Student life

Living in Madrid



These are suggestions about what students can do to finalize preparations for a safe and productive study abroad experience.


Budgeting and financial planning

  • Discuss your travel budget with your family and be sure to check current exchange rates.
  • Notify bank(s) of the fact you will be abroad. Be as specific as possible regarding dates and locations of travel. Contact the bank(s) with updates as travel plans change. Research transaction fees on ATM cash withdrawals and credit card charges abroad, some banks such as Charles Schwab accounts, waive ATM fees; make sure you budget accordingly
  • Review the Global Education Office section on costs. 



  • Ensure you have applied for and received your student visa.



  • Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the U.S. Department of State
  • Students must download WhatsApp and have notifications turned on, as it will be used as the main form of communication in emergency situations.



  • Make multiple photocopies of your passport information page and visa. Keep one copy in the U.S. with family, one or more copies in safe place abroad but separate from the original document.


  • Photocopy the front and back of all credit and debit cards. Keep one copy in the U.S. with family, one scanned copy in your email, one or more copies in safe place abroad but separate from the original document.
  • Make sure all of your important travel documents are in your carry-on baggage rather than checked luggage.



  • Make sure you are aware of luggage size and weight limits of the airline, as well as limits on carry-on baggage. Note that restrictions for the return flight sometimes differ from those on the outbound segment.
  • Write the following information on your luggage tags.



  • If you plan to use your U.S. smart phone, make sure to unlock the phone BEFORE going to Spain.
  • Make sure your family researches telephone cards or international long-distance calling plans that will allow them to call you at the most reasonable rates. Make sure they are familiar with Skype, Facetime, Zoom, or other free methods of communication if you plan to keep in touch with them this way.
  • Develop a communication plan with your family. This can outline how and within what timeframe your family expects to be contacted when you arrive in Spain, or if there is an incident of any sort (natural disaster, political unrest, act of terrorism, etc.) that may affect you in Spain or while traveling.
  • Download any apps on your cell phone to facilitate communication with family and friends back home (WhatsApp, Viber, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.)


Academic Preparation

  • Make sure to buy and read The New Spaniards by John Hooper prior to departure and bring the book to Spain.



  • Download useful apps on your phone to assist with translation, maps, transportation, currency converters, etc.



Madrid has two distinct climates–Mediterranean in summer, with bone-bleaching heat, and Atlantic in – winter, with occasional bone chilling drizzle.  Spain will be hot in August and September, but you will need a coat or jacket and rain gear by the end of your stay.  It rains a lot in Madrid in the fall.

Download this checklist before your departure. 

Arriving to Madrid

Departing the U.S.: You should get to your departure airport no fewer than 2 hours prior to the departure time, prepared to present your passport at the airline desk. You should program both Horacio Cortés’ cell phone and Dr. Colás Gil’s cell phone into your phone to notify JHU Madrid about cancellations or delays.


Everyone will be arriving at Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD) by the indicated arrival date where JHU Madrid staff will be waiting for you. If you do not arrive on-time, you will be responsible for your transportation to your first destination. 


Horacio Cortés will meet all of the students at the meeting point in T4 Arrivals  The following link is a floor plan of Terminal 4. 

Getting Around

When you arrive in Madrid, each of you will receive a tarjeta de transporte, a transit pass valid for your first month in Madrid.  This pass allows you unlimited access to public transport–buses, subway and the Cercanías rail system to Universidad Carlos III in Getafe. 


During your semester in Madrid, at the end of each month you’ll be reimbursed for your month pass at the JHU office.  Guard your transit pass carefully. You will be required to replace it at your own expense if it is lost (6€ cost).


 Download a transportation app, such as Citymapper, to plan your routes.


Modes of Transport: 


Bus: stops are clearly marked, and most lines have frequent service.  If you wish to use the bus to reach Universidad Carlos III, you may take it from the Plaza Elíptica.  


Metro: this system operates from 6:00 A.M. until 1:30 A.M., though some stations close earlier.  Check the signs at the station nearest your home to be sure which exits close at 9:30 P.M. 


Cercanías: a suburban rail style to reach Universidad Carlos III, you will take the C4 train line from Atocha/ Sol Station in the direction of Parla and get off the train at “Las Margaritas” station.  Horacio will meet you at Atocha Station and guide you through this trip during orientation week at Universidad Carlos III.


Night bus: Madrid has a limited number of late-night nocturnal bus lines–búhos operating from the “Puerta del Sol”, “the Plaza de la Cibeles” in front of City Hall and other sites around the city.  Check signs for a bus route that begins with an “N” and then a route number.  


Taxi: They are easy to stop on the streets– just wave your arms at a cab with a green light on top–and less expensive than you might imagine.  If you are returning home late at night, we recommend that you tip your driver, then ask him to wait until you are safely inside your building. You can also order a cab by phone.  Several companies provide service: