Home utilities and services
Whether you have decided to rent or buy a home, you need to sign up for or apply for utility services such as electricity, water, gas and a telephone line.
You will have to have a certificate of habitability for that purpose. This document guarantees that the dwelling is fit to be lived in and is also essential for entering into a contract for any of these services.
If you have negotiated a lease with an estate agency, the latter usually takes charge of the formalities. If the utilities are already supplied, all you need do is apply to their respective companies for a change of account holder or bank account. Otherwise, be aware that it may take a week or so and additional charges before you have the services available.
Documents required for applying for utility services: Identity number for foreign nationals (NIE, which stands for Número d'identificació d’estrangers) or passport, bank details, lease number and start date, last utility bill and a certificate of habitability.
Utility supplies are usually paid by direct debit and you will be able to compare rates on the receipt you will be emailed or posted in advance
You can sign up for electricity, gas and telephone-line services with any company, as the market is liberalised. The water service is the only one that is provided by a single company in Barcelona.
Here are a few brief notes on some supplies that you need to take into account.
Spain uses the 220-voltage alternating-current system with a 50 Hz frequency. Check your electric appliances before you connect them to the grid to see whether they have a voltage-changing option.
Electric sockets are type C or European, with two female contacts for male pins. If your country of origin is located outside Europe or your devices operate on the 110-voltage system, you will need an adaptor or transformer if your devices do not have their own.
You can sign up for an electricity supply from several companies. The service is paid every month and has a set standing charge that depends on the electrical capacity agreed to, and another variable part, depending on how many kilowatts are consumed.
Most households in Barcelona have access to city gas, for hot water and heating.
City gas does not reach some areas or historical buildings in the city centre, where you will see butane gas cylinders are used. These are distributed periodically by lorries that are easily identifiable by the orange colour of their gas cylinders.
You will only be able to get your water supply from the company Aigües de Barcelona, as it is the sole supplier. Bill are sent and paid every three months. Note that tap water is safe for consumption and how good it tastes will depend on the area and building's pipes. Even so, you will also see many families using filters or consuming bottled water.
There are several telephone operators in Spain. Search the internet and compare prices and offers. Bear in mind that most landlines are owned by Movistar (which is the successor to the former state monopoly run by Telefónica), even if another supplier is charging you for the service.
Installing a telephone line can take up to five days, although it can sometimes be delayed until the formalities have been completed. As for calls, you will be charged for every call that is connected and for the number of minutes you spend on each call, plus value added tax (IVA).
The international dialling code for Spain is 34. Big cities have their own dialling code too. Barcelona’s dialling code is 93.
- Mobile telephone lines
Spain operates with a GSM network. Before you sign up to a telephone operator, compare the prices and contents they offer you, and think above all about how you will be using your phone.
Mobile phone services can be through a contract or pre-paid. Note that pre-paid service users are required by law to identify themselves to their service supplier through an identification document, such as a passport.
If you decide to enter into a mobile phone contract, you will receive monthly bills and can obtain lower call rates. Mobile contracts normally last a year and if you cancel early, you will have to pay a penalty. All you need to sign up for a contract is your identity document and a current bank account. Invoices are paid by direct debit.
Barcelona has a fiber-optic network, in addition to an ADSL type, throughout almost the entire city.
To have a high-speed internet connection at home you will have to sign a contract with one of the market’s various operators for a one-year period. Remember that there is a penalty to pay for cancelling your contract early. The offers or packages promoted by companies currently include telephone and television services, with channels on a variety of topics.
Some operators will charge a commission for signing up for the service, although this will usually be dispensed with or reduced to attract new clients. Internet subscriptions require monthly-fee payments.
- Public Wi-Fi
Barcelona has several Wi-Fi-connection options. There are 2,000 free access points distributed throughout every district, whether in the street or in municipal buildings, such as libraries and civic centres. Libraries require you to produce your membership card and personal details before you can access their Wi-Fi. This is a totally free service.
So, for example, your mobile will be able to access the city’s “what's on” for every type of consultation, maps and the directory of institutions, centres and services.
For further information check out the following web pages:
- Barcelona wifi (website available in Catalan)
If you've been thinking about assistance with your domestic work, you can hire someone to live with you or come to your house to work a few hours a day or week.
If you need a domestic service, you will have to enter into a (full- or part-time) employment contract and carry out the formalities as employer, registering your domestic-service helper with the social security system.
There are professional agencies that can help you to find the appropriate person and deal with all your administrative formalities.
Barcelona has an extensive selective-waste-collection service carried out on a daily basis. It is easy to use and totally accessible. City residents must take part in separating out their waste at home, so it can be easily recycled and recovered.
There are basically three types of waste collection:
- Street containers: this is the most widely used system in the city and is based on selective collections divided up into five separate categories: organic (brown containers); glass (green containers); packaging, plastics and tins (yellow containers); cardboard and paper (blue containers), and the rest or refuse (grey). The recommended times for dumping your rubbish in these containers is from 8 pm to 10 pm.
- Pneumatic collection box system: a series of discharge points or boxes connected by a network of underground pipes to a central point where waste is sucked over to and stored. The boxes are in the street, in caretaker’s offices and on every flat’s landings. Pneumatic collection enables waste to be deposited at any time as it does not generate bad smells or obstruct vehicle traffic. The system has been installed in some areas in the neighbourhood of Gràcia, Vila Olímpica, Diagonal Mar and the 22@ district.
- Door-to-door system: this is being introduced mainly in the historic centre and in unique areas, which due to the narrowness of their streets prevent the permanent establishment of containers there, and it would also be hard for collection vehicles to pass through. This system involves new habits for city residents, as they have to put each type of waste out for collection on the day indicated and leave the bags in front of caretaker's offices from 8 pm to 10 pm.
In addition, there are places in the city known as Green Points where waste that does not go into conventional containers can be dumped.
There is a special service for old furniture or junk that has to be broken down. It is collected from streets once a week, depending on the location of your home.
Also, throughout the city there are specific containers for used clothes, systems for the collection of rubble, garden waste and other special kinds of waste.