Practical Life in Madrid

Transport in Madrid

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Public transport (transporte público) is generally excellent in Spanish cities, most of which have efficient urban bus and rail services, some supplemented by underground railways (metros) and trams. Spanish railways (RENFE) provide an efficient and reasonably fast rail service, particularly between cities served by AVE high-speed trains. Spain has comprehensive intercity bus and domestic airline services and is also served by frequent international coaches, suburban trains (at the station ATOCHA) and airline services.

Urban transport in major cities such as Madrid is inexpensive and efficient, and rates among the best in the world. Services include comprehensive bus routes, metros and extensive suburban rail networks. Systems are totally integrated and the same ticket (sold at tobacconists) can be used for all services. There are tickets of 5 or 10 trips. A range of commuter and visitor tickets are also available.

Students with an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) card receive a 30 per cent discount on selected Iberia flights and a 15 per cent discount on buses. Young people of less than 21 and pensioners aged 65 or over receive discounts on most forms of public transport (Young travel card – “abono joven” and pensioner age – “abono tercera edad”)


The city of Madrid has extensive subway and bus systems. The subway system doubled in size between the early 1960s and the late 1990s (whereas in Barcelona it has reduced and a full district collapsed), and it now reaches the outlying industrial and residential communities. No smoking is permitted on metro trains or in stations, which are clean and safe (crime is rare on Spanish metros).

Madrid has the largest and oldest metro system in Spain with 13 lines (12 lines and the “ramal” indicated with “R”) and 190 stations vocering most of the city, operating from 6.05am to 2.00am on all the lines.

The metro leads you directly to the airport of Madrid- Barrajas, and to the bus station “Sur”.

The price of a ticket to travel on all the network (including buses) of the community of Madrid is 1.30 euros. There are books of 10 tickets (10 viajes metrobús) that allow you to travel in metro or bus using the same ticket (price is 5.80 euros).

Be careful wherever you go as prices change from zone to zone. Ask information at the ticket offices that are in the stations.

The monthly travel card costs de 37.15 euros, and you must add the price of the card: 1.20 euros.

The tourist travel card (abono turístico) is available in Spanish and English with a tube map, a RENFE map, the map of the city, transports and main interest sites. This card is working on a daily basis from 1 to 7 days maximum, and includes a child rate (less than 11). Its price depends on the zone where you travel. It is possible to order it on the Internet, on the Madrid metro website, in the section “viajar en metro” (travel by metro) “ precios y abonos” (prices).



Regional commuter lines run between Madrid and the nearby provincial capitals of Segovia, Guadalajara, and Toledo. The country's first high-speed rail line was begun for the Sevilla World's Fair in 1992, making it possible to travel between Madrid and Sevilla in about two hours.

Renfe (Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles) is the main rail company and provides suburban, regional and high speed trains, and operates 14,738km (9,158miles) of track and 2,500 stations. The RENFE network takes in all major cities

The AVE (which also means bird in Spanish) employs "disguised" French TGV trains running on special lines and travelling at speeds of up to 300kph (185mph). A project is on-going to link the North of the country from Galicia with the AVE. It's a high speed train serving between Madrid and Sevilla, Madrid to Lleida and Madrid to Huesca. There is also a high speed Talgo between Madrid and Malaga.

Main lines provide trains such as :

  • Alaris (for Madrid-Valencia for example) offers multi-frequent travels and is perfect for business.
  • Arco, that links main cities along the Mediterranean coast
  • Altaria, link the South of the Catalogne, by Madrid
  • Euromed, offers fast link in meditarranean areas.

For longer journey :

  • Talgo, travels between main Spanish cities.
  • Intercity, slower, connect different cities.
  • Night trains (diurno), in the north, from Galicia (coruña-vigo) to Hendaye for long journey up to 10 hours

Suburban trains

Suburban trains allow access to city centers and you can find them in most of the main cities in Spain, helping about 1.500.000 commuters every day.

Regional trains

The link different cities in each region.

There is other kinds of trains in Spain such as :

  • Eskotren, for Basque coutry,
  • Eskotran, a suburban tram
  • FEVE (narrow track) ont des trains de proximité et régionaux qui couvrent le nord du pays
  • FGC (track from Generalitat de Catalogne) provides the transport in Catalogne, with buses and trams.

In order to travel on the Spanish train network, you can visit the web site of the Fondation of Spanish rail tracks (FFE), that offers information on all the network, including metro and trams.

Web Sites


Most bus services in cities run from around 06.00 until between 22.00 and midnight, when a night service normally comes into operation (which is usually more expensive than day buses). There's usually a 10-minute service on the most popular routes during peak hours and an hourly night service, although services are considerably reduced on Sundays and public holidays.


In order to travel between cities, the coach service is very well organized in Spain. There are always several departures for connexions with towns. In some areas, the coach is actually faster to arrive to your destination than the train. In addition the price is cheaper, compared to trains and planes.

You have two coach stations in Madrid (estación de autobuses), North and South.


Madrid's airport, Barajas Airport, is served by airlines from all over the world and is also the centre for an air service that connects most major Spanish cities to Madrid.


  • AENA: Aeropuerto Españoles


A EU driver's licence is valid in Spain.
Non-EU drivers (depending on the country or state, for example a New York's driving license will be valid the first year, but not a Massachusetts' one won't.) may be allowed to drive in Spain for the first year after arrival to Spain only (they need to pass a Spanish driving test afterward, that can be expensive).

Spanish freeways (motorways) are often toll roads built by private companies and are among Europe's finest. Unfortunately, they are also among the world's most expensive roads and consequently main trunk roads (carreteras) are jammed by drivers who are reluctant (or cannot afford) to pay the high motorway tolls. The road-building program (and provision of parking spaces) has, however, failed to keep pace with the increasing number of cars on Spanish roads (it's hard to believe that Spain has a lower density of vehicles than most other European countries).

Spain has four rush hours (horas puntas): 08.00-09.30, 12.30-14.30, 15.30-16.00 and 18.30-20.00; the quietest period is usually between 15.00 and 17.00. Traffic jams (atascos) are particularly bad in Madrid, where the rush "hour" lasts all day.

In order to get rid of the big car jams in cities, they have created a sytem of priority roads, called VAO ways, where only some vehicules are allowed to drive (tourists, motorbikes and some coaches) if they get the minimum of people required by the Transport department (DGT). Thus, instead of waiting 2 hours in a traffic jam, you can reach the center of Madrid in 15 minutes

Most main roads are designated priority roads (prioridad de paso), indicated by one of two signs. On secondary roads without priority signs and in built-up areas, you must give way to vehicles coming from your RIGHT. Emergency (ambulance, fire, police) and public utility (electricity, gas, telephone, water) vehicles attending an emergency have priority on all roads.

The wearing of seat belts in Spain is compulsory on all roads at all times (not only outside of towns as was previously the law) and includes passengers in rear seats. Children under 12 must travel in the back seats of cars unless the front seat is fitted with an approved child seat.

For information on traffic:

City Map:
Road Map:

Update 23/09/2005


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