Moving countries can be stressful. Here are the first 6 things we had to so when we arrived in Malaga.

Look for a place to stay

There are different websites to look on (idealista, fotocasa, milanuncios etc).

Be aware lots of those postings are agencies. Only a few are the actual owners renting the “piso” (apartment). You will need to pay a commission once they find a place for you. Most of the times they will charge you 1.000 euros once they find you a place. For us coming from Canada that seem very odd, but it is the way they do it here.

When looking online at places do not bother emailing asking about the apartment. You will need to call, after emailing several of places we never actually received an answer. Once we called and left messages we started seeing some progress. Another great way to get a hold of them is Whatsapp, that is what I ended up doing. I added them as a contact and messaged them through the app (got an answer pretty quick).

Get your social security number

If you just arrived to Spain I recommend getting your social security number right away (if you have a job). Why? Because it gives you some government benefits and also free healthcare.
You can only receive it if you are working. Your employer will deduct a percentage from your paycheck. That will be your contribution, it’s pretty much like paying taxes.

You pay your taxes = you receive free healthcare.

For me, I am not employed in Spain so I had to get private insurance to make sure I am covered for any medical.

Open a bank account

There are several banks to move forward with. We decided to go ahead with Caixa. You need a bank account for things like getting local phone plans. If you are Canadian bring a coffee in and be patient. We were at the bank for about 2 ½ hours even though we were their first customers of the day. You are in Spain so just enjoy the process. Understand this will be the first of many tasks that will take many hours.

We were required to have a health or life insurance policy with one of their affiliates to open the account. I am not 100% sure why he just said one of these 2 needed to be linked to the account. We asked some friends and they had to do the same with another bank.

Documents you need to open a non-resident account:
-Proof of employment
-Passport and NIE
-Spanish Address

Locate your grocery stores

This depends on where you are staying. We are downtown Malaga which means we are close to everything. The area has many small grocery stores where they sell produce, fruits and basic things. Once we got somewhat settled we looked for a bigger grocery store. If we need to pick up something quick we will go to the smaller grocery stores. Carrefour Express is the one we have close to us.

Fruits and veggies here are amazing. Most of them are from Spain which means fresh and lots of flavour. Another great place to get these are the mercados, I believe most cities have them. In Malaga the big mercado is called Mercado Central de Atarazanas. Located downtown on Calle Atarazanas, 10.

Fresh fruit
Fresh veggies


Spain has lower salaries and a high unemployment rate. Depending where you are moving from be aware of this. I would highly recommend to have a job before moving here. We were lucky because Collin had a job offer before we moved.

Cell phone services

If you need a cell phone right away, the quick way is to get a prepaid SIM card. We got one for about 20 euros.
Once you are ready to get a long term contract you should shop around. If you have a NIE number, an address in Spain, a spanish bank account or any of these things, mention it.

For us I found they thought we were in Spain for a short period of time so they were not offering better deals. We started mentioning that we lived here and prices started to change.

Phone plans in Malaga are way cheaper than back home (Canada). We got 12 GBs a month for 20 euro. Most phone companies offer major discounts if you are using a competitor. This includes prepaid SIM cards.

Get on the Spanish Schedule – Hours of operations (more info)

In Canada, businesses and restaurants are open most of the day. Spain is different, you have to adapt to the spanish hours. Check the hours of operation before you go get anything done. Some places like banks and public services are open only until 2:30 pm from Monday to Friday.

When it comes to restaurants some open for lunch but close between 3pm and 8pm. I would say check the times everywhere you go because you might have to end up turning around.

One thought on “Moving to Spain? 6 first things to do when you arrive

  1. Peter Kleid says:

    Congrats on your move! My wife and I just moved from the U.S. to Valencia. Can you share what phone company/plan you have? Your “12GBs for 20 euros” is better than what we got at Movistar.

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