íPrepárate! El Programa de Verano de UNCG en Madrid, España

Your budget in Spain

If you are going on the Summer in Spain program as a student, the following expenses are covered:
  • your lodging with the señora and lodging on any university-sponsored weekend trips.
  • your meals with the señora.
  • your meals on any university-sponsored weekend trip.
  • transportation on any university-sponsored field trips.
  • admission to museums and monuments on university-sponsored field trips.

The following expenses are not covered:

  • any weekend trips not sponsored by the university.
    • package deals through a travel agent are your best bet for a good deal.
  • transportation costs on the Metro, €6.40 for a 10-trip ticket, your best bet.
    • if you live far from the Institute, you will probably have to buy at least one Metro ticket per week, two if you like to go out at night (see the article on transportation for more information).
    • it's cheaper if you walk.
  • snacks and drinks on field trips.
    • if you're a coffee lover, be prepared to spend about €1.50 per cup.
    • there are no free refills.
  • telephone and internet usage (locutorios and internet cafés).
    • locutorios can often be found in internet cafés and the cost is cheaper than a phone card; a call will cost you about ten cents per minute.
    • if you do buy a phone card, ask your señora if you may have permission to use the telephone in her home; you will get many minutes more from your card than if you use a public telephone.
    • internet cafés cost about €1.50 per hour, although you can find cafés that sell cards with blocks of time that cost somewhat less per hour.
    • not all internet cafés have printers, so if you're going there to do homework you must print and hand in, be sure to check on the availability of a printer and find out how much the printed pages will cost.

In addition you will need (or want) money for gifts and souvenirs, postcards and postage, night-life, additional trips to museums, movies, theaters, etc.

  • the costs of beer, wine and bottled water are more reasonable than other drinks; depending on the establishment; you may be able to pay as little as €2 for each drink.
  • the cost of cocktails can be quite high, perhaps €9 per drink.
  • museums cost about €3 with a student ID, depending on the museum; most are free one day of the week.
  • the cinema costs about €7, somewhat less for the matinee, and most cinemas have a discount price one day of the week (día del espectador).
  • theater can be quite expensive, about €20 or more, but like cinemas usually have a discount price one day of the week (día del espectador).
  • dining out costs vary as they do in the US depending on the quality and location of the restaurant; the "menú del día" (daily special) at midday is the best deal with a 3-course meal including wine or beer costing €10 or less, while a fine meal at a better-quality restaurant can easily cost €35.
  • the Rastro, the weekly open-air market every Sunday until 2:00 p.m. in Madrid is a good place to find low prices on gifts, books, videos, CDs, T-shirts, postcards, fans, junk and fine art.
    • the Rastro gets very crowded--a pickpocket's heaven--so be very careful with your wallet or purse.
  • postcards can cost as much as €1 but it's not difficult to find them for much less, normally about €.40; a postage stamp to the US for a postcard costs €.78.
  • if you're a smoker, a pack of cigarettes costs about €3; you may wish to purchase cigarettes at the duty-free shop in the airport if you have time in order to save some money (anytime is a good time to quit, but Spanish people smoke quite a bit and you'll be surrounded by second-hand smoke virtually everywhere you go).

Most students believe that a reasonable amount of spending money to budget for the trip is between $800 to $1000.

Changing money
  • The best way to exchange your dollars for euros is to use an ATM card. The ATM card should have a "Plus" or "Cirrus" symbol on it and use a 4-digit PIN. The rate of exchange is much better with an ATM card than with cash or travelers' checks.
  • Check with your bank to see if what the fees are for using your debit card at a foreign ATM. Many banks charge just 1% for the currency exchange plus a small fee for using a foreign ATM, perhaps $.75.
  • Inform your bank before your trip that you will be using your ATM card abroad so that the bank does not suspect fraud and put a freeze on your card.
  • You can minimize fees by withdrawing a larger amount of cash than by withdrawing smaller amounts more frequently; however, do not carry large amounts of cash around with you. Carry only what you need for that day and keep the rest safely stashed in your room.
  • Do not be in a hurry to change your money at the airport; that's where you'll pay the highest fees and get the worst rate of exchange. The phone cards at the airport are also very expensive. The rate of exchange is better at banks than at the currency vendors (cambios) for the most part.

Advice from UNCG students in the Summer in Spain 2007 program

The following advice was gathered at the end of the 2007 program. The number in parentheses tells how many students offered that piece of advice.

  • Eating with the señora rather than eating out will save you money. (5)
  • Bring lots of money or budget really well. Set a daily limit and stick to it. (4)
  • You need about $700 to $1000. (3)
  • Bring enough money to enjoy the nightlife. Drinks are more expensive in bars than in restaurants, so be prepared. (2)
  • Metro tickets, internet cafés, bank charges and the exchange rate will eat your money. (2)
  • Spend your money wisely. Don't spend it all at first.
  • Be careful with your money; it's easy to spend a lot of money quickly.
  • Bring way more money than you think you'll need because you will run out.
  • Have a good idea of how much money you'll need and of what the exchange rate is.
  • School supplies cost money. Bring along what you can (notebooks, loose leaf, folders, small stapler, scotch tape, glue stick, etc.).
  • I tried hard not to spend any money and I still spent $500.
  • It is very easy to forget that €10 does not equal $10. Be aware of the exchange rate.
  • Try not to worry too much about money; it's not every day you're in Spain. Live it up.
copyright Campitelli 2007