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When you arrive or depart Madrid by air, you’ll need to go to Barajas International Airport. This airport is one of the biggest in the world and consists of five terminals. You need to know in advance from which terminal your flight departs. Your terminal depends on your airline:
- T1: is the oldest and one of the biggest terminals. Right now (this information may change, although it's not very likely) the airlines that operate there are: Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeroméxico, Air Plus Comet, Air Europa (non Schengen flights only), Air France, Air Madrid, Air Malta, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Blue Air, bmibaby (from 16/06/08), British Midland, Bulgaria Air, Continental Airlines, Cubana de Aviación, Delta Airlines, Easyjet, Futura, Germanwings, Helvetic Airways, Hola Airlines (non Schengen only), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lloyd Aeroboliviano, LOT, Lufthansa, Malev, Meridiana, Monarch, My Way, Pluna, Pullmantur, Portugalia, Santa Barbara, Scandinavian SAS, Spanair (non Schengen only), Swiss, Thai Airways, Transavia Holland, Travel Service, Tunis Air, and Varig.
- T4 & T4S: Opened early 2007, it's the biggest terminal. The building was designed by the famous British architect Richard Rogers and it's impressive. American Airlines is located here.
After check-in at T4, passengers with the above airline and flying to non-Schengen (UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania & Bulgaria) or non-EU destinations need to proceed to T4S, via the underground rail link. Only passengers with valid boarding cards can board this train. Passport control occurs after disembarkation from the train at T4S.
Getting to and from the city
The airport is extremely well connected to Madrid and there are several ways to get to and from the city.
If you arrive at the international airport in Madrid and want to get to the centre of the city using Atocha Station as a base location for your hotel stay (where most of the cultural attractions are), you have several options...
1. Take a cab (most expensive) 2.Take the airport express bus (5 euros ea). Security indicated that the express bus takes about 35-40 min. to Atocha Station. 3.Take the metro (more stops, more steps with luggage in hand). 4. Use the fast, cheap, modern and easily accessible Renfe train. Be aware that the Renfe can be very busy and packed during rush hour.
All above transportation options are available directly from the baggage claim area at the airport and all will accommodate your luggage. Of all the options, the Renfe train is most attractive, especially if arriving during mid-week times when rush hour traffic volume is low. Renfe is a bargain at 2.1 euros each and it's a faster (20 minutes / about 4 announced stops in both Spanish and English) en route to the Atocha Station) It also connects with several other routes that will take you all over the city. If your hotel indicates a close proximity to the Atocha station, you can easily walk to your hotel from here. Google maps tend made it look like it's a much farther walk than it actually is. Don't shy away from asking a security official for the Calle Mendez Alvaro exit to avoid carrying luggage up any stairs. Signs are clearly posted indicating the various exits from the station.
The Cercanias commuter trains make a quick journey to T4 from Puerto del Sol, Chamartin and Atocha stations change at Nuevos Ministerios. The journey from Puerto del Sol to T4 changing trains at Nuevos Ministerios took 40 minutes and cost E2.55 one way.
METRO (Subway): This is another cheap way to get to the city centre. Madrid subway is very modern, fast, clean and efficient, and the journey only costs 4.5€ (for up to 5 stations, 5€ for over 9 stations, rising 0.10€ from 4.50 for each additional station in between). The pink line runs to and from the airport (line 8). The station name is "Aeropuerto", and it's located at terminal 2. It's easily accessible from terminals 1, 2, and 3, while there is a separate station for terminal 4.
Once in the subway, go to the end of the line 8, and change at Nuevos Ministerios to line 10 (normally you will need to take this one) or line 6, depending on where your hotel is. Another option is to change to line 4 at Mar de Cristal, but this is not recommended, as this is a slower line, with many more stops.
METRO/BUS combination: The best way to get to hotels along or near the Paseo del Prado or Paseo de Castellana (these are basically the same road--a major street that runs north and south on the east side of the center of Madrid) is to take Metro number 8 from Terminal 2 at the airport (has elevators and escalators for easy movement of luggage) and get off at the end of the line--Nuevo Ministerios. This metro stop also has an elevator and escalators. Exit to Paseo de Castellana and on the west side of the street there is a bus stop shelter. Take a bus south--Bus 14 and bus 27 both go south as far as the Atocha train station. The 10 ticket metro pass (6.45 Euros) can be used for both the metro and busses. This avoids carrying luggage up and down stairs in the metro stops, most of which do not have elevators and escalators.
BUS: Bus lines to the airport are now changing. More information should be available soon.
Here is a very good article about the bus between the Madrid Airport to downtown Madrid:
TAXI :There are plenty of cabs. Take only official ones, which are white with a red stripe at the door. Make sure they turn on the meter when you hire them. They shouldn’t charge you more than 30 € to the centre, but it depends on the traffic and destination. Avoid them, if possible, during rush hours (8-9 am, 1:30-3 pm and 5:30-8 pm) from Monday to Friday, as the traffic can be congested. Note that there is a supplement to the meter for trips to/from the airport - 5.25€ as at April 2008. From 7th January 2014 came into force a new fixed rate for taxi fares to Madrid airport. It costs 30 euros to or from the airport or from the interior of the M-30. And for trips outside the M-30 the cost is at least 20 euros.
CAR SERVICE: You could find different private options like Servicon, Aerocity or BookTaxiMadrid specialized transportation service in moving communities door to door between the city and the airport or viceversa. Aerocity is particlularly recommended, it is very efficiently run and pricewise compares favourably with public transport for 2 or 3 people who pay a flat rate. They guarantee no more than three stops between the airport and your accommodation, will take you anywhere in the city centre and operated frequently and quickly. Necessary to book on-line in advance. Booking a return trip will save a small amount of money.