Taking the bus in Barcelona is not very different from doing so in other countries.
Planning your trip
Usually, bus stops are named with two streets. The first one indicates the main street. The second indicates an intersection to give you an idea of the approximate location of the bus stop. For example, the bus stop shown below is named “Via Augusta – Amigó”. Next to the name of the station, you will find a list of bus services stopping there. In this case, the V11 line, the 68 line and the N7 line. In Barcelona, lines starting with an “N” indicate night services running usually from 1am until 6am.
Via Augusta is a major avenue in Barcelona and it has dozens of stops. However, only this one is placed on the intersection of Via Augusta with Amigó street. Buses running through the same line towards the opposite direction will stop at the “Via Augusta – Calvet” stop, which is located a hundred meters away. In the map below you can see the location of both bus stops.
If you feel comfortable navigating with your phone, I strongly recommend that you use Google Maps or Apple Maps. They include static and live information about all bus lines in Barcelona. Regardless of the app you choose, it will tell you exactly where to wait for the bus and will inform you of any delay.
Travelling by bus
When you’re waiting at a bus stop, you should bear in mind that there might be more than one bus line calling at your stop. When the bus is approaching, you will see that the line is displayed on the front, as well as the direction (remember, one line has two possible directions, and you want to take the right one). You have to indicate to the driver that you want to get on the bus. Most times, standing up and making few steps towards the street is good enough—but you can always wave to the driver to make sure. Don’t be shy! Everyone does it.
If you don’t stand up or you don’t wave, the bus will not stop (unless you’re lucky enough that someone inside requests to stop by coincidence).
A similar principle applies when you want to leave the bus: you need to indicate that you’re approaching your stop. You do this by simply pressing one of the multiple stop buttons scattered all over the bus (they’re red and they are labelled as “stop” or “parada”). When you press them, a light saying “Parada sol·licitada” (requested stop) will turn on next to the driver. If you realise too late that you forgot to press the button and the bus has already passed your stop, just relax and press the button. You will get off one stop next, which will only be a couple of hundred meters away. Bus drivers will not stop the bus between two stops to allow people in or out, unless it’s an emergency.