When planning a trip to an unknown (or even a familiar) destination, there’s one part of the equation that’s often overlooked: the airport.
Since moving to Madrid, I’ve spent a lot of time arriving in and departing from the Barajas International Airport. I’ve been in all four terminals and have learned the hard way how to make getting to the airport a stress-free experience. To make your arrival or departure as glitch-free as possible, follow the tips below.
1. Getting to the airport: Use the Metro
Getting to the airport from the city center is a cinch. Most locals hop on the Metro, switch to Line 8 (pink) at “Nuevos Ministerios” and arrive at their desired terminal.
Why do most locals take the Metro? It’s cheap! At just €2 (€1 for the ride and €1 for the airport tax), it’s a much better option than shelling out upwards of €20 for a taxi ride. The Metro can take between 30 to 45 minutes, depending on which part of the city you’re coming from. If I’m traveling light, I always take the Metro. If I can’t carry my bags, then I know it’s time to hail a cab.
2. Budget extra time for long lines
When flying from Madrid to other European destinations, I normally arrive at least two hours early, and when traveling to the U.S., I arrive a little more than three hours in advance. If I’m leaving out of Terminal 1, I always give myself some extra time because of the long indoor walk to the terminal from the Metro.
Why so much time in general? Lines. If you’ve spent some time in Madrid, you know that Spanish people embrace lines and they don’t get upset waiting in them. The airport is no exception. Security lines are a breeze compared to the check-in lines. The worst lines are for Ryanair flights when you’re checking baggage, or flights to Newark, JFK or any other U.S. destination. Prepare to wait for almost an hour to check in.
Once through security, check your watch. If you’ve taken my advice, you’ll most likely have time for a café con leche or a bit of browsing in the duty-free shops. Make sure to check the monitors, as there are no PA announcements to let you know that a flight is boarding.
3. Ready to board. Ready to wait in another line.
If you haven’t gotten used to lines by now, don’t worry: You’ll really understand the concept after you reach the boarding area. Don’t get nervous if you see a long line starting to form before boarding has begun. As I said before, the Spanish love lines. Most flights are still boarded by rows, but lines are customary.
4. The easy part: Arriving at Barajas
The difference between arriving and departing from Barajas is that, upon arrival you don’t have to wait in any lines! The only wait you’ll have is for your luggage. Terminal 4 has the longest luggage retrieval wait time.
If for some reason your bags don’t arrive, walk to the customer service desk (hopefully there isn’t a line). Here you give them your information, identify the brand and color of your luggage, fill out a form with your address and they’ll deliver it to you, for free.
5. Go to town!
Once you have your luggage, you can either take a cab, bus line 200 or the Metro. Again, I most always opt for the Metro. Take line 8 (pink) to “Nuevos Ministerios.” From there you can hop on Line 10 and be in the city center in about 10-15 minutes.
For more information about getting to the airport, check out our Madrid city guide.
Have you been to Barajas?
Have you recently flown into or out of Madrid’s airport? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.