Northern Europeans flock to the Balearic Islands, a haven of beaches, coves and mountains in the middle of the Mediterranean. This popular holiday spot is a great place to live for the surf and turf, though it’s a bit more expensive than other destinations in Spain.
Hannah shares how she budgets her living expenses and student loans with cheap international flights, and tells us whether or not island fever really exists!
Name: Hannah Hall
City and Comunidad: Palma de Mallorca, Islas Baleares
School: I worked in a high school in Galicia my first year but in Mallorca I’ve worked in both elementary and high schools in Palma and around the island.
Your living situation? My first year in Mallorca always makes me think of L’Auberge Espagnole. It was the typical Erasmus apartment in the city center with six bedrooms, two bathrooms and a revolving door of international roommates. Now I live with my boyfriend just outside of the old city in a much quieter apartment.
How did you find your flat? I found my first apartment on the Auxiliares de Conversación Islas Baleares Facebook group. I Skyped with the girl who was renting it, we got along, and I moved in as soon as I arrived.
Rent: In the six-bedroom apartment rent depended on room size, ranging from €190-230 plus utilities. Now I’m very lucky and don’t pay rent.
What did you spend on utilities? Split six ways utilities came out to €30 a month which included water, gas, electricity and internet. Between two people it’s much more expensive, around €75 per person in the summer and €95 in the winter, including water, gas, electricity and community fees.
You cell phone company and plan? I have Pepephone. It’s great if you already have a phone because it’s inexpensive and there’s no long term contract. I have a 4G plan with 1.2 GB for €5.70 plus IVA. I pay extra for calls, but I’ve never paid more than €10 for one month. It’s all online though, so you have to wait for your SIM card in the mail.
What do you pay for internet? My internet is through ONO. For a landline, one cell phone, and 50MB of internet it’s €50 a month, so €25 each.
What did you spend on groceries? About €150 a month.
Did you have any other sources of income? I teach private classes and work at an academy. For private classes I charge €15 an hour for one person and €20 an hour for two. Academies normally pay €12 and hour in my area.
Were you able to save any money? It really depends on the month. I pay €300 each month in student loans. If I don’t travel or shop rebajas, I can save up to €300.
Your favorite tapas bar? La Ruta Martiana is the quintessential pub crawl for pintxos and a drink. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, the bars in Sa Gerreria offer a pintxo and small beer or wine for €2.
Your breakfast and coffee bars suggestions: This is difficult since there are a lot of coffee shops around the city. For views of the sea, anywhere along Portixol. For good people watching, Antiquari. For a good interior patio, (and a good soy chai) Temple Natura or Claxon. A normal price for a café con leche is €1.50 to €2.
Nightlife in Palma de Mallorca: The most popular bars and clubs are on Paseo Marítimo and in Santa Catalina. Some have an entrance fee, but it normally includes a drink. I like Sabotage because there’s no entrance fee and a gin tonic is €6.
How did you get around? Palma isn’t very big so I typically walk or ride my bike. The bike culture is growing. The city has a bike sharing program and has added new bike lanes, but you still have to watch out for cars.
Once you register as a Palma resident and get your NIE card, you pay the discounted fare on EMT city buses. A single journey goes down from € 1.50 to €0.80 for residents and €0.45 for students.
For getting around the island by bus, metro and train, you need a separate TIB discount card. I used this every day my first year when I worked outside of Palma. If you’re under 26, the discount is 50% per trip with the option of buying 20- and 40-trip packages. Passengers over 26 only receive the discount when they buy a package.
What you loved about living in Palma de Mallorca? I like the balance in Palma. The sea is nearby, but there’s also a mountain range with good hiking along the west coast of the island. It’s big enough that there’s always something to do, especially in summer, but small enough that you’ll probably run into someone you know on the street.
And your dislikes? Island fever is a real thing and hoping on a bus for a last minute getaway isn’t an option.
Mallorca is also complicated to navigate without a car. Once you leave Palma the bus schedule is lacking and buses don’t go to a lot of the best spots.
How easy was it to travel around Spain and Europe from Palma? Palma’s airport is the third largest in Spain, so there’s never a problem finding a flight. Frequencies and destinations increase in the summer with tourist demand. The most well-connected destinations are Madrid, Barcelona, London and Germany.
There are also ferries between the islands and to Barcelona and Valencia.
If you’re a resident and European citizen, you qualify for the 50% travel discount in Spain. Technically American teaching assistants do not fall into this category. That being said, I’ve heard just as many (if not more) stories of people successfully using it at the airport as people being denied at the gate. It doesn’t work with ferries though.
Your guilty pleasure purchases: Good beer. There are a couple of bars (Lórien and Guirigall) that specialize in imports. They’re expensive, but so much better than Estrella.
What are the top attractions in Palma?
- The cathedral. The best time to see it is during the winter or summer solstice. Light passes through the two stained glass windows creating a glowing red orb that you can see from Es Baluard.
- Walking around the old city. I think this is pretty typical in most Spanish cities, but it’s a big part of Palma’s charm.
- Going to the beach. It’s worth the effort to go outside of Palma though. If you have a car, Es Trenc or Cala Varques. Otherwise, you can take the bus to Illetes, Sa Calobra or Formentor.
Something you wish someone had told you before moving to Spain: Bring warm clothes. You’ll spend most of your time as a teaching assistant in long sleeves or a sweater. It snows in the mountains, the winters are rainy and damp, and the cheap student apartments are poorly insolated. Also, stay at least one month during the summer. It’s the best time to be here.
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