Are you planning a trip to Madrid and you don’t know where to start? We feel you, there are too many things that must be considered to avoid those moments of “Why did not I think about this before?”. Experience counts, the more you travel the more you learn, and we have learned a lot from the guests who visited us. These are some of the things that travelers sometimes overlook, and you would like to know. We hope you find useful any of these tips to visit Madrid in 2019:
1) Make Housing Arrangements
Let’s start with the most obvious tip. Before leaving your country, it is important to know where you are going to sleep during your trip. If it is a very long itinerary, it is practically crazy to have everything booked in advance, because we make decisions on the go. But if your trip doesn’t have many stops, making a list of places where you want to sleep, it’s not a bad idea at all.
Whether you choose an Airbnb, a hostel, or a hotel room, make sure you have a place to sleep. And even if you do not give Cats Hostels a go (we write this in tears) we want you to travel without worry, and for that, it’s best to book well in advance. It’s no secret that in a crowded city like this, the best places are the first to be fully booked. Imagine your face of disappointment when you arrive and the receptionist says that there are no free beds (oh yes, we have seen those faces!)
Fortunately, there are many accommodations that have a flexible cancellation policy in which you can cancel up to 24 hours before arrival (ahem, like us). So, this is one of the best tips we can give you: book your accommodation in Madrid now, you’ll think about it all later.
2) Make Photocopies of any Important Documents
Before taking the plane, be sure to make photocopies of all important documents and carry that copy in both hand/checked baggage. Once in Madrid keep the copy well in the locker of your hotel/hostel room or in the house of your friends. Another good idea is to have copies of these documents in the cloud or Dropbox.
We really mean it, although you may think is somewhat exaggerated, one never knows when the unpleasant experience of a robbery will take place. You will be relieved to find a copy of your passport, train tickets, car rental slip, itinerary, credit card information, and other valuable documents. You should have a plan b in case you “lose” your wallet, passport, cell phone, or any other valuable item.
3) Make an Itinerary
To make your trip better and your life easier, plan ahead what you want to do and what you want to see in Madrid. This will allow you to better control your time and be mindful about locations and distances. Be realistic, make a list of your “musts” and then complete it with the “interesting ones”, which are the ones you can visit if you have time.
When you arrive at a new place, you never know if you are going to find an unexpected party, if the museum you wanted to visit just happens to be closed for renovations, or if you are going to meet someone who proposes a different plan. As in our travels, unexpected things happen, having a list of the places you want to visit no-matter-what, can help you to reorganize them based on your desires.
Just remember that traveling is not a race or a competition. It’s not about being the one who checks more boxes in a huge checklist. It’s about enjoying each step, mingle with locals and immersing yourself in culture, instead of running from one place to another to get the photo taken. Sometimes quality is better than quantity.
4) Do your Research!
Before leaving, investigate everything you can. For example, it is worth knowing the holidays of Madrid 2019 and check if any of them falls on the date of your visit. This could mean two things: on the one hand, that you want to go somewhere and maybe that day is closed and on the other, that maybe there is a special event in the city that you can join, and you even didn’t know. (And some of them are free!)
The good thing about knowing these things in advance is that you can better organize the itinerary that we talked about in the previous point, to make sure that the opening hours coincide with your plans. Investigating the opening hours in general also helps you to know if there are days/hours when the museums are free or with reduced entry price, which surely is of your interest too!
5) Try to Live like a Spaniard!
Since you are going to be in Madrid, make sure you know and try to imitate Madrid’s customs such as greeting people with two kisses, moving by metro, having midday vermouth with a tapa, or going on a Sunday walk to El Rastro or El Retiro Park.
One of the customs that you will want to adapt to it quickly is to practice ‘terraceo’ (the art of drinking beers on a terrace) and also to buy churros with chocolate. We in Madrid (or Spaniards in general) like to have a siesta, something completely normal if we think of another very Madrilenian custom: party till late! So remember to nap about 30 minutes to recharge batteries. It is true that the party here lasts longer than the European average!
Something very Spanish is spending time outside. The temperatures call for it all year round! The people of Madrid love a street party. When May arrives and therefore, San Isidro festivities, everyone gathers in Las Vistillas or La Pradera. And when summer comes, it’s festivals time. In autumn, the weather is still very pleasant so there are a lot of things to do in October. And in winter, the street activities include going to buy chestnuts, visit markets, and of course eat the grapes of luck in Puerta del Sol. So you know now what do to, wherever you go do what you see!
6) Be Smart! Don’t be a naive tourist
Our beloved Madrid is not dangerous, but sadly we have to accept that more than one visitor or resident takes some displeasure at times. In crowded places place your backpack in front of you and avoid putting things in the outer pockets with zipper or easy access. Always carry the bag closed down the street, do not leave your cell phone or wallet in the back pockets. Do not leave anything at sight, sometimes it is usual to see the cell phone on a table on a terrace, someone could come and try to fool with a question and next thing you know, your cell phone is gone! In restaurants, keep your things always in front of you where you can take an eye on them or on your lap.
We hope none of this scares you, because there’s no really a good reason to be afraid and none of these robberies occur with intimidation. But these thieves approach the tourist areas hoping to take advantage of some naive tourists. Do not be one of them!
7) Pack smart
If you are planning to travel to more places in Spain, and do not want to always have to drag a huge suitcase, it might be a good idea to get a backpack. Also, let us tell you a great fact: Madrid is full of slopes! And cobbled streets. How beautiful are the historic cities, right?
How to pack for Madrid? Well, that will depend on the season, but think that the summers veeeery hot and the winters are moderate, compared to Europe. You will not see the snowy streets in the center. On the other hand, good weather doesn’t mean that you do not put anything warm in your backpack, air conditioning can be very treacherous! It doesn’t mean either that you can bring only summer flip flops, you have to think that in some clubs, the footwear can be a reason for you to be denied entry. In Madrid is almost always sunny (not hot) but friends, the sun does understand about color skin colors! It burns us all. Always use sunscreen… and if you do not want to put it in your backpack you can buy it when you get here. But hey, remember to pack some sunglasses!
8) Plan a day trip
There are many cities near Madrid to which you can go and return on the same day. The favorites are Segovia and Toledo, go and see why! There are daily day trips with guides, but the truth is, they are so well connected with Madrid that it is very easy for you to visit them on your own, and save money of course! The bus is the cheapest option, but with the high-speed train you will arrive in the blink of an eye! These cities exude history, and walking through the historic center of both you will see vestiges of all cultures.
Another visit of great architectural value is El Escorial, an imposing monastery that is part of the UNESCO Heritage. Do not hesitate to come to our reception and ask for information and advice on the different transport options. We will be happy to help you!
9) Buy a European Adapter and an external battery
This is something that many people forget, but the current flows of Spain do not have to be the same as those of your country of origin. Ours is type F, so if your plugs are not compatible, remember to buy an adapter before flying (or at the same airports, although you know that always at a higher price).
The truth is that during a trip we spend most of the day out and our phone battery can last a short time, we no longer use physical maps but Google maps. Some of us do not longer carry a camera because we use the camera on our cell phone. So another good idea is to get an external battery to connect to our devices when we are out, without having to stop anywhere to look for a plug!
10) Prepare for Spanish Food
And to eat like a Spaniard, that is, well and a lot! Get ready to try a lot of Spanish food but also to adapt to our schedules. Spaniards eat late compared to other Europeans:
- Breakfast: it is usually served from 8:00 to 10:00. Of course, some food chains will offer it until 1:00 p.m. Try the typical Spanish breakfast!
- Food: usually starts at 2:00 pm although in many restaurants the kitchen is open from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. We eat very late!
- Dinner: starts around 9:00 pm but on weekends you can ask for food until midnight!
In Madrid, there are the streets of Spain with more bars per square meter, so choose a bar that catches your attention, or ask us for information at reception and we will tell you where to eat the best tapas !! In Madrid, there are restaurants for all budgets. Even if you think you’re going on a budget don’t choose your favorite fast food chain. We have places like the Museo del Jamón that sell jamón sandwiches for € 1. On the other hand, we encourage you to go to a restaurant and order a la carte. Surely you will read very strange things that you have never tasted like the rabo de toro, or the gallinejas y entresijos. Here we talk more about tapas in Madrid that you can not miss. Try everything, you only live once!