Getting to and from Barajas airport to any point in the city center (about 9 miles away) is easy, but you have several options to choose from and you should know them all.
1. The best transfers between Madrid Barajas airport and the city center
If what you want is to simplify your arrival, I recommend the private pick-up service at the airport, door to door.
- Private transfer from Madrid airport to downtown - From $ 24
- Private transfer from Madrid downtown to the airport - From $ 23
2. Private transfer from Madrid airport to the city center
The word "private" often brings with it the adjective "expensive" and so we often tend to overlook it when it comes to a trip where we want to set aside the money to get to know the city we are arriving in. However, in the case of Madrid the price of hiring a private transfer from the airport to the center, that picks you up at the airport and takes you to your hotel, is quite reasonable: from $ 24, booking in advance. Of course, the final price will depend on the number of people using the service: you can request a shared transfer or a vehicle for you and the people traveling with you.
The transfer works in a simple way: when you make the reservation online you provide the details of your hotel or accommodation in Madrid and the details of your flight (with that the driver will already know your arrival terminal). The driver will meet you and your group at the terminal, will know if your flight is late, and will wait for you up to 45 minutes after the scheduled time.
Advantages of using the private transfer
- You have enough space for your luggage (if you have special luggage you must communicate it)
- It is accessible for baby strollers
- More convenient, "door-to-door" service
- Reliable drivers who speak English and Spanish
- Communication with the company 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Free cancellation of the service with one day's notice
- Air-conditioned vehicle (something you will appreciate if you travel in summer)
3. Private transfer from the center of Madrid to the airport
The transfer service is also available at the same price if you want to hire it on your way back to the airport from your accommodation. The conditions are the same and what you have to take into account is that the pick-up time is always set three hours before your flight departure to take into account possible unforeseen events, check-in time, traffic, etc.
At the time of booking you will have to provide your hotel details so that the driver can pick you up and with this, you will be ready to finish your trip to Madrid in the most comfortable way possible.
Ana's Traveler Tip
Don't forget to check which terminal your flight arrives at: Madrid airport terminal 4 is separate from terminals 1, 2, and 3.
4. Other options: public transport, cab or VTC
Madrid airport has four terminals: on one side, there are terminals 1, 2, and 3 and on the other side terminal 4. The metro and bus reach both and the suburban train network has a stop at terminal 4 (for other types of transport there are services in all terminals).
Metro line 4 has a stop at Terminal 4 and another stop at Terminal 1, 2, and 3. Keep in mind that in Madrid you need a card to ride the metro (it will also work for intercity buses). It costs 3 dollars and then you will have to select the route in the vending machines (you can pay with card or cash). If you are going to use the metro in Madrid you can top up this card with several trips.
If you are taking the metro to get to the city center, the last stop is Nuevos Ministerios, an area that is already in the center of the city and from where you can transfer to other lines depending on where your hotel is.
Cercanías (suburban trains)
The suburban train network in Madrid is integrated with the metro. The line that leaves from terminal four of Barajas airport communicates with central stations such as Nuevos Ministerios, Atocha (train station), or Méndez Álvaro (bus station in Madrid). If your hotel is near any of them you will not need to take the metro card, only the train ticket which costs 3 dollars and is taken at the ticket office of the station.
If you then take the metro to your accommodation, you can buy the card and recharge it at any station. The last suburban train leaves around 11:30 at night and the service is somewhat faster than the metro; with a frequency of about 15 minutes, in 40 minutes you can be in the center.
You have two options: the intercity buses that pass by the airport (lines 101 and 200) or the bus that takes you directly to the center stopping at the Cibeles fountain and the Atocha station (both central points). My recommendation is to choose the latter option if you're new to the city: the ticket costs seven dollars and from the arrival points (Cibeles and Atocha) you will be easily located in the city.
Cab or VTC
Cabs in Madrid that go from the airport to the center or vice versa have a fixed cost of 35 dollars per way (you may be asked for something more if there is a night rate, but the official prices should be indicated inside the cab). You will recognize the cab rank by the long queue at the exit of the terminals; it will seem very long, but don't be overwhelmed because it goes quite fast.
Another widespread option in Madrid is the VTC. With the Uber or Cabify apps you can request one when you arrive at the airport and the price of the trip is usually a little cheaper than a cab (the app will show you when you enter your destination point and you can decide whether to accept it or cancel the trip).
Ana's Traveler Tip
If the cab driver asks you for a supplement for your luggage, be aware that it is not legal as the prices are regulated regardless of the luggage.
5. Useful tips for your arrival at the Madrid airport
Regardless of the option you choose, the most important thing is that you have it decided once you get off the plane to avoid wasting time on unnecessary travel. Madrid airport is quite big so it will take some time to get out of the airport; if you have hired the pick-up service, don't worry because the driver will take it into account. Once you pick up your luggage from the belt you will arrive at the departure gate from where you can access the street.
If you want to eat or drink anything before starting your return trip, you will have many restaurants at your disposal both before and after boarding. Please note that the prices at the airport will be much more expensive. As for the immediate vicinity, there is nowhere worth going out to eat.
If you need to move between terminals, you don't need to use the metro: there is a free minibus that connects the terminals. It runs every 40 minutes and you can ask for the exact location at any of the airport information points. It is also available during the night.
As for moving around Madrid during your trip, if you are staying in the center the best option is the metro: it is fast, cheap and works quite well. Do not rule out walking from one area to another: although the city is large many areas of the center are reachable on foot and it is always better to get to know a city on foot. You don't have to worry about safety either: Madrid is a very safe city.
6. Other details about Madrid airport
You've got all your questions answered about how to get from Madrid airport to downtown, but perhaps there are a few more things you'll want to know about the airport if you'll be spending some time there before your return flight departs.
- WiFi connection available. This can be useful both in the dead hours of waiting during your return or if on the way out you need to turn on your cell phone to call a VTC or to contact the owner of your accommodation to tell him that you are on your way.
- There are no smoking areas. Once you pass through security there are no outside areas where you can smoke so keep this in mind. No electronic cigarettes can be used either.
- There are no public address announcements. If your flight is delayed or your gate is changed you will have to look at the screens throughout the airport, as they will not necessarily notify you of boarding or otherwise.
- It is open 24 hours a day. This will be useful if your flight leaves early and you want to arrive early. Although the food places don't open until the morning there are vending machines to get a coffee or snack.
- Watch the time. I don't recommend arriving just in time for your flight; you may miss it. Madrid airport is very large and, depending on which gate your flight departs from, from the gate it can take up to half an hour to get there.
7. You may also be interested in...
Once in Madrid the number of things you can do is innumerable, check out these articles to learn about the places you can't miss!
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to get from the airport to the city center of Madrid?
The transfer shouldn't take more than 15 minutes to get to your hotel or another drop-off point within central Madrid.
How can I customize my transfer?
Some transfers will let you choose from a Mercedes-Benz vehicles Executive (E class), Minivan (V class) and Sprinter (8-passenger van) at a fixed price. Also, most of them operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for your maximum convenience.
How early should I arrive to the airport of Madrid before my flight?
Best practice is to arrive at least 1 hour 30 minutes before an European flight or 3 hours if you're flying overseas. Also, make sure to ask your driver to take you to the exact terminal of your flight, as moving between terminals will take time.