This year's Mobile World Congress is going to be huge. With more than 75,000 people expected at the world's largest mobile technology trade show, we'll be talking to Microsoft about its new CEO, to Motorola and Lenovo about their merger, and we expect to see new phones and tablets from Samsung, LG, ZTE, and more. It all starts Sunday, Feb. 23, with the show floor opening the following day.
MWC is held in the Fira Gran Via, a huge convention center in the suburbs of Barcelona. Last year, I wrote an official, GSMA-sponsored travel guide to the show, and most of the tips still apply. I checked with the Barcelona city council, the GSMA, the Fira and local wireless carriers and got some updates, though.
SIM Cards and Internet
Most visitors without their own SIM cards will still want a Vodafone Yu plan. The Smart 16 plan gives you 1.5GB of data, 100 minutes of talk time, and unlimited SMS for your trip, at about €25 including SIM.
I still can't figure out how to get that card on a Sunday, though. (If you absolutely need a SIM on Sunday, you must go to the Movistar kiosk in the Mare magnum mall, as my guide from last year says.) Any other day of the week, go to the tourist-friendly Vodafone store at 36, Portal de l'Angel, near Placa Catalunya, or the Vodafone kiosk outside the Carrefour in the giant Granvia 2 shopping mall opposite the South Entrance of the Convention Center.
If you need an Internet hotspot, you can order in advance from XCom Global - my personal choice - or make a reservation with Wifivox and pick your hotspot up in town.
Travel and Transportation
Everybody attending the show will get a four-day public transit pass. If you need to travel on Saturday or Sunday, the best ticket to get is the T10 10-ride ticket, available at any kiosk in the metro system.
Some new bus lines will make it easier to get to and from the show.
From the airport, there's a free, official MWC shuttle bus that can take you directly to the South Entrance of the Convention Center from Saturday through Thursday. Otherwise, the best route to the city center is still the Aerobus.
If you're going to the North Entrance (Halls 4-8) there is no train station nearby. There's a new shuttle bus running Monday-Thursday from Plaza Espanya to the North Hall; look for the Fira Montjuic/Fira Gran Via shuttle signs. Or, take the #9 or #109 public buses to Passeig de Zona Franca and Carrer Foc and walk two blocks. You can pick them both up at Plaza Espanya, but the #9 also goes to Plaza Universitat and Plaza Catalunya, and it's pretty frequent.
The new V3 limited-stop bus connects Passeig de Zona Franca with "uptown" Barcelona, specifically the Maria Cristina L3 Metro station. If you're staying anywhere near there, it's a direct route.
If you're going to the South Entrance (Halls 1-3) it's still fastest to take the train. Take Metro L1 or L3 to Plaza Espanya and switch for any FGC train to Europa-Fira. Remember the transfer from L1 is much easier than the transfer from L3 (shorter hallways).
You can also take the frequent H12 bus, which is a straight shot along the Gran Via from anywhere in the city to the convention center. It'll likely get caught in traffic, though.
No, Uber isn't available in Barcelona, but competing taxi app Hailo is. The city'sofficial taxi app won't help you catch a cab, but it'll help you estimate fares.
As usual, dining on site will be a horrific mob scene. Make sure to take advantage of these options to improve things, and scan over my list of local restaurants in last year's guide as well.
The official GSMA app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8 will let you pre-order meals at 12 takeaway locations in the venue. There are another nine restaurants which take reservations. Here's a map of all the on-site dining options.
Also, remember that the Granvia 2 mall across the street from the South Entrance has a whole lot of restaurants and a Carrefour supermarket. Buy some bread, cheese and jamon and you're golden. Near the North Entrance, for fresh food to eat all day, duck into the Mercat La Marina at the corner of Passeig de Zona Franca and Carrer de la Foneria, open from 8am to 2pm; it's a local market with many fresh vendors.
I'm celiac now, so I made a map of all of the restaurants in Barcelona with gluten-free options. If you have gluten issues, you can also download a guide to gluten-free dining in Barcelona here.
In The Area
Looking to work off some steam? At the corner of Foc and Passeig de Zona Franca, near the North Entrance, Club Fair Play is a venue where you can play padel, the local variant of squash. If you're into squash, racquetball, or tennis, that looks like a fun cultural experience.