Recently we made a trip to Barcelona and I wanted to share the lessons learnt. I’ll try to cover everything under the sky that I can think of.
Weather: I start with the hot and cold because that’s one thing I can never forget about my trip there :). If you’re like me, doesn’t like hot and humid weather, then August is the month to avoid.
Accommodation: If you’re from US, then you need to be acquainted with the facilities provided in the hotels of Barcelona. We stayed in a four star (Hotel Catalonia Plaza, Plaza d’Espanya) and hence I would like to believe that the facilities we got must be above average. The double beds are approximately the size of a queen bed. Iron is not included though the receptionist mentioned that it would be delivered to our room if we needed one. The room had a nice layout: a mini corridor led to the room and had the entrance to the bathroom. The bathroom floors was shining like mirror; and was quite spacious. We had an organization-negotiated rate so we got it pretty cheap for 110 euros (including continental breakfast). The breakfast was separately 16 euros and let me tell you, it was good! There were cereals, fresh fruits, desserts, breads, meats, cheese, coffee and fresh orange juice – the oranges were being juiced right in front of you – that fresh!
Going around: Even though most of the guidebooks that I read suggested that buses were the more common means of transport, we used the metro (or subway). There are two main advantages of using the metro: you don’t need to look at the timings, every train runs every 5 minutes and it’s easier to map the trains than find the routes of buses. The disadvantage is that you would need to walk a lot because sometimes the station is a little far from the sight seeing spots. Also, to reach the spot from the station you would need to ask people on the way – at least we needed to because the map was not always clear at the street level. The people are pretty helpful so that’s not a problem. The two day transit pass (includes subways and buses) costs 11 euros so that’s not bad if you want to do two days of jam-packed sight seeing.
Safety: Ok, that’s something you ought to worry about in Barcelona! Its mostly pick-pocketing/mugging. Among our conference people, there were two who got pick-pocketed, another who was close to getting mugged and another who had a break-in into his hotel room! I don’t want to scare you but that’s the reality. You must watch your purse at every moment when you’re outside. The pick-picketers seem to target tourists only.
Food: Vegetarian food is not that popular here. The options we had were: margherita/cheese pizza, falafel and 1-2 kinds of pasta. We finally found some indian restaurants and that provided a much sought relief! The price differed by location. In popular places, on average you would spend 10 euros per person if you’re economical; otherwise 15-20 euros. Water is not free in restaurant; you need to buy. It could be as expensive as 2.5 euros for a 250 ml bottle!
Language: Mostly you can manage if you know english and soon you can figure out meanings of the commonly used spanish words. If you’re a vegetarian, know that “vegetariano” means vegetarian and “solo vegetal” means only vegetables. That is helpful! Pescu, carne and pollo mean fish, meat and chicken respectively.
Shopping: we just shopped for souvenirs and found that some bargaining was prevalent.
Its been a long post, so I’ll try to cover the places to see in another post.