GUIDEBOOK TO ALICANTE
Future Alicante exchange students
Updated By: Megan Riggs (Spring 2008), Lindsay Betteridge & Hernando
Zambrano (Spring 2007) at the University of North Florida
Original author Lauren, from Clemson University
This guide book will be as honest and accurate as we can possibly make it. We
want to start off the packet of information with a few things you should do before
you leave home.
After finding out you have been accepted to the study abroad program you should
begin to learn more about the city you are going to, but sometimes it’s hard to know
where to look for information. A few months before departing you will feel that time
is passing very slowly, and the day you are waiting for is taking too long to arrive. It
is actually better to have a few months to prepare so that you may obtain information
on the city/country, costs of a flight, where you will live, transportation to school, etc.
There are so many questions that seem so evident, but can actually be difficult to
find the answers at times.
• Before going to Alicante I always thought of Alicante as a small town. In
reality it is not; its population is actually over 300,000 people.
• I thought the University of Alicante was further from the area of town I
was planning to live. It was really only 20 minutes away by bus.
Things such as those described above are the ones we will try to help you get to know
a little better, so when you get to Alicante you won’t feel as lost.
Before proceeding to the main section of this guidebook we want to take the time
to wish you the best while you are in Alicante. We sincerely hope that your
experience will be as enriching and exciting. Studying abroad as a college student is a
once in a life time opportunity that should not be overlooked. You might think that
going abroad for more than 6 months is a long time but time flies faster than you
expect. You need to study and do well in your classes but you also need to take
advantage of the time and travel to other cities within Spain and Europe, or even
Africa. It all depends on what you are interested in.
Best wishes in the most rewarding experience of your life.
Table of Content
A. How much money do I need?- p.4
B. Withdrawing money, opening a bank account and credit cards- p.4-5
C. Arriving to Spain- p.5-6
D. Best areas to live- p.6
E. The International Student ID & Jove Card- p.6
F. How to Stay Connected- p.7
G. Leisure Time- p.7
H. What’s the weather like, and what should I wear?- p.8
I. How much Spanish to know, and for what?- p.8
J. Life: at University of Alicante- p.8-9
K. Getting around Alicante- p.9
a. Public Transportation- p.9
b. Where to go out/eat- p.10
c. Going Grocery Shopping- p.10-11
L. Expanding your study abroad experience- p.11-12
How much money do I need?
Calculating your budget could be a nightmare especially when you need to take
into account the exchange rate that is always fluctuation. Up to summer 2007 for
every $1 you only get about 0.70€. It may not sound like much but it means that for
every $1000 you loose about $300; it really adds up. The way I figured out my budget
was by calculating the amount of money I spend during the previous spring semester
in Jacksonville. For instance, the amount I was paying for car insurance and gasoline
in Jacksonville I used for some traveling. Rent cost could be in the range between
150€-250€. You just have to try to find an apartment that comes with all utilities
included. Your expense in food will depend on how much you would eat out. I
personally used to eat out about once a week. Transportation in Alicante is not too
expensive. You will need to get a bus pass (see Public Transportation for details on
where to get it).
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some euros at your bank before you leave,
between 100€ and 200€. I know Bank of America and Wachovia can order them for
you. It usually takes about 3 days for the currency to be sent to the bank where you
Having some local currency on hand when you arrive will be very helpful. You
will be able to buy water/food after an 8 ½ hour flight. Also depending on where you
arrive in Spain, you will be able to buy your train ticket, pay for a taxi, or both (to be
discussed later in Arriving in Spain).
Withdrawing money, opening a bank account and credit cards
1. Check with your bank to see if they are going to charge you for withdrawing
money abroad. Ask if they have sister banks where you can withdraw free of charge.
Some banks will charge you $5 to withdraw money, and the bank where you
withdraw the money will take 1% of the withdraw amount.
2. It may very helpful to open a bank account. You only need to go to a bank near
where you live, in my case I went to BBVA, tell them you want to open a student
account, and all you need is your passport and an address in Spain. You can transfer
money from a U.S. bank by providing them the following information:
Name of the beneficiary
Name of the bank
The Bank’s Routing # or Swift code
*Wachovia has a $30.00 transfer fee, but it can be very convenient if you are
transferring a lump sum.
3. Inform any and all credit cards that you are going to be overseas. You don’t want
them shutting off your card. Also make sure that none of them are due to expire
while you are here. One thing I have found to be helpful is applying for a 12 month
no interest credit card before I left. It came in handy while traveling as well as
booking flights and hostels. They require you make the monthly payment but there
will be no interest. After all, it never hurts to be overly prepared. Before I left I set up
all my monthly bills to be paid online. If you don’t like using the Internet to pay bills
make sure you have someone trustworthy taking care of it for you at home.
Arriving to Spain
As a student you can get good prices for plane tickets to go to Spain at
studentunivers.com. All you need to do is give them the appropriate information to
certify that you are a student, and trust me they have great deals.
If you arrive in Madrid, which is what most people do, you have two options
to get to Alicante:
Your first option: you can take the train with Renfe (the Spanish railway system – can
find info at renfe.com) to Alicante which will take about 4 and half hours, but to be
honest it was more hassle than it was worth, mostly because of the suitcases. From
Barajas Airport you need to catch a taxi that will take you to the train station (make
sure you know what station you need to go to). The taxi is about 4€ or 5€, and it’s
only about a 10-minute ride.
Your second option: find a way to buy a connection flight to Alicante. I went to
Alicante at the end of January which is low season; therefore, I was able to make it a
connection flight to Alicante from Madrid. I flew from Miami airport, and the person
at the counter said that since I was flying with click air (Iberia’s low budget airline)
he was able to send my luggage directly to Alicante that way I didn’t have to check it
again. You can find good deals to fly to Alicante at skyscanner.net. It will depend on
the time of the year you are going.
Since it may be your first time arriving in Alicante you should consider getting
a taxi to take you to your hotel, your apartment, or your host family’s apartment.
Make sure to have the address where you need to go. University of Alicante gives you
three options for accommodation: dorms, host family, or “shared flat,” which meant
you will share an apartment with other students. You can also find an apartment
yourself. I speak Spanish so I decided to arrive to Alicante, get a hotel room for two
nights, and search for an apartment myself. The reason I did it was because pictures
online can sometimes be misleading. Also, the apartment might seem well located
when it really is not. Lindsay on the other hand, chose to go through the school to
find a “shared flat.” It really depends on your preference, and you might find it easier
to let the school find a place for you. She highly suggests booking a hostel or hotel for
the first few nights until you get your bearings and speak to your host family or
landlord – depending on the accommodation you chose. There are a few hostels
around town but none are listed on the major websites. I did find a budget hotel that
is in a good location called Husa Leuka. You can check it out on hostelworld.com it’s
about 26€ a night.
Best Areas to Live
Like any other city in the world Alicante has preferred areas to live. There are some
areas that you should try to avoid, even though they are closer to campus, they are
not very safe places to live. It is recommended that you should find a place to live in
and around: Calle de San Vicente, for example, is the most accessible street… minutes
walk to the barrio and the beach, and also close to the two major bus lines that take
you to school. The street is not that large, so if you can’t find a place – I wouldn’t be
surprised. The second area I would recommend would be anywhere close to the Plaza
de Toros. This is where the majority of the students live. It is quite easy to find an
apartment on your own. If the university sets you up with an apartment and you
don’t like it, you can get your initial housing deposit back at the university in the
building called Torre de Control. You are not required to stay in an apartment if you
are not satisfied.
The International Student ID & Jove Card
Don’t bother getting an ISIC card in the states, I paid $22 for one in the states
and came to Spain and found out I could have bought it here for 6 euros (about $8) so
if you decide you want to get one, get it here. Also, a lot of places in Spain don’t give
ISIC card discounts. The only advantage to the ISIC card is that is does cover baggage
loss and a few other things, but more than likely the health insurance you will be
required to obtain before getting your Visa covers that as well.
There is another card that is much more helpful called the Jove card. This card
can only be obtained in Alicante. Both the ISIC card and the Jove card can be bought
in the same place (See Public Transportation for more information). If possible bring a
few extra passport photos– specifically for the Jove card.
If you don’t have a laptop, by all means buy one, it will be well worth the
investment. It has been the most useful piece of luggage I brought. Also don’t forget
your IPOD or camera. Electronics here are much more expensive than in the states.
Set up lines of communication with your friends and family. A lot of the other
international students here use facebook (facebook.com), my space (myspace.com),
msn messenger, and if you don’t have skype, I would highly recommend it
(skype.com). You can send messages to your friends who have it just like msn, but
you can also call the U.S. for $0.02 a minute. You will need a headset (earphone and a
microphone) if you decide to use skype, so again you may want to buy it in the states,
because it will be cheaper.
If you enjoy movies by all means bring as many as you can fit in a CD/DVD
case; the DVDs here use a different region than from the US. So you can buy movies
here you just can’t watch them on your laptop. Some people that were here with me
have European DVD players in their apartments, but not all. Although sometimes you
can change the region on your laptop, not all laptops have the capability.
Don’t listen to anyone who says feminine products are hard to come by in
Spain. They have everything we have in the states, just fewer choices (only 2 kinds
instead of 20). However, recently, a guy friend of mine said the men’s deodorant here
is not up to par with that of the US – so guys, if you’re worried about this, please
bring a good supply of your deodorant. Aside from that don’t worry too much about
Speaking of fewer choices, I know this will sound American, but if you like
ranch dressing, stock up on some Hidden Valley packets of ranch because it doesn’t
exist here. I have heard rumors that people found some, but only in Barcelona. The
Spanish only use oil and vinegar for their salads. Some grocery stores have Blue
Cheese and 1,000 Island but definitely no Ranch. And Peanut butter is about $6 a jar
so if you like it, bring some, just make sure it’s not open.
What’s the weather like, and what should I wear?
The weather is very similar to Florida. There have been a few chilly days
when I needed to buy scarves and a hat, but no colder than Florida. It is important to
pack warmly – a few jackets and sweatshirts, maybe a scarf or two and some gloves.
And, a lot of the Spanish people don’t wear flip flops except for in the summer. The
women here are very, very fashionable, so for the most part no jeans-and-a-t-shirt
style clothing while in Spain. So, if you want to look Spanish, make sure to bring
some of your better clothing.
How much Spanish do I need to know?
The most important thing I can say to you is to practice your Spanish as much
as possible before you come. Honestly, the first few weeks were very difficult, I found
myself expecting more people to speak English, but they don’t. Not being able to
express yourself verbally is extremely frustrating. Please save yourself the heartache
and practice, practice, practice. Also, don’t forget any of your Spanish books:
dictionaries, grammar books, verb books, and travel books. I recommend Frommer’s
and Lonely Planet as good choices for travel books. I would also recommend a book
about the Costa Blanca. This is the area you will be living in; it’s also the area you can
travel around conveniently and for least cost.
Life: at school
I am not sure if it will be the same for you, but we were offered the
opportunity to take an intensive Spanish language course before our actual semester
began. Although it is a bit expensive, I took it and found it extremely helpful. Also, it
was nice to be here before the semester, it gave me a chance to adapt without jumping
into a full schedule. Also, if you have the ability to advance your level of Spanish; you
can continue the language program during the semester as well. This costs money as
well, and I only did the first month, but I wish I had continued. I think it would have
been well worth the money.
You will be attending orientation a week before you begin classes. At that
meeting they will provide you with a map of the campus. After you figure out where
Torre de Control is located you should stop and find out what they do in that office.
One of the main services they have at Torre de Control is announcements for trips
and activities. I was able to go to Granada which was one of my favorite trips within
Spain, and I also took the cooking course. The trip was excellent because I met people
from the University of Alicante, who I became friends with. The Tapas (Spanish food)
course was great because I not only learned how to cook some Spanish food, but I was
also able to enjoy the food at the end of the class.
Getting Around Alicante
At first you may feel really weird walking around in a city that has all the
streets with names no numbers. I was personally really confused at first because I am
used to following addresses and directions by numbers. You will have to get used to it
because Spain and most European country’s streets are names not numbers. The first
place where you can find free maps of Alicante is in front of the train station RENFE.
What I did to make it easier to look at it and not be seen as a tourist 24/7 was to fold it
and make it practical to look at it. I marked the major streets, located the
supermarkets, and bus stops. Once you begin to get familiar with some streets you
won’t even need the map for the most part.
Remember the Jove Card? Well, now you will need it in order to get a
discount on your bus pass. You need the green Bono Jove card. This is what it looks
The original cost is 16.50€ but with the Jove Card is 13.20€ for 30 rides. For the most
part you only use the bus to go to school. You can definitely get around by foot in
Alicante. There is only one place where you can get it. The office’s name is TAM and
it’s located in the north-east corner of Avenida Alfonso X el Sabio and Rambla. The
hours of operation are “Spanish style” so you will need to go before class or late
afternoon. It is open Monday through Friday 8:30 to14:00 and 17:00 to 19:00, and
Saturday 9:30 to13:00.
There are two ways to get to school one by bus using your green bus pass and
taking the train. I only took the bus because it seemed easier although it took a little
longer. The train ride is shorter but after you get to the university you have to take a
shuttle to take you to campus. It might be worth trying both and see which one is
more convenient to you. Generally you will take bus #24, but you can also take #34 if
you live near or west of Mercado Central. If you decide to take the train you must
catch it at the central station (click on the link for the time table).
Taxi is a good option when you go out unless you are walking back with other
people, for safety reasons. From Rambla, which is the area where you will spend most
of the time when you go out, to your apartment it would cost between 3€ and 5€.
Where to go out/eat
One of the most difficult yet exciting things to get used to about Alicante is that
people don’t usually go out to eat until about 9 or 10pm. Just be careful with your
belongings when you go out late at night because there have been several incidents
where people have had cameras, jackets and cell phones stolen.
I’m not sure if the evening event schedule will change by the time you get to Alicante
but during my semester: On Tuesday nights: Austin’s has free guacamole and chips.
The foods that I have come to consider as Spanish are paella, tapas and jamón (ham).
Side note: The Spanish eat their main meal of the day at 2pm. And yes, they really do
siesta, most stores – except Corte de Ingles (big department store) and the grocery
stores, close everyday from 2pm – 5pm. And on Sunday pretty much everything is
closed all day.
In my opinion the best paella is at the port. During the day the port serves as the
marina of Alicante and is lined with bars and restaurants. During the night it serves as
a huge after-hours spot. So if you like paella already or want to try it for the first time
I would suggest the port.
There are two exceptionally good tapas restaurants in town. One is a chain and has
two locations in Alicante called Lizzaran. The other is located in the barrio on the
same block as the club Desden; it’s called La Mason de Labradores. Both are relatively
inexpensive and serve real Spanish food.
I recommend that you try something new besides Burger King and McDonald’s. If
you’re dying for an American hamburger, there is a place in the barrio called Tribeca,
its one block to the left of La Rambla (if you’re facing towards the water) and one
block up from la Explanada (a tiled walk way lined with restaurants that runs parallel
to the ocean).
Going Grocery Shopping
Going grocery shopping the first few times is quite an adventure. It takes time
to get used to buying food there after you are used to buying in places such as Publix,
WinnDixie, or Wal-Mart. Imports were expensive so I tried to find products that
seem appealing to me. The most frequented store by foreign student is
MERCADONA; there are a lot of those in Alicante. There are two more but there are
harder to find: DIALPRIX and DIA. You can also go to EL CORTE INGLES which is
a chain that is all over Spain. However, in Alicante there are only two. One is just a
department store, while the one located next to the train station has a supermarket.
Although I must say that prices are much higher than at the other supermarkets.
If you are in need of only fruit, vegetables, meat or fish the best deal is to go to
MERCADO CENTRAL (central market). You will always see it from the bus on your
way to school. At Mercado Central you can really make your money’s worth plus it is
a great experience. Just make sure you have something to carry the stuff with because
you need to take the bus or walk back home, and too many bags can be a hassle.
Remember! In Spain the weight goes by KILOS not Pounds.
There is also a “Wal-Mart” like store where people can buy food, cleaning
products, house wares, clothing etc. all in one place. It’s called El Campo. The #2 bus
will take you to Plaza del Mar II, which is a mall just far enough down the highway to
need a bus to get there. It is possible to walk from some areas, but better to take a bus.
This mall also has a movie theater and a descent variety of stores. The movies here are
mostly American movies, but they are dubbed in Spanish and don’t have subtitles.
There is also a large “everything” store called Carrefour. There are three in town, a
very small one in the Centro-San Vicente next to the University, one towards the
airport, and another past the main hospital. You can take the #1 bus to one of them
and the #4 bus to another. El Campo and Carrefour are both French companies,
although they are not related they have very similar prices.
Expanding your study abroad experience
When going abroad it is important to take school seriously because your
classes probably will count towards your overall GPA. However, studying abroad is
the perfect opportunity to expand your cultural knowledge. This is the time to use or
improve time management skills where you can keep school work under control and
also travel throughout Europe. Before you leave you should brainstorm the countries
or cities you would like to visit. Trying to make all your trips work could be time
consuming, but Europe has the advantage of traveling by bus, train, and plane.
The very first place I wanted to go was Rome. It was the one place I felt I
needed to go because of its rich cultural history and astonishing roman architecture. I
began doing my research online, and found that it was cheaper to go to Rome during
winter. Therefore, I made arrangements to fly one week before school started, that
way I had enough time to find a place to live (I didn’t get an apartment through the
university), and I had time to go to Rome for at least 3 days.
My favorite website for traveling by plain was http://www.skyscanner.net/. In
this link you pick a date and choose the country of departure and it will tell you,
starting with the cheapest fare, all the countries where you can fly within Europe.
Then, you pick the country that interests you, and it will give you a list of the cities
and the airlines where you can fly ranking the prices from lowest to highest. Another
option available in the website is a list of the prices for the entire month for your
particular destination. This is great for when you have different dates available to
travel but you want to pick the best deal. To do this you need to select under the date
option whole month. For the most part the best deals are in the morning around
6AM. It definitely will require you to sleep at the airport or arrive at the airport at 4
in the morning. I did both, and if you are traveling with a group of friends is not that
bad, plus it is part of the experience. The good thing is that you will be arriving early
to your destination, and you will get to sight see, or you can just go to your hostel and
take a nap and recharge your energy.
** Just a bit of info about Ryan air, it’s ridiculously cheap most of the time, but be
advised the flights are literally “no fuss.” The seats don’t recline, the drinks are
expensive and the flights can be scary at times. I’m not trying to keep you from flying
with them, I am just forewarning you, be prepared for a bumpy flight. Also, the way
that they are able to offer such cheap flights is that they fly into airports with are in
the same region as the major cities, however once you land; you have to take a bus or
a train that takes 1 to 2 hours to arrive at depending of your destination. So be sure, if
and when you book a flight with them you know where you are actually flying and
how to get to where you really want to go. For example, they fly to Frankfurt/Hann
airport in Germany. They actually fly into just Haan, which is in same region as
Frankfurt, but Haan is a two-hour bus ride away from Frankfurt. And sometimes the
buses can cost 20€. Be sure to take the extra transportation cost into account, because
sometimes it’s actually cheaper just to fly with another airline.
• If you feel like your not learning enough Spanish, or you need some extra
help, there is a school on the Explanda called Enforex. I only knew one person
who went there, but she said it was reasonably priced and very helpful.
• If you do travel, be sure to get your maps from the local tourist information
center. At the tourist center, the maps will be free.
• If you enjoy college-ruled paper for taking school notes, by all means, bring
your own notebooks from home. In Spain, you will find notebooks filled with
blank paper or graph paper, it is quite rare to find ruled paper.
• Be advised that with UNF, your school grades will transfer to your over-all
GPA, they will not affect your UNF GPA. The classes taken abroad are just
that, classes taken at a different university, so they are treated as such. If you
want to go overseas just to party and travel and don’t really want to go to
school that much, try to do an exchange program with a different institution
where the grades are pass/fail.
We hope you enjoy Alicante and have wonderful adventures!