Getting Settled in Barcelona


We love Barcelona and we want you to enjoy it!

To help you prepare for your time abroad and to settle in to your new life in Barcelona, we have prepared the “Welcome to Barcelona” kit which consists of several guides that are available to download for free!

Find all information you could possibly need in these custom guides created just for you! From recommended neighbourhoods and how to find the perfect room, to Barcelona’s public transportation system. From best Spanish SIM card providers and to how to open a free bank account in Spain to how the healthcare system in Spain works! It’s all here in our welcome guides!

Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter to receive weekly information on what’s going on in this amazing city! Also check out our blog for further interesting topics about Barcelona & Spain!

HINT: If you plan on studying or working in Madrid, then also check out our ultimate Moving to Madrid guide to learn everything there is about the Spanish capital.

If you have any questions, simply send us en email to [email protected] and get all your doubts resolved immediately! We are here to help you 🙂

Moving to Barcelona soon? Start preparing now!

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Moving to Barcelona at a glance

HOUSING – Find the perfect student home
CELL PHONE PLANS & INTERNET – Guide to save money
BANKING & MONEY TIPS – Secrets to savings on unneccesary fees
GETTING LEGAL – How to apply for your NIE/TIE and Empadronamiento
DISCOUNTS – Find great money saving deals with lots of popular discounts

For many of you it will most likely be your first experience living independently abroad. Citylife Barcelona is here to guide you every step of the way on this amazing adventure! Living in Barcelona is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be expensive either! The following information will help you plan, organize and budget your time in Barcelona. This “budget guide” will show you a general estimation of typical student expenses. It will not include possible visa fees, tuition fees or flight bookings.

1. Housing

In general, the cheapest and most common option for accommodation is renting an individual room in a shared apartment with other students or living in a residency. The average costs of these rooms range from 350 up to 650€ per month. To read more about “Accomodation in Barcelona” and to get free support in your hunt for rooms, click here!

2. Public Transportation

Barcelona has an excellent public transportation system (metro, buses and suburban trains) and a relatively cheap and abundant taxi service. There are monthly passes & trimestre passes at affordable prices that allow for unlimited traveling using different modes of transportation within their zones. E.g. the monthly pass “T-Mes” for the city center costs 54€. If you are under 25 years old, you will be able to get the “T-Jove” (3 month travel cardfor only 105€ (35€ per month)! Read more about the available options and on how to get them to save money right upon arrival in Barcelona in the “Public Transportation” chapter of our free “Barcelona Essentials” guide!

3. Cell Phone & Internet

Depending on your cell phone provider and how often you use your phone, your monthly cell phone fees will range from 10€ to 50€. Lycamobile is one of the most popular cell phone companies in Spain and they offer a special prepaid deals to young internationals! It will save you a lot of money! Learn more about the free Lycamobile SIM card now by clicking here!

Internet related expenses can range from approximately 30 to 50€. To keep these costs low, look for rooms where the Internet is already set up and costs are included in the monthly rent. If there is no Internet available in your new home, WifiAway might be an interesting option for you!

4. Medical Insurance

For students who need additional private insurance or who would like to have an additional private insurance alongside their basic insurance, we assume additional costs of up to 40€ per month. Check out our Spanish healthcare system guide to fully understand everything in detail!

If you are currently looking for great offers on student or expat health insurance in Spain, check out our guide to the best health insurance in Spain for international students & expats . There you will find the currently most popular insurance companies and you can also ask for personalizedfree private health insurance quotes.

5. Food & Leisure

These expenses completely depend on your eating and social habits. The average monthly total for groceries will cost between 150€ and 250€. For leisure activities such as eating at restaurants and going out, the costs can widely vary, but will average around 200€.

In general, the average monthly costs as a student in Barcelona can range from 900€ to 1400€ depending on your budget and social habits. To help you save money during your time in Barcelona we have created a great online discount resource. Here you will find discount codes and printable vouchers to save on popular student needs such as traveling, leisure activities, restaurants, hostels, museums, pharmacies, clubbing and much more! Check it out now! To read a bit more about living expenses abroad click here.

HOUSING – Find the perfect student home

Barcelona is a big city full of different housing options for students. There is quite a big range of available options that suit individual preferences and budgets. It is always a good idea to start your housing search and figuring out your options before you arrive in Barcelona. The most common option for young internationals is renting a room in a shared apartment with Spanish locals or other internationals or living in one of the many residencies. Other options are finding a studio appartment or living with a Spanish family (homestay).

Search for your new home according to your needs!

To support your in your housing hunt, we created a free service that gives you access to some of the most reliable housing platforms in Barcelona. Start your search now by filling out the housing request” form. Once submitted, you will receive housing offers via email that match your specific search criteria!

Also check out our freeHousing Guideto get detailed information on student housing in Madrid and contact us in case of any further questions! Being a part of the Citylife Barcelona community means you always have someone by your side! 

To search for roommates to share an apartment with, simply click here.

If you prefer to start the apartment hunt in person in Barcelona we recommend to arrive in Barcelona 1-2 weeks before your orientation program begins at your university. In case you don’t have a friend in Barcelona you can stay with during these first days, check out our Hotel, Hostel & Touristic Apartment Discounts as well as the established airport transportation discounts to save money!

CELL PHONE PLANS & INTERNET – Guide to save money

Cell phones & Plans (Contract vs. Prepaid)

The first step to having a cell phone in Spain is deciding if you will use your current phone from home or get a new one once you arrive. If you decide to use your current phone you should make sure it is unlocked before leaving the country. An unlocked phone simply means that it is compatible with any SIM card around the world. Unlocking your phone will cost money as it means you are taking business away from your current provider, but it is something you must do in order to put a working Spanish SIM into your current phone. For information on unlocking your phone, please contact your cell phone provider. Once in Barcelona, choosing a new phone is relatively easy. You can either buy a used phone from small tech shops around the city or visit one of the many cell phone companies and pick one up. Check here for recommendations.

If you would like to unlock your phone in Barcelona, you can do it conveniently in many locations all over the city. 

The next step is getting your Spanish SIM card. You can either get a contract or a pay-as-you-go deal (i.e. prepaid SIM card called “prepago” in Spanish)with any service provider in Spain.

1. Contracts are ideal if you plan on living in Spain for 12 months or more. If you are interested in getting a contract you will need both your NIE and a bank account for any phone company to sign with you.

2. Prepaid SIM cards are extremely common and flexible. They are very popular among the international student community here in Barcelona as there are no papers to sign and you add money to your phone at your own discretion. However, the different charges with prepaid cards are usually not very easy to understand and information is often misleading – for example, it is very common in Spain that you will need to pay an additional fee for each call you make, regardless of length. This fee is called “establecimiento de la línea” and is not clearly explained. Quite often there are additional costs concealed in the fine print.

Important: Before taking a decision, make sure to read our main guide about “best SIM card deals for Spain“. This way you understand all your options.

To avoid complications, misunderstandings and subsequent frustration when choosing the ideal cell phone plan, our recommendation for the academic term 2020/2021 is Lycamobile! Lycamobile is one of the biggest cell phone providers in Europe offering different, cheap bundles that you can choose from. You can obtain your free SIM card either online on (delivered to your home) or at retailers like Carrefour. You can also get one at one of the many “Locutorios” all over the city.

And this it how it works: You can mix and match between different “bundles” the way you want to, based on your own needs.

Simply check out the Lycamobile “young internationals” flyer* for the most popular “bundles” at the moment.

*If the offers displayed in the flyer above don’t suit your needs or isn’t available for your country, check out the other options offered by Lycamobile by clicking here. You will get the free Lycamobile SIM cards in our office, this way we help you to activate them properly and will explain you how everything works in person! As Lycamobile can change offers, we recommend to always check their webpage too!

Spread the news among your friends, it will save you a lot of money! For more information, simply click here!

Avoid additional fees and frustration due to hidden costs!

The SIM card provided by Lycamobile is one of the cheapest and best offers you can get in the market today. All prices already include IVA (value added tax in Spanish is called IVA), so there are no hidden costs.

Any questions? We are happy to help you wherever we can. Don’t hesitate to contact us by sending us an email to [email protected].


Much like cell phones, Internet is a must-have for most people. There are many free wifi spots to be found in Barcelona including some plazas, cafes, McDonalds, Starbucks and many other large chains. You are also welcome to enjoy free Internet in our office. If you need Internet at home, it’s recommendable to look for flats with Internet already included. However, if you have found a flat that you like but Internet is not included, there is a very practical & economic solution offered by WifiAway which will save you money, hassle and complicated paper work (e.g. no NIE or Spanish bank account are required to obtain Internet for your new home)!
Be connected on your first day in Spain with WifiAway wherever you are. There is no minimum contract duration! To read more, click here!

Almost every student in Barcelona relies on the metro or bus system to get around the city. It’s cheap, it’s reliable and it can get you almost anywhere! The great thing about Barcelona’s public transportation or TMB as it is called here, is that you can buy any sort of ticket, anywhere at any time. From the moment you arrive in the city you can head to the nearest metro station and use the machines to buy whatever type of ticket you need. There is no registration required!

The TMB has a series of both short-term and long-term transport cards which offer a wide range of accessibility to their users. This gives commuters the option to choose the card that fits specifically to their transport needs – which saves money and time in the long run. You can purchase all of these tickets at any metro station or online if you wish to be prepared before your arrive to Barcelona. For prices head over to the official website!

Short Term Transport Cards

Hola BCN – The Hola BCN card is more of a tourist ticket – perfect for visiting family and friends. When purchasing this ticket you can choose from either a 2-5 day period of unlimited travel on the metro, the bus, the local train and the regional train! 

T-10 – The T-10 is your basic 10 ride ticket. If you don’t want to commit to a more expensive card or you are not yet sure how often you will need the metro, the T-10 is a perfect alternative. You will have 10 rides on any transport in the city. This is also a good option for visitors as you can easily use the TMB 10 times in a short period! There is no time limit on this card. So if you happen to never use the metro, you can stretch it out pretty far. However, there is a zone limitation with the T-10 and if you wish to travel outside Zone A you will have to buy a 2 zone ticket. 

Long Term Transport Cards

T-Mes & T-Trimestre – If you are 25+ years old and will be using the transit system on a constant basis then you should look into these cards. The T-Mes is valid for 30 days of unlimited travel and the T-Trimestre is valid for 90 days. Both can be used for all transit methods in Barcelona, including airport transit. Some of you might need to monitor your budget on a monthly basis while others might want to invest in a ticket where you won’t have to worry about payments at all. If you are a student in Barcelona for 1 semester, the T-Trimestre can cover you for a huge bulk of your stay! Be aware of the zone limitations with these cards, as prices change depending on how many zones you are travelling through. 

*T-Joven – The T-Joven grants you all the access of the T-Trimestre card, but for a lower price! You can save up to 50€ as a “joven”! The only catch is you must always be carrying a form of ID with you, should you be stopped and asked to show your tickets!

BANKING & MONEY TIPS – Secrets to savings on unneccesary fees

Optimizing your spending during your time in Barcelona can be a bit of an art. You could be facing a different form of currency, different exchange rates and different fees associated with the use of ATM’s and credit cards abroad.

How to open a free bank account in Barcelona

The most convenient & cheapest way to easily access your money is opening a free bank account with any of our partner banks. This way you have easy access to your money to pay for accommodation and living expenses. Furthermore you don’t have to worry about any fees related to the management of your account or withdrawing money. If you intend on doing an internship in Spain, your employer will also be able to deposit your salary into your Spanish bank account.

Before deciding to open a bank account in Barcelona make sure to check with your current bank institute the costs related to ATM withdrawals abroad. For non-European citizens these costs can vary. For European citizens it’s a bit easier as within the countries of the EU, terms and fees of a bank account are equal to those in your home country. So if you want to withdraw money from a cash machine you will be charged as much money in Spain as in your country. Therefore it is often not necessary to open a bank account in Spain.

To read more or to open a free Spanish bank account now, simply click here. We will immediately forward your request and connect you!

Compare your options to transfer money to minimize fees

To transfer your money to your new bank account there are several options that you can choose from. It is important to assess the costs and benefits of these different transfer options to ensure you get the best deal on your international money transfers. You can either:

1. Send money through your current bank (always ask for the related fees, some banks charge a lot for international money transfers)
2. Transfer money through specialized transfer operators such as Western Union and MoneyGram (also in this case, ask for the related fees)
3. Use online money transfer services such as Transferwise and Paypal.

If you are looking for cheap and convenient way to send/transfer money abroad, we highly recommend TransferWise. It’s probably the most popular tool at the moment for sending and receiving money internationally with low fees — much cheaper than using your local bank.

You can also get your own local bank account details in Europe, UK, US, Australia and New Zealand with the TransferWise Borderless account. Click here for more information.

If you choose to use Paypal the recipient and the sender will need to have a Paypal account. In this case it is possible to transfer money between international accounts. However, the fees for such transfers are usually set to a minimum fee, which could lead to expensive transfer fees for larger transactions.


Spain has an excellent healthcare system with a wide network of care centers and hospitals. The national healthcare system (Seguridad Social) includes a network of healthcare centers for Primary Health Care (PHC) and minor emergencies. These centers are called Centre d’Atenció Primària (CAP) in Catalunya and are usually your first stop when in need of a doctor. If necessary you will be referred to a specialist. Appointments at the CAP can be either made in person or online. If you need to see a doctor outside of the CAP’s opening hours you should go to your nearest “Centre d’Atenció Continua” (CAC – Continual Attention Centre). These centres are open 24 hours a day. In case of an emergency (and if you don’t have a private insurance), Hospital del Mar (+34 608 571 541) is a good hospital that has a 24 hour emergency call centre and there they will be able to attend you in English, German and French! Besides, you can also always call the European emergency number 112 or 061 (Barcelona).

Specialist and emergency services are provided in both public and private hospitals. Click here for an overview of hospitals in and around Barcelona.

In Spain, prescription and over-the-counter medicine is sold only in pharmacies and is relatively inexpensive. In case you get sick and you need to see a doctor, your first stop should be the closest Centre d’Atenció Primària. If you have private insurance we highly recommend you go straight to “HM DELFOS” (24/7 emergency phone: +34 649 758 995), which is part of HM Hospitales, one of the leading Hospital Groups in Spain covering all medical and surgical specialties!

Through their International Department, “HM DELFOS”, they will deal with your insurance directly carrying out all the necessary procedures on your behalf so you do not have to do any paperwork. With their team of interpreters, HM DELFOS ensures that you will be attended in your own language! Click here for more details!

Take a look at this useful list of English speaking doctors & clinics and our “Quick Guide” to the Spanish medical system! For a comprehensive, in-depth breakdown of the Spanish healthcare system, take a look at our guide to Healthcare in Spain.

Healthcoverage in Spain – Overview

It is a basic requirement to have health coverage in Spain, be it through reciprocity agreements between the different National Health Services, or through private insurance:

European students (EEA country citizens)

To receive the same medical services as Spanish nationals you will have to apply for the European Health Insurance Card prior to your arrival. This will provide you with all basic medical treatment during the course of your stay.

Important: The European Health Insurance Card:

  • is not an alternative to a private travel insurance. It does not cover any private healthcare or costs such as a return flight to your home country or lost/stolen property
  • does not guarantee free services. As each country’s healthcare system is different, services that cost nothing at home might not be free in another country.

In the Spanish healthcare system, PHC services are typically provided at healthcare centers where „family doctors“ have their consultation offices. These centers refer patients, if required, to specialists whose offices are usually in public hospitals. You can apply for a student healthcare card by going to your local health care center and providing them with your ID card or your passport and your European Health Insurance Card. Once you have found your new home, simply check for the nearest health care center to your home by clicking here. You also have the option to receive private healthcare assistance in HM Delfos hospital, where they apply special student discount for all foreign students in the event that you don’t have private health insurance or your insurance company doesn’t cover you.

Non-European students

As a Non-EU citizen you will always be required to purchase private health insurance for Spain for your intended stay abroad in order to be eligible for any kind of visa. Always educate yourself on every detail of your insurance plan – how the plan works and what the limitations and conditions are – before you leave home. It also is very important that you purchase medical health insurance that will cover the entire time of your stay abroad. Once you have your private insurance and in case of sickness, we recommend to go straight “HM DELFOS“, they will deal with your insurance directly carrying out all the necessary procedures on your behalf so you do not have to do any paperwork. With their team of interpreters, HM DELFOS ensures that you will be attended in your own language! Click here for more details!

Recommended private insurance plan for Spain

In the unlikely case that you arrive in Barcelona without medical coverage or you would like to get an additional private insurance, you can get in touch with Sanitas one of the world’s leading medical insurance companies. The different insurance plans offered serve as additional coverage to the European Heath Insurance card, as well as full private insurance coverage. It will cover important private services like hospitalization, home transportation, lost luggage, robbery and much more. They are available to call 24/7 throughout the entire year. Get more information here!

Giofactwin Medical Appointment – App for medical assistance during your time abroad

Giofactwin Medical Appointment is the perfect app for your medical assistance when you are abroad. It locates medical centers within your area and allows you to request appointments for medical consultations. Chose your nearest center, the app will show you a map with the route to get there and connect you directly with the International Deparment of the medical center. Once there, they will take care of you, giving you and your relatives support and assistance during your stay at the hospital.

Download it FREE on App Store (iOs) and Play Store (Android).

Dental Treatment in Barcelona

In case you need to see a dentist in Spain, we recommend CareDent dental clinics! CareDENT offers first class dental care in Barcelona as well as all over Spain. They specialize in all areas of dental treatment. To see an overview of other dentists in Barcelona, simply click here!

Pharmacies / drugstores in Barcelona 

Unlike other countries, when you want to buy something like Aspirin, Alka-Seltzer or any other kind of medication you have to go to one of the many local pharmacies in Barcelona (green cross) or buy it online.

Click here to find pharmacies that are open 24h within your neighbourhood!


As emergencies do happen, it is important to have a list of numbers on hand:

  • 112: Emergency telephone number in Barcelona as well as Spain (all kinds of services)
  • 092: Telephone number for Local Police in Barcelona (called “Guardia Urbana”), as well as to call SAMUR ambulances
  • 091: Telephone number for Spanish National Police
  • 080: In case of fire (“Bomberos Barcelona”)
  • 24h-Pharmacies on “Yellow Pages”: Pharmacies Barcelona

Robbery and other incidents: We always recommend that you report any robbery or any other kind of incident to the police! Check here for details.

Lost & FoundIn case you have lost something, we recommend you get in touch with the Lost & Found office (Oficina de Troballes de l’Ajuntament de Barcelona – Pl. Carles Pi i Sunyer, 8*10, bxs – Tel: 010).

Barcelona Tourism Center: Plaça de Catalunya, 17, 08002 Barcelona

Taxi Services:

Centre d’Atenció Primària (CAP): In case you are in need of a doctor, your first point of contact is the closest Centre d’Atenció Primària (CAP). Specialist and emergency services are provided in both public and private hospitals. Click here for an overview of hospitals in and around Barcelona.

Haven’t found what you were looking for? General information can be obtained at the Barcelona City Hall under 010!

GETTING LEGAL – How to apply for your NIE/TIE and Empadronamiento

The Empadronamiento and NIE/TIE documents are a source of a lot of confusion among many of the internationals here in Barcelona. Subsequently we will outline the basic information to support you in the application process for these legal papers. However, as requirements vary throughout the government offices, we strongly recommend that you keep up to date on all of this information. You can do this by getting in touch with your international student office in Barcelona as well as the respective Spanish authorities to see what exactly you will need for your appointments.

In general we recommend that everyone coming to Barcelona – to study or work – registers immediately as an inhabitant of Madrid. The “Empadronamiento” (also called “Padrón”) is an easy process that you can do quickly in your local town hall in Barcelona (called “ayuntamiento”). There are several benefits related to being registered: It proves you’ve been living in Spain, which can help you get your residency or immigration papers faster and easier in the future. You will also need it to get a card for the healthcare system as well as to get your driver’s license. Furthermore, it is required if you intent to get married in Spain and to sign your children up for school.

The Empadronamiento document will be helpful if you encounter any legal situation in the future!

Along with the empadronamiento, many of you will be required to apply for a residency card, which is called “NIE/TIE “(tarjeta de residencia). According to Spanish authorities, everybody staying more than one semester in Spain, has 30 days after entering any country of the European Union to apply for the NIE/TIE. In case you are planning on doing an internship in Spain, you will also be required to apply for it. Your residency card will allow you to remain in Spain all year.

To read more, please check here!

DISCOUNTS – Find great money saving deals with lots of popular discounts
Saving money has never been easier! At Citylife Barcelona we understand that as young international travelers you are living on a budget. Whether you’re looking for discounts on flights & hotels, a new outfit for a night out, free VIP entries to clubs, a discount on your favorite restaurant, fantastic offers on popular attractions or you simply need to save money on basic daily necessities. You’ll find everything you need right here!

We also highly recommend to get the International Student Identity Card (ISIC)! It will be your passport to fantastic discounts and services in Barcelona, Spain and around the world! Saving money has never been easier!