Barcelona Travelling Report
Now that the European borders are largely open for travel within the EU and most European airlines have restarted their schedules, many of us wonder what travelling feels like with all restrictions, rules and (post-)corona fear around it. Do we need to wear a mask all the time and how does that feel? What has changed during the flight? Is it comfortable to travel to another city?
Our colleague Hanne took her chances and flew from Amsterdam Schiphol to Barcelona El Prat Airport for a first-hand experience of the ‘new’ flying.
First time back at the airport
Hanne: I arrived extra early at the airport since I wasn’t sure how long would be the new process and additional checks. In the airport hall, I noticed that almost everyone was wearing a mask, so I quickly pulled a mask out of my pocket and made my way to departures.
At the check-in desks, I found it surprisingly crowded. Travellers were shuffling in a broad line wearing masks, most of them with a lot of luggage. I walked right past them to the security check as I checked in online the night before and I didn’t have any check-in luggage. When I was about to select my seat, my flight was already fully booked and the only seat left was the one next to the toilets... Great.
Before I reached security, my boarding pass was checked manually. The gates (where you scan your boarding pass usually) were deactivated. Signs showed that wearing a mask is strongly recommended but not mandatory. At the security check, nothing seemed to be different than usual.
Just as always, I needed to separate my liquids and electronic devices and go through a body scanner; except for an extra check of my handbag, nothing special happened. Since I haven't travelled in a while, I forgot to throw out my water bottle. Oops!
I walked around the tax-free shops before boarding - in case you wonder, the shops are all open at Schiphol airport, and it really surprised me how busy it was everywhere. I bought a cup of coffee, just to briefly brief in without the mask. Yes, that’s allowed.
As I’ve mentioned before, the flight was fully booked, and I had to take my seat next to two strangers at the end of the cabin. During the flight, wearing a mask is mandatory. I was surprised that the in-flight magazines were still there. The little snacks from KLM (usually during the flight) were already laying on the seats before boarding. There was no in-flight service provided.
Before taking off, the cabin crew handed us a form to fill in before entering Spain. It asked for personal information, like address, name, passport number and a destination address.
Overall the flight itself was fine for me, except for sitting so close to other passengers. Keeping a 1,5 m distance was just impossible.
What happens when I arrive in Barcelona?
I arrived in Barcelona right on schedule. Most shops at Barcelona El Prat Airport were closed, even though it was right before lunchtime. Inside and outside the airport, wearing a mask was mandatory.
After the security check that went as per usual, I got in line for a small medical check. Incoming passengers were picked up randomly for the temperature checkup through a little hand-machine screening our foreheads. After that, I was free to continue my way out of the airport quickly and easily. That was it!
Can I visit the attractions in Barcelona?
During the weekend, I wandered around the city with a goal to experience it as a typical tourist. It was weird to walk the Ramblas without the usual tourist crowd. Small shops on the Ramblas were still closed, but the big chain stores were mostly open.
Tourist attractions needed an online reservation beforehand but there were barely any lines. If you want to visit a particular attraction, I do recommend to check if it works and book your ticket in advance. For popular attractions like the Sagrada Familia, a reservation should be done a month ahead. I ended up in the Picasso museum on the pre-booked earliest slot at 11:00.
After disinfecting my hands, I followed the fixed walking route through the museum. The audio tours were not available but luckily the signs provided me with enough information.
Can I enjoy food and drinks in a normal way?
No city break is complete without tasting local food and drinks, so I tried to find a lunch cafe. To my surprise, normally popular and crowded tapas bars were quiet. For example, the well-known bar El Xampanyet in La Ribera is usually so busy that you can hardly enter there. Now, I could easily get a table sitting, warmly welcomed by the staff.
At dinner time (which is late in Spain) the outside tables were full of locals so if you have a specific restaurant in mind I strongly recommend making a reservation, otherwise, it will be a problem to find a spot in a good place.
Do you need to wear a mask in Barcelona?
Masks are mandatory in all public indoor places, and since the second week of July, it’s also mandatory to wear it in Catalonia and on the streets. Although I got used to wearing it quicker than I thought, with 30 degrees outside it was getting stuffy and sweaty.
The good news, you don’t need to wear a mask on the beach. On Saturday, I took a train to Sitges on the coastline, but there were more (mostly Spanish) people with the same idea. Everyone wore a mask as it is mandatory on public transport, but we sat quite close to each other.
Is it comfortable to go on a city break?
I felt quite relaxed and comfortable on the streets of Barcelona. Since it was not busy I could enjoy the city without breaking much the social distance and sacrificing the quality of my trip.
What can I say? It’s an interesting time to travel as you will get to know destinations from different perspectives and get a chance to see places that usually are overbooked.
Want to experience this yourself? Check your flight options.