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Transportation in Madrid


Madrid Busses

Madrid has 194 city bus lines and a fleet numbering over 2,000 busses, owned and operated by the EMT (Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid, S.A.). The urban bus network covers the entire urban area with connections to all transportation hubs including Metro stations, train stations and the airport. Each bus line has its own number or letter and hours, though service generally begins at around 6:00 and terminates at around 23:30. When normal service is closed a special night-bus network takes over. Night-busses in Madrid are nicknamed búhos by residents, Spanish for "owls", and run all night long. All night-bus routes start at Cibeles, in the city centre, and go outward along special night routes. Nightbusses are identified by the letter "N" before their route number (e.g.: N14). Along with búhos there are also metrobúhos, night-busses that follow most Metro line routes when the Metro is closed. Metrobúho routes are identified by the letter "L" (for línea) in front of the Metro line number they are meant to substitute (e.g.: L3). An intercity bus network connects Madrid with all peripheral cities. The main transit hubs, called "intercambiadores", are Avenida de América, Méndez Álvaro, Príncipe Pío and Plaza de Castilla. City bus tickets are the same as Metro tickets and can be bought at tabacco shops, known as "estancos", Metro stations and some kiosks. Intercity bus tickets can be bought at bus terminals or online.

Abono Transportes de Madrid

You can also acquire an Abono de Transportes, a monthly pass that allows unlimited access to the entire public transportation network, both busses and trains. To do this just head to any tabacco shop (estanco) with a standard passport sized photo and ask for an Abono. You will be asked to specify the zona ("zone") that you would like to be able to travel out to with your Abono and will have to provide your passport number. Zona A, the innermost zone, covers the entire city of Madrid while Zona E2, the outermost, takes you as far out as Toledo, 71 kilometres away and capital of the neighbouring Autonomous Region! Most use the Zona A Abono or, if they live outside the city limits in neighbouring towns, Zona B1 or B2 Abonos. For a full zone map of the Madrid Autonomous Region click here. The red centre zone is the city of Madrid. Remember to ask for an Abono Joven if you're under 21 to get your tickets at half price. If you are a senior citizen aged 65 years or over, you can get your Abono for just 10€ out to Zona C2. Just ask for the Abono Tercera Edad and bring documentation with you to prove your age. A passport will do.

Special lines are often facilitated for special events or occasions, like the Noche en Blanco lines, or to cover Metro routes when service is interrupted for long periods.


Madrid Metro

Inaugurated on October 17th, 1919, the Madrid Metro now has 16 lines (including 3 light rail lines) and 354 stations which handle some 2,000,000 passengers a day. It is the third largest metro in the world after the London Underground and the New York City Subway, even though Madrid's population is less than half that of London or New York. This makes Madrid's metro one the most comprehensive in the world. Trains pass by about every 4 minutes on weekdays and an average of every 2 minutes during morning and evening rush hours. The Madrid Metro opens at 6:00 am and closes at 1:30 am. Metro maps and schematics may be downloaded in a variety of formats through the Madrid Metro website. Past 1:30 am you can take the metrobúho, above-ground busses that follow most metro routes after dark. Metrobúho routes are identifiable by the letter "L" (for línea) in front of the Metro line number they are meant to substitute (e.g.: L3). Note that while metrobúho routes are analagous to Metro lines, they are not identical as they must follow the roads (many of which are one-way) and they generally terminate before their underground counterparts do.

Madrid Metro Train Interior

The base price for a one way ticket, called the billete sencillo, is 1€ and all tickets are good for both the Metro and city busses. If you're planning on staying in Madrid for a bit and are only an occasional Metro user then a 10-trip ticket, called the Metrobús, should serve you well. If, on the other hand, you are a heavy Metro user you might want to do as the locals do and opt for an Abono de Transportes, which allows unlimited travel on the Metro or city busses of Madrid for a whole month. If you are 21 years of age or younger, you qualify for the Abono Joven, which is just half the price of the normal Abono. Lucky you! And if you're 65 or older you can request the Abono Tercera Edad out to Zona C2 for just 10€ .

Madrid Metro Map

To acquire your Abono just head to any tabacco shop ("estanco") with a standard passport sized photo and ask for an Abono. Be sure to bring documentation, such as a passport, to prove your age if you want an Abono Joven or Abono Tercera Edad. You'll be asked to specify which zona (zone) you want to be able to travel out to and you'll have to provide your passport number. The further out the zone you select is, the more expensive the Abono becomes, but the greater the area you can freely travel within on public transport. Zona A covers the entire city of Madrid while B1 and B2 take you to neighbouring towns out in the middle of the Madrid Autonomous Region. Consult the zone map of the Madrid Autonomous Region to orient yourself and choose the best option for you. The red centremost zone is the city of Madrid. You'll get a card wallet with a special barcode which you'll be able to use anywhere tickets are sold to purchase your monthly ticket. The card wallet normally costs about 5€ .

Metro and bus tickets in Madrid are sold in Metro stations (at automatic ticket machines), tabacco shops ("estancos") and some kiosks. Yearly metro passes are also available for those who request them.

Madrid Metro Emblem

Curiously, trains in the Madrid Metro circulate on the left, as in the UK, rather than on the right as is the norm for continental Europe. This is because in 1919, when the Metro was opened, there was as yet no nationwide regulation regarding proper circulation with the result that in Barcelona traffic circulated on the right side while in Madrid it circulated on the left. When the regulation obligating all traffic to circulate on the right was finally adopted (in 1930), the first lines of Madrid's Metro had already been up and running for quite awhile and it was decided they would retain their unusual (for Europe) pattern of circulation to avoid the cost of changing all the signalling.

Repairs and improvements in the Metro are generally programmed for August and September, the months with the lowest volume of passengers. When sections of the Metro are closed for repairs, special above-ground bus lines are created to cover the routes. Line extensions and the construction of new lines are underway until at least 2020 and are inaugurated continually.

A note of caution: if you travel across multiple zones you will have to swipe your ticket a second time to exit the station, as ticket checking is automated on short-distance trains, so be sure to keep your ticket with you until you leave even if it's just a simple one-way ticket.


Cercanías Train

Local rail in Spain is called Cercanías and covers short distance intercity transportation. It is run by the national rail operator, RENFE (Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles). It can be a faster alternative to the Metro for inner-city travel as well. Madrid's local rail service is divided into six zones. You can consult the Cercanías Madrid zone map at the RENFE website. Most inner-city travel is done within Zone A. The Abono de Transportes (see the Bus and Metro sections for details) is good for travel on Cercanías so long as you do not travel beyond your Abono's zone, and Cercanías can be a fast alternative to the metro to get from one end of the city to the other as there are fewer stops.

Atocha Greenhouse

Madrid has two major rail hubs, Atocha in the south and Chamartín in the north, from which you can travel by rail to any part of Spain. Spain's high-speed trains (AVE) arrive to and depart from Atocha and Chamartín. Tickets are sold at automatic ticket machines in rail stations for short-distance trips (up to Zone E2) and at ticket counters for long-distance trips. There are no conductors on short-distance trains, instead you will swipe your ticket a second time to exit the station so be sure to keep it with you until you leave.

Madrid Regional Rail Map

High speed trains depart hourly for Barcelona. A trip from central Madrid to central Barcelona takes from 2h 30min to 3h, depending on whether or not there is a stopover in Saragossa. High speed links are also available to Seville, Málaga and nearby Segovia and many more are being developed. The aim of the central government is to connect all major Spanish cities by AVE in the next few decades, which would make for one of the most comprehensive and ambitious high speed rail networks in the world. A direct, unbroken high speed rail link to France is under construction as well, though it will be awhile before it is finished. Another high speed rail corridor connecting Madrid to Lisbon, Portugal, is also in the works and should be operational by 2013.


Madrid Taxi

Madrid's taxis are white in colour and cover all of the city of Madrid as well as 26 neighbouring cities. They run 24 hours a day all year long. There are 3 types of fares depending on the day and time of day. Trips to and from the airport or to and from train or bus hubs have a special supplementary fareof 5.50€ , effectively an added fee. Fares are charged per kilometre, not per person, and are displayed on the taxi meter. At the end of your trip the driver will press a button which will automatically add the applicable supplementary charges and cause the total fare to be displayed. You should never pay more than the fare displayed on the meter, unless, of course, you choose to tip. Some taxi drivers may speak some English, French or German, but it is best to be prepared to communicate in Spanish if you decide to take a taxi in Madrid.

Passengers have the right to choose the route to be followed, request that the volume of the radio be adjusted, and to request the air conditioning be switched on in the Summer. You are also guaranteed the availablity of change for bills up to 20€. Tips are accepted, but it is not customary to tip in Spain. If you do decide to tip your driver for especially good service, stay within about 5% to 10% of the total fare.


Barajas T4

Barajas International Airport, about 12 kilometres from the city centre, is the fourth busiest in Europe (after Frankfurt, Charles de Gaulle and Heathrow) and tenth busiest in the world. It is visited by over 50 million travellers a year on average. The four terminals (T1, T2, T3 and T4) are spacious and greatly reduce the concentration of passengers compared to other major European airports. Together, Barajas' terminals occupy 1,000,000 m², the largest area occupied by airport terminals anywhere in the world. The Madrid Metro runs through the airport and connects T4 with T1, T2 and T3. There is also a free airport bus service with stops at all terminals. To enter or exit Barajas by Metro a supplementary fare of 1€ is charged over the ordinary fare. This is called the suplemento del aeropuerto. The suplemento del aeropuerto is waived, however, if you use an Abono de Transportes (see the Bus and Metro sections for details). It takes about half an hour each way to go back and forth between Barajas and the city centre by Metro. City busses and taxis also connect the airport with the city centre. A Cercanías line is under construction that will connect the airport with the Chamartín rail hub in just 10 minutes. It will be operational in 2010.

Madrid Barajas Airport

Madrid's airport has direct flights to most large and medium sized European cities, to every major city in the world and the highest number of direct flights to Latin America of any European airport. A large portion of Spanish air traffic is generated by domestic flights and direct flights are available from Madrid to every major airport in Spain. The Madrid-Barcelona route, known as the puente aéreo (air bridge), is the world's busiest, having the highest number of flights per week of any route in the world.

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