How to survive Mobile World Congress

It’s that time of year again. We’re getting ready to descend on Barcelona in our thousands for that leviathan of the exhibition industry - Mobile World Congress. This is one of the largest shows on earth, with more than 100,000 visitors and something like 2,200 exhibitors. Having worked at the event for many years, we know that it’s something of a poisoned chalice: interesting work, but it always seems to involve long hours, sore feet and barely a glimpse of any tourist sights. 

Mobile World Congress 2016

We wanted to share some of our experience with the other poor souls getting ready to fly to the land of Gaudí and Camp Nou, but with none of the hackneyed clichés you usually find in these lists (take comfortable shoes, pack lots of business cards, yawn). So, with every effort made to avoid the obvious, here are our dos and don’ts for people working at Mobile World Congress.


Practice a bit of Spanish. Whilst key customer-facing staff usually speak English, you will struggle more with electricians, cleaners, security staff, bus drivers, and waiting staff. Castilian Spanish (as opposed to Catalan) usually works fine, and people will love you for it.

Budget for a few taxis. You get a free travel pass during the open days of the event, but taking the bus or tube will involve plenty of standing and walking, and there will be times when you just won’t feel up to it. Take the odd taxi, and don’t feel bad about it. Also, if you have the energy to walk a block away from Fira, you can grab a taxi without waiting in line for an hour.

Allow time to queue for, well,  just about everything really. Whether you need to talk to the Exhibitor Service Desk, take a taxi, grab a bottle of water – expect to queue for longer than you thought possible, and then double it. Factor it into your day, and you won’t get so stressed. 

Prepare for strikes and demonstrations. Sometimes it’s the metro, sometimes it’s the bus drivers. We’re never sure who it will be, but there’s usually a threatened strike at some point during MWC. The world’s media are assembled, and its often just too good an opportunity for the unions to miss. GSMA often have a back up travel plan though, and remember what we said about taxis?

Eat and drink well. OK, so this is a bit of a cliché, but we don’t just mean stay hydrated and have snacks with you at all times. There are plenty of tourist traps in Barcelona where you will get budget food and pay through the nose, so it’s worth doing some research, and booking dinners in advance. The food here is tremendous when you find a good restaurant, so don’t chance it. 

Ask for help amongst the British contingent. There are huge numbers of Brits working at the show in a range of fields, and generally there is a fantastic atmosphere of camaraderie amongst them. If you find yourself in a jam, don’t be afraid to ask a favour. It’s what the rest of us do!

See the city. Yes – you’ll be tired and short of time, but this place is so beautiful it would be a great shame to miss out on all the best bits because you’re stuck in an exhibition hall. If you’re in a cab on your way somewhere, you can always pay them a bit extra to detour via Sagrada Familia or Plaza Espanya – it’s well worth it.

Find somewhere to sit down. Once the exhibition opens, finding a quiet corner where you can sit down and return calls or catch up with emails is tough. Check out some potential hiding places in advance, and then protect them at all costs!

Be jealous of the people with scooters. We all are.

Barcelona Taxis Gaudi Casa Battlo Tapas in Barcelona


Don’t be afraid. Tales abound of the voracious pickpockets in Barcelona, and whilst it’s true that you need to keep your wits about you, especially in Las Ramblas and around Port Olimpic, the normal amount of street smarts will see you right. It’s just a city like any other.

Don’t bother with the wifi hotspots. Seriously. You thought that the world’s biggest mobile event would have excellent free wifi? Hah! Make sure you’ve got a good 4G package – you’ll be needing it.

Don’t overestimate the GSMA hosts and hostesses in the red coats. They are usually students hired as temp workers, and their knowledge of the site and the show is limited. Instead, read the handy guide that GSMA make available when you have registered – that will give you some good contacts and most of the info you’ll need.

Don’t always have a destination in mind. Feel free to just wander around and lose yourself in the exhibition halls when you get some free time. This is one of the most advanced exhibitions in the world, so no matter what business you’re in, there should be opportunities to find inspiration, learn something cool,  or chance upon something useful.

Don’t underestimate distances around Fira. This is an industrial area, and the blocks are HUGE! Scoff at your friends when they say “I’m just popping to Carrefour quickly”. They’ll be back in an hour.

Don’t forget that everything closes on a Sunday. Ikea. Carrefour. Bauhaus. If you didn’t get it on Saturday, it’s going to have to wait until Monday. Sorry.  

Animo provides stand management, administrative support, evening event management and help with logistics to companies exhibiting at and attending Mobile World Congress. Please feel free to give us a call on 02392 736539 if you need help with anything.


Our thanks to the following for images:

Kārlis Dambrāns for 'Mobile World Congress 2016'. 
Juan Carlos Sanchez for 'Taxi!!!'
Christina Zenino for 'Gaudi's Barcelona'
Katherine Price for 'Tapas_El Raval_Barcelona'

These files are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License


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