I just got back from my first time traveling to Europe and I wanted to share some information I found and learned along the way so hopefully I can help anyone else who has mini freak out about travel details before a trip like I do. Let’s begin with my first worry, money:
One thing I figured out was that I could get the best deal on exchanging money by doing it through my bank (Bank of America) in advance. You can order the money online and you just pay $7.50 for a delivery fee which was cheaper than exchanging it through AAA. I got out $400 (360 Euros) and it was a good amount for the 9 days cash-wise (I also used my credit card without any issues, you just have to pay an exchange rate % when you do this on top of the cost of what you buy). It was really useful to have Euros as soon as I landed and not to have to worry about where to find an ATM or paying crazy fees at the currency exchange places at the airport. If you’ve never used Euros (which kind of look like Monopoly money BTW) it’s good to know that 1€ and 2€ are coins so make sure you bring a wallet that can handle a lot of change.
I also let my bank and all my credit card companies know (online) that I would be out of the country so I wouldn’t have any holds placed on my account. In Europe they use the chip + pin technology which is starting to be more widely used in the US as well. Molly’s card did not have a chip, but she was able to swipe it everywhere without an issue. Your bank should have an international partner bank as well which you can find on the website and that will let you know which ATM to use. For example for Bank of America it’s BNP Paribas and there were plenty of ATMs in Paris (I wasn’t looking for them in Barcelona). Just a heads up you can’t add a tip on to a credit card charge like you can in the US. The gratuity is mostly included, but according to the internet you also just sort of round up the price and leave a few Euro, so this you will need a little cash for.
My next point of stress was how was I going to get from the airport to this small town outside of it when no one understands me when I attempt to speak the little Spanish I know??
Getting from the Barcelona Airport to Sitges, Spain
Sitges (pronounced “SEED-juhs”) is a stunning and super LGBT friendly little beach town that’s 30 minutes outside of Barcelona which is sometimes referred to as the Saint-Tropez of Spain. It is a solid 60-80€ cab drive. There is currently no Uber available in Barcelona either. I have a crippling fear of facing public transportation alone especially when the instructions are “take the train from the airport to Barcelona, then get on another train going the opposite way to go to Sitges and try not to get robbed on the train because that’s kind of an issue.” Luckily I found this site which told me about the Monbus which was a very easy and affordable option. To catch the Monbus you must be at Terminal 1, go outside and downstairs to where all the buses are, and then it will come in the “#7-11 bus” section. You can buy your ticket on the bus and it’s ~8 Euro. The bus only has 1 stop and it’s the “Sitges City Center” which does not look much like a city center because Sitges is a small town. Once you get off the bus head through the tunnel and on the other side of the tunnel there are cabs on the right. I was staying at Hotel Estela which is a little over a mile so about a 20 minute walk which I would not recommend doing with your luggage when you have just arrived. The 7€ cab ride is worth it.
Arriving in Sitges
Where I Stayed: Hotel Estela aka Hotel del Arte
The Hotel Estela was really amazing. It’s an art hotel full of paintings and sculptures and every room is uniquely designed by a different artist. At ~$100 a night it’s a real steal. It has an incredibly gorgeous view of the Balearic Sea (part of the Mediterranean Sea) and you can walk to all kinds of great restaurants and beaches. This was the view from my hotel room:
Here’s some of the art from the hotel. I loved that right when I walked in I saw a huge painting of Linda Evans (Krystal Carrington from Dynasty) because I had JUST watched the first episode of Dynasty on Amazon Prime:
The staff at this hotel all spoke English and were super friendly and helpful. I would absolutely stay here again. The Iris restaurant was DELICIOUS as well (I will post more about that soon) the breakfast buffet was to DIE FOR. I have many more posts coming up about my trip, but I just wanted to give a short intro and provide some hopefully helpful info to anyone who might be traveling to this gorgeous city for the first time.