Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting Around Barcelona - Public Transport

Of all the cities I've spent time in, none so far matches Barcelona in terms of convenience and price when it comes to getting around. The metro here may not run with Swiss precision but you can generally expect the train to arrive a second or two around the stated time.

Here is a map of the metro, tram and local train lines. Don't let the chaotic layout fool you, it's not that confusing or difficult to master. For those visiting Barcelona, the most important line to be near is the L3 or the green line, which takes you to the city center, Passeig de Gracia, the neighborhoods of Gracia and Sants, along with Plaça Espanya and Parc Güell.

Unlike New York or London which has multiple zones, each a different price, Barcelona proper has only one, meaning you can travel from one end to the other for the same amount. And because of its relative small size, it won't take you hours to do so.

The stations aren't massive or confusing, but remember to insert the ticket with your left hand. The Passeig de Gracia stop is notorious for its three block tunnel, while changing at Plaça Urquinaona will mean climbing up and down stairs.

Personally, if I'm not pressed for time, I prefer to stay above ground and take the bus. They don't run with the frequency of the metro, but it's a more pleasant experience. It gives you the chance to see the parts of the city you might not otherwise and Barcelona is full of hidden gems. Some of the best days I've spent have been when I decided to hop off the bus at a random stop and explore the surrounding streets.

A single ticket allows you to use the metro and the bus, in addition to the local train service known as Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat. Located at Plaça Catalunya and Plaça Espanya, these trains are how you'd get to Tibidabo mountain, Montserrat, the US consulate, and many of the universities. Tickets can be bought either as a single or round trip. There's not always a person working at the window and sometimes even if there is, they'll point you to an automated machine to make your purchase. They don't always work, especially when it comes to reading credit cards, so keep some change handy.

If you're here for a few days, the T-10 offers ten trips at a reasonable price and can be shared so buying a few of these might make more economic sense than a daily or tourist pass. If the metro is you primary means of commuting, the 50/30 (fifty trips in thirty days) is an option, but I've always preferred the monthly pass. It'll ask for a number at the time of purchase and you can type in whatever is on the ID you carry around. For example, I use my California drivers license. It's best not to make a number up because there are checks periodically and if the number on the ticket doesn't match the ID, or you don't have one, you can be fined.

The TMB website is a great resource for planning you trips or if you want to know how to get to a specific location. It's available in various languages and all you'll need is an address or a well known land mark to find the right itinerary. At the bottom of the page is the time and the option to choose different forms of transport. The times are pretty accurate while the maps showing how to get from the location to the bus or train stop are simple and not too confusing.

1 comment:

  1. When my husband and I were in Barcelona earlier this year, we were very impressed by both the underground system and the city's buses. The underground is easier to use than London's, and more moderately priced. Like you, we used buses whenever possible, though, to see more of the city. Bravo to Barcelona for its commitment to public transport!