Meds in Spain

When we were here for the apartment hunt this summer, Husband talked to a pharmacist about our prescriptions. He understood that they would refill from the bottle label or fill from a paper prescription. Just to be safe, we stocked up on 3 months’ worth of everything before we left.

After being here several weeks, we went for meds to be sure there wouldn’t be a problem. The first farmacia we went to, the pharmacist said I had to have a prescription from a Spanish doctor for the sleeping pills. And she couldn’t fill the prescription for the estrogen cream because the strength here is different. At that point, we didn’t even ask about the other meds.

So – we began the search for an English-speaking doctor. They’re all up the coast in Benidorm, where the Brits are. So – we tried another farmacia. No problem with anything! They copied the prescription order for the Ambien, but they didn’t care if I had prescriptions for anything else. The pharmacist there assumed I had enough sense to adjust the dose of the estrogen cream. The antacid was a bit complicated, as theirs doesn’t include the sodium bicarbonate, so I’ll have to take that in addition.

BUT: we paid about 1/3 of our usual co-pay for all meds. Vale!

Fun fact: almost all of their medications come in blister packs.


The Residency Visa




If you’ll notice the yellow instructions stapled on top of our approved visa applications: check in with the national police department within 90 days. Verbal instructions were to check in with the local police department within 30 days. Easy enough, right? Not so…

  1. On a Wednesday afternoon, we went to our local police “window” (the building is under renovation, so it’s literally a mess). The officer came out of his “office” to direct us to the main police station.
  2. We arrived mid-morning Thursday at the main police station, where the guard told us to come back Monday at 9:00.
  3. We returned to the main police station Monday at 9:00, got past the guard and past the policeman directing internal traffic, waited until a clerk was free, then were given a slip of paper with the website so we could make an appointment (cita).
  4. We made the appointment – at yet a different location We got up early that morning to go there. The policeman running the security screening passed us on to the other part of the office (without screening), where we waited, then the man there sent us back to the screening officer. We gave him our passports and paperwork – which he actually looked at this time, and he X’d out our appointment confirmation forms. He then sent us back to the man who had sent us back to him. (Are you keeping up with all of this – cuz I think we should be beyond 4 by now!). We waited in line and showed him our passports, X’d out appointment confirmations, and stack of paperwork. He pulled a NEW form out – and, bless him, he highlighted the pertinent parts in yellow.

We returned to the apartment and went to the web site – again. Using copy and paste with google translator, I translated EVERYTHING on every page. Turns out I had selected the wrong option when I made the previous appointments. I made the proper appointments for the next day – at YET ANOTHER location! The guy at the papeleria around the corner from our apartment who’s been printing and copying things for us just shook his head when we showed up that afternoon to print out our latest citas.

5. Appointment day: We got in to the extranjero office for our 12 and 12:10 appointments about 11:30. We took a number (Spanish are big on that: at the bank, at the government office, at the Mercado) and got in before 12. Gentleman tells us “no.” Goes to check with someone else. Says “did you get this (the 790 form) approved in the U.S.?” yes, we did. Shakes his head. I put my head down on his desk. Him: “No, no. Is very easy now. Take this form to any bank and pay the fee. Then go to this street and fill out a form there.” Bear in mind that NOWHERE have I been able to find the fee charge for the 790 form. I ask him how much it is, and he leaves his desk again to converse with someone else. Turns out it’s 15.45 euro.  Husband asks him for the street number for the other office. He doesn’t know. Husband asks him the name of the office. He doesn’t know. Some kind of ayudamiento, he would assume. (Ayudamiento translates as “town hall,” but apparently refers to ANY government building). Good thing the street names change every 4 blocks or so – that narrows the field. Before we leave, I manage to type in the translation for: “They told us at the consulate that all we had to do was check in with the local police.” His best English yet, with a head shake and a shrug of the shoulders with hands up: “Aye. The consulate – they don’t know anything.” We’re beginning to think…

6. We found the building (indeed, it is an Ayudamiento), but we don’t have a cita, and one must (we think) obtain the cita by phone – which should prove interesting. We went to the bank to pay our 790 fee – they’re open til 6:45 Thursday evenings. But we got there at 6:46.

  1. Back to the bank the next morning to pay our 790 fees. Done, form stamped, and done! Vale!
  2. Tried to call to make the cita at the Ayudamiento.. No English, and I can’t even begin to translate without having gestures to guide me.
  3. So we went back to the office to check it out in person. We were able to use the cita confirmation kiosk to make an appointment – thanks to the helpful woman who was directing folks through the process.
  4. We returned at the appointed date and time, got a number (because that’s how that works, even when you have an appointment) and went to the window. Quick look at passports and paperwork and the guy prints out official letters, stamps them, and signs them. I could have crawled through the window and kissed him. He seemed to appreciate my appreciation.
  5. We made new appointments at the extranjero and arrived early with our 790 form receipts and stamped residence letters in hand. Again with the taking of a number. When our turn came, I had a moment of panic when the woman helping me gets a phone call that is obviously an issue above her pay grade – but I soon realize it has nothing to do with me. Another man gets Husband’s paperwork taken care of, then she gets free of the phone call and gets me taken care of. We are given official stamped, initialed forms and told to return in 4 weeks to pick up the actual residency cards. No cita required. No notice that the cards will be ready. I actually teared up. The woman in charge of the numbers reassures me, and I tell her this has taken 7 trips (I had obviously lost count by then). She pats my shoulder and tells me all is bueno now. Vale! We should be getting our official residency cards for Christmas. Vale!


Visa drama

I’m a follower of rules and directions. Give me a form and I’ll fill it out. Tell me to gather paperwork and I’ll make copies and organize it.

So I gathered all of the documentation required for our visa applications, including translations and Apostilles, with duplicate copies of everything.

We dutifully made our 15-minute appointments at the Spanish Consulate in Houston for after our house-hunting trip in June. We backed up 90 days to start with doctors’ appointments and background checks.

So – with documentation in hand, we made the trip to Houston. We expected a cubby-type office, where we would spread out the paperwork and discuss our plans.

Instead, we walked into a DMV office, complete with rows of white folding chairs. Two windows, one for Spanish nationals and one for visa applicants. They called the time for our first appointment, and we went to the appropriate window and handed over our folders.


Twenty minutes later, the clerk returned with both folders in hand. All of Husband’s paperwork had been approved. They had gone about a third of the way through mine, then discovered we somehow didn’t have a second appointment. After more than 5 minutes of explanation that they couldn’t process my paperwork without the second appointment (note that’s 10 minutes beyond Husband’s 15-minute appointment), they told us that we’d have to make another appointment. Oh, and by the way, they preferred to see 3-4 months’ worth of financials.

So we went to the lobby and made TWO appointments for the end of August – pushing the 8-week processing time right up to our departure in October.

And then I hit our financial institutions, getting the now requisite 3 months’ worth of account activity – 4 copies of each, so we each had an original and copy.

We returned to the consulate in August, turned in our paperwork, and they were back within 15 minutes with all pages stamped – for both of us!

Based on what we saw in both visits, they send applicants away the first time for whatever reason, then auto-stamp on the return visit. Just to see if you really mean it…