Moving to Barcelona: a comprehensive guide to settling in
You’ve finally decided to make the move to Barcelona! Moving to a new country can be daunting if you’re unfamiliar with the customs, culture and basic ways in which things run. We’ve broken down the fundamentals for getting started and settled in the spectacular, sunny city of Barcelona.
Make friends with Facebook
There are so many groups on Facebook geared towards expats in Spain, moving to Barcelona, and events and activities that it’s the perfect place to start your research. There will be many people in the same boat as you and others that were in your place long ago. You can use Facebook as a tool to meet new people, get advice, find a job, buy second-hand things and even find an apartment.
The centre of Barcelona is super walkable. It’s also very well-connected with a wonderful transit system that accesses many parts of the city. If you are lucky enough to work or study close to where you live, walking is the best option. If you decide to travel infrequently by public transit, you can take advantage of the economical T-10 ticket. For 10,20€, you can take 10 individual trips on any of the transit options including tram, bus, metro, FGC and Renfe Rodalies.
If you prefer to avoid the crowds of people on public transit, Bicing is another option. This bicycle service is reserved for residents only. If you have a NIE or TIE, then for just 47,16€ a year, you can take a bike from any Bicing station for 30 minutes and drop it off at any other station.
For a while, Uber was banned but has recently become available again. Another great option is an app called Cabify, which is similar to Uber but the cars are all equipped with air conditioning and wifi. Cabify is a great alternative to cabs, which can charge you extra fees, and the payment taken after the ride automatically with your credit card.
Setting up your phone
Compared to phone plans in North America, setting up a phone in Spain is relatively cheap. If you don’t have a permit to be in Spain, you can open an account for a prepaid plan with your passport, topping up your saldo (balance) every month. The biggest phone companies are Orange, Vodafone, Movistar, Jazztel, and Yoigo. Your best bet is to go into a shop and see what they have. The average price for a plan is about 15-30€.
Finding a home in Barcelona
With its palm tree-lined avenues, spectacular mountain views, Mediterranean beaches, and relatively “low-cost” of living, Barcelona is a city with much to offer. For these reasons, many foreigners are flocking to the city and unconsciously increasing the prices of accommodation.
Finding an apartment in Barcelona is not impossible, but it is complicated. Many people complain that it is like working a full-time job; you will need to be searching actively, writing messages and visiting a lot of places before you find your place. Again, this is where Facebook will come in handy. Join any group you can find related to accommodation or flat-sharing and post an introduction: give a brief synopsis of who you are, your situation, your budget, what you are looking for. Sign up for notifications so that you can be the first to see posts as they are submitted.
Another tool that will be crucial to your finding an apartment is the website Idealista. Download the application and sign up for notifications. You can draw your own map of your desired area and include your budget. Everytime a listing is added that matches your requirements, you’ll be sent a notification. Reply as soon as you see it!
Beware of scams! Barcelona is known for its pickpockets and there are many people out there who will try to take advantage of you. Never send someone a deposit before viewing a place and signing a contract. Be prepared to pay a lot upfront for your own apartment as many agencies require an agency fee which is usually one month’s rent, as well as first and last month rental payments.
Where to buy things
For a more detailed article on where to get a good deal, you can check out our blog post Where to Find a Bargain in Barcelona. As you settle in after your move to Barcelona, you’ll become more comfortable with the shops around you and how everything works. We’ve broken down a few of the basics to help you when you first arrive.
Find your supermarket; for basic items, there are a number of different chains. For discounted items and overall good deals, Lidl is one of our favourites. There are also a number of Catalan grocery stores which source their produce from around the area: Bon Area, Bonpreu, Mercadona, Caprabo. There are also a plethora of fresh fruit and veggie shops in every neighbourhood.
If you’ve signed a contract for an unfurnished apartment, there exists, of course, Ikea. You may also find some gems on the Facebook marketplace or on the super-helpful app, Wallapop.
Take advantage of the Wallapop app, the second-hand markets that pop up on certain weekends. Check out the Mercat dels Encants which is a flea-market open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Here you can haggle to bring down prices and sometimes find special pieces. After moving to your new apartment, you may notice that once a week there will be used furniture strewn out along the streets of your neighbourhood. This is the special furniture garbage day and the perfect opportunity for a treasure hunt!
Are you thinking about moving to Barcelona? Do you already live here? Let us know if we’ve missed anything or if you have any other tips for newcomers! We hope you enjoy the city as much as we do.