Sending Mail FROM Spain
If you only need stamps (sellos), go to a nearby estanco (a tobacco store). The price is the same, and you’ll save yourself the headache of standing in line at the post office. Show the person behind the counter what you are mailing (postcard or letter) and the destination country and they’ll help you. You can then send the card through one of the yellow mailboxes on the street. To find your nearest mailbox check the website.
Correos is the public mail service in Spain. Post offices are most useful when sending packages or for mail that needs special handling, but expect to wait in long lines. Find a post office near you by checking the website. If you get a package sent to you through the normal mail system (ie. US Mail then turns into Spanish mail) they might ask you to have a Spanish ID to pick up the package, if you don’t have a Spanish ID you can’t get it! Again, it is recommended that you DO NOT send important packages through normal mail, but that you use private companies.
RECEIVING Mail and Packages from home
For care packages from parents you can have them send directly to your apartment or homestay. If you are mailing important information such as: credit cards, passport, or other legal documentation you can have the mail sent to the MADRIDEasy office. When the letter arrives they will send you an email for you to go an pick it up. Please keep in mind that they cannot be held responsible for mail that is lost or never arrives. Surface mail and even airmail sent by regular post can take a long time to reach Madrid. Remind people not to send you packages within the last month of the program. If delivery is delayed, you won’t receive the package before you leave.
Receiving documents or items of value
If you need to receive documents such as a credit card, birth certificate, university documents, etc. these should be sent by a service such as UPS or Fedex. DO NOT SEND via US Mail. You may wish to consider paying for insurance. Parcels sent by regular post without registration stickers or insurance are not guaranteed by the US or Spanish post. If these items are lost or stolen, they cannot do anything.
Customs & Import taxes
Taxes are different in Spain and in the US. This is why a camera here may cost you $50 more than it would in the US. Unfortunately, ordering it from Amazon in the US and having it mailed to Spain means that customs will add on a hefty tax. These charges can be quite high (often more than the value of the goods themselves) and must be paid by the receiver (you) before final delivery is made. One student was charged $80 in order to receive a package of candy and in Spring 2016 a student had to pay 180€ to get an iPhone out of customs that her parents sent to her!
Often, packages that seem to be of value are held in customs and until they receive payment of the import taxes, you will not get your package. This process is long and complicated and requires a Spanish ID as well as lots of time and energy. Packages sent through FedEx and DHL also are subject to these taxes but the process can be a bit easier. This is why we recommend using private mail services rather than normal post (and not having anything of value mailed). If you must send items of value, send via Fed Ex as it has a better delivery rate through customs.
If you need items of value (camera, phone, laptop) we strongly urge you to buy the item locally or have someone who is visiting you bring it with them. Do not mail these items. Tell senders to be extremely careful in how they complete the customs declaration form for your packages. We suggest that the sender provide a complete description of the package contents and, in most cases, the words “UNSOLICITED GIFT.”
Make sure that senders have tracking information for all packages sent to Spain in case they get lost. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to track down a lost package from this end. The sender needs to contact the shipping agent.
Please note that it is illegal to send prescription medication through the mail. Students should bring enough medication with them to last for their entire period of study. If you need to refill a prescription while in Spain, first try a pharmacy as some medications that need a prescription in the US are over the counter in Spain. If you cannot buy it directly, email the to arrange a doctor’s appointment and bring a copy of the prescription you need refilled.