A Guide to Mastering Public Transportation in Madrid


As Spain’s biggest city, there’s so much to do an see in Madrid. So how do you get around to see it all? Here are the three main ways of getting around Madrid and the surrounding cities, as well as a guide to getting a monthly transportation card.

Transportation types in Madrid


The train system, or Cercanías, is the easiest way to get from Alcalá de Henares to Madrid. The main hubs in Madrid are Atocha, Nuevos Ministerios, Chamartín, Sol, and Príncipe Pío. You can take either the C2 or C7 from Alcalá to the Atocha station in the center of Madrid, and then take the Metro to anywhere you want to go in the city. The Cercanías trains run from 5am to 11:30pm.


The metro is the fastest way to get around within the city. There are 12 metro lines and over 200 stations, making it the second largest underground system in Europe. The metro lines run from 6am to 1:30am, and frequency of service varies from every 3 minutes to every 15 minutes, depending on the time of day. Click on the map to enlarge the image.


The public buses in Madrid and Alcalá are cheap, clean, and efficient. Your transportation card can be used on any bus, including the ones from the airport. If you’re new to the bus system, you can easily look up routes and times on Google or Apple maps. In addition, most bus stops have the bus numbers, timetables, and maps printed somewhere on them. Frequency of service depends on the day and time but is usually between every 5 and 10 minutes. There are some buses that run 24/7 but they have a much lower frequency.

Guide to getting a transport card

The Transport Card, or abono, gives you unlimited access to all forms of public transportation in Madrid for 30 days. The “youth” card is priced at 20€ and is available for everyone aged 26 and under. How do you obtain this magical card you might be wondering? I’ve laid out all the information you need to know down below.

  1. Make an appointment online by clicking this link.
    • Select “Quiero obtener una Tarjeta Transporte Público”.
    • If you are under 26, select “El solicitante tiene entre 7 y 25 años.
    • Select the type of identification you will be using to prove your identity. If you are a US citizen you will need to use your passport number. Select USA and then enter your passport number.
    • Make an appointment online by clicking the “Pedir cita previa” button. Pick a metro office and select the date and time of your appointment.
  2. Bring the following documents to your appointment:
    • Your original passport
    • A copy of your passport
    • 4€ one-time fee to cover the cost of the card
  3. Load your card by inserting it into one of the ticketing machines and selecting the 30-day youth pass. This will cost 20€ and will be valid for 30 days. You can reload your card once the 30 days are up.

Helpful Transport Tips

  • The quickest way to get from Alcalá to the Madrid Barajas International Airport is by bus. The bus 824 takes you directly from Alcala to Terminals 1, 2, and 3. You can catch this bus at either of the stops on Vía Complutense. See the map below. You can also take a combination of the train and metro to the airport. Take either line C2 or C7 to Nuevos Ministerios and catch the metro line 8 to the airport.
  • Madrid has an incredible public transportation system but it is also a very walkable city. Most of the main sites in the city are right in the center. From Plaza del Sol to Buen Retiro Park it is about a 15-20 minute walk. You can get from the park to the Royal Palace in about 20-25 minutes. From Atocha to the Reina Sofía Museum you can expect to walk for about 11 minutes.
  • You can also use your transport card to get to some beautiful surrounding cities. From train station Sol, you can take line C3 to see the monastery and 20th-century war memorial in El Escorial. From Atocha, you can visit the royal gardens and palace of Aranjuez on line C3 as well. To the hanging houses and iconic cathedral of Cuenca, start at Atocha and take the Intercity bus 18162.

So there you have it, a complete guide to the fast and efficient public transportation in Madrid. Hopefully now you feel prepared to get out and explore Madrid and the unique cities around it.

Leah Eisenhauer is a current student on the Study Abroad Program in Spain.

Want to know more about Instituto Franklin- UAH Study Abroad in Spain program? Don’t miss out on this video and apply now !!


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