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5 Budgeting Tips for Students Studying Abroad in Barcelona

April 09, 2024
by Michaela Smith

Barcelona on a Budget: 5 Tips for First-Generation Students Studying Abroad in Barcelona 

Studying abroad can come with an expensive and unattainable reputation. Between the ideas of international travel every weekend to eating out at local restaurants daily, this can be a daunting financial burden to take on for many prospective students.  

As a first-generation and low-income college student, studying abroad was often doubtful for me due to this price tag. However, with these certain tips and tricks I discovered in my time studying abroad in Spain, thus far, spending a semester in Barcelona has been both enriching and maintainable. Take advantage of the following aspects of living in Barcelona to save your money and still make the most of your study abroad experience!  

1. Public Transportation 

Barcelona has an accessible and affordable public transportation system. Although study abroad students may be familiar with calling an Uber to get from spot to spot, getting out of this habit will be more convenient and beneficial for your wallet. Barcelona’s metro runs until midnight or 2 a.m. depending on the night of the week, with buses running throughout the night past the metro’s closing time. Beyond these options, overground trams operate in certain neighborhoods, and the A1 or A2 buses connect busy zones to the airport—this is extremely handy for weekend trips!  

One ride on the metro currently costs just a bit over 2 euros, but CEA CAPA students studying abroad in Barcelona are strongly encouraged to request their T-Jove public transportation card through T-Mobilitat. This card for young travelers costs around 50 euros and is a 90-day unlimited pass for all public transportation options, including metro, bus, tram, and more! Request this option online with your Passport number and you can mail to the CEA CAPA Study Center, or request in person at select metro stations. (Editor’s note: If you’re studying abroad in Barcelona with us, please wait for instructions from CEA CAPA before requesting your card!)  

This investment in getting around the city for the entirety of your study abroad stay is an absolute must and will save you lots of money on taxis!  

A study abroad student holding a metal bar

Riding the Metro to go meet friends for dinner!  

2. Free Museum Days 

Visiting museums is an excellent way to submerge yourself in your host culture. Learning the history of your new home away from home is important and strongly recommended, but the admission fees for popular museums can be deterring! In Barcelona, there are luckily many opportunities for free or discounted entry into popular museums and touristy sites for your first few weeks in Spain.  

The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) 

The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) is an impressive art collection near Placa de Espanya. This art museum exists within a castle and is breathtaking from the outside, with its location atop a bit of elevation adding stunning views of the city beyond art installations. Every day after 3 p.m., along with the first Sunday of each month, entry to the MNAC is free!  

Museu Picasso 

If you’re a lover of iconic art, Museu Picasso is must-see. Like the MNAC, visiting this collection of Pablo Picasso’s work is cost-free on the first Sunday of each month and on Thursdays from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.  

Museu d'Història de Barcelona (MUHBA) 

Museu d'Història de Barcelona (MUHBA) is an amazing place to visit to familiarize yourself with the historical Roman presence in Barcelona. This historical museum of Barcelona offers free admission all day on every first Sunday of the month, and after 3 p.m. on every other Sunday.  

A group of people in a tour group near a building

Completely free location to view what is left of columns in Roman Barcino! 

If you’re not a museum-goer and enjoy exploring every nook of your host city, uncovering public sites as a free means of sightseeing is always accessible in Barcelona. There are historical monuments and significant buildings in every inch of this rich city. Beyond these museums and sites, keeping your student visa or student ID on you can offer you special discounts and offers all around Barcelona!  

A tree in a courtyard

Exploring the Gothic Quarter—you never know what art you may find! 

3. Menú del Día 

Enjoying food abroad in Barcelona is very enticing during your study abroad stay. Menú del día, translated to “Menu of the day” in English, is a set menu many restaurants offer. These set menus are indulged on during Spain’s largest meal of the day, lunch! Along with a set menu, this dining option has a solidified price for the entire multiple course meal that typically ranges around 15 euro.  

Chalkboards with the meal options are often placed outside of restaurants around lunchtime with the cost of the menu of the day also displayed. This affordable option to dine at a local spot to enjoy Spanish cuisine is more than a meal—it’s a cultural experience that you won't forget!  

A chalkboard with writing on it

An example of Menú del día near Arc de Triomf.  

4. Secondhand Shopping 

If you settle into Barcelona and realize that you may have under packed and are itching for a shop, resist the temptation to head into popular chain stores such as Zara or Mango. In just a 3-minute walk from the CEA CAPA Study Center, you can find yourself surrounded by secondhand stores called Humana. These thrift shops are an affordable and sustainable option for upgrading your wardrobe, and you may even come across some Spanish brands you hadn’t encountered before. These vintage or secondhand clothing shops are also amazing options for donating clothing, if necessary, towards the end of your semester in Barcelona!  

5. Weekend Trips within Catalonia/Spain  

A massive aspect of study abroad culture is weekend trips, and being in Barcelona is no different. Participating in this travel craze and seeing beyond your host city of Barcelona can be made affordable and accessible by prioritizing weekend trips within the region of Catalonia and the country of Spain as a whole! Travel by train or bus to surrounding cities such as Sitges and Valencia rather than booking expensive flights to other countries. Familiarizing yourself with your host region can be enriching and makes for a better feeling of home during your stay in the beautiful city of Barcelona. 

A cathedral with towers and people walking around

Views from Madrid—an easy train ride from Barcelona.

Key Takeaways 

While adjusting to a semester abroad in a foreign country, financial wellness shouldn’t be an added stressor. With these thrifty tips & tricks to make your time in Barcelona, Spain, more affordable, you can get acclimated to your host country for a more attractive price! 

Michaela Smith is the Content Creator - Blogger in Barcelona, Spain, and is currently studying at Syracuse University.
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