Things to think about before moving, with links to trusted providers
Lots of people ask me how I moved to Spain. I moved from New York City in 2015, so I could come in and out of the country on a Schengen Area tourist visa. I took about a year to prepare for my move. Here are some things I had to think about, that I suggest you think about as well:
What are you going to do with your furniture? Ship yours, initially rent furniture or buy furniture here? I researched this, and you can no longer ship items from the US to Europe by boat. You either buy an entire container or you have to send it via airmail, which is really expensive. I decided to sell my furniture and start new. I bought a bed in advance online and arranged to have it delivered to my apartment the day I arrived. I considered staying in a hotel the first couple nights, but I was traveling with pets. If you want to rent furniture, you can contact Douglas at Home Essentials. Tell him I referred you and he will take care of you. He is an American and native English speaker.
Will you be traveling with pets? If so, they need to have EU microchips (different reader than US ones) and be up to date on their rabies vaccines. I recommend finding a vet in your city that can work with you. For me, the paperwork for getting my pets out of the US was more difficult than getting them into Spain. I had to go to JFK and do some paperwork, a couple of days before I traveled.
You need to make a reservation with your airline to bring pets in the cabin, and there are restrictions on the number you can bring. Note that the restrictions vary by carrier. For example, one of my cats was too heavy to fly on a European airline- he had to fly Delta. However, Air France is a partner of Delta so I almost had a problem when they changed my flight and I had to connect in Paris. If you want to use a pet transport service, my friend, who is very protective of her animals, has used ACE Pet Transport (UShip) a number of times and highly recommends them.
Where are you going to live? As I didn’t really know anyone here, I flew to Madrid for a week a month before I wanted to move and looked for an apartment. The Madrid rental scene is a nightmare. I made appointments with many agents before I left, and not a single one of them showed. Basically, I got super lucky. If you need help finding an apartment, I recommend you contact Fabiana at Madrid Estate. Again, tell her I sent you and she will take care of you. She is originally from Venezuela, but lived in Miami for years. She speaks perfect English.
Mobile phone service
How are you going to get mobile phone service? If you are coming from the US, you will probably need to get your phone unlocked. That cost me about $100 and they did it in a couple of hours at a local phone repair store. Once you get to Spain, you can get a Spanish prepaid SIM. NOTE: You can’t get a regular phone contract until you get a residence card. I use Vodafone for my phone, television and wifi. I did a lot of research about a year ago and switched. Vodafone has the fastest fiber optic, you get unlimited data, free HBO and they have already rolled out 5G in my apartment here in Madrid. They also have the best network outside the big cities and you can even find someone to service you in English, if you are lucky.
How are you going to access money? I came a month early and opened a non-resident bank account, then transferred it to a regular account once I obtained my residence permit. I had to walk all over Madrid, bouncing from one bureaucratic office to another. Finally, someone told me to go to the police station, get a form, fill it out and then bring it to the bank. My understanding now is that banks can do this for you. Some require a minimum deposit to do this, others will do it as a courtesy. Friends have told me that ING and Sabadell will do it for you. My advice is to keep some money in your home country and bring your debit card while getting a Spanish bank account set up.
Where are you going to send your kids to school? This will likely affect where you live, as most of the good schools in Madrid are in the suburbs. Barcelona can be tricky because teachers usually will not speak to you about your kids unless you speak Catalan. I know someone that had to have her housekeeper go to all parent/teacher conferences. She eventually moved to Málaga. The situation is similar in Basque Country. If you need help finding a good international school, you can contact Senida at Excellence in Expat Education. Again, tell her I referred you. She is Romanian but lived and was educated in the UK, so she speaks perfect English, plus a bunch of other languages. She lived in Madrid for a long time.