It is wise to pack light (to avoid airline overage fees) and very few things are absolutely indispensable to carry with you, since you can pretty much always find an excellent equivalent in Spain (one of the great shopping destinations of the world). However, it makes sense to arrive prepared for the first week so you need not make an urgent trip to a store or suffer an unnecessary anxiety attack. The items marked in red on the following list are essential.
- Your passport and visa + 2 color photocopies (Go to section “Passport and visa” for more information)
- Your International Student Identity Card (ISIC) (Ask your Office of Study Abroad to help you obtain one)
- Whatever you will need to tide you over for two days in your carry-on bag (in case your suitcase does not arrive with you)
- Necessary medications in your carry-on–bring what you need for the whole stay and bring your prescriptions (you probably can get anything in Spain, but it may be cumbersome or a doctor may not be in agreement with your prescription, so why risk it?)
- At least two credit and/or debit cards for use in ATMs: you always want at least one back-up in the event an ATM decides to eat your card (Go to section “Life in Madrid” for more information on money). Call your credit and debit card companies BEFORE you leave the U.S. to inform them of your travel plans. Otherwise, they may well BLOCK your use of the cards abroad.
- Comfortable walking shoes or boots
- Small suitcase or bag as carry-on–it’ll be useful for all your weekend trips (low-cost airlines only permit small carry-on luggage without a fee)
- Large suitcase permitted by the airline of your transatlantic flight–check the measurements and weight allowed on their website (or be ready to pay for extra weight or for a second suitcase)
- A good pocket Spanish-English dictionary or APP
- Make two photocopies of all wallet or purse documents (college id card, ISIC, driver’s license, medical insurance cards, credit and debit cards) and leave one set with your parents in the U.S. Save the other one for your home stay in Spain. The photocopies will speed replacement in the case of loss or theft. Leave all documents you cannot use abroad at home in the U.S. (library cards, American store cards, etc.).
- Scarf, gloves and hat
- Sneakers (good brands are more expensive in Spain)
- A warm coat/jacket (winter temps will never be as cold as in NY or CT, but it can get cold, especially in those beautiful old buildings you will be visiting….)
- A couple of warm sweaters
- Several short- and long- sleeve shirts and underwear for at least a week (you may only be able to do laundry once a week)
- A bathing suit
- A watch (to tide you over till you buy your Spanish cellphone)
- Your favorite beauty or skin-care products–they can sometimes be more expensive in Spain (although Spain has excellent and inexpensive toiletries of its own)
- Your favorite brand of pain killers and cold or allergy remedies–you certainly can get over-the-counter medication in Spain, often similar to what you have in the US, but there can be some differences, especially regarding dosage.
- Go to an electronics store (e.g., Radio Shack) and buy an adaptor plug for your laptop (an adaptor plug not a converter) or you will not be able to use your laptop right away in Spain. Spain’s standard for plugs is shared by many European Union countries. These plugs can be purchased in Spain but the electronics stores may be closed when you arrive.
- Small appliances (hair dryers, straightening iron, etc.)–Spanish voltage (220-240 volts) is different from the U.S.’s, and even with current converters these appliances don’t fare well. You can find inexpensive ones in Spain.
- Bedding stuff such as sheets, pillows or sleeping bags.
- The many things you can easily buy in Spain– so long as you don’t insist on your brand from home, you can buy almost anything in Spain including high-quality, inexpensive toiletries.
- Too much stuff–every one agrees on this piece of advice!
Do not send packages: if you can help it, and tell you relatives not to send packages either. The post service takes for ever and, once a package has arrived, it is really difficult to get it as you require a Spanish ID card. You can find here almost anything you can find in US.