It doesn’t matter whether you ultimately decide to travel by subway or taxi, downtown Madrid is very easy to reach from the city’s Barajas airport. I’ll show you how and why.
Metro / Subway
Advantage: Metro tickets are cheap.
Disadvantage: You have to handle your own luggage. The Metro (subway) system is closed from 1:30 am to 6:00 am.
Barajas Airport’s 1, 2 and 3 Terminals are closest to the Metro stop “Aeropuerto T1, T2, T3” while Terminal 4 is closest to the Metro stop “Aeropuerto T4.” (Strangely, the nearby Metro stop Barajas does not connect to the airport.)
You will need to buy a ticket at the ticket window or at the multilingual ticket machine. The staff at the airport-connecting Metro stations speak English and Spanish and are particularly well trained to handle visitor inquiries. A one ride ticket costs 1 euro; however, everyone who starts or ends their journey at an airport-connecting Metro station must pay an additional 1 euro Airport Supplement for a total of 2 euros. This is still cheaper than you would pay to ride many of the other subway systems in the world though.
While you will see that elevators and escalators are plentiful throughout Madrid’s Metro system, at some stations you might still need to carry your luggage up or down stairs. Many locals are happy to lend you a hand carrying suitcases up a flight of stairs (especially when they see you straining under the weight of them), but be sure to thank them with a sincere “Gracias.”
Advantage: Taxis often offer a more direct route. You don’t have to handle your own luggage. Madrid taxis are almost always available.
Disadvantage: Taxi fares can be expensive.
You can catch one of the Madrid taxis waiting, day or night, once you step outside the airport. If you don’t speak Spanish, a good strategy is to hand your driver a piece of paper with your destination address in Madrid written on it. Some taxi drivers speak English, but most don’t.
All of Madrid’s taxis (they are white with a stripe along the door) have fare meters that charge you for mileage and time. However, supplemental charges are added for rides that originate (or end up) at the airport and when you have luggage. A taxi ride from the airport to anywhere in downtown Madrid with luggage in tow should cost from 30 to 35 euros plus tip.
[Photo: Raúl Hernández González]