So, you’re off to Barcelona – felicitaciones!
Before you break out the phrasebook, sun cream and spending money, we’ve got some tips to make sure that your time in this beautiful city is as happy – and as healthy – as it possibly can be.
We all know that prevention is better than cure, so with that in mind let’s get a few things sorted before you even set foot out the door.
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Make sure you have the appropriate holiday insurance for your trip, to cover all eventualities. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you might want to consider adding extreme sport cover just in case you fancy trying your hand at a spot of parascending on the beach at Poble-Nou, or rock climbing and bouldering at one of Catalonia’s mountain locations.
For Europeans travellers, a valid European Health Insurance Card may help reduce pharmacy costs by up to 40 per cent, with treatment in public hospitals generally being free, though do check as some hospitals may expect payment at the time of treatment.
Research the city
Want your holiday to be as stress-free as possible? We thought so! Barcelona is a large city of over 100 square kilometres, with 1.6 million inhabitants. As such, it really does pay to research the places you want to go, what mode of transport you will use and the route you want to take (scenic or short cut, for example).
It’s good to have some sort of plan or itinerary before you arrive in Barcelona so you don’t end up wasting valuable time trying to decipher maps, getting lost on the underground or scrambling around for ‘things to do in Barcelona’ when you should be soaking up the sights, history and culture. Even just half an hour spent planning the Barrios that you most want to visit and the sights you are most keen to see can save you hours of stress upon arrival.
Barcelona’s network of trams, buses and underground trains can help you to get around, so you might want to plan your journeys in advance. Equally, the city can be easily explored on foot, but some Barrios are more challenging to walk around than others. For example, La Ramblas and Gracia offer gentle strolls, whereas Montjuic is not quite as flat and may involve some hill walking.
Smoking in Barcelona
Spain has one of the strictest bans on smoking of any European country. If you are a smoker, you won’t be able to light up in bars, restaurants, or in certain public spaces in Barcelona. Pay close attention to signage when you’re out and about if you fancy a smoke – places such as hospitals and anywhere that children play are likely to have a ban on smoking in the vicinity.
Barcelona is a generally safe city, with low levels of violent crime. However, petty crime occurs frequently, particularly in areas with lots of tourists.
In Barcelona, leaving valuables on the beach while you go for a swim is a big no-no. Either ask one member of the party to stay with your possessions or don’t take valuables with you to the beach. Nowadays people seem to have become a lot more complacent with their mobile phones, often leaving them on tables in street cafés and restaurant – an easy target for thieves! Put them into a zipped pocket or a secure bag tied around your body to deter pickpockets. Finally, always let someone know your whereabouts if you are travelling alone and keep in regular contact with them.
There are some common tricks and scams that petty criminals in Barcelona will use to try and pinch your wallet or purse. For example, there has been a spate of tourists being asked to sign fake petitions and then finding that they have been robbed while signing a form. Often the approaches made to tourists by petty criminals will seem very friendly, but it pays to be a bit cautious.
Sun, sea and Spanish cuisine
Barcelona is a warm place, particularly between the months of May and September. Remember not to spend too much time in the sun and try to keep out of direct sunlight between 11am and 2pm when the sun is at its hottest. Slather on the sunscreen and reapply after taking a dip in the water or at regular intervals – you can never be too sure if you’ve missed a spot!
Keep hydrated by drinking bottled water and maintain a balanced diet. Tap water is perfectly safe to drink in the city, but doesn’t always taste that great! Barcelona boasts many great markets such as La Boqueria, with a wonderful assortment of colourful fruit, vegetables and restaurants where you can sample the finest tapas, paella and seafood.
Holidays are a great excuse for discovering and devouring exciting, new foods and also for doing more exercise than you normally would. Cycle or rollerblade along the promenade, take a refreshing dip in the sea or if you’re feeling energetic, get the blood pumping and hike up to Tibidabo, Montjuïc or Montserrat and not only will you discover new places but you will be happy and healthy doing so!