If you are visiting Barcelona for the first time, it would probably be helpful to have a few tips and pointers before arriving. Barcelona is an amazing city and it will have you coming back for more, but obviously you need to have a good time. Many people visit the city and have bad experiences but it’s not as bad as it seems.
Below are seven tips to help you avoid some problems, and to understand what you’re getting into. I hope they come in handy and make your trip an incredible one!
The Aerobus is (in my opinion) the most bang for your buck. You can get a ride from the Aerobus right outside either terminal of the El-Prat Airport for 5,90€. This is way cheaper than the 25-35€ charge with a taxi, but also more expensive than the 1-2,15€ ride with the normal bus.
But…it takes almost the same amount of time as a taxi to get to the center of Barcelona (~25min), which is half the time of a normal bus. So you decide.
Mind you, it will not take you directly to where you have to go. So make sure you plan your route before-hand, even though the buses have wi-fi and USB chargers. Check out my post on transportation options from the Barcelona Airport for more information.
2. Buy 10-trip passes
While we’re on the topic of transportation, here are some more tips! I see so many tourists around Barcelona get ripped off with transportation.
If you go on a bus without a pass, you have to pay 2,15€ per person, per ride.
BUT, if you buy a ticket at any metro station, (except for the one at the airport) you can buy a T-10 pass for 9,95€. This pass can be used multiple times within your group – meaning if you have a group of four, all four of you can use the same pass for the same mode of transportation back-to-back. AND you can use as many buses or metro lines as you want within a 75 minute limit from when you first validate your card.
So instead of paying 2,15€ for EACH mode of transportation you get on, just buy the T-10 and get more for less!
3. Be Strategic about your Taxi Rides
If you are somewhere near the center and you decide to get a taxi, the best thing you can do is be strategic about it. Most streets in Barcelona are one-ways, and it can take A LOT of time for a taxi to get to your destination. Most times, public transportation or even walking can take the same amount of time as the taxi (weird right?!).
The best advice I can give you, is to get a taxi that is already driving in the direction you are headed to.
So if you’re heading East, but the street you are on is going in any other direction (West, North, or South), don’t bother with them. If you can walk a block or two over to find the nearest street heading East, then do that instead. You will save yourself so much time and won’t worry much about where on Earth the taxi driver is taking you.
4. You Don’t Need to Tip!
This tip is for all my lovely Americans who absolutely LOVE to tip (sarcasm). Or for those who feel bad not leaving tips. Spain is not the U.S. (or any other country that tips). Save yourself some extra money (and embarrassment) as some people actually take it offensively if you tip.
Now, I say SOME, because others actually know that Americans come from a heavy-tipping culture, and take advantage of that. I actually had a taxi driver once get mad at me for not tipping just because I was American. I’m not even saying that to say it, he actually told me ‘Aren’t Americans supposed to tip?’ But of course, I’ve been living in Spain for two years, and I know I don’t have to (thank you life experience!)
Anyway, people working in the service industry in Spain (and most of Europe) actually get paid well enough that they don’t need to rely on tips like we do. So, if at a restaurant, or taking a taxi ride, etc., feel free to round-up to the nearest euro or even half-a-euro, and leave it at that. There is no need to give 10-25% in tips. Save it for better things!
5. Avoid Tourist Traps
Talking about tipping — avoid the tourist traps in all the touristic areas. There are many tips I could give here:
Try not to eat at restaurants on La Rambla (the main tourist street) — your stomach, taste buds, and wallet, will thank you for it.
IF you’re buying something from street vendors (even though it’s illegal), you can barter a bit. Although sometimes I feel bad bartering with them because if you watch them long enough, you will see them pack all their stuff up and carry it on their backs while they avoid the police. Or you can even see them hiding their products in bushes and waiting around till the cops leave. It’s super sad really.
Anyway, if you decide to buy those wonderful blankets for the park or the beach, feel free to lower the price a bit. The lowest I’ve seen my friends get them for is 10€ (even though you can buy them in stores for 8).
Also, there are A LOT of homeless and beggars around the city. You will see many sleeping with their dogs and then you will see some screaming and crying for help. In my opinion, I’d give my money to the ones calmly sitting down than the ones yelling. For example, if you’re by Casa Batlló (one of Gaudi’s famous works), you might come across this lady that holds a sign and cries really loud and dramatically.
It’s normal to feel bad and want to help — but it’s a scam. My university was only a few minutes away and I would pass this street multiple times a week, and the same lady would be there yelling the same exact things and crying crazy loud. Please, don’t contribute with money because that will just make her continue to do it.
6. Watch your Belongings
Barcelona has been growing with tourists year-by-year, making it a huge area for tourist incidents. Pick-pocketing is a huge deal here and happens every single day to so many people, so make sure to watch your stuff. Whenever I walk around and see people who are vulnerable, I tell them to watch their stuff because what can ruin your trip more than losing your phone, wallet, keys, or even your passport?
While walking around, make sure to have your purse and valuables in front of you. It’s best to carry a cross-body bag and have it hang in front, than to carry something on your side or hang it behind you.
Make sure to also keep your wallet, phone, and anything else really, in your front pockets, if you don’t carry a purse. Back home, I always used to carry my phone in my back-pocket, but here it is such a bad idea.
Also, when eating at restaurants, put your bag on your lap, and don’t just let it hang on your seat. Think of all the sneaky and clever ways people can steal your things and make sure to avoid them.
If you want to see a really good movie about this (with my husband Will Smith), then watch ‘Focus’. It makes you think about how good people are at taking stuff and we don’t even realize it.
7. Barcelona Hours
If you’re planning on shopping — make sure to do so before Sunday. On Sunday’s 95% of stores are closed. You can find some corner stores open, along with the mall at the end of the port called Maremagnum, oh, and Brandy Melville for some odd reason. But everything else will be closed. So don’t be too surprised!
You have also probably heard about Spaniards and their siestas. If you haven’t, a “siesta” is the time in the middle of the day where shops close and people take 1-3 hours to go home, have lunch, sleep, and enjoy time off. Meaning, some stores will also be closed during the middle of the afternoon. They will reopen in the evening, but just make sure to know their opening hours so you don’t frustrated or caught off guard.
And finally, the last thing I want to mention is that the days are looooong. Not in a bad way though. Back in the States, you wake up tired, go to work, and come home tired. But here? It’s not like that at all. The day starts and you feel like time is going by slowly.
You can look at your clock thinking it’s 4pm and it’s only 12. Which is a good thing! It means you have a lot of time to do a lot of things!
You can kill five hours at the beach and still have the whole day ahead of you — it’s crazy.
This also has to do with the Spanish schedules, which go a little something like this:
It might be hard to grasp, but the concept of time is completely different in Spain, in a good way.
There are SO many tips I could give, but the best information comes from your own experience. I hope these tips help you have a more seamless time in Barcelona. Maybe you’ll fall in love with the city and country as much as I have!
In case you want some more information be sure to check out my other posts: