Barcelona, like most metropolitan areas everywhere in the world, provides locals and tourists alike with excellent bus service. There are numerous bus lines and bus routes that cover virtually every part of the city.
The bus system truly is outstanding. It gives tourists a practical way to get to locations and areas that are far from the center of town and makes interesting sights, such as Park Guell, Museu Nacional d’Art de Cataluna, Anella Olimpica and others much more easily accessible.
Barcelona’s buses are all single-decker vehicles painted in bright red and air-conditioned for comfort. One thing you have to know about buses in Barcelona is that inspite of being a comfortable method of transport occasional traffic jams, especially during the daily lunch period from 1:30 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. and the evening rush hour, from 6:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M., can slow a bus trip considerably and make it seem tedious.
The good news is that buses are all reasonably-priced and there are so many bus lines available that the entire city is covered by the routes they travel. Buses, with their large windows, are also great for “seeing where you are going” and getting a good, close-up look at the passing neighborhoods as your trip progresses.
Most buses run daily from 5:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., at intervals ranging from 8-17 minutes. That knowledge should make it easy for you to know, in advance, when a bus will reach the bus stop where you are waiting. It’s important to note, however, that the intervals between buses, and when they actually arrive at a bus stop, varies with the different days of the week. Bus service is also generally slower on weekends and holidays.
Some bus routes involve intervals between buses that can range as long as 17-23 minutes, on average. In such cases, you might be better off using the metro, which runs more frequently.
Buses are easy to spot. Barcelona’s buses are all painted in bright red, so it’s easy to spot them and stop them. The routes they travel are prominently displayed in the front of the bus, above the window, in a sign that indicates where the bus trip originated and also its destination - where its route will end.
That should make bus travel somewhat easy … even for tourists. However, if you still need help, you can get free maps that clearly show all of the different routes traveled by buses. The maps are available in tourist offices and at the TMB office, as well.
Multi-trip tickets are also available. If you plan on using buses frequently, you may want to buy a T-10 Pass (good for ten trips) at any subway station. The Pass can be used for subway rides and bus rides, too. In fact, there are many other multi-trip passes available, each designed to meet the specific needs of a local or tourist. These include T-dia, T-familiar, T-mes, T50/30 and many others.
Here’s how to board a bus in Barcelona. It’s actually quite simple. All you have to do is get on the bus through the front door. Immediately upon entering the bus, you will need to validate your ticket by passing it through the white stamping machine located near the driver.
If you board without a ticket, you can buy a single, one-way trip ticket directly from the driver for 1.35 Euros (the price in 2009) and you won’t have to pass it through the stamping machine. When you reach your destination, you can exit the bus through its back doors. Before doing so, however, you will need to alert the driver by pressing a button on the handrail (it is usually red). When you do that, you automatically light up a sign Parada solicitada that lets the driver know that a passenger has requested that the bus stop.
There are also special night buses Nitbus that run from 11:00 P.M. until 4:30 A.M. (after the TMB buses have returned to the depot). Most of these night buses leave from Plaza Cataluña and travel a variety of routes, all of which are clearly visible on the front of the bus, above the windshield. All of these bus routes begin with the letter N. As you might expect, intervals between buses at this time of night usually run about twenty minutes.
Importantly, you can board any Nitbus, using the same pass you have used during the day, such as the T-10, T-dia,Tt-50/30 and more.
Here are some very useful tips:
• It happens very infrequently, but from time to time, tickets are checked. That’s why it’s a good idea to hold on to your bus ticket until you’ve reached your destination.
• Most bus stops do not feature large signs and bus drivers do not announce the names of upcoming bus stops, so it can be difficult to know when you’re reaching your destination. It’s a good idea to be very attentive and alert when you’re on a bus to avoid missing your stop. You can also ask someone to let you know when you need to get off the bus.
• It’s easy to get a bus to stop and pick you up. All you have to do is extend your arm when you see the bus nearing your stop. This will let the driver know that you’re there and waiting to board the bus. Too often, people neglect to alert the driver and the bus passes them without stopping.
• Free transfers to the metro are available to you for up to one and one-quarter hours after you’ve used a bus. You can use the same pass you used for the bus and you can transfer to Ferrocariles Catalanes. The free transfer works the other way, as well.
• Bus stops differ in location, depending on the direction in which you’re traveling. That’s because Barcelona has many one-way streets and it is impossible to have bus stops on either side of the street in the same general location. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re waiting at the right bus stop for the bus you want.
• No Smoking signs are everywhere in Barcelona and smoking is not allowed on buses or anywhere in the metro, including platforms and stations.
• Children under age four can travel free of charge on all buses and in the metro.
Buses may be one of the very best ways to travel – and see all of Barcelona – during your stay in the city. They’re big, red, comfortably air-conditioned, affordable … and they will take you anywhere you want to go.