Basic information of Barcelona
Like any countries and cities, there are some cultures and attitudes to know and to respect and Barcelona doesn’t escape to this rule. It already happened to me that going to holiday I get lost because I didn’t know how to read an address or to do something wrong because I didn’t know that acting a kind of way is part of the culture.
Of course, we will always be surprised about something we aren’t get used to do and to know but this is life and it is a good thing to learn something news, well sometimes not always :-)
So before to come here for your vacation, you may
need to know some general information about Barcelona but majority of the following rules are applied to the whole country, Spain, too.
Language, the main one is catalan and the second is spanish/castellan. In the downtown, you will have no problem to speak in spanish and in tourist areas, in english but in some districts and in the outskirts, you may have some issue so keep at hand a pen and a paper to draw what you want. Take note that the catalan language only applies in Catalonia.
Money, the currency is the euro and if you forget to make the change at the airport, you can find an exchange office in catalunya square (metro L1 catalunya), just spot the bank “La Caixa”, the opposite side of the “El Cortes Inglés” shop.
Address, in parentheses (catalan, abbreviation), normally the address consists of a street name followed by a street number, floor level and door number. For instance, calle (carrer, c/) mallorca 200, 3-2 which means the mallorca street, number 200, 3rd floor and door number 2. Following the floor organization of a building:
- ground floor is bajos (baixos, bjos/bxs)
- one floor up is entresuelo (entresol, entl)
- the next one is principal (abbreviation: pral)
- then the 1st, 2nd, 3rd… floors
- the top is called ático (àtic)
- and the super top is called sobreático (sobreàtic)
Like you see, the 1st floor is not really a 1st floor !!! Not all buildings have this kind of structure but majority of them, on the other hand, the door number can be replaced by derecha (dreta, dta/dcha) meaning right or izquierda (esquerra, esq/izq) meaning left.
Public transport, not too big neither too small, the public transport (bus, metro, train and tramway) is very easy to use and you will have no problem to stumble on one of its stations. All of them have air conditioning something very great when the day is very hot. For the metro and train, to know if you are on the right direction, check the information panel on the platform, normally you will see some red/yellow lights showing the served station and the ones without light, it is the next stop, you will have the same kind of information inside the car so if the platform one doesn’t work, just take a quick look inside before to enter. For the tramway, inside the car, it is the same as the metro and the train.
For the bus, at the station, you will spot easily the line number(s) served by it so if you don’t see the number of your bus, it means that you are not at the good station. To know if you are on the right direction, you can:
- ask the driver, if you have a lot of luck, he/she knows english
- at the station, check the line map and normally you should be able to guess if it is the right direction or not
- inside the bus, just behind the driver, on the ceiling, you will see a panel displaying information like the direction and the next stop.
My recommendation is that you buy the T-casual (10 travels valid for 1 year starting from the first trip) or T-familiar (8 travels valid for 30 days starting from the first trip) ticket instead of the single one if you plan to use a lot the public transport, you will save minimum 10 euros. Only the T-familiar ticket can be used by other persons. It works on this way. As said before, everyone can use the same one so you will just need to buy one. Each of you have to validate it, meaning that once you will put it in the machine then pull it out completely from the ticket validation machine, it will release the turnstile or the door to allow you through. Then give it to the next person so that he/she can use the same ticket and so on until the last one. Each time someone uses the T-familiar, it counts as a separate trip.
Take note that for children, it is free only if they have less than 4 years old. If they are older, they have to buy one.
Restrictions, the minimum age is 18 for driving, buying and drinking alcohol, buying and smoking cigarettes, going to club. There are some clubs for children and in spite of the prohibition, some small shops won’t mind to sell alcohol and cigarettes to young people. Since 2011, it is totally forbidden to smoke in restaurants, clubs, bars, hotels, office... if you want to smoke, you will have to do it on the street.
It is also forbidden to walk in the city naked or semi naked, meaning that no one can’t walk in the public area in bikini, in swimming suit, in naked chest (without a shirt) or totally naked. If the police catch you, they will remind you this law and if you refuse to put back your cloth, you will get a ticket between 120 euros and 500 euros. The only authorized areas are the swimming pool, the beach and places where its use is normal including streets very close to the beach.
Biking is forbidden on the sidewalk except if there is a sign saying the contrary. People, who don’t respect this rule, will have a fine of 30 euros if the police catches him/her. Some pavements have a bike lane that allows bikers to circulate freely. If no lanes, they will have to bike on the street and some of them, there are also a bike lane for security reasons. If you rent a bike, don’t forget to ask a helmet.
Attitude, in parentheses (spanish/catalan), to say "hello", people say "hola" and do a kiss on both cheeks even if you just met the person and to say "goodbye", the same kisses and say "adiós" (adéu in catalan). Only between men, instead of the kiss is by shaking hands although men can also give kisses but not really common. The other thing you should know is to ask who is the last person when you make the line because people may not stand in an orderly line. For example, at market stalls, ask “who is the last” (quien es el último/qui és l'últim) and the person will answer “me” (yo/jo).
Post office, in parentheses (spanish/catalan), the central one is located at "plaza antoni lópez", opening monday to friday from 8h30-21h30 and saturday from 8h30-14h (metro L4 barceloneta or jaume I). Near the entrance, don´t forget to take a ticket from the machine and wait your turn. If you are going to send a normal letter or a post card, the best is to go to a cigarette shop called "tabacos", there are many of them in the city, to buy stamps (sellos/segells), once done, just look for a yellow mailbox on the street and put it inside.
Consumer, in parentheses (spanish/catalan), not in all places, you may have a complaint form (hoja de reclamación/fulla de reclamació) but if there is one and you want to complain, just ask the paper and fill it up, leave one copy to the staff and the other, bring it to the consumer office:
- Oficina Municipal d’Informació al Consumidor, ronda de sant pau 43-45, phone (+34) 934027841, opening monday to friday from 9h-14h (metro L3 parallel).
- Telèfon de Consulta del Consumidor (consumer advice telephone), number 012, available monday to friday from 9h-18h.
Electricity, the standard voltage is 220V and plugs are the 2 round-pin type. Before coming to Barcelona, check if you need or not an adapter, if not you will not be able to charge your cell phone or your camera, and if you do without it, you may damage your device.
Blood test, hope you don’t need to go but if you have to do a test for HIV/AIDS (sida) and/or other STDs, you can go, totally free, to:
- Centro de Prevención y Control de Infecciones de Transmisión Sexual, CAP Drassanes, avinguda drassanes 19-21, phone (+34)934414612, opening monday to friday from 8h-19h (emergencies only the saturday from 9h-17h - metro L3 drassanes).
Luggage, in case if you are looking a place to let your luggage inside a locker, you may go to:
- Lockers, c/ estruc 36 (near to the catalunya square)
- Airport, just look for the left luggage sign
- Bus Station (Barcelona Nord), c/ alí bei 80 (metro L1 arc de triomf)
- Sants Station (Barcelona Sants), plaza dels països catalans (metro L3 sants)
- France Station (Barcelona Estaciò de França), avinguda marqués de la argentera (metro L4 barceloneta)
Lost something, although I will say that you have little chances to find it back but still a chance:
- in the airport, go to the lost property office.
- in the city, go to Municipal Lost Property Office Oficina de Troballes, plaza carles pi i sunyer 8-10, phone (+34)934027000/010), opening monday to friday from 9h-14h (metro L1 catalunya or L4 jaume I).
- in the public transport, go to TMB Lost Property Office located inside the metro L5 diagonal station, opening monday to friday from 8h-20h.
Visa, do you need a visa to enter in Spain ??? Well if you are part of the European Union countries covered by the Schengen Agreement, you don’t need it. If you are from United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, your passport will let you in only for 90 days, if you plan to stay longer, you will need a visa. For other countries, a visa is obligatory. For the visa, you will have to check with the spanish consulate/embassy of your country.
Tourism office, plaza catalunya, opening daily from 9h-21h (metro L1 catalunya). To find it, spot the airport bus station because it is located near to it. Inside you can get a map, buy a ticket for the tourist bus...
Tax free, there are 2 ways to do it before to go back home, the first one is to go to the tourism office in Barcelona located at “passatge de la concepció, 7-9” (you have to walk up the passeig de gracia street, just few meters up from the Mila House on the other side of the street) and it opens from 8h until 15h and the second option, as you can guess, is in the airport. I will recommend you the tourism office because it will be quicker but if you will opt to do shopping until the last minute, the best will be the airport.
- General information, 010
- Ambulance, 061
- Catalan police, 088
- National police, 091
- Local police, 092
- Civil guard, 062
- EU emergency number, 112
- Fire department, 080 or 085
- Hospital, (+34)934546000 or (+34)934183400
- Emergency dentist, (+34)932274747
- American Express, (+34)900994426
- MasterCard, (+34)900371231
- Visa, (+34)900991124