Barcelona has long been an expensive city, but prices are still lower than they are an hour north across the French border. Coffee or beer in a bar generally costs €1.50 (standing) or €1.75 (seated). Small glass of wine in a bar: around €1.50. Soft drink: €2 to €3 a bottle. Ham-and-cheese sandwich: €5 to €8. Two-kilometer (1-mile) taxi ride: about €5, but the meter keeps ticking in traffic jams. Local bus or subway ride: €2.15. Movie ticket: €9. Foreign newspaper: €4.20 to €6.50.
Banks never have every foreign currency on hand, and it may take as long as a week to order. If you’re planning to exchange funds before leaving home, don’t wait till the last minute.
It’s a good idea to inform your credit-card company before you travel. Otherwise, the company might put a hold on your card if their computer flags a purchase it considers "unusual" activity. Record all your credit-card numbers—as well as the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen—and keep them in a safe place. Both MasterCard and Visa have general numbers you can call (collect if you’re abroad) if your card is lost, but you’re better off calling the issuing bank; the number is usually printed on your card.
If you plan to use your credit card for cash advances, you’ll need to apply for a PIN at least two weeks before your trip.
Dynamic currency conversion programs are becoming increasingly widespread. Merchants who participate in them are supposed to ask whether you want to be charged in dollars or the local currency, but they don’t always do so. And even if they do offer you a choice, they may well avoid mentioning the additional surcharges. With American Express cards, DCC simply isn’t an option. But note that in Spain, many restaurants don’t accept American Express.
Reporting Lost Cards
American Express. 800/528--4800; 336/391111; www.americanexpress.com.
Diners Club. 800/234--6377; 303/799--1504; www.dinersclub.com.
MasterCard. 800/627--8372; 636/722--7111; www.mastercard.com.
Visa. 800/8472911; 301/9671096; www.visa.com.
Toll-Free Numbers in Spain
American Express. 900/814500.
Diners Club. 900/801331; 514/877--1577; www.dinersclub.es.
MasterCard. 900/971231; www.mastercard.com/es/particulares/index.html.
Visa. 900/991124; 301/967--1096; www.visaeurope.es.
Currency and Exchange
On January 1, 2002, the European monetary unit, the euro (€), went into circulation in Spain and the other countries that have adopted it (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia). Euro notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros; coins are in denominations of 1 cent (100 cents–-in Spain, centimos–-to the euro), 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 euro, and 2 euros. (€500 notes don’t really circulate. Shops and restaurants won’t accept them, and they tend to carry a whiff of the underground economy; many shops will refuse to handle €200 notes as well.) All coins have one side with the value of the euro on it; the other side has each country’s own national symbol. Banknotes are the same for all European Union countries. At this writing exchange rates were U.S. $1.12, U.K. £0.74, Australian $1.60, Canadian $1.50, New Zealand $1.77, and 15.71 South African rands to the euro.
Even if a currency-exchange booth has a sign promising no commission, there’s going to be a fee. You’re better off getting foreign currency at an ATM.
Avoid taking traveler’s checks to Barcelona, because few vendors accept them.