If you asked me 6 or 7 years ago, I would have told you that the cheapest way to go to the airport was the underground (Metro). But the prices of public transport to Madrid Airport have changed a lot and the answer is not that easy.
So I’ve researched for you the best and cheapest options to go to Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas Airport by public transport, in 2018. And here are the results, from the more expensive to the most affordable options. And, if you are only looking for the best way to go to the airport at night, jump to the bottom of the page ;)
1. The most expensive: Taxi to the airport and other options, like Uber and Cabify
Taxi is not the cheapest option for the airport in Madrid. Taxis in Madrid can take up to 4 people to the airport for 30€ (from anywhere inside Madrid city). Which means that, including luggage and all the extras, it makes 7.5€ per person when the taxi is full.
If your hotel is outside the city (outside M30 street) the price would be 20€ flat + the distance over 10 kilometers. Not very competitive either.
Uber and Cabify (the Spanish Uber) cost aprox. as much as the taxi does if you are taking one from Puerta del Sol to the airport. Since they charge you over distance, it would be cheaper than the taxi option when traveling to the airport from Serrano, Avenida de América or Nuevos Ministerios areas.
2. Airport Shuttle: Autobús Express from Cibeles
When I was living in Madrid, I had the feeling that the Bus Express from the airport was a tourist trap. It is certainly not now when you are staying near Cibeles or Atocha. In all other cases, you will have to connect to other transport, so it is not the best option.
The bus connects Atocha train Station, Cibeles square and O’Donnell street with the airport in about 20-40 minutes for 5€ per person. This means places near Prado, Gran Vía and Retiro (within 10 minutes by foot to the bus stops) are connected to Madrid airport in 30 or 50 minutes depending on traffic jams.
Pros? It runs 24/7 and it is quite frequent. Plus, if you don’t want to wait, there is a taxi stop right across.
Cons? No wifi, they only accept cash and there isn’t much room for big luggage.
3. Going to the airport by underground (metro)
Madrid’s underground is one of the most comfortable choices to go from Madrid city to the airport. The underground network connects almost every point of Madrid but, unfortunately, there is an extra payment when you travel to the airport.
The airport extra is 3€ and you can either pay it when you arrive to the airport or buy a combined ticket for the airport that already includes it, from your departing point. This means that traveling to the airport can cost you up to 5€ (if you bought a 10-ticket bundle, it would cost 4.2€)
To this price, you must add the price of the transport card (called Multi card) which is 2.5€ But since you probably bought it for other travels through the underground system and it can be used by different people at the same time, I haven’t added it to the total.
Cons? Madrid’s underground system only runs from 6:05 AM and train frequency can be 30 minutes of 6 minutes, depending on the line and the time of the day. Also, going from downtown Madrid to the airport can take about 60 minutes or more (depending on the exact line and the connections you will need to make from one line to another.)
BUT… If you bought a tourist ticket to travel through Madrid transport system:
- If your tourist ticket is valid for the day you are traveling to the airport, you don’t have to pay the 3€ extra when you arrive at Madrid airport
- Once your tourist ticket is over, you don’t have to buy a Multi card. You can add regular tickets to it at the ticket machines, thus saving the 2.5€
4. Regular Bus options to go to the airport
The regular buses that go to the airport don’t charge an extra fee, offer free wifi and don’t need you to buy a Multi card. These make them the cheapest option to go to the airport.
But, although the regular bus ticket costs only 1.5€, only a few travelers can take advantage of this, as the only two buses from Madrid city to Madrid Airport leave from Avenida de América and Canillejas, far away from the most popular tourist spots.
If you want to save a bit on your trip to the airport, you can take these buses from the outside the following underground stations:
- Avenida de América (underground lines 4, 6, 7 y 9).
- Canillejas (underground line 5).
- Alameda de Osuna, (10 minutes walk from the 101 bus stop)
5. The cheapest option from downtown Madrid: Cercanías train to the airport
The train is not a common option for tourists but it is the most comfortable and fast option when traveling to the airport from Nuevos Ministerios, Recoletos – Colón, Sol, Chamartín and Atocha train stations.
The earliest train runs at 6.05 AM and, since it has a less stops than the underground it takes you there in half the time (only 11 minutes from Nuevos Ministerios to Terminal 4) for just 2.60€.
Pros of going to the airport by train? Low price, fast and no connections needed (except for those traveling from Sol.)
Cons? No wifi and it only takes you to T4 terminal, but you have a free bus that takes you from T4 to the other terminals in just 15 minutes. Another con is that the stations are not fully accessible.
Update 2020: The machines at the Airport now mostly work with the contactless card Renfe&tu. The card has an extra cost of 50 cents (the machine automatically adds it to your ticket after asking you if you have one – you will say no unless you’ve been to Madrid before-). BUT, and this is important, a few of the machines at Madrid Terminal 4 don’t issue these cards (you have to have one already) but if you ose the one in the further left (the different one) you don’t need the Renfe&tu card.
If you end up getting the card, it can be reused at any future trips through the Cercanías train system, also for going back to the airport. But you don’t top it up, as you would do with Oyster, Andante or Pasmo cards, and you cannot add multiple trips to it as you would do with the Multi card from Madrid Metro. Instead, when you are buying a new trip you will add it to the card at the ticket machines, so you don’t have to pay for another card again (basically a mean to save on paper prints, but with no super powerful uses.)
6. How to go to the airport for free
Yes, you can also go to Madrid airport for free:
- when connecting an AVE or other long route train (from Galicia, Andalucía, Cataluña, etc.) with the airport, your AVE ticket includes a free Cercanías train ticket from Atocha and Chamartín station to the airport, for free. The ticket is called Combinado Cercanías, you can claim it at the ticket machines at the train station with the code written on your ticket.
- if you have a tourist ticket valid on the day you are traveling to the airport, it also takes you free through the underground
- if you are traveling with a monthly ticket from the EMT, you don’t have to pay any other extra and your bus and underground travels are included
- almost every hotel at Barajas area offers a free shuttle to the airport.
Hotels with free transfer to Madrid Airport
Transfer is free from 7AM to 11PM, but they also have free wifi, summer swimming pool and big rooms:
- Axor Barajas and Axor Feria. Two hotels next to each other at Canillejas business park.
- Hotel Alcalá 611. City hotel next to buses and metro. Really close to 200 bus if you need to go to the airport before 7AM.
- Marriot hotel Auditorio. Not in Madrid, but with all-year swimming pool and free shuttle to the airport from 5:00AM to 1:30 AM.
If you are looking for hotels with earlier options or a different price range, check where to sleep for an early flight from Madrid airport
7. Bonus: How to go to Madrid airport at night
Before 6 AM, none of the Madrid hotels offer a free shuttle to the airport. The public transport options won’t allow enough time for the earliest flights BUT, you have 2 very good options to save:
1. Express Bus for 5€. It is the only choice for the earliest flights. It is available 24/7, but it only stops at Cibeles square before 6AM. It will take you there in 20 minutes.
2. Bus 200, from 1,20€. Bus number 200 leaves Avenida de América towards the Airport every 20 minutes 20 minutos, from 5AM. It only takes 15 minutes to get to T1, T2 and T4 (20 minutes to the last one). It is 1.5€ if you buy the ticket to the driver or 1.20€ when you use one of your 10-ticket Multi card.
Extra tip: if you don’t want to pay the 30€ of the taxi at night, you can ask your taxi to take you to Avenida de América and hop on the 200 Bus. You can also go there with an owl bus (night buses that go through Madrid at night) but I’d recommend checking with your accommodation for directions.