First of all, in Spain it isn’t pronounced why-fy, it’s we-fee. For anyone studying in Barcelona who doesn’t have a steady wi-fi connection at home, here are some tips for getting your internet fix:
You can find these around the city. A locutorio is a shop or cybercafé where you can pay to use the internet. It costs roughly one euro for an hour, although some have small discounts if you buy 5 or 10 hours. There are also telephone services if you want to make an international call. I was lucky that there was a locutorio only a few blocks from our home, and I would go there at night to upload photos or write e-mails. Since they are shared computers, I tried not to log in to private sites like my bank account (and if I had to, I always used private browsing).
This is mostly about the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), where I studied.
Eixample campus: You need a password to use the wi-fi, which your study abroad provider can give to you. There’s a computer lab on the second (?) floor, but there are only four or five desktops which are always occupied. You can bring your laptop and work at the table or outside as long as you are quiet. I didn’t like using wi-fi here because they often lock the front door and you have to be buzzed in. The staff always seemed rude about it or irritated, like they assumed you were late to class which is a big no-no. Towards the end of the semester, they stopped doing this (both the locking and the glaring) which was nice.
The Eixample campus closes promptly at 7:30pm after the last class, but you can still use the wi-fi outside. Usually I made my phone calls then. I felt a little silly standing around by myself, bumming free wi-fi, but I once saw a girl who brought her laptop and stood as close to the gate as possible (that made me feel better about myself, heh).
Sant Pau campus: You’re free to go in and work in the seating area (pictured below). The atmosphere is more relaxed than Eixample. You can also eat your lunch here, which I really liked. This campus is open later, at least until 9pm, so you can go there after Eixample closes. I wouldn’t stay too late though, it’s creepy at night when you’re alone. Everything echoes! Also, when they start locking up they don’t always do a sweep of the building. One time, nobody came to tell me they were closing when they started locking the doors.
Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF): There is a library with a lot of computers, but you need a specific login/password so it is probably for students only. Anyone have more info on this for international students?
Your study abroad office
Most likely, your study abroad program will have its own office where you can use the internet, mingle with other students, and simply relax. I would go to ISA’s office to use the internet, but it was a little out of the way for me. Mostly I went when we had to coordinate travel plans and book flights together, and when I needed to print. The internet didn’t work all the time, which was frustrating, but the staff always tried their best to get it running again ASAP. Again, use private browsing or clear your history and cache before leaving the shared computers.
Cafés and coffee shops
I prefer working in cafés over locutorios because you can put your euros towards both a snack and internet usage. A lot of cafés have wi-fi, but it won’t always be free unless you’re a paying customer, meaning you don’t get the password unless you buy something. Look for posted signs on the door or window that say wi-fi is available. If you aren’t sure, go inside and ask the staff (preferably before you make a purchase, in case you are planning to sit, drink coffee, and work). The café right next to the UAB Eixample campus, on the corner, also has wi-fi and really good, cheap pastries.
If all else fails, Starbucks has wi-fi and almost always doesn’t require a password to access, so you can loiter outside if you need to make a quick check on the Internet or find directions.
Barcelona citywide wi-fi
Barcelona actually has free wi-fi access points all around the city. It is the biggest free public WiFi network in Spain and one of the biggest in Europe (or so claims the site). The access points are in certain types of places like parks, civic centers, libraries, and squares — places where people gather. You can use your laptop or smart phone to connect, although my iPhone had difficulties reaching the confirmation page. The connection speed is quite slow, limited to 256 kbps, but it’s completely free and you can use it as long as you want. Just don’t try to play games, watch YouTube videos, or upload any photos, haha.
Here is the list of wi-fi stations.
One downside is that the stations have specified open hours when the wi-fi can be used. For example, the wi-fi station closest to my home was only accessible from 8am to 10pm. This was fine except when I had to research for my term paper (I like to work at night instead of wasting the beautiful weather by staying indoors). HOWEVER, I discovered how to get around this, and it’s my best insider tip in this post: As long as you establish the connection before the closing time, you can stay on the internet as late as you want. If you need to take a break, hibernate your computer instead of shutting down so that you won’t lose the connection. If you shut down or restart, you won’t have access again until morning.
I hope this helped! If you have any other tips for getting wi-fi in Barcelona, leave a comment and let me know.