Spoiler alert: your first months in Spain

I can tell what your first months in Spain are going to be like. Yes, I am a fortune teller (or maybe it’s that everybody’s first months is the same, so I can extend it to you). Remember the checklist page with contracts to close before moving to Spain? Well, this is pretty much the part when we open everything again. Spoilers ahead!

Above: view from the exit of the airport of Malaga. Pretty much the first outdoor you’ll see in Spain if you come through this airport.

You arrive in the airport and immediately start to confirm that Spain is indeed, beautiful. You head to the taxi spot (Malaga’s airport taxi spot shown above) and get to your destination (and it probably costs less than you anticipated). Get to know your new place and crash, resting until you feel hungry and wake up to look for food. If you are like our family and arrives in January, you fall in love with the Spanish oranges and tangerines this same day.

your first months in Spain. Orange tree.
Orange trees on a street in the Costa del Sol. The trees are beautiful, but the fruits are bitter. Try the tangerines, though, as they are juicy and delicious, as well as the oranges bought from the market. Pure delight. Image from personal file.

Getting a phone in Spain

Next morning, you are ready to seize the day. You realize the first step is probably to get a prepaid phone chip, as you don’t have a local bank account yet to have a post-paid phone. Such a chip can be obtained in a phone shop near you, because they are spread everywhere. You find one easily with your laptop, tablet or phone-with-the-chip-of-the-previous-country, looking in google for the main phone companies in Spain – Movistar, Orange and Vodafone.

Pause for self-reflection: we have Movistar and we’re happy with their services. We had another one on our first days, none of these above, and the company sort of scammed us after a few days of use, trying to charge a lot more than agreed. I won’t write the name here because I don’t want to get sued, but my conclusions on the matter are two: keep with the big companies when it comes to phone, they seem to be more reliable; scams sort of run wild in Spain, and newcomers are their favorite prey. More on scams to come still in this spoiler alert. Or should it be a fraud alert?

Having a local phone is more than it looks; you can call potential homes to buy or rent, and order a pizza or an Uber, quite handy while you have no car. While on this stage, you walk around your area. It may be all you know of your new city by now, but soon it may become a place that is far for you to reach from your new home.

Explore the surroundings

You enjoy the area while you can and get familiar with the local entertainment options and commerce, mainly computer shops (or is it only Hubby who values these above all venues?), bakeries, restaurants, supermarkets, drugstores, papershops (were you can print forms for documents, quite indispensable) and Tabacarias (tobacco shops. They sell everything, including bus tickets. If you speak Spanish, they also are kind enough to share useful information. Weren’t those Spanish classes useful?)

By the way, anytime you have no idea where to buy something, check the Tabacaria. When you get tired of walking, you come back to the hotel/vacation rental to check homes available on idealista.com.

your first months in Spain.
Benalmádena Pueblo. The kind of place you find while walking around, as if it was normal for cities to simply be this cute. Image from personal files.

Choosing a school

Another good thing you can do with your new phone is to call schools. You can find plenty of them around your area on google but the public ones will request the Padrón, which you don’t have, (more about it in the schools section) and accept enrollment only in specific months in the beginning of the year (and perhaps also in July, if there are spaces left). So you go for a private (and pricey) school, at least for now. Watch out for the schools that say they are dual language – they not necessarily are.

Pause for self-reflection: I checked one that stated they were a “reference” Spanish-English Colegio bilingüe (bilingual school) in the city, but nobody other than the English teacher spoke English there – they just offered Cambridge exams and the mandatory English as a foreign language lessons.

So you need your phone to verify the info you find online. You call a few schools, inquire, make a choice, call for an appointment, call an Uber and go, happy to have your kids in school again.  Yes, another big deal solved! You are doing so well!! Do take some time to celebrate. Our Kiddo skipped only four days of classes when we moved, quite a good mark in my humble opinion.

Book a NIE appointment

Now, because you read this blog, you know that you need a phone to book a NIE appointment, and you need a NIE to open a bank account. You need a bank account and a NIE to either buy or rent a home (you will also need a local bank account to put the utilities in automatic debt, as this is the standard in Spain). You’re welcome. So your next step is to book a NIE appointment.

The NIE is something you can do on your own – I promise it is easy, be you an EU citizen or not. And you can book it even without speaking Spanish, following this step-by-step. The only problem is that you will need to either speak Spanish or to be accompanied by someone that does on the appointment day.

If you don’t speak Spanish or for some reason prefer to rely on a gestor, this person can book the NIE appointment for you (and then you don’t need a phone for it; it even can be booked before your arrival in Spain to save time) and should be able to go with you on the appointment if you so agree and need (recommendable if nobody in the family speaks Spanish). This is one of the reasons why I think that if one decides to use the services of a gestor, it should be one that lives in the same province as oneself.

Pause for self-reflection: we hired a gestor in Spain while we were still in the USA. As we didn’t know anybody to ask for recommendations, I found one in one of the expats in Spain communities on Facebook.

This person/company did not live in Malaga, the province where I was going to live, but I didn’t realize it would be a problem back then. Lets call this gestor X, because I don’t want to be sued. X was quite confusing from the start – red flag – but we kept X for lack of alternatives. We informed the date we would arrive at least two months ahead and asked to have a NIE appointment for the week of our arrival, but X forgot to book it.

When asked about it, she said all spots were taken, so she had to keep looking. She booked a time for hubby (but not one for me) for 14 days after our arrival, which meant that for those 14 days, we couldn’t do much other than look for houses.

She gave us very general instructions on what we had to do and filled the forms halfway and with mistakes– we had to fill some blanks and do corrections, despite having already sent her copies of all our documents. X sent the forms through e-mail, and we printed it on a paper shop, then proceeded to pay on a bank and go on the appointment. Avoid these problems by following the tips on the magnific post with a foolproof method to find a good gestor.

On appointment day, we saw this life changing poster in the police station:

your first months in Spain.
Photo by Mama Málaga

And this, my dears, was the link to request an appointment on the police for a plethora of documents, NIE and Residence among them. I said was, because they have already changed it. But I got you covered, here is the new one: https://icp.administracionelectronica.gob.es/icpplus/index.html. With this beautiful address, I managed to book myself a NIE appointment for the next day (it wasn’t difficult at all to get a spot, who would expect that?)

The experience with X is the reason why I recommend you do the NIE on your own if you can; I thought a gestor would make our move easier, but that wasn’t quite the case. On the other hand, if you happen to know a good gestor, I think he/she can help you a lot, especially if you don’t speak Spanish or if you are going to be a resident in Spain.

Residents pay taxes and the gestor is an accountant; it is even more important to have a gestor if you become an autonomo, because them the taxes are more complex. Allow yourself some time and ask for references as you go meeting people in Spain. Our current gestor was introduced to us by the real estate agent that intermediated the buy/sale of our apartment.

Now that you have a NIE, you already know what the next step is: to open a bank account. That’s huge, pretty much settles you in, and will make it possible to rent or buy that place you saw on idealista.com and have been dreaming since. But I see this post is getting long, so I’ll break it here and take our crystal ball to the part two of this Spoiler / fraud alert.

Next: Spoiler alert: your first months in Spain (part 2)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *