Madrid is the capital of Spain and the third largest city in the European Union, so how are you going to get around the city? I spent my last birthday in Madrid, did extensive research, and I’m proud to share with you how to get around Madrid on a budget! I’ll also give your the insiders tip on cheap public transportation options, how the system works, hours, prices, how to buy tickets, and more. Sit tight, hang right, and let’s get into it!
Quick Overview of Madrid’s Public Transportation Network
The Madrid public transportation region is broken into eight different Zones, labeled A, B1-3, C1-2, and E1-2. If someone remarks, “I want to go to Madrid city center and see: Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas (MAD) airport, plaza mayor, Real madrid, buen retiro, Museo del Prado, Reina Sofía … ” they are referring to Zone A. Guadalejara is located in Zone E1 and Toledo in Zone E. Within these zones lie 21 distritos, or districts, divided into 128 barrios (neighborhoods) shaped like puzzle pieces.
Madrid Public Transport Options, Acronyms, and Hours
Know that if you need to get around Madrid on a budget, there are plenty of metro options! In all, there are 301 metro stations in Madrid along 13 different lines that are mostly underground. MetroMadrid lies in Zone A, MetroSur and MetroOeste in Zones B1 & B2, and MetroEste & MetroNorte in Zone B1. The TFM runs outside of Madrid’s border in Zones B1-3.
Acronyms You Need to Know
- CRTM (Consorcio Regional de Transportes de Madrid). This group is responsible for the entire public transportation system in Madrid.
- EMT (Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid). The EMT is your local bus system! There are over 200 bus lines in Madrid operating day and night. The night bus is called the Búhos, which means “owl”.
- Metro Ligero (light metro). The Ligero is the Light rail transportation system that runs through the city center broken into four lines marked ML1 – ML4.
- Cercanías Renfe. Finally, these commuter rail trains run to/from the surrounding suburbs and are labeled C1 – C10.
Hours of Operation
- Weekdays, the metro operates from 6am a.m. to about 1:30 a.m.
- On Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as on the eve of bank holidays, trains run until about 2:15 a.m.
- EMT Bus
- Monday through Friday the bus operated from 6am-11:30pm.
- Weekend & holidays from 7am-11pm.
- Búhos operates after 11:30pm.
Before I left home, I found and downloaded the transportation maps (links below) as a PDF to read in iBooks.
Getting Around Madrid on a Budget
Now it’s time for the knitty gritty of how to get around Madrid on a budget. Each sections breaks down the type of pass, how to purchase, where to buy, how to use, and a few pros and cons of each option so you can make an informed decision.
Buy an EMT Ticket
What is it? A bus ticket to ride the EMT bus network.
Purchase info: Price is broken into three categories: single use, 10-journey, and airport ticket.
- Single ticket: One trip costs €1,50.
- 10-Journey ticket. There are two different types of 10-journey tickets available:
- Metrobús = €12,20. This allows you to ride the EMT bus network, Metro Zone A, and Metro lingero Route 1 (ML1).
- Bus+Bus = €18,30. Valid only on the EMT, this ticket is valid for unlimited bus rides and includes ONE transfer within 60min.
- Airport Express = €5/one trip. This is the cheapest way to get from MAD to the city center! The Airport Express bus only make a few stops and takes around 30-45 minutes, but it allows you to see the city. Why is this option cheap? Because an Uber costs €15-29 and Taxis cost €30 to get from the airport.
Where to Buy: On the bus, certain Tabacconists (tobacco shops), and news stands. The Metrobús ticket may be purchased at the same locations plus metro stations while the Airport express tickets must be purchased on bus.
How to use: Tap pass on card reader, or show driver your ticket.
Pros: Cheaper than taxi, Uber, or car rentals. You’re able to see the city and drive through neighborhoods you may not have originally planned on seeing.
Cons: The tickets do not include transfers. If you’re looking to use your bus ticket on the metro, think again – you can transfer modes of transportation if you purchase the 10-journey Metrobús ticket. If paying for the ticket using cash make sure you have smaller bills because the maximum amount of change you will receive is €5.
Get a Multi Public Transport Card
What is it? A Tarjeta Transporte Público (TTP) is a reloadable public transportation card that gives you access for one ride on the metro, bus, or light rail/tram in Zone A & ML1. You are able to load different passes on your TTP card.
Where to Buy: Airport kiosks and counters, metro stations, Metro Ligero stations, tobacco shops (Estancos), and a few other authorized retailers.
Purchase info: €2,50 for card + fare.
There are two types of Single and 10-Journey ticket types when loading a Multi Public Transport card.
- Single Ticket Types
- Billete Sencillo (single ticket). Valid in Zone A and on ML1. Tickets prices are from €1,50 – €2.
- Single Combo ticket. These tickets are valid on the entire metro network and on ML1 – ML3 for only €3!
- 10-Journey Tickets
- Metrobús 10- Journey ticket. As previously discussed, these tickets are valid to ride in Metro Zone A, ML1, an EMT Busses for €12,20.
- 10-Journey Combo Ticket. Allows you to ride the ENTIRE metro network and ML1 – ML3 for €18,30.
Remember – unless you plan to go outside of Madrid city center, all you really need is Zone A to see all of the sights.
Special Tip: If you load one of the four passes above and want to ride the metro from MAD airport to the city center, you also need to load a special “Airport Ticket” supplement fare to your Multi Public Transport card. The airport fare is €3 each way and is valid on date of purchase only.
How to use: Tap your TTP on the card reader system when you travel in and out of each terminal. Each time you change busses or trams, you have to run your ticket through the system.
Pros: Multiple options available- single, group of ten, all network, or just Zone A. The card is the size of a credit card, can fit anywhere, and is cheap. Finally, you can load up to 10 single use tickets at a time OR two 10-tickets journeys for a maximum of 20 journeys. The Multi Public Transport card is valid for 10 years, so you can reuse it on a return trip to Madrid.
Cons: With the single tickets, you can only use one pass up to 5 stations. After that, the price increases .10 per station for each additional station. The single journey tickets must be used on the day of purchase and a single ticket doesn’t cover bus fare, you have to purchase a separate bus ticket. Once lost this card can not be replaced.
Buy a Tourist Ticket/Card
What is it? A TTP Card specifically for tourists for an unlimited amount of trips on metro, light rail, bus, and carcanias suburban train.
There are two zones available for this pass: Zone A for Madrid city center only covering the Metro Zone A, ML1, EMT buss system, and Cercanias trains; or Zone T, which covers ALL of the metro Zones in Madrid including Toledo & Guadalajara. These tickets do not including the RENFE to Toledo or the airport express bus.
Purchase info: Price depends on which of the two zones you buy and how many days you’re traveling, see Metro Madrid’s website for current pricing. Everyone needs their own ticket. Kids under 4 years old are free and you can get half-off kids ages 4 – 11.
Choose from a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7-day pass.
CONSECUTIVE CALENDAR DAYS
|1 DAY||2 DAY||3 DAY||4 DAY||5 DAY||7 DAY|
(Madrid City Center)
|8,40 €||14,20 €||18,40 €||22,60 €||26,80 €||35,40 €|
|17,00 €||28,40 €||35,40 €||43 €||50,80 €||70,80 €|
Where to Buy: same locations as TTP tickets including Metro ticket machines at stations, airport customer service offices in T1 – T4 stations before going down escalators (open every day 8am-8pm).
How to use: tap on card reader.
Pros: There are no extra charges for the card itself or airport fees! When loading the tourist pass, you don’t have to worry about separate bus tickets or paring extra fees. Cheaper than taxi, Uber, or car rentals.
Cons: None, really, but you may not use the metro that much because it is easy to get around Madrid on a budget by walking.
What is it? Madrid is best experienced on foot, no doubt about it! Since Madrid is a city that doesn’t sleep you can enjoy late nights, tapas, and outdoor music…all on foot. Most sights are within walking distance.
Pros: FREE! Great exercise. Can take gorgeous street photos. Opportunity to run into amazing tapas bars shops..
Cons: after sightseeing all day (translation = walking everywhere), feet may be tired. Madrid is not a flat land. There are hills and you will feel the burn at times, but you’ll be distracted by all the lively activity.
Rent a Bike
What is it? Renting an electric bike from various docking stations within Madrid. There are over 120 docking stations around the city what allow you to ride and dock at multiple stations.
Purchase info: MANY different companies to choose from in Madrid. The price depends on how long you want to rent, whether it is for a 1-, 3-, or 5-day card. Generally speaking, a 1-hour rental starts at €2 with each additional hour costing €4. For more long term rentals, there is an annual fee only €25. Credit/debit cards only.
Where to Buy: Kiosks (totem locations) sprinkled around the city.
How to use: Download the BiciMad mobile app, find a docking station, choose billing (annual or 1-time), then pick the length of time required. On the docking stations, the green light = go; red = return; and blue = reserved.
Pros: Cheap! Great exercise, eco-friendly, e-bikes available, rechargeable, less intense exercise for e-bikes.
Cons: Madrid is not a flat land. There are hills that will take WORK to climb so pray that your bike does not lose its charge. Bikes share the road with cars/busses/etc and not everyone follows the rules. There is the risk of possible bike theft, which you will be responsible for, in addition to late fees and a high “pre-authorization” bank charge for the amount of the bike.
And there you have it, folks, this is how to can get around Madrid on a budget! If you’re more of a visual person, check out the How to Get Around Madrid on a budget video on my YouTube channel.
Do you have any other suggestions for how to get around Madrid on a budget? Share your best tips in the comments below!
Antoinette | Frolic & Courage