The best ways to travel around Madrid

Finding your way around a new city at first is always tricky, and Madrid is certainly no exception. Should you get the bus or the metro? Taxi or bike? And how?! Sound familiar? Not to worry, with a bit of planning ahead and by downloading a few essential apps, you’ll hit the ground running and be zipping around Madrid like an experienced Madrileño from the get-go!

Get the Citymapper app

Before you even think about metro tickets or bike rentals or whatever mode of transport you choose, you need to know your route and your particular options for that route. This is where Citymapper comes in. Your first reaction might well be, “but this is just Google Maps, right?” Wrong!

I always have trouble convincing people to try it, but once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever survived in big cities without it, trust me! So, get the app, choose your city (Madrid) and just add the destination of where you want to go. You’ll get a comprehensive list of options, including bike routes, mopeds to hire and more. 

Once you select your route, the app will even recognise which way you’re facing and guide you to exactly where you need to walk. If you’re getting the metro, it will show you down to the right platform and tell you where to stand so you’ll be closer to the exit at your next stop.

Buses and the metro

Getting around Madrid on the bus or metro is very economical compared to most other European cities. You have a few options here as to which travelcard you should go for. It ultimately depends on how often you plan to travel. The bus and metro network in Madrid is extensive, and if you don’t mind the cramped spaces, you can pretty much always get to where you need to go.

Getting around Madrid on the bus or metro is very economical compared to most other European cities

Suppose you’re only planning on using the metro or bus a couple of times a week. In that case, I’d recommend buying the “10 viajes” ticket that costs either €11.20 or €12.20 depending on the zones you plan to use it in. You can read more on zones here. You can also buy individual tickets for €1.50 per trip, although I wouldn’t recommend it. You quickly save money buying 10 trips at a time, and the ticket doesn’t expire.

If you’re going to be travelling most days, you’ll definitely want to get the 30-day pass for €54.60 per month. This ticket will entitle you to catch buses or metros as often as you wish. You can get your monthly ticket directly from the ticket machine in all metro and Cercania stations. Just follow the instructions on the machine, and if you have any problems, ask one of the metro staff for help. One thing to keep in mind for this ticket is that you’ll need to link it to either your NIE number if you have one, or your passport, so make sure you have one of those to hand.

Cycling, AKA “BiciMAD”

Like all other major cities do these days, Madrid offers city bikes dotted around in bike stations. Depending on where you want to get to, cycling could be your best option. It’s also a great way to avoid the crowded, enclosed spaces in times of COVID-19 that you’d have to risk on the bus or metro.

It’s also an extremely economical way of getting around. A yearly card will set you back just €25. There are also various discounts and additional charges depending on different factors – you can read all their tariffs here. Signing up for your BiciMAD card is easy, just follow this link and fill in your details. You can also get the BiciMAD app, and you’ll be able to get your bikes all through your mobile.

Top tip: Citymapper will take you to your nearest bike station and then show you the best route to the bike station closest to your destination. It’ll also offer you the quickest route and the most comfortable route (i.e. routes sticking to bicycle lanes).

Like all other major cities do these days, Madrid offers city bikes dotted around in bike stations

Quick-hires: cars and mopeds

If you fancy driving to your next destination but don’t have a car or moped, try eCooltra or Emov. These apps are brilliant for conveniently getting from A-Z for a one-off trip. Both options will quickly get expensive, though, if you rely on them regularly. 

If (unlike me), you’re confident dashing around on a moped, give eCooltra a try. It’s the more practical option in Madrid as you’ll find it much easier to get around and find a parking space close to where you want to be. If you’re more confident on four wheels, go for Emov. As far as cars go, they’re very small, and you’ll manage to get them into fairly tight parking spaces. As an added bonus, both are electric, so you’ll be doing your bit for the environment!

Taxis

If it’s tipping down with rain or you need to get home after a night out, you might want to go for the convenience of a taxi. You’ll find plenty of Madrid taxis buzzing around the city at all times, and they are reasonably priced. I know this is a contentious issue, but I’d also recommend trying Cabify. 

With Cabify, you’ll order a taxi to wherever you are to wherever you want to go. Prices are very reasonable, the cars are always clean, the drivers are polite and they’ll even give you a free bottle of water! An especially nice touch if you’re making your way home after a few too many drinks.

So there you have it, all you need to know about moving around Madrid. Hopefully you’re now feeling confident enough to get to where you need to go. If you’re new to Spain, you should also check out our guide on renting in Spain. If you’re a student and you’re new to Madrid, read about the best neighbourhoods for you. Have fun exploring the city!