Monday, August 29, 2011

Public transport in Madrid

 Madrid has excellent public transport. It's very modern, cheap and covers most of the city centre. If you're looking how to get from Madrid airport to your hotel, we recommend taking a look at this post.

Madrid Metro

Madrid’s metro network is one of the largest and modern in the world and it's the best and fastest way of getting around the city. There are 12 lines, each one with a different colour and number. It's generally very safe but watch those wallets and handbags in packed trains and stations! The metro runs from 6.00 am to 1.30 am and a journey costs 1,50€ no matter where you're going within the Madrid metropolitan area- although there is a 1€ supplement for journeys to and from the airport. The frequency of trains is high, even at the rush hour it’s a fast and comfortable way to travel especially if you are crossing the city. On weekends (Thurs-Sat nights) after the metro closes, there are nightbus routes that more or less follow the same route as the metro and leave from Plaza Cibeles. Again the ticket cost is 1,50€.

The metro station in Sol

Metro tickets can be bought in the ticket machines at metro stations and they have information in English.As we mentioned in useful info, the best thing to do is buy a 10 trip bonometro from a ticket machine, which allows for 10 trips and can be used by everyone. Alternatively passes are available for 24, 48 and 72 hours giving unlimited travel on the metro and bus networks for the duration of its validity. For full information in English see the Metro de Madrid website.

The bus network efficient and far-reaching with regular services to every corner of the city and its suburbs. Most bus stops have detailed city maps posted (useful even if you're not planning to take a bus), which include the various bus routes. In terms of accessibility, most urban buses nowadays have a special ramp for elderly and disabled people; and (important!) they are air-conditioned in the summer.

Night buses (or buhos) start from Plaza de Cibeles at midnight, circulating on weekdays every 25 minutes until 3.20 am, and then every 70 minutes throughout the night. At weekends and Fridays they run all night every 20 minutes. Just like anywhere else in the world, buses are popular spots for pickpockets, more so when crowded. Information about tourist travel pass, ticket price, lines, destinations, schedules, etc. in English can be found on the Madrid CMT. A single bus journey costs 1,50€, but you can also use 10 trip bonometro passes and tourist passes on them.

Madrid bus

If you are planning to take a bus out of Madrid, perhaps a day trip or to your next destination, there are a number of bus stations. There are two long distance bus stations; Estación Sur (Metro: Mendez Alvaro, L6) where most national buses depart from; for example to Andalucia, Valencia, Galicia etc... and Avenida de America interchange (L4,6,7,9), where buses for the Basque Country, Barcelona and Santander leave from. Make sure you know where yours leaves from! The main bus operator in Spain is Alsa and you can buy tickets from their website. The frequent and cheap buses for Toledo and Segovia (both around 1 hour from Madrid and very popular day trips) leave from Plaza Eliptica (L6) and Principe Pio (L6, L10, R) interchanges respectively.

Though slightly more expensive than they once were, Madrid's taxis are still reasonably priced and the drivers are usually honest and safe. All of Madrid's taxis are white with a red stripe. You can flag a cab anywhere and there are many official cab bays around the city. The meter starts at a set minimum price and there are different fees for day, night, weekdays, holidays and depending on the area of the city. The extras are added onto the meter by punching a few buttons, all of which are set by the local authority, another reason for the excellence in Madrid cabs.

Madrid taxis

Make sure the meter is running, otherwise you risk being overcharged. ONLY PAY WHAT IS ON THE METER. When taking taxis from the airport, train and bus stations, it is advisable to use the official taxi zones as roaming touts who offer lifts are often on the look out for an easy rip-off. NEVER USE AN UNOFFICIAL CAB- not that there are many. The cab drivers being their own boss makes sure of that! There are many different taxi companies: Teletaxi, Radiotaxi, Taxi Mercedes…etc... All of them give you the same service with the exception that you can order one over the phone. There are supplements for jorneys to and from the following:

• airport
• IFEMA fairground
• bus and train stations
• and on some public holidays
LUGGAGE: you pay if you put it inside the taxi, NOT if it goes in the boot.
TAXI BOOKINGS: they will charge you the journey from the closest taxi stop to the meeting point. These are charges on a card the cab driver has, but if he punches his buttons on the meter, it will show! Some taxi reservation numbers:
902 478 200 / 91 5478 200
91 405 12 13 / 91 40 55 500
902 50 11 30 / 91 371 21 31

By Bike
Not a good idea! Madrid is still not a bicycle friendly city…It is a pity but we have to say that Madrid is not a cycling-friendly city. Only a few adventurous cyclists dare circulate the traffic packed city centre and there are few bike lanes. However Madrid City Council is decidedly committed to the promotion of cycling as an urban transport, and 274 kilometres of bike lanes are projected to be constructed in coming years, which will link together all Madrid districts.
There are however a number of parks and open spaces such as Retiro, Parque del Oeste and the vast open wilderness of Casa del Campo on the edge of the city if you prefer to cycle somewhere a little quieter. If you really want to go off-road, you could try the Sierra de Guadarama mountain range which is less than an hour from Madrid. Here you can find true nature and tranquility as well as plenty of excellent mountain biking routes
If you want to sightsee by bike, the best idea is to go with one of the agencies in city that organise guided bike tours- see below. They will take you along safe and charming paths, away from the mad drivers. In the summer we recommend wearing good sun protection, but the routes are not too demanding. Some of the agencies also organise cycling tours in the mountains around Madrid and in other parts of Spain, a country with beautiful areas for cycling off the beaten track.

Bike tours
Mad bike (offer various tours around Madrid)
Bravo Bike (routes in Spain)
Urban Movil (bike and segway rental and tours- in Spanish)
BikeSpain (tours in Madrid and Spain)

Bike shops for renting or repair:
Bicimanía (c/ Palencia, 20 in Spanish)
Calmera (c/ Atocha, 98)

There are two main train stations in Madrid, Atocha and Chamartin. Atocha is more or less in the centre of the city and is widely used by tourists, whilst Chamartin in the north is much further out and generally not used by tourists. Most trains will stop at both. From these stations you can take trains to any part of Spain as well as to a number of international destinations. The national rail operator is called Renfe and you can book tickets online. The rail network in Spain is very good and the trains are very modern and clean. Many cities are connected by the high speed AVE service which has slashed journey times remarkably. For example Madrid-Barcelona can now be done in less than three hours. The journey used to take around seven.

A high speed AVE train

There are also the local 'cercanías' trains which might be useful for getting from Nuevos Ministerios to Sol or Atocha when coming from the airport. These serve the city as well as as local towns. As yet the airport is not connected, but hopefully by the end of 2011 it will be. Cercanías stations in the centre include Sol, Atocha Renfe and Recoletos, although the network is expanding rapidly. All cercanías trains stop at Atocha Renfe and Chamartin main stations.

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