Understanding Barcelona’s Public Transport Zones

Fares on Barcelona’s public transport network are based on zones, much as they are in London and Paris. Unlike London, the entire city of Barcelona is within TMB Zone 1. Zones 2 to 6 cover surrounding towns and cities which are also included in the integrated fare system.

Another important fact that I hadn’t noticed until this morning is that the zones on the TMB map (Barcelona’s metropolitan transport system) aren’t exactly the same as those on the RENFE map (Spanish train network).

The differences are minor and only affect a few stations so it’s hard to spot if you check the individual maps online. However, if you compare the maps side-by-side you will see that there are some discrepancies, 2 of which are quite important for tourists visiting Barcelona.

Two maps of Barcelona’s public transport zones.

Spot the difference !

Sitges and Mataró are both in zone 3 on the TMB map and zone 4 on the RENFE map.

Barcelona airport is in zone one on the TMB map and zone 4 on the RENFE map!

This means that if you purchase a single RENFE ticket from the airport to Sants train station it will cost you €4.10 whereas if you purchase a T10 card (10 journeys by bus, metro and train) the same journey on the same train will cost just €1.00!

Likewise, for a group of 5 people going to Sitges or Mataró and purchasing RENFE train tickets, a return ticket costs €8.20 per person. The total cost for the group is €41 there and back. Alternatively a 3 zone T10 ticket shared between the five of you will cost €26.75 that’s just €5.35 per person.

So far I’ve only spotted 3 differences between the public transport zones on theTMB and RENFE maps. Have you found any that I’ve missed?

8 thoughts on “Understanding Barcelona’s Public Transport Zones

  1. maddie

    Two adults arriving sunday 3pm going from airoort to la ramblas staying until friday morning, then returning to the airport. What is the best value transport option for our stay. Last year we took the bus then metro to our hotel in El Ravel and walked everywhere. All advice welcome. Many thanks

    1. Richard Post author

      Hi Maddie,

      As you will have found out the last time you were here, Barcelona’s a great city for walking. Since you are staying for 5 days I’d suggest you buy a 1 Zone T10 card and use a combination of the public transport system and walking.

      The T10 allows 10 combined journeys (i.e. if you take a train then change to the metro it counts as one journey) on Barcelona’s metro, tram, bus and local commuter trains. You can share one T10 between 2 people by passing it through the ticket barrier once for each of you. Then when it runs out just buy another one. As mentioned in the article, the Zone 1 covers all of Barcelona plus some other towns like Badalona. If you want to visit other towns like Girona for example (one of my favourite day trips) then you’ll need to buy a separate ticket.

      In order to be able to give you the best possible advice for how to get to your hotel, I need to know which airport terminal you will arrive at and the exact location of your hotel since La Rambla is about a mile long. Bear in mind that the T10 mentioned above is not valid for the L9 sud metro from the airport but is valid for the airport train.

      This post about how to get from Barcelona airport to the city centre should help you decide. If not post back with your hotel and terminal details and I’ll give you some more specific advice.

      Have a great time in Barcelona.

  2. Ara

    There are 11 travelers traveling in June arriving in Barcelona around 7:30pm. We will need to get to our apartment I believe located near the gothic quarters. What is the best ticket to purchase? Should we go by train or bus. During our stay, we may need bus tickets as well.

    1. Richard Post author

      Hi Ara,

      It’s impossible to give you a good recommendation as to which is the best mode of transport without knowing where you will be staying. The Gothic Quarter is quite a large area, some parts are best reached by train / metro, others by aerobus.

      In general, for large groups taxis are a good option because they aren’t expensive when shared between four or five people. A taxi from the airport to the gothic quarter will cost about €30. Although most taxis at the airport seat 4 people there are some 5 or 6 seaters available. Ask the taxi marshal to call two for you.

      Let me know the address of your accommodation and which airport terminal you arrive at and I’ll give you some more ideas.

      For transport while in Barcelona. Most locals use the T10 travel card which covers metro, bus and urban trains. The 1 Zone T10 costs €9.95 for 10 journeys and can be shared between several people. This works out at less than half the price of purchasing single tickets for each journey.

      If you think that you will be using the metro / bus a lot then you could purchase a Hola BCN! transport pass. This works out cheaper than the T10 if you will be using the bus / metro more than 6 times per day. Bear in mind that the HolaBCN tickets are valid for calendar days so if you first use the card at 8pm, the first day ends just 4 hours later.

    1. Richard Post author

      Hello M. Swann,

      You’re absolutely right.

      The surprising thing is that if you look closely at the 2 maps you will see that the zones on the RENFE “rodalies” train map aren’t the same as the zones on the TMB map. This means that although for most local train journeys you should buy a RENFE ticket, in some cases it works out cheaper to buy a TMB travel card.

      Thanks for your comment and happy travels


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