Not many food stores opened on Sundays? Tipping not being very popular? Metro not always coming on time? La Rambla not being that cool in every aspect? You will not find all of this information in guidebooks.
While travelling, the easiest information to find is about places or monuments worth seeing or addresses of restaurants with tasty food. There are technical tips though that can improve your stay, but they are much harder to find.
Read the very useful hints that each tourist should know before coming to Barcelona.
1. You can avoid paying for expensive transportation tickets
Tickets for public transportation in Barcelona are quite expensive - 2,15 euros for single ticket, 10,30 euros for 10 rides ticket, 2 days ticket – 14 euros, 3 days – 20 euros. Check more here. Consider renting an apartment in the city center and planning your trip in a way that you will manage to see everything while walking. If You plan well, You will be able to walk from one to another tourist attraction with no need of taking the metro. You will save lots of money doing these.
2. Have a “plan B” for late night transportation
The time when metro closes is always too early wherever You are. Especially when You came to enjoy nightlife in Barcelona. Have in mind that subway closes around midnight during weekdays (excluding Friday) and Sunday, on Friday it works until around 2 a.m. and on Saturday works whole night. The word “around” was used intentionally – from my experience metro never goes exactly as scheduled. Check the website before taking the metro in a late night and... be on the station earlier. Living in Barcelona, I also learned that You can never expect anything. Once coming back from the airport with a friend in the night on Saturday (so metro should work whole night) it did not and we had to use the taxi.
Another very important thing – around the time of closing metro lines sometimes only one entrance to the subway of all is open. So if You see one door closed, do not worry, find another entrance of the same station – it is possible that it is open. Relating to the point number one – consider renting the apartment in the very city center to avoid risking with metro and skipping the party before its end!
3. Barceloneta is not the only one (and not necessarily the best) beach in the city
Probably when You think about the beach in Barcelona, You think about Barceloneta. Keep in mind that it is the dirtiest beach, full of tourists, were sometimes there is no place to put a towel on. Consider also going to Nova Icaria, Bogatell, Mar Bella or other beaches in Barcelona that are a little bit cleaner and are slightly more crowded. Also You may consider one day trip to Costa Brava beaches (the cost of train ticket to Blanes - 6,15 euros).
4. Avoid waiting forever for tickets to Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia is probably the place number one You want to see and of course it is a good choice. You should know though that the line to buy the ticket to Sagrada Familia is very long, You may be waiting for few hours. We advice to buy tickets online to avoid waiting. You can purchase tickets here.
5. Take care of Your belongings better than ever
Despite of all amazing things that Barcelona offers, the big disadvantage of the city is theft. I experienced it during my FIRST night in Barcelona – my friend got stolen on the beach and we did not even notice when it happened. Thieves are really professional here. Take double care of Your belongings wherever You are – on the beach, in public transportation, in crowded La Rambla and La Boqueria. If You think that You will feel that someone puts the hand in Your pocket – You will not. Always have Your purse in front of You with Your hand on it. What is more, sometimes, thieves here use very sophisticated methods of stealing, they may do it while asking You about directions and pretending a lost tourist or while trying to sell You something. Always be careful.
6. Low season can be a good option
If Your biggest goal of visiting Barcelona is getting to know its cultural heritage/You do not plan to party that much/ You do not handle well very hot weather – maybe consider low season to visit? The amount of tourists during summer is huge and You may not enjoy visiting museums, monuments and other cultural places because You will be surrounded by crowds all the time. Also mind that the weather in summer is probably hotter than You imagine and think if it really does not bother You. During, for example, April or October the weather will be definitely enjoyable and better for long sightseeing.
7. Include waiting to see places in Your sightseeing schedule
Going to the Picasso museum one hour before closing? Not really a good idea. Be prepared for very long lines to the most popular places, included mentioned above, Picasso museum. Sometimes You have to be ready for waiting for one hour in the line.
8. See La Rambla once and then... stay off it
Your guidebook may tell You that La Rambla Street is the place to be, but we may discuss with it. Of course, the street is beautiful, buildings around are one of a kind. But to feel the spirit of real Barcelona, go to little streets nearby. Do not choose La Ramba for a calm walk with Your loved one, because instead of talking, You will be just bumping into other people. That place is also the most expensive for buying souvenirs and eating. The same souvenir You will get cheaper in sourounding streets. In terms of food – better quality one for better price You will also find out of La Rambla.
9. Find out eating habits here – avoid walking for hours with empty stomach
Want to eat at 1 or 8 p.pm. and wonder why that restaurant is empty or closed? People in this area may have different eating habits than You. You may not be used to eating dinner at 11 p.m. but that is how it is here.
10. La Boqueria – La Rambla II
La Boqueria is a very nice place to see and take pictures. It is a paradise for food lovers, especially for their eyes. Consider going there in the morning, because of huge crowds there during late morning and afternoons. Think twice before purchasing something – you may pay there two times more for example for fruit than in usual stores, only because You buy in La Boqueria.
11. Do not leave shopping for Sunday
You have busy Saturday and think about buying food for breakfast on Sunday morning? Find time on Saturday to do it because, what may be surprising for some readers, it is very hard to find an open store (especially supermarket) on Sunday. Some private, little stores are open but they do not offer wide range of food and products there are overpriced. Lots of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops are open in Sundays though.
12. Counting time differently... or not counting at all?
Probably You know that being punctual is not a number one priority here. Keep in mind that it is similar with opening of some offices or scheduled transport. It very depends on the particular situation, but do not expect that if it is written (for ex. on the website) that a certain place is opened from 10 a.m., You will be able to solve Your issue at 10 a.m. sharp. Get used to siesta as well – the place You plan to go at that time, will be probably closed.
Remember also that a “party time” starts later than in many countries. At 1 or 2 a.m. You can still come to an empty club. People from this region do not rush to the clubs as well. All in all – take it easy while being here and not look at the watch.
13. Catalan, Spanish and others. Think twice before joking about it
Do not refer to catalan, valenciano or gallego as dialects of "Spanish". Little jokes like “this is all the same” or “Catalonia is Spain, come on!” may not work well, especially when You do know someone. Fighting for authonomy is a real thing and making fun of it can really make someone very nervous. In Spain and Catalonia You should be really careful with talking about nationality and languages issues.
14. Tipping – not the number one rule while eating out
Giving big tips is not that usual in Barcelona and Spain as a whole. You can leave few euros during paying for a big meal, but tipping for a coffee and cake is not expected and sometimes can be confusing for a waiter.
15. Other information You may need
Time zone: CET ( GMT +1)
International Dialling Code: +34.
Electricity: 220-volt AC, 50Hz
Visitors from the UK need adaptors and visitors from USA need adaptors and 110/125V transformers.
Airport in the in Barcelona: El Prat (BCN). To go to the city center, You can take the train (only to around 23:30), bus (day and night busses), shuttle bus or taxi. More information here http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/airport/barcelona-airport-transport.html