Madrid-Barajas Airport is Europe’s fourth-busiest airport and has direct flights to and from most major European cities, as well as international destinations. Terminal Four, completed in 2006, now means that 70 million travelers can pass through Barajas every year. Try to avoid flying into T4, however, as it’s farther away from the city center, meaning a higher cab fare. The Metro station for T4 isn’t finished and, with the current financial crisis, may be delayed. Also, this giant terminal requires a seemingly endless walk to get to customs and the luggage carousel. Airlines currently using T4 are British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and American Airlines. While getting to T4 requires a taxi, or a train from T1-3, you can get to T1-3 via the Metro. Get off at the station called Aeropuerto, not at Barajas, which is the nearby suburb.
Spain’s national Renfe rail company connects all major Spanish cities and many minor ones. High-speed lines exist between Madrid and Códoba, Sevilla, Málaga, Zaragoza, Barcelona and Valladolid. Others are planned, but with the financial crises, they’ll probably be delayed. There are two stations—Chamartín and Atocha Renfe (at the Metro stops of the same name) conveniently located in central Madrid. Trains are faster and much more comfortable than buses, and most lines include dining cars where you can have a snack and some wine while watching the countryside roll by.
Madrid’s public transportation system is clean, reliable and safe, except for a high population of pickpockets. The Metro system has 13 lines, designated both by a number and a color, and free maps are available at the stations. You can buy a single ticket for €1 or an abono metro (ticket with 10 rides) for €9. Rides cost the same however far you go. Remember to retrieve your ticket after you stick it in the turnstile. The Metro runs from 6AM to 2AM and serves every place of interest to a visitor. Buses are also good, but the crazy spider web of routes can be confusing to the newcomer. Tickets can be paid in cash to the driver or with an abono metro and cost the same as a Metro ride. Buses run from 6AM to 11:30PM, then the night buses (búhos) take over for the major routes. They have the same number as their daytime counterparts and the number is preceded by an "N". They run on the same route, but are less frequent, and lesser-used routes don’t have them at all. Night buses all pass through Plaza de Cibeles. Special night buses (metro búhos), numbered L1 to L11, follow Metro lines 1-11, stopping at the nearest bus station next to the corresponding Metro station.
Driving in Madrid is a really bad idea. The roads are confusing, with many one-way roads, and the parking is insufficient and expensive. With Madrid’s excellent public transportation, there’s really no need to rent a car to visit the city unless you plan on heading out on a road trip, and even then you’re better off taking a train or bus. If you do rent one, be prepared for lots of aggressive yet unobservant drivers. You drive on the right and the signage is generally good, but all in Spanish.
Taxis are white, four-door Škodas or Peugots with a red diagonal stripe down the side. If a green light is lit on the roof and a green sign in the window says “Libre,” it’s available. Taxis cost €1.5 plus a charge per kilometer. The amount depends on where you got picked up (less for a regular street, a €2.50 supplement for a bus or train station) and there’s an extra charge on holidays. Full details on fares are printed within the taxi, but are, of course, in Spanish. Some drivers might take you a roundabout way or try to illegally charge extra for luggage or pets. Another common trick is to “forget” to turn on the meter. Make sure they do. You can hail a cab by waving at it or looking for a taxi stand, common on busy streets and in front of bus, rail and Metro stations.