My final post for Barcelona! I can’t believe I managed to weasel four posts out of this trip.
The trip would have been completely self indulgent if I were not to pass on some of the things that helped me in my weekend. Some of the following tips and tricks came from my own experience while others were suggested to me by people I met along the way.
Without further ado, I bring you the Top Ten Travel Tips for Barcelona!
1. Aerobus return ticket: The Aerobus makes the journey from the airport to Plaça Catalunya in about 35 minutes and busses come every 5 – 10 minutes!
There are two routes: A1, which goes to the Domestic terminal; and A2, to International. Both leave from outside the door to arrivals and loop around to Plaça Catalunya. The aerobus has specific stops from where you must pick up the service. It does not stop at every bus stop en route.
A return ticket to the airport is valid for 9 days and will set you back €9.75. I bought both directions at the risk of getting pick-pocketed (see No.7) and saved a few euro. You can purchase your tickets from ticket machines at the airport and Plaça Catalunya, or from the bus driver. In case of the latter – make sure you have cash. Ticket machines are multi lingual.
2. 10-pass for the Metro: 10 rides for under €10. In fact for €9.45 you can use the metro ten times within zone one.
You’ll be wanting to use the metro a lot, if only to keep out of the heat. This was you can easily and cheaply traverse the city without getting heat stroke in the middle of summer.
So, purchase a T-10 ticket from the ticket machines at the metro station. On my journey we used one ticket between three of us.
Zone one will get you to Barceloneta, La Rambla, La Sagrada Familia and most of the other major sights.
3. Walking tours: The best value tours are free! Well at least on face value – you tip what you feel the tour was worth at the end.
Take at least one walking tour while you’re in town and do it as soon as possible. This way you will see the sights, and learn some history, before deciding which attractions you want to go in to. You may even get some local information on they way around the queues! (HINT HINT Buy your tickets to La Sagrada Familia online HINT HINT)
I took two walking tours while I was in Barcelona. One of the Gothic Quarter and one of Gaudi’s Architecture. Both were fabulous, informative and thoroughly good value.
4. A good hostel: It might just be a place to sleep, but a nice night sleep can make all the difference. I opted for the boutique hostel Backpackers BCN Diputacio about a ten minute walk from Plaça Catalunya. It was reasonably cheap and breakfast was included.
Browse Hostel World and Hostel Bookers (thanks, James) for the best deals! You’re bound to find something for your budget on there. Expect to pay at lest €20 per night.
5. El Menu del Dia: Probably the best tip I recieved on tour was from our guide, Debbie.
Debbie advised us to walk at least two blocks in any direction from the major attractions to start finding the little restaurants and cafes that locals would frequent. She also pointed out that we should look out for El Menu del Dia, The Meal of The Day. Between €7 and €15 it includes starter, main, dessert and a complimentary beverage! Excellent value.
These menus change daily and are almost always written in Catalan or Spanish. Figure out the names of some Spanish dishes you like before going: ensalada? paella? Some translations are listed here. There often won’t be anyone to translate for you, so write these translations in your travel note book!
6. Fending for yourself: Finding a supermarket in the city is a simple task. There was one just around the corner from Backpackers BCN Diputacio called Mercadona. They are one example of a supermarket chain in Spain. Look for signs saying Supermercat and you’re in the right place. You can get by quite cheaply shopping like a local and making your lunch for the day. This is also the cheapest place to by water.
I found supermarkets very interesting. Pink popcorn, for example, was something I had never seen before so a lot of the souvenirs I purchased were actually bought from the supermarket! If you’re out for the living-like-a-local experience you will definitely find it here.
7. Travelling smart, not scared: Barcelona is one of the world’s pick pocketing capitals! This doesn’t mean you should live in terror. It does mean you should be wary of your belongings. These people are out to make a quick buck, so if you make it difficult for them they will leave you in peace.
Zip up your hand back and keep your hand on the opening. Wear your back pack on your front – particularly when on public transport.
Be aware of situations where people are trying to draw your attention or jostle you such as walking down La Rambla and getting off the Metro.
While I was there a woman put her camera down in a bar for a moment and just like that it was pinched. As Mad-Eye Moody would say in Harry Potter, “Constant vigilance!”
8. Carry change: Life is going to be easier by doing so, particularly if your catching the bus that you have the correct change for your ticket or as close to it as possible. Often drivers will not accept notes larger than a €20. Break down your notes when you can and it will also make tipping simple. It’s definitely safer than carrying a lot of large notes. Plan ahead, withdraw what you need and store the rest.
9. Practice your Spanish/Catalan: In Barcelona the majority of people speak Catalan, the local language to Catalonia that reminds me of both Spanish and French. Learning some basic words and phrases will help you immensely. You can get by without it, but I always believe attempting to speak the language will inspire people to want to help you out. I recommend counting from one to ten, basic colours, and foods you will see on a menu. Here are some quick basics:
Please/Thank you: Si us plau/Gracies
Do you speak English? Parla anglès vostè?
The difference with Spanish is subtle in some places and huge in others, but if you have basic Spanish, like I did, you will be able to use that and be understood.
10. Read blogs! I bet you did not see this coming 🙂 – especially if you have found this page as part of your travel research. Doing research is only going to make things easier for you. Blogging is the best way to do this because you are reading from the experiences of other travelers and locals. You can find out what’s happening in town and perhaps some places to visit you hadn’t considered.
Here are a couple of cool blogs worth trying!
Barcelona for idiots
Social media is at your finger tips. Search through blog tags, Facebook groups and Twitter hashtags to find out what’s going on!
I hope you picked up some useful tips, thank you for dropping by and please check out my other Barcelona blogs in the Explore section 🙂