Here are 10 tips on booking an apartment for a vacation in Barcelona, and also some general holiday advice which I would strongly recommend to anyone considering booking a short-term apartment rental. In no particular order, here are my top ten tips for checking that your apartment will not disappoint:
1. Carefully study the photographs and dimensions of the apartment you want to choose.
Admire the photographs of your accommodation by all means, but also check the measurements of the rooms. Many pictures are taken with special lenses which appear to magnify the room, leading you to assume the space is larger than it really is.
2. The selection of the neighborhood is critically important..
The location of your apartment rental is likely to play a large role in whether or not you enjoy your stay in Barcelona. It’s important to choose carefully … and wisely. And your choice should be based on your individual likes and dislikes. For example:
If you’re interested in exploring historic Barcelona, it makes perfect sense for you to select an apartment in any one of the five districts of Ciutat Vella (old city). Districts such as Barrio Gotico, El Borne and Raval are alive with activity during the day and in the evenings, as well. Famed for their Gothic architecture, each of these neighborhoods is dynamic, always-crowded with people … and packed with a broad range of fun and exciting entertainment options.
Prefer first-class accommodations away from the crowds and the tourists? Consider Eixample, particularly the section of this fine neighborhood that is closest to the center of Barcelona. There you will find easy access to public transportation (metro, buses and even surprisingly affordable taxis) that can get you to Plaza Cataluna and Las Ramblas in just a few minutes. In fact, the trip is even short enough for those who prefer walking.
Beach lovers would be wise to consider a stay in Vila Olimpica, Barceloneta or even Poble Nou. Each of these neighborhoods will enable you to enjoy the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and bright sunshine at such relatively tranquil beaches as Nova Icaria and Bogatell. A word of caution: Barceloneta is a public beach and often overcrowded in summer.
If you’re coming to Barcelona on a business trip, you should look no further for your apartment rental than Sants or Les Corts. Each of these neighborhoods is ideally-suited for business travelers because both are located near the Fira Barcelona Fair and the Congress Centre. This is Barcelona’s business hub and public transportation is readily available. In fact, you can get on the metro and, after a short ride, get off at Plaza Espana, which is right at the doorstep, literally, of the Fira Barcelona Fair.
3. What to do if you are traveling with senior citizens or children.
If you have children, seniors, or those with any kind of mobility problem, check that your accommodation has an elevator. Remember, many of the buildings here are 100-200 years old, and set very closely together. As a result, entranceways can often be quite narrow and up a flight of steps, and inside there may well be no elevator, so check this first. It’s too late to find this out when you get there.
4. Air conditioning … a “must-have” for every vacation and business traveler.
If you are booking a vacation in Barcelona for the summer period, remember that it is almost always hot and humid. For this reason, and for your comfort, check that your accommodation has adequate air conditioning. If not, you are likely to be uncomfortable at night, and this could spoil your holiday.
5. What you need to know about check-ins and check-outs.
Make sure you find out what the check in and checking out times are. Hotels usually have a fixed time for this, but apartments can vary quite a bit. Checkout times can often be 11 am, although if you have a late flight, facilities for storing your luggage can be arranged. Checking in times can vary from between 2 pm and 4 pm.
6. Make sure you know about additional charges – in advance
When booking online you’ll usually assume that all charges are included in the price, but make sure you find out about any additional charges, such as late checking in or checking out surcharges. Many people take advantage of the low-cost flights to Barcelona, but as these often arrive late at night, people can find themselves facing a €20-€40 surcharge for collecting keys between 10 pm and 8 am. Remember, apartment lets don’t usually have a receptionist.
7. Plan your trip when there are no fairs, conferences or conventions.
Avoid any times when there are major fairs or conferences in Barcelona. The city of Barcelona is well known throughout the world for holding some of the biggest trade fairs and conferences in Europe, and at these times anything up to three million extra visitors come flooding in to the city. Not only does this add to the crowds, but also accommodation can be difficult to find. In addition, prices usually increase at these times, which means that booking a vacation in Barcelona can cost a good deal more than you might otherwise expect to pay.
8. Discuss “special requirements” with your rental provider while you are planning your trip.
Think about any special requirements which you may have, and make sure that you discuss these with the rental provider well in advance. For example, if you are traveling with a very young child, and will need things such as a cot or crib, a high chair and so forth, then you will need to speak with the agency beforehand. Usually such facilities can be provided, but don’t assume that they will be left available in the property unless you ask for them.
9. Look for special offers and discounts.
Check out any special offers or discounts which might be available. If you can be at all flexible with your holiday dates, and aren’t tied to the usual weekend-to-weekend times, then have a look at the special rates and discounts which agencies can usually offer. You might be surprised to discover that very often savings of between 20%-40% aren’t unusual.
10. Make sure you choose the apartment rental agency carefully.
Most agencies are highly reputable, but it always pays to do a little homework first, rather than rushing in to making a booking as you are caught up in the excitement of the whole experience. Look at their website and ask yourself how well laid out it is, how helpful, and how clear the images are. Can you find the contact details easily? Why not send them an email with a few questions, and see how quickly they respond, and how helpful their advice is?
Remember, any internet booking agency based in Spain must be legally registered, which will mean that they will be using the letters S.L. or S.A with the business name, as well as including legal information on the website. If this isn’t apparent, then you might be best looking elsewhere.
It’s always good advice to try to obtain some testimonials about either the letting agency or the apartment itself. The agency might be able to provide these on request if they are not already included on the website, but don’t forget to use independent review sites which are increasingly popular on the web.
Bearing these 10 tips in mind will almost certainly help to ensure that booking your holiday in Barcelona is thoroughly enjoyable, and your apartment is comfortable, suitable and just what you were expecting.