Useful travel information to help you plan your trip to the first European race of the Formula 1 season, the Spanish F1 Grand Prix in Barcelona.
Images © F1Destinations.com. The Editor travelled to the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.
The Kingdom of Spain has the thirteenth largest economy in the world. It operates under a centre-right government with a monarchy headed by King Juan Carlos I. With a population of 46 million, the country is divided into seventeen autonomous communities and two autonomous cities. Spain is amongst the top ten countries in the world for quality of life (ahead of the UK, France and Germany) but the economy has been hit hard by the fallout from a housing bust following the global financial crisis.
Citizens from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK don’t need a visa to visit Spain. Just provide your valid passport on entry and you’ll be granted up to 90 days in the country. Spain is also a part of the Schengen zone which comprises 26 European countries (not including the UK & Ireland) with a common visa policy and no internal borders.
Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain after Madrid. With a population of around 5 million, it’s a leading commercial hub in Europe and one of the world’s best known destination cities thanks to its profusion of art, culture and architecture. Barcelona hosted the successful 1992 Summer Olympics and is home to FC Barcelona, one of the most prestigious football clubs in the world. The team’s stadium, Camp Nou, is the largest in Europe with a capacity of 100,000 spectators.
Barcelona has an unfortunate reputation for petty theft. The worst issues are pickpocketing and bag snatching, and due care should be exercised whenever out and about in the city – particularly in La Rambla. As in any major city, the key is to remain alert and not take unnecessary risks. Wandering around tourist areas looking lost or reading a map, paying more attention to your phone than your surroundings and staying out late after a few beers, however, are all an open invitation to crime.
Spain’s currency is the Euro. ATMs are in abundant supply throughout Barcelona, with reasonable withdrawal charges. Paying for purchases and meals by debit or credit card will be no problem here, either – Barcelona is fully developed and geared towards tourism. Tipping isn’t customary in Spain in the way it is in the USA and the UK. So while there’s much less of a cultural obligation to do so here, leaving behind the change after your bill certainly won’t offend, and nor will a 10% tip in a smart restaurant or bar.
Language & Culture
The native tongue in Barcelona is Catalan though almost everyone in cosmopolitan Barcelona also speaks Spanish. English is widely spoken, though your efforts to learn a few phrases will be embraced by the locals. Being a commercial hub, Barcelona doesn’t do siestas in the same way that smaller cities might. Expect smaller, family-run shops to shut from 2-5pm, but most offices and shops will stay open all day long. Catalans eat late, and it’s normal practice to turn up to a restaurant as late as 10pm and enjoy a leisurely meal with friends and family.
Barcelona’s climate is typically Mediterranean with mild winters and dry, hot summers. The Spanish Grand Prix is not be held during Spain’s hottest month, but it’s still hot in May with average highs of 22 degrees Celsius (72F) and very little rainfall . The combination of humidity and direct sun exposure for long periods at the circuit can still lead to problems if you’re not careful. Bring sun cream and apply throughout the day, drink plenty of water and wear a hat, particularly if you are sitting in an uncovered stand.
All tourists in Spain are entitled to the same emergency care as locals, and EU visitors can access a bigger range of medical services on the presentation of a valid EHIC card. If you don’t have one yet, pick up an application form at your Post Office. Those from outside the EU will have to claim on their travel insurance for anything outside of emergency medical treatment, so make sure your policy covers this. Pharmacies (farmàcia) are found all over the city and are likely to sell some medicines over-the-counter that would need a prescription in the UK, USA or Australia.
- Time Zone: Barcelona and the rest of Spain operate on CET (Central European Time) which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
- In case of emergency, dial 112 for Police, Ambulance or Fire Brigade
- The tap water in Barcelona is safe for drinking
- As with most of continental Europe, Spaniards drive on the right side of the road
- Spain uses type F power sockets, so you will need an adapter if coming from the UK, USA or Australia.
Advice on flights to Barcelona for the Spanish F1 Grand Prix, getting around in the city and information on how to get to Circuit de Catalunya.
Barcelona boasts world class art and cultural attractions, great shopping, buzzing nightlife and enough dining options to please every budget and palate.