We were warned about security and the need to be wary of pick-pockets, especially on the Metro. Lo and behold, while on the Metro during the morning rush toward the airport, we were jam packed, shoulder to shoulder, leaning and bumping into everyone around us. All during our trip, I carried my Euro coins in a sealed baggie in my front pocket, handy for getting it quickly.
That morning, I counted my change so we’d know how much to spend at the airport to use up all of the Euro coins. When I exited the airport Metro and went to buy tickets to enter the airport from the Metro, my baggie containing 12 Euros, was missing from my right front jeans pocket. I never felt a thing.
As violating as the pick-pocketing experience was, we were both thankful that my wallet was untouched and safe.
Metro lines really make the life much more easier in Madrid. But it takes few days to realize the connections of the main lines with the others. People is nice and kind in general. But the pick-pocket problem is very common for the busy&crowded metro lines. My friend's wallet was stolen at Nuevos Ministerios stop(one of the central stops connecting several lines). So, pls try to be very careful at central metro lines.
I rushed onto the metro and slipped and fell. I had no need to rush, but I did. I lost my flip flop between the platform and the tracks. I have bruising on my leg and a sore big toe. The metro floors are a bit slippery. I had already slid on the train before that as it came to a stop.
Well I did get a few funny looks walking back to where we are staying with only one flip flop on.
There are three possible hazards at the airport.
1) Security: When we landed from the US, we had to go through immigration. But to go through immigration that meant that we had to go back through security again, and my grandson still had his two bottled drinks that he bought inside security before we left, and I still had some water in my bottle which I had filled before we left. So we had to dump the water out.
1A) I took pictures in the airport (photo 4) without anyone saying anything to me until we left for the last time, and when I took a picture of the gate sign I was reprimanded. But they didn't take my camera or anything. (photo 5)
1B) Each time my grandson went through immigration he set off the alarm. The procedure seems to be that they ask me how old he is (in Spanish so it takes me awhile to figure out what the question is and then they look at his passport to verify), and then ask my permission to search him. Then they pat him down - they don't use the wand. I don't know why he sets the detector off here as he has not done so anywhere else even wearing the same clothing. I walked through the doorway and was fine. We did not have to take off our shoes anywhere in Europe.
2) Luggage carts These are free, but they have an automatic brake on them and if you don't read the directions (photo 2 and 3) you won't be able to move them. It took my grandson a little while to figure it out.
3) Finding the Departure Gate: There are no announcements on the PA system of the gate numbers. You have to look at the departure boards. Our plane was supposed to board at 10:35, and leave at 11:10. The notice boards were confusing, and there was no place to sit and be comfortable while monitoring them. My grandson asked if we were flight 1046 and without looking, I said yes, but that flight didn't have a departure gate yet, just that it was going to be a J gate of which there were 60.. We again asked a terminal person and she said the gate number would not be put up until a half hour before the boarding which would be 10:05.
Then it got to be 10:05 and they posted that we were to be at gate J58. We walked down there, and when they started boarding at 10:20, I asked the gate agent if we needed to check in again and she said (horrified) that this was flight 1046, and we were really on flight 2614. We should go and look at the boards to see what gate we had - the 1046 flight was a shuttle to Barcelona.
Ack. I had mistaken the flight number for the departure time.
We found a departures board - our gate was actually H13. We had to walk the length of all the J gates all the way down to the other end of the terminal and had to be there by 10:35, and it was now about 10:28. So we walked. I walked as fast as I could. And we did get there just before 10:35 - one of the last people to check in
...because on arriving from the city you must pay a 1€ supplement on your metro ticket. This supplement is already included on their period cards and Abono Transporte Turístico (read my separate tip about it). To make sure everyone pays, there's one or 2 guards in front of the machines.
As we were in Toledo we wanted to go to the railroad station in the late evening. there were no taxies going there anymore. If you have the same problem, considering you dont want to go on feet to the far away train station, there is a busstation near outside the walls. you can buy tickets there to Madrid.
Leaving Barajas by plain can be troubles. You get a gate area (A B C etc) but not the exact gate number. Then at the monitors suddenly the gatenumber is showed and you can go sit at that gate. However, beware that the gate number can change suddenly a few minutes before boarding, then you can find yourself running to the other side of the departure hall. So dont go sitting without listening to the messages or watching the monitor constantly.
This is a transportation warning. If you are in the area for more than just a few days, than most likely you'll want to make some side trip. Toledo is known as the closest one to Madrid. It is confortable and cheap to travel from Madrid to Toledo by train, but there is one thing you have to remember:
The trains to Toledo are almost always full! There's no possibility to stand on this 30 minutes ride, which means you have to make sure you purchased your tickets ahead.
It was just another, working, weekday when I decided to explore Toledo. I came to the Atocha station to get my tickets and was told that nothing is available and that there are a lot of people on wait list. I bought tickets for the next day.
Also make sure that you buy roundtrip tickets because coming back you'll have the same problem. And, if you buy the roundtrip ticket the price is cheaper. I paid about 14 Euro and it was a fast and pleasant trip. The train I took, both ways, was full and again there were many people who really hoped to get to Toledo and back.
As a result of a 2 hour flight delay, we arrived at Madrid Barajas at well after midnight. We must have been one of the last, if not THE last flight to arrive that evening at T4. There was little help from the airline or airport, and we had a long trek to a poorly signed train, which took us to the baggage hall, where we had a one hour wait for luggage.
There seemed little interest from any of the staff on duty. The new terminal looks good but, some of it's facilities and services are really poor!
A friendly recommendation: never use Iberia for your flight arrangements I had never been treated with such disrespect and poor service. I had the bad luck of loosing my ticket (not boarding pass, the ticket) when I was boarding my flight from Madrid to barcelona, and the supervisor in charge started yelling at me, like I was a little kid. When I told him to stopped yelling and be proactive the man got more irritated; I was completely harassed by this man, who finally after humiliating me, accepted to charge me 50 euros and board me. Amazing. !!
This tip pertains to all mobility-reduced visitors who think about using the metro to move around in Madrid. Theoretically, the metro is a great means of transport, especially because it gets you to the city centre quite quickly for very little money after you've arrived at Barajas Airport. Things are not so great for wheelchair users though. At first everything looked fine. I had a plan indicating that near my hotel there were a couple of Metro stations with elevators. I had no problem whatsoever boarding the Metro at Barajas Airport, changing lines at Nuevos Ministerios was easy too. What happened then, however, sucked. I got off the train at Plaza De Espana only to find the elevators out of service. The escalators did work but they were very steep and, having no knowledge of the languge, I was unable to instruct other people how to help me up the escalators. I decided to try the next station with lifts, called "Principe Pio". Even though this seems to be a major railway station and changing point, the lifts at this station were also out of service. Bollocks! At the next station, "Lago", the lifts finally worked. But this was already waaaaaay out of town in some kind of sports park. I had no idea where I was and there was no taxi in sight, either. Some helpful local fellow finally took notice of my miserable self and I managed to tell him I wanted to "Gran Via con taxi"... he just shook his head "no taxi aqui" (*that* I had already figured out myself...) and pushed me for about a mile until we reached a large street with taxis travelling on it. The journey from Barajas to the hotel took me 4 hours. -- Twice as long as the flight from Cologne.
To make a long story short -- if you have no one accompanying you that's capable of helping you manage the escalators and if your Spanish is as poor as mine, do not take a chance with the Metro ... take a taxi from the airport. It's about 20 EUR to downtown and it saves you quite some hassle!
Going by train is comfortable and cheap in Spain, but buying a ticket can be an adventure. There are various train types which require different tickets. Aprt from that most long distance trains (TALGO, AVE) require a seat reservation.
When I wanted to buy my TALGO ticket for Barcelona to Madrid, the train was already fully booked. On the next train was only one seat left, which was in fact enough for me.
So if you like to take a certain long distance train (TALGO, AVE), make sure to book your train ticket well in advance.
I arrived at Atocha Renfe on a Sunday, with the address of my hostel and basic Spanish. Because it was Sunday, the Tourist Information was closed.
Both the women at the Information Desk and the Hotel Booking desk behaved as though they'd rather stab themself in the eye than help me find where i had to go. No doubt i should have been more prepared, but if you want any help here on a Sunday, you will be better off asking the security staff and cafe employees.
Acording to the free paper in Madrid "Metro" Nov 17,2005 in the province of Madrid 1,700 people get hit by a car when crossing the street. That is a lot of people!! In a study done by Mapfre, they say that in most cases the accidents are caused by the irresponsibility of the person doing the crossing, either on a red light or not in a crosswalk.
The most dangerous intersection in Madrid is at the Cibeles roundabout, (Paseo del Prado and Alcala streets) Actually, there is not even enough time to get all the way across the street on a green light, you actually have to run if you are going to make it!
So be careful and use common sense as you would in any big city, cars go very fast on Paseo del Prado/Recoletos/Castellana.
I don't think Madrid is worse than any other city its size but its another thing to keep in mind when you are enthralled with the beauty of the Cibeles fountian and the Palacio de Comunicaciones building behind it. Watch where you are going.
And as always, enjoy Madrid!!
Take care of your wallet and your passport when you are using the subway.
My passport was steal when I was going to the airport. The local people said here that there is a big "Mafia" specialized in this kind of thing.
TIP if your passport was stolen:
1. Go immediatly to the Police and open a denouncement. There is a Police department inside all Metro Station. You will receive a ID number that you will use on the Police department (next step).
2. Use this ID on the Police department and sign you report - it's not the same place, go to 'Comesaria del Aeropuerto' in Barajas;
3. Cancel and change your flight, because you lost;
3. Go to your embassy with the following documents:
3.1 - 02 normal pictures for documents (3x4)
3.2 - the Police report signed
3.3 - Some national identification - like a driver license, etc - that will proves that "you are you" and you was traveling in Spain;
I hope that it's can be useful for you, if you face this problem. My passport was stolen in the Metro station called "Nuevos Ministerios" and normally these are the things that you have to do, because none here can help you, neither police :-(
Do not bring your passport together with your wallet. Carry your passport alone in another place.
TAKE CARE YOURSELF.