Ingrid S. shares her experience and recommendations on how to plan and travel around Spain and to neighboring countries. She also talks about her recent ski trip to Switzerland.
Though I absolutely love spending my weekends in Barcelona, one of the many perks of studying abroad here is the opportunity to travel to nearby nations. Barcelona has various transportation points such as a large international airport, a central station, and a bus station, all of which make traveling to and from different cities and countries very easy—and inexpensive! So far, my favorite trip has been to Verbier, Switzerland, where I got to see family, ski, and enjoy the luxury of efficient and reliable transportation.
Since arriving in Barcelona, I have traveled to Switzerland, London, France, Italy, Portugal, and other cities in Spain. Each of these trips has been incredible, whether I was skiing, sightseeing, hiking, or visiting family and friends. However, nothing can prepare you for the challenges that come with planning trips. From forgetting my passport to missing a connecting flight to taking the wrong train… anything can go wrong, but I promise it’s worth it! (Note from CEA CAPA: Please be aware that students are required to disclose any travels outside their program city to CEA CAPA staff. This information is used in the event of an emergency.)
Here are some recommendations for traveling in and out of Barcelona.
When it comes to flights, Skyscanner has been my very best friend! You can easily compare various airline prices and times including connecting flights, layovers, and more. As for trains, Omio and Trainline are great for purchasing tickets. Finally, in a new city, it may be worth paying a few extra dollars for a taxi rather than trying to navigate a new public transportation upon your arrival—especially if you’re arriving late at night.
I’ve stayed in hostels, hotels, homes of family and friends, and Airbnbs. Each has perks, whether it’s an inexpensive stay at a hostel and meeting new people or privacy in a hotel with a group of friends. And, each has drawbacks, whether it’s sharing a room with strangers at a hostel or paying more for a fancy Airbnb. However, I have had great luck finding inexpensive Airbnbs in great locations!
My advice for traveling throughout Europe while abroad is to allot yourself more time than you’d ever think necessary for getting to the airport or train station. Additionally, it’s important to make alternate plans for your transportation, housing, and activities while in the new city. Although it’s more likely things will go according to plan, being flexible allows for the best adventures! Some of the best days I’ve had in a new city are the ones without any plans at all.
Some of the transportation we took to Switzerland.
Erasmus Student Network
Before coming to Spain, I was unfamiliar with the Erasmus Student Network. This is a European Union program that allows students from countries in the EU to work, study, or train in another country. They also organize hikes, trips, parties, meals, and more to encourage travel for all international students, whether or not they are from the EU. I used the website Erasmus Barcelona to travel to Northern Spain and hike through a canyon for a whole day with a round trip bus trip and hiking guide for just 25 euros. This was such a cool experience that I wouldn’t have been able to do had it not been for Erasmus!
My Trip to Switzerland
My favorite trip so far was the short time that I spent in Switzerland visiting my family. I spent a long weekend skiing in Verbier, experiencing the Après-ski culture, and spending time with my Swiss family! This trip was a great example of utilizing a wide array of transportation while traveling through Europe. However, since my family lives on the mountain, I didn’t have to find housing like the other destinations.
I took my roommates on this trip with me and we left early in the morning in a taxi together. Once at the airport we got coffee and croissants to fuel our travel day. After an incredible flight over the Pyrenees and Alps we landed in Geneva. From there, we took a train to Martigny to meet my aunt! Nearly the entire train ride paralleled Lake Geneva and into the Alps—needless to say, it was stunning. After reaching Martigny, my aunt drove us up the mountain to their chalet.
For the next two days, we skied all day, enjoyed home-cooked meals at night, and spent time at the mountainside bars with my cousins. My favorite meal was (obviously) bread dipped in fondue! These two days exploring the Swiss Alps were extremely memorable. I only hope that I can return someday to spend more time above the clouds!
Ingrid Sund is an official blogger for spring 2023, sharing her story in frequent posts on our blog. An Environmental Science, Policy, and Management major from University of Minnesota Twin Cities, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester. All views expressed are her own and may or may not reflect the experiences of other students.
Ingrid's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.