PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Passports and Visas

Visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), European Union (EU) and Switzerland need a valid passport to enter Spain. EEA, EU and Swiss nationals can use national identity cards instead. Citizens of Canada, the US, New Zealand and Australia can visit Spain for up to 90 days without a visa as long as their passport is valid for 6 months beyond the date of entry. For longer stays, a visa is necessary and needs to be obtained in advance from the Spanish embassy. Most other non-EU nationals need a visa, and should consult the Citizen Services section of Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation website or their Spanish embassy for details. Schengen visas are valid for Spain. Most countries have consular representation in Barcelona including the UK, USA, Australia, Ireland and Canada.

Customs and Immigration

For EU citizens there are no limits on most goods carried in or out of Spain, as long as they are only for personal use. Exceptions include firearms and weapons, some types of food and plants, and endangered species.

From EU countries, passengers can import: 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, 1 kg (2.2 lb) of smoking tobacco, 10 litres of spirits over 22 per cent proof, 20 litres of alcoholic beverages under 22 per cent, 90 litres of wine (no more than 60 litres of sparkling wine and 110 litres of beer. Passengers from non-EU countries can import 200 cigarettes or 250 g (9 oz) of tobacco products. Those above 20 may also bring 1 litre of spirits, 1 litre of wine and 6 litres of beer. Non-EU residents can claim back VAT on EU purchases over €90.15 at the airport when leaving the EU (see Trips and Tours).

Travel Safety Advice

Visitors can get up-to-date travel safety information from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US Department of State and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel Insurance

All travellers are advised to buy insurance against theft or loss, accidents, illness and travel delays or cancellations. Spain has a reciprocal health agreement with other EU countries, and EU citizens receive emergency treatment under the public healthcare system if they have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with them. Dental care is not covered, and prescriptions may have to be paid for upfront. Non-EU visitors should check if their country has reciprocal agreements with Spain.

Car hire agencies offer vehicle cover, but you might already be covered through your bank, travel or home policies.

Health

There are no vaccinations required for Spain, and there are few serious health hazards. Carry with you any prescriptions for medications that you take.

For minor ailments, go to a farmàcia (pharmacy). They are marked with a large red or green cross and are usually open from 9am to 8:30pm Monday to Saturday. When closed, they will post a sign giving the location of the nearest farmàcia de guàrdia which will be open. Pharmacies that are open 24 hours include the Farmàcia Clapés on La Rambla.

There are many clinics (usually private), including the Creu Blanca Pelai, where no appointment is needed. Major hospitals include Hospital Dos de Maig and Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau.

Personal Security

Barcelona is a relatively safe city, although petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching remain problematic. The usual advice to anyone travelling in a large city applies. Leave your valuables, including passport, in a hotel safety deposit box. Carry as little cash as possible and hide what you do have in a money belt under clothes. Carry wallets in front pockets and strap bags across your front. On the beach and in cafés and restaurants, keep belongings on your lap or tied to your person. Be cautious of odd or unnecessary human contact, verbal or physical, be it a tap on the shoulder or someone spilling a drink at your table. Thieves often work in pairs, while one is distracting you, the other is swiping your wallet. While serious incidences of violence are rare, thieves might carry knives – hand over any belongings immediately if threatened. If you need to report a crime, go to the nearest comissaria. Although you may see police from other forces, contact is usually with the Mossos d’Esquadra, who wear navy blue uniforms.

Emergency Services

The ambulance, police and fire brigade can be reached on the Europe-wide emergency number 112. There are also dedicated lines for the Policía Nacional (the national police force), the Guàrdia Urbana (the municipal police force), the Mossos d’Esquadra (the Catalonian police force) and ambulance.

Travellers with Specific Needs

Most modern restaurants, hotels, shops, malls and museums are accessible to wheelchair users, and the streets of Barcelona are constantly being improved. Many of the older buildings, however, remain inaccessible, so it is always worth calling in advance to find out what facilities are available.

All city buses and most metro and train stations are wheelchair accessible. Contact the IMD (Institut Municipal de Persones amb Discapacitat) information. Disabled Accessible Travel organizes tours and can give advice about city hotels. The Viajes 2000 travel agency specializes in holidays for disabled travellers.

Currency and Banking

Spain uses the euro (€), which is divided into 100 cents. Paper notes are in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. Coins are €2, €1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c and 1c.

ATMs (cash machines) are the easiest way to get cash and are also a good way to beat commission charges. Surcharges depend on your bank.

Banks tend to offer better exchange and commission rates than bureaux de change, although rates do vary from bank to bank.

Pre-paid currency cards (cash passports) are a more secure way of carrying money. They can be preloaded with euros, fixing exchange rates before you leave, and used like a debit card.

Credit cards (apart from American Express) are widely accepted, except in small shops and restaurants, and there may be a minimum charge, generally €6–10. If the purchase is over €20, you will likely be asked for your PIN number. If your credit card is lost or stolen, inform the police and your credit card company.

Telephone and Internet

Many cafés, hotels and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi. The city government also provides free Wi-Fi hotspots around Barcelona.

The dialing code for Spain is 34 and Barcelona’s city code is 93. Phone numbers must always be dialled in full, including the city code. Most mobile phones will work in Spain but it is advisable to check with your provider about costs. If your phone is contracted to a non-EU provider, consider buying a local SIM card or a pay-as-you-go mobile (both widely available) to avoid high roaming charges.

Postal Services

Main branches of Spain’s Correos post offices are usually open 8:30am– 8:30pm Monday to Friday and 9:30am–1pm on Saturdays. Suburban and village branches open 9am–2pm during the week and 9:30am–1pm Saturday. Mailboxes are painted bright yellow.

Television and Radio

Public national television includes the La Una and La Dos channels from Televisión Española, Catalonia’s public station TV3, and the city’s own Barcelona TV. There are also numerous private channels, and satellite television is widely available. Many television sets can be adjusted to broadcast shows in their original languages. Several regional stations broadcast mainly in Catalan, and there are six state Spanish radio stations.

Newspapers and Magazines

Newsstands along the Rambla have a variety of international publications. La Vanguardia and El Periódico (Catalan and Spanish editions) are the main local papers, while El País, ABC and El Mundo are Spanish national dailies. The English-language online newspaper The Local has Spanish news, while the Barcelona Metropolitan, a free magazine (print and online), has listings plus articles on major local topics. The free Time Out Barcelona magazine (print and online) is great for listings (Catalan only), as is the Catalan Què Fem? issued with Friday’s La Vanguardia.

Opening Hours

Office hours are generally 9am–6pm Monday–Friday, although businesses do tend to shut at 2pm in August or close for the month. Shops are usually open 10am–2pm and 4–8pm. Larger shops and department stores don’t close at lunchtime and are usually open until 9 or 10pm.

Banks generally open 8:30am–2pm on weekdays. Some banks also open 4–8pm on Thursdays for non-cash transactions.

Museums and galleries have their own opening hours, which may change with the season. It is best to check their websites before you visit.

Most banks, stores and businesses are closed on public holidays: New Year’s Day, Epiphany (6 Jan), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Feast of Sant Jordi (23 Apr), Labour Day (1 May), Feast of Sant Joan (24 Jun), Ascension Day (15 Aug), Catalan Day (11 Sep), Hispanic Day (12 Oct), All Saints’ Day (1 Nov), Constitution Day (6 Dec), Immaculate Conception (8 Dec), Christmas Day (25 Dec), and the Feast of St Stephen (26 Dec).

Time Difference

Spain operates on Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 6 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time (EST). The clock moves forward 1 hour during daylight savings time, from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in November.

Electrical Appliances

Spain uses plugs with two round pins and an electrical voltage and frequency of 230V/50Hz. North American devices will need adaptors and voltage converters.

Driving

All valid full European and US driving licences are accepted in Spain. It is recommended that non-EU visitors get an International Driving Permit (IDP), even though North Americans do not need one. To hire a car, you will also need a credit card and your passport.

Weather

The climate is typically Mediterranean, with cool winters and warm summers. July and August can be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching 35° C (95° F). January and February are the two coldest months, although temp-eratures rarely drop below 10° C (50° F).

Language

Catalan and Spanish are the official languages, and locals switch easily between the two. Though most will have at least a few words of English, they are delighted when tourists try to speak even a word or two in Catalan. Street names are posted exclusively in Catalan, while menus are printed in Spanish, Catalan and often, English.

Smoking

Smoking is completely prohibited in hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs, cafés and public transport. There are no designated smoking areas inside, and smoking outdoors is also restricted in certain areas.

Visitor Information

Multilingual staff give out free maps and information at the Barcelona Turisme main tourist information office at Plaça de Catalunya. They also have a useful accommodation booking service and bureau de change. There are additional Barcelona Turisme offices at the airport, La Rambla, Estació de Sants and Plaça de Sant Jaume, and booths at Estació del Nord, Plaça Espanya and other key tourist spots.

In summer red-jacketed tourist information officers roam the busiest areas giving out maps and advice. Barcelona Turisme’s excellent website provides information, sells tickets and lets you book accommodation. It also has useful apps, including a general city guide, as well as specific guides to Medieval Barcelona, Roman Barcelona and Gaudí’s Barcelona.

The Culture Institute in the Palau de la Virreina offers information on cultural and arts events. The city council’s web-site, La Meva Barcelona, and the Turisme de Catalunya office and website are also good sources of information.

Useful apps include Citymapper for transport information, TripAdvisor and Google Translate.

Trips and Tours

There are almost as many ways to visit Barcelona as there are visitors to the city. The Bus Turístic is the official, city-run hop-on hop-off bus tour. It runs three routes, which provide a convenient overview of the main sights. The red route explores northern Barcelona; the blue route takes in the southern area; and the green route travels along the seafront (April–September only). A night tour is also available.

If you prefer walking, try one of the excellent themed tours offered by the Barcelona Turisme office on Plaça Catalunya. Their website offers an overview of the available tours, plus a discount if you buy them online.

Fans of Modernista architecture can book onto Barcelona Turisme’s Modernista walking tour, which visits the main sites in the Eixample area, or pick up the free Ruta del Modernisme map at the tourist office.

It’s easy to hire bikes or scooters (see Travelling by Car), and many bike rental places also conduct cycling tours of the city. Bike Tours Barcelona has several themed tours, including a Modernista cycling tour and a beach tour, while Art Bike Tour takes cyclists to the city’s top contemporary galleries on two wheels. You can also explore the streets on a vintage-style Ural motorcycle and sidecar with Bright Side Tours.

If you’re keen to try out something different, rent a Segway from Barcelona Segway Tours (tours start with a training session) or hire a GoCar, a cross between a two-person scooter and a small car. These tiny, open-top GPS-guided vehicles are ideal for pottering around the sights of Barcelona, and an audio tour is included in the price.

See the city from the air with a Cat Helicopter tour, or from the Mediterranean in the old-fashioned Las Golondrinas “swallow boats” or via an Orsom Catamaran tour.

Birding enthusiasts should check out Catalan Bird Tours, which organizes trips to the region’s best bird-watching sites.

Shopping

Barcelona is a fantastic shopping destination, with all the major international stores and big Spanish brands represented, plus a great choice of small boutiques. Great buys include deli produce, such as hams, cheeses and olive oil, as well as superb Catalan wines. Check for any restrictions on importing foodstuffs into your home country before you buy. You’ll also find unusual fashions, jewellery and objects for the home in the city’s many one-off stores: the best areas to find these are El Born, which is full of stylish small boutiques, and Gràcia, where the shops have slightly edgier, more bohemian offerings.

There are also several outlet shops in the city, particularly on and around Carrer Girona. La Roca Village, an outlet shopping centre dedicated to designer brands, is located outside the city near Granollers.

There are two main sales periods, one beginning in early January and another starting on 1st July.

All prices include VAT (IVA in Spanish), which is currently 21 per cent on most goods. VAT refunds are available for purchases over €90.15 which will be taken outside the EU (see Practical Information). You need to ask for a form, usually called a “cheque”, to be filled in at the shop (note that not all stores participate in the scheme), then take it to be stamped at the customs counter at the airport, before getting a refund at a bureau de change or bank or have the funds transferred directly to your bank account.

Dining

Catalan cuisine is widely regarded as one of the finest in the world, and Barcelona’s eateries run the gamut from beachfront tapas bars and family-run taverns to chic, Michelin-starred gourmet restaurants.

The city’s restaurants are increasingly offering a wider range of international cuisines, although Barcelona still lags behind most major European cities in this respect. Vegetarian restaurants have also proliferated in recent years, and there is now a much wider choice for vegetarians and vegans. Most restaurants offer a good value set-price lunch menu from Monday to Friday, a great way to try places that might otherwise be beyond your budget. The website BCN Restaurantes is useful for choosing and booking a place.

Restaurants usually open 1:30–3:30pm for lunch, and 8:30–11pm for dinner. If you want to dine earlier, tapas bars usually start serving at 6:30pm. Many places close on Sunday evenings.

Restaurants rarely offer child menus, but tapas provide an ideal solution if you’re looking for smaller portions. Few restaurants have high chairs, so bring your own or ring ahead.

Cafés are an integral part of life here, and serve light meals and snacks along with coffee.

Accommodation

There is something to suit all tastes and all budgets in Barcelona, whether you are looking for chic minimalism and plenty of services, or cosy chintz and a family-style welcome.

Accommodation falls into the following categories: hotels, rated between one and five stars; hostals, which are simple guesthouses often resembling hotels (not to be confused with youth hostels); B&Bs; holiday apartments; youth hostels, mostly with dorms; and student residences, which offer inexpensive accommodation over the summer break. There are no campsites within the city, but you’ll find a couple only a short bus or train trip from the city centre.

Rates are highest during peak travel periods such as Easter and Christmas, during trade shows, and often on Friday and Saturday nights. Prices drop significantly between mid-January and the start of Easter week, particularly in the self-catering holiday apartment category.

Barcelona Turisme has comprehensive lists of accommodation in all categories, and about 300 establishments can be booked through its website. Barcelona Hotels is the official booking website of the city’s Hotel Association. Hostelling International helps you find and book hostels. BudgetPlaces, Airbnb, HostelWorld, TripAdvisor, Oh-Barcelona and Hotels.com all have websites that help you choose and book accommodation, but it’s worth checking prices at the establishment itself before you book online. Note that local authorities are cracking down on illegal apartment rentals. Ensure that your apartment has a license to operate and book through a reputable agency. Never send deposits to owners directly, as scams are common.

Barcelona is noisy, and it is worth packing earplugs, no matter what category of hotel you’re in. Many places have darker but quieter interior rooms; brighter exterior ones may have balconies but could suffer from street noise.

DIRECTORY

PASSPORTS AND VISAS

Australia

prac_info Av Diagonal 433 bis, Level 2, Door 1

prac_info spain.embassy.gov.au

Canada

prac_info Pl de Catalunya 9

prac_info embassypages.com/missions/embassy1792

Ireland

prac_info Gran Via Carlos III 94

prac_info dfa.ie/irish-embassy/spain

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation

prac_info exteriores.gob.es

UK

prac_info Av Diagonal 477

prac_info gov.uk/world/organisations/british-consulate-general-barcelona

USA

prac_info Paseo Reina Elisenda de Montcada 23

prac_info es.usembassy.gov

TRAVEL SAFETY ADVICE

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

prac_info dfat.gov.au

prac_info smartraveller.gov.au

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

prac_info gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

US Department of State

prac_info travel.state.gov

HEALTH

Creu Blanca Pelai

prac_info C/Pelayo 40

prac_info creu-blanca.es/en

Farmàcia Clapés

prac_info La Rambla 98

prac_info www.farmalarambla24h.com

Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau

prac_info C/Sant Antoni Maria Claret 167

prac_info santpau.cat

Hospital Dos de Maig

prac_info C/Dos de Maig 301

prac_info csi.cat

EMERGENCY SERVICES

Emergency

prac_info 112

Ambulance

prac_info 061

Guàrdia Urbana

prac_info 092

Mossos d’Esquadra

prac_info 112

Policía Nacional

prac_info 091

POSTAL SERVICES

Correos

prac_info correos.es

NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES

Barcelona Metropolitan

prac_info barcelona-metropolitan.com

The Local

prac_info thelocal.es

Time Out Barcelona

prac_info timeout.cat

VISITOR INFORMATION

Barcelona Turisme

prac_info Pl de Catalunya 17 8:30am–9pm daily

prac_info 93 285 38 34

prac_info barcelonaturisme.com

Culture Institute

prac_info La Rambla 99

prac_info 93 316 10 00

La Meva Barcelona

prac_info lamevabarcelona.com

Turisme de Catalunya

prac_info Palau Robert, Pg de Gràcia 107

10am–8pm Mon–Sat (to 2:30pm Sun)

prac_info 93 238 80 91

prac_info catalunya.com

TRIPS AND TOURS

Art Bike Tour

prac_info artbiketour.com

Bike Tours Barcelona

prac_info biketoursbarcelona.com

Barcelona Segway Tours

prac_info barcelonasegwaytour.com

Barcelona Turisme

prac_info barcelonaturisme.com

Bright Side Tours

prac_info brightsidetours.com

Bus Turístic

prac_info barcelonabusturistic.cat

Catalan Bird Tours

prac_info catalanbirdtours.com

Cat Helicopter

prac_info cathelicopters.com

GoCar

prac_info 93 269 17 92

prac_info gocarbarcelona.com

Las Golondrinas

prac_info lasgolondrinas.com

Orsom Catamaran

prac_info barcelona-orsom.com

Ruta del Modernisme

prac_info rutadelmodernisme.com

SHOPPING

La Roca Village

prac_info larocavillage.com

DINING

BCN Restaurantes

prac_info bcnrestaurantes.com

ACCOMMODATION

Airbnb

prac_info airbnb.com

Barcelona Hotels

prac_info barcelonahotels.es

BudgetPlaces

prac_info budgetplaces.com

Hostelling International

prac_info hihostels.com

HostelWorld

prac_info hostelworld.com

Hotels.com

prac_info hotels.com

Oh-Barcelona

prac_info oh-barcelona.com

TripAdvisor

prac_info tripadvisor.com

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