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Barcelona Currency Exchange and Money Transfers


In 2002 the Spanish Peseta was abolished and the Euro became the official currency in Spain along with many other European countries allowing people to move freely between EU countries without the need to exchange currencies.

It is possible to exchange cash and travellers cheques at most major banks and ‘cambios’ (currency exchanges). Some Barcelona some currency exchanges also offer transfers with ‘Money-Gram’ and ‘Western Union’. La Caixa is the biggest Bank in Barcelona, and you can either open account using you passport, or your Spanish NIE number. This gives the added benefits of online banking, so you can transfer money online and move money into a Spanish bank account without being charged for transfers like in an English account abroad.
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if you would like to buy old Spanish pesetas go to

El Gordo

EL GORDO: Spain's Christmas Lottery

Spain's annual Christmas lottery, known as El Gordo, or "the Fat One", is the biggest lottery in the world, with the most prize money, regular players, and winners. Unlike traditional lotteries whose prize money is concentrated on a few individual jackpots, the draw is designed to spread the wealth through whole communities. The odds of winning something are estimated by the European Lottery Guild to be 1 in 6,37. They go on to estimate that in this year's draw 2.4 million prizes will be won, including at least 180 jackpots of €3million.

This year's total prize money is over 2 billion Euros, making lotteries like the Euro Millions with their top scoops of €183 million pale in significance. The prize draw is always on the 22nd December, and for much of Spain this marks the beginning of the Christmas festivities. The ceremony itself has a live audience, and takes place in the Grand Salon of Madrid. It is full of pomp and spectacle, taking over three hours to reach the Gordo . Numbers are drawn from large golden drums and are sung out by children from a school in Madrid called San Ildefonso… a tradition that dates back over a hundred years!

Lotteries were first introduced in Spain by King Carlos III in 1763, and the first El Gordo lottery took place in 1812. Its primary purpose was to provide income for the Spanish government, which it still continues to do today. The total amount of money is divided in the following way: 70% is redistributed as prize money, 5% commission to the sales points to cover their administration costs, and 25% goes to the Treasury. On top of this, the Treasury is also usually amongst the prize winners, as all the "decimos" that aren't sold are returned to them…

Unlike lottery draws which simply select random numbers, each El Gordo ticket is printed by the Royal Spanish Mint who are also responsible for printing Spanish currency, and ticket numbers are therefore limited. Another difference is the way the tickets themselves are structured. Ticket numbers range from 00,000 to 84,999, and every year there are approximately 15,000,000 "decimos" that win a prize. One ticket, which is worth €200 is divided into 10 parts, or "decimos", which are sold individually, and there are 1,800 sheets with the same number. Most people get together with friends, family, and colleagues and divide up a ticket so that they all have a share to celebrate if they get lucky. Social establishments like bars, restaurants and sports clubs often put up a sign stating that they're playing with a certain number… and that people are welcome to join in.

As well as joining syndicates that already have their own numbers, individual tickets or portions of tickets can be bought from the official "Loteria Nacional" offices. One of the busiest is in the small town of Sort, located at the foot of the Pyrenees in Catalunya. Its lottery office is known as the "Bruixa d'Or", or Golden Witch. Not only does the town's name mean "luck" in Catalan, but winning tickets were sold here in 2003… and again in 2004! Whole coach-loads of people now come to Sort especially to buy their tickets; even in the beginning of November this year whilst driving past the lottery office we saw a seriously long queue snaking away from its doors. Of course, the knock on effect of selling more tickets here is that the probability of winning also increases.

According to a report published by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) in 2004, each Spaniard spends an average of €208 each year on lotteries. Another report in December 2004 published by the Spanish Confederation of Housewives, Consumers and Users stated that on average, the Spanish spend €112 each on the Christmas lottery, whilst the organisation Gluto have a more conservative estimate of €45 per person, and that it is played by 98% of the population.

If you're got spare cash to blow on entering the El Gordo lottery this year, good luck. And if you receive notification that you've won a prize check it out carefully to make sure it isn't a scam. But remember, as with all gambling the biggest odds are that you won't win a thing… whilst you can't go wrong with spending your €20 on a festive night of tapas and drinks in town! And who knows what the jackpot there may be…


Banks in Barcelona are usually only open until 14:00h. Some branches of the main banks such as La Caixa and Caixa Penedes are also open on Thursday afternoons between 16:00h and 19:00h. Some banks close on Saturdays, but most stay open.

You can open a bank account as soon as you arrive in Spain, even before you get your N.I.E. Open a Non-Resident Account, using your passport as ID.

Under 26? Open a Cuenta Jove account in La Caixa, once you get the Tarjeta Jove cash card (debit card) you can get a lot of discounts in theatres, cinemas and trains, season metro tickets and more (

Cambio / Currency Exchange

The best places for changing currency are at the airport and in banks, however there are a lot of other currency exchanges in Barcelona and a couple of them offer "Money-Gram" and "Western Union Money Transfers" too.

Money Transfers

Banks have the best rates, but it takes longer, usually 3-4 working days, and you need to have an account with them. Otherwise you can go to any of the Western Union or Money-Gram places in la Rambla and they do the transfer in 10 minutes. If you want to receive money, ask the sender to do it by Western Union as they have lots of offices all over the world, and it usually takes just 10 minutes!!! Another alternative is Ria, who have offices throughout Barcelona.

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