What to Pack
Passport, visa, program admission letter, etc. – that is, any other important documents you might need. Bring extra copies! NOTE: Make sure you pack any electronics or important documents in your carry-on luggage.
Some Euros: good to have with you when you arrive for a cab from the airport, food the first day, etc. You can order them from your bank at home, or exchange/withdraw money at the airport.
Basic toiletries—travel size only, unless there’s anything you’re especially particular about (otherwise it’s easier to buy them here)
Prescription medication. Some medication may not be available here. You should talk to your doctor to get a supply of any prescriptions you need to last your whole stay. You’ll also probably need to call your insurance company for a vacation override to get the longer supply covered at one time. Make sure to pack your medication in your carry-on luggage, and don’t try to ship them from home! Remember to put the prescription document in the bag with the medication! It’s a good idea to bring any over-the-counter medication and vitamins that you tend to use (you can get most or a variation of these products, but when you’re not feeling well it’s easier to have familiar medicines on hand.)
Glasses/contact lenses and contact solution
Backpack, purses with a zipper (preferably cross-body)
Bathrobe (always nice to have in shared housing)
Comfortable walking shoes
Reusable shopping bag (grocery stores charge extra for bags and don’t always have them available)
E-reader or tablet instead of print books (much easier and lighter to pack)
Clothes that you can layer for different seasons, if you’re here for the semester or the year. For the summer, make sure to pack a light jacket because it can get chillier than you might expect. Bring an umbrella/raincoat (or you can buy an umbrella here!).
Note: If you plan to use your mobile phone with a Spanish SIM card, consider having it unlocked BEFORE you leave your home country. It will save you time and hassle when you arrive in Madrid!
But think twice about packing these:
Hair tools (hairdryers, straighteners, curlers…), unless they’re dual voltage. Even with the right adapters, people tend have trouble with these, so it may be easier to buy them here, especially for a longer stay.
Uncomfortable shoes. Madrid has many cobblestones, and you’ll be walking a lot!
Anything expensive, sentimental, or irreplaceable
Bedding, towels, kitchen appliances, dishes (they’re included in your apartment)
Clothing that can only be dry cleaned or that is otherwise high maintenance (you do not want to deal with that while you’re here)
Things that are only useful in “what if?” scenarios—you’re unlikely to actually need them, and if you do, you can buy them here.
If you forget anything, be careful when having things mailed to you: make sure everything is labeled correctly on the customs form (usually “unsolicited gifts” or “used personal goods not for resale”) to avoid having to pay customs taxes, and don’t ship medications or any other restricted items.