I am leaving in two weeks to study abroad in Granada, Spain. I have been there once before for only a couple days but need some advise for my longer stay. I'll be there from early January to late May and plan to travel afterwards.
Hi Hannah! I studied in Granada in college and absolutely fell in love with the city. Here are some tips:
I spent a semester in Granada and it was one of the best, most memorable experiences of my life! I adore that city! Here are my answers to your questions:
1) It rarely snows in the city. If you like the snow, you can definitely go ski in the mountains and there will be snow there, but you won't have to worry about trekking through it in the city. The winter can be cold (it was especially cold the year I went), but by spring time it will be quite warm! May was a very hot month when I was there and my friends and I were heading to the beach on the weekends. Pack layers!
2) I definitely think you should get a pay as you go phone. I did the international SIM card thing and it was way too expensive. There are plenty of cheap phone services in Granada: Movistar, Orange, Yoigo to name a few. Orange and Yoigo were very cheap. They will be very easy to find and get. They are used to international students using their services.
3) Outside of Granada, I loved exploring Andalucía. Córdoba, Seville, Cádiz and Malaga are obvious choices. Other places in Spain that I would recommend are Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Logrono, Valencia, Oviedo and Santiago de Compostela. There are endless options, but I find the north of Spain to be very interesting so if you can get up there, check it out!
4) I did not use Eurorail passes while I was there. I didn't think it was worth all the money. I would use websites like skyscanner and vueling to compare flight prices. Ryanair is definitely cheap, but you should look around to find the best deals. Also try using hostelworld.com, airbnb or couchsurfing to book lodging and look into bla bla car for cheap domestic travel. The Spanish bus system is great in my opinion and I used that a lot (alsa.es). The train is nice, but can be just as expensive as a flight so look into prices.
5) My favorite packing tip is to roll my clothes. It saves a lot of space and keeps clothes from getting too wrinkled. Tucks socks and tights into bras to keep them from losing their shape. If you're into jewelry, I always wrap necklaces in tissue paper and then place them into a ziplock bag with the tissue paper sticking out slightly and then seal the bag as much as you can. The jewelry will stay in place and you won't have to detangle your necklaces later.
6) Where to go in Granada. Too many places! You will get a bang for your buck with all the tapas place that offer free, good tapas with your drinks. Go to Bar Alhambra in Plaza Bib Rambla or Café Fútbol for churros con chocolate. They're the best I've had in Spain. The old Jewish neighborhood is excellent for tapas and they have some really cool places. If you go to the Mirador de San Nicolás, check out Bar Kiki which is right near by. It's a great spot to sip a café con leche and have a tostada. The waiters there are super nice. There are some great teterías in the Albaicín and Sacromonte neighborhoods. Those areas are fun to explore for whatever you are looking for. Throughout the city you'll see great street art mostly done by El Niño de las Pinturas. Make it your mission to spot his work wherever you go. It's amazing and provides great photo ops. Treat yourself to the Arabic baths while you're there. There is one sort of close to the center at the foot of Paseo de los Tristes. It is worth a day of pampering and I think they might offer student discounts. Check out Federico García Lorca's house and museum as well as the Gypsy museum while in Granada. You can't miss the Alhambra and taking in a flamenco show, but that goes without saying. Enjoy finding all the treasures. Just get lost in the city. Start in Sacromonte and Albaicín and work your way down to the center and beyond. Granada is a very walkable city so explore and learn about it by foot!
Have an incredible time! You will remember your experience forever.
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Wow, what a loaded question! I spent a few days in Granada this summer and it is by far my favorite Spanish city so I'm really jealous that you're spending a whole semester there! I don't have all the answers to your questions, but here are a few:
I always prefer getting a sim card when I travel and just using my iphone. It's inexpensive and super convenient to use a phone you're familiar with.
I think it's totally doable to pack all your things in 2 bags. I think the weather in the winter is typically in the 50s/60s so I think having clothes for layering is best - especially because it gets hot in the spring and summer, especially in the south.
In terms of traveling, I wouldn't necessarily buy a eurorail pass unless you're planning on extensive and frequent traveling. It's almost never a better deal, but if you know where you're planning on traveling, you can do the math based on the cost of tickets online.
Train tickets can be found on the Renfe website and buses on movelia.es. I also like Rome2Rio to show you every possibility to get from city to city. Using blablacar is also a good idea since Granada is on the smaller side compared to large cities. Seville does have its own airport and it's not too far from Granada by the way.
I traveled all over Spain this past summer. If you want recos on where I went and where I stayed, etc you can read what I wrote on my blog here http://passportandplates.com/tag/spain/. I visited Granada, Sevilla, Malaga and Cordoba in Andalucia.