Using the Madrid Public Transport System
Transport in Madrid
One thing is getting somewhere to spend your time in Madrid (we’ve written an article about that here) and another thing is actually making your way around to properly sight see the city and not only (you can easily reach Aranjuez for instance).
What you’ll really need to save up if you’ll be there for at least a week
The monthly tickets will cover also the buses and Cercanías and underground. The city is very much well covered by either of the three, so any location you want to reach is available. The only thing to keep in mind that there is no overly strict time table so all times are given approximate, usually give or take two or so minutes. Sometimes, however, the Cercanías which already sometimes have a gap up to twenty minutes may be delayed for another ten.
Madrid itself is divided into three territory zones A, B and C (plus sub-zones like B1, B2, etc.). So for instance, if you just want to be around the centre choose only zone A and if you’ll want to visit something outside of those zones just buy a one time ticket. But if you’ve booked a hotel in a zone other than A obviously make sure that you get a ticket from zone A to the zone you are currently staying in.
Despite Madrid not being the best city when it comes to traveling under 20 if you are not in university at the moment (such as the museums, which only give discounts to students, which is bizarre excluding people under 21 if not in education), the youth transport cards are very much worth it and save you a great deal. But to get them is quite complex and also don’t worry if you’re over 23 as the discount will be less, but still a good deal.
Getting the public transport card
You have to book an appointment as frankly a lot of service people will keep giving you the wrong places, as Madrid’s service is a bit messy in general, so it’s better to before you travel call up 012 and speak to an agent. It’s preferred if you speak Spanish, but you will be able to find someone who speaks English. Then you will be given an appointment and you will have to go to said location (the location is often very random if you don’t want to wait for the cards too long) and from experience if you show up half an hour earlier you will usually get the card either way. Make sure to take your passport (and a copy of it) and be ready for a photo as well.
After that, you have to top up in one of the underground or Cercanías machines which you can ask guidance from any of the workers and they are usually very helpful in case you are confused. After that the card will start working right after the time you use it for the period chosen, and you are ready to travel in Madrid!
Generally speaking, the Cercanías services stop at around 23:30-12:00. The underground runs up to 2:00AM. Night bus services are available from midnight and can usually take you wherever you need, including suburbs. These work round the clock.