How to: Use Correos (Part II)
If you’ve read Part I of this series, you most likely already feel comfortable with the process of sending international mail from Spain, but what about receiving it? Once again, being aware of some factors that you might not think about otherwise can truly save you some headaches. Thus, in Part II, let’s talking about what you can expect when using correos, or the postal service, to receive an international letter or package (or what you as a parent or friend back home might need to know, too).
Receiving a standard letter or postcard
Thankfully, there is not much that you need to keep in mind when receiving a standard letter or postcard as this can be delivered to your address whether you are home or not. Simply ensure that you know your correct address and that the sender of your card includes the proper amount of postage to reach you. The components of addresses here in Spain are written in a different order than your address may be written at home, so take note of this example:
Embassy of the United States of America
Calle de Serrano, 75
28006 Madrid, Spain
Street name*, Street Number, [Apartment Number]
Zip code [Town] City, Country
Receiving a package at home
There is not too much to prepare for in terms of receiving a package when you are home, but there are a few things to have in mind if you are expecting a delivery. First off, assuming you live in an apartment, listen carefully to what the mail carrier says. Generally, they were just shout “correos” (mail) and/or “paquete para ___” (package for ___) and proceed to your door once you buzz them in. However, on some occasions, they will ask you come down to get it (“puedes bajar?”).
Either way, they will usually ask for your identification number so it’s best to have your passport or NIE handy if you don’t know this number yet (although I recommend memorizing it as you would not imagine how often you will be expected to rattle this off) and then you’ll need to sign for it. Occasionally, it will not be necessary sign for it, in which case you will not need your identification number either.
If you know that you will very rarely be home to receive packages (generally delivered before 2pm), you might want to consider providing a different address to friends/family/Amazon that will be sending packages. For example, your work address (ask for approval for this first) or that of a friend who works from home. Of course, if you have roommates and there tends to be SOMEONE around to open the door at your place, that’s fine—just ask your sender not to purchase super secure delivery that requires your signature but rather one that can be signed for by someone else (or that doesn’t require a signature at all).
Collecting a package from correos
As you might be used to in your home country, if you are not home to receive a delivery you’ll need to pick it up yourself from your local post office. This is, of course, assuming that the package was shipped through the postal service, not a private service like FedEx or DHL which will have its own separate office. With many of these private services, delivery is attempted a second time; however correos will expect you to collect your parcel unless you call to ask for re-delivery.
Generally, you will have 15 days from the attempted delivery date to retrieve your parcel before they return it to the sending address. Simply check the address listed on the back of your slip (multiple post office locations are likely printed there, but one will be in bold or circled), gather your passport/NIE/official form of identification and the missed-delivery slip and head to the post office. Outside of the summer and holidays, correos in city centers tends to be open from approximately 8:30am – 8:30pm (no siesta break) whereas correos in towns or neighborhoods may only be open from approximately 8:30am – 2:30pm. Check ahead!
When you arrive at the office, there will likely be a machine for you to take a number from. In this case, select “recoger” to pick up (or “recoger y enviar” if you’re killing two birds with one stone and have something to send as well). As mentioned in Part I, try not to get frustrated as other people who have entered after you get called up first; the system is set up so that you are in a queue with only the other people retrieving packages (not those you are sending a package or getting another service).
When your number is displayed on the screen**, simply present your slip to the agent (a friendly “buenos días/tardes, es para recoger…” is always nice) and they will likely wander off to collect your parcel before asking for your identification. In some cases, you may need to sign for the package as well.
And there you have it! Hopefully these tips and considerations will help you resolve any doubts you had about using correos to receive mail here in Spain. Let us know how your experience has been so far or if you have any further questions!
*Note that, like in English, some street indications are abbreviated such as “calle” → C/, “pasaje” → Psj, etc
**Be sure to keep an ear out as well as, especially in smaller offices, they might be calling out the numbers rather than updating the display.
It’s also worth talking about La Lista de Correos, or "Poste Restante", particularly for people travelling to or around Spain who don’t (yet) have a fixed address. Any letter or package addressed to [Name], Lista de Correos, [Post Office Address (Check http://correos.es for this, and don’t forget to include the postcode)] will be held at the Post Office for up to two months on arrival. You collect it very much as described above but in the absence of a delivery notification you just say ". ¿Hay alguna cosa para mi en la Lista?" and give them valid ID.
Oh wow! That’s very interesting and useful and I wasn’t aware of it. Thanks so much for the addition, John!!
Thank you! I’m studying abroad in Spain but don’t speak good Spanish and this guide was very helpful for me to get a package from home.
That’s wonderful to hear, RS! So glad we could be useful for you.
Enjoy your time here in Spain!
My Spanish is pretty good to communicate at the post office. A friend visited us here and couldn’t get bottles of olive oil he bought into his suitcase so we said we’d use the correos to mail them to him. The agent at the local correos told me they won’t send any liquids even in metal cans or plastic to the US. I’m wondering if France or Greece has the same policy as we are going there next!
Sorry for our delayed response, Linda. Unfortunately we cannot speak with much authority about the post office policies in France or Greece but we hope you were able to get some delicious Spanish olive oil back to your friend!
I’ve just found out that my buzzer has stopped working. Therefore I believe the postman was not able to enter the building to even give me a letter from the post office, stating that he tried to deliver my mail. What do I do in this situation. If I go to the post office without this card: will they still be able to find my mail. Thanks
That sounds like a very complicated situation. It is unlikely you will be able to get the package without the certification because they use the code to track the letter/package. It is also important to note that unless you live in a place with only one post office (i.e. a small town as opposed to a small city), you might not know for sure what post office they will have left the package at. Finally, in our experience, the postman/woman will ring the buzzers of other people in the building, not just yours, to ensure that he/she is able to drop notifications in your letter box. So, even if your buzzer doesn’t work, as long as someone else’s does, you should be okay.
The biggest question would be if you are sure the letter/package should have already arrived. If you know that, you can take steps towards trying to contact the postman/woman (for example, leaving a note on the front window of your building with your number) or going to the post office to see what they can do for you.
Best of luck and keep us updated!
Dani and Claudia
My son sent me a package from Miami and it is currently being held in customs. I am trying to get the package but they are asking me for a Nie or Dni im only a tourist with an American Passaport. Any ideas on what I can do? Thanks in advance
Have you tried to go with your Passport? Normally, with a valid form of I.D. (like a NIE or a DNI), you can pick up your package. A passport should also work for that – in fact, Claudia has never even had a photo NIE and her NIE is not valid when picking up packages, she needs to bring her passport.
Best of luck and let us know how it goes,
Dani and Claudia
Hi everyone i have a terrible memory i recieved my parcel and gave wrong dni number does it matter is it a crime its weekend tomorrow and closed the correos.
We think that you should be fine in this case as it was an honest mistake. In fact, we don’t think that anyone will even notice that you make this mistake one time. Just make sure to use the right number next time and if anyone asks, you can clarify what happened.
Dani and Claudia