Wealth Warning: Avoid using Chequepoint to change money in Madrid or anywhere else for that matter.
Some of my British and American friends have told me horror stories of the rip-off rates charged by Chequepoint when changing currency. The company (click on the logo so you can steer clear of it) has outlets at many tourist sites. Other VT members in Hungary and Hong Kong have reported the same kind of fraud. My advice is not to use Chequepoint under any circumstances.
The following letter (paste link into browser window), published in the Herald Tribune reveals Chequepoint's shady practices:
Fun Alternatives: You will get much more competitive rates drawing local currency on your Visa or Visa Electron card (preferably use a cash dispenser in a bank during opening hours and check the card slot shows no evidence of being fiddled with (a favourite trick is to slip a thin additional reader in). Shield the keypad with your hand as you tap the numbers in (in another scam, a concealed webcam films your PIN number).
When the night comes, alot of people start setting up makeshift "stalls" around Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol area.
There was this particular thing that caught my attention and it will probably catch yours too. Some cartoon characters dancing to music. They looked really cute and will dance faster / slower depending on the beat of the music. A pair of those will set you back by 5 euros. They will tell you that 2 pairs cost only 8 euros.
My friend and I each bought a pair. They dont move at all, much less dance to music! That was such a joke! Well, we learn from our mistakes, dont we? :) Now, dont say I didnt warn you.... ;)
Plaza Mayor and the restuarnts on Cava de San Miguel are terrific, but watch out for the tourist shops in the Plaza. High prices and sleazy junk. Walk a few blocks away and get the same stuff for less.
Also, El Rastro, the giant outdoor flea market is more about tourist/cheap junk than antiques or unique finds. Instead, go back to the neighborhood and poke around the antique/used stores during the week, when the crowds are gone.
Maybe most people will not agree with me, but I found the 'Rastro' a huge trap. I was expecting a nice market, with antiques and nice things, but only found low quality stuff. Even the few antique shops in the side streets were terrible. Very disappointing.