I recently returned from 3 months in Barcelona, Spain. It was a wonderful experience though I wish it would have been longer. My total spending for August, September, and October was $10,265 which included my regular expenses back in the states.
I was hoping to stay here longer but my passport was expiring and I wasn’t able to get the rest of the paperwork done in time for a visa. 3 months in Barcelona is all you get with a US passport. Beyond that you’d need a visa.
Getting To Barcelona
I took Iberia airlines directly from Oakland to Barcelona and Norwegian airlines back to Oakland.
Both of my tickets were one-way tickets since I didn’t know how long I was going to stay in Barcelona. I spent less than $1,000 on both – quite a good deal.
BCN airport is massive and luxurious. With a €4 general adult ticket I was able to travel from BCN to my destination neighborhood of La Sagrera on the Renfe trains. And I did the same to get from the La Sagrera back to BCN.
It would have cost €20 to take the airport shuttles and €30-50 with the taxis. There is no Uber or similar service in Barcelona at this time. However, taxis are plentiful and you can flag them down or download an app.
Traveling Within Europe
Traveling within Europe is a pleasant experience. I traveled from Barcelona to Amsterdam by plane. It was incredibly cheap and so much less of a headache compared to flying locally in the US.
Not only are airline tickets cheaper but you have public transport to get you to and from the airport. Upgrading to business class was interesting on the way back. I’ve never done business so it was a nice experience for $115 extra.
Using Google Maps is incredibly easy or planning your destinations. It offers you taxi and public transportation options. You can even plan your public transport by looking through the schedules for upcoming dates.
Getting Around Barcelona
Getting around Barcelona is incredibly easy. There are buses, light rail, and subway trains. Tickets are easy to obtain at multiple automated kiosks or the info desks nearby.
Transportation Sharing Services
There are multiple transportation sharing services. My favorite is the ride sharing (BlaBlaCar) where you pay for a seat in the car of a person who is already traveling in the same direction. It’s legit peer-to-peer ride-sharing and incredibly affordable.
You can also rent cars and scooters. They can be picked up wherever the last person dropped it off and you can drop it off wherever. It’s similar to other ride sharing in the US.
A ton of people are on bicycles and you can rent these at BiCiNg bike stations. You need to sign up for a card but it’s stupid cheap. You pick up the bike from any station and return it to any other station on your journey.
Living In Barcelona
I found hotels for as little as €60/night but not sure what their long-term stay policy would be.
Note that there are no single-family homes in Barcelona unless you travel far from the city. It’s all flats (apartments) and a few detached homes (townhouses).
Also, the construction here is simple and borderline shoddy. Bricks and plaster. So the walls will be quite thin and you’re going to hear your neighbors. If you’re sound-sensitive then plan accordingly.
AirBnb has been a wonderful way for me to secure long-term housing. You negotiate the price down a fair amount if you are planning on staying long-term.
Some rentals aren’t designed well for long-term stays. My AirBnb rental didn’t have a vacuum cleaner so I had to get creative with cleaning. However, my landlord was so nice I’m sure he would have dropped off whatever I needed.
A big advantage was having a washer/dryer. This allowed me to pack a lot less clothing. Public laundromats are not cheap, I saw prices in the €4 range for 1 load.
Another advantage of an AirBnb unit is the included electricity, water, and internet.
Renting Your Own Apartment
It’s really hard renting your own apartment because online rental listings such as idealista only have places available for a traditional lease – 12 months.
With your own rental, you would also have to establish electricity and internet. All this adds another layer of complexity that I didn’t care for.
Not to mention, you would have to purchase furniture, bed sheets, towels, and kitchen utensils. And don’t forget the rent deposits and negotiating a rent contract.
The main advantage would be the cost. While I paid €1,350/month for my furnished unit, you would be able to rent a naked place on idealista for around €800/month.
Note: My 3 months in Barcelona was during the heavy tourist season. You can find month-to-month apartments in Barcelona on AirBnb for around $1,100 in the off-season.
Renting A Room
I highly recommend renting out a room instead of a whole flat as long as you can secure a pleasant place to stay. People in Barcelona are incredibly friendly and will help you integrate into the culture.
You would also have a host who can help you with translation, navigating the city, and have a pace to have mail delivered.
I didn’t have a very good experience with my initial room rental which is why I pounced on renting my own place. It seemed like an excessively noisy house with too many guests. Looking back on it, people here go to bed far later than those in the US and I was probably overly sensitive to my new environment.
While it’s normal to keep noise down by 10pm in apartment complexes in the US, people here don’t go to bed until 2am. Of course I’m generalizing but it’s common for people to get home at midnight and play music, sing, talk, smoke, and laugh until late.
Exercise in Barcelona
There are plenty of gyms available and signing up is really easy. Most will have day passes and almost all have month-to-month passes.
I mostly use climbing gyms and paid €50/month. There was no waiver to sign. No contract to sign. I paid the money, got the card, and walked in. Easy. For my 3 months in Barcelona I spent 160 euros on exercise – that’s a good deal.
Though weightlifting and cardio gyms aren’t the best place to meet people since it’s such an isolated activity, rock climbing gyms are fantastic for this. I made friends with people from Barcelona and met a few international tr
Working In Barcelona
To stay in Barcelona long-term you can either get a work-visa or an entrepreneur-visa. The former would require an employer to petition on your behalf. The latter is great for someone who earns their income independently.
My plan was to use my online telemedicine income in order to get an entrepreneur visa to stay in Spain for a few years.
Incomes here aren’t very high from what I’ve learned. Doctors here don’t earn $300k/year, it seems to be closer to $40k/year.
I feel that the money I earned online went quite far here in Barcelona. The downside is the weak dollar which is sitting at around $1.20 = €1.
To generalize, people in Barcelona are calm, relaxed, and not in a rush. I can’t talk about the touristy areas since I didn’t visit those spots but the rest of Barcelona is incredibly mellow.
People often close up shop in the middle of the day and some places don’t even open until 6pm or even 8pm.
If you are the type to get agitated waiting in a line then you’ll have multiple heart attacks during 3 months in Barcelona. If instead you are the type who is rarely in a rush and you enjoy the down-moments, you’ll love Barcelona.
Food In Barcelona
I heard amazing things about food in Barcelona but didn’t find anything spectacular. The selection is limited to bread and cured meats at the bars and little cafes.
Again, I didn’t really venture to the touristy areas which I know for sure have some incredibly restaurants.
That said, the food you find in the local cafes are made with love. People are very particular about their cafes. Neighborhood cafes are small and have their loyal customers.
Smoking & Alcohol In Barcelona
There is a LOT of cigarette smoking in Barcelona. You’ll smell it inside the gym, inside the cafes, outside the cafes, on the street – pretty much everywhere.
Because of the tall apartment complexes there is also very little airflow on the streets. It’s not as bad as New York but there is a good amount of diesel smell from large trucks and tourist buses, as well as gasoline smell from 2-stroke motorcycles.
Alcohol is consumed minimally in Barcelona. I know, I thought it was a high consumption city but again, that seems to be the touristy areas. The rest of Barcelona is mostly a bottled beer scene. 3 months in Barcelona and I didn’t see any micro breweries, no good wine, and a weak liquor selection.
You don’t need to speak Catalan but you need to speak Spanish to get by in Barcelona. The locals rarely speak English which actually makes it really easy to immerse yourself into the language and culture.
The funny thing is that sometimes you don’t know if something you’re hearing or reading is in Catalan or Spanish. Fortunately, the Google Translate app is fantastic for this and can often differentiable.
However, when it comes to phrases, the app sometimes let me down. Maybe that’s the case with all languages but “renting shoes”, “food to go”, “I like your hair” turned out different from what I expected.
Cell/Internet In Barcelona
Pretty much all cafes and businesses have free WiFi (pronounced weefee) and you can ask for the “contraseña” which they’ll readily give out.
The city has free WiFi as well, especially where the parks are.
It’s common to have pay-as-you-go for cell and internet so I often connected to my cell’s hotspot for data usage on my laptop. This was quite convenient. I spent no more than 50 euro on cell service the entire 3 months in Barcelona.
For €15 I was able to get 30 minute talk and 2 gigabytes of data. For me this was more than enough. The downside is that with Vodafone the data expires after 4 weeks.
People In Barcelona
I found the people to be incredibly friendly. Muy tranquilo. It seems to me that people actually want to make genuine connections which isn’t to say that Americans don’t. However, it’s more common to experience people isolating themselves in the larger cities in the US.
There are a lot of older couples walking around on the streets. I’m talking in their 80’s and 90’s. It’s really pleasant to see and gives the city a lot of warmth.
The local cafes are often filled with people in their 30’s and 40’s. You’d have to go to the more happening touristy spots to find the younger 20-somes.
The local shops are small and the owners are usually the ones who work the floor. I really enjoyed this because I was able to make friends with Lucy and Jose Luis.
Rumors About Barcelona
During my stay there was a terrorist attack in the heart of the city and there were protests regarding Catalonia trying to break away from Spain.
All 3 months in Barcelona, however, everyone was friendly, respectful, and patient. With all that shit going on, I didn’t notice any animosity or didn’t feel stressed walking the streets.
Fucking Tourists! I read and heard a lot about anti-tourist sentiment and didn’t experience even a tiny bit of it. I came across only 1 graffiti that someone translated for me as “fuck niggers and tourists” – that dude must have been aaaaangry.
Expensive? I thought that Barcelona was incredibly cheap. With the local fruit/vegetable stands and the cheap baguettes and the super cheap coffee, your dollar will go a long way.