MADRID FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

The Barajas Airport in Madrid is the fourth largest airport in Europe. Airport terminals are connected by metro (Línea 8) and bus service. If you have not booked a private transfer with us then the metro will take you to the city center in approximately 30 to 45 minutes for a cost of €5 (€1.50–€2 plus a €3 airport supplement). For the same price, the bus will take you to Avenida de América, where you can catch the metro or a taxi to your hotel. (Please note that bus drivers will not take bills greater than €20).

Alternately, taxis are available with a base fare of €2.30 with Supplements of €5.50 to/from the airport and €3 to/from bus and train stations.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

Madrid is the geographical center of Spain and is serviced by numerous domestic and International rail lines and two main train stations. The Spanish railway system is getting faster and more efficient every year, making the train a great way to get around for both long and short distances. Spain's intercity services are handled by the government run railroad system - RENFE. Please check the links below for additional information regarding transportation from your arrival station. If you have not booked a private transfer with us then you will find Madrid is well connected by Metro, train and bus.

Madrid Train Stations: Atocha Station - Chamartin Station

Please note: There are stricter, airport style security checks since the Madrid railway bombings of March 11, 2004.

How do I get around using the Metro?

With 12 lines, all easily identified by their different colors, Madrid's metro system is by far the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to travel around the city. Service begins at 6am (7am on Sunday) and closes around 1:30am with trains running every 3 to 5 minutes during the day and every 10 to 15 minutes at night.

The central converging point is Sol station (Puerta del Sol) and fares are determined by zones traveled. The fare is €1.50 for a one way trip within zone A and €2 for zone A and B stops. You can save money by purchasing a combined 10-ride Metrobus ticket (€12.20), which covers zone A stops as well as travel on red metropolitan buses; or the Abono Turístico (Tourist Pass), which allows unlimited use of the metro and public buses for one to seven days. Tickets can be purchased at any metro station as well as at most estancos (tobacco and stamp shops) and at many newsstands.

Please note: It is recommended that you try to avoid using the metro during the rush hours from 8am to 10am, 1pm to 2pm, and 4pm to 6pm.

How do I get around the city using other public transportation?

Madrid and its suburbs are serviced by an extensive (150 line) network of red buses, with routes clearly shown at each stop. Traveling along special lanes allows the buses to be fast and efficient. Bus schedules are varied, but generally operate every 5 to 20 minutes between 6am and 11:30pm. Night service operates every 30 minutes from midnight to 3am and hourly from 3am to 6am, with departure points at Cibeles and Sol. Like the metro, bus prices are €1.50 for a one way trip within zone A and €12.20 for a 10-trip metrobus ticket (including trips on the metro). Tickets are available at metro counters, vending machines, estancos (tobacconists), and newspaper kiosks as well as at Empresa Municipal de Transportes, Alcántara 24 (tel. 91-406-88-00), where you can also buy a guide to the bus routes. Madrid has no central bus station; however the local Estación de Avenida de América and Estación del Sur have metro stops (Avenida de América and Méndez Álvaro).

In addition to bus service, the Cercanias (Suburban Line) Train operates efficiently along 10 lines (C-1 to C-10) to a variety of key towns outside the capital. Atocha station is the best departure point for southerly destinations and Chamartín station is the best departure point for northerly destinations. Trains also run between the two stations. Tickets can be purchased from station ticket offices or from clearly marked vending machines.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Taxis in Madrid are easy to recognize as they are black or white and have a red band with a small insignia of a bear and madroño tree (symbols of Madrid) on the side. You can hail a taxi in the street or catch one at taxi stands across the city. A green light on the roof indicates that they're free (libre). All tariffs are listed on taxi windows, but always make sure the meter is turned on when you get into the car. A supplement is charged for trips to the airport, railway station or the bullring, as well as on Sunday and holidays. If you take a taxi outside the city limits, the driver is entitled to charge you twice the rate shown on the meter.

I will have a car in Madrid, where can I park?

Driving in Madrid is potentially dangerous because of traffic congestion and should be avoided if possible. It always seems like rush hour and parking is next to impossible except in expensive garages. On the other hand, if you are planning on taking any day trips then we suggest you pick up your rental car as you depart the city to avoid excessive rental/parking expenses. Alternatively, you may consider renting the car in a town where you will be visiting and then traveling there by train and picking up the car once you arrive.

Warning: Small items such as hand luggage, cameras and laptops are commonly stolen from parked cars. Don't leave anything in a parked car and keep doors locked, windows up, and valuables out of sight while driving!

Is Madrid a walking city?

Modern Madrid is a vivid contrast of old and new, where narrow, medieval alleyways and centuries-old chapels border modern Manhattan-style boulevards and soaring skyscrapers. It is an easy city to explore on foot as it is mostly flat and the important sights like palaces, cathedrals and museums are all closely located in the Austrias district. And if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city then the beautiful Retiro and Casa de Campo parks are only a 15 to 30 minute walk from the Puerta del Sol.

Is Madrid a dangerous city? Are there certain areas I should avoid?

Madrid has reported a growing number of violent attacks in tourist areas, with older tourists and Asian-Americans particularly at risk. Criminals, who often work in teams, frequent tourist areas and major attractions as well as trains, train stations, airports, subways and ATMs. Reported incidents have occurred around the Prado Museum and Atocha train station and parts of old Madrid such as Puerta del Sol, El Rastro flea market and Plaza Mayor. Muggings and pickpocketing are common so travelers should exercise caution, carry limited cash and credit cards, and leave passports and personal documents in a safe location. Crimes occur at all times of day and night, but the early hours of the morning are when visitors should be most cautious.

A Note on Discrimination: In the aftermath of the rail bombings on March 11, 2004, there were hard feelings and attitudes toward Arabic nationalities, though there is less evidence of this now. Travelers of color may have an enjoyable trip in Spain, but visitors to the area should go with the knowledge that racism and xenophobia may be a problem. One report claims that an increase in racist attacks in Spain has coincided with a dramatic growth in the country's immigrant population over the last 20 years. If you encounter discrimination or mistreatment while traveling in Spain, report it to your embassy immediately!

Where and when can I see a bull fight in Madrid?

Madrid is a traditional stronghold of the 'fiesta brava' and has long attracted the finest matadors in Spain. If a matador hasn't proven his worth in the Plaza de Toros Monumental de las Ventas, Alcalá 237 (tel. 91-356-22-00; Metro: Ventas), then he hasn't been recognized as a top artist. The major season begins during the Fiestas de San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid, on May 15 and ends during the last 2 weekends in October (Feria del Otoño).

The best way to get tickets to the bullfights is to go to the stadium's box office. Alternatively, you can contact one of Madrid's best ticket agents, Localidades Galicia, Plaza del Carmen 1 (tel. 91-531-27-32; Metro: Sol). Concierges for almost every high end hotel can also acquire tickets.

Tickets to bullfights are 18€ to 160€ depending on the event and the seating. Front row seats are called barreras. Seats in the third row (delanteras) are available in the high (alta) and the low (baja) sections. The cheap seats (filas) have the worst view and are in the sun (sol) the entire time. The best and most expensive seats are in the shade (sombra). Bullfights are held on Sunday and holidays throughout most of the year and every day during certain festivals. Starting times are adjusted according to the time of sunset on the day of a performance.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of Spain is the Euro. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks and ATM's can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city. For more detailed information, consult our guide to tipping in Spain by clicking here.

I don't speak Spanish. Will many people speak English?

English may be spoken at your hotel and in the tourist areas, but not everywhere. We suggest you get a good English-Spanish dictionary and familiarize yourself with common phrases such as hello, goodbye, excuse me and numbers 1-10.

What time do Spaniards usually eat? Do I need to make reservations to fancy restaurants in advance?

Breakfast (desayuno) is usually taken in cafes between 7:30 and 10am. It's the custom in Madrid to eat lunch (almuerzo) as the big meal of the day, from 2 to 4pm. Following a siesta, Madrileños enjoy tapas followed by a lighter dinner (cena) in a restaurant, usually from 9:30pm to as late as midnight. Most restaurants close one day a week, so be sure to check ahead and many upscale restaurants require a reservation. Keep in mind that you can often save money by ordering at the bar rather than occupying a table.

Note: New anti-smoking laws in Spain prohibit smoking in all enclosed public spaces including restaurants and night clubs.

What are the best areas for shopping?

Designed and built in the early 1900's as a showcase for the city's best shops, hotels and restaurants, the Gran Vía has since been eclipsed by other shopping districts. Its Art Nouveau glamour still survives, however, and here you will find the best bookstores in the city as well as outlets for clothing, shoes, jewelry, furs and handcrafted accessories from all regions of Spain.

In contrast, El Rastro is the biggest and most famous flea market in Spain. Every Sunday its stalls draw Madrileños and tourists alike (as well as pickpockets), all looking for bargains. And for average souvenir shops look no further than the area around Plaza Mayor.

Where can I rent a bicycle in Madrid?

Bike riding in the city center is not recommended due to the dangers of air pollution and traffic. However, there are parts of the capital where you can enjoy a ride, like the wooded parks of the Casa de Campo and Dehesa de la Villa, which are full of navigable trails. You can also hire bikes to explore the spacious green Juan Carlos Park on the eastern edge of the city.

Karacol Sport, Calle Tortosa 8 (tel. 91-539-96-33) rents bikes for 20€ per day. A cash deposit of 50€ and photocopy of your passport are required. Their offices are conveniently located near Atocha railway station so it's easy to take the bike on the train and journey outside the city. At Bicimania, Calle Palencia 20 (tel. 91-533-11-89) you can rent a bike for 16€-20€ for a single weekday, 40€ for an entire weekend or 100€ for the week; a cash deposit of 150€ is required as well as a copy of your passport.