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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spain -- After Thoughts & Photo Albums

Here are some random thoughts and tips for those of you who may be interested in visiting Spain in the near future:
  • For the safety reasons, make sure you carry a cross shoulder bag with you. Leave the passport in the hotel or apartment safe.  Bring a copy of your passport for ID check when you use your credit card.
  • When using your credit card, be careful reviewing your receipts.  You have options to pay with USD or EUR. Palau Musica Catalana charged USD on my credit card without being forthcoming about it until I reviewed my receipt many days later. When you are being charged for USD, look out for statement: "Transaction Currency in USD" on your receipt.  The conversion rate may not be as favorable as your credit card company.  The receipt also stated "I accept that I have been offered a choice of currencies for payment.  I accept the conversion rate amount & that the final selected transaction currency is dollar.  I also accept that my choice of currency is final." on the bottom of the receipts. 
  • On the money subject, also be careful about some ATM machines that may not be associated with Banks.  I took out money from one of the ATM machines on Calle Princesa in Barcelona.  The exchange rate and service charge from the local machine was horrible.  Again, take your time, and read the instructions carefully.
  • A good map is essential to navigate in Barcelona, especially in the old city.  It is also worth taking walking tours offered by the tourism information center to save you time and energy trying to find the narrow small streets. Time Out travel guide has decent maps in the back.  It did not seem to be easy to buy maps in Barcelona as my travel partners D and E had a hard time finding them.
  • For people who may be interested in getting a local Sim card, it is probably better to get a Sim card from larger cellphone network carrier for better connections.
  • For those of you who are debating between apartment rental and hotels, I would suggest that you only rent an apartment if you speak the language, plan on staying in the city for a longer time, and do diligent work preparing for the trip. Otherwise, get a hotel room. 
  • Visit food markets. Better yet, eat at one of the small eateries inside the food market.  It is a unique experience, and you will love it.  While we are on the food subject, do yourself a favor and forget about diet or healthy eating.  Enjoy the food and alcohol. Wine and beer are really cheap in restaurants in Spain compared to the U.S. 
  • Last but not least, a big shout out to D, E, H, and the lovely couple we met on Montjuic.  Without H, the trip would not be possible.  Without D and E, the trip would not nearly be as much fun as it was.  Without the couple, who knows, we could still be on the mountain trying to find our way down.   

8.4 - 8. 6 Barcelona 8.7 -- Gaudi day 8.8 - 8.10 Barcelona
8.10 - 8.13 Madrid 8.12 Segovia  

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