Most tourist arriving in Madrid for the first time are not sure what to expect. They have gone through all of the trouble of getting to the city, but one might become overwhelmed rather quickly, as there is so much to know about the city and so many things to see. If you want to learn a thing or two about how things work in Madrid, what to expect and what not to expect, you should keep reading this article. The tips about Madrid will surely make your traveling more enjoyable, and you will come prepared.
1. Knowing about transportation options can be quite handy
There are several ways to get to your destination in Madrid, and knowing some basic things about your transportation options will surely be handy. The Madrid Metro connects all of the central areas, and it is color coded so one can easily follow each route. Public buses are also commonly used for reaching destinations, but metro is known to be the quickest way, especially for longer routes.
Here are the options commonly used by tourists:
- Single metro ticket – It costs €1.50 (5 stations) and €2 (10 or more stations). It is available at ticket offices or specialized machine located in front of each station.
- Single bus ticket – It costs €1.50, bought at the driver.
- Combined single ticket – It can be used for both types of transport around Madrid area, and it costs €3.
- Metrobus card – It can be used for both metro and bus. It costs €12.20 and it can be used for ten journeys.
- Tourist pass – Available for one, two, three, five or seven days, this ticket allows the unlimited number of rides using metro, bus, and train. Depending on the number of days, the card costs between €8.40 to €70.80.
For more information about tickets and ticket prices, it is best to check the official Madrid Metro website: https://www.metromadrid.es/es/index.html
2. Book accommodation to get better rates
Madrid is a popular destination, so the rates are always higher during the peak season which lasts between May and October as well as during holiday season in winter. This means that the rest of the year is the best period to find cheap accommodation in Madrid. If you are on a budget, still, you want to make the most out of your travel, and you are looking for ways to keep the spending to a minimum when traveling, this is what you need to have in mind. Also, it is sometimes cheaper if you book accommodation in advance. Obviously, you cannot always plan everything too much in advance, but if there is a possibility to schedule the accommodation months before you are supposed to travel, it is best you do so.
3. Rent an apartment in Madrid for a more comfortable stay
We all know there are plenty of accommodation opportunities in a city such as Madrid. A diverse city such as the Spanish capital also offers quite a selection of different accommodation types, which can be suitable for many travelers. However, apartments in Madrid have been proven to be a perfect choice for various types of travelers, mainly because apartments provide a very comfortable stay. It does not mean that apartments are more expensive than other types of accommodation because they are comfortable. On the contrary, you can find a lot of cheap apartments in Madrid, so you will never have to compromise on the quality of the accommodation.
4. Mealtimes and what you should know about food
Unlike in some countries, where you can expect breakfast to be a big meal, Spaniards are known to have lunch as their main meal. This means that you can expect light breakfast to be served when eating out, while lunch will include quite a large portion. Typically, lunch is served between 1 pm and 4 pm, which is a bit later than some people are used to. Since you will probably end up eating a lighter breakfast, you might want to grab a quick snack before lunchtime. Dinner is also served rather late, usually after 8 pm or 9 pm.
Additional things to know about eating in Madrid:
- Siesta – Generally known as the nap time, siesta might be unfamiliar custom to foreigners, but what it means is that most restaurants and cafes are closed between 5 pm and 8 pm. Sometimes other establishments, such as shops might be closed during the daily siesta time.
- Tapa – This term is used for small appetizers usually served with wine in Madrid’s restaurants, taverns, and bars. Some people do not want to eat much in the evening and want a light dinner instead. If that is the case, eating tapas with drinks would be enough without the need to go out for a full-sized meal.
- The menu of the day – Some restaurants offer a menu of the day during the workdays for lunch, most often between 1 pm and 4 pm. It is usually posted outside the restaurant. It is a great option if you want a good deal and to eat out at reduced prices. The menu of the day commonly consists of two plates, appetizer or soup, and the main dish. This menu often includes bread, desserts and even a glass of wine or beer, which makes it a great selection when eating out. The prices may be different from restaurant to restaurant, but what is safe to say is that the menu of the day is the most affordable option for eating lunch in the restaurant. It is much cheaper to order this menu than to order each of the items individually.
5. Tipping is not expected
Tips are not included in the price of meals and drinks, but they are not always expected, like in some countries. However, if you plan on eating again in the same restaurant, you could leave a tip.
6. Buy in supermarkets to save some money
You can buy a lot of things in the supermarket, such as bread, cheese, desserts, fruits and vegetables, wine, etc. Basically, everything you need to have a good meal is available in the supermarkets, and it is much cheaper. Having in mind that it is the capital city, there are supermarkets open even on Sundays, as well as during the night, which means that there is always an option to prepare your meals instead of eating out. This is a great option if you are staying in an apartment in Madrid. In the Madrid apartment you will have a kitchen where you can easily prepare meals. Additionally, if the budget is tight, this is an amazing way to reduce your costs. Instead of eating out all the time, try some home-made meals instead.
7. Try to learn some basic Spanish phrases
To be honest, no one really expects you to learn Spanish just for that one travel to Madrid. However, it is recommended that you still learn at least a couple of basic Spanish phrases. Knowing these phrases will save you so much time and effort when finding your way around the city. Use the internet while planning the trip and check out the commonly used phrases for travelers. Spanish is relatively easy to read, but you can always use an online tool to read the text out for you so you can repeat and practice. Do not worry if your pronunciation is not perfect. The important thing is that you can understand some Spanish and you can respond.
8. Things to know about sales tax refund
Sales tax is called IVA in Spanish. Non-EU residents are eligible for a tax refund if the purchase was at least 90 Euros in one store. To be able to claim the sales tax refund, you should look for stores that have a tax free sign. Then, during your purchase, you will receive an invoice which includes the price and the tax. You will need the invoice(s) and a refund form filled out, which you will then drop at the airport at places specially assigned to accept these forms. The refund will be paid to your credit card, usually up to two months after you have submitted the forms.
9. Visit museums when they are free
Visiting museums is one of the highlights when traveling to Madrid. It is impossible to visit the city without visiting at least one of them but can be costly. This is why it is worth knowing that each museum has one day or a period of the day when they offer free entrance. Simply choose the museum you want to visit, go to its website and check under entrance fees. This tip for traveling to Madrid can help you save money but still enjoy the beautiful masterpieces that are part of the collections featured in the local museum.
10. Exchanging money in Madrid
The best solution is to bring Euros when arriving in Madrid. Alternatively, you can use your credit card to pay for things or take cash from an ATM. In this case, you will face the lowest exchange rates. If you choose to go to a bank or an exchange office, you will usually pay higher rates when exchanging money to Euros.
11. Tap water is a safe choice
Unlike many other large cities, tap water in Madrid is completely safe to drink. You can still choose to buy bottled water, but there is not much of a difference, apart from that you will save a lot if you drink tap water.
12. Free tours and sightseeing
This trend of free tours is growing in popularity around the European cities, and Madrid is no exception. The best place to look for tours (including the free ones) is the internet. You can see the exact schedule and location from which the tour starts so that you can plan your sightseeing of Madrid accordingly. Most often you can get a city map at a tourist office or at reception, which allows you to plan the sightseeing on your own. Planning this way has so many perks. When you plan individual sightseeing, you get to plan at your own pace, enabling you to see everything you want and to spend any amount of time you want exploring different sights.
13. Driving around Madrid
Although driving your own car offers so many perks and it is generally very convenient, the reason why most tourists choose against it is the fact that parking is quite expensive. Some accommodation providers might offer free parking when staying with them, but this is not a general rule, so you might end up paying a lot of money for parking if you want to spend time in Madrid and have a car while you are there.
14. Health and travel insurance
All the EU citizens are entitled to free or discounted treatments in state hospitals. You will need to have European Health Insurance Card to be entitled to the treatment. Even so, you can still use your travel insurance if you have got one.
15. Explore Madrid on foot
Finally, make sure you spend plenty of time walking around Madrid. You will come across beautiful historic places as the central area has historically been the place from which the city evolved. And if you choose an apartment in Madrid as your accommodation for this travel, walking around Madrid’s central area will be quite convenient. That is the main benefit of apartments in Madrid. All of the most important landmarks, best restaurants, and bars, everything is within walking distance when you stay in the city center.