Madrid has one of the best Metro systems in the world. It is, without any doubt, one of the best options to move around town: it is safe, clean and has a reasonable price (even when Madrilians will tell you it costs too much).
But, before using the underground to move around Madrid, you should take into account a series of facts nobody tells you when you first arrive to town:
1. Does the green line go through here?
Madrid metro lines are known by their number or color. They do have names, but nobody uses them, with the only exception fo the round/loop line “Circular” and “R” line.
2. Take line 3 towards Sol
Most people don’t really know what the final stop of the line is (it’s grown so much that the end point of many lines have changed a lot) so most of them will direct you to other stations in that line.
3. Metro, Metro Norte, Metro Ligero…
There are three types of lines:
- Metro, which connects whatever is inside Madrid city (zone A)
- Metro Ligero, which are not in Madrid city but in close by towns and which are connected with Metro by common stations
- Metro Norte and Metro Sur, which are extensions of Metro in nearby towns to the north and south fo Madrid, but with their own tickets.
Most people will call them all Metro.
4. To the right!
When using escalators or even stairs, Madrilians step to the right so those in a rush can pass by. Don’t block the way, they will get angry.
5. Set your destination point
You can change lines or direction as much as you want, but individual ticket price changes depending on how many stations you cross. That’s the reason why the tickets machine asks where you are going when you buy a single ticket.
Up to 2018, since we used paper tickets, you could technically buy a single ticket for a short distance and use it for a longer journey, but with the new Multi card you can’t do this. So now it is cheaper to buy the 10-uses ticket if you will be using Metro or the bus more than once.
6. Which platform is line 3?
Unless underground systems like New York or London, Madrid Metro lines don’t share platforms (with just some temporary exceptions). So, it is only one platform per line and direction, and you will find a lot of signage to help you out.
Also, trains arrive by the right and leave towards your left, except for some stops in line 6 or 10.
7. This train doesn’t go to Callao?
Train coaches are not assigned to specific lines (well, they kind of are, but you will not notice it on your first trip to Madrid) and they don’t always say where they are going. If you are at the platform for the line that goes to Callao, you will be going to Callao.
The only exception here is when you are at the round/loop line, or towards the end of a line. In those cases, sometimes the train might not go all the way through, but they will announce it through the PA system and in some electronic signage (if there is any).
But this exception is rare at touristic spots. There, you will only find this happening when there is a major event, like a soccer match, New Year’s Eve parti, etc., when they close some stations for security reasons.
8. Press to open
Doors don’t always open automatically. You will most likely find two systems to open the door at your station: a button that lights up or a handle you can pull up.
9. This train does not run above…
At certain (late) times, some trains don’t do the full line. If this happens, they will announce it through the PA and at the platform signage.
10. Access closed after 11 pm
Madrid’s underground opens after 6AM and closes at 1:30AM but some gates have different opening times. If you find a door that closes earlier, there is always a close by one (might be at a different street or a few minutes away by foot.)
EXTRA: The kids
Kids under 4 years old travel free.
Up to 8 years old, they also travel free but with a special card, not for travelers.
Kids under 11 years old pay only 50% of touristic tickets.
By the way, there are no child seats, but there is space for elders, parents with babies (the picture only shows women, but it’s for everyone with a baby), pregnant women, etc.
EXTRA 2: Tickets
In order to use the underground, you will need a Multi card, an electronic card similar to London’s Oyster or Porto’s Andante. This plastic card costs 2,50€, however, doesn’t use a top-up system, you don’t have money on it, but tickets. Also, you can have different tickets uploaded and you can use it to pay tickets for those traveling with you.
- Single journey ticket: 1,5€ to 2€, depending on the distance, but you can only use them on the same day
- SIngle + Airport: 4,5€ to 5€ (it is a single ticket plus an extra of 3€, check alternatives to go to Madrid’s Airport by public transport here)
- Tourist ticket: from 8,40€ per day and person, but it includes the Multi card and the airport extra. Also kids under 11 only pay 50%
- 10 journey ticket: 12,20€, valid for Metro but also for Madrid buses, doesn’t change depending on distance and you can use these for those traveling with you (as long as they travel with you for the whole journey).
- If you are not going to use the underground much or in different days, buy the 10 journey ticket, it will let you jump in the bus at the same price, for cheaper and with other people.
- If you are traveling a lot in a few days or are traveling with kids from the airport, buy the tourist ticket, you save 2,50€ from the Multi card and 3€ from the airport extra. And once the tourist ticket is over, you can use the card as any other Multi card.