How to Rent a Car in Barcelona

Barcelona, the vibrant capital of Catalonia, is a city that seamlessly blends centuries-old architecture with a modern cosmopolitan flair. As you plan your visit to this Mediterranean gem, you might find yourself debating whether to rely on public transportation or take the wheel and explore at your own pace. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of renting a car in Barcelona, exploring the when, why, and how of this transportation choice.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, I earn a small commission to keep this website going (at no extra cost to you) so its a win-win!

Why Rent a Car in Barcelona?

One of the primary reasons to opt for a rental car is the freedom it offers. Public transportation is undoubtedly efficient within Barcelona, but to venture into the scenic Costa Brava, the rugged Pyrenees, or the historic towns of Girona and Tarragona, having your own wheels is a game-changer. I personally recommend to book a car through

No fixed schedules or crowded buses – just the open road and your itinerary.

Discover Hidden Gems Outside of Barcelona

While Barcelona boasts architectural wonders and vibrant city life, the real gems often lie off the beaten path. You can discover charming villages, secluded beaches, and local eateries that might be missed by those confined to city limits. The whims of exploration are at your fingertips.

Scenic Drives and Panoramic Views Outside of Barcelona

Catalonia’s landscapes are diverse, from coastal vistas in Costa Brava to mountainous terrains in Montserrat. Renting a car opens up the possibility of indulging in scenic drives along the Costa Dorada or conquering the hairpin bends of the Pyrenees. Capture breathtaking views, stop at viewpoints, and create your own personalized adventure.

Costa Brava: This coastal gem (pictured above) is around two hours away from Barcelona. You will navigate through Catalonia’s diverse landscapes, offering a tapestry of experiences only a drive along the Mediterranean can unveil. As you leave the urban pulse of Barcelona behind, the scenic drive unveils charming coastal towns like Tossa de Mar and Calella de Palafrugell, each with its own unique allure.

Montserrat: The most popular day trip out of Barcelona, Montserrat is nestled in the rugged Montserrat mountain range and is only an hour away. A visit to Montserrat, Spain, is a journey into a realm where spirituality meets spectacular landscapes. Montserrat is renowned for its Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat, perched dramatically atop the serrated cliffs. 

Girona: A visit to Girona will take approximately an hour and a half from Barcelona. This medieval gem is often labeled the “Game of Thrones” town. It enchants visitors with its well-preserved historic charm, labyrinthine cobblestone streets, and a kaleidoscope of colorful houses lining the Onyar River. Girona’s iconic landmarks, such as the Cathedral of Saint Mary and the Arab Baths, showcase a rich architectural heritage spanning Romanesque to Gothic styles. Girona is a culinary haven, boasting vibrant markets and eateries celebrated for Catalonian delicacies. Whether strolling through the Jewish Quarter on this small tour, crossing the iconic Eiffel Bridge, or immersing in the vibrant cultural scene, Girona beckons travelers to unravel its stories, savor its flavors, and relish the unique blend of the ancient and the contemporary.

Time Efficiency

For those with a limited schedule, time is of the essence. A rental car ensures that you maximize your time exploring rather than waiting for public transport connections. Whether you’re chasing sunrise on the Costa Brava or sunset in the vineyards of Penedès, every moment becomes yours to savor.

When Renting a Car in Barcelona is a Bad Idea

Renting a car in Barcelona may not be ideal for everyone, depending on the traveler’s preferences and the nature of their trip. Here are some reasons why renting a car in Barcelona might be considered a less favorable option:

Efficient Public Transportation: Barcelona has a comprehensive public transportation system that includes buses, metro lines, trams, and even cable cars. This network is efficient, cost-effective, and allows visitors to explore the city conveniently without the hassle of driving.

Limited Parking: Parking in the city center can be scarce and expensive. Finding a suitable parking spot can be time-consuming, and some accommodations might not offer convenient parking facilities. Additionally, parking fines are not uncommon for those unfamiliar with local regulations.

Urban Congestion: Barcelona is a bustling city with a well-developed public transportation system, including buses and a metro network. Navigating the city streets, which can be narrow and congested, may be challenging and stressful for drivers, especially those unfamiliar with local traffic patterns.

Historic and Pedestrian Areas: Much of Barcelona’s charm lies in its historic and pedestrian-friendly areas, such as the Gothic Quarter and La Rambla. Navigating these areas by car can be impractical and detract from the experience of exploring on foot.

What Does it Cost to Rent a Car in Barcelona

While rates are subject to change, here are some general pricing guidelines:

Economy Cars: On average, economy cars can start from around €20 to €40 per day.

Compact Cars: Rates for compact cars may range from €25 to €60 per day.

Mid-Size Cars: Mid-size cars can be in the range of €35 to €80 per day.

SUVs and Larger Vehicles: Rates for SUVs and larger vehicles might start from €50 and can go up to €120 or more per day.

Luxury Cars: Luxury or premium car rentals will have higher rates, typically starting from €80 to several hundred euros per day.

It’s crucial to carefully read the terms and conditions, including insurance coverage, mileage limitations, and any potential additional charges. Also, consider customer reviews and the reputation of the rental company when making your decision. 

I would recommend the following companies: Hertz, Enterprise, and Budget.

How to Rent a Car in Barcelona

Documents Needed For Renting a Car and Driving Legally in Barcelona

To rent a car and drive legally in Spain, you typically need the following documents:

Driving License: You must have a valid driver’s license. International visitors usually can use their national driving license, provided it’s in Roman characters. If your license is not in Roman characters, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is often recommended as well.

Proof of Identity: Carry a valid passport or national ID card.

Credit Card: Most rental companies require a credit card in the driver’s name for the security deposit. Debit cards may not be accepted or may come with additional conditions. You should always travel with at least one travel rewards credit cards. Here are my favorite travel credit cards.

Age Requirement: The minimum age to rent a car in Spain is typically 21, and drivers under 25 might incur a young drivers surcharge.

Rental Voucher/Booking Confirmation: Have the rental voucher or booking confirmation from the rental company. This includes details of your reservation.

Insurance Documents: Verify the insurance coverage provided by the rental company. It’s common to have basic insurance included, but additional coverage might be advisable. If you have a Chase Sapphire Travel Rewards credit card, primary insurance is included (a HUGE perk that will save you a lot of money!).

International Driving Permit (IDP): While not always mandatory, an IDP is recommended, especially if your driver’s license is not in Roman characters. It translates the details of your national license into multiple languages.

Related: What’s an International Driving Permit?

Traffic Violation Payment: Ensure you have a way to pay for any potential traffic violations. Some rental companies charge administrative fees for handling traffic fines.

Proof of Accommodation: Some rental companies might ask for proof of your accommodation in Spain.

Always check the specific requirements of the rental company you choose, as there can be variations.

 It’s also essential to familiarize yourself with local traffic rules and regulations in Spain, including speed limits, parking rules, and any specific driving conditions. Additionally, consider purchasing adequate insurance coverage to ensure you’re protected during your travels.

Tips for Renting a Car in Barcelona

1. Book in Advance: Secure your rental car online before arriving in Barcelona for better deals and availability.

2. Understand Local Traffic Rules: Familiarize yourself with local road regulations to ensure a smooth and safe journey.

3. Choose the Right Size: Opt for a vehicle that suits your travel needs, considering both passenger comfort and luggage space.

4. Check Insurance Coverage: Ensure you have adequate insurance coverage, including collision and comprehensive, for peace of mind during your travels.

5. Duration Discounts: Rental companies often offer lower daily rates for longer rental durations. Weekly rentals might provide a better daily rate compared to daily rentals.

Common Words and Phrases on the Road in Barcelona

When renting a car and driving in Spain, it’s helpful to be familiar with some common words and phrases related to car rentals and driving. Here are some useful terms:


1. Coche – Car

2. Alquiler de coches – Car rental

3. Conductor – Driver

4. Gasolina – Gasoline

5. Estación de servicio / Gasolinera – Gas station

6. Kilómetro – Kilometer

7. Autopista – Highway

8. Carretera – Road

9. Carril – Lane

10. Peaje – Toll

11. Velocidad máxima – Maximum speed

12. Estacionamiento / Aparcamiento – Parking

13. Estacionamiento gratuito – Free parking

14. Alcoholímetro – Breathalyzer

15. Semáforo – Traffic light

16. Ceda el paso – Yield

17. Prohibido estacionar – No parking

18. Sentido único – One way

19. Entrada – Entrance

20. Salida – Exit

21. Mapa – Map

22. GPS – GPS

23. Neumático – Tire

24. Reserva de estacionamiento – Parking reservation

25. Emergencia – Emergency


Remember, many road signs in Spain are in Spanish, and it’s beneficial to have a basic understanding of the language. 

Additionally, consider using a GPS with voice guidance in your preferred language for navigation. If you’re not fluent in Spanish, having a translation app like Google Translate.

Drive safely and enjoy your journey in Spain!


Renting a car to explore beyond Barcelona isn’t just a transportation choice – it’s a key to unlocking the full richness of Catalonia. From medieval towns to pristine beaches, the treasures that await are countless. 

But ,while renting a car can be advantageous for exploring more remote areas or specific itineraries, it’s essential to weigh the convenience of public transportation against the potential challenges of driving in a busy city like Barcelona. Ultimately, the choice depends on individual preferences, travel plans, and the desired level of convenience. 

In my opinion, don’t rent a car in Barcelona, but do rent a car if you plan on going outside of the city.

So, grab the keys, hit the road, and let the adventure unfold!

Book Your Trip Now!

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For companies, check out my favorite travel companies section that includes even more of my favorite travel companies that will help you value travel!

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