Car hire in Barcelona: discover Catalonia with these tips and a cheap rental car

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

Barcelona is perhaps the most popular destination for a European city trip.
Enjoy a stroll on the Ramblas, chill in Park Güell and maybe even catch a match of FC Barcelona. There is so much to experience in this Catalan city that you'll always want to return. And then it might be interesting to rent a car in Barcelona, so you can also explore its beautiful surroundings.

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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car rental barcelona

Why choose car hire in Barcelona?

First and foremost, it must be said that if you visit this bustling metropolis for the first time, you don’t really need a car. Unless you stay here for at least a week, you don’t necessarily have to rent a car in Barcelona. The city has a fantastic and user-friendly metro network and often you can just walk in between the most famous sights such as the Ramblas and the Sagrada Familia. In fact, this is one of the greatest assets of the city: that everything is so easily accessible with public transport or by walking. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend to rent a car in Barcelona itself.

But travelers who have already been to Catalonia also know that Barcelona is more than just a city. In the vicinity there is also a lot of fun to experience that is so much easier to reach with a private car than with public transport (if you can even reach it by public transport). Remember that you don’t necessarily have to rent a car for a week in Barcelona, ​​you can also do it for a day or two.

Tip: choose to rent a car at Barcelona airport, so that when you deliver your car you can immediately check in for your flight home.

Finally, you can perfectly combine your city trip to Barcelona with a holiday on the Costa Brava or in Catalonia. The region has many great sights, so you can stay here for (at least!) two weeks.

car hire barcelona

You don’t need a car for downtown Barcelona, but there is so much more to see around the city!

And what does car hire in Barcelona cost?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen cheaper rental cars than in Barcelona. In the summer holidays, the busiest period, you can already rent a car for less than €2.9 per day. If I search through comparative websites such as RentCars, I can already find an economy model for €20 per week. A convertible also doesn’t cost that much compared to other countries. For €338 per week you get a luxurious BMW-1 series convertible. That’s only €48 per day.

Of course you can also book directly with one of the well-known car rental companies (eg Alamo, Sixt, Avis, Budget), but my experience says that they are almost always more expensive.

car rental barcelona holidaycars

Which rental car in Barcelona should I choose?

The Spanish roads are all in excellent condition, so you won’t face the same problems as for example driving around the less touristy islands of the Azores or Morocco. You don’t have to choose a 4×4 or SUV, because such a whopper only costs fuel. Be sensible and invest this money instead in, for example, tapas! If you’re with two, it’s of course very nice to choose a convertible as a rental car in Barcelona (from €340 per week). Cruising along the breathtaking Costa Brava with your open roof is definitely an unforgettable experience. Besides this, it doesn’t really matter what type of car you hire in Barcelona. The cheapest model is often sufficient (and that’s already possible for €20 per week!). I would advice to check if your vehicle has air conditioning in summer, though!

What sights are easier to see with a rental car in Barcelona?

As mentioned earlier, there is a lot to see outside the city and when you choose to rent a car in Barcelona, ​​you can easily combine these sights. You don’t depend on public transport any longer and therefore you won’t lose anymore time. The Spanish metropolis is part of the 580 km long Costa Brava. You can go to the beach in Barcelona too, ​​but if you prefer to escape the crowds, just jump into your car and find yourself a quiet spot.

An hour and a half drive away lies the colorful fishing village of Calella de Palafrugell, which is also the ideal way to escape the hectic (and tourist) city life. If you prefer a bit more culture, the Monastery of Montserrat is the place to be for you. Because of her fantastic location on the rocks, it’s actually a must-visit for everyone who’s in the neighborhood. The history of this monastery goes back as far as the beginning of the eleventh century and is also an important pilgrimage site. In the past, it was reported that miracles were performed here, so if you dream of winning the lottery, a visit can might be a good idea.

monastery of montserrat car hire barcelona

The beautiful monastery of Montserrat. Having a car to reach this attraction is definitely worth it!

Pious holidaymakers will certainly be interested in another interesting monastery, which is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage: the Monasterio de Santa Maria de Poblet. As an additional asset, it also contains the tombs of the kings of Aragon. At just over 100 kilometers from Barcelona is another historic gem: Girona. Força Vella was founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, and in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the city was enlarged with the Medieval Quarter. The Arabs and Jews have also left their mark on Girona, making it look a bit like Palermo (and if you follow this blog a bit, you know that this is one of my favorite cities in the world).

If we go about 100 kilometers to the other side (the west), we end up in the equally beautiful Tarragona. Beach fun is combined here with a UNESCO World Heritage site, of which the magnificent Roman amphitheater is the crown jewel. If you like fresh and delicious fish, then you must visit the adjacent fishing village of El Serrallo as well.

tarragona day tour car barcelona

Tarragona not only has great beaches, the old city center is cozy too!

When you visit Barcelona itself, you’ll probably want to visit the houses of Salvador Dalì. Lovers of this world-famous artist must then also visit Figueres, where you’ll find his museum. Vic is another lovely town that you can easily reach by car from Barcelona. After about an hour’s drive you’ll arrive in this quiet and medieval town that is definitely worth a visit.

Nature lovers are also not forgotten, because for them, visiting the Cap de Creus is an absolute must. This natural beauty inspired, among other things, the previously mentioned Salvador Dalì and it’s also wonderful to swim in the crystal clear turquoise waters of this gorgeous area. Next to all of these beautiful places, you must also consider visiting Besalú, the cathedral of Solsona, Olot, … the list is almost endless. So you definitely won’t get bored here!

barcelona rental car things to do

And of course you can’t forget the many beautiful beaches in the neighborhood of Barcelona!

Traffic rules in Barcelona (and by extension Spain)

The Spaniards drive on the right side of the road, just like in most of Europe. Of course you also need to wear a seat belt when driving in Barcelona. In Spain, there are two kinds of roads: the priority roads (prioridad de paso) and the secondary roads. If you’re on a secondary road, you must always give priority (ceda el paso) to the cars on the priority road. If both vehicles are on an equivalent road, the car from the right always has priority.

Although you wouldn’t say so, using your horn unnecessarily (e.g. to urge the driver in front of you to drive away) is forbidden and can even result in a fine of 60 euros. You may also not honk at night. Instead, instead you should use your lights.

As far as the speed limit is concerned, the following rules apply to normal cars:

  • 50 km/h within the built-up area
  • 90 or 100 km/h outside the built-up area (depending on the road, so always look at the traffic signs)
  • 120 km/h on the motorways

Different rules apply depending on the type of vehicle. Buses, minivans, campers or cars with a trailer must adjust their speed. So make sure to always look at the road signs!

There are also toll roads in Spain, the so-called autopistas indicated with the letter A.

In addition to using your mobile phone behind the steering wheel, the following things can also result in a fine:

  • Eating food
  • Putting on make up
  • Using your GPS while driving
  • Driving without a T-shirt or shoes
  • Driving in the middle lane
  • Listening to loud music
car hire barcelona driving regulations

Avoid fines and stick to the rules in Barcelona.

Parking rules in Barcelona

If you’re going to drive in Barcelona by car, you should read this part so that you won’t get a fine!

In Barcelona there are three different types of parking: free, the green zone and the blue zone.

In the periphery of the city you can park for free, examples are Poble Sec (near Montjuïc) and the Zona Universitària. Because these areas are outside the city, you’ll have to use public transport to reach the center. This is ideal if you drive to/in Barcelona with your own car.

The green zone (Àrea verda) is indicated by (surprise surprise) green lines on the ground. This is once again divided into 22 zones and is especially advantageous for local residents, who barely pay one euro per week if they have the right card. Tourists have to pay more and can’t park here for more than one or two hours. The good news is that you can park here for free from 1 to 31 August because of the summer holidays. Except for the places that are provided for residents. More information can be found on the official website.

Then there is also the blue zone (Àrea Blava) where everyone has to pay to park. Depending on the zone, you may only park there for one to four hours. You have to pay from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 8 pm and in the beach zone or the center this is even extended to the weekend. You buy a parking ticket on the machines on the footpath and if you don’t do this, you’ll get fined 100 euros and maybe even towed away (which also costs at least 150 euros).

If you’re fined with a rental car in Barcelona, ​​the car rental company charges additional administrative costs. These are automatically deducted from your credit card.

car barcelona

A car in Barcelona has its advantages if you want to escape the tourists!

Rent a car in Barcelona online

It is best to rent a car at Barcelona Airport, and doing this online and (well) in advance will be rewarding. Arranging a rental car on the spot always costs more money. RentCars usually offers the best deals (€20 for a week – that’s barely €2.90 per day!!!), but there are many other comparing websites that you can look at too.

The minimum age to rent a car is 21 and for many car rental companies this is even 23 years. Under the age of 25 you’ll often get a surcharge of about 20 euros per day. As far as an international driving license is concerned, the car rental company will not ask for it. However, if you are stopped by the police and you don’t have an international driving license, you will be fined. Legally, you must have an international driving license. People living outside the EU should have an international drivers license, just to make sure.

Choosing for car hire in Barcelona can change your holiday from a (cliché) city trip to Barcelona to an amazing experience around the beautiful region of Catalonia. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you’re looking for something new and surprising as a traveler, it may be an excellent idea to rent a car in Barcelona for just a few days. The surrounding region is so much more than just the Sagrada Familia and it’s the perfect way to get to know the real Catalonia.

car rental barcelona airport

Barcelona and Catalonia is pretty big… A rental car can thus be quite handy!

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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