Visiting Madrid? What you need to know…
Welcome to Madrid! Capital of Spain, home of living life to the maximum – if you get bored here, you’re doing something wrong. If you want to experience la vida madrileña, don’t just stick to Puerta de Sol and Plaza Mayor – check out Malasaña and the Plaza 2 de Mayo for great terraces to have a beer, while La Latina has dozens of bars and restaurants for proper Spanish food that goes beyond a ham and cheese sandwich!
Here is some practical information to help you during your stay.
Arriving by Plane
- The city’s Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas Airport (or, to make life easier, el aeropuerto) is about 20 minutes away from the city centre by car or public traffic (subject to traffic). If you’re arriving by Easyjet or Ryanair, you’ll land at terminal 1 – British Airways and Iberia are into terminal 4.
- A taxi into the city centre is a fixed rate of €30, with no additional charges for luggage.
- A metro also runs from stations at terminals 1, 2 and 3 (one station) and terminal 4. In addition to your metro ride, you will also need to pay a €3 airport supplement for the metro leaving and arriving at the airport. The airport is on line 8, and ends at Nuevos Ministerios – there are further connections there.
- If you arrive at terminal 4, there is also a Cercanías regional train station – this may be useful if you need to go further afield than central Madrid.
- A free bus goes from outside the terminals to other terminals, if you land at terminal 1 but want to move to terminal 4 for the Cercanías train.
Arriving by Train
- If you’re getting a train into the city, you’re likely to get off at Puerta de Atocha station. From there you can get the metro from Atocha metro station, or the Cercanias regional trains if you need to move to an outer suburb of Madrid (such as El Escorial, if you’re in a campsite there).
Getting around the City
- If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, you will receive a travel card for the day of the match for use on the metro, but outside of those times…
- Taxis are generally plentiful – however, there are a number of taxi apps in case you’re struggling, including MyTaxi, Hailo and PideTaxi. Uber is active in Madrid, while Cabify offers a more chauffer-like service at similar rates to public taxis. Note that taxis tend to be for up to 4 people only and this is strictly enforced.
- The Madrid metro system is brilliant – but to use it, you need to use a transport card (tarjeta de transporte público). These are available in machines in all metro stations, with instructions available in English and cost €2.50. You can choose to buy single trips on your card (costing between €1.50 and €2), but buying a 10-trip ticket (un metro-bus) works out more economical, and can also be used on the EMT bus network. A 10-trip ticket will cost €12.20 (plus the €0.50 card cost first time round).
- You can also buy a tourist ticket, which allows for unlimited use for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 consecutive calendar days (not sure what 6 days did to upset them). A 1-day pass for the central Madrid area (zona A) costs €8.40, 2 days is €14.20 and 3 days is €18.40).
- If you need to use the Cercanias (regional) trains, a separate ticket is required – you can’t load up and use your transport card).
- Madrid is an easy city to get around by foot though, and you’ll come across some brilliant sights.
Food and drink
- The Spanish eat late – lunch is typically from around 2pm, and dinner from around 9pm: if you have your eye on a place that you fancy, you may be disappointed if you turn up at 7pm…
- Tapas bars are plentiful and good quality – but there are exceptions. If there are no Spaniards in there, consider eating elsewhere.
- You’re coming for the footy, not for a culinary extravaganza (or maybe you are?), but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some good quality quick eats. A local “must” is a bocadillo de calamares – a squid sandwich. Sounds weird, tastes delicious and is available in a number of bars around Plaza Mayor. Torreznos (basically chunks of pork with crackling) is also an amazing bar snack. And a Spanish omelette – tortilla de patatas – works at any time of day, including breakfast.
- Food markets have become a Madrid institution: the one people will tell you about is Mercado de San Miguel – a stunning renovated building, which is a working market where you can eat and drink until very late – but in the centre you also have the San Anton market, San Idelfonso market and Platea, a converted former cinema near Colón square.
- Now, a word about alcohol: we’re not your Mum, we’re not here to lecture you but be aware: alcohol volumes, even on beers that you may drink in the UK, are higher in Spain, so don’t assume that because you can down 10 pints at home, you can do the same here. Spirits are more extreme – a Slater Street quadi-vodi has nothing on Spanish measures….
- Finally, be aware of something called “alcohol de garrafón” – this is alcohol, sold to bars in large quantities on the cheap, which has not been completely distilled. It’s not illegal, and it won’t kill you, but it tends to be of a lesser quality and with more impurities – ensuring a storming hangover. The lesson here: if the cost of a gin and tonic seems too cheap to be true, there’s a reason for that!
Paying for stuff
- You don’t need to bring cash with you to Spain – card acceptance is very high, and there are ATMs around every corner, which are generally cheaper than changing your money in the airport or post office before you leave.
- If you want to pay by contactless, be aware that Spain has different contactless limits than in the UK. A taxi driver may immediately tap your card for a €30 journey, and it won’t work – there’s nothing wrong with your card, you’ll just have to insert it in the machine and add your pin.
And finally but very important
- Madrid is a safe city but pickpocketing is a problem in tourist areas. Keep your valuables close and your wits about you – especially if you’re approached and asked for directions or something else random. Plaza Mayor and Puerta de Sol in particular are problem areas.
- If you do need to contact the police, it is unlikely that you’ll have to search long for someone – expect high police presence across the city. If you can’t find one, the number to dial is 091 – there is also a European emergency number, which is 112.
- Note that you must provide ID (your passport or driving license) if requested by a police officer. The police have the right to hold you at a police station until your identity is confirmed.
- Always take care of your passport, as getting a replacement is costly and time-consuming. Remember to keep a photocopy or scanned copy of your passport somewhere safe. It is advisable to have a photo of your passport on your mobile phone and a photocopy of your passport in the event you don’t have your passport on you.
- If you lose your passport, you’ll need to apply for an Emergency Travel Document online – this is the link: https://www.gov.uk/emergency-travel-document. If you need to contact the British Embassy, their telephone number is +34 91 714 6300 – this is also available out of hours.
Have fun – and come on you Red Men!!