I live in Barcelona and traveled to the US and back multiple times throughout the pandemic.
My biggest piece of advice if you’re planning to make the same trip right now is this: double-check all the latest travel mandates, and then check them again.
The rules are fast evolving, and even amid easing restrictions, it’s important to have all the necessary documents in order ahead of time.
And COVID-19 isn’t the only scenario you should come prepared for. Like with any travel to a foreign country, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Keep reading for my tips on making your trip to Barcelona a safe and successful one.
Traveling to Barcelona during COVID-19
Currently, I find things to be fairly relaxed in the city. You do not need to show proof of vaccination to enter any establishment or when checking into a hotel and masks are no longer required indoors. The government, however, is still evaluating requiring face masks on all public transport.
Before flying to Barcelona (or anywhere in Spain), US citizens must show proof of vaccination (and proof of a booster if it’s been more than nine months since the vaccination) or a COVID-19 recovery certificate. Visit the US Embassy in Spain website for specific details, as requirements may change.
Additionally, all US citizens (regardless of age) traveling from the United States to Spain must complete a Spain Travel Health form: Visit the Spain Travel Health portal or download the SpTH app in Google Play Store or iTunes App Store. Upon completion, a QR code will be generated, which you need to present before boarding your flight from the US (on my multiple trips between the two countries, I had to show it both at check-in and at the gate).
It’s a long, tedious form, taking about 10 minutes to complete, so be sure to do it ahead of time; you’ll need to know the flight number and your seat assignment. I take a screenshot of the QR code to keep handy when it’s scanned at the Barcelona airport, just before baggage claim.
Getting a COVID-19 test in Barcelona for your return flight
As of publishing, a negative antigen test is required no more than one day before traveling by air into the US. There are many testing sites in Barcelona but all require an advance appointment.
I use democratest, which has locations around the city center and the cheapest prices I’ve found: 25 euros for an antigen test. You’ll get the results in an hour (usually less) via email, but you’ll need to get them printed out before going to the airport. You must bring your passport to the appointment.
If it’s a holiday in Catalonia or Spain, many testing centers will be closed. In a pinch, you can schedule an antigen test at the airport,Terminal 1; it’s open from 6 am to 7 pm, even on holidays, and the cost is 30 euros. They will print the results for you.
I recommend booking your appointment well ahead of time to ensure you have a spot; Testing sites can get very busy during peak travel times and in the summer months.
How to stay safe in Barcelona
While there’s very little violent crime in Barcelona, here are my top tips for keeping you and your valuables safe.
Don’t carry important documents on your person when you go out. You don’t need to show your passport or vaccination certificate to enter bars or restaurants, or when you’re paying for items at a store, so leave them at the hotel (preferably locked in the safe). Take a photo of your passport and vaccination records to keep on your phone, just in case.
Bring the right kind of bag or purse and be vigilant. A cross-body bag or purse, preferably with a zipper, or both a zipper and snap, is best for deterring pickpockets. If you have a backpack, position it on the front of your body, especially when you’re in the Metro. Don’t ever hang a bag on the back of a chair; keep it on your person at all times. Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket.
Be smart about your smartphone. Consider buying a cord that tethers your phone to your bag or a lanyard or crossbody phone strap. If you don’t have one of these and are navigating the city using Google Maps, rather than looking at your phone, I suggest switching to the app’s voice navigation function and using earbuds.
Don’t leave valuables unattended on Barcelona’s beaches. Take turns going into the water, or bring a waterproof bag for your valuables.
Avoid certain areas late at night. The famous pedestrian thoroughfare of La Rambla, especially the end closest to the harbor, and the neighborhood of El Raval, just to the west of La Rambla, can become unsavory as the night wears on. Be sure to take a taxi back to your hotel.