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Saving on Your Hotel Room

The rack rate is the maximum rate a hotel charges for a room. Hardly anybody pays rack rates and, with the exception of smaller B&Bs, you can usually pay quite a bit less than the rates shown in the listings. If you come to Barcelona during the very hot months of July and August (in reality, the city's "low season") you'll usually pick up bargains in the higher-priced hotels, at lower rates than those we officially list here. Check online with the hotel, or visit the booking websites www.venere.com, www.fastbooking.com, and www.hotelsonline.com, which have some of the most competitive rates available. High-price times in Barcelona are Easter and New Year, so avoid those periods if you can.

Here's how price categories are organized:

  • Very expensive, 300€ and up
  • Expensive, 200€ to 299€
  • Moderate, 100€ to 199€
  • Inexpensive, under 100€

These are high-season prices with no discounts applied. Always peruse the category above your target price -- you might just find the perfect match, especially if you follow the advice below. Note to single travelers: Rates for singles may be available in some of the accommodations listed in this guide -- call the hotel directly for specific rates. To lower the cost of your room:

  • Ask about special rates or other discounts: Always ask whether a cheaper room is available, or whether any special rates apply. You may qualify for corporate, student, military, senior, or other discounts. Find out the hotel policy on children -- do kids stay free in the room or is there a special rate?
  • Dial direct: When booking a room in a chain hotel, you'll often receive a better deal by calling the individual hotel's reservation desk rather than the chain's main number.
  • Book online: Many hotels offer Internet-only discounts, or supply rooms to websites such as Priceline, Hotwire, or Expedia at specially discounted online rates. Shop around. And if you have particular needs -- a quiet room, a room with a view -- call the hotel directly to make your needs known after you've booked online.
  • Remember the law of supply and demand: Resort hotels are most crowded and therefore most expensive on weekends, so discounts are usually available for mid-week stays. Business hotels in downtown locations are busiest during the week, so expect big discounts over the weekend. Many hotels have high-season and low-season prices, and booking the day after high season ends can mean big discounts.
  • Look into group or long-stay discounts: If you come as part of a large group, you should be able to negotiate a bargain rate, since the hotel can then be sure of occupancy in a number of rooms. Likewise, if you're planning a long stay (at least 5 days), you may qualify for a discount. As a general rule, expect 1 night free after a 7-night stay.
  • Avoid excess charges and hidden costs: When you book a room, ask if the hotel charges for parking. Use your own cellphone, pay phones, or prepaid phone cards instead of hotel phones, which have exorbitant charges. And don't be tempted by the room's minibar offerings: Most hotels charge through the nose for water, soda, and snacks. Finally, check out local taxes and service charges, which can increase the cost of a room by 15% or more.
  • Book an apartment: A room with a kitchenette allows you to shop for groceries and cook for yourself. This is a big money-saver for families on long stays.
  • Think about eating options: To save money and enjoy the maximum amount of time eating out, opt for a room-only stay. Alternatively, there's a variety of combined room and meal options, which vary according to the amount of time you want to spend eating in the hotel. They range from bed-and-breakfast (room with breakfast only) to half-board (room, breakfast, and one meal, usually dinner) or full-board (room, breakfast, lunch, and dinner). If you choose half-board it's often possible to switch dinner in the hotel for lunch if you decide to eat out.
  • Enroll in frequent-stay programs: These programs are upping the ante lately to win the loyalty of repeat customers. Frequent guests accumulate points or credits to earn free hotel nights, airline miles, in-room amenities, merchandise, tickets to concerts and events, or discounts on sporting facilities. Perks are awarded by many major chain hotels and some have reciprocal arrangements with other hotels, car-rental firms, airlines, and credit card companies to give consumers an additional incentive to repeat business.

Barcelona's Self-Catering Scene

If you're intrigued by the cute-looking apartment blocks in the Ciutat Vella with their curved-beamed ceilings and balconies brimming with ferns, or the tiled-entrance apartments with Art Nouveau facades in L'Eixample, now's your chance to get up close and personal. Wander around the Barri Gòtic these days, and many of the apartments are available for rent at reasonable prices, enabling visitors to get a taste of what it's like to live in the city, shop in its markets, cook its food, and make merry over glasses of wine around the dinner table.

There's no shortage of properties you can rent. Two agencies that offer rentals in Barcelona are Visit Barcelona (www.visit-bcn.com), which has many Barri Gòtic properties for rent, and Friendly Rentals (www.friendlyrentals.com), which is a bit pricier.

If you're looking for something cultural and unconventional, one of the most interesting of these is La Casa de les Lletres (House of Letters; tel. 93-226-37-30, reservations 93-319-37-23; www.cru2001.com), with themed apartments paying homage to writers George Orwell and Catalan journalist and foodie Josep Pla. Accommodations mix state-of-the-art facilities with an intellectual bohemian vibe. Poetry and prose are literally written on the walls. Situated in an elegant town house on the handsome Plaça Antonio López, the location couldn't be better, just minutes from Barceloneta and the Barri Gòtic. The nearby Casa de l'Argent, run by the same people, offers similar accommodations.

More basic apartments are found at www.nivellmar.net, which offers seaside lets -- no more than 200m (660 feet) from the beach -- all the way from Barceloneta to Poble Nou. The places on their books are functional rather than beautiful, but are well decorated, clean, and fairly priced. They are ideal for young travelers, or families with kids who want to be close to the sea. Soho Rooms (tel. 63-008-82-44; www.sohoroomsbcn.com) rents tiny but atmospheric studios in a traditional Barri Gòtic building located in a narrow alley a short walk from the port.

For character apartments that won't break the bank, check out www.visit-bcn.com, which offers a wide range of different apartments, from classic Barri Gòtic town houses -- such as the lovely Dos Amigos in the heart of the Old City, with its gorgeous tiles, warm paintwork, and small terrace -- to loft-style apartments.

You can also rent a casa rural (country cottage) in the mountains or wooded valleys of the Catalan countryside around Barcelona. This provides a relaxing break from the stimulations of the big city and gives you a taste of rural life in Catalonia. Check www.casasruralesbarcelona.com for more information.

House-Swapping

House-swapping is becoming popular: You stay in their place, they stay in yours, and you both get an authentic and personal view of the area. Try HomeLink International (www.homelink.org), the largest and oldest home-swapping organization, founded in 1952, with more than 11,000 listings worldwide. It has a number of apartments available for exchange in Barcelona. You could also check the corresponding Spanish website, www.spainlink.net. HomeExchange.com and Intervac.com are also reliable. There are house swaps on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org), too, although the offerings cannot be vetted or vouched for. Swap at your own risk.

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.