I had already been to Madrid, back in 2010, and for some years, I had been thinking of returning to visit the Spanish capital. Thanks to the cheap plane tickets, I returned in town in April 2019: in this post, to start my story of the journey, I put together all the useful information I gathered during my stay in Madrid.
Basic information and impressions
I found a quiet, clean and safe city: I personally never felt unsafe. I saw a few tramps and a few people asking for alms; paying the same attention I pay in every European capital, I had no problems.
Several friends told me, instead, that they had suffered theft or, in any case, that they felt more than usual the risk of being stolen. I think the idea of paying more attention to everyday life seems to be taken for granted, separating money and documents to avoid losing everything (although I can feel safe, I always try to keep valuable goods and documents safe). I was surprised to find myself talking to some people who didn’t speak English, even though they worked in contact with the public (including foreigners). If you also have problems with English, however, know that they can often understand something even if you speak them in Italian. No, it is not worth the reasoning that “then we can only speak Italian because they understand so much”: it is not said that they understand everything, the two languages are similar and not the same, and indeed they cannot understand everything correctly (those of us who do not speak Spanish plainly will understand something, but not everything).
The Spanish capital has a dense network of subway lines, which allows you to move smoothly between the various places to visit.
The single ticket, when moving in zone A, costs € 1.50 for 5 stations. For each additional station, it increases by € 0.10 up to a maximum of € 2 (above 10 stations in total);
The integration from (and to) the airport costs € 3 and you can reach the city centre by line 8.
Madrid is divided into various areas, like in London, and the ticket price varies according to the areas in which you travel. The single bus ticket (Billete sencillo) costs € 1.50 and is valid for just one journey. For the zones B1 and B2 of MetroNorte, MetroEste and MetroSur it costs € 1.50 (the northern section of line 10 from La Granja to Hospital Infanta Sofìa, the last two stops south of route 10, the part of line 7 from Barrio del Puerto at Hospital del Henares, the entire line 12). For zones B1, B2 and B3 of T.F.M. and Metro Ligero Oeste the ticket costs € 2 (T.F.M. Line, the section of line 9 from Puerta de Arganda to Arganda del Rey and lines ML2-ML3).
Finally, there is a combined ticket for all areas: € 3 (allows you to move in any area)
Touristic tickets for public transport
There are also “abono turisticos”, cumulative cards that allow you to take public transport as and when you want: the duration varies depending on which you choose (1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 days from the first obliteration) and the card for the zone A is okay to reach most (almost all) places of tourist interest in the city.
Prices vary of course based on the duration of the subscription:
1 day € 8.40
2 days € 14.20
3 days € 18.40
5 days € 26.80
7 days € 35.40
I was in the city from 24 to 28 April 2019, and I decided to buy the 5-day pass (€ 26.8): its validity ranged from 24 (buyed around 10:30 am) to 28 inclusive (all the day). I moved a lot using the subway and surely having this pass made it a lot easier, allowing me to save on the cost of the holiday. This subscription also included the supplement to reach the airport.
Information about the metro
Dual language announcements are made only along the line to and from the airport: be careful to keep an eye on the signs of each stop (which may be difficult to see from the train, but not impossible). Some lines, however, have luminous announcements which indicate the stop to which the train is entering. You have to pass the ticket at the entrance, but not at the exit: to exit there are “push barriers” and, often, you have to push hard to open it. The frequency of trains, on all lines of the centre, is one train every 6-10 minutes. In many of the stations of the city centre, there are charging stations for mobile phones, all you need is a USB cable to connect the cell phone and recharge the battery. I admit I didn’t see anyone use them, but I appreciated their presence anyway.
Pay attention to the directions to reach the right track! Already at the turnstile level, you have to head towards the right terminus, depending on the stop you need to get off. You will find a sort of “stop lists” depending on the terminus, both at turnstiles level and at many stairs levels to reach the track. In case of a closed stop (for works), you will still find the indications at many of the stops.
Cost of life in Madrid
Already looking at the prices of the hotels, I had noticed how life in Madrid was not cheaper than what you pay in so many capitals (European above all). I had a bit of difficulty finding housing at not too high costs. Two things have certainly allowed me to save a little on the total cost of the holiday: the 5-day ticket for the public transport and have chosen to book an apartment as accommodation (in the evening we ate several times at home to go out only after dinner).
I stayed at the Apartamentos Matute 11. The accommodation was about 45 square meters, the sleeping area was separated from that day with the kitchenette, and the spaces were organized in such a way as to be quite spacious and livable. I found some aspects not totally positive, even if not dramatic: we had made available salt and dishwashing liquid, we had an abundant supply of towels, but the kitchen supply was reduced to the minimum. Apart from these absolutely insurmountable aspects (we survived without problems), we found ourselves well: the location was perfect for reaching most of the places to visit in Madrid (the Prado museum is a 15-minute walk, puerta del sol is 2 metro stops).