8 MINUTE READ
If you are arriving into Barcelona-El Prat (BCN), the main Barcelona airport, by plane from the US, you were probably on a red-eye. It is essential that you acclimate to the new time zone. You’ll need to go to bed five or more hours earlier to make the most of your vacation.
After years of doing it the hard way, I prefer to avoid public transportation from the airport. This is especially true after a very long flight. The only exception is when I am staying at a hotel directly off the stop. I’ve learned that I am too tired to navigate a new city with my luggage. Saving that $20-30 isn’t worth it to me anymore. However, if you are a trooper, then, by all means, public transportation in Europe is incredible.
I highly recommend taking a taxi or private transfer from the airport. Barcelona is spread out over several miles. I liken it to Los Angeles -- if you’ve never been there, it’s difficult to walk from one place to the next and can take hours to transverse the city by car.Taking a taxi or private car saves you time on your trip. We call this vacation minutes. You are paying a premium for each minute of your vacation. Pay a little extra to save them for important things like dining and touristing -- not getting into city center by public transit.
Barcelona-El Prat to Plaça de Catalunya, a central tourist hub in central Barcelona, is 25 minutes by car without traffic.
Barcelona Airport To City
Orienting Yourself at Barcelona-El Prat
Barcelona has two terminals. Terminal 2 is the original airport and Terminal 1 operates about 70% of all flights. You can check the airport’s website to find out where you might land - airlines operating at BCN. The majority of international flights use Terminal 1. However, there are exceptions. If you are connecting from an EU city, then you could land at Terminal 2.
Cheapest Barcelona Airport Transfers
Barcelona offers several public transportation options from the airport. While they are the cheapest options, they are not convenient if you are headed into city center or the northside.
If you want the cheapest option available, you’re headed for the public transit airport bus -- bus number 46 during the day and N16, N17, and N18 at night.
The bus €2.20 one way or €4.40 for a round trip. So, the discount for buying a return ticket.
You can find the bus outside the terminals by following the signs. The 50-minute bus ride drops off at Plaça Espanya, which is on the outskirts (southwest-side) of the city. From here, you’ll probably need to make a connection to get to your hotel. There are four metro stops nearby - green and red lines.
The metro now connected to the airport, but it was built for residents. I say that because like the bus it doesn’t go into the center. Metro line L9S goes to the Les Corts area -- where Diagonal Avenue (Avinguda Diagonal) turns into the B-23 highway. From this area, you can catch the green metro line or trams 1, 2, and 3.
A single metro ticket from the airport costs €4.60 and not valid with the T-10 discount card.
You’ll find the metro outside of arrivals in Terminal 1. It’s about a ten-minute walk from Terminal 2. Follow the red M signs.
Airport Commuter Train - Cercanias
Instead of taking the metro, you could also take the airport train (regional train by Renfe Cercanias - red dot with a 3/4 white circle). This is limited service train but goes into city center. The train runs every 30 minutes between 6 am and 11:30pm -- not on the half-hour. Check the Renfe website for exact times.
Barcelona Airport Train Prices
The 40-minute ride costs €4.50 for a single ticket. The airport train leaves from Terminal 2. If you arrive at Terminal 1, you’ll need to take the free shuttle to Terminal 2. The shuttle comes every 5 minutes, but you should account 15-20 minutes for the transfer.
You will arrive at the Passeig de Gracia train station in the heart of the Eixample neighborhood. The train station is only an eight-minute walk from Plaça de Catalunya, the tourist hub. The green metro line also connects between these two places and takes approximately 9 minutes. From the Passeig de Gràcia metro station, you can transfer to the green, yellow, and purple lines.
Aerobus to City Center
The Aerobus takes you from the airport to Plaça de Catalunya in the Eixample neighborhood near its border with the Gothic Quarter. There are two lines that stop at 2-3 other places, but they both end up at the same endpoint.
The bus leaves about every 5 minutes and runs from 5:30 am to 1:00 am. This covers the majority of the arriving and departing flights. The bus picks up at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Walk outside the terminal and look for the blue AEROBUS.
The ride is about 35 minutes and costs €5.90 for a one-way ticket and €10.20 roundtrip. After you’re dropped off at Plaça de Catalunya, three metro stops are within walking distance to connect to the green, purple, yellow, and red metro lines.
Aerobus Barcelona Tickets
You can use your VISA or MASTERCARD (Have the right chip card?) at the ticket vending machines or pay cash to the bus stop staff or bus driver. For cash payments, you are limited to only €20 change. So, for two one-way tickets paying with a €50 Euro bill is not advised. Get change first.
Taking a Taxi into Barcelona
Barcelona is spread out over several miles. While I love public transit in Europe, Barcelona’s system seems to be made for the locals. Which is great -- I used to live in a city whose metro wasn’t built for locals or tourists, but I digress. It can be incredibly hard for tourists to make their way on public transit, especially with their luggage.
The taxi stands are just outside both terminals on Level 0. Look for the designated line for the black and yellow taxis (only color for official taxis). A fluorescent vested worker will show you to your taxi.
Barcelona Taxi Rates
Taxis in Barcelona are highly regulated and operate 24 hours a day. The minimum charge is €20, but you’ll spend €30 - €35 to get into center city. There may be additional fees, as listed below. Cash (Euros only) is the preferred method of payment. If you are using a credit card, please tell the staff and the driver before getting into the taxi.
“I am paying with a credit card.”
In Catalan: Estic pagant amb una targeta de crèdit.
- Airport Fee: €3.10 (the minimum €20.00 charge includes this fee)
- Port of Barcelona (cruise terminal): €3.10
- Major train stations (Exhibition Centre, Norte, França, and Sants): €2.10
- Fira de Barcelona (Barcelona Fair) and Gran Vía Montjuïc 2 (L'Hospitalet): €2.10
- Up to 4 large baggage (bigger than 22 x 14 x 14 inches): €1.00 each
- Special nights (June 23-24, December 24-25-31, & January 1st): €3.10
- Wheelchairs, strollers, guide dog: Free
- Maximum amount of supplements: €15.40
Taxis can only transport four passengers at a time. If you have more than 4 people, you need to pre-order a 7-seat taxi for an additional €3.40.
You can also find these fees posted in the window of every taxi (see below).
You can find the latest fares on the Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona website here.
Tariff rates for Barcelona taxis are tiered based on time of day. The lowest rate (T-1) is Monday - Friday 8am to 8pm. The next level (T-2) includes weekday nighttime (8pm to 8am), and weekends and public holidays (6am to 8am). The highest rate (T-3) is applied for the “party hours” on Saturday, Sundays, and public holidays (midnight to 6am and 8pm to midnight).
Taxi to the Cruise Port
There is a fourth tariff rate for transfers from the airport to the cruise terminal for a flat €39. This fare includes all the supplements but is only available on taxis with the sticker as seen below.
Taxi’s without the sticker will charge you the meter rate, plus additional supplements. Including the €3.10 charge for entry to the Port of Barcelona (cruise terminal).
What about Uber?
After pulling its service from Barcelona in 2014, Uber returned in March 2018. It’s UberX service and drivers are fully licensed.
Twitter user Àlex (@lexrodba) shared a compelling story of waiting for an Uber since the relaunch. Click on the tweet below to read the 17 tweet mini-saga.
I've experienced the craziest Uber thing ever. It started at 8:31am when I ordered an Uber to go to a meeting at 9am. Follow it here 👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/OvKElTlhh2
— Àlex @ Mars 🚀 (@lexrodba) June 1, 2018
The Best Barcelona Rideshare App
People love Uber. I don’t. I recommend MyTaxi app.
I use MyTaxi when I’m in Barcelona. It can also be used in Madrid, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Cologne, Vienna, Zurich, and Warsaw.
It works just like Uber. You can input your location and/or destination, receive an estimate, then you pay in the app. The difference is that you will be using Barcelona’s highly regulated black and yellow cabs. The rates are exactly the same as hailing a cab.
Handicap Accessible Taxi
Travelers with reduced mobility should use Taxi Amic. Their vehicles are adapted to meet your needs, including wheelchair ramps and sliding steps to reduce the distance from the ground. Their online reservation form requires 24-hours advanced notice and phone confirmation to book a taxi. You can also call +34 934 208 088.
They operate every day.
Barcelona Taxi Tips
- Don’t tip. It is not expected.
- Supplements are added at the end of the ride.
- Taxis with green lights are not allowed to pick you up within 657 feet (200 meters) of a taxi stand.
Private Transfers From Barcelona Airport
I’ve come to value the meet and greet. I used to think it was ridiculous, but like the hop on hop off bus -- I WAS WRONG.
Walking out of customs and baggage claim after a transatlantic flight, your head isn’t awake yet. You need coffee -- perhaps another cup of coffee. Maybe you have bags or kids in tow. You’re re-organizing your passport, wallet, or whatever you want to get into your bag before walking out those doors. Finding your sunglasses because it’s too early for this sh*t.
That’s when the most amazing thing happens. There is a guy with your name on a board. He takes your bags and you simply follow him out to the car. You get in and shut your eyes. While he drives, you can power nap for 30 minutes.
Man, I love this power nap. It is enough rest to launch me into an enjoyable afternoon, yet into bed at a reasonable hour. I shake off the jet-lag and dominate my vacation minutes.
They track your flight, you don’t stand in a taxi line. Seriously, rich people know how to travel.
THANKFULLY, private cars can be affordable.
After using a few different companies, I always look at Viator. They have multiple listings in several cities, and the prices are either the best or close enough.
Ordering a Private Transfer in Barcelona
You can order a taxi with Meet & Greet, luxury van, or transfer to the cruise port on Viator. To me, the extra few bucks is worth it.
Viator, a TravelAdvisor company, offers changes and cancellations up to 24 hours before your reservation. Their customer service is open 24 hours day.
They are available worldwide including Europe, US, and several other countries with 100,000+ Things to Do. Click here to see all the locations and activities they service.
They also have over a million valid reviews, which puts the mind at ease.
Read our other article about Barcelona
Check out our other articles for more information about Barcelona