By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in Barcelona?

Do you need a car in Barcelona > Should you rent a car in Barcelona Spain > Barcelona ( BCN ) Do you need a car in Barcelona? Is it worth hiring a car in Barcelona? Should you rent a car in Barcelona?

Barcelona Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]


  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Barcelona but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]



  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in Barcelona during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]



  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.

Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 1461 - of which 65 have free parking. [full notes - parking]



  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Barcelona, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

Barcelona public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.


  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Barcelona


  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.


  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Barcelona good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in Barcelona because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Barcelona. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.


  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in Barcelona, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - Barcelona Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Barcelona", "is it worth hiring a car in Barcelona", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in Barcelona?

Do you need a car in Barcelona?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  Barcelona " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Barcelona?

Is it worth hiring a car in Barcelona?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  Barcelona" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in Barcelona?

Should you rent a car in Barcelona?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  Barcelona, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Barcelona compares with other destinations in  Spain or  Europe.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in Barcelona?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.


Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.


  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

Is it worth renting a car in Barcelona if I am a solo / budget traveller?

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in Barcelona for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in Barcelona for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in Barcelona if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in Barcelona if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in Barcelona if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to Barcelona, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

Should I hire a car in Barcelona if I prefer not to drive?

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in Barcelona if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in Barcelona if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in Barcelona, or are there good reasons not to?

Do you even think of it as Car-celona? Even if many people will suggest that there is anything but a need to get a car here, there are a few situations in which a rental car in Barcelona could still prove useful:

Do you need a car in Barcelona? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Barcelona?", this often breaks down to two key questions:
  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Barcelona? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?
Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Barcelona as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Barcelona?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Why should you rent a car in Barcelona?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip? In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Barcelona?
  • Green Catalonia — once you get beyond the dismal Barcelona suburbs, you are out into the verdant landscape of Catalonia. As with anywhere, the car will give you much more freedom to explore.
  • Skiing — Barcelona is a major gateway to the Pyrenees. A hire car will give you a bit more flexibility compared to a resort transfer bus, but it certainly isn’t an absolute need.
  • Andorra — the tiny principality of Andorra isn’t just a cheap ski resort or a duty-free haven! The scenery is superb in summer too, but the transport links are not. A hire car will give you the flexibility to drive around Andorra, choosing a different route in and out. Make sure you fill your petrol tanks there too!
  • Full Dali experience — to get the most out of a visit to Dali’s homeland (the Dali triangle), you can also visit the fishing port of Cadaques and the castle at Pubol. This is much, much easier to do with a car.
  • Beaches — although there are excellent beaches in the city of Barcelona itself, a car will give you much more access to beaches on both the Costa Daurada (west) and the Costa Brava (east).
[whynot2 num=”26″]

Barcelona without a car – within the city

Barcelona has it all — the city of Barcelona really is Europe’s great all-rounder, with something for everyone! You’ll have plenty to do, whether your interest lies in food, football, music, art, architecture, or all of the above. There is just so much to see within the limits of the city that many visitors don’t even think about getting out beyond.

Saving money by not hiring a car in Barcelona!

  • Spend as long as you want: There is simply so much to see and do, that you can spend several days, or even a week here, without wanting to leave town. This is a boast that few other European cities can make.
  • Excellent public transport — Barcelona has one of Spain’s best metro systems, rivalled only by the capital Madrid. This is supplemented by trams, frequent bus services on the main arterial routes, and a good network of suburban train services. All that is missing is a good central train station — Barcelona Sants, from where AVE trains depart from Madrid, is dark and dingy!
  • Great walking city: Barcelona has seen huge improvements in its walking environment in recent years. A number of wide diagonal avenues have been closed off to motorised traffic. This network is set to expand further as the city develops a series of  local street “clusters”.
  • Cycling city – Barcelona is also improving a great deal as a cycling city. Most wide avenues have dedicated cycle paths. Many former through streets have now been closed off to through traffic.

Other reasons to visit Barcelona without a car

  • Cable cars and funiculars — Barcelona has a variety of cable cars and funicular railways which supplement exploration on foot. You can always take especially  a ride to the top and walk down.
  • Barcelona’s answer to Cape Town – Montserrat: An excellent day (repeat – make a full day of it) excursion to make from Barcelona is the monastery of Montserrat. This is easily done by train, combined with a cable car to the top and funicular railways around the site / back down again. There is little point in driving there.
  • City of Beaches — in Barcelona, you are never far from the beach. There are several metro / FCG lines which will take you straight there, but mEtro line 4 is particularly useful.
  • Architecture — virtually everywhere you look within the city of Barcelona itself (this doesn’t apply to the dreadful suburbs), you will see stunning architecture. This is especially so in the Eixample district, best known for its Gaudi houses. Barcelona also has plenty of examples of modern architecture including prominent buildings by leading architects such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry. Just don’t get as absorbed in it as Gaudi did, or you will end up being hit by a tram!

Barcelona without a car – beyond the city

  • Figueras — Salvador Dali’s hometown of Figueras can easily be visited by train from Barcelona. The city of Girona can also be included on the same trip. The other two sites as part of the ‘Dali triangle’ are not as impressive as the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueras. They can still be reached by bus with a bit of planning (but it’s more convenient to have a hire car for this).
  • Nuria Valley — the railway line to Nuria is recognised as one of the most scenic in Spain.  It is certainly an easy way to explore the great scenery outside Barcelona itself without needing to bother with a hire car.
  • Two city tour — a trip to Barcelona can easily be combined with a visit to one of Spain’s other great cities, especially Madrid or Valencia. Either can be reached by train in under three hours. It should be reasonably easy to book an outward flight to Barcelona and a return through Madrid or Valencia from many parts of Europe. However, there is more than enough in and around Barcelona without needing to venture to other places.

Barcelona without a car – practicalities

  • Parking costs — if you bring a rental car into the city of Barcelona itself, you’re likely to get hit with hefty parking charges (upto €30 per night), whether at your hotel, or in public car parks. Hotels on the edge of the city may have free parking, but they won’t provide such easy access to the city centre. On-street parking is expensive, and rarely available for overnight use.
  • Easy airport rail link — trains are available directly from Barcelona airport into a number of different stations in the centre of Barcelona. If these are not within easy walking distance of your hotel, you can transfer by metro to a stop that is – or take the bus.
  • Car hire cost – if you are used to cheap car hire in places like Malaga, expect to pay a little more in Barcelona. Expect to pay more to pick up a hire car in Barcelona city centre. However, Barcelona is only expensive by Spanish costa standards, not compared to most places in Europe.

James says - a few trip notes:

Barcelona was one of the original reasons for setting up I had heard from a friend who had picked up a hire car at Barcelona airport, driven it to the hotel, kept it in the garage for a week, and then driven it back to the airport.

Now this isn’t just a waste of money on car hire fees, it also means paying needless parking charges. Now, chances are, most people who get a hire car in Barcelona will actually drive it somewhere, but before doing so, we suggest reading our pros and cons. 


Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


What is our final score for Barcelona on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.


Conclusion — there is more than enough to see in and near to Barcelona itself to make it possible to get around without needing a car. 

Even those with itchy feet can still make three excellent excursions by train in different directions – to Montserrat, Figueres and Nuria, without needing to think about hiring a car.

Verdict — no

Would you hire a car in Barcelona?

Have you driven in Barcelona? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Barcelona}? Do you need a car in Barcelona? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *