In this post you will learn about integrated tickets in Barcelona’s public transport system, this is, how to travel between different operators with one single ticket.
As you read in the Basics page, there are multiple operators in Barcelona:
- TMB, in charge of operating the bus network (with almost 1,200 buses) and the Metro network.
- FGC, in charge of operating the Barcelona-Anoia and Barcelona-Vallès railway lines, with hybrid services between a metro and a commuter rail.
- Rodalies (operated by RENFE), offering commuter services which act like express services within Barcelona
- TRAM, which operates the tramway network.
If you go to a Metro station and buy a single ticket, it will be valid to travel only by Metro. But this does not only happen with single tickets: if you go to a Rodalies station, you might be confused and buy a 10-trip ticket (called Bonotrén 10), which will only be valid for Rodalies services. All operators can sell you their non-integrated tickets, but you should avoid them. The practicality of public transport lies in the fact that you can transfer through different services without having to worry about which company operates what.
So, do yourself a favour and always buy integrated tickets, this is, tickets which are branded under the ATM name. ATM tickets look like this. They are green-ish, they include the words «Sistema tarifari integrat» and the whole spectrum of logos is printed on them. (Hola Barcelona tickets, which are targeted for tourists, are also integrated, even if they don’t look like the rest).
These are not integrated tickets
These are integrated tickets
What is considered as one integrated trip?
Okay, got it. So integrated trips allow you to transfer between different operators. But, can you do that forever, or is there a limit on the amount of transfers?
The easy-to-remember rule is: you can do as many transfers as you want, as long as you do them within a 1 h 15 minute period (counted from first validation to the last). In other words, 1 trip is equivalent to taking as many services and operators as you want for this period of time.
Of course, if your ticket grants you an unlimited number of trips for a specific period of time (for example, T-usual, which gives you 1-month unlimited travel; or Hola Barcelona, which gives you 2-5 days of unlimited travel) then you no longer need to worry about this! You have unlimited trips, so there is no point in trying to count them.
Marta enters a bus with her brand-new T-casual ticket at 18:00. As she validates the ticket inside the bus, the validating machine reminds her that she now only has 9 trips left. At 18:40, she leaves the bus and enters a Metro station, and she goes through the gates using the same ticket. The gates open, and the display still shows that Marta’s T-casual has 9 trips left. This is because Marta is entering Metro within the 1 h 15 minute period, so no trip is discounted from the T-casual this time.
After meeting some friends, at 19:30, Marta enters Metro again. The control gates will now discount a new trip as they open, so the display will show that Marta has now only 8 trips in her card.
Unfortunately, reality is a bit more complex. Fare integration has some limitations:
- You can transfer through unlimited bus lines and tram lines, but only once in the same line.
- You can only go through the Metro gates once. However, all Metro stations provide transfers between lines within the restricted area, so once you go through Metro gates, you can transfer between lines without using extra trips of your ticket.
- You can transfer between Rodalies and FGC, but you can only check in once with each of them during the same trip.
What if you don’t follow these rules?
If you break any of these rules, a new trip will simply be taken from your card. In real life, travellers are very unlikely to face any problem due to these restrictions, unless you’re trying to make a return trip within the 1h 15 min period.
James has a T-casual with 1 trip left. He enters Metro at 13:00, uses L1 and then transfers to L3. He leaves Metro at 13:45, and then validates his ticket at the bus at 13:50. Then, at 14:00, he enters Metro again, and he tries to use his T-casual again because he reckons he‘s still travelling within the allowed time frame.
However, the ticket is refused by the gates. He is only allowed to enter Metro once during his 1h 15 min period. In normal conditions, a new trip would simply be taken from his card, but his card has no trips left.
James is very smart, though: he realises that, during the next 15 minutes, he can still use other services (bus, Rodalies and FGC) so he decides to search for a different itinerary using any of these operators.
All these rules apply only for tickets that have a limited amount of trips, like T-casual or T-grup. If you have purchased Hola Barcelona, T-usual or any other unlimited ticket, then you don’t need to worry about all of this!
- It is very unlikely that you are not able to complete your trip during 1 h 15 minutes within Zone 1. However, if you enter a bus line and you stay inside for more than 1 h 15 minutes, it is your responsibility to re-validate your ticket after this time.
- If you go through different zones, your time frame is increased by 15 minutes for each zone. For example, 2-zone tickets provide 1 h 30 min trips; 3-zone tickets provide 1 h 45 minutes, etc.
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