Moving to Barcelona: Everything You Need to Know in 7 Easy Steps

| | 8 min read |

You’ve finally decided to move to Barcelona. That’s the first step. But what other things should you take into account? We have prepared this ultima guide covering all you need to know before moving to Barcelona.


Looking for accommodation can be a daunting task, specially in a city like Barcelona, where there is a LOT of demand, but not as much offer.

Here are some tips:

  • Start your search 2 months before arrival: why not sooner? The main reason is that in Spain a tenant can choose to extend his or her contract up to two months before it ends. That means that the landlord or agency won’t know if that particular apartment or room will be available or not until 2 months before the contract ends.
  • Focus on trusted websites: in other words, websites that certify each and every one of the apartments listed. If you use websites like Idealista, Badi or other public forums, keep in mind that anyone can post there. Also scammers. So if you want something that looks too good to be true, be extra cautious. (Check our list of trusted websites)
  • Read the contract thoroughly: specially if you’re paying an agency fee. Know what is your responsibility and what not in order to avoid surprises later down the road. Many agencies also offer contracts in English, and if they don’t ask a trusted person to translate it for you.
  • Agree on the furniture status: if you’re renting an apartment with furniture, make an inventory list in which you write if something is new or shows signs of usage. Have it signed by the agency or landlord in order to avoid surprises when you want to move out. 
  • Withhold the last payment: connected to the previous tip. Before paying the last month tell your agency / landlord to come check everything and agree if you’re losing some of your fianza (Deposit). If you believe they are being unfair but you have not paid yet the last month, you still have some bargaining power.
  • Make sure they allow you to do the Padrón: when you move to Barcelona you have to do the Empadronamiento. This means registering an official address in the city. Some places, specially those who ask for cash payments, will not allow you to do the Empadronamiento because they save on taxes. Always ask before moving.
  • Choose the right area: an important criteria is of course choosing where to live. That will depend greatly on what you’re looking for. More buzzing nights in the middle of everything like Born? More relaxed, residential areas in Les Corts? Here is an analysis of Barcelona by neighborhoods.
Moving to Barcelona: Everything You Need to Know in 7 Steps

Health Insurance

I don’t know about you, but if there’s something in which I want to have the best, and not only the cheapest, that is my health insurance.

In this case, we recommend Sanitas, it is the insurance we use ourselves. There are cheaper options in the market (Oncampus, for example). But while Sanitas is a few euros more expensive than the cheapest options, I’ll always choose peace of mind.

The best thing? We have an agreement with Sanitas and we can offer their insurance to students of up to 35 years of age 15% cheaper than if you book directly on their website.

Here are some of the highlights of Sanitas:

  • Works for your VISA (repatriation, no-copayments nor waiting periods).
  • Primary care + specialities (dermatology, gynecology, etc.).
  • Dental coverage: over 30 services included and a 21% discount on all other dental treatments.
  • 24/7 Hotline

Click here if you want to find out more about how to hire cheaper Sanitas.

Phone provider

When it comes to phone providers, there is endless possibilities. They are usually split into two categories.

  • Traditional ones: like traditional banks they usually have more services included, have better customer service and are also more expensive.
  • Low-cost, digital ones: usually focus on internet or internet + calls.

The main traditional ones are Movistar, Vodafone and Orange. The list of low-cost ones is endless. However, most of the traditional ones have a “low-cost brother”. For example, Movistar has O2, Orange has Simyo and Vodafone has Lowi. There are also independent brands like Pepehone or Digi (one of the cheapest in the market).

If you’re going to go for one of the low-cost ones, I would pick the little brother of one of the big ones, because they use the same network and thus have the same quality of signal.

Studentfy’s pick:

We closed an agreement with a company that resells Vodafone’s prepaid SIM cards called Connectivity. They have by far the best quality-price SIM card we’ve found on the market.

6,40€ for 40 GB of Internet + unlimited calls. It’s even cheaper than getting Vodafone directly on their website. Don’t ask me how, we also don’t know. Click here to find out how to save 20% on Vodafone SIM Cards.

When you move to Barcelona there are some things that you have to do. In a nutshell, you need to do the Empadronamiento, which is basically registering your official address in the Ayuntamiento (City Council). It is a very simple process and all you need is to get an appointment, and bring:

  • Your passport or TIE (Tarjeta de Identificación del Extranjero).
  • A house contract of more than 6 months with your name and NIE/Passport mentioned in it, and signed by you and the landlord.

Check our blog post about what it the empadronamiento and how to do it.

The second thing (After the Empadronamiento) is to get your first TIE. This is the card that will work as your Spanish ID for as long as you are living here and you don’t have the Spanish citizenship. Remember, if you are not European you have 90 days to do this, and it is mandatory.

The process of getting the TIE will vary depending in whether you have a European passport or not. In both cases you’ll need to fill out a form, pay a small fee and get an appointment. The appointment part is a bit annoying since there are “smart people” who create bots that take up all the appointments in order to resell them later. If you don’t want to wait you can buy one of those appointments for 20-30 euro. Otherwise be patient and try early in the morning (8 or 9 AM).

Check our complete step-by-step guide on how to get the NIE/TIE.

We also have a partnership with Barcetip, a legal company specialized on immigration. They can help you with the Empadronamiento / TIE, but also with other things as renewing your VISA, getting your work permit and other related topics. Click here to find out more about Barcetip.

Cost of Living in Barcelona and Madrid

The key to most things in life, at least if you want to do them successfully, is to be organized and plan ahead. How much money will you need during your studies per month? Do you have enough to live comfortably or will you have to get a job to complement your savings? Figuring this out in advance is crucial. Specially before looking for your new flat or room, since housing will take a big chunk of your monthly budget.

We’ve prepared a full analysis of Barcelona vs Madrid, since unfortunately those are the two most expensive cities in Spain. However, while the cost of living is higher than anywhere else in Spain, still it is considerably lower than other big European capitals like London, Paris or Amsterdam. Those three cities are anywhere between 18% (Amsterdam) and 40% (London) more expensive than Barcelona.

Check out a clear and complete overview of the difference between Barcelona and Madrid.


Which is the best metro ticket? How do I find the train schedules? What is the best way to move from point A to point B using public transport? Is “Bicing” worth it? All these are fair questions and we’re here to help.

First thing is to mention that Barcelona is a relatively small city (Of course, depends with what you compare it), with a mild weather that makes it comfortable to walk or cycle around any time of the year. On top of that, Barcelona boasts a very efficient and complete transportation network consisting of trams, metro, trains, buses, night buses, public bicycles and more.

As for Bicing: in case you don’t know, Bicing is Barcelona’s public shared bicycle service. You sign up and pay a membership that allows you to use the bikes with some limitations. We made a Complete Guide to Barcelona’s Bicing so you can find out everything you need to know about Bicing.

To complement that, there are hundreds of private mobility companies through which you can rent pay-per-minute electric scooters (Yego is the main one. Use code YEGOFY to get 5€ in credit), rent a bicycle by months (Read how to get a discount on Swapfiets) and much more.

Studentfy app

You’ve made it to Barcelona. How do you unlock the full potential this city has to offer? There are many things I can tell you. But I will pick one: download the Studentfy App. At least, do it if you like discounts in relevant local and international brands, and to participate in trips / activities / parties. Because that is what you will find in there. The best activities in the city (With discounts) as well as a platform with 150+ discounts in relevant brands and services.


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