Despite being a “small” big city of just 1.5 million people, Barcelona can feel overwhelming to the 8 million tourists who visit each year from across the globe. From staying in the wrong location during your visit to eating a frozen paella warmed up just for tourists, it’s easy to fall into tourist traps… especially if visiting for the first time.
We’ve made many of these errors ourselves in the past, and we’re here to help you avoid making these rookie mistakes when visiting Spain’s second largest metropolis.1. Staying out in no-man’s land to save bucks
Just the other day I met a couple on the train who were coming to Barcelona for a few days from Paris. I asked them where they were staying and they said Sarrià. “Oh…” I said, and they could see the look of concern in my eyes. Sarrià is a nice area, but it’s not well connected by metro, and it’s not central (there is a train that goes there). Most of the couple’s time was undoubtedly spent negotiating public transportation or paying for taxis.
It may cost you more to stay centrally, but if you only have a few days, it’s worth the splurge of a few extra euros. In the long run you will save money, time and headaches by getting a place in central neighborhoods like Gothic Quarter or Eixample.
One word of caution: La Rambla is centrally located, but it can be crowded and touristy, so if you like a little more peace and quiet try Hostal Fernando and Hostal Goya, both of which are located just a few blocks from the main stretch.2. Bringing valuables with you to the beach
You’re asking for it by bringing valuables to the beach—either you’ll lose your keys in the sand or a thief might end up with them. Either way it will put a damper on your vacation. The beach is the last place you want to bring money, cameras or expensive smartphones. Do the selfie later, post-playa.
If you do bring your valuables to the beach, never leave them unattended. If someone comes up to you asking you for a light for their cigarette, the first thing you should do is turn around—his buddy might be behind you stealing your bag.
When I go to the beach, I bring a book and my house keys. If I think I might want to buy something to eat or drink at one of the beach bars (which are plentiful and offer lots of tasty snacks from May – October), I roll up a €10 and keep it in my book. I never bring my wallet with me if I am going to be swimming or sunbathing alone. If you go with a friend, then take turns swimming and watching your stuff.
One more thing: Never sleep or camp on the beach. It is illegal, dangerous and not particularly comfortable.3. Tipping American-style
It’s hard to not tip if, like me, you come from a tipping culture. However, it is not normal in Barcelona to leave a 10-20% tip, as the tip and tax have already been included in the bill.
If your beer costs €2.75, go ahead and leave them the remaining €.25 if you must. Locals almost never do. And forget about leaving one for a coffee barista. In a restaurant, if the service is exceptionally stellar, you might tip 10%.4. Eating frozen paella
If you see a brightly colored dish of neon rice that some shady folks are trying to sell as paella on La Rambla or elsewhere: Avoid! Paella should not glow in the dark.
Instead, head down to La Barceloneta and have an authentic paella, or rice dish, by the seaside at La Barceloneta Restaurant, El Suquet de l’Almirall, El Nou Ramonet or almost any of the other seafood joints in the ‘hood.
Note that those in the know do not eat paella for dinner. It’s a lunch dish. Walk to La Barceloneta around 1 PM and search for a place that seems popular with the locals. That’s where you want to be. Normally eateries that have photographs of the food (or the menu in 20 languages!) are not going to be the real McCoy.5. Spending all your time in the center city
Most of the tourist sights are in the Gothic Quarter, and visitors spend a big chunk of their time along these cobblestone streets. They are right to do so, as top attractions like the cathedral, Roman wall, medieval buildings, history museum, Picasso Museum and hidden plazas are worth a gander.
Of course La Rambla cuts through downtown, and you should walk it up and down at least once. After the Gothic Quarter many travelers head towards the Gaudí triangle (Passeig de Gràcia’s Casa Batlló, La Pedrera and La Sagrada Família) and maybe Park Güell. There’s a lot to see.
When I speak to people who have visited Barcelona I often hear “It’s SO touristy.” Indeed. The rookie mistake is to spend too much time, or all your time, in areas that cater only to visitors. Make sure to take a break from the well-worn Gaudí track. Find popular ‘hoods where locals live, lounge, and linger. Go up to Gràcia for the day or a night of bar hopping. Eat lunch in Poble Sec. Party hardy in El Raval. Chill at the clothing optional beach close to Poblenou.
Like any touristy city, there are two sides to Barcelona, and the residential side takes some work to discover, but it’s worth the effort.
I can think of very few times that I’ve been offered a hotel breakfast that was worth it. For some reason the price for toast, jam, juice, limp cheese and coffee at a hotel is usually about three times more than it would be in any nearby local bar. They can get away with this sometimes, because guests seek convenience.
If you want to save €10, then find a cafe or bakery and have breakfast for €3 or €5 instead of €18. It’s true that for this price you will not get eggs and bacon or pancakes and waffles. But, if you want excellent coffee and a buttery croissant, or a ham sandwich and a fresh OJ (typical morning fare in Barcelona), you will find a staggering array of options at low, local prices.7. Buying the HolaBCN Metro pass
The HolaBCN! passes are sold at tourist information points, on the airport bus and in the metro stations. They are not a good deal when compared to a normal metro card. If you are going to be in Barcelona for more than two days, buy the T-10, which gives you 10 rides in the city for about €10. Note that this pass can also be used on the bus and tram.
Note: You need to buy the T-10 in a metro station (not on the bus or tram), and you can buy T-10s with cash or credit card.
The post Visiting Barcelona for the First Time: 7 mistakes to avoid appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.
Visit the blog for the rest of this post.
If you’re heading to London for work or just wish to explore the business heart of the city, then this is the area for you. However, unlike many urban hubs that see their business district shut down as night falls, London’s City area borders some of the most popular night spots in the capital, boasting a distinctly more laid back vibe with trendy bars, a huge choice of restaurants, plenty of culture and colorful markets which spring up over the weekends.
When it comes to accommodation, the choices are also blossoming and becoming increasingly boutique, but there are still plenty of affordable staples that will place you at the heart of the action and a short stroll home at the end of the night.Where to stay
A new arrival on the London hotel scene, Qbic is a great budget option for business and leisure travelers alike. Located just opposite Aldgate East station at the end of Brick Lane, it’s perfect for exploring East London.
The rooms are all built around the revolutionary Qbic pod formation which comprises a double bed, TV, bathroom, bedside tables and lamps and wardrobe, but you pay more for a window with a view. Rooms are clean, compact and very comfortable, but you’ll probably want to spend most of your time in the uber cool lounge area, which feels like the designer living room you always wished you could afford.
The Ibis offers what you would expect from an established hotel chain; comfort and cleanliness in a good location. While the design is nothing to write home about, the prices are always very reasonable and you will be guaranteed a good night’s sleep and attentive staff on hand all the time. Rooms come with phones and flatscreen TVs and all have private bathrooms. The hotel also boasts a modern bar and restaurant with decent value food—great for a snack after a long flight, but there are plenty of more inspiring places to explore nearby if you’re looking for a more memorable dinner (carrying on reading for ideas…).What to see
77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX
Tube: Aldgate East
A great gallery that offers lots of free (and some paid for) modern art exhibitions ranging from sculpture and painting to photography and unique installations. If your visit falls on the first Thursday of the month, be sure to head to the gallery’s First Thursdays, which sees over 150 spaces in the area open their doors until 9pm with free events, exhibitions and talks throughout the night.
Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
Europe’s largest performing arts center is housed in an iconic building slap bang in the middle of the City of London. Everything from film screenings and theater to concerts and exhibitions take place here and, sadly, it is often missed off the tourist agenda. Some things are free and some are paid for, so check the website in advance and work out what you want to see to make the most of your visit.
65a Brushfield Street, London E1 6AA
Tube: Liverpool Street
Located just behind Liverpool Street you’ll find a creative and quirky market that contrasts wildly with the suits that inhabit this corner of London during the week. Spitalfields is home to artists, vintage clothes stalls, accessories and unique homeware, as well as plenty of tasty food. Sunday to Friday sees the Traders Market take place, or alternatively time your visit with the Saturday Style Market.Eating and drinking
Brick Lane Brasserie
67 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL
Tube: Aldgate East or Whitechapel
You can’t visit The City without sampling one of Brick Lane’s legendary Indian restaurants. As tower blocks and offices give way to ethnic restaurants and supermarkets, so you’ll find yourself marveling at another of London’s fantastic contrasts. Brick Lane is absolutely jam packed with curry houses, many of which vie for your attention as you walk down the road and, while some of them serve up more questionable food than others, you can’t stay in East London without experiencing it once. My personal favorite is the Brick Lane Brasserie—which serves up familiar curries and some more unusual options if you fancy branching out. Make sure you negotiate before you sit down, because most places throw in a few free beers with your meal.
2-10 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6GY
Tube: Shoreditch High Street
This self proclaimed “pop up shopping mall” made out of shipping containers has become less pop up and more of a permanent structure next to Shoreditch High Street train station over the last couple of years. However, the shops that reside within it do change regularly and upstairs there are lots of fun eateries and bars. Cottons Rum Shack is a particular favorite for a Caribbean cocktail in the summer months.
All Star Lanes
95 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL
Tube: Shoreditch High Street
For burgers, shakes and some good old bowling and karaoke, All Star Lanes is the ideal place to let off steam after a grueling day in the office or a long day sightseeing. A filling meal in the form of a generously sized burger starts form £9.50, while bowling costs between £6.95 and £8.95 per person per game, depending on the day and time.
For late night drinks try Vibe Bar on a nice evening as the huge outdoor terrace is a great place to soak up the last of the sunshine, or head to Brick Lane staple, 93 Feet East, for DJs and live music Wednesday through to Sunday. Wednesday nights also play host to “Mundo Lingo” an intercambio style multilingual event for foreigners and locals to meet new people and practice language skills.Special treat
110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY
Tube: Liverpool Street
If you do feel like splurging, save your pennies for an unforgettable trip up the 40-storey Heron Tower. Here you’ll find the British-inspired Duck and Waffle, and the internationally renowned Sushi Samba, both of which will set you back a good £13 for a cocktail, but if you really want to get a bird’s eye view of The City from the heart of it, this is most certainly the place to do it.
The post London: a cheapo neighborhood guide to the City of London appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.