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How to get around Madrid: Metro, taxi, bus...

With a population of 5 million inhabitants, Madrid is the largest city in Spain. This makes it a extensive city with a developed web of highways and streets. However, from the visitor's viewpoint Madrid has an advantage - almost all of the tourist attractions are located in the downtown area, which is easily covered by foot. We do inform you of the most convinient transport alternatives for the tourist: the metro (subway), buses (including the highly recommendable tourist buses) and taxis. For those who travel outside of Madrid, we suggest the intercity buses and the suburban trains. Car rental is a good option for traveling in Spain as well.

Metro

Madrid metro stationThe metro system in Madrid is the third oldest in Europe (1919) after London and Paris. It is quick, clean, safe and easy to use. The 13 lines of the Madrid metro system go practically anywhere in the city. The lines are differentiated by color and are numbered 1 to 13. Tickets can be purchased at any kiosk or station (booths or automated machines). Individual tickets (1€) are available, as well as packages of 10 (6.15€) and monthly passes. The pack of 10 is recommended, because the pass can be used by different people. The tickets can be used with the metro or with the public bus system. The metro runs from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. We recommend always carrying a Madrid metro map.

Despite the safety of the Madrid metro, it is important to note that pickpockets are frequent. They usually single out tourists, especially those that do not speak Spanish. Always take precaution at peak hour and never carry valuable objects in bags, backpacks or easily accessible pockets.

Buses: City buses and tourist buses

City buses, MadridThe city buses (operated by the Empresa Municipal de Transporte - EMT) are a good alternative to the metro, especially if one's objective is to see Madrid. The transportation is not as agile as the metro, but it is very comfortable. All the buses have air conditioning and many use alternative energy. About half of the buses are wheelchair accessible. Boarding a bus with luggage is left up to the driver, who can deny entry if the bus is very full. Bus and metro tickets are the same. If one does not have a ticket, it is possible to directly pay the driver. The majority of the buses run from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The night buses (called “buhos”) run less frequently and always pass by the Plaza de Cibeles. The price is the same.

City buses, MadridRemember, the traffic jams in Madrid are frequent and affect the buses despite the fact they circulate the lane exclusive for buses and taxis.

For more information about stops and routes, consult the official web site of the EMT.

Madrid Vision is authorized by the city of Madrid to manage tour buses. The company offers routes within Madrid on open-air double decker buses. It is a comfortable, friendly and accessible way to get to know Madrid. There are three different routes that cover all of what there is to see in Madrid. All buses depart from the Puerta del Sol, although bus access is available from any bus stop. The buses tours are avaliable in eight languages and run throughout the year. The operational hours vary with the season. In spring and autumn they run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. In summer the hours are 9:30 to midnight and the winter hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The price is 17€ for adults, which allows access to any of the buses and routes all day. For more information, prices, and reservations, consult their site.

Taxi

Taxis in MadridThe taxis in Madrid are white and are distinguished with a diagonal red band on the front doors. A lit green light on top of the taxi indicates if it is available. The easiest way to stop a taxi is by lifting a hand (to a taxi with its green light on).

Finding a taxi in the downtown area of Madrid is relatively simple and should take no longer than two or three minutes. The fare is always indicated by the taxi meter in the front part of the taxi. The taxi meter starts its fare with the “bajada de bandera” (lowering of the flag), which is usually about 1.5€. After that, the taxi meter runs according to distance covered, the urban area, the day of the week (higher fares on holidays), and the pickup point (higher fares for pickups in bus stations, train stations and airport). The night fare is always higher than the day fare. In no case is one owed to pay additional fares for luggage or pets transport. All additional fares are always indicated on informational signs on the back windows of the taxi. Remember that the taxi should always charge by the meter. Turn down any negotiated or closed fares which, besides being illegal, almost always end up being a more expensive fare. If unsatisfied with the service, remember to write down and call in the taxi registration and license plate numbers.

For additional information about taxis and reservations, call Radio Telifono-Taxi (902 478 200) or Tele Taxi (902 501 130)

Long distance buses

For travel outside of Madrid, the bus is an economic option and is as fast and efficient as the train. This is especially true for destinations near Madrid like Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Aranjuez and Chinchón.

The long distance buses depart from three different stations in Madrid: Mendez Alvaro, Avenida de America and Conde de Casal. Follow this link for more information about bus stations in Madrid.

Suburban rail lines. Local Trains

The suburban rail line system in Madrid is comfortable, economical and efficient. The system is composed of 13 lines that run throughout Madrid. The suburban trains are especially conveneint and fast for trips to nearby cities such as Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial and Aranjuez.

All lines leave or pass through Atocha. The main suburban train stations are Chamartín, Príncipe Pío, Nuevos Ministerios, Recoletos, Delicias, Embajadores, Aluche and Méndez Alvaro.

The trains operate daily from 6 a.m. to midnight. They usually pass through every 15 to 30 minutes. The single ticket price varies between 1.10 and 3.40, depending on the trip.

For more information visit Renfe or the Consorcio de Transporte de Madrid.

Car Rental

It is definitely not recommended to rent a car to get around within Madrid. The traffic in Madrid is intense, slow and dangerous. Parking in Madrid is expensive and always difficult. Also, a large part of Madrid's tourist area is not accessible by car.

For travel plans including different areas of Spain, a rental car can be an option to consider. The three main rental points in Madrid are the Atocha Station, Chamartín Station and the airport. The majority of the rental agencies require a credit card (not a debit card) and a deposit (sometimes up to 300€). In general the driver is required to be at least 21 years old (sometimes 23). Keep in mind that this is not the most economical transportation option.

Some of the main vehicle rental agencies operating in Madrid are PepeCar, Avis, EuropCar, Hertz, ATESA y AeroCiy. Out of all of them, PepeCar is possibly the least expensive.

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