How to get around Madrid: a guide to the public transport system.

We started to talk about the city’s transport system in our article about how to get to the center from the airport. Now we’ve got a comprehensive guide on how to figure out your morning commute and get your travel card!

Everyone sings the praises of Madrid’s public transport system, and while it is extensive and easy to use once you’ve learned it, when you first look at the sprawling criss-cross of colored lines you might be a little overwhelmed.

The Madrid Metro network alone is 293 kilometers long (that’s about 182 miles), has 13 different lines and 301 separate stations. You can start familiarizing yourself with the system way before you get here by taking a look at the interactive Madrid Metro Map, or downloading the official public transportation app available for iOS and Android. Android uses may find the Madrid Metro|Bus|Cercanías app more useful though, since you can look at routes and schedules for the Metro, city buses, Cercanías trains and inter-city buses that head out to the pueblos in one app. Get it here.

Line 1 Closure

One thing to keep in mind is that line 1 (that’s the light blue line) will be closed for maintenance until the middle of November 2016. The city has created a special bus service from Sierra de Guadalupe Vallecas to Atocha Renfe, but people living in the area have reported dissatisfaction with the replacement service. If you come as an auxiliar however, it’s more likely that you’d only be working in Vallecas as opposed to living there. As Atocha RENFE is very easily accessed from nearly all corners of the city center, there’s a very good chance that if you are placed in Vallecas, you’d manage the situation with few to no problems by taking advantage of the commuter rail (Cercanias lines C-2, C-7). The closure is putting more pressure on nearby lines so plan accordingly.

Let’s look on the bright side though! People living in the area will have to contend with far worse and will have been dealing with it since late June 2016. At any rate, the neighborhood is still much better connected than some of the pueblos other conversation assistants have been placed in, and you’ll never need a bla bla car to get down to El Pozo.

Getting Around

The first step to getting to work is figuring out where the hell it is. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you to look up the address on Google Maps, but that is definitely where you should start. Once you’ve got a lock on your location, zoom in, change to street view and click around to explore the ground level. This will let you see if there’s major obstacles between the nearest public transport stop and your destination (ex. train tracks, major highways, etc.), and if there’s any way around said obstacles (walkways, pedestrianized tunnels, etc.)

Once you’ve figured out where your placement or class is, locate the nearest accessible public transport stop on the map. Then, work backwards from that point to where you’ll be living or to the different places you hope to be living (we’ll be looking at some of the popular neighborhoods for people coming to Madrid to teach English in a future post).

To plan your route, typing your origin and destination points into Google Maps is normally all you really need to do, but I recommend figuring it out yourself with the metro app. Google sometimes won’t show bus routes or metro times, and the last time I searched a route it wasn’t taking into account the closure of line 1.

One caveat: Google Maps doesn’t seem to be listing the route numbers of bus stops at this time. It takes a bit more legwork, but if you know the name of the area where you’re going, you can use the official transport site to figure out the route. If your school is located in one of the many pueblos then the bus route you need is probably listed on that village’s town hall (ayuntamiento) website.

Getting the Abono

Once you get here, you’ll need to get your Abono or your travel card. This process is not at all difficult, but can be a bit of a pain in the ass depending on when you’re trying to get it. If you’re reading this in now and haven’t gotten here yet, make your appointment to get your travel card at a Public Transport Card Office now.

If you’re already here or reading this the first week of October, then don’t worry, you can still get a card without an appointment. If you weren’t able to schedule an appointment then don’t go to the transport office in Sol. There are half a dozen other transport offices in the center you can go to get this taken care of such as: Principe Pío, Plaza de Castilla, Moncloa, Nuevos Ministerios, Avenida de América, Ciudad Universitaria and Colonia Jardín. Atocha RENFE also has a transport card office, but it stays pretty busy as it’s very central and one of the biggest transport hubs in the city.

Though the offices take walk-ins, the agent who deals with you may insist you need an appointment. If the office isn’t packed with people who do in fact have an appointment, continue to firmly but politely insist that you don’t need one. If you’re unable to get a card through one of the official offices, you can still get it taken care of at one of the following tobacco shops (estancos): Calle Fuencarral 80 (metro Tribunal), Calle Murcia 9 (metro Palos de La Frontera), Paseo de Delicias 150 (metro Legazpi), Calle Pinzón 48 (metro Vista Alegre).

In terms of documentation you will need: a (Spanish) passport-sized photo of yourself, taken within the last 6 months, a photocopy of an accepted ID (that’s your TIE or passport photo page, and this form completed with your information.

If you’re under 26, the travel card for all zones is only 20€. You might as well get it for all zones, and then take advantage of “free” fares to places like Cercedilla, Alcala de Hernares and Aranjuez for cheap and cheerful day trips on the weekend or your free Friday if you’re one of those lucky dogs with three day weekends.

Cabs and Car Sharing

If you should ever need a taxi, cabs are usually plentiful and so much cheaper than other European capitals like London and Paris. You can even get a discount on your first ride that you book through the myTaxi app with the discount code natalie.ros. Uber has arrived as well, and while it hasn’t been that much cheaper the times I compared fares, the option is there. Use our discount code: natalier3710ue to get your first ride free (*value amounts vary by location).

Those who had the foresight to get their international driver’s license or those who have a license issued by a country within the EU/EEA/Switzerland, may find car2go a useful car-sharing service. Once you sign up and are approved, you can search and reserve a smart car from various parking points around the city. You use the app to start your rental, drive it to your destination, and then park it for free in any public parking within the designated home area.

Wherever you need to go in Madrid, there’s a way to get there! If you’d still like some personalized guidance on finding the best route for your commute, you can always contact us for a consultation.


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