Barcelona, book an appointment at one of the city’s immigration offices or police stations (there’s a list here). If you’re coming with a student visa that lasts longer than 180 days you need to apply for your Tarjeta de Identidad Extranjera (TIE), the foreigner’s ID card. You must do this within 30 days of arriving in Barcelona.


Read more about the NIE/TIE and how to get them.


💡 TIP: If you’re struggling to get an appointment at a local office in Barcelona, try searching in others towns or provinces.


Certificate of Empadronamiento: This is a certificate showing that you are registered with a fixed address at the local town hall. It’s another important document for people planning to study in Barcelona for more than a few months as it is required for many other administrative procedures. You can register online or by booking an appointment at the town hall. You’ll need to show your passport ID (and residency card if you have one) and the rental agreement for the place you are staying at. 


Apply for an Individual Health Card (TSI): International students are required to take out health insurance for their stay in Spain. However, if you have Spanish residency (e.g. via a student visa) and are registered (empadronado) in Barcelona, you may be able to apply for the right to access the public health system. You do this at the Social Security Institute and if accepted you can apply for a Tarjeta Sanitaria Individual (TSI). If you get a work permit while on a student visa you will need to get a social security number, and through this you should have the right to apply for an TSI. 


Find out more about getting a work permit in Spain on a student visa.


Set up with Bicing: Bicing is Barcelona´s public bike-sharing scheme that can be a cheap and green way to make short journeys across the city. You can sign up via the Smou app, which enables you to manage a range of mobility and parking services. Smou also has a real-time map of all the Bicing stations and dedicated cycle lanes in the city. A full annual Bicing subscription with unlimited usage costs €50, or you can get an “occasional use” subscription for €35 and pay a small surcharge of €0.35 each time you take out a bike. In both cases, you will start to be charged extra if you don’t return the bike to a station within 30 mins (late fees rise significantly after two hours).


Buy a suitable travel card: Barcelona has an integrated metro, bus and tram transport system across six travel zones. A single zone 1 journey costs €2.40 but for regular use it’s much better to buy a ‘T-casual’ card that gives you 10 journeys for €11.35. The price increases as you include more travel zones, but does not include journeys to/from the airport. There’s also a ‘T-dia’ card that gives you unlimited journeys over a 24-hour period for €10.50 (for zone 1). If you will be using public transport a lot then the ‘T-usual’ travel card provides unlimited journeys for a monthly fee starting at €40 (for use in zone 1). The under-25s can get the ‘T-Jove’, a personalized travel card valid for an unlimited number of journeys in 90 consecutive days. This costs €80 for use in zone 1 and you’ll need to show your ID to get it. A new contactless and rechargeable travel card and mobile app, ‘T-Mobilitat’, is also being rolled out and will eventually replace the existing cards with an integrated fare system . More information about the city’s transport network and travel cards is available on the Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) website.


Get a local SIM card: Unless you’re from an EU country with free roaming in Spain (for up to 90 days), you will probably benefit from getting a Spanish SIM card for your (unlocked) mobile phone. It’s easy to get a prepaid SIM card with a range of top up plans, or if you’re staying long-term you may prefer a mobile plan. Most major mobile operators are also internet providers, so if you need to set up a connection in your accommodation you should check for promotional packages that combine both.


Get a public library card: Anyone can request a library card to access materials from any public library in Barcelona. It’s free – you just need to fill in an online registration form and then pick up your card from any library within three months. With your library card number you will also have access to digital materials and services. 


Open a local bank account: This may not be necessary, but will be useful if you’re planning to stay long-term in Spain as you’ll potentially save on bank fees while abroad. A local account will also be needed if you’re going to work part-time while you study. It’s easy to open an account with a bank in Barcelona if you have a fixed address and a NIE – look around for the best terms, including online banks. A few banks will also allow foreigners without a NIE to open a non-resident account. 


These are just a few of the steps you should take to find your feet in Barcelona and make the most of your experience.. Our staff and advisors at the Expanish school in Barcelona will be able to answer questions you have about the city and help you get settled in the city. Get in touch with us now to find out more about our Spanish courses in Barcelona


DISCLAIMER: This is an informative guide, based on available information from official government and other sources. It does not offer any rights or guarantees. Rules can change over time, and vary in different countries or regions, so always check information and requirements with official sources. 

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