Touchdown: how to get through the airport and down to the city center

airplane-705389_1920The over-water flight is over, finally, and you’re about to disembark from the plane and embark on several months of new experiences!

Navigating Barajas (and other European hubs)

Barajas (MAD) is big. So is Frankfurt (FRA), Heathrow (LDN), and Amsterdam (AMS), which are all major hubs you might be flying through if you couldn’t get a direct flight to Madrid. I was about to recommend downloading the GateGuru app to help you navigate through these huge international airports but when I downloaded the app to test it and browse the maps myself it wouldn’t even open. There is an app callediFly” and you can download the free version (ad supported) here for Android and here for iOS. Another option is to just download the individual guide apps for whichever airports you’re flying through. However, some of the guides, like the official guide to Munich airport do not include terminal maps.

What Not to Say to an Immigration Officer.

Do NOT volunteer any extra information about yourself. I know, this seems counter-intuitive what better way to prove that you have nothing to hide than by offering to show them all of your documentation and return flight ticket, right? However giving them too many details can actually arouse suspicion and lead to more questioning and delays at passport control. While as an auxiliar de conversación you’ll have all your papers in order for the length of your program, if they decide to pull you out of line for extra questioning you’re gonna have a bad time.

This sounds scary, but if you’re able to stay reasonably calm when you get to the border, they’ll ask a couple of questions and then wave you through. If Spain is your point of entry into the Schengen, then there’s a good chance they won’t ask you any questions at all. Just be cool and it’ll all be ok. Remember, you’ve got pretty much the most legit visa sponsor there is, so even if you do get pulled to the side, everything will work out as long as you have copies of your documents with you.

Getting to the Center

You’ve got your bags and your passport stamp, now all you need is a ride to the center! There’s lots of options, so we’ve broken down the different forms of public transport to help you find the one that fits your needs and your budget.

Cheapest Option: €2.60 T4 Cercanías train to City Center (Nuevos Ministerios, Atocha RENFE, Delicias, Piramides, Principe Pio)

RenfeThis is my go-to if I don’t want to pony up for a cab. The cars are nice and wide, and the T4 stop is the first one on the line. So, when you get on there’s lots of room for you and all your bags (it might be another story once you’re in the center). It’s about half an hour to get to Atocha RENFE, which is the station that connects to all commuter train lines in the city and is one of the major arteries of the city’s transport system. If you need to change lines or switch to the metro, this method becomes much less convenient and more expensive. So while the Cercanías is a great option for people who have their accommodation near one of the stations on the C1 line, it might not be so great for people staying next to Puerta del Sol or Gran Vía.

Easiest to Navigate: €4.80 (€1.80 + €3.00 airport supplement) Metro Madrid Line 8 (Nuevos Ministerios)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaking Line 8 into the center is pretty idiot-proof. You can get it from either T4 or from terminals 1, 2 and 3. There is a 3.00 supplement from the airport, but this might be a good time to buy a 10 ride metro pass anyway (12.20 + 3.00€, so each ride you take averages out to 1.52. Single ride tickets are 1.50-1.80€) since wherever you’re going in the next few days, there’s a good chance you’re going there by metro. Once you get to the end of line 8 (pink) you will have to change and the 10 (dark blue) and the 6 (gray) connect to most of the lines you´ll need to catch in order to get the dead center. The metro system in Madrid is very extensive and pretty easy to use. Pay attention to the platform signs in the stations though, as it is easy to end up on the right line in the wrong direction.

Most Popular: €5 Airport Express Shuttle (Corner of O’Donnell and Doctor Esquerdo, Plaza de Cibeles, Atocha RENFE )

Airport ShuttleEverybody I’ve talked to seems to love the Express Shuttle. It’s a pretty reliable way to get down to Atocha directly in about 40 minutes and there’s lots of room for luggage. Keep in mind that you have to be able to lift your luggage onto the luggage rack, so if you have a bunch of heavy bags and you’re traveling solo, this might not be the best option for you. The shuttles runs 24 hours daily, leaving every 15 minutes during the day and every 35 minutes at night.

Most Comfortable: €30 Taxi (anywhere in Zone A)

That €30 price tag may seem outrageous but if you’re trying to cart around 50% of your body weight in your checked bag alone, it’s worth it getting dropped off directly in front of your door. I get it though, when I was 23 I would have fought a bear if I thought it would save me $5.

If you’re worried about saving your back and shoulders, however, here’s a couple of ways you can save on the fare. 1) Find someone to split the cab with you. Even if you have a couple of extra bags between you, there should be plenty of room and that’ll bring the fare down to $15 each. Try posting in the auxiliar pages on Facebook to see if anyone is arriving on the same flight as you, or at least arriving a round the same time on the same date. You can join the communities here and here. 2)  Use a discount code. You might be able to get 10E off your fare if you books with a discount code  through the MyTaxi app (for  Android, iOS, and Windows). There is usually a promo code floating around somewhere on the internet but you can try mine for a discount on your first ride! Promocode: natalie.ros for 10€ off.

Still not sure how you’re going to get to the center? Get in touch with us! We offer an airport pick up service to welcome you and help you get everything you need down to the center.


2 thoughts on “Touchdown: how to get through the airport and down to the city center

  1. Pingback: How to get around Madrid: a guide to the public transport system. | How to Spain

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