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 youll 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.