Finding a Piso (flat/apartment):
When I came to Madrid I had a solid level of conversational Spanish thanks to studying abroad in Mexico during university. While searching for an apartment, I stayed with the friend of a friend who I hadn’t met before (connecting with new people through friends is a hundred times more appropriate when traveling, I met some amazing friends by staying with people I didn’t know but was connected with through a mutual friend). It’s definitely best to wait until you get to the city to find a flat, because all the neighborhoods are very distinct and you will want to figure out which metro or bus you will be using for your daily commute.
If you don’t know of anyone in the city with an open couch, I recommend staying with someone you find using Couchsurfing and/or Airbnb while you apartment hunt. Staying at a hostel can be a good tactic at first, but can get expensive after a while. I am of the philosophy that one should hold out and wait until their ideal piso comes along, as it will strongly affect your experience all year. It’s true that working out a month to month renting situation is always possible, many landlords will make it a difficult process if you decide to move out early, although, for me (I needed to move out two months early, this was not the case but I think I was lucky.
I found my apartment on Idealista and looked at quite a few before deciding on it. People often will want to communicate via Whatsapp, a smartphone app that allows people to text using the over the internet instead of by sending SMS. This is helpful if you haven’t set up a Spanish phone number yet. By wary of who you choose to live with, do you want to live with English speakers? This can be helpful for a transition to a new country but also not ideal for a Spanish learning immersion. I actually ended up living with a great Italian girl who didn’t speak English or Spanish! Between my Spanish and her Italian we communicated with a surprisingly efficient combination of gestures, and an interesting blend of ”Castitaliano” that we made up on the spot, and we bonded over our shared confusion of the landlord’s super fast Spanish and our mutual love of art museums.
I choose an apartment in the barrio Malasaña, which for my daily commute gave me a ten minute walk to the yellow metro line, which took me to Moncloa bus station, and then a 50 minute bus ride out to the pueblos (towns) where I worked. I could have lived out in the little pueblos and had a shorter commute, but for me it was easily worth it to live in the city center, which gave me quick access to everything in the city and to all the friends that I made there.
Madrid has many kinds of hostels and you can easily stay in a nice safe place. Although I haven’t personally ever stayed in one, friends have shared their favorite spots with me.
Room 007 located in both Chueca and in Ventura, I have heard that this hostel is a pleasure to stay at. With an artsy vibe and delicious food, this is a great option for a hostel.