Pre-departure Information


The University of Washington León Center (UWLC) is administered by the College of Arts and Sciences. It is staffed year-round by an on-site Coordinator, and is supported on-campus in Seattle by the Director of Program Development/Administrator and the Executive Director. Students should direct program-related questions or concerns to the director of their program, who will consult with UWLC staff if necessary.


You must have a valid passport to travel to Spain, and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the last day of the program.

You should consult the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco's webpage for up-to-date visa information and requirements. In general, if you are an American citizen AND:
  • the program in which you are participating is less than 90 days (during a 180 day period), you do not need a visa to study in Spain.

  • the program in which you are participating is longer than 90 days (during a 180 day period), you do need a student visa and should consult the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco's webpage for the application procedure.

**If you are not an American citizen, you should consult with the Consulate of your nationality and/or the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco to determine if a visa is required.**


The currency used in Spain is the Euro. The conversion rate between the Euro and the U.S. Dollar can change daily, so please consult an online currency converter, such as the Oanda Currency Converter, for the current exchange rate.

Spending Money

The amount of spending money required in León will vary from person to person and program to program, depending on travel plans, eating preferences, and other personal expenses. Make sure to ask the director of your program how many meals per day (if any) are included in the program fee, how many meals you will have to pay for out-of-pocket, and if there are any additional expenses not covered by the program fee.

Euros for Arrival

It may be helpful to have some Euros for your arrival, although ATMs can be found in most major airports in Spain and should allow you to withdraw Euros from your American bank account.

Credit Cards/Bank Cards

Credit and bank cards are used widely throughout Spain and are a convenient way to obtain local currency when traveling abroad. Using your credit or bank card will save you the time of waiting in lines at the bank or at a casa de cambio (exchange office), and the exchange rate is usually better than in banks or exchange offices. They can also because be replaced relatively easily if lost or stolen, and are accepted in most shops and Spanish ATMs.

Be sure to inform your bank and/or credit card company that you will be using your card in Spain, and confirm with them the following before you leave: international cash advance charges, your PIN numbers, and from which account your money will be drawn.

Financial Aid

Before you leave, make sure that you have finalized all financial aid paper work so that you do not run into financial difficulty once you are abroad. Bring with you the name and contact information of your Student Loan Officer, in case you need to contact him/her while in Spain.


Health Insurance

Beginning January 1, 2011, all UW students participating in a departmental study abroad program are required to purchase the UW Study Abroad Insurance.

**Please be aware that if you receive medical attention while in Spain, you may be required to pay for the medical care upfront in cash and then send the receipt and claim form to the U.S. insurance company for reimbursement.**

Medications and Prescriptions

If you regularly take a prescription medicine, bring enough medication (in the original, labeled bottle) to last for the duration of the program. In addition, you should bring a copy of the written prescription in case it needs to be filled while you are in Spain. Other prescription items, such as glasses and contact lenses, should be brought from home and you should plan to bring an extra pair.

DO NOT MAIL MEDICATIONS, VITAMINS, OR COSMETICS! Packages arriving in Spain that contain medications, vitamins, and cosmetics are stopped at customs and, unless accompanied by a Spanish prescription, medications may be confiscated.


Be conservative with luggage - bring only what you are able to carry by yourself. Your bags should be lockable and your purse and camera bag should have adjustable shoulder straps.


The weather in León is hot and dry in the summer, and cold in the winter (it is not unusual for it to snow during the winter months). Suggested clothing includes turtlenecks and sweaters (to layer), coat or jacket, lightweight raincoat and compact umbrella, walking shoes, sandals, one pair of dress shoes, pants and skirts, t-shirts, long shorts, bathing suit, bathrobe, and one formal outfit.


The UWLC does not have computers available for student use. We recommend that you bring a laptop or tablet so that you can check your e-mail and do any homework that may need to be typed. If you bring smaller appliances such as hairdryers or electric shavers, be aware that the electric current in Spain is different than in the United States. Whereas most modern computers and tablets have a dual voltage converter and you will only need a plug adapter to use to be able to use them in Spain (this can be bought in the U.S. or in a ferretería in Spain for about 1€), smaller appliances often require a voltage converter in order to work properly (the voltage in Spain is 220).


Laundry facilities vary depending on your housing arrangements while in León. If live with a host family, your family will wash your clothes for you. If you live in an apartment, there will most likely be a washing machine in the residence. If you live in a university residence hall, you will need to pay to have your clothes washed in a nearby laundromat.


The UWLC has high-speed wi-fi that you will be able to access from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone while your program director or the On-site Coordinator is at the Center. If you are living with a host family or in a university residence hall, you will also have wi-fi at home. Those students living in apartments will not have access to wi-fi at home, but there is free wi-fi available at many cafés and restaurants in León, as well as internet cafés throughout the city. It may also be possible to purchase a portable USB modem from a local cell phone company that will allow you to access the internet from anywhere in Spain.


Using your American cell phone in Spain is extremely expensive. We recommend that you either bring an American cell phone that is not locked to a certain company and buy a Spanish SIM card, or that you buy a cheap phone once you get to Spain. SIM cards usually cost around 9€ and come with 3€ of credit, whereas a cheap phone will cost between 30-50€. You may want to agree on which cell phone company you will use as a group, as it will make communication between you cheaper. Please be aware that when you buy a SIM card or cell phone in Spain, you will be required to show your passport.

In Spain, you only pay for outgoing texts and phone calls--any phone calls and texts you receive are free.


Although León does have an airport, the most common, and often cheapest, way to get to León is to fly to Madrid and then take a bus or train to León. You can expect to pay between 25-50€ to get from Madrid to León, depending on the time of day you travel and the mode of transportation you choose. If you will be arriving in Madrid the same day you plan to go to León, there is a bus that leaves from Terminal 4 at the Madrid Barajas airport and goes directly to León.

For more information about the train schedule, visit Renfe's website.
For more information about the bus schedule, visit Alsa's website.


See also…

Funding for Study Abroad

Living in León