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Currency

The euro (€) is the single European currency. Exchange rates of participating countries are locked into the common currency, fluctuating against the dollar. Unfortunately for U.K and U.S. visitors, in the last couple of years the euro has gone from basically a one-to-one exchange rate with the dollar to a much stronger position.

Spain is no longer a budget destination and Barcelona itself is often quoted as being the most expensive city in the country. Compared to other major European cities such as London or Paris, however, it can still be a bargain, but if you're not used to big-city prices, you could have a bit of shock.

Reflecting a modern, cosmopolitan city that has to cater to all budgets, you can go up- or down-market in your choice of dining and accommodations. Often the most memorable experience is not dependent on the price tag. Staying away from the tourist traps and seeking out family-run restaurants will make you inclined to hand over your credit card with a smile when the check comes. In a climate of stiff competition (especially from the holiday apartment sector), hotels are usually clean and comfortable. Trains are very reasonably priced, fast, and on time, and most service personnel treat you with respect. And once you move beyond Barcelona into the rural areas you will find that the price of hotels and restaurants drops noticeably.

In Spain, prices for children aged 6 to 17 are often lower than for adults. Entrance fees for children under 6 are generally waived.

This guide lists exact prices in the local currency. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency-exchange website such as www.xe.com/ucc or www.oanda.com/convert/classic to check up-to-the-minute rates.

Exchange rates may be more favorable when you arrive in Barcelona but it's helpful to have at least some money in local currency when you get there. Currency and traveler's checks can be changed at all the local airports.

When you get to Barcelona, it's best to exchange currency or traveler's checks at a bank, not a cambio (exchange bureau), hotel, or shop as rates and commission fees are high. Most Barcelona hotels accept major credit and debit cards.

ATMs

The easiest and best way to get cash while away from home is from ATMs (automated teller machines), also called "cashpoints."

Maestro (www.mastercard.com) and Visa (www.visa.com) both have credit card networks spanning the globe; look on the back of your bank card to see which network you're on and check online for ATM locations in Barcelona. Be sure you know your PIN and daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Most banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM, and that fee is higher for international transactions than for domestic ones. In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For international withdrawal fees, ask your bank.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are the safest way to carry money. They provide a record of all your expenses, and offer relatively good exchange rates. You can get cash advances on your credit cards at banks or ATMs, provided you know your PIN. You'll pay interest from the moment of withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bill on time.

Check with your credit or debit card issuer to see what fees will be charged for overseas transactions. Recent reform legislation in the U.S., for example, has curbed some exploitative lending practices. But many banks have responded by increasing fees in other areas, including fees for customers who use credit and debit cards while out of the country. Fees can amount to 3% or more of the purchase price. Check before departing to avoid any surprise charges on your statement.

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards are all widely accepted in Spain.

Traveler's Checks

Traveler's checks are not now widely used but are accepted in Barcelona at banks and travel agencies. Buy them from your bank before you leave home.

They are offered in various denominations, and you'll pay a service charge of between 1% and 4%.

American Express, MasterCard, Thomas Cook, and Visa offer foreign currency traveler's checks, which are useful if you're traveling to the euro zone; they're accepted at locations where dollar checks are not.

If you carry traveler's checks, keep a record of their serial numbers separate from your checks in the event that these are stolen or lost. You'll get a refund faster if you know the numbers.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.