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I visit Spain 8 times a year – how to avoid costly tourist mistakes


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ONE of the most popular Spanish holiday destinations for Brits is Barcelona – and I visit nearly eight times a year.

From stunning architecture and culture to amazing nightlife and great food, all with great weather and beaches, the Spanish city makes for the perfect break.


I visit Barcelona eight times a year – so have learned how to save money while on holidayCredit: Lee Bell – Supplied
Gaudi's architecture is popular - but you can do it on the cheap


Gaudi’s architecture is popular – but you can do it on the cheapCredit: Lee Bell – Supplied
Ask for the 'menu del dia' to save money on food


Ask for the ‘menu del dia’ to save money on foodCredit: Lee Bell – Supplied

But just like any major city, there are traps tourists can easily fall into.

Of course, locals know where to go but if you’re not a regular visitor, how do you know what to avoid and which areas to steer clear of? 

The Sun’s travel expert Lisa Minot will be taking part in a Live Q&A with readers at midday on Tuesday (April 23) to answer your holiday dilemmas – ask her anything.

Whatever the travel question – big or small – make sure to send over all your questions to Lisa in the form here, and she’ll answer them in the live Q&A.

I visit Barcelona every six weeks or so and have done for the past few years, so have learned from my own experience, as well as from locals, about how to do things cheaper.

Here are the big mistakes I see many tourists making time and time again that will cost you money when visiting the city.

Skip the airport taxi for the bus

Most tourists jump in a taxi straight off the plane when arriving in Barcelona without a second thought.

But just a short walk from the taxi rank you’ll find the Aerobús, which is around €20 cheaper than getting a taxi and only takes five minutes longer. 

You’ll find the stop right outside the terminal and it will terminate in the city’s main square, Plaça de Catalunya – with several stops at other major areas on the way.

You can buy a single or return ticket right by the bus queue, or save time by booking your tickets in advance on the official website.

Ditch Las Ramblas for San Antoni

Las Ramblas, the main high street of Barcelona, isn’t the ideal spot for staying or eating, despite its popularity and super central location.

Not only a pickpocket hotspot but it’s a bit of a tourist trap where you can easily get ripped off.

Sagrada Familia Selfie Ban

You probably wouldn’t go for dinner in Piccadilly Circus while in London, so why do it in Barcelona

Sant Antoni is a great, more local alternative that’s just a short walk away but way quieter.

You’ll also find plenty of great eateries here that give you more bang for your buck.

Pre-drink on a budget with €1 cava  

Dodge the pricey cocktails before a night out and instead head down to Can Paixano – or what the locals call “La Xampanyeria” (champagne bar) where you’ll find a “copa de cava” for just €1 a pop.

Much loved by locals, this traditional cava bar is an institution. 

What’s more, it’s right by the beach, so an ideal spot for a pick-me-up after a day of sunning yourself.

You can find some great bargains on dinner


You can find some great bargains on dinnerCredit: Lee Bell – Supplied

Always get the ‘menu del día’ for lunch

From Monday to Thursday, most cafes and restaurants will offer a “menu del dia” (menu of the day), and these often represent great value for money.

You’re likely to find yourself with a three-course meal and drink for around €13-€18.

Not all places offer this menu so, to save embarrassment, look for a sign by the eatery’s entrance or ask a waiter to check if they do one before sitting down.

Visit an alternative Gaudi house for less

If you want to do some culture on the cheap, you could skip the pricey Sagrada Familia or Casa Batllo and venture a little further afield to Gaudi’s lesser-known house Casa Vicens.

Just outside Gràcia in the north of Barcelona, it’s not only quieter than the more popular  Casa Batllo in Passeig de Gràcia, but it’s about €10 cheaper for an entry ticket – and just as impressive. 

You can still have a lavish trip on a small budget


You can still have a lavish trip on a small budgetCredit: Lee Bell – Supplied

Barcelona holiday deals

If you click on a link in this box, we may earn affiliate revenue.

  • Airbnbs in Barcelona from £24 per night – find here 
  • EasyJet city breaks from £226pp for 3 nights – find here
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  • Hotels with Booking.com from £40 per night – find here

Ask for a cheaper “clara” or “caña”

A hefty pint of cerveza can feel a bit heavy in the summer heat.

Instead, ask for a “clara” – essentially a Spanish shandy made with Fanta Limón – at practically any bar.

It’s not only cheaper but it’s a tasty, more refreshing option for when the temperatures soar.

If that’s a tad too sweet, try a “caña” (a small draft beer, usually around 200ml).

This will cost little more than €1 and ensure your beer is always extra cold. Ask for a “doble” if you’re a fast drinker. 

Avoid the public transport

While it’s easy as paella to flag down a taxi in Barcelona, it’s definitely not the most economically efficient way to travel around the city.

Sure, they’re cheaper by British standards but taxiing everywhere can soon add up.

The good news is that Barcelona is super foot-friendly and you can easily walk everywhere.

Take a stroll on the beach or sip on a 'vermut' on a sunny day


Take a stroll on the beach or sip on a ‘vermut’ on a sunny dayCredit: Lee Bell – Supplied
Barcelona is such an affordable Spanish break if you know where to go


Barcelona is such an affordable Spanish break if you know where to goCredit: Lee Bell – Supplied

Make “vermut” your drink of choice

Switch out the Italian-born Aperol Spritz for a more local pre-dinner option: Spanish vermut!

Much sweeter than the vermouth you’ll find in most UK bars, this herbaceous aperitivo is not only super cheap by cocktail standards but dangerously moreish.

It’s also what you’ll find all the locals drinking on a sun-soaked terrace on a Sunday afternoon. Winner winner liquid dinner.

Cheap day trip

Barceona’s trains are not only super reliable, but they’re exceptional value for money, especially when compared to the UK.

Short day trips are therefore cheaper and easier than you think.

Take advantage of European train prices and in 30 minutes you end up on the sandy shores of the quiet municipality of Castelldefels, or for an extra 15 mins you can visit the charming yet lively coastal town of Sitges.

This summer, you can even travel for free on some lines with Renfe in a new train travel scheme.

Everything you need to know about visiting Spain

  • Brits must have at least three months left on their passport from the day they plan to leave the country.
  • Tourists do not need a visa if visiting for up to 90 days in an 180-day period.
  • Make sure your passport is stamped on entry and exit.
  • Travellers may be asked to show hotel booking confirmations and that they have enough money for their stay at the border.
  • Spain is one hour ahead of the UK.
  • The country uses the euro with around €10 working out to £8.55.
  • Flights to Spain from the UK take between 2-4 hours depending on the destination.

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