Preparing for Your Trip
Follow this checklist and read all of the Preparing for your Trip information on the website to minimize travel-related stress.
By February 1
- Complete application and pay application fee
ASAP after application is complete
- Contact your school’s financial aid office
- Purchase airline ticket
- Secure housing
- Apply for or renew your passport. Your passport MUST be valid for at least 3 months beyond your departure date
- Get a Hep B vaccination
by the first week of May
- Order transportation card (especially if you are under 26 years old)
- Get prescriptions to last through your return
- Purchase travel insurance
- Set up international phone plan or purchase eSIM
- Provide the phone number you will use while in Spain (use What's App, phone number 505-463-9051)
By 2-3 days before classes begin
- Pay tuition and fees (deadline for payment in full is May 30, 2023)
- Arrive in Madrid
- Check in to let us know you have arrived
- See Maps and Directions to find your way from your apartment to school
Passports & Visas
Students are encouraged to apply for or renew their passport well in advance of their participation in the program. Wait times are 4-6 weeks for routine service and 2-3 weeks for expedited service, but these are average wait times and can fluctuate depending on the number of applicants.
UNM law students may apply for or renew their passport through the UNM Bookstore’s Passport Acceptance Center on the main campus.
For more information about passport application/renewal, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html.
Spanish Entry/Exit Requirements
Spain is a party to the Schengen Agreement. For U.S. citizens, this means:
- You may enter Spain for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa.
- Your passport must be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.
- You must have a return airline ticket.
- If you are traveling with a child, consider carrying documentary evidence of your relationship to the child and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present.
Visit the Embassy of Spain's website for more information concerning entry requirements for Spain. Additional information can be found on the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website or obtained from the Tourist Office of Spain which has offices in several U.S. cities.
If you are not a U.S. citizen or are not planning on entering Spain on a US passport, you should contact the Spanish embassy for information relevant to your particular situation.
Proof of Citizenship to Reenter the U.S.
All U.S. citizens traveling by air outside of the U.S. are required to present a passport to reenter the country. Legal permanent residents need to ensure that they have the proper documentation to allow reentry into the U.S.
Registration with the State Department
The Program Director will register the Institute’s program dates and roster with the U.S. Department of State. We strongly encourage U.S. citizens to independently register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, especially if you will be extending your trip beyond the program dates. Registration allows the State Department to assist you and to help friends and family get in touch with you in the event of an emergency.
Health & Insurance
Spain and Covid-19
As of September 20, 2022, U.S. citizens no longer need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to travel to Spain. For current information about travel and COVID-19, consult the Spanish Ministry of Health website.
Consult Your Doctor
Good medical care is available throughout Spain. However, students who have known medical conditions (physical or mental) are strongly urged to consult with their personal health care provider before leaving for Spain.
Prescription Medications: Bring a sufficient quantity of prescription medications for the entire four-week period of the program. Spanish regulations do not permit the international shipment of medication, so please do not ship medication from the U.S. to Spain.
Hepatitis B: Hep B vaccination is recommended for all unvaccinated persons who might be exposed to blood or body fluids, have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment, and for all adults requesting protection from HBV infection. Detailed information available at the CDC website:
Mandatory Travel Insurance
All students must purchase UNM's international accident and health insurance for the period they are enrolled in the Institute, and may extend coverage for the duration of their stay abroad. UNM's Global Education Office has contracted with Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) to provide insurance that includes emergency medical evacuation and repatriation.
For plan information and to purchase, go to https://culturalinsurance.com/UNM.
Flying to Madrid
Arrival and Departure Dates
Plan to arrive in Madrid at least two to three days prior to the start of the program and to depart no earlier than the day after final exams.
Students must attend the first day of class and orientation and depart only after exams are concluded. Late arrival or early departure may result in disenrollment, a failing grade, or combination of both. If there is an unexpected, serious emergency that will affect a student's arrival or cause an early departure, the student should discuss this problem immediately with the Director.
While there are plenty of search platforms to choose from, Google Flights is the most powerful, accurate, reliable, and in most cases, the simplest tool to find reasonably priced international airfare. You can search for flights up to 11 months in advance, with the ability to identify the cheapest days to fly as you scroll through the calendar month by month. If you are not flexible about your dates, use their Price Alert service to stay on top of fare changes for flights and book when prices drop.
Institute alums have also recommended the following apps for finding cheap flights:
Histlist is an app available on the App Store and Google Play. If traveling within Europe, the app allows you to research airfare options.
Hopper is an app available on the App Store and Google Play. It provides flight information and also tells you when it’s the best time to buy and makes recommendations. You may also book your flights.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is for people who want to be alerted when super cheap international airfare pops up. You submit your email address and you receive an email notification with instructions.
Plan at least a few months ahead to get the best deal on international airfare rather than trying to find a bargain by booking at the last minute.
If you are from a smaller city (like Albuquerque) consider looking at airfare from a hub (like Los Angeles LAX or Dallas DFW) then pairing that with a short flight from your home airport. Sometimes this strategy can save hundreds of dollars.
Be aware that this strategy comes with some risk. If you miss your connection, you may be out of luck: Because you booked these flights on separate tickets, your airline is under no obligation to rebook you. That means it's good to give yourself several hours between connections – or consider even getting in a night early before a flight overseas.
When you see a good price, book it. The cheapest flights never last long.
The Madrid Summer Law Institute does not provide housing. It is each student’s responsibility to secure his or her own housing. However, there is a wide variety to choose from in the Madrid area.
Be Specific About Your Amenities: in addition to picking a location that you like, consider the available amenities that are important to you. You will need internet access and we advise that you find an apartment that is air conditioned. You might want a pool. In short, find an apartment that suits your needs.
Vicálvaro and Nearby: Because Vicálvaro is a community with a large student population, housing in the area tends to be significantly less expensive than in other areas of Madrid. It is a safe area with grocery stores, restaurants, and a shopping mall. If you are interested in the possibility of renting a room or staying in a dorm room, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rooms in Shared Apartments: Aluni.net rents furnished and equipped rooms in apartments to students, common living areas are shared. Students may choose to rent one room in an apartment, or a group of students may collectively rent the whole apartment. The cost for the whole apartment is the sum of the costs of the room.
The cost for a room of course depends on the location of the apartment as well as the size of the room. Rooms in apartments within walking distance to the University tend to range from 300-400 euros a month plus utilities. The cost of utilities depends on usage, but aluni.net has said that each student tends to average about 35 euros a month. Aluni.net also requires a one month security deposit, which is refunded if there is no damage to the apartment. Finally, Aluni.net charges a 47 euro administration fee (this a 40% reduction from the normal fee because the program has signed an agreement with Aluni.net – make sure Aluni.net knows that you are studying at the Madrid Summer Law Institute administered by the University of New Mexico and the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos).
It is very easy to search for apartments using aluni.net’s website. First, identify the location where you want to live. If you prefer to live closer to central Madrid but within an easy commute to the university, it is probably best to look along metro line 9 heading north from Vicálvaro. For example, aluni.net has apartments available in Valdebernardo (close to Vicálvaro) and Sáinz de Baranda (walking distance to the Parque del Retiro in Central Madrid, but only a twelve-minute metro ride to Vicálvaro).
The Institute will facilitate contact among program participants who would like to share an apartment.
Dorms: A limited number of spaces in an on-campus dormitory building will be available. Each room has a kitchenette and a private bathroom. The building has a computer room, study rooms, and a cafeteria with reasonably-priced meals. Upon departure, be sure to ask for your deposit back at the time you move out. See: www.residenciavicalvarourjc.es/en
Airbnb: Students usually rate their stay in an Airbnb either a 4/5 or 5/5; however, a common complaint was that they ended up farther from the University than they would have preferred. Before booking an apartment, be sure of its location and proximity to a metro station. It is highly recommended that you find a place near metro line 9 or with no more than one transfer between lines. Housing found through Airbnb is typically much more expensive than rooms in shared apartments or dorms.
Other Housing Websites
- Housing Anywhere - www.housinganywhere.com
- Uniplaces – Search by University or neighborhood: www.uniplaces.com/accommodation/madrid
- MadridEasy - www.madrideasy.com
- Study Abroad Apartments - www.studyabroadapartments.com
- Idealista – Spain’s version of Airbnb. You may search to rent homes or rooms: www.idealista.com/en
Persons with disabilities should ensure that the housing that they secure is accessible to them. The university and public transportation in Madrid are generally accessible to persons with disabilities.
ATMs and Credit Cards
The easiest way to obtain cash in Spain is with an ATM card. Automatic teller machines are very common in Spain and the rest of Europe. In addition, credit and debit cards are accepted at most commercial businesses throughout Spain.
Tell your credit card company and bank that you will be traveling so that their fraud departments don’t freeze your account when they detect unusual transactions.
Foreign Transaction Fees: ATM withdrawals and credit card purchases often incur a transaction fee of around 5 percent for charges made outside the U.S. For information about cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees, see:
- Foreign Transaction Fees: What Are They & How To Avoid Them - Forbes Advisor
- Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards of September 2022 - NerdWallet
Exchanging Money in the U.S.: You may want to exchange some dollars into euros before you arrive in Spain. The easiest way to do this is to use a Currency Exchange service in an American airport. If you are from a smaller city (like Albuquerque) you can do this in your connecting airport. You can also wait to get euros in the Madrid airport where there are several ATMs.
Cell Phones & High-Speed Data
In Madrid, you will want to have a high-speed data plan so that you can navigate with Google Maps, have access to travel apps, scan restaurant menu QR codes, and make reservations for everything from trains to restaurants. You have two choices:
Purchase an International Plan from your Current Provider
Virtually all U.S. cell phones are compatible with Europe’s mobile infrastructure and every major U.S. carrier has international data plans, so your phone should automatically work when you arrive in Madrid. However, the data speeds will be slow and it is likely you will be hit with costly international data roaming charges.
Buy a SIM card with a High-Speed Data Plan
Using a European mobile carrier is a more economical option than your carrier’s international plan. Plus, the data speeds are much faster and you’ll receive greater data allowances compared to U.S. plans. In addition, there are no international roaming charges within the European Union so if you buy your SIM card in Spain then that service will work in any other EU country with no extra charges.
eSIM: Most new phones are eSIM compatible and don't require you to install a physical SIM card. You simply purchase a prepaid data plan while still in the U.S and the activation link will be sent to your email. By keeping your original SIM card in your phone and simultaneously using the eSIM, you have access to Spanish high-speed data and your family will still be able to call your U.S. number. Additionally, you will still be able to use apps and other services that rely on two-factor authentication. For more information, see www.simoptions.com/esim-spain.
Physical SIM: If you have a slightly older phone, you will need to replace your phone’s physical SIM card with a SIM card of a European mobile carrier.
Many American cell phone companies use software to “lock” their smartphones to their network so the phone won’t work if you install a SIM card from another company. You can usually call your mobile carrier and ask them to unlock it because you’re going to travel abroad. However, some carriers make you jump through hoops and they have confusing criteria about which customers are “eligible” to unlock their phone. You must get your phone unlocked while you are still in the U.S. Because there can be issues with this process, it is best not to wait until the last minute to contact your carrier.
Once your phone is unlocked you will be able to purchase the SIM card in Madrid. Among other places, you can purchase it in the Madrid airport, at the Alcampo shopping center (Estrella stop on Line 9 of the metro), and in the shopping center on Paseo de los Artilleros across from the Vicálvaro metro stop.
About 1 month before classes begin, order a Public Transportation Card so that you will be able to travel throughout the city at the best available price. For people under 26 years old, the pass is critical because it provides a huge discount on local travel.
Steps to getting a Public Transportation Card:
- Have a passport-sized photo and an image of your passport available to upload. Both must be in jpeg format
- Go to https://www.citylifemadrid.com/getting-around-madrid-public-transport and scroll down to Step by step Guide – How to Order your Public Transport Card Online
- Fill out the card order form using the Institute's Madrid phone number (914 887 969) and office address:
- Tipo via: Paseo
- Nombre via: Artilleros Rey Juan Carlos
- No: 0 (type out zero)
- Provincia: Madrid
- Localidad: Madrid
- CP: 28032
- Upload your documents
- Pay the fee for the Public Transport Card.
When you arrive in Madrid, you will pick up your card from the Institute office then go to a metro station and use the ticket machine to add a Monthly Transportation Pass to the card.
What to Bring
- Your passport.
- An ATM card and credit card.
- Photos stored online of the important passport pages (personal information and any visas), drivers license, credit cards, prescriptions and travel documents. You might also carry color photocopies of your important documents in your suitcase.
- A state driver's license and, if you plan to rent a car, an international drivers license (available at AAA).
- The text for your courses - there are no extra copies available onsite.
- A laptop or other device that will allow you to access class materials and write short papers.
- A USB flash drive that can be used with the classroom PC's USB A port (you will use these if your class requires you to do in-class presentations).
- A good Spanish/English translator app on your phone or a Spanish/English Dictionary purchased in the U.S.
- Face masks and hand sanitizer.
- Comfortable clothes that are easy to wash, need little ironing, and that don’t stretch easily. Although most apartments have small washing machines, clothes dryers are extremely rare in Spain. In the vast majority of cases, you will be hanging your clothes up to dry.
- At least one nice outfit. You will be expected to dress professionally for visits to legal institutions. There also are elegant cultural events that you may choose to attend.
- A light sweater or jacket. Many people find it to be a little cool in the mornings and evenings.
- Rain gear and practical clothing. Normally the weather is sunny and pleasant, but rain obviously does happen.
- A continental European plug adaptor. Outlets are round and plugs have round holes in Spain:
- A voltage converter for electronic items that do not have one built in. Outlets in Spain are 220 volts as opposed to 110 in the U.S. Most computers and phones have automatic voltage converters on the plug cord or in the device. Check the labels. If it says something like “Input: 100 – 240 V,” that should be fine. To buy plug and voltage converters in Madrid, go to a ferretería (hardware store).
- If you wear glasses or contacts, bring a spare pair or at least your prescription.
- If you take medicine or vitamins regularly, bring a supply for your entire stay.
- A large bath towel and a wash cloth. They are not normally provided in homes or furnished apartments that you rent. You can buy these when you get to Spain.
- A moneybelt that is worn around the waist - or your preferred method to avoid loss from pickpockets.
- A good guidebook on Spain. Both the Rick Steves and Lonely Planet guidebooks are excellent.