Vassar - Wesleyan en Madrid

Practical Information

Visas, passports, and Carnets (identification cards)

– Student visas and residency

A special visa is required for all foreign students in Spain. Students acquire this visa in a two-step process.

In the United States:

  • Application must be made in the United States between one and three months in advance of the date of departure. Students accepted into the VWM program must contact the campus representative to review procedures.
  • All students should apply for a “long-term” visa with a “length of stay” of at least 200 days in order to ensure that you are not simply issued a non-renewable 180-day visa. Such long-term visas, when issued, are valid for 90 days from the date of arrival. With this visa, students must solicit a temporary residency card within 30 days of arrival in Spain that will enable them to remain in Spain for the remainder of the semester or, if desired, for the remainder of the academic year.

In Spain:

  • The program staff in Spain will help full year students apply for the extension of their visa (the “residency card” or tarjeta de estudiante). This application must be made within the first 30 days of arrival in Spain.
  • Students remaining in Spain for one semester only are not obliged to apply for the extension, since the 90-day visa allows them to remain in the country for 180 days (this is true only for US citizens).
  • If students decide to stay on for a second semester, unless they make this decision within 30 days of their arrival, they will have to return to the US and arrange for a new visa. The program staff will help but final cost of this extra trip rests with students.


Students must register their local Madrid address and passport number with their embassy (US or otherwise) during orientation week, either by means of the “Registration Form” available in the Program office or in person at the Embassy.

The American Embassy is located at:

Serrano, 75
28006 Madrid
Office hours: Mon–Fri: 9:00-12:30 / 3:00–5:00
Tel: 91 577 40 00; 91 587 22 00

Inquire at the program office for the address and telephone numbers of other embassies.

This registration greatly facilitates replacement if the passport is stolen; otherwise a birth certificate and other documents will be necessary. The passport is needed whenever doing business at the Embassy.

Student ID cards

VWM participants are expected to arrive in Spain with their International Student Identification card in hand. Vassar students can purchase their ISIC card at the registrar’s office.

The program will provide students with other ID cards and passes. For these and other reasons, at the beginning of orientation students will need to give the Assistant Director:

  • 6 US passport-size photos
  • A photocopy of the data page and visa stamp from the passport

There are numerous, inexpensive “fotomatones” located around the city for taking additional photos if needed. The photos are needed for the student visa, files, and other miscellaneous uses. Passport information is needed to process the visa and apply for the abono transporte.

The international student identification and the carnet de alberguista (youth hostel card) may be sought at:

Fernando el Católico, 88
(metro Moncloa; Bus 61 or 16)
Office hours: Mon-Fri: 9:00 – 2:00;
Sat. 9:00 – 12:00 (carnets only)
Tel: 91 543 74 12
Fax: 91 544 00 62

The international student ID allows a discount at museums and on certain travel. To apply you will need a photo, 10.82 € and proof that you are a student (letter provided by Assistant Director).

For the carnet de alberguista, present passport, 2 photos and 10.82 €.


– Banking and receiving money from home

ATM Machines (cajeros automáticos): Cash (Euros) may be withdrawn from most U.S. accounts at ATM machines throughout Europe. Make certain your bankcard is of the four PIN number type as this is the standard in Spain. ATM’s in Spain are compatible with the Cirrus or Plus system; if you have any doubts about the usability of your ATM card, contact you bank prior to leaving. You might also want to check to see if you bank applies any additional fees for international exchanges. With certain credit cards, students may also receive cash advances from an ATM machine. Interest on cash advances is often exorbitant and begins accruing immediately, making this a much more expensive solution. Depending on your bank and the network, an ATM cash withdrawal in Spain and elsewhere may be drawn automatically (no matter your preference) from your savings rather than your checking account (this has to do with the way the networks are programmed). Bear this in mind if you are planning to rely on your American ATM cards: you will want to have funds in your savings, as well as your checking account until you determine whether the system is working for you as it should. If you have online banking, you can make transfers in Spain from one to the other account as needed. Be sure to call your ATM card bank and credit card companies to let them know before your departure that you will be using the card outside of its ordinary radius. Otherwise, there is a good chance their anti-fraud departments will block use of your cards (this happens routinely so PLEASE take it seriously and call well in advance of your departure!). If you call before your departure and let them know about your travel and study plans, you will ensure access to your funds when you most need them.

Traveler’s checks are easily cashed at banks and exchanges around Europe. A passport is required to do so.

Personal, certified or bank checks may be cashed only with a special letter from the program at the Banco de Santander at the following two locations: Miguel ángel, 3; Metro: Rubén Darío, and the branch on the campus of UC3M.

Money wires may be received in approximately four days at the American Express office for students with the corresponding charge card, or in approximately one week through a personal bank account. Money wired via Western Union may be retrieved at the Change Express outlets on the Gran Vía (offices at Gran Vía 25, 44, 51, 53), tel 900 633 633.

A Spanish checking account (cuenta corriente) will allow students to receive wires (which may take up to a week to process) and to cash personal checks (passport required for identification) at bank branches through Spain. Students may open a personal bank account only students with full year visas (inquire in the program office). To do so, they must apply for certification of their non-resident status at the comisaría (police station) on General Pardiñas, 90. They will need to show their passport and submit two (2) photocopies of pages showing personal data and the student visa, along with the name and address of the bank branch where the account will be opened. Processing the document takes about 2 weeks.

Banks in Spain usually open 9:00am–2:00pm, Mon-Fri. Some open Saturday morning.

The American Express office is located at:

Plaza de las Cortes, 2
28014 Madrid
Office hours: 9:30-5:30
Tel: 902 37 56 37

Cardholders may receive money wires or cash personal checks drawn on US accounts free of charge. Travelers may receive mail at American Express offices throughout the world, although in some countries a fee is charged to non-cardholders.

– Tipping

In upscale restaurants, a 5-10% tip is generally expected. In ordinary restaurants a nominal amount (not above 5%) is the norm. In bars it is customary to leave a small gratuity for the barman: 0.15 € – 0.30 €. Increasingly, Spaniards are skipping tips in bars, or for fixed price lunch menus.

A tip of 0.50 € to 1 € for ushers (acomodadores) in theaters and movie houses is also customary and will usually result in their giving you a program. At nightclubs or flamenco shows doormen get 0.50 € – 1 €, coat-check attendants 0.50 € and waiters 0.30 € a drink.

Tips are not necessary in taxis, although you may leave them something extra (about 5%) if the driver has been especially helpful.

Rest room attendants everywhere get 0.50 € – 1 €. Leave the tip on the saucer as you leave.

– Employment

Americans living in Spain with a student or tourist visa are not permitted to work legally.

The Program cannot offer regular work study jobs. Students do occasionally find short-term jobs on their own, through personal contacts, often tutoring English. The administrative assistant or housing coordinator will provide whatever help they can in this regard.


– Mail

Stamps are sold at estancos (state-owned tobacco store) and at post offices (estafetas de correos). The rates for airmail letters (under 20 grs) and postcards cost the same, and are as follows:

For overnight or 2nd day express mail service to the United States:

  • DHL / MRV
    Tel: 90 230 04 00
  • UPS
    Tel: 902 88 88 20
  • FedEx
    Tel: 90 210 08 71
  • Spring
    Tel: 90 210 21 08

An employee of these companies will pick up the mail at your home.


Travel guides

A good guidebook is an essential tool for any sojourner in Spain. The following are useful to bring from the United States:

  • Time Out Madrid guidebook (2007 ed. or later): written by residents, it is the best travel guide to the city in English.
  • Michelin Guide: for a good overview of key sights throughout Spain
  • Let’s Go: written by Harvard students for students seeking inexpensive restaurants and lodging
  • Lonely Planet: a series which provides unusually complete and imaginative information. There is a general guide for Spain, and also a guide for walking, and a very well-reviewed World Food Guide

In Spain, students should purchase more specialized guides for areas they want to know well (Madrid, of course, being one of those areas). Check out the Editorial Anaya guides at the Casa del libro, on Gran Vía.

Appreciation of a country is measurably enhanced by an understanding of its history and geography. Program participants should strive to develop at the very least a general knowledge in this area, and they should therefore possess a good, short history of Spain. Among the many that exist, program directors have recommended:

  • John Hooper, The New Spaniards: A Portrait of the New Spain, rev. ed. (Penguin, 2006)
  • Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, España: Tres milenios de historia (Madrid: Marcial Pons Editores, 2001)
  • Raymond Carr, Ed., Spain: A History (Oxford University Press, 2000)

Students should purchase Hooper’s introduction to contemporary Spain in the United States. The travel sections at the main Casa del Libro (M: Gran Vía) branch, located on the Gran Vía, has an excellent selection of reasonably priced guides. Students should also visit FNAC (M: Callao), which is located off of Plaza Callao, not far from the Casa del Libro.

Travel in Madrid


As mentioned, the program provides its students with a pass (Bono de transporte B1), which allows unlimited travel between Madrid and Getafe (on trains and buses).

The following information, designed to summarize the travel options in Madrid, may be useful for friends and family during their visits:

Metro / Autobús 1 € Billete sencillo (single ticket); NB: subway operates 6:00am-1:30am.
Bono METROBUS 9 € A discounted ticket for 10 trips within Madrid on the subway or city buses; Available at “casetas EMT”, kioskos (newstands) or estancos (state-run tobacco shops).
Tren de cercanías 1,20 €
6,8 €
Billete sencillo (single ticket) Atocha to Getafe 10 viajes (10 ticket coupon) Atocha to Getafe
Abono Mensual de Transporte 33,50 € (under 21 yrs old)
53,70 € (21 yrs & older)
This monthly pass, for region B1, allows unlimited travel on all public transportation in Madrid and to Getafe
Taxis Normally pay only amount indicated on taxímetro
Suplementos are charged for: suitcases (not hand bags); pickup/drop-off at airport or train station; A nominal tip is acceptable but not expected

Travel out of Madrid

Travel agencies

Discounted student fares for travel may be found at:

- Asatej
Carrera San Jerónimo, 18 – P1
Tel 91 522 96 93

Other travel agencies used by former students include:

- Funiversal
Pza Sta Bárbara 8, 3º (M:Alonso Martínez)
91 303 24 92
91 319 85 68

- Funiversal / USA
690 Market St, Suite 217
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 362 71 96

- Metropolitan
Galileo, 25 (Argüelles/San Bernardo)
91 448 54 13
91 593 44 70

- Barceló
90 220 04 00


- RENFE (“Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españolas”)
Tickets and information: Alcalá, 44 (Tel 902 24 02 02)
20% discount on round-trip tickets if you travel on a día azul (off-peak days).
When purchasing tickets, always ask from which of the following three stations the train operates.

- Estación de Atocha (this is the main terminus for long-distance routes, at the southern end of the Madrid city center; for destinations north of Madrid, you might prefer to catch the train from the northernmost terminus, Estación de Chamartín, since it´s a smaller and less-crowded station [check with your on-line or in-person ticket vendor about whether your train makes a stop at Chamartín])
Glorieta del Emperador Carlos V
Suburban lines (cercanías), including Carlos III
Andalucía or Portugal

- Estación Príncipe Pío (or Estación del Norte)
Paseo de la Florida
Suburban lines (cercanías)

- Estación Chamartín
Calle Agustín de Foxá
Northern Spain, France, Barcelona


- To Barajas Airport
Intercambiador Avenida de América (bus nº 200)
1.00 € each way (bonobus valid)
Buses run every 15 minutes, starting at 5:45am-11:3opm.

- Estación sur de autobuses
Méndez álvaro (Metro: Méndez álvaro; Tel 91 468 42 00)
Destinos: Toledo Galicia, Asturias, Barcelona, Levante (Menos Valencia), Andalucía, Extremadura (menos Cáceres y Badajoz)

- Continental auto
Intercambiador de Av. América, 9 (Tel: 91 745 63 00 / 91 745 63 00)
Destinos: País vasco, Rioja, Navarra, Cantabria (Santander y Torrelavega), Granada, Motril y Almuñecar, Burgo de Osma

- Intercambiador de Autobuses / Plza Castilla
Avda. de América, 34 (Entrada por P. Xifré; Tel: 91 765 13 17 / 91 765 13 17)
Destinos: Sierra Norte de Madrid, Guadalajara, Alcalá de Henares

- Intercambiador de autobuses / Moncloa
Pº de Moret s/n. (Metro Moncloa; Tel: 91 896 90 28)
Destinos: Suburbs, El Escorial (every 15 min.), northwestern Spain

- La Sepulvedana
Estación Príncipe Pío (Tel: 91 530 48 00)
Destinos: Segovia

- Auto Res
Conde de Casal (Tel 91 551 72 00)
Destinos: Valencia, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora y Vigo


Important: Do not make return reservations until after final exams are scheduled

- Iberia
Velázquez 130 (esquina María de Molina; M: Avenida de América)
28006 Madrid
Tel 90 240 05 00

- Continental Airlines
Leganitos, 47 – 9ª (Plaza de España)
Reservas: 91 559 27 10
Fax: 91 541 78 72

- Delta Air Lines
Tel: 901 116 946

- Airport
Tel: 902 353 570 or 91 305 44 43

Spain’s Unesco World-Heritage Sites

Spain is neck-and-neck with Italy for the most UNESCO-recognized world-heritage sites. For the current list (and ideas for travel in Spain), click on here.

Travel recommended by former students

Day trips

- Toledo
Fonda La Belviseña: 92 522 00 67

- El Escorial

- Aranjuez
Picnic in Royal Gardens along the Río Tajo

- Alcalá de Henares

- Segovia
La Granja, Río Frío

- Sigüenza
The picturesque Atienza, near Sigüenza, may be reached by car

- Navacerrada, Cercedilla
Take tren de cercanías for hiking in the Sierra de Guadarrama

Weekend trips


  • Sevilla
    Hostal Río Sol (95 422 90 38); Pensión Santa María de la Luz; Hostal Sánchez: c/Corral del Rey; Hostal Bienvenidos: c/Archeros; Hostal Vírgen de los Reyes Pensión “Buen Dormir”: c/Fabiola
  • Córdoba
    Hostal Boston: Málaga, 2
  • Granada
    Hotel Victoriana; Hostal Goménez
  • Ronda
    Hostal San Francisco (95 287 32 99); Hostal Morales
  • Cádiz


  • Zaragoza

Castilla y León:

  • Avila
  • Burgos
  • León
  • Salamanca
    Hostal Oriental

Cataluña and Levante:

  • Barcelona
    Pensión Francia, Pensión Nola, Hostal Terraza, Hostal Alicante, Hostal Pintor, Pensión Sta. Ana, Hotel Parisien
  • Valencia


  • Guadalupe
    La Hospedería de los Frailes
  • Trujillo
  • Cáceres
    El Hotel Extremadura
  • Mérida


  • Santiago de Compostela
    Hostal Susa

País Vasco

  • San Sebastián
    Pensión la Perla, Pensión Alemana, Hostal Eder
  • Bilbao
  • Vitoria



A LOCAL CALL in Madrid costs 0.25€ or the first three minutes (subject to change). You may wish to buy a phone card (tarjeta telefónica), available at estancos (state-owned tobacco store) and kioskos (newsstands), although some public phones only take coins.

You may not direct-dial long distance calls from your houses.

If you have one of the following PHONE CREDIT CARDS, obtain their access code for Spain to dial their toll-free number:

  • AT&T: 90 099 00 11
  • Sprint: 90 099 00 13

Students without phone credit cards may use THE PUBLIC LOCUTORIO. The central locutorio is located on the corner of Valverde and Gran Vía. Office hours: Weekdays: 9:00-22:00; Sundays and holidays: 10:00-14:00 and 17:00-21:00.

All direct calls to the US directly from Spain begin with: 001 + area code + number.

US toll-free 800-numbers may not be dialed from Spain.

CELL PHONES are common among students and they provide independence and security. It would be ill-advised, however to make international calls from the cell phone, since such calls are extremely expensive. Relatively inexpensive TARJETAS TELEFóNICAS (pre-paid phone cards) may be purchased for this purpose at kioskos and estancos, and at the Corte Inglés. Fortune is one such brand (of many equally reliable and inexpensive one) at this moment. Ask around about new cards with bargain rates.

Customs & Shipping

There is an exemption from duty and federal tax on the first US $400 worth of all personal and household goods. The next US $1000 in items is dutiable at a flat 10% rate. If you are 21 or older, you may include 1 liter of alcoholic beverage, if it is for your own use or a gift (i.e., not for re-sale).

The American Embassy publishes a leaflet called “Know Before You Go” with relevant, up-to-date information on customs regulations.

The following company is frequently used by Americans needing to ship their belongings back to the United States:

  • - Sparber Group (formerly, Belmar) Barajas Airport (formerly, Flor Alta, 2) Ask about discounts for students Hours: 9-2 and 3-6
Tel: 91 521 68 91
Fax: 91 532 64 63

Packages can also be wrapped and mailed from some larger Post Offices. Packages sent surface mail (por barco) usually take 6 – 8 weeks to arrive in US. The service is door-to-door. They provide appropriate packing boxes and tape.

Cyber cafes

The salas de informática at the UC3M are to be used for academic work only. For personal email correspondence students have recommended the following cyber cafes:

  • - Ono (highly recommended)
    Calle Fuencarral
    Metro: Bilbao
  • - Conéctate
    Plaza Cristo Rey, 4
    Metro: Moncloa
  • - Café Comercial
    Glorieta de Bilbao
    Metro: Bilbao

Web Pages of Interest

- Universidad Carlos III (UC3M)

- Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM)

- Otros enlaces de interés