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Public Transportation in Madrid: Your Guide to Getting Around

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Spain’s largest capital is home to a safe, clean and efficient public transportation network. Not only is the city extremely walkable, but it’s also very easy to get from point A to point B by metro, bus and more!

If you’re new to using public transportation in Madrid, here’s all you need to know. Soon you’ll be making your way around town like a true madrileño!

Red, white, and blue diamond-shaped sign marking the entrance to Madrid's Sol metro station at night
One of the many diamond-shaped signs indicating a metro station in Madrid. Photo credit: Andrea Ferrario

With a modern, clean and massive metro system, inter-urban light rail, and easy-to-use buses, Madrid is a public transport dream. Add in plenty of taxis and the ease of exploring the historic center on foot, and you’ll have no problem discovering the magic of the city.

This guide to public transportation in Madrid will show you everything you need to know to tackle the local transit network like a pro. Read on for our insider tips for how to get around the Spanish capital.

Madrid Public Transportation Ticket Costs

A single journey on public transportation in Madrid starts at €1.50. This is the flat rate for bus tickets, but multi-zone single journeys can cost up to €2 on the metro and €5.50 on the commuter train (cercanías). All transportation methods have an additional charge for going to and from the airport.

If you’ll be relying a lot on public transport, consider a 10-trip ticket pack for the metro and bus. This costs just €12.20 and tickets can be shared among several people. If you’ll be in town for anywhere from 24 hours to one week, another great option is the public transport tourist pass, with a set price for unlimited journeys in your chosen time frame.

Electronic ticket machines inside a Madrid metro station.
The ticket machines available at every metro station are easy to use and available in multiple languages. Photo credit: Sharon Hahn Darlin

How to Use the Madrid Metro

With more than a dozen lines connecting 300+ stations, the metro is one of the fastest and most efficient forms of public transportation in Madrid. Each line has a corresponding color, making maps easy to read. To help you figure out how to get from point A to point B, the metro website has a handy route planner on its website along with detailed maps.

Metro stations are marked by their distinct red-and-white diamond-shaped signs featuring the name of the station. The metro lines available at that station are clearly visible as you make your way through the entrance, and once inside you’ll be able to see a full listing of all the stops on that line.

You can catch the metro daily from 6 a.m. until 1:30 a.m., with trains coming sometimes as often as every three or four minutes. Frequency depends on the line and time of day. At night, be prepared to wait up to 15 minutes between trains, and be aware that trains will be especially crowded at rush hour.

The metro is generally safe, but always be alert and aware that pickpockets tend to target the trains and stations, especially in major tourist areas. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially any visible valuables, at all times.

Metro trains stop at all stations, so there’s no need to signal your need to stop. When you get off the train, follow the signs to the exit or to another platform within the station if you need to connect to another line.

How to Buy Metro Tickets in Madrid

The metro system no longer issues individual paper tickets, but rather a single contactless card that can be loaded up with multiple tickets. This is known as the Multi Card and is available at any metro ticket machine. The card itself costs €2.50 and metro journeys must be purchased separately (except in the case of tourist passes, where the price of the card is included).

Once you have your Multi Card, you can load tickets onto it at the machines available in each metro station. Simply select your language and the instructions on the screen will prompt you through the rest. When you’ve successfully loaded the ticket onto your card, scan it at the turnstiles and pass right on through, following the signs to your platform.

A white and blue train of the Madrid metro arriving at a station.
Madrid’s metro is fast, inexpensive and easy to use. Photo credit: Sharon Hahn Darlin

How to Use the Bus in Madrid

Madrid’s local bus company is known as EMT. They offer 2,000 blue buses serving more than 200 lines between the downtown area and residential neighborhoods. Buses run daily from 6 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., every five to 15 minutes depending on the line and time of day.

Single-journey tickets for the bus must be purchased on the bus itself. All buses are air conditioned and wheelchair equipped, and many of the newer buses also feature seats for young children. When you need to get off, simply push the button to alert the driver as your stop is approaching.

At night, a limited service of night buses known as búhos (“owls”) runs from 11:45 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, every 15–30 minutes. This is the ideal option for public transportation in Madrid if you’ll be out and about until the wee hours of the morning!

Two blue city buses on the road in Madrid.
Madrid’s blue buses can get you anywhere you need to go! Photo credit: ra_fus

How to Use the Commuter Trains (Cercanías) in Madrid

Madrid’s commuter train system, known as cercanías, connects the entire Madrid autonomous community, making them a great option for day trips. Renfe, the national rail service, operates these punctual and efficient trains. They run daily from around 5 a.m. until midnight every 10 to 30 minutes, though the exact times and frequency depend on the line.

Cercanías stations are marked with their logo: a red-and-white upside-down letter C. Most cercanías stations in downtown Madrid also have metro connections, making it easy to switch from one to the other. You can use the route planner on the Renfe website to help figure out how to get wherever you need to go.

How to Buy Cercanías Tickets in Madrid

Like the metro, the cercanías system now operates with contactless cards rather than individual paper tickets. The card, called the Renfe & Tú card, can be purchased at any Cercanías station. Once you have the card in hand, you can top it up with tickets as need be at any of the electronic ticket machines available at the stations.

Red and white commuter trains at a station in Madrid.
Use the cercanías to explore beyond Madrid. Photo credit: Andrés Gómez

How to Use Taxis in Madrid

Sometimes you just need to jump in a cab. Official Madrid taxis are white with a red diagonal stripe down the door, and a green light that turns on to indicate when it is available. You can hail one on the street or head to one of the many taxi stands located throughout the city (indicated by a blue and white sign reading TAXI).

Madrid cab drivers accept credit cards and can make change for bills up to €20 when paying in cash.

Getting To & From the Madrid Airport

One of the most common uses of public transportation in Madrid, especially among visitors, is to get from the city center to the airport and vice versa. Luckily, there are several options for doing so. Pick whichever works best for you, your budget and schedule.

Airport Express Bus

From Madrid proper, you can catch the bright yellow Airport Express bus from Atocha, Plaza de Cibeles, or the O’Donnell metro station. The bus features plenty of luggage space and seating and stops at each of the airport terminals. If you’re making the reverse trip from the airport into the city, this option is available as well.

The bus runs every 15–20 minutes during the day and every 35 minutes at night. The nighttime bus does not go to all the way to Atocha, and the route begins and ends at Cibeles. Tickets are €5 and must be purchased on the bus itself.

Signs in English and Spanish at the Madrid airport indicating the way to various gates and terminals.
Once you get off your flight and pick up your bags, follow the signs to the exit—the bus stops right out in front of each terminal. Photo credit: Rob Wilson

Metro

You can also get to and from the airport via metro. To do so, you’ll need to take line 8 (the pink line), which starts at Nuevos Ministerios, though you may need to connect from another line to get there from within the city (or to reach your final destination if coming from the airport). At the airport, the metro stops at one station for terminals T1, T2, and T3, and a separate station for terminal T4.

Before getting on the train, simply buy your ticket as normal from the machine by loading it onto your Multi Card. Be aware that there is a special airport fare of an additional €3.

Cercanías

The C1 and C10 cercanías lines also run to the airport, with Atocha being the most convenient station in central Madrid with a direct line. This journey takes about half an hour.

Note that the cercanías trains only serve terminal T4 at the airport, but you can take the free shuttle bus between terminals to get to and from there.

Insider’s Tip: If you have a high-speed (AVE) train ticket, you can take the cercanías to or from the airport for free! Look for the combinado cercanías code on your train ticket to take advantage of this deal.

Taxis & Car Services

There are taxi stands out in front of each terminal at the Madrid airport. Simply head to the cab at the front of the line (you may have to wait if there are other people before you). There is a €30 flat rate between the airport and the city center.

Finally, if you know you’ll feel too jet lagged to navigate public transportation right after coming off a long flight, consider a private transfer to the city. With Welcome Pickups, you can secure your ride in advance, giving you one less thing to worry about.

After you reserve online, you’ll get an email with your driver’s photo, contact details and the meeting point a few days before your flight, and once you arrive in Madrid, they’ll be waiting for you with a sign with your name on it. Drivers even monitor your flight status in case of delays. And all this comes at an affordable price—just a little bit more than an airport taxi!

Public Transportation in Madrid FAQs

What is the best way to get around in Madrid?

Though all of Madrid’s public transportation methods are excellent, the metro is often the best choice due to its convenience, frequency, and price.

How do you pay for the bus in Madrid?

Single journey bus tickets must be purchased on board. If you have a previously purchased travel pass, you can simply scan it upon boarding.

What is the main train station in Madrid?

Madrid’s largest train station is Atocha, which is also served by plenty of public transportation lines. City buses, the metro, and commuter trains all stop here, making it easy to reach from various parts of town.

Update Notice: This post was originally published on March 21, 2018 and was updated with new text and photos on April 23, 2021.

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10 Responses

  1. Will there be extra trains on next Saturday 1st June to facilitate football vans to get out of the city. I’ve book for the first train back on Sunday 2nd June to Valencia. If there is extra rains will my ticket be valid.
    Regards
    Martin c
    Belfast
    Ireland.

    1. Hey Martin, thanks for your question! It probably depends on the kind of ticket you bought—some allow changes and others don’t. Contacting RENFE would probably be your best bet!

  2. Hello, may I ask for advice? I am considering travel to Madrid in October. The tricky thing is an early flight from Madrid (6:30). Which part of the city should I seek accommodation (close to the centre) in order to catch such earky plane? And what kind of transport (other than taxi) would be best for very early morning? Thanks

    1. Hi Maros! If your flight leaves at 6:30 a.m., you can get to the airport via the Airport Express bus: https://www.emtmadrid.es/Aeropuerto?lang=en-GB
      In the early morning, it departs from Plaza de Cibeles which is right in between Gran Vía/Calle de Alcalá and the Retiro area. You could stay there, or perhaps near the northern end of Paseo del Prado. The bus itself costs just €5, so it’s a much more economical option than a taxi.
      We hope this helps—enjoy Madrid!

  3. Hi, I’m heading to Malasaña from the airport in January and am on a tight budget. What’s the cheapest and easiest way to get there? Is there a train that goes directly there? I will have luggage and will have just finished a very long flight.

    1. Hi Rebecca—your best option would be to take the Airport Express bus (https://www.esmadrid.com/en/airport-express) to Atocha Station for €5. The bus is equipped with luggage racks, and once it reaches the station, you can hop on metro line 1 to get to Malasaña (a single trip ticket costs €1.50). We hope this helps—have a wonderful trip to Madrid!

  4. Hello

    I’m traveling to SPAIN this November, how do I take a taxi to the city or what should I do> and what places do you recommend to visit when in madrid? what else should I do there> it’s only one week.

    Thanks

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