To get around Madrid, public transportation is probably your best bet, as it is the most affordable option and can even be faster than Uber, taxi, and driving during traffic hours. However, there are a few important things that you should know that would save you from inconvenience and mistakes. When I first moved to Madrid, the transportation system seemed confusing, but after using it every single day, it actually became very simple, and I grew to love and appreciate it. In this article, I will be sharing some tips that I’ve learned through a couple months of experience, and I hope they will be useful to you!
Get the metro map
Before using the metro, grab a map – they can be found at the booths inside the metro or at any tourism place. The map is very detailed and shows colors of every line, while still making it simple and easy to read. In case you don’t have your phone, or prefer to have a physical copy, always keep a map handy. It’s also a good way for you to become familiar with the metro system and check out which stops are close to wherever you want to go.
If you’re 25 or younger, get a youth pass
Even if you are only here for a week or so, I would still recommend getting a youth pass for those that are under 26. Ten trips cost €12, but if you get the pass, you would be paying €20 for 30 days of unlimited transportation (not including €2 for the card). You could save a lot of money if you are making multiple trips per day. However, you must make an appointment at one of the Oficinas de Gestión to apply for a pass. If you have time before coming to Madrid, book an appointment online. Sometimes you may be able to walk in and apply if the office isn’t busy, but that’s not guaranteed.
Download Madrid Transport – TTP
Download this useful app to find out when the next metro, bus, or Cercanías train (Renfe) is coming so you’ll know how long you can expect to wait. You can view all the schedules and hours as well. Download the app here.
Keep in mind the hours for bus, metro, or Cercanías
Always check the times when the last bus, metro, or Cercanías train is leaving because they do close at a certain time. The bus and Cercanías usually stop at 11:30 p.m., and the metro stops at 1:30 a.m. However, there are night buses (búhos) that run after 11:30 p.m. until early morning. Just be aware when you’re going out for the night that some transportations stop running, so you might have to take the búhos, taxi, or Uber home. Or, if you’re out late enough, you can just wait until 6:30 a.m. when public transportation starts running again.
Use Google Maps and Apple Maps for navigating
I have always used Apple Maps in order to get way around, and it has always worked for me. All I do is pinpoint my current location and enter the location where I want to go. The app provides specific public transportation instructions as well as walking instructions. It lets you know the metro and/or bus stops to take, which direction to go towards, which street exit to take, etc. In addition, I have also heard similar things about Google Maps. These two apps also pretty accurately estimate when you will arrive at your destination. I would recommend these two apps as they are simple to use and very reliable.
Make sure you’re going in the right direction
Each line always has two directions, whether it’s bus, metro, or train. Always make sure you’re not going toward the opposite way! However, if you find yourself going the wrong way, always immediately take the next stop. If you’re on the wrong metro or Cercanías train, get off the next stop and take the opposite direction back to the metro or train stop you were previously at. If you took the wrong bus, you might just be able to get off and walk back to the bus stop, or walk to the next nearest stop.
Give yourself extra time
One of the most common mistakes I made when I first started taking public transportation here was not giving myself extra time to get to my destination. You should always give yourself at least 10-15 extra minutes to make sure you get there on time because things can happen. The train might arrive late, the metro might make everyone get off at the next stop, the bus might breakdown, or other situations that you wouldn’t expect to happen. It’s always good just to be safe, especially if you have to be at your destination on time.
Be aware of your surroundings
Unfortunately, public transportation in Madrid is a very common place where pickpocketing and petty crime can happen. With that being said, always make sure you are aware of the people around you and keep your bags zipped up and closed. You should hold your bag or purse in your lap – it can be risky to wear your backpack on your back. It’s also not a good idea to take your wallet out, and if you must have your phone out, be careful when having it in your hands. If you’re by a door, hold onto your belongings, as people can try to snatch your things as they run out the exit door.
Don’t fall asleep
One reason to not fall asleep on public transportation is, clearly, pickpocketing. But more commonly, you may just end up missing your stop and wasting more time. I know it has probably been a long day, but if you can, just try to stake awake until you get home.
Have your card or change ready
Make sure you always have your metro card ready to scan or change ready to pay the bus driver. It saves time and won’t hold up the line of people behind you.
Lastly, just remember to be courteous to others. Most of the time people are just trying to get from point A to point B, but it doesn’t hurt to be considerate. Before getting on the bus or metro, step aside and allow everyone to get off before getting on. If you see an elderly or handicapped person, or a pregnant woman, ask them if they would like to sit ¿Te quieres sentar?. The little nice things you do can make your transportation experience better and even improve someone else’s.