Getting there & around
Getting to Madrid couldn’t be easier with the city served by almost 100 airlines, excellent bus networks and trains that radiate into and out from the Spanish capital. The environmentally conscious also have an increasing number of options with the ongoing expansion of Spain’s high-speed rail network – the early-2008 inauguration of the high-speed rail link between Madrid and Barcelona has brought Madrid that much closer to the rest of Europe.
Moving around the city is even simpler, with Madrid’s extensive, modern metro system all you’re likely to need. There are also plenty of buses, as well as reasonably priced taxis.
You can pick up a taxi at ranks throughout town or simply flag one down. Flag fall is €1.95 from 6am to 10pm daily, €2.15 from 10pm to 6am Sunday to Friday and €2.95 from 10pm Saturday to 6am Sunday; make sure the driver turns the meter on. You pay €0.92 per kilometre (€1.06 between 10pm and 6am). Several supplementary charges, usually posted inside the taxi, apply; these include €5.25 to/from the airport; €2.75 from taxi ranks at train and bus stations, €2.75 to/from the Parque Ferial Juan Carlos I; and €6.50 on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve from 10pm to 6am. There’s no charge for luggage.
Among the 24-hour taxi services are Radio-Taxi (91 405 55 00, 91 445 90 08, 91 447 51 80) and Tele-Taxi (91 371 21 31, 902 501 130).
Radio-Teléfono Taxi (91 547 82 00, 91 547 86 00; www.radiotelefono-taxi.com) runs taxis for people with a disability in addition to normal services. Generally if you call any taxi company and ask for a ‘eurotaxi’ you should be sent one adapted for wheelchair users.
A green light on the roof means the taxi is libre (available). Usually a sign to this effect is also placed in the lower passenger side of the windscreen.
Tipping taxi drivers is not common practice, although most travellers round fares up to the nearest euro or two.
Estación Sur de Autobuses (91 468 42 00; www.estaciondeautobuses.com, in Spanish; Calle de Méndez Álvaro 83; Méndez Álvaro), just south of the M-30 ring road, is the city’s principal bus station. It serves most destinations to the south and many in other parts of the country. Most bus companies have a ticket office here, even if their buses depart from elsewhere.
The station operates a consigna (left-luggage office; 6.30am-midnight) near where the buses exit the station. There are cafés, shops, exchange booths, a bank and a police post; there’s also direct access to metro line 6.
Eurolines (www.eurolines.com), in conjunction with local carriers all over Europe, is the main international carrier connecting Spain to cities across Europe and Morocco from the Estación Sur. For information and tickets contact Eurolines Peninsular (902 405 040; www.eurolines.es). ALSA Internacional (902 422 242; www.alsa.es) is another international operator.
For domestic routes most services operate from the Estación Sur, although some services leave from other terminals around the city, including the Intercambiador de Autobuses de Moncloa and the Intercambiador de Avenida de América . Major companies:
ALSA (902 422 242; www.alsa.es) A host of services throughout Spain. Most depart from Estación Sur but some buses headed north (including to Barcelona, Bilbao and Zaragoza) leave from the Intercambiador de Avenida de América.
AutoRes (902 020 052; www.auto-res.net) Services to Extremadura (eg Cáceres), Castilla y León (eg Salamanca and Zamora) and Valencia via Cuenca, as well as Lisbon, Portugal. All leave from the Estación Sur.
Herranz (91 890 90 28; Intercambiador de Autobuses de Moncloa; Moncloa) Buses 661 and 664 to San Lorenzo de El Escorial from platform 30 at the Moncloa train station.
La Veloz (91 409 76 02; Avenida del Mediterráneo 49; Conde de Casal) Half-hourly buses (route 337) to Chinchón from 100m west of Plaza del Conde de Casal.
Buses operated by Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid (EMT; 902 507 850; www.emtmadrid.es) travel along most city routes regularly between about 6.30am and 11.30pm. Twenty-six night-bus búhos (owls) routes operate from midnight to 6am, with all routes originating in Plaza de la Cibeles. Fares for day and night trips are the same: €1 for a single trip, €6.70 for a 10-trip Metrobús ticket.
Madrid’s Barajas airport (902 404 704; www.aena.es) lies 12km northeast of the city and every year more than 52 million passengers pass through here (double the number for 1998).
The airport’s architecturally stunning Terminal 4 (T4) deals mainly with flights of Iberia and its partners (eg British Airways, American Airlines and Aer Lingus), while other intercontinental or non-Schengen European flights leave from T1. Spanair and Air Europa operate from both T1 and T2, depending on the destination. Air Berlin, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, SAS and TAP Air Portugal also operate from T2. At the time of research only the tiny Lagun Air was operating out of T3. Iberia’s Puente Aereo (air shuttle) between Madrid and Barcelona, which operates like a bus service with no advance booking necessary, operates from T4, while Spanair’s equivalent service leaves from T3. For a full list of which airlines operate from which terminals visit www.esmadrid.com.
Although all airlines conduct check-in (facturación) at the airport’s departure areas, some also allow check-in at the Nuevos Ministerios metro stop and transport interchange in Madrid itself – ask your airline. The service allows you to check your luggage in early, take the metro to the airport unburdened and avoid queues at the airport itself.
The T1 tourist office (91 305 86 56; 8am-8pm Mon-Sat, 9am-2pm Sun) is on the ground floor in the T1 area, while the T4 tourist office (902 100 007; 8am-8pm Mon-Sat, 9am-2pm Sun) is in the arrivals hall – both are run by the Comunidad de Madrid regional government. The Ayuntamiento (town hall) also runs an information booth (9.30am-8.30pm) in T4. There are ATMs and exchange booths in all terminals, and post offices (T1 8.30am-8.30pm Mon-Fri, 9.30am-1pm Sat, T4 8.30am-2.30pm Mon-Fri) in the arrivals lounges of T1 and T4. International car-rental companies have desks in the arrivals area of T1, T2 and T4.
There are three consignas (left-luggage offices; 24hr): one in T1 (near the bus stop and taxi stand); in T2 (near the metro entrance); and on the ground floor of T4. In either, you pay €3.60 for the first 24-hour period (or fraction thereof). Thereafter, it costs €4.64/4.13/3.61 per day in a big/medium/small locker. After 15 days the bag will be moved into storage (€1.85 plus a €37.08 transfer fee). For lost property in the airport, call 91 393 61 19 (T1) or 91 746 60 65 (T4).
Parking is available outside T1, T2 and T4. Rates are €1.95 per hour, up to €17.45 for 24 hours. Further away from the terminals and linked by a free shuttle bus is the Parking de Largas Estancias (Long-term Carpark; www.largaestancias.com; 1/2/5/10 days €10.20/20.40/48/74) if you plan to leave a vehicle for several days.
Madrid is 2622km from Berlin, 2245km from London, 1889km from Milan, 1836km from Paris, 1470km from Geneva, 690km from Barcelona and 610km from Lisbon. The A-1 heads north to Burgos and ultimately to Santander (for the UK ferry), the A-2 wends its way northeast to Barcelona and ultimately into France (as the AP-7), while the A-3 heads down to Valencia. The A-4 takes you south to Andalucía, while the A-5 and A-6 respectively take you west towards Portugal via Cáceres and northwest to Galicia. The A-42 goes south to Toledo.
The city is surrounded by two main ring roads, the outermost M-40 and the inner M-30; there are also two additional partial ring roads, the M-45 and the more-distant M-50. The R-5 and R-3 are two of a series of planned new toll roads built to ease the epic traffic jams as madrileños stream back from holidays and weekend getaways.
Coming from the UK you can put your car on a ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao with P&O Ferries (www.poportsmouth.com) or from Plymouth to Santander with Brittany Ferries (www.brittany-ferries.com). From Bilbao or Santander you barrel south to the capital. Otherwise you can opt for a ferry to France or the Channel Tunnel car train, Eurotunnel (www.eurotunnel.com).
Vehicles must be roadworthy, registered and insured (third party at least). Also ask your insurer for a European Accident Statement form, which can simplify matters in the event of an accident. A European breakdown-assistance policy (eg AA Five Star Service or RAC Eurocover Motoring Assistance in the UK) is a good investment.
If you’re here on a tourist visa, you only need your national driving licence, although it’s wise to also carry an International Driving Permit (available from the automobile association in your home country); the same applies to drivers from EU countries regardless of how long you stay.
If you’re a resident in Spain and come from a non-EU country, it depends on whether your government has a reciprocal rights agreement with Spain allowing you to drive. Visitors from some countries may need to sit their driving exams again. Check with your embassy.
The big-name car-hire agencies have offices all over Madrid. Avis, Europcar, Hertz and National/Atesa have booths at the airport. Some also operate branches at Atocha and Chamartín train stations. If prices at the bigger agencies seem too high, try Auto Europe (www.auto-europe.com), which operates as a clearing house for the best deals by the major companies. The rental agencies’ most central offices include the following:
Europcar (902 105 055; www.europcar.es; Calle de San Leonardo de Dios 8; Plaza de España)
Hertz (902 402 405; www.hertz.es; Edificio de España, Plaza de España 18; Plaza de España)
Moto Alquiler (91 542 06 57; firstname.lastname@example.org; Calle del Conde Duque 13; 8.30am-1.30pm & 5-8pm Mon-Fri; San Bernardo) Motorbike rental. Renting a Honda Sky 50 costs €26/120 per day/week with unlimited kilometres; a week consists of Monday to Friday. It also has Honda Lead 100 (€36/150), Honda CBF250 (€60/250) and Honda CBF500 (€85/335), and it will take a credit card imprint as a deposit. You’ll need to bring your passport for identification purposes.
National/Atesa (902 100 101; www.atesa.es; 1st fl, Gran Vía 80; Plaza de España)
Pepecar (807 414 243; www.pepecar.com; underground parking area, Plaza de España; Plaza de España) Specialises in low-cost rentals. Bookings are best made over the internet.
Madrid’s modern metro (902 444 403; www.metromadrid.es) is a fast, efficient and safe way to navigate Madrid, and generally easier than getting to grips with bus routes. There are 11 colour-coded lines in central Madrid, in addition to the modern southern suburban MetroSur system as well as lines heading east to the major population centres of Pozuelo and Boadilla del Monte. The metro operates from 6.05am to 2am. In theory most trains are air-conditioned in summer, but that doesn’t mean it always works.
Colour maps showing the main central Madrid metro system are available from any metro station; the MetroSur is unlikely to be of interest to visitors.
The metro covers 284km (with 282 stations), making it Europe’s second-largest metro system, after London. To give you an idea of its scale and popularity, passengers make around 650 million metro rides in Madrid annually.
The short-range cercanías regional trains operated by Renfe (902 240 202; www.renfe.es), the national railway, go as far afield as El Escorial, Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez and other points in the Comunidad de Madrid. Tickets range between €1.15 and €3.80 depending on how far you’re travelling. In Madrid itself they’re handy for making a quick, north–south hop between Chamartín and Atocha train stations (with stops at Nuevos Ministerios and in front of the Biblioteca Nacional on Paseo de los Recoletos only). Another line links Chamartín, Atocha and Príncipe Pío stations.
In Madrid itself they’re handy for making a quick, north–south hop between Chamartín and Atocha train stations (with stops at Nuevos Ministerios and Sol).
For information on travelling from the UK contact Rail Europe (08448 484 064; www.raileurope.co.uk).
There are different types of service, but remember that saving a couple of hours on a faster train can mean a big hike in the fare. Most trains have preferente (1st class) and turista (2nd class) and have dining cars.
High-speed Tren de Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) services connect Madrid with Seville (via Córdoba), Valladolid (via Segovia), Toledo, Málaga and Barcelona (via Zaragoza). AVE trains can reach speeds of 350km/h.
Unless you’re only passing through en route to elsewhere, you should buy a Metrobús ticket valid for 10 rides (bus and metro) for €6.70; single-journey tickets cost €1. Tickets can be purchased at stations from manned booths or machines in the metro stations, as well as most estancos (tobacconists) and newspaper kiosks. Metrobús tickets are not valid on cercanías services.
Monthly or season passes (abonos) only make sense if you’re staying long term and use local transport frequently. You’ll need to get a carnet (ID card) from metro stations or tobacconists – take a passport-sized photo and your passport. A monthly ticket for central Madrid (Zona A) costs €42.10.
An Abono Transporte Turístico (Tourist Ticket; per 1/2/7 days €4/7.20/20.80) is also possible.
The fine for being caught without a ticket on public transport is €20 – in addition to the price of the ticket, of course.
Lots of people zip around town on motos (mopeds), but little has been done to encourage cyclists in Madrid and bike lanes are almost as rare as drivers who keep an eye out for cyclists.
You can transport your bicycle on the metro from 10am to 12.30pm and after 9pm Mondays to Fridays and all day on weekends and holidays. You can also take your bike aboard cercanías (local trains serving big cities, suburbs and nearby towns) from 10am onwards Monday to Friday and all day on weekends.
Bike Spain organises cycling tours of Madrid. It should also be your first stop for practical information and finding bike-friendly accommodation. The tourist office’s Descubre Madrid programme of tours also includes cycling excursions.
There are plenty of places that hire bicycles. Recommended places:
Bike Spain (91 559 06 53 www.bikespain.info; Plaza de la Villa 1, Calle del Codo; per half-/full day €10/15, Sat & Sun €25)
Karacol Sports (91 539 96 33; www.karacol.es, in Spanish; Calle de Tortosa 8; per day €20;10.30am-3pm & 5-8pm Mon-Wed & Fri, 10.30am-3pm & 5-9.30pm Thu, 10.30am-2pm Sat; Atocha Renfe) Road bikes and mountain bikes. There’s a refundable deposit of €50 and you need to leave an original document (passport, driving licence etc).
Trixi.com (91 523 15 47; www.trixi.com; Calle de los Jardines 12; per 4/8/24 hr €8/12/15, helmet €2.50; 10am-2pm & 4-8pm Mon-Fri, 10am-8pm Sat & Sun Mar-Oct, 10am-3pm daily Nov, Dec & Feb; Gran Vía)