Know Before You Go: Transport in Barcelona
For many tourists traveling to an iconic and large city wherever in the world for the first time, it can often seem fairly daunting. The language, the local’s attitudes to tourists, you might not like the food all that much, your accommodation may not what it appears to be from those overly glossy photos on the website, and you may get very sunburned. These are all logical reasons to feel a little cautious when you’re traveling around.
However, the one main thing that can really swing the organization, the fun and can even settle the nerves significantly when overseas, is the local transport. For travelers and tourists, the local transport can really make or break your holiday. Get it wrong, and you will spend the majority of your time away stranded and asking for strangers for help.
On the other hand, if you know what you’re doing, you will be able to get to those tourist attractions you’ve been told you MUST see by your friends at home. This will save you countless hours which you can now spend laying on that bright white beach sipping on mojitos.
I, personally, would rather you experience the latter, so without further ado her is my complete “know before you go” guide to the transport system in Barcelona.
This is likely to be the first interaction most of you will have with Barcelona’s transport network so it’s wise that we get started here. Barcelona (El Prat) airport isn’t the largest airport in the world, so with some guidance it should be fairly straightforward to navigate.
There is easy access to the train station (long-distance), metro station, shuttle bus stop, taxi ranch, and everything in between to get you to the city center.
A taxi journey to Placa de Cataluyna from the airport will be the most expensive way for you to get to Barcelona, costing around the €30 mark.
A single bus journey to the same spot, Placa de Cataluyna, will be €5.10 per person.
5€15 for one ticket to the city centre from either Terminal 1 or 2.
There are a lot of signs for the public transport services throughout the airport, from the time you land to the time you exit the doors on the other side. The airport shouldn’t be too difficult to navigate around but if it is your first time, take your time, make sure you understand where you need to go and what mode of transport suits you best to get to your destination and you’ll be fine.
Take one of the long-distance trains if you are looking to see the outskirts of the big city – I highly recommend it.
Take the train to Sitges and you won’t be disappointed. The main station in the city is at Passeig De Gracia, from there, you can either go North or South of Barcelona and be back in Barcelona / to the Airport before nightfall. A quick day trip for not a lot of money.
You can catch the train to Tibidabo from any of the stations dotted across the city, and if you’re asking “what is Tibidabo?“, it’s the massive hill with the Ferris wheel and statue on top of it that you can see when you fly in, or pretty much from everywhere you go throughout the city.
(I recommend taking this train line to the airport if you have one more journey left on your T-10, because this card is valid on the Renfe – Airport line. It terminates at Terminal 1 but you can then walk to Terminal 2.)
Now the Metro will probably be the mode of public transport you’ll use most frequently, and for good reason.
The metro system in Barcelona is cheap, easily accessible and quick, everything one looks for in a public transport system. Don’t be intimidated by the ticketing system as the machines across the city cater to most European languages and offer a wide range of ticket types.
The most popular, especially for tourists and visitors, is the T-10.
This ticket allows you to go on the metro 10 times throughout zone 1 (basically the whole city) for €10,20, which works out at just over 1 euro per trip. Compared to a taxi ride this is an absolute bargain.
Probably the best thing about a T-10 ticket as well, you can use it on all the buses in the city. A single metro ticket is €2, 20 but that doesn’t really seem worth it when a T-10 is available.
Those are probably the only two tickets that you should really bother with, the other tickets you can get for the metro are ones that are designed for travel over a longer period i.e. a month, three months, etc.
You will only be waiting on average 3 minutes between metros and on weekdays the last metro runs shortly after midnight. On Fridays the last run is 2am and on Saturdays the metro runs all night, but please be aware that if you’re planning on catching a metro after a night out at 4:30am, the waiting time will be longer than 3 minutes.
As I mentioned previously, you can use a T-10 on the buses throughout the city which is a rather convenient, very reliable service. You can catch them from pretty much any street, but you must make sure you get on the right bus.
There’s a 20-minute wait between the buses, depending on where you are, but unlike the metro the buses run 24/7. The bus to get back to the airport departs from a few places in the center, most notably, Placa De Cataluyna, where you can get a shuttle bus to either terminal and it takes about the same time as the train from Passeig De Gracia – approx. 30 minutes.
I’m sure I don’t have to go into too much detail about the taxi service in Barcelona. Everywhere in the world offers a taxi service and Barcelona is no different. Taxi ranches are located in pretty much every busy square and tourist attraction, and they are not too expensive when compared to other major European cities.
Fun fact about Barcelona’s taxis: most of them are electric or hybrid-powered.
As I said at the beginning of this article, the taxi from the airport will set you back around €30. Depending on traffic, it generally costs €10-€15 to get you from a bar in town to a hotel in a neighboring district. I’ve personally never had to pay more than €15.
Barcelona is scattered with a lot of bikes in and around its streets.
Bicycles and electric powered bikes have become very popular in recent times.
Bike tours are also quite popular now as well, a lot of them are ones that come in a package deal with hostels, BNB’s, etc.
The airport is home to a few car rental companies and is quite easy to find. Driving in Barcelona is somewhat a pain in the derrière, to put it bluntly, so bear this in mind if you are thinking of renting a car. There are many one-way lanes, as well as roadworks often hindering particular road access.
If you pick one up from Barcelona airport, visit their site to reserve a car in advance.
The prices are low for the cars themselves. For 3 days you can have one for as low as €10, but remember the insurance will increase your costs, and you may pay extra if you are under the age of 30.
Always remember to double-check the metro stops and other transport options that surround your accommodation. Being close by to the attractions and best restaurants will make all the difference to your holiday, so it is important to get it right! Enjoy your trip!