Expats FAQ in Spain

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Bank

Q: What are the banking hours in Spain?

A: Banks in Spain are open daily on weekdays (Mon-Fri) from 9 am until 2 pm. On Saturdays, banking hours is at 9 am until 1 pm. During summer months, banks tend to close earlier.

Q: What are the most popularly recognized banks in Spain?

A: Among the many reputable and recognized banks are Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Banco Popular, Banco Sabadell, Banco Santander, Bankia, Bankinter, Barclays Bank S.A., Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa (BBK), Caixa Catalunya, IberCaja, La Caixa, NCG Banco and EVO Banco, Openbank, SabadellCAM and Unicaja.

Q: What are the required documents to open a bank account in Spain?

A: First off, one needs to be above 18 before opening a bank account. Documents to prepare include an ID (a passport or National ID card from home country), proof of occupation or status, confirmation of address through utility bills and the NIE for expats.

Q: What are the banking hours in Madrid?

A: Banks in Madrid are open from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm, with some banks, open on Thursday evening.

Q: Do banks in Madrid have any English-speaking staff members?

A: Yes. Most banks have English-speaking staff members who conduct international transactions with foreign clients.

Q: Can one open an offshore bank account in Madrid?

A: Yes, Madrid accepts offshore banking services. Expats who wish to open any type of bank account in Madrid will have to complete a non-residence declaration form first.

Business

Q: Can a foreigner set up a business in Spain?

A: Even for profit pursuit, Foreigners can start a business in Spain, so long as one is has proper and legal permit/visa.

Q: How to properly address people in the business setting?

A: Make a mental note Spanish people have two first names and two surnames The surnames are composed of the father's first surname and the mother's first surname. It is polite and proper to use Señor for men and Señora ladies.

Q: How to register a company's business name in Spain?

A: One must check first with the Certificate of Uniqueness (Certificación Negativa de la Denominación Social) if there is no similar name exists. If a name is not registered, the business owner can proceed to obtain the Central Commercial Registry (Registro Mercantil Central).

Q: What are the most popular businesses in Madrid for expats?

A: Industries that expats can get into include teaching English, finance and IT. The tourism industry is also a popular business that many expats get into when living in Madrid.

Q: Can expats start a business in Madrid?

A: Yes, although it is advisable to consult the services of an attorney to ensure that the laws are followed. In Madrid, businesses will have to obtain special licenses that are specific to what service is provided, such as auto repair services and travel agencies.

Q: Are there any business related networking groups in Madrid that one can join?

A: There are a number of groups for professionals to join and meet people in, such as Guiri Business which is an english-language networking group in Madrid with over one thousand members. Guiripreneur is another group made up of internationals who want to start buinesses in Madrid.

Children

Q: Do the state-run schools offer English lessons for children?

A: It is likely that children who attend public school are to become bilingual students but note that English is only taught as a foreign language.

Q: What are some of the biggest amusements parks in Spain?

A: Amusement Parks with international standard include Parque Warner Madrid, PortAventura,Terra Mitica, Parque de Atracciones de Madrid, Cortylandia, Isla Magica and Loro Parque.

Q: What are the top beach attractions suited for children in Spain?

A: There's quite a number of beach resorts catering for families with children. Among these are Tossa de Mar beach and castle; Moraira beach offering a day trip to Aqualandia, the Mundomar Marine Park; Tenerife in Puerto de la Cruz; Puerto Mogan in Gran Canaria, Calella de Palafrugell in Catalonia and Mallorca's Port de Pollensa.

Q: What are some child-friendly activities in Madrid that kids can enjoy?

A: Children will enjoy riding the Teleférico, which is a cable car that offers an excellent view of the Manzanares River. The Retiro Park also features a lake where children can go boating, and see street theatre and puppet shows.

Q: Does Madrid have any amusement parks for children?

A: Yes. Madrid has a main amusement park in the form of the Parque de Atracciones, which is open daily in the summer and on weekends during the rest of the year. There is a variety of rides for older children and little ones as well.

Q: Are there any football programs for children in Madrid?

A: Yes. There are summer football camps for children to participate in, which are organized by the Real Madrid Football Club. Kids under the age of 14 may take tours of the football team Real Madrid stadium at an affordable rate.

Cost of living

Q: What is the average price when dining out in Spain?

A: A regular meal in an inexpensive restaurant can cost from 8 Euros and above while mid-range restaurants with a three-course meal is at 30-50 Euros. High-end dining, of course, cost more and can reach a 100 Euros a meal.

Q: How much is the average 3-bedroom rental costs for a family?

A: In the city centre, 3 bedrooms apartment is around 1,200 Euros. If one opts to live outside the city, the price is cut down further cost to 500-850 Euros.

Q: What is the monthly average cost of Internet?

A: Depending on the package, a 6 Mbps with Unlimited Data and can come via Cable or ADSL starts at around 33 Euros.

Q: How expensive is it to rent an apartment in Madrid?

A: It depends on the kind of accommodation, as the price of apartments or flats in Madrid vary depending on the location. Generally a room in a shared flat costs about 400 to 550 Euros while a studio will cost 700 to 800 Euros.

Q: Is transportation costly in Madrid?

A: Public transportation in Spain is quite affordable, with the fare for the Metro system being 2.00 Euros per journey for most lines. There are also monthly and yearly season tickets for commuters and pensioners. Taxis and trains are also available and come at cheap rates.

Q: Are there any other additional living expenses that one should know about?

A: Some new tax rules can come up every so often, like a garbage tax. Other add-ons include home insurance and TV packages that can cost 1 to 50 Euros a month.

Health

Q: Can EU citizen use his heath card in Spain?

A: The European Health Insurance Card has limited coverage in Spain. It can cover medical care in public hospitals, but not for non-emergencies or emergency repatriation home. It is also not accepted in private medical consultations and treatment in Spain. Even with the health card, one is still obliged to pay for prescribed medicine bought from pharmacies.

Q: Are there any health risks in Spain?

A: There are no health risks in Spain, but many are cautioned to stay away from the blistering summer sun that can cause skin cancer. Chances of getting skin cancer is higher in Spain than in any other European countries.

Q: What is the life expectancy in Spain?

A: Due to the Spanish Mediterranean diet, Spanish are among the world's healthiest people and the highest in the EU nations. The average life expectancy for women is 80 while men at 74.

Q: Are there organic and health food shops in Madrid?

A: Yes. Many health food stores and supermarkets can be found in Madrid, such as NaturaSi.

Q: How long are pharmacies open in Madrid?

A: Most pharmacies in Madrid are open for 24 hours a day, and most present a list in their window that specifies their open hours. If the list says ‘Dia y noche’ then it is open for 24 hours.

Q: Where can one find English-speaking doctors in Madrid?

A: Hospitals such as the Clinica de Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, the Hospital de la Princesa and the Hospital Ruber Internacional all have English-speaking doctors and staff members that can cater to English-speaking patient needs.

Housing

Q: Does a tenant receive a receipt when paying for rent after signing a lease contract?

A: Once tenant and landlord agree on the rental costs, it is the put in paper. Tenant has to dutifully pay to landlord. In return, tenant will receive a written receipt, in a form of back transfer transaction receipt or an official receipt.

Q: What is rent assistance?

A: Rent assistance is provided to qualifying couple aged 22 to 30, in which the Spanish government extends assistance in monthly payment, deposit and property insurance.

Q: Which city is the most livable in Spain?

A: Cities such as Madrid and Barcelona are both ideal for its urban landscape while Seville and Palma de Mallorca for the culture. Malaga is also close behind for its breathtaking scenery suitable for families.

Q: What are common types of accommodation found in Madrid?

A: The most common type of accommodation in Madrid is the apartment. Apartments with balconies that face the street are more expensive compared to apartments rooms.

Q: What is the average cost of rent in Madrid?

A: The cost of rent in Madrid largely depends on the neighborhood. Expats are advised to do some research on the different costs in different neighborhoods to find what suits them best.

Q: How do landlords in Madrid select tenants?

A: Tenants are often asked to submit proof of income along with a job contract and the last three payslips. Landlords in Madrid operate on a "first-come-first-served" basis.

Leisure

Q: What are Spain's most spectacular villages?

A: Picturesque village destinations include Albarracin, Ainsa, Alquezar, Castilla y Leon, Daroca, Puebla de Sanabria, Grazalema, Pampaneira, Sos del Rey Catolico and Santillana del Mar.

Q: What is Spain's best culinary innovation?

A: Hands down, it's the tapas, where one can eat at anytime of the day, with a wide variety of food. Most visitors come to Spain for the gastronomy and culinary landscape.

Q: What are significant historical landmarks in Spain?

A: Barcelona alone boasts of Gaudi's incomparable modernista architecture. In Castilla y León, a vast cathedrals and hundreds of reconquista castles, along with the medieval university city of Salamanca are sights to behold. Last but not the least is Andalucía, dotted with mosques, along with the Moorish palaces of Granada, Seville and Córdoba.

Q: What are some LBGT-friendly areas to check out while in Spain?

A: Madrid has a thriving gay and lesbian community, and people who would like to visit LGBT friendly bars, shops and nightclubs can visit the district of Chueca, which caters to a gay clientele.

Q: What are some must-see attractions in Madrid?

A: Madrid is known for its culture and history, and there are a number of popular attractions to visit while in the city. These include the Prado Museum, Puerta del Sol and the Palacio Real, which is the Royal Palace.

Q: Where can one go for Vegetarian food in Madrid?

A: Travellers who are vegan can find restaurants that offer Vegetarian cuisine in Madrid, such as Rayén Vegano, the Loving Hut and the Al Natural Restaurant.

Looking for a job

Q: Where does one usually look for a job in Spain?

A: Searching online still ranks as the number one method when looking for a job. Not only that's it's easier and convenient for job seekers, but more and more companies are also utilizing the Internet to publish job openings. One can start checking the company website for a job vacancy and then browse through different job sites such as www.infojobs.net, www.loquo.com and www.iagora.com.

Q: How long does it take for an employer to get back to job seeking candidates?

A: It would usually take 2-3 weeks for an employer to get back to the potential candidate to fill up the vacancy.

Q: What is the most sought-after job in Spain at the moment?

A: Teaching English, regardless of the economic recession Spain is experiencing, remains a popular and sought-after job in the country. Potential English teachers can course through an agency or do private English teaching in the confines of the student's home.

Q: Is the Spanish language needed to obtain a job in Madrid?

A: Knowing Spanish can help, as expats have a good chance of obtaining a job in Madrid if they can speak the language. There are some jobs where English can be an advantage, such as teaching, tourism and real estate.

Q: How long are working hours in Madrid?

A: The usual working week amounts to 40 hours, from 9 am to 8 pm. While the rest of Spain typically takes a two-hour lunch break, Madrid has the standard 1-hour lunch break.

Q: Where can foreigners look for available job openings in Madrid?

A: Spanish newspapers advertise job vacancies in the Sunday edition of the paper, but company websites also advertise. Another way to find job advertisements involve searching through job websites.

Money

Q: What is the GST tax in Spain?

A: IVA, Spain's GST/VAT or also called internal tax is at 21% charged on most goods. There is also a reduced rate at 10% applicable to passenger transports, toll roads, exhibitions and fairs, among others.

Q: What services are exempted from IVA in Spain?

A: Exemption from IVA include the following services: education provided by the state or authorized-licensed bodies; tutoring on subjects that are included in the curricula at all educational levels; sporting services provided by public bodies or associations; cultural services; artists, writers, composers and translators of artistic and scientific work; insurance and postal services.

Q: Do non-residents pay property tax in Spain?

A: Even if one is a non-resident in Spain, but owns a property for personal use and has no other source of taxable income, Spanish authorities still deem it taxable for the sole reason that owner benefits from it.

Q: Do ATMs in Madrid accept foreign cards?

A: ATMs in Madrid do accept foreign credit cards such as VISA, Cirrus and American Express.

Q: Is tipping customary in Madrid?

A: Tipping is not common in Madrid, and there is no need to leave tips in restaurants. If one feels a tip must be left for good service, the tip should not be bigger than 5%.

Q: Are there any sale tax refunds in Madrid?

A: Yes. There is 18% value added tax on retail sales, and non-European Union residents can be given a refund for this tax if the purchase was more than 90 Euros. Some stores feature tax-free signs, and expats may want to visit them if they want to avoid being taxed.

Moving

Q: What are the emergency numbers that need to be noted by newly arrived expats?

A: The emergency hotline is 112. Other emergency numbers to note: 062 for guardia civil, 091 for police, 061 for health emergencies, 080 for fire fighters and 092 for local police.

Q: What is the climate in Spain?

A: The climate varies for each region in the country. In the Northwestern, encompassing the Atlantic, experiences cool summers with moderate to heavy rainfall throughout winter season. The interior region enjoys a continental climate of hot, dry summers; but moderate, cloudy winter while the Mediterranean coast have rainfall during spring and autumn. Farther to the Balearic Islands, it's a cool, wet winter and warm sunny summer. Canary Islands is endowed with a more tropical climate.

Q: How many public holidays are there in Spain?

A: Being a religious country, there are many celebrated religious holidays in Spain. Per municipality, a maximum of 14 public holidays per year, in which 9 are chosen by the national government and two are chosen locally. These include New Year's Day, Epiphany, Semana Santa,Workers' Day, Assumption of the Virgin, National Day, All Saints' Day, Constitution Day,Immaculate and Navidad or Christmas Eve.

Q: Do expats in Madrid need to pay taxes back to their home country?

A: Residents who are living in Madrid are subject to Spanish taxation under the worldwide income, while non-residents are expected to pay Spanish tax on only the income earned in Spain.

Q: What are the dominant religions in Madrid?

A: Around more than 90% of the population in Madrid follow the Roman Catholic religion. Other religions in Madrid include Islam and Judaism. Atheists and agnostics are also common in Madrid.

Q: What are some of the best neighborhoods to move into?

A: It largely depends on the type of lifestyle one wishes to have. Trendy and exclusive neighborhoods include Salamanca, Almagro and Cortes. Hip and funky neighborhoods include Chueca, Malasana and La Latina. Those looking for value can consider relocating to Chamberi, Lavapies and Retiro.

Pets

Q: What documents are required for pets/animals coming from countries in North America?

A: Pet owners from US or Canada, need to present a valid Veterinary Certificate complete with owner's details, a description of the animal, details of identification and vaccinations; updated rabies vaccines; and a tattoo or a microchip for identification meeting ISO standard. The cage or carrier must be properly labeled with the owner's name, address and correct contact numbers in Spain.

Q: Is there any health risks for pets in Spain?

A: Sand Flies which causes Canine Leishmaniasis has been an issue with dog pet owners in Spain. Such disease is transmitted between dogs but is easily preventable.

Q: For EU pet owners, what is the process in importing pets to Spain?

A: EU citizens pet owners need to obtain a pet passport - a requirement within the member states when travelling with animals. The pet passport include the pet's microchip or tattoo number for identification, along with other vital records e.g. vaccinations and health tests.

Q: Does Madrid have any pet parks?

A: Yes. The Parque del Casino de la Reina and the Area Canina Cipión y Berganza are two popular dog and skate parks that are used by pet lovers in Madrid.

Q: Where can one go to get pet grooming services in Madrid?

A: Dog grooming services in Madrid can be found in local pet shops and even vet offices.

Q: Are dogs allowed to be brought inside a train in Madrid?

A: Yes, pets and other dogs are allowed to be brought on trains in Madrid. However, they may need to be in a pet carrier or muzzled.

Schools

Q: At what age does primary education start in Spain?

A: It is important to know that education for children in Spain is mandatory. At the age of, one starts primary education lasting for six years.

Q: How many school terms are there in one school year?

A: Spain's school year is comprised of three terms namely: Winter term from September to December; Spring term from January to Easter (March or April); and Summer term, commencing after Easter to late June.

Q: What languages are taught in school?

A: Aside from the official language, Spanish or Castillian, people in Catalonia speak in their native Catalan, while in the Basque Country, Basque as the language of choice. Meanwhile, Gallego is spoken in Galicia and Valenciano is widely spoken in the province of Valencia.

Q: Are there any international schools in Madrid?

A: Yes. Expats usually send their children to international school in order to expose them to a specific type of curriculum or to immerse their children in an English-speaking environment.

Q: Are there any faith schools in Madrid?

A: Yes, Madrid has several state-supported private and international schools that are faith-based. The most common are Catholic schools since majority of residences in Madrid follow the Catholic faith.

Q: What are the typical costs involved in Madrid schools?

A: State schools in Madrid are subsidised by the state. The cost of fees at these subsidised schools can come at the low rate of 700 Euros annually, but private schools have fees that are as high as 8,000 Euros every year.

Shopping

Q: What is the biggest department store chain in Spain?

A: El Corte Inglés, headquartered in the capital city of Madrid, remains the country's biggest and only Department store chain.

Q: Where to get the best Spanish Jamon?

A: Alpujarras and Granada have the best ham in the country, they also produce other pork products like chorizo.

Q: What are some of the local clothing retailers in Spain?

A: Local clothing retails stores are a mix of emerging and established brands. Among the many names include Hoss Intropia, Blanco, Massimo Dutti’s, Stradivarius, Bershka, Pull & Bear and Armand Basi.

Q: Where are the best places to go shopping for arts and crafts?

A: Those who are more in touch with their creative side will find plenty of stores in Madrid that cater to the craft-minded. Popular stores to check out include the Antigua Casa Talavera, which sells ceramics from all over Spain. Another place to visit is El Arco Artesanía, which sells homemade glass and jewellery. Both stores can be found in Madrid.

Q: What stores are popular with tourists looking for souvenirs?

A: One local souvenir shop in Madrid that is often frequented by tourists is the Bazar El Chollo, where travellers can find souvenirs such as caps, cups, magnets and keychains. The store also sells practical items such as memory cards, headphones and cellphone chargers.

Q: Are there any boardgame and comic book stores in Madrid?

A: Yes. Fans of pop culture, games and comic books can visit stores such as Elektra and the Cómic Co. which are both located in the Malasaña area in Madrid.

Telecommunications

Q: What are the major telephone companies in Spain?

A: Movistar, with 65% of market is the biggest telco in Spain. Other major telcos are Vodafone Espana and Orange Espana.

Q: Which mobile operator offer the cheapest plan in the market?

A: At present, Orange has a 31,10 EU for a 20Mb connection, but said rate increases after a year.

Q: Which SIM card can be used both as International SIM and locally?

A: OneSimCard offers a low-cost prepaid Spain cell phone service and free international mobile roaming in 191 other countries. One pays for any calls made but keeping the same international number. Refer to the OneSimCard website for more information.

Q: How fast is the internet connection in Madrid?

A: The internet connection in Madrid is decent, but expats who want to obtain faster internet speeds can compare providers to find the right company that suits them.

Q: What are some internet and television providers in Madrid?

A: For those staying in Madrid for more than 12 months, the company Movistar offers a plan which can give a 30Mb Fibre Optic broadband landline. Expats who are staying in Madrid for less than 12 months can avail of Pepephone, which offer s a ADSL package of 20Mbps for 23.60 euros each month.

Q: What are some mobile phone providers that are available in Madrid?

A: There are four mobile phone providers that are commonly used in Madrid, and they are Movistar, Yoigo, Vodafone and Orange, which was formerly known as Amena.

Transport

Q: How is the train system in Spain?

A: Spain has greatly improved its train systems, keeping up with the other outstanding train networks in Europe. Renfe is the national state train system stretching its service across the vast country. For short travels, in and out of major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Málaga and Valencia, one can use the cercanias. For long travels or regional trips, take the high-speed AVE trains that link Madrid with Seville, Tarragona and Barcelona.

Q: Where can you find taxis in Spain?

A: Look out for taxi ranks or what the locals call as 'paradas de taxi'; these are located outside railway stations, airports, and main intersections in towns and cities. Although hailing a taxi is a common sight in big cities, one still has to go to a taxi rank in small towns for a taxi transport.

Q: Is it possible to exchange an EU driver's license for a Spanish license?

A: EU or EEA Driver's License can be exchange for a Spanish License, however, one must apply for approval to the respective Provincial Traffic Headquarters, where one has residency.

Q: Is it advisable for one to buy a car in Madrid?

A: A car is not needed in Madrid, as the public transportation system is well-equipped to provide locals and expats with ways of getting around the city.

Q: What transportation systems are available in Madrid?

A: Madrid has a high quality of public transportation services, which are made up of the underground railway system (Metro) along with buses (autobus), trams and taxis.

Q: How long does the Metro ticket (abono) last?

A: The Metro ticket gives users complete access to the Metro public transportation in Madrid for 30 days.

Travel

Q: What are the must-see islands in Spain?

A: Depending on one's itinerary, different islands call for different activities. For trekkers and hiking enthusiasts, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura islands are your best bet. Other popular tourist draw are the Gran Canaria and Tenerife, famous for its beaches, hiking activities, quaint villages and bustling cities. Western Island of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro are not to be missed as well.

Q: When is the best time to travel to Spain?

A: Most will say during summer months, but Mediterranean islands are packed while the heat is scorching especially in the cities of Seville and Madrid. Fall is when good weather graces Spain; it's also best to plan your travel in April, May, June, September and October.

Q: What are the main attractions of Northern Spain?

A: Northern Spain comprises of San Sebastian, Oviedo, and Santiago de Compostela and the rest of Galicia - extremely popular during summer season while Barcelona, the Costa Brava, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands lure tourists and travelers from May to September.

Q: Where can travellers with disabilities know where to go when in Spain?

A: The Madrid tourist office features information on wheelchair-accessible hotels, shopping centers, restaurants and museums. There are also guided tours for the blind and deaf.

Q: What are some places to avoid when in Madrid?

A: Madrid is generally a safe city, but popular tourist areas are prone to have pickpockets and scam artists.

Q: When is the best time to visit Madrid?

A: The majority of tourists visit Spain during the months of July and August, and hotel rates tend to be high during this period. Those who want to avoid the influx of tourists may want to schedule their visits during the off season.

Visa

Q: What are the types of visas in Spain?

A: There are three types of visas in Spain: Work, Student and Tourist. Both Work and Student Visas require employment or study/school before even before setting foot in the country. When one is granted a tourist visa, he/she can stay for 90 days.

Q: What is NIE?

A: Spain's NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) is the ID number issued to a person, whether EU or non-EU, once residency is obtained. NIE is not only used as identification while in Spain, but for filing taxes, opening a bank account and even starting up a business.

Q: What documents are required to apply for permanent residency in Spain?

A: Both EU and non-EU, applying for permanent residency in Spain need to present a valid passport with 3 photocopies; a recent passport-style photos with name clearly written on the back; and a completed application form with 3 photocopies. Other additional documents that can be requested include medical certificate depending on the country of origin and recent residency. In such cases, where one has a family member who is Spanish or has residency, one must present the Libro de Familia and DNI (or Residency Card) of that particular family member, the Empadronamiento and a medical insurance. In Spain's varying regions, documents can also vary depending on where one is applying residency.

Q: How many embassies are found in Madrid?

A: Since Madrid is the capital city of Spain, there are 119 embassies located in the city. Although, some consulates are located in other cities.

Q: Where can one go for immigration-related assistance in Madrid?

A: Madrid has an immigration office that is located in Serrano street. People who are from non-EU countries who are planning to stay in the city for more than 3 months need to apply for a residency permit at the Foreigner's Office (Oficina de Extranjeros).

Q: How long does it take to process a Visa for Madrid?

A: This largely depends on the type of visa that is being applied for. Citizens who are not from the European Union will need to obtain a work permit to live and work in Madrid. Those who are from EU countries can live and work in Madrid without facing any restrictions.