Catalonia travel advice

Culture tips

Vivian Campbell, from our supplier Cycle Catalan:
“Catalans are very proud of their heritage. Under the Franco regime they were very repressed and a lot of their traditions were banned. So since Spain became a democracy, there’s really been a resurgence of traditions like the sardana dance and the Catalan language. They’re definitely very proud of their heritage which is lovely to see. Under Franco they weren’t allowed to dance the sardana, so every summer, each week in our village we have the sardana. Everyone comes along – children, mums, grannies – and they dance. It’s really nice for people on holiday to see it and participate.”

Language tips

Vivian Campbell, from our supplier Cycle Catalan shares her Catalonia travel advice: “I always suggest learning one or two phrases in Catalan, as they really appreciate that. It doesn’t have to be much – instead of saying “buenos días” you say “bon día”. They really appreciate that, and if you make an effort to speak a little Spanish as well, that goes a long way."
Fiona Smart, from our supplier Mas Pelegri:

Authentic travel tips

“Inland Catalonia is not talked about; the guide books always cover the coast. You don’t even have to go very far – it’s 35 minutes from the beach – but it’s much, much more interesting inland. There are more activities, the people are friendlier, prices are cheaper... You’ll meet people in the villages, all our clients are really happy. I think the Catalans here don’t want to publicise how good it is as they don’t want loads of tourists to spoil it! People haven’t discovered this region. They think of Spain as Benidorm, and then they come here it’s nothing like that at all. It’s much better if people want a more authentic travel experience.”

History tips

"This region is amazing for cycling and hiking – and for outdoorsy people who have other interests. There’s the phallic sculpture park – it’s quite quirky! There are loads of Romanesque churches, Greek and Iberian ruins, then they found remains of prehistoric animals in the ground in Banyoles. Really ancient man was here – there’ s the Neolithic Village Archaeological Park at La Draga where you can see the huts people used to live in. This was pre-cave painting, they had just started working out how to make really simple tools. So people with an interest in archaeology love this are as well."

Accessible travel on the Camino de Santiago

“We are aware of the many obstacles that may be encountered, which prevent many people from completing the route. However, through this initiative we fervently believe that we are offering a viable alternative to people that wish to begin walking, thereby fulfilling the popular saying that there is no single path, but rather every pilgrim makes their own path... There are as many paths as there are pilgrims” – thewayofsaintjamesforall.com

Health & safety in Catalonia

HEALTH

EU residents can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which gives you free emergency treatment at hospitals. The EHIC doesn’t replace travel insurance, which covers non-essential treatment along with emergency repatriation and other costly procedures. Ensure you have comprehensive insurance which covers all the activities you are planning to do. The cool Catalan breeze can be deceptive; be sure to use sun screen, particularly if travelling in Catalonia with kids, and carry plenty of water if hiking or cycling. Many routes do not have convenience stores or restaurants along the way, so snacks are also advised to keep you going.

SAFETY

Take note of the universal emergency number: 112. You can also dial 062 for the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) for mountain rescue services and other accidents. Most of Catalonia is incredibly safe. Parts of Barcelona, however, are less so; tourists may be targeted by pickpockets or muggers, so don’t walk alone at night, and avoid the backstreets; wide avenues turn to unsavoury alleyways very quickly in this city. Carry only the essentials, and leave your passport in your hotel. Public transport, markets, ATMs and even restaurants may be hotspots – thieves follow tourists. Most beaches outside of the popular resort areas are unguarded, although flags are often used to indicate safety. Do not enter the water if there is a red flag, undercurrents can be extremely strong. Keep an eye out for jellyfish as well. The good news is that Catalonia has a huge number of blue flag beaches, so those in Catalonia with kids can be confident of clean water. Tap water is safe to drink in Catalonia, so bring refillable bottles to save money and the environment. The weather is unpredictable and varies greatly from region to region. Keep an eye on the forecast if planning to trek or climb in more mountainous regions, and remember: the extreme heat can be just as dangerous as the cold, snow or fog. Take particular care if hiking around Montserrat – and never stray from the trails into the woodland. Call the London-based Spanish National Tourist Office for safety and weather warnings on 020 7486 8077. Due to the increasing number of climbers and skiers who get into difficulties due to negligence, Catalonia has begun to bill those who do not take adequate precautions and require rescuing. If heading to the mountains for skiing, consult the European Avalanche Warning Services. It is illegal to use a mobile phone when driving in Spain, even if you pull over. Completely hands-free units are permitted.

Our top Catalonia Holiday

Cycling tour in Catalonia for food lovers, Spain

Cycling tour in Catalonia for food lovers, Spain

A taste of Catalonia on a cycle tour

From €1080 to €1290 7 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Catalonia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Catalonia tips from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Catalonia travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday - and the space inside your suitcase.
From a bike you see things you never can from a car - we saw a huge variety of scenery in just a few days.
– Bennet Summers
"We have teenage children and weren't sure if they could cope with a full-on cycling holiday where you go from place to place, so this was perfect because we were based in one place but there were many points to cycle to." – Jane Edwards

"Think carefully about how you travel to Catalonia, next time we will try and cut our travelling time down by flying to Girona instead of Barcelona." – Victoria Doody

"Losing the bike trail didn't mean you were lost or at risk. No matter how far we strayed from the trail, we always made our way back." – Richard Coughlin

"Be in reasonable shape. It says it's easy, and it is if you're able to manage differing terrains and keep at a good pace so you can stop and enjoy the sights." – Beth from Canada
Invest in a cheap snorkelling kit when you're out there. There are several days with opportunities to take a dip. Take the extra day in Cadaqués – Dalí's house is well worth a visit.
– Alison Pope
"Take lots of food and water. You can be cycling for quite some time before coming across any shops, so take a blanket and find somewhere comfortable to have a picnic." – Claire Hermolle

"One disappointment is if you visit art museums, this time of year [winter] you will find them all closed." – Maime Pearcey

"Learn a few words of Catalan. Your efforts will be appreciated and you will be made to feel even more welcome. Remember a lot of places are "tancat dilluns" (closed on Mondays!)" – Alasdair Kenwright

"We needed sun cream and sun hats on first three days and rain hats and waterproofs day five - so be prepared for both!" – Alison Firth
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: Samu] [Sardana: Teresa Grau Ros] [Market: Ajuntament de Vilanove i la Geltru] [Kids on jetty: marimbajlamesa] [Cyclist: Angela Llop] [Cadaques Bay - Dali's house: Robin Taylor]
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