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How does the Madrid metro and public transportation system work?

Madrid city has a vast, safe and well-run public transport system, including the metro, buses, the ‘Metro Ligero’ (metro-trams), and ‘cercanias’ suburban trains. There are also tourist sightseeing buses and night buses in Madrid, as well as taxis.

Integrated transport system

In Madrid, the metro, metro-trams, buses and suburban trains come under one transport network. The metro is operated by Metro Madrid, buses by a company called EMT, the metro-trams by Metro Ligero and the suburban trains by RENFE. But all modes of transport are integrated under Madrid’s Transport Consortium, known as CTM.

This means that you can buy “Metrobús” travel cards and multi-journey tickets that enable you to hop on and off the metro and buses in the Madrid urban area. And although you’ll need to buy tickets separately for the ‘cercanias’ suburban trains and the metro-trams, you can check timetables, fares, maps and other information for all four modes of transport on the integrated CTM website.

Madrid’s official transport websites – maps, fares and route information

Apart from the integrated CTM website which has fare and route information on all of Madrid’s modes of transport, you can get up to date travel information on several other websites too. For metro only see MetroMadrid, for Madrid urban buses and night buses visit EMT Bus, for metro-trams the CTM website’s tram page, and for suburban trains, RENFE Cercanias Madrid.

You can also view or download a metro map or a bus map directly online. For the Metro, you can additionally use the Metro website journey planner to enter your departure and destination place and time, and the system will calculate the best route for you.

Buying tickets

You can buy “Metrobús” travel cards and single tickets for the metro and buses at CTM points of sale, at metro stations. Tickets at metro stations are usually available from vending machines, although busy central stations will have ticket booths with sales clerks. The vending machines are not difficult to operate; they offer various language options and are quite self-explanatory. In most machines you can use cash or credit cards, just be ready to punch your card’s PIN number in when prompted. Buses also sell single journey tickets, but they are only valid for one journey on that bus, and cannot be used on other modes of transport.

For metro-trams and suburban trains, which only depart from certain stations (that are usually connected with the metro), you can buy tickets at those stations. (See more information about these lines and stations below).

Tourist transport services

Madrid also has an open-top tourist sightseeing bus service. These red buses offer a hop-on-hop-off service, where you can buy a ticket for a day or more, and this entitles you to get on and off the sightseeing bus as many times as you wish during that period of time. The buses run along a set circuit, stopping next to or very near to all of Madrid’s main sights, monuments and places of cultural or historic interest. More information is available online on bus and tour company websites, for example, and

Travel zones, stations and running times

The Madrid metro and buses have four different zones: A, B1, B2 and B3. Most of the main attractions in Madrid are within zone A, and it’s unlikely that you’ll need a ticket to the outer perimeters unless you’re going to a very specific suburban destination to visit someone, or to the airport. For sightseeing, it’s recommended that you buy a 10-journey ticket for Zone A, and that will cover you for virtually all of Madrid’s main monuments, sights, parks, palaces, museums and other places of interest.

For running times and stations, see the detailed information for each different type of transport below:

  • Metro - The Madrid Metro network has 231 stations and 12 lines, but it is very easy to navigate. Each metro line has its own colour and number, and each station has a name, all very clearly laid out on the metro map. The metro is open from 6am to 1.30am. The metro trains travel underground at high speeds, and in peak times and busiest areas they run every 1-3 minutes. The frequency of the metro trains outside rush hour or in the furthest away suburban areas is still only about 5-8 minutes, and nighttime metro trains after 11pm run every 10-15 minutes.
  • Buses - EMT city and suburban buses run in central Madrid and between central Madrid and the suburban neighborhoods. EMT’s new fleet of buses that run on hydrogen are recognizable for their blue colour, although some diesel buses still operate, and those are red. Buses run every weekday from 6am to 9am, approximately every 5-15 minutes. The frequency will vary according to the time of day and the areas the bus lines serve; check the CTM website or EMT bus map for up to date route and timetable information.
  • Metro-trams - The Metro Ligero overland trams have four different lines: ML1 from Pinar de Chamartín to Las Tablas, ML2 from Colonia Jardín to Estación de Aravaca, ML3 from Colonia Jardín to Puerta de Boadilla and ML4 from Tranvía de Parla (circular line). The metro-tram lines ML1, ML2 y ML3 connect with the metro, and the ML 2 and ML4 with the suburban trains. The lines ML2 and ML3 connect with each other. The metro-trams run from 6am to 1.30am, same as the metro. Check the CMT website’s Metro Ligero page for more information.
  • Night buses - The night buses (known as ‘Búhos’, or ‘Owls’) run 11.45pm onwards, until 6am. Their frequency depends on the time of night and the part of town they travel to, but generally they run every 15-30 minutes. Check the EMT interactive bus map for journey times.
  • Suburban ‘cercanias’ trains - The suburban or ‘cercanias’ trains will take you to the outer Madrid areas with no metro connections. The suburban lines have 8 different zones, and the more zones you cross, the more you’ll pay in fares. The ‘cercanias’ trains connect with the metro at certain stations: Atocha, Chamartín, Príncipe Pío, Nuevos Ministerios, Delicias, Méndez Alvaro and Pirámides. The Recoletos station in the centre also has a ‘cercanias’ train line platform, but is not connected via underground tunnels to the metro station nearby. The ‘cercanias’ trains operate between 6am and 11pm, roughly every 3-7 minutes. Check times and routes on RENFE’s Madrid Cercanias page.

Types of tickets and prices

Because the Madrid metro and bus system is integrated, you can buy combined ‘Metrobús’ tickets that let you hop on and off the metro and EMT buses. The ‘cercania’s trains have their own ticketing system. There are also single tickets, which you can buy for buses, metro and trains.

Here are the main types of tickets you can buy:

  • Billete sencillo Metrobús: Single tickets are perfect for occasional trips; the Metrobús single ticket is valid for a single journey either on a bus or on the metro.
  • Billete sencillo cercanías Renfe: These single tickets are valid for one journey on the suburban ‘cercanias’ trains.
  • Billete 10 viajes Metrobús: These 10-journey travel tickets are valid on metro and buses, for 10 journeys.
  • Bonotren 10 viajes: These 10-journey travel tickets are valid on the suburban ‘cercanias’ trains.
  • Billetes aeropuerto: You can travel to Barajas airport from Madrid’s centre on the metro, by buying a single ticket, plus a 5€ airport supplement.
  • Billete turístico: The daily tourist travel cards are valid on any Madrid urban transport for the duration of 1-7 days.

Prices 2014

Zone A Metrobús tickets will usually cover you amply for all the sightseeing in Madrid - the below Metrobús fares are for Zone A tickets. For trains, there are 8 zones, and the more zones you cross, the more you’ll pay - the price range for the most typical tickets is also given below. You can check individual routes and other types of fares on the Metro, EMT Bus and CTM websites.

Metrobús tickets:

  • Single ticket: 1,50€ to 2,00€ (depending on the number of stops)
  • 10-journey ticket: 12,20€
  • Airport extra charge: 5,00€ (to be added to the single ticket price)
  • Tourist travel card 1-day: 8,40€

Suburban trains:

  • Single ticket, zones 1 to 8: 1,65€ to 8,55€
  • 10-journey ticket, zones 1 to 8: 9,85€ to 37,75€

Sightseeing bus:

  • 1 day ticket: 21,00€

Disabled travellers

Almost all of Madrid’s metro and metro-tram stations are equipped with lifts and ramps for disabled passengers. Most buses, with some exceptions on older vehicles, have wheelchair access. Some ‘Cercanias’ train platforms have ramps and lifts, some have assistance available. You can find detailed information about lifts and ramps on the Metro accessibility page and for buses on the EMT bus accessibility page. You can check which ‘cercanias’ trains have accessibility in place here.


Madrid taxis are white, with a red diagonal stripe and the city emblem on the front doors. If a taxi is free the green light on the roof will be on. You will usually find taxi ranks all over the city, especially near train and bus stations, as well as at the airport.

When you are near a taxi rank, you must take the first taxi in queue there, but otherwise you can just hail a taxi on the street by lifting your hand.

In 2014, Madrid taxis have a basic starting fee of 2,40€ during the day and 2,90€ by night. From then on, the taxi will run on a meter and the final price will depend on distance, time (quicker or slower in heavy or light traffic) and various extra supplements on bank holidays and during airport runs. Airport runs to Madrid’s centre have a fixed tariff of 30€, but will carry extra charges for extra passengers in people carriers (5th person onwards), Sundays and bank holidays, and after 10pm until the early hours of the morning.

Always get an estimate from a driver before you get in, if you are unsure, but remember that heavy traffic may increase the cost. You can also call a cab company like Tele Taxi on (+34) 913 712 131, but bear in mind that the driver will start the meter from wherever he or she is at the time of receiving the call.

A list of all Madrid public transport websites:

Buses and Night Buses EMT
Sightseeing Buses, and
Tele Taxi
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