Coming from Texas, I have always been infatuated with subways. After living in the Washington, DC Beltway, NOT depending on a car became doable in my own mind. So not surprisingly we LOVE the Metro here in Barcelona. It is EASY – designed like most subway systems with the direction determined by looking at the last stations at each end of the train line you are needing to use. It is VERY affordable at 1 euro, or less if you buy a mult-fare ticket, and no extra charge when you transfer. The wait times are rarely longer than 5 minutes, unless there is a strike when you might have to wait about 10 minutes.
To make YOUR use of the Metro even easier, here are some of its idiosyncrasies – i.e. the mistakes WE made – that would have been helpful to know.
Each line is numbered but for most people they are easier to identify by their color. The GREEN serves the majority of the city center and the tourist areas. Its direction is generally east-west. The YELLOW runs parallel and just north of the Green line running from the west through the heart of the city center – Ciutat Vella – to Barceloneta and most of the beaches. The RED runs north-south through Plaza Catalunya and Plaza Espana. A visit to La Sagrada Familia will require a transfer to the PURPLE.
THE STREET ENTRANCES/EXITS
There may be one or two for each station. If more than one they may be on opposite sides of the street or separated by a block. When exiting the turnstiles (on rare occasions you made need to use your ticket to exit) there is often a sign to help you find the correct exit, usually the name of the street you need. Refer to the maps at the platform which show the exits (see below.)
Should be easy, right? Well with updates and replacements over the years, they are not all the same. Most are “right-handed” but some are left-sided insertions.
I wasted money reinserting the ticket because the turnstile was “stuck” but I was on the wrong side. It may act stuck if you try to go through before the ticket is spit out again. Sometimes there are directional arrows on top that light up when you can proceed. The ticket reader tells you how many rides you have left with a multifare pass.
If it says “TITOL” it is the last ride, but keep it until you emerge because metro security does random checks of tickets using handheld scanners. Check the back of your multi-fare ticket to see how many rides you have taken (if used up the last stamp also says “TITOL”.)
The platforms at each station provide maps of the streets above with the station(s) and their exits, as well as a general metro map. The station maps can be particularly helpful if you are transferring to another line. There may be multiple lines so prepare yourself for entering a maze when you leave the platform. Before leaving for a transfer make sure you determine the line you want AND the end station of the direction of your destination. Also if you are just going out to the street, above there will be signs with an arrow and the street name, one pointing to each exit “sortida” when there is more than one. Similarly there are directional arrows and the color and line number if you are transferring.
The doors DON’T open automatically. There is either a lever to turn, or a button that lights up when you CAN open them. They do close automatically. Often someone else will have already opened them.
Inside there will be air-conditioning, greatly appreciated in the summer as the stations can be very warm. Seating is along the sides and it tends to be mostly “standing room only.” Be particularly careful when it is very crowded (also in the stations) as this is when you can be pickpocketed. The “distract and bump” technique is very popular but unnecessary when you are packed in like bocarrones.
To know on which side of the car the doors will open, there are lighted red arrows that help anticipate the side where the next station will be. At a few stations both sides will open.
Above most of the doors is a map of the line on which you are riding. Many have lights to show where it has been, the current station, and the next stop (blinking.)
At the stations there may be a similar sign with the WHITE part being the previous stations and the COLOR being where it is headed.
The Metro is now celebrating its 90th anniversary. There are historic pictures posted inside the cars, some of which are painted to look like the coaches used way back when. Hopefully, these tips will help you love and appreciate the Metro as much as we do.