Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Advice for setting yourself up in Barcelona

Before I came to Barcelona, I put it up there with other European cities like Paris, London, etc. so I pretty much was resigned to the fact that commuting would be part of daily life. Who in London doesn’t have to travel at least 1 hour to get to/from work? This is the downside of moving to such a big city – but the benefits outweigh these little niggles. So when I moved to Barcelona, I had no idea of the city’s structure or layout, no idea of the different neighbourhoods, hell I didn’t even know how big it was. 9 years ago I didn’t have internet at home and even of I did, there wasn’t the wealth of information available now as there was then. Or maybe there was, but I just wouldn’t have known how to find it. Anyway.

You’ll be pleased to hear that Barcelona is really easy to get around. The metro system is one of the easiest to get used to – there are only 5 lines (well plans for more, but 5 main lines), there are no zones, and all the lines are called Line 1,2,3,4 and 5 and are even colour coded! You’d be surprised at how small Barcelona is and how quickly you ca navigate yourself around. Because of its natural landscape, Barcelona can’t grow – you have the sea at the bottom and Tibidabo Mountain at the back, so it just goes out. Once you hit the river on one side, you’re in Hospitalet. There’s another river on the other side, and that’s Badalona. So relatively speaking, even if you lived and worked on completely opposite sides of the city (and who would do that if they had the choice) then it would only really take you around 1 hour to get to and from work. Taking that as the longest journey, I would say that those who live and work in the centre will have an average of 20 minutes. I could even walk to work in about 25 minutes when Ilanded my first job! I didn’t expect that before I got here!

The first thing you need to do is get the accommodation sorted. You need a base. This is where many problems can arise. Talking from first hand experience, there are many “agencies” all very centrally located and with nice offices, who offer alleged lists of available properties which they will pass on to you for a fee. Kind of like a finders fee. They will even show you printed lists of properties with telephone numbers and often go as far to conduct a small interview with you – I want 2 bedrooms, no more than XX amount per month, close to metro line, etc. Then they’ll tell you that they currently have 9 or 10 or whatever number of properties that fit your requirements and all you need to do to get this list is pay their “agency fee”. We did. The list was given and we called all 9, or maybe it was more, I can’t remember, and guess what? Yes, they were all gone – some rented weeks ago. Apparently they just scour the local listings in the newspapers and add the number and name to their list.

Nowadays it’s a lot easier and your first port of call should be loquo.com which is a great Barcelona portal, offering many things to buy and sell as well as accomodation. Be warned, due to the popularity of this site, there are new scams involving non-existant properties. Remember that if it seems too good to be true (too cheap for what you’re looking at) then it usually is. Take your time, and be patient – it’ll be worth it in the end. Most owners will ask for 1 or 2 months rent up front, as well as a month’s deposit for any breakages/damage. Bear that in mind when you’re looking. Contracts range from between 1 and 3 years, the maximum being 5. Check the small print if you can, or ask for a translation (you may have to pay) because although most contracts are standard, there may be one or two clauses that you don’t agree to. Mostly though, they have to adhere to the law. Another option is scouring the papers yourself, although if you have the language barrier (like I did) that’s not always an option. It’s surprising how quickly you learn certain words quickly though, whilst looking for accommodation! You should be fine, though, and the best thing to do is also ask around – when you go out to the bars and pubs, ask the people you meet, or look on the notice boards at the university and the cyber cafes you visit. Good luck!

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Anonymous said...

Great advice, thanks!
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