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A Guide To Getting Around Madrid

Madrid holds a special place in our hearts; it’s mine and Caleb’s top pick globally. We’ve explored it so many times, experiencing getting around the beautiful city in numerous ways. We’re here to help ensure you make the most of your time and don’t waste it on a bus or figuring out time tables.

When thinking about navigating the city, you might wonder if you will need a car. Generally, the answer is no, you don’t need to rent a car. But we’re here to spill all the details on Madrid’s transport scene, helping you make an informed choice.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go – starting with a quick video we made of the streets of Madrid so you can see just how walkable they are without needing a car!

YouTube video

Quick Navigation:

You Don’t Need a Car in Madrid If…

You plan to stay within the city center, where all the tourist attractions, best restaurants, and epic wine, vermouth, and cocktail bars are.

So, when we put it like that is there EVEN a reason to leave the city center? NADA. 😅

The city center of Madrid is pretty compact making it super walkable and accessible by public transport (more on that later) so you really do not need a car to enjoy the sites. You can even take the ah-may-zing superfast trains outside of the city if you plan to do a day trip – no navigating Spanish road signs required! 

Just like when you are thinking about getting a car in Mallorca, parking and driving in Madrid is also a bit of a nightmare, so it is better to not have a car if you’re sticking around the city. Trust us, it’s no bueno. I’m basically Spanish, I know.

You Do Need A Car in Madrid If…

The ONLY reason that I can foresee you needing a car in Madrid is if you want to do a day trip and do not want to rely on train timetables because you want the flexibility to be able to leave and return when you want.

Which, in our opinion is pretty silly because the trains are affordable, fast, and comfy and roads are way easier to navigate when you’re looking at them from a window holding a glass of Spanish wine instead of driving them trying to understand what the signs say. 

The only other reason you may need a car in Madrid is if you are planning a longer vacation across Spain and doing a bit of a road trip you may end up having a car in Madrid. Good luck parking.

We’ll pray for you.

If you DO decide to grab a car, we love Discover Cars for car rental booking as they show you all the provider options, availability and prices!

>> Click here to check prices and availability of rental cars during your stay! <<

A large white building in Madrid with cars driving down the street

3 Things to Consider When Deciding to Rent a Car Or Not

To help you decide if you need a rental car or not during your itinerary for Madrid, here are 3 things we recommend you consider 

  1. Your budget – while renting a car is relatively affordable (around $15-$60 per day depending on the season) it may not be the best option for you if you are on a tight budget.
  2. How many days you are spending – if you have a limited number of days in Madrid, then you are best maximizing your time in the city center and not renting a car. If you have more days in Madrid you could rent a car and get out of the city some days to explore the surrounding areas!
  3. What you want to see – if you’re coming to Madrid for the main historical sites, for nightlife or to experience the city, then we HIGHLY recommend staying in the best areas for walking and not renting a car. If you want to get outside of the city to places where trains don’t run, maybe consider a car rental.

Free Email Course: Madrid Made Easy

Discover everything you need to know to plan an EPIC Madrid Getaway in our free email course!

Most Convenient Ways to Navigate the City From walking To The Bus

When you’re thinking about how to explore Madrid without a car, you are in luck because there are many ways to get around our favorite city, even if you’re only spending a weekend! During the almost 10 times that we have visited the city, these are the ways that we noticed most people getting around and the ways that we personally have gotten around the city ourselves.

People walking down a side street in Madrid in front of a yellow building

1. Your Feet

Usually, when we travel around Europe, we prefer to get around on foot and this is the best option for you in Madrid – especially after wandering down the Calle Cava Baja tapas street and eating all that Spanish cheese, wine, and tapas that make Madrid a great place to visit! You’ll need a little digesting, you feel me?

Madrid is SUPER walkable and the main hot spots are pretty close to each other so we (strongly, strongly, strongly) suggest you plan on walking as your main form of transport! This is especially true if you go in the Spring or Summer (the best times of year to visit Madrid!) as the weather is comfortable and walkable!

a black uber car driving down a street in Madrid

2. Cabify/Uber/Bolt/BlaBla Car

Just like the USA, ride-sharing apps are super popular in Madrid and they are a great way to get around – especially if you want to practice your Spanish. Caleb literally ALWAYS tries to have a conversation with the driver in English, and then we all end up not understanding each other and it gets awkward. Every. Single Time.

The best app is Cabify – you’ll find the best prices and lots of drivers.  

PRO TIP:

Download Cabify RIGHT NOW before you forget and then you have no service to download it later. Or, just be a cool kid like us and get GoogleFi so you have service all over the world and can download it any old day!

There is Uber and Bolt in Madrid but there aren’t as many drivers and a lot of times you don’t get the best prices. We recommend avoiding these apps when you’re in Madrid.

There is also an app called BlaBlaCar where locals can just input a journey they are already going to drive and then if someone happens to want to join them, they can. So, that one is entirely dependent on where locals are going that day but it can be a fun, authentic experience!

The metro station in Madrid Airport

3. Metro

This is my and Caleb’s most preferred way to travel around the city outside of our own two feet.

The Metro in Madrid is one of the biggest and best European subway systems and it has 12 lines, 3 trams, and over 300 stations! The lines typically run from 6 am to 1:30 am and the metros come every 2-15 minutes depending on the time of day (less frequent at night.) The lines are all numbered and color-coded just like basically all other metro systems in the world, making it pretty easy to figure out how to navigate after a day or so!

You can take the metro directly from the Madrid Barajas Airport to Nuevos Ministerios central hub to help you get around Madrid after landing!

a blue and black bus in Madrid that says Madrid 30 on the outside

4. The Public Bus

While the public bus may not be the fastest or most luxurious option on the list, it’s great for those on a budget!

The public bus service is called EMT Madrid and has over 200 bus lines that generally run from around 6 am to 11:30 pm. And, if you guys stay out a little late at a cozy wine bar – have no fear! You are not stranded!

EMT Madrid has 27 “Búhos” or “owl” night buses. These are marked with an “N” and you can grab these from Plaza de Cibeles after 11:30 pm. They run every 35 minutes from Sunday to Friday and on public holidays, and every 15-20 minutes on Saturdays and the eve of a public holiday. The bus stop will tell you the frequency so it’s best to check there.

You could also download the EMT Madrid app if you want info at your fingertips! However, we have to tell you that it’s not the easiest app to navigate and neither is the EMT Madrid website, so be prepared for a little confusion!

PRO TIP:

The easiest way to use the app is to hit the menu in the top left, hit directions, then toggle over to “places” instead of “stop code” and put where you are and where you want to go and ignore basically everything else in the app.

There are also the interurban buses “known as Madrid’s Green Buses.” These are privately owned by different companies and are great to get to different regions outside of Madrid. You can purchase tickets directly from the driver or at bus station kiosks.

Paying For The Bus:

Madrid has come to the twentieth century and has adopted the “tap and go” payment system, meaning you don’t have to wander around the city looking for change and then trying to find a ticket kiosk! You can simply jump on board and tap your credit card – VOILA you guys have paid for the bus!

A single ticket will run you around $2 USD and, if you decide to pay in cash, the maximum change you can pay is $5 – they won’t take anything bigger.

a Madrid city tourist bus driving down a street in madrid

5.City Sightseeing Tourist Bus

Like many big cities, Madrid has a hop-on hop-off City Sightseeing bus that you can use for 24 to 48 hours and has over 20 stops that leave every 7-15 minutes.

>> PRO TIP: Grab your tickets in advance here!! <<

While this is not our cup of tea, it’s an option if you’re short on time, want to see the main sites, and don’t want to use other forms of public transport or your own footsies.

a pretty alley in Madrid with cafes lining the side

Don’t Count On These Methods Of Transport

Taxi

In general, we don’t advise taking a taxi unless you are A. Super stressed out when you land about navigating getting to the city center like we were the first time we visited Madrid and just wanted it to be EASY okay? 

Or, B. like blowing money. *A moment of silence for all those tapas you could have bought if you saved money using Cabify or your feet instead*

Renting a Bike

Bikers are treated like cars in Madrid, meaning they can travel anywhere – even among the super heavy traffic. There aren’t great bike lanes and we’ve witnessed so many bikers almost get run over! The fines for things like running red lights are also the same if you’re on a bike as a car.

High speed trains at a station in Madrid Atocha

Train

You can also take some trains around the bigger train stations within the city such as Sol, Chamartin, and Atocha. However, you likely won’t need them if you’re just there for a few days and we found them hard to navigate TBH.

The Best Pass to Buy for Public Transportation

If you plan to get around Madrid by public transport enough, we HIGHLY recommend you snag a Tourist Travel Pass!

These passes allow you unlimited travel on almost all the transportation systems for 1,2,3,4,5 or 7 days and have 2 zones (A for central Madrid or T if you plan to explore outside of central Madrid.)

You can snag these at any metro station using your credit card so it makes things nice and easy! Click here for more info on the Tourist Travel Pass!

colorful buildings lining the streets of Madrid

How We Can Help You Next:

The next to planning your trip is to figure out where to stay to make most of not having a car! We can help with our guide to the 7 best areas to stay in Madrid! These areas are all highly walkable to all the main hot spots and good eats!

So, are you team car, public transport, or your own two feet?

Other Related Posts:

Free Email Course: Madrid Made Easy

Discover everything you need to know to plan an EPIC Madrid Getaway in our free email course!
A couple stands embracing while looking at the Almudena Cathedral during sunset in Madrid, with the grand architecture and clear skies in the background

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