The Euro is the official currency of Spain, and of most European Union member states, excluding the UK and the Czech Republic, among others. The Euro, symbolized by a "€," has been in public circulation since January, 2002. The peseta, the former official currency of Spain, is no longer accepted; however, you may see that some price tags in Spain give the price both in Euro and in pesetas, to help those who still think in terms of pesetas.
There are 8 different Euro coin denominations and 7 different Euro bill denominations in circulation. Coins are denominated in 2 and 1 Euro, then 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. Each member state decorated their own coins, but all coins are interchangeable within the countries. Bills are denominated in 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 and they vary in color and size.
Cash Economy: Most businesses and restaurants in Spain will only accept cash as a method of payment, so be prepared and have some cash on hand before heading out.
ATMs: ATM's are readily available in Spain and are a very convenient way to obtain money from your U.S. bank account. We recommend that you inform your bank of your studies abroad before your departure to inquire about conversion fees you will receive while abroad, etc. Please note that some banks will place a hold on your account if they believe their is fraudulent activity, so err on the safe side and inform your bank that you are studying abroad PRIOR to departure.
Public Transportation: Public transportation is not included in the ISA program cost. For certain cities, this will not have much of a monetary impact. But for larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, this is something that will come into play every single day. Barcelona and Madrid are very spread out, so you will most likely need to use public transportation to get from your homestay to school, from school to the ISA office, etc. Students in Barcelona and Madrid and other bigger sites in Spain can expect to spend between $50-100 per month on (basic) public transportation. This is not included in the $100-200 budget range mentioned below. To read more about public transportation in Bilbao, click here.
What is the Euro worth compared to the dollar? With the Euro in constant flux, please see oanda.com for up-to-date exchange rates. While traveling, it may be helpful to carry a portable currency converter (found at travel stores). Sometimes in the form of a key-chain, this is a handy gadget (like a calculator) into which you enter the exchange rate (depending on the exchange rate at the time and the country in which you are located) save, and then simply enter prices and the device converts the amounts into dollars.
Cost of Living
While Bilbao can be expensive to the untrained traveler, there are many ways to live comfortably on a budget, if you pay attention to what you spend and look out for different deals and events offered throughout the city. The ISA Bilbao office also has several books and other resources (including locals, themselves!) that can help you get by living in Bilbao while still taking advantage of what the great city has to offer.
A few important things to keep in mind when planning for your trip:
When budgeting, keep in mind that it is always better to overestimate than to underestimate. To give you an idea of common approximate expenses and commodities a typical student will to incur, please see the brief list below.
Additional Estimated Expenses
The ISA program cost includes items such as tuition and fees, housing, insurance, and more. To view what is included in your program price, please visit the "What's Included" section of the ISA Bilbao program page.
The "Additional Estimated Expenses" sheet in the "Accepted Students" section of the ISA website has the following estimated expenses listed:
It is recommended that students look into purchasing an ISIC card for their studies in Spain. The ISIC card is an internationally recognized student ID card that gives students thousands of discounts worldwide from travel to cinema, meals and more. While you will likely have a student ID from your host university abroad, it may not grant you discounts that an ISIC card could. You will likely be able to purchase an ISIC card abroad, but it is most convenient to purchase this card BEFORE you arrive, as it may grant you travel discounts, and you won't have to deal with the hassle of international delivery. To find out how to get an ISIC card, visit isic.org. Once there, you can find information on discounts in Spain, and what is needed to obtain an ISIC card.