Barcelona as a Pre and Post Cruise Stop
When visiting Barcelona, there is no shortage to places to see or things to do. In this third article in a series of blogs about Barcelona as a pre or post cruise stop, I cover transportation.
2. Places to see
3. Transportation to and from the airport
4. Transportation to and from the port
5. Getting around the city
6. Barcelona Markets
7. Hop on Hop off buses
8. Day trips from Barcelona
9. Fun Facts
Transportation to and from the Airport
Barcelona’s principal airport is Josep Tarradellas Barcelona–El Prat Airport, which is located about 12 km (7.5 miles), southwest of the centre of Barcelona. As with all major city airports, there are a number of options to choose from in order to make your way into the city centre. I have tried most of the transportation choices and found the associated costs, comfort, and benefits are varied. In the following paragraphs I will point out the positives and negatives of the choices on offer.
The first few times I flew to Barcelona, I opted to take a taxi from the airport directly to the cruise terminal or to my hotel if arriving a few days in advance of my cruise. To many, this is an easy and familiar means of transportation as most people have taken taxis at some point in their lives. I simply collected my luggage and exited the terminal building (either T1 or T2 depending on whether I was arriving from North America or Europe). I then followed the signage to the taxi stands. This is an easy process, and it is not difficult to find the taxis nor are there problems securing the services of a legitimate taxi at any time of the day or night. Do not accept rides from “taxis” that are not at the official taxi queue. I was chatting with a couple in the hotel lobby and they asked me what I had paid for a taxi from the airport. When I informed them that I had paid €35 with a 15% tip, they were livid. They had been charged €125 euros by a taxi driver who had intercepted them in the terminal building before they got to the taxi queue. If you decide to take a taxi, please be aware the cost, depending on which terminal you are departing from, should (in 2021), be between €30 and €35. You should also be aware that holidays will see an increase in the fare rates so an elevated charge is normal. There are different sizes of taxis and on our last visit, we passed on three taxis until a small van came up that would accommodate four adults, four large pieces of luggage and five carry-on bags. They were trying to convince us to separate and take two taxis but we held off, preferring to travel in one vehicle. The travel time from the airport into the city centre takes about 20 minutes. At this port, the taxis can drop you off at the check-in point which is not always the case at other ports.
One quick side note about taxis. I once was taking a cruise that was departing from Barcelona. I was arriving on a separate flight from the others in the group and unlike them, I had opted to book my own transportation from the airport to the port. At that time, a taxi was the equivalent of $15US dollars. I had a great taxi driver who agreed, for a modest side payment, to drive me to the Sagrada Familia and stop for photos followed by a driving tour of some of Barcelona’s highlights. It was a lot of fun and far cheaper than paying for a city tour. The others in my group had booked a transfer through the ship and consequently were taken from the airport to the ship on the fastest, most direct route. Their base cost was more than my base cost and they missed out seeing a bit of Barcelona.
This is a great segue into talking about ship transfers from the airport to the cruise port. All ships offer transfers and although I am not keen on taking these transfers, I am willing to tout the value of them to others. If you are not comfortable arranging transportation on your own, ship transfers are an excellent way to get dropped off at the check-in point of your cruise ship. There are pros and cons to these transfers as you might find yourself waiting at the airport while passengers on other flights, who also booked a ship transfer, are making their way through customs and immigration or are delayed dealing with baggage issues. These transfers can be a little more expensive depending on the circumstances. For example, when looking at a ship arranged transfer for four of us, the ship transfer cost was set in US dollars at $25 per person which seemed reasonable. When looked at as a total cost of $100 dollars (€82), for the group of four, against €50 ($60USD) with tip for the hire of a private taxi van, it was not such a great deal.
Hiring a Car and Driver Service
Private car hires are a little more expensive but I consider them to be a bit of a treat. It is nice to come out of the baggage area (or at the meeting point), to see a well-dressed individual holding a sign with your name waiting to take you and your luggage to a private vehicle. You can book the type of vehicle and the costs will vary depending on whether you choose a luxury vehicle or not. These transfers must be booked in advance and I have found that they are cheaper if you book a return transfer. The last one I booked was €80 return, with door-to-door pick-up and drop-off service. The driver had water and a copy of an English language paper waiting for us along with some information pamphlets he picked up from the local tourist board. He dropped me off at the ship and when the ship returned to port at the end of the cruise, there he was, waiting with his immaculate vehicle and a big “Welcome Back Gail” sign.
If you want to take local transportation that is quicker than a private car or taxi service, I recommend taking the RENFE train. The cost of a single one-way ticket is just under €5. This service runs every 30 minutes and will take you to the city centre in roughly 25 minutes. Getting to the train is fairly easy as it is well marked in the terminal two building as you exit the baggage area. However, you should note that if you are arriving at terminal one, you will have to take a shuttle bus to get to the RENFE train. There are three stops in Barcelona that marry up with the Metro lines (Barcelona Sants, Clot or Passeig de Gràcia), which are the three serviced stops that intersect with the metro. If you are going to the cruise terminal, I suggest you exit the RENFE train and take the metro green line to the Drassanes metro station. If you are going to take the metro once you arrive in downtown Barcelona, I recommend you buy a card that will allow you to transfer onto the metro (T casual card or Barcelona card). Otherwise, you will have to buy a Metro ticket once you exit the RENFE train. If you do that, the cost is higher because you are making separate purchases (the cost of the RENFE ticket at the airport and then the cost of a Metro ticket at the Metro station).
I have been asked if you can take the Metro directly from the airport and yes, the Barcelona Metro does have stops at both terminals. It is a busier option and can be difficult at certain times of the day (crowded and hard to maneuver with luggage). If you are taking the Metro, with luggage, during a peak travel times, be prepared for crowds and the added threat of pickpockets. A benefit of taking the Metro from the airport is that unlike the RENFE, you may not have to make a connection once you are in central Barcelona and if you do, it will be metro line to metro line. The cost of the metro is €5.15.
Taking a bus from the airport is also an option but for the purpose of full disclosure, I have never used this method of transportation from the airport. Therefore, the information I am providing is anecdotal in nature. I have been told that there are two bus options, the first being the Aerobus service which is an express service. It leaves every 10 minutes from both terminals and takes riders into the city center for a cost just under €6 euros. The second option is the local bus #46, which runs during the day, or the N17 (“Nitbus” which operates at night starting at midnight). The cost is just under €3 euros and both the day and night buses can be caught at both terminals. Travellers who have chosen to use this option, report it to be the most cost-effective way to get from the airport to the city centre. They also describe it as slow due to the numerous stops along the way and the fact that it is subject to delays when the traffic is heavy.
Transportation to and from the Port
As seen in the preceding section, you have the options of taking a taxi, ship transfer, or private car hire directly to the port.
If you take the Metro, take the green line to the Drassanes Metro station and walk from there to the cruise port. It is a combination of paved sidewalk and road but you will need to cross a minimum of four lanes of busy roadway on that walk. Depending on which cruise ship terminal your ship is departing from, you will be walking 2km or more.
Walking from a hotel near just off Las Ramblas to the cruise port is fairly easy as you simply walk to the south/ west end of Las Ramblas and turn right (west), where you will be able to see the cruise ships at their berths. My cousin Linda and I walked south from our hotel to determine whether we could walk to the ship or whether we needed to take a taxi to the ship with our luggage. The walk was not difficult, and the ship was easy to spot but we soon determined that doing that walk with luggage, although doable at 4 1/2km, would not be worth the money we would save. We reported back to our husbands that a taxi was the best option.
Getting Around the City
As mentioned in my previous blog about places to visit, most of the city’s best tourist sites are serviced by the Metro which makes that an excellent and most efficient method of moving from point to point. With 8 different lines, all of which are air conditioned, you can pretty much move around the city without worry about traffic delays. You can buy single trip tickets, day passes, three-day, week or monthly passes. The cost will depend on the type of pass you purchase, and I cannot cover them all in this blog. Suffice to say, if you are planning on being in Barcelona for more than a day, I recommend buying some type of multi day pass to save money.
There is surface bus service throughout the city I personally like the ability to take a metro in combination with a bus. If you buy a Metro ticket, you will be able to transfer to a day-time bus within 1 ½ hours without incurring an additional cost. You can download Metro line maps or bus routes from the transportation website but I have found the easiest method of using the buses is to go to the transportation website and type in you location and destination and it will tell where and when to catch the bus at the time closest to when you want to leave. It is a good interactive process.
Just a quick word of warning, it is best to take a taxi from a taxi stand. If a taxi stand is not available, ensure you can see the taxi license and driver information on the back of the front seat of the vehicle. Make sure the meter is turned on when the taxi starts to move. If the driver tells you the meter is broken, take another taxi of negotiate a price in advance.
Private Car Hire
I don’t recommend taking a private car hire unless you have pre-booked the service 24 hours in advance.
Rent a Vehicle
Traffic can be horrendous and parking a nightmare but it you are comfortable driving in the city, it is the most comfortable option and allows absolute discretion as to where you go and how long you stay.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this blog, please feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments in the comments section.
I want to acknowledge and thank Monty Malloy for allowing me to use some of his Barcelona transportation photos in this blog.