FForeign travel can be daunting for many people, especially to a country where the language can be a challenge. Many people are frightened of having to deal with not only a strange language, but also an unfamiliar currency, a different culture and a whole different way of daily life.
Madrid is becoming increasingly popular among American travelers, and is a perfect destination for those who want to cast their fears aside and experience a totally new environment armed with good advice on how to comfortably survive their visit and turn it from potentially frightening to fantastic.
When it comes to Spain, the currency is the euro represented by the symbol, €. You must be aware that 10 euros is not the same as 10 dollars. For example, an item that cost 100 euros would be equivalent to $112 US dollars. However, the rate between the US dollar and the euro constantly fluctuates. The best thing to do when it comes to spending money in Madrid is to know the rate of exchange. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of converting your money into euros, there is always the option of using your debit or credit card to make all your purchases.
Whether you are a tourist sightseeing or a local traveling to work, there are many options when it comes to getting around the city of Madrid. Depending on your budget, the first option would be the metro system. One ride will cost you 1,50 euros which is about $1.75. There is a 10 ride card for 12,20 € that is offered in the metro system that overall saves you money. It is clean, safe, fast, and comfortable. If you are not bothered by traveling underground, this is definitely a great and affordable option to get around. If you like scenery, the 10 ride card can also be used on buses. It is worth your while to learn the bus network to get a street level view of this fascinating city.
An increasingly common way to get around the city is by public scooters. Signing up for this scooter service allows individuals to ride any scooter they see on the street to their destination and then leave it. A frequent visitor to Madrid, Dion Baez, said, “scooters are convenient and fast, but also kind of dangerous.” The final transportation option but the most costly would be the good old fashioned taxi cab or Uber. Regardless of which option an individual decides to go with, each option is always available.
I have been to a few Spanish-speaking countries in which I was able to communicate in English with the locals such as in Mexico and Puerto Rico. However, traveling to Spain let me know that I definitely should have learned Spanish. From the minute I got off the plane to my hotel, no one could understand me. Asking for directions was extremely hard because they really did not understand me and I did not understand them. I recommend learning a few phrases such as “Where is…” (Donde esta’…?) “How much is..?” (Cuanto cuesta..?) and “I don’t speak Spanish” (No hablo espanol). A local who I tried to ask for directions pulled out her cell phone and typed to me on the Google Translate app. This was my only way of understanding what she was trying to tell me. I found myself having to pull out my phone each time I needed to order food or ask a question. I highly suggest if anyone chooses to visit Spain, it is important to try to have a Spanish-speaking friend or companion with you. If you are traveling on your own I highly suggest to either learn some Spanish or use a translation smartphone app like Google Translate to help you communicate.
When it comes to eating out in Madrid, it is important to know the different hours in which meals are served. For example, breakfast, lunch and dinner are not served during the hours Americans are accustomed to. Breakfast is usually around 10 to 11 am. Lunch is from 2 to 5 p.m. Dinner starts around 9 p.m. If you can’t wait until the late dining hours, try the Spanish evening tradition of tapas which are small dishes served in almost every bar.
When It comes to visiting Madrid, most tourists hear about visiting popular museums such as Reina Sofia, Thyssen and The Prado. Although these are worth seeing, there are so many other wonderful neighborhoods and places to see. One neighborhood is Lavapies which has many Senegalese people. One thing that makes this neighborhood so significant is not only the rich culture but the flamboyant street art that can be seen all through the neighborhood. A simple walk down a street in this neighborhood is like going to an art show. Surprisingly, one store owner told me he was from Manhattan which is a New York City borough I live in. I asked him what made him come to Spain and he mentioned he been in Spain for 20 years because business is better.
Another area to visit is Conde Duque. This is a small neighborhood with a vibrant style. You can come across some authentic Spanish restaurants as well as unique businesses. Two unique stores located in the small neighborhood of Conde Duque are Duke and Radio City. Duke is a fashion store where you can find exclusive sneakers and clothing. Radio City is an exclusive music shop that sells vintage classic cd’s and vinyl records. At a time when everything is going digital, it is very rare and amazing to find a business like this that still exists. The neighborhood is quiet and comfortable. Like most neighborhoods in Madrid, you can find a bunch of street art in Conde Duque. Also located in Conde Duque is the cultural center where not only do you see and learn the history of Madrid, but can also enjoy creative art work. There are also important documents and books. If you are interested in visiting a nice laid back artistic neighborhood with small Spanish restaurants, bars and cafes, this is definitely the place to go.
A Day Out
If you need a break from culture and monuments, take the short train ride out to Parque Warner, a full water and theme park featuring water rides and roller coasters. This is the place to go when you are looking for complete adventure. There are a number of different pools to keep you cool located throughout the park, accommodating both children and adults. This is definitely a great place to enjoy with friends and family.
By being well prepared and knowing the right things to do and places to see can make a huge difference to your Madrid experience. Before leaving, plan out a realistic budget, and take advantage of any cost saving measures. Madrid can be boiling hot in the summer and freezing in the winter, so dress appropriately. Wherever you go, keep these tips in mind and have a great time.
Duke Clothing Shop, Calle del Conde Duque, 18, Tel. 915 42 48 49
Radio City Music Shop, Calle del Conde Duque, 14, Tel. 915 47 77 67
Parque Warner Brothers Madrid, San Martín de la Vega, Madrid Tel. 912 000 792
Edited by Julissa Ramirez.