Mobile World Congress Survival Guide (for North Americans): Part II

Over the next 5 days, Barcelona will transform itself into Mobile World City as 75,000 attendees, some bringing family and friends along, make their way to Mobile World Congress. Are you going to Mobile World Congress for the first time? If you are, the following tips may prove useful. Please read Part I of this series to learn how to prepare and protect your phone.


PART II: TRAVEL & MWC TOURISM

Traveling to Barcelona in winter can cause some snafus. If you have a non-stop flight to Barcelona, this next section won’t impact you as much. But in terms of best practices, it’s probably worth a read. This winter a record number of flights have been delayed or cancelled. If your trip to Barcelona includes a connection, better be prepared.

Bring a Spare

Pack at least one spare outfit in your carry-on bag. The vast majority of Mobile World Congress attendees are checking bags. When winter weather creates travel chaos, the likelihood your bags get lost in the shuffle increases. If your bags don’t arrive when you do, it can take up to 2 days for you to get them back. Some airlines will give you a lost luggage emergency kit that includes toothpaste, a toothbrush, a disposable razor and, if you’re lucky, a t-shirt. It’s better if you have your own clean clothes with you in case you’re waiting 2 days for your suitcase.

Travel Insurance

Traveling to Barcelona through a connection in winter makes travel insurance a good investment. Most policies are going to be less than $50 and you can get it through your airline or possibly your credit card. Some of the online travel agencies also offer travel insurance. If your bags get lost or you’re forced to spend the night at an airport, travel insurance will cover a lot, if not all of your costs.

Shopping

If you your bags are lost, there are two important things to know about shopping for clothes in Barcelona. First, Spanish people seem to be a lot smaller than Americans. If you need L, XL or larger sized clothes, your best bet is a department store. El Corte Inglés in Plaza de Cataluña is a great option.

Second, don’t plan to do any shopping on Sunday. The majority of stores and restaurants are closed on Sundays. McDonald’s is closed on Sundays. You’ll find souvenir shops and some stores in the very touristy areas open, but very little else. Don’t plan to shop on Sunday.

Getting Around

The best way to get around Barcelona is using its fantastic Metro de Barcelona subway system. It is truly the best way to get quickly around the city, and probably the easiest way for you to get from where you’re staying to Mobile World Congress and back. For 10,30€ you can get a T-10 ticket which gives you 10 rides on the Metro. That’s a better option than the 7,60€ one (calendar) day ticket . Every map of Barcelona will indicate the Metro stations with a red diamond symbol.

For point to point transportation, taxis are as available in Barcelona as they are in New York City. Whereas most people in Barcelona who interface with tourists and visitors speak English, it’s a rarer convenience from taxi drivers. It’s best to know the name and address of your destination in Spanish or Catalan, or have it written down to show the driver.

Dining Out

The food in Barcelona is spectacular. Be prepared to see, if not eat, a lot of ham. Spanish cured ham, Jamón ibérico, is omnipresent throughout Barcelona. And so is, of all things, fresh-squeezed orange juice. Early in the morning you can find delivery trucks dropping off sacks of oranges to restaurants, and every restaurant from fine dining to fast food serve fresh-squeezed orange juice, and you’ll see Zumex orange juicers.

Going to Barcelona and not having a ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette is like going to New York City and not having pizza. It’s just something you do. Paella is also a local favorite.

Be aware of the different dining hours. Lunch is typically eaten after 1 p.m. and dinner usually 10 p.m. or later. Many restaurants don’t open for dinner before 9 p.m. Don’t despair if this is too late in the evening for you. There are plenty of tapas bars all around where you can have a light pre-dinner meal. The bottom line, you won’t go hungry. While you’re at Mobile World Congress there are concessions for food, coffee, soft drinks, beer and wine all around the convention center.

The Parties

Networking events (aka parties) are a big part of the Mobile World Congress experience. Many parties start late, but not so late that they’re outside the norm for Barcelona. Some parties will go well past 2 a.m. Some nights out may last to 6 a.m. That happens in Barcelona. But here’s the secret: while Barcelonans may stay out at night to 6 a.m., even for a business gathering, they won’t do that every single night. They also have a secret weapon that is not available to Mobile World Congress attendees: the siesta. Invisible to the people working and walking the floor of Mobile World Congress, from 1:30 to 4:00 Barcelona grinds to a halt. Stores close and people go to a long relaxing lunch. Some may even go home for a nap. Unlike the native Barcelonan, Mobile World Congress attendees feel it is their obligation to party until the wee hours of the morning every single night of the show, and many of these people will find themselves on the show floor by 7:30 a.m. that very same morning. Just watch how the energy level of the show drops precipitously after the first night.

Guard Your Health

You are probably going to parties and late-night gatherings most of the nights you’re at the show, and you should. Just be sure to take care of yourself. Stay hydrated. Find time to rest. Bring some multivitamins along with you, and eat healthy when you can.

TIPS

  • Take an extra outfit with you in your carry-on bag
  • Get travel insurance
  • Know you won’t be shopping on Sunday
  • Use the Metro (subway)
  • Dinner is eaten after 10 p.m.
  • Prepare to have little sleep
  • Guard your health