Madrid, Spain: 5 Tips So You Don’t Waste Time and Money

by Shelli Stein

Have you ever gotten a tip about a place you were about to visit that just didn’t make sense? I have. And it taught me a great travel lesson. When someone gives me tips about a place I’m visiting, I’ll always ask them, “When was the last time you were there?” I just prefer tips to be as recent as possible. So having had a really wonderful time in Madrid, Spain, I’ve got a variety of tips for visiting Madrid to share with you.

Don’t miss out! Read part one where I offer tips for visiting Madrid restaurants!

Using Credit Cards in Spain

I learned a trick when using a credit card in a machine in Spain, particularly at the metro stations. It saved me a lot of frustration and also enabled me to earn miles/points from my spend instead of having to pay with cash. It’s very easy to buy metro tickets in both Madrid and Barcelona, however, when you use a credit card there’s often a glitch.

You’ll get to a point in the transaction when the machine will ask you for a PIN number. I don’t know about you but my credit cards that I use overseas don’t have PIN numbers. When the machine requests a PIN number, just press the green button to continue the transaction and viola, the transaction keeps going and you’ll be issued your ticket.

Also, don’t pull out your credit card before you get the little green light or the transaction will fail. While standing in line to get metro tickets from the machines, I would notice confused tourists taking a long time with their transaction. I’d help them out and show them this trick and it worked every time!

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Metro Museum in Madrid

If you have any interest in public transportation and metro stations, this little metro museum is a fun one to visit. It’s in the Chamberi neighborhood, which coincidentally is where a lot of the great coffee houses are as well 🙂

This station functioned at first like any other Madrid Metro station. In fact, it was one of the original stations of Linea 1 that ran from Cuatro Caminos to Puerta del Sol. However, for whatever reason, the early administration of the train system had to close it down.

Fast forward to current times, and the metro is now a museum. It is called the Ghost station of Madrid. While this metro stop is not useful anymore as a station, it served well in the past. It acted as a major shelter for civilians who needed a safe place to stay during the Spanish Civil War. It was also used as a warehouse where supplies were hidden.

This museum started in 2008, when the railway management decided to reopen it, but as a museum. Everything in it, specifically the design and display, was the work of Spanish architect Antonio Palacios, the same man who was commissioned to design the Palacio de Cibeles. He was also responsible for creating the interior areas of the early station. Metro Museum in Madrid is compact and its area is similar to that of the current modern stations. In fact, you can explore the place and finish the tour in under thirty minutes. It’s free to visit, but do call first to see if it’s open and keeping regular hours.

Tips for Visiting Museums in Madrid

Madrid is a museum goers heaven! Depending on how many days you spend in Madrid and how much museum going energy you can muster, there’s a museum for everyone. The great thing is that the museums have nights, and sometimes days too, where admission is free. Free admission is usually for a few hours, which I felt was enough time to take in what I wanted to see at each museum.

The three museums I recommend, Prado, Museo Reina Sofia, and Thyssen all have free admission nights. There are often hundreds of people in line, but don’t let the long lines deter you. Once they start letting people in, the lines move quickly and the crowds do tend to scatter throughout the museum. I didn’t think it ever felt overcrowded.

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How To Get From the Madrid Airport to Madrid

After landing in Madrid, I experienced the easiest time getting into the city center by taxi I’ve had anywhere in the world. I’ll often treat myself to a taxi to my lodging, rather than using the metro, especially if I’ve had a long flight, am feeling tired, and it’s not rush hour.

In Madrid, taxis have a flat rate fee of 30 Euro from the airport to city center. The taxis seemed to be new and were super clean. It didn’t matter how many people or how much luggage, the driver took a credit card and the machine worked with no issue. The whole experience was quick and easy with no fuss. I sure do wish every taxi experience was like this one when I need to get from the airport to the city center!

Train Travel In Spain

Here’s a piece of advice on train travel in Spain. It’s likely you’ll take day trips from Madrid or go by train to your next destination. There are two major train stations in Madrid, both of which are easy to navigate and user friendly. However, I’d suggest getting your tickets ahead of time.

I showed up at the station one day thinking I could get a ticket to Toledo. There were many trains to choose from but most of the trains going from Madrid to Toledo were sold out and even if I had gotten to Toledo that day, the return trains were all sold out. Struck me as strange, but when I finally did make my day trips I saw that many of the trains don’t have many cars. Maybe they use 4 or 5 cars, so that coupled with the idea that most Spaniards and other tourists probably make their plans ahead of time, means if you’re used to being spontaneous with plans, in this case get those tickets ahead of time!

Final Thoughts

I hope you find these travel tips for visiting Madrid helpful. I always think of what I would have liked someone to tell me before I travel somewhere, so that’s why I’m sharing them with you! Any tips you’d like to share?

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Elena August 25, 2022 - 2:42 pm

Great tips that’ll make easier any visit to Madrid. I’ll add a “going out to lunch” trick: check the “Menu” option at many restaurants, which gives you two dishes and, if lucky, beverage, bread, coffee and dessert or, at least, two of the listed, all for less than 20 euros, sometimes as low as 10 euros.

Btw, it is “Cuatro Caminos” no “Cuatro Camino” and also “Puerta del Sol” and not “Puerto del Sol”.

Shelli August 25, 2022 - 3:25 pm

Thanks so much for the corrections, Elena. I just edited the post. And yes, how did I forget to mention the menu del dia? It is indeed a great way to lunch. My favorite place was 10 Euros. Wish menu del dia was offered in more countries but then it wouldn’t be a fun way to dine in Spain! And for any readers who may be curious, the history of how and when menu del dia got started is rather interesting to research. Thanks for reading, Elena, and for adding to the conversation.


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