Getting Around in Barcelona

Public transport in Barcelona is efficient, affordable, well-maintained, clean and safe.

The system in the city is multi-faceted, but regional trains and the more city-focused Metro are the friendliest to foreigners, with signage and ticket purchases in English.

Some expats find driving in Barcelona easier than in other large cities, but drivers face heavy congestion and parking difficulties; not to mention, signage and street names are in Catalan.

For the most part, expats moving to the city can depend on public transport, and even those in surrounding towns will find plenty of affordable and convenient modes of transit.

Navigating can initially be difficult, however, and mastering the vocabulary for transport, such as "ticket" and "addresses", in Spanish as well as Catalan is recommended.

Public transport in Barcelona

The majority of Barcelona’s transportation services participate in an integrated tariff system. According to this policy, one fare applies across the Metro (subway), buses, trams and regional FGC and RENFE commuter trains. If an individual's journey lasts under one hour and 15 minutes they will only be charged for one trip or unit.

The wider region is divided into six zones to calculate fares. Central Barcelona is in Zone One. Expats living outside the city will most likely live in Zone Two. Prices increase as the number of zones travelled increases. 

A range of ticket options exists based on the number of journeys or the number of days used. Discounted tickets are available for people younger than 25 and seniors, while children under four do not pay. Monthly passes and multiple-trip tickets are also available.

Metro trains

With six subway lines and one funicular train, Barcelona’s Metro is the best bet for stress-free travel. Service is far reaching and user-friendly with signage in Spanish, Catalan and English. Automated ticket machines can be used in all major languages, though announcements are made in Spanish and Catalan. In addition to purchases at local stations, expats can also buy Metro tickets at ServiCaixa bank machines.


Learning the bus routes in Barcelona takes a little more practice and patience, but familiarising oneself with the extensive system of over 100 routes is time well spent.

While the Metro might place commuters in the general vicinity of where they need to be, the bus can bring them to their destination’s doorstep. Choosing between the two modes of transit often depends on how much a person wants to walk and which option provides the most direct route.

Bus stops have maps and a schedule posted in the bus shelter waiting area. If there is no shelter, there will be a street sign displaying the bus route. Since many different bus lines use the same stops, when someone sees their bus approaching (numbers are clearly displayed on the front of the bus), they should hold out their arm to alert the driver.

Single journey tickets can be bought upon boarding, while travel cards and monthly passes can be purchased at Metro stations.


Six lines make up the above ground, zero emissions tram system which extends to territory less covered by the Metro. Lines T1, T2 and T3 cover some popular neighbourhoods not well-served by the Metro, including Pedrables, Esplugues de Llobregat and Sant Just Desvern. Line T4 runs on the opposite side of Barcelona and has stops in Vila Olímpica and Diagonal Mar, areas where many expats choose to live.

RENFE trains

Officially La Red de los Ferrocarriles Españoles, RENFE trains refer to the Spanish railway network. RENFE Cercanías are regional commuter trains that operate in Spain’s major cities. RENFE trains are part of the integrated tariff system in Barcelona, although non-integrated fares are also available. These trains link surrounding towns to Barcelona, while some RENFE stations connect with the Metro and FGC.


Barcelona’s black and yellow taxis are easy to hail and plentiful. Flag down a member of the fleet either roadside or at one of the taxi stands found in popular areas and main thoroughfares. Rates are reasonable and should be posted in the cab. Expats should ensure the meter is reset before they begin their journey.

Tipping is not required and will probably result in a surprised, but very happy driver. Some people give the driver the remaining change or a small tip of around five percent.

Drivers are generally trustworthy, friendly and reliable. While some may understand some basic English, to avoid pronunciation confusion it is very helpful for expats to have their destination in writing or to know a landmark near it.

Getting around Barcelona on foot

Walking the streets of Barcelona is an outright pleasure. Expats will find the city’s mild weather, amazing architecture and medieval alleys make for plenty of pedestrian opportunities.

Of course, expats should exercise more caution in transitional neighbourhoods, tourist hotspots and under the cover of darkness. Barcelona has been appointed one of the pickpocket capitals of the world but, apart from petty theft, expats need not be too worried about more serious crime.

Cycling in Barcelona

Bike lanes already exist on some of the main streets and the city council is continuously working to make Barcelona more bike-friendly. It follows that bikes can be brought on the Metro, Trams and FGC, depending on the hour and commuter volume.

For expats who aren’t able to bring their bike abroad but would still prefer to cycle, the city's popular Bicing bike-sharing service offers a practical alternative with bike stands positioned throughout the city. 

To take advantage of the service, riders simply insert their membership card at one of the designated stands, choose a bike and get going. When a person arrives at their destination, they re-insert their card and drop off the bike. Charges are incurred based on the time the bike is used, as long as it’s under two hours.

Driving in Barcelona

Expats moving to central Barcelona may want to ditch the wheels and live car free. Parking is extremely limited, and those who do own vehicles in the city centre are often forced to hire a space in a private garage. Rates are typically expensive, but vary greatly depending on the neighbourhood and the type of garage.

Drivers should also prepare themselves for their fair share of dents and scrapes. No matter where a person parks in Barcelona, the insanely narrow spaces and the congestion during crunch times means that no vehicle escapes unscathed for long.

Many expats live in the city outskirts or surrounding towns where cars seem more necessary, but even here it’s not essential. For example, in downtown Sant Cugat it is possible to walk, bike, use local buses or even a car-sharing programme to get around town.

Avancar, the community sharing programme, allows residents to rent a car for trips to the supermarket, weekends at the Costa Brava and anytime in between. Cars can be booked online and retrieved at a nearby parking garage.

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Our Barcelona Expert

JenniferLoPrete's picture
the United States. Barcelona, Spain
Jennifer Lo Prete is a writer and marketing consultant. In 2009 she and her family packed their bags (ahem, entire house)... more

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