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Car towed? Get it back in Barcelona

Car Towed Away Sticker Barcelona
Written by Kirstie Pelling

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 Pelling

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.

10 Comments

  • 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…

  • My car got WRONGLY towed away from a parking spot by a beach in Barcelona. We had paid for 1.5 hours’ parking around 4.30pm and returned after an hour (so well before expiry) only to find car missing. Thought it had been stolen. Cross-examined by husband as to whether I had locked car properly (son: “but who’d want to steal OUR car?”). Me on verge of tears, when local pointed us to blue triangle. Me barefooted (sandals were in car!) and still damp from beach, finally manage to get taxi to tow depot. After an hour and half there arguing that I had paid for parking and the ticket was properly displayed on my windscreen (“Take me to my car and I will show you the ticket!!”). My mistake was that I had placed it on the right-hand side (UK driver’s side) – just as I have done for 10 years of driving on Continent – and the dopey tow-ers had not bothered to look for ticket on THAT side. After speaking to various people up the foodchain (and after someone going off to inspect my car), the supervisor admitted they had taken my car in error saying “is true” (about me having a valid parking ticket) and apologised, then tore up the EUR150 fine they were trying to give me, and then issued me with a “credit note” – basically the fine but with all the figures put to zero – and I was reunited with my car. This was on our last day in Spain (we were going to France next morning). We were therefore substantially delayed getting back to campsite and 1.5 hours away. Got back after 9pm – too late to do BBQ dinner as planned so had to throw away the food next morning before leaving and ended up having to buy dinner for 5 in restaurant which was not planned, so was well out of pocket despite not having the fine and through no fault of ours. I do still think I should sue the bloody idiots, but was just grateful to get away from that awful place with my car!

  • I should add, having just had this experience!

    We were staying in Cambrils but I drove up to Barcelona with my 12 year old son to watch FC Barcelona against Alaves. The late kick off meant not getting back to the car until gone Midnight. This is where I found a completely different car parked in place of mine. There was no triangle on the floor, so had to walk 20 mins to the closest police station, who after phoning around found my car and pointed me to where it had been impounded.

    This is where the story takes a turn for the worse. On leaving our campsite, I grabbed 30 euro and left the card with my partner. I wan’t taking the toll roads so the cash would be used only to get my son and I bite to eat and pay for parking. The pound was a 45 minute walk away or 15 Euro by cab. I had 15 euro left in my pocket but managed to get to the pound. The bloke working at the pound told me using google translate the cost 153 euro for the crane and 100 police charge and that it had to be paid cash or physically by card.

    Wait what?! No hombre I need you to take the payment over the phone from my partner as my cards are 100 miles away! No can do, even though the facility for it is clearly there. So after 2 hours at the police station trying to figure out what we can do, I asked if I could use Samsung pay. “Yes of course”. Great!…..Didn’t work……How about Google pay……..Didn’t work.

    So at 4:30am all because they wouldn’t take payment over the phone my partner and my daughter jumped in a taxi and traveled to Barcelona at a cost of 200 Euros. We got the car but the holiday was ruined from that moment 250 for the parking infringement (I was parked in a restricted area btw) I can handle but the extra 200 has left me very bitter.

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