Moving to a new country can be a confusing, even trying, experience. The impressions of a new culture, new friends and new ways of life will fill your first few weeks.
These weeks will also affect the way you feel about the rest of your stay. The following information aims at making settling-in as easy and comfortable as possible.
The first step is to prepare. Before leaving your home country, it may be a good idea to read some guidebooks. You may also get ideas and tips from the international desk at your university. Set out below are a few practical points you may find worthwhile considering prior to your departure. The more prepared you are the better your stay will be.
Banks and post offices
Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday, between 9.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. Banks are closed at weekends. You will normally need a national registration number, “NIE” (See Civil Registration below), to open a bank account.
It’s a good idea to check whether your bank at home has a Spanish banking partner. You will need to show a valid passport a letter stating that you are a visiting student.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Spain. Commonly accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard and American Express.
There are two post offices offering the full range of services. They are usually open between 9.30 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Yellow post boxes are for national and international letters.
If your study program is longer than a year, you can register with the civil registration authorities at the Police Station (Policía Nacional, Extranjería). You will then be given a national registration number (NIE).
To apply, bring your passport, a letter of acceptance from your educational institution, documents from the immigration authorities and, if you are married, your marriage certificate. On registration, you will be entitled to medical benefits through the Spanish National Health Insurance System. When seeing a doctor, for instance, you will be asked for your personal identity number (see Medical insurance and medical treatment below).
Drugs and medications
Prescriptions can be filled at local pharmacies. These are open during normal shopping hours. 24-hour service is usually available. If you take medication, it is a good idea to make sure that you have an adequate supply before leaving for Spain.
Emergencies and SOS calls
In case of emergency, dial 112 to contact the police, fire brigade or medical services. Emergency calls made from payphones are free of charge.
Public transport – buses is available almost everywhere in Huelva and provides a convenient, fast way to get around. Students monthly passes are usually valid for unlimited travel on the local network. A monthly pass for public transport costs around 25€.
Miscellaneous — a few practical things to keep in mind
Driving. Spain, like most European countries, has right-hand traffic. The legal driving age is 18 and you are expected to have your driver’s license with you when driving. The laws on drinking and driving are very strict and such behavior is not socially accepted.
Drug laws are very strict in Spain. Foreign citizens in possession of any type of illegal drug may be arrested and expelled from the country. What are sometimes referred to as soft drugs, for example marijuana and hashish, are illegal in Spain.
Electricity is standard European 220 volts and 50 cycles (Hz).
Time zone. Spainn has Central European Time (CET), GMT +1. Daylight saving time (GMT +2) applies from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October. Clock time is written according to the European system, e.g. 1 p.m. is written 13.00.
Tipping (in restaurants and taxis) — Service charge is included in the price. But it is normal practice to leave a small tip (around 10%) if you feel you have been treated well.
Shopping hours are generally between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. Shops usually close between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., during the lunchtime.
Most international students in Spain choose to use Skype and mobile telephones with pay-as-you-go SIM cards from companies such as Másmóvil, Yoigo, etc. If you don’t want to buy a mobile phone in Spain it is often possible to use a phone from your home country with a Spanish SIM card. Make sure that the phone is not locked to your previous operator. Another option is to subscribe to an mobile phone contract, but this is rare for students and usually requires a personal identity number (NIE).