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Readers reveal: The best smartphone apps for life in Spain

We asked you, our readers, to tell us which apps you use to make life in Spain that little bit easier. Here are your best recommendations.

Readers reveal: The best smartphone apps for life in Spain
Photo: Deposit Photos

These days there are apps for everything: from language to transport, weather forecasts to food delivery and of course chatting and socializing.

But how about if you’re a foreigner in Spain whose looking for mobile applications that are specifically useful for your new home?

We’ve compiled a comprehensive list based on advice from our readers and our own research that could help you enjoy life in España that tiny bit more.


For instant messaging, without a doubt WhatsApp is king. As Amy Sparks from Alcobendas (Madrid) puts it, “everybody uses it to communicate”.

In fact, Spaniards are Europe’s biggest WhastApp users. A study found that 95% of Spain’s mobile users prefer texting to talking (fancy that!). WhatsApp is of course free, also allowing you to make international calls and send images, videos and voice messages for absolutely ‘nada’.

Meeting new people

When it comes to socializing and meeting new people in Spain, Carol Bloomfield from Barcelona recommended Meetup, which is essentially an app and website that allows you to find out about groups and events with people that share the same interests and hobbies and live near you. Unfortunately, a lot of these hangouts are now subject to Covid restrictions.

Carol also recommends using Facebook’s search bar to look for events and groups in your vicinity, in a similar vein to Meetup.

Food delivery

There’s Deliveroo, an app which allows you to get food from countless restaurants delivered to your doorstep. “It has all the benefits of a restaurant without dealing with waiters and music I may not like,” Laura Hale from Madrid explains.

Another option is of course Glovo, as you probably know already given the thousands of cyclists carrying yellow boxes packed with food to hungry users who prefer to stay at home than eat out.

Food shopping

We recommend an app called Yuka, which allows you to use your scan food products and cosmetics in Spanish supermarkets to find out how good they are health and quality-wise.

It will tell you how many additives they contain and give products an overall rating. It will work on the vast majority of products you find in Spanish supermarkets.

Splitting bills 

If you find it annoying when friends split the bills equally even though you’ve ordered a soup and they went for the lobster, Splitwise is the app for you. It’s especially useful if you’re on a holiday or road trip together as you can easily add what each person pays to the list and it will keep tabs on the amounts paid by each, allowing you settle up at the end.


For a more accurate Spain-focused weather app Gary Baker from Valencia recommends El Tiempo. “It’s far more local than all major weather apps,” he says.

There’s also the official app of AEMET, Spain’s national weather agency, which gets fairly high ratings online.


An alternative to Google Maps with extra routes for drivers in Spain is Waze, Alcobendas-based Amy Sparks points out.

Users can post live information about speed traps, accidents, road closures and other real-time traffic information. There’s also the possibility of personalizing the app, such as downloading a celebrity’s voice to be your navigator. It can even be used to arrange carpooling.

Public transport

The Moovit app, which allows you to locate bus/train/tram stops and stations, track services in real time and find the quickest route to places on different means of public transport, is available in around 50 Spanish cities and many rural areas as well.


Foreigners in Spain who are on the country’s social security system will be able to book appointments online using the region’s health app, although this isn’t available in all autonomous communities. This makes it easier book an appointment with your doctor if your Spanish isn’t that good yet.

The same goes for My112, which John Harris from the Catalan city of Sitges recommends, as it can track how far the ambulance is from where you are (at the same time using GPS to allow first responders to pinpoint exactly where you are).

According to the app store it’s available in the following regions: Madrid, Castilla y León, Balearic Islands, Cataluña, Cantabria, Melilla and Navarra.

Finding free WiFi

If you haven’t had the change to get a Spanish sim card yet or you’ve run out of data, keep in mind that there are 866,262 free WiFi hotspots across Spain. An app called WiFi Finder will help you locate these (the only catch is that you’ll need to be on the internet to be able to use the app).

Learning Spanish

Wordreference and Duolingo will help you to quickly translate words and improve your Spanish language skills. Stay tuned to The Local Spain as we’ll soon do an in-depth list on the best apps for learning Spanish. 

READ ALSO: Essential Spanish ‘text speak’ abbreviations that will help you sound like a local

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Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.