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Car towed? Get it back in Barcelona

Car Towed Away Sticker Barcelona
Written by Kirstie

Has my car been towed? Get it back in Barcelona

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It’s tough being a foreigner sometimes. You don’t know the rules. You can’t speak the language. That two lane road you parked on last night has suddenly become four lanes, and your car has disappeared. If, like us, your car gets towed away and impounded in Barcelona, here’s our ten tips on how to get it back…

1 Don’t panic

If you’re anything like us, the first thing you will want to do is panic. Don’t. It doesn’t help. And don’t get angry and lie on the floor kicking out at passers by or assault a traffic warden with your Spanglais schoolbook phrases. Just accept that you won’t be going to Park Guell today. You can go tomorrow when you’ve got your wheels back.

Barcelona Street

What do you do when you come back to your parking spot and find your car is gone?

2 Double check that you left the car where you think you left it

Of course to be sure it’s been towed, you need to remember exactly where you left it. We thought we left ours on Calla Mallorca but was it actually on Calla Menorca? Or even Calla Madrid? Before you start running around like a headless chicken, put yourself mentally back in the place that you left it. If it is a hire car, it helps if you can remember what it looks like. Thankfully Stuart took a picture of both the car and the registration number when we first picked it up so we didn’t have to panic about that bit. Next time I think he’ll make a note of the street name and check the parking restrictions more carefully.

3 Look for a triangle on the pavement

If you did leave your car where you thought you left it, then chances are it has been towed away and impounded for breaching some traffic regulation. To establish this for sure you need to look for a triangular sticker stuck to the kerb of the pavement at the place you left your car. The tow trucks leave this for you so you know they have taken it away. Our sticker was blue, like the picture below. On it are instructions about where you can go to reclaim your car. Probably in Spanish. Ask someone at your hotel to translate or you can try phoning the information line number on it.

Car Towed Away Sticker Barcelona

The surest sign there is that your car is safe. Safely towed away to a proper car park.

4 Don’t bother phoning the information line

We tried and failed to get information from the information line. They offer a service in English, but it got us nowhere. Anyway, what more can they tell you? You know where it is, and you just have to go and retrieve it. Follow the instructions on your triangle. What if you have no triangle? Now is the time to panic. If there is no sticker, then either your memory really has failed you, your car has been stolen or some joker has stolen the sticker, none of which we can help you with here. Still, even in these circumstances step five will probably help.

5 Go for a coffee

It helped us. Really it did. Especially when we found out the cost of getting our car back! If there’s ever a time you need caffeine this is it. You also might want to take up smoking or go back to eating carbs. Do it now while you can still afford it.

Coffee and Croissant in Barcelona

No need to rush. Your parking is paid for. Have a coffee, while you can still afford it.

6 Gather the necessary documents

To get your car back you will need your passport and drivers licence and vehicle documents. If the car is rented, then you will need to produce the rental documents. If your documents are in the car then again, don’t panic. Explain this to the administrator at the pound and they will allow one of you back into the car to retrieve it.

7 Get yourself down to the pound

You might not want to rush downtown immediately. Think about it; you are now paying about 175 euros to park you car for the day in the pound. The last thing you want is to fish it out after breakfast and then have to find a pay and display. Perhaps do a bit of sightseeing on the way and pick it up late afternoon instead. (Don’t leave it too long though because after a certain time extra charges are heaped on by the hour.) I assumed all stray cars would end up in some kind of yard miles out of town. But we collected our car at a smart car park in the centre of the city. Take the underground then follow the map on your triangle. Think of it as a treasure hunt. And the prize is a 4X4. How great is that? Maybe take a picnic and make a day of it. You could even try and get there on an open topped bus?

At the car pound in Barcelona

You’ll get to feel like a proper criminal at the friendly Barcelona car pound

8 Get in touch with your inner criminal

If you a law abider, you WILL feel like a criminal when you pitch up at a reception that is full of uniformed officers with high security doors and glass booths. And quite right too, as you have broken the law. This will be either thrilling, terrifying, or nothing out of the ordinary, depending on which side of the law you normally sit on. Enjoy the moment. But don’t ask for a coffee. You should have already had that anyway if you followed step five. This is not the time to regress to step one or try to run away. Be a grown up and fish your credit card out of your wallet.

9 Smile and pay up

Be pleasant to the nice lady on the desk while she deducts the painful 175 Euros from your holiday budget. Do not cry. You won’t get any sympathy. Instead plan a low budget tea. Ronald McDonald instead of Ferran Adria.

At the car pound in Barcelona

Searching for your rental car is a colourful experience at the high tech car pound

10 Drive safely out

On your way out, do not be tempted to do a Thelma and Louise when confronted by the reinforced barrier. Do not accidentally crash into the barrier. Do not wince at how much it is costing you to open that barrier and drive away. Instead, drive calmly out into the afternoon traffic, thinking of the whole episode as a grand day out and an adventure. What an exciting thing to do on holiday! Do not drive back to the same place you parked last night and park your car. Just because you have paid highly for that parking slot it doesn’t mean it’s yours for free for the rest of the day. Keep your triangle as a souvenir and a reminder to look properly at the road signs when you park in another country.

At the car pound in Barcelona

Finally reunited… at a price

About the author


Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


  • Yeah right. Whereas if you park your car in that friendly country of yours, in a supermarket parking lot on a Sunday, where it is absolutely sure not to bother anyone, you, too, will not be bothered in the remotest. No law enforcement, no triangular stickers, no towing. Those friendly countrymen of yours appreciate the value of your undisturbed holiday peace.

    Until you return home, that is. Then you’ll find the invoice in your mail. Didn’t cost me that much less in a supermarket parking lot on a Sunday where it is absolutely – oh, I said that, did I? It is with dread that I imagine if, since you are not notified that your violation is recorded, you did so for the rest of your holiday, what mail would then await at home.

  • Thanks for this. Parked the car in a parking lot we thought we could and then weren’t sure it was parked somewhere else but we found the sticker so we knew it was towed and not stolen. Thanks for writing this to explain…

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