Driving from Toledo to Madrid

On a Sunday morning we will be driving from Toledo to Madrid to drop off the car. Drop off choices are either Atocha Train Station or Madrid airport. Our hotel is near the airport, but we want to see some sites in city center. To maximize our time, we are thinking about dropping off the car at Atocha. How busy will it be on a Sunday morning to drive to Atocha, or is it better to drop off the car at the airport? Also, does anyone know where the drop off location at Atocha is for a Hertz car rental? It seems to be several blocks away. Thanks.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
672 posts

I see from the Hertz website that they have two locations with the word Atocha in the name, only one of which is open 24/7. The other is closed on Sunday. Google Maps is a very good way to to view one-way streets and approaches to a location for which you have a street address. I would be slightly worried that a Sunday drop-off location in Spain might be unattended. That isn't a problem unless you are using your credit-card collision coverage and you are (conceptually, I mean) worried about "phony" damage claims to be made against you. That hasn't happened to me personally, but it certainly comes up from time to time on newsboards. I would expect Madrid traffic to be bearable on Sunday morning. You didn't ask if you will be able to check your baggage at the Atocha station and if there's good transport to the airport HOTEL from there - I would think that's also important to you. Because Madrid is has real one-seat subway to the airport, I might leave my bags at your hotel (since the room won't be ready) and subway (extra fare from the airport) into town. Also check the Sunday hours of your museums.

Posted by Rhon
Wichita
13 posts

Thanks, Tim. You gave some good things to think about. We see from google maps that the Sunday Hertz drop off is a little distance from the train station. Hopefully, this won't be a big problem, since we will be traveling light. We were then planning to leave our luggage at the lockers in Atocha while we sightsee. As far as getting to the airport later, we thought about taking the Airport Express bus. Is this a good plan? We were contemplating paying for the car rental collision insurance just to alleviate any hassles, but that is something to check, whether Hertz will have an attendant there on Sunday. Thanks for the heads up.

Posted by Marbleskies
USA
280 posts

Be sure and get your international drivers license from AAA, otherwise you risk an on the spot cash fine of 200 euros! The IDL is pain free application and costs $20. Also, check the coverage your credit card provides cuz we never buy the additional insurance. However, take plenty of before and after photos of your car.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7682 posts

The Airport Express bus is a great deal. It leaves from Atocha every 20 minutes and costs 5 euro. The second stop is at Plaza De Cibeles, not far from the Prado and Thyssen museums. Next stop after Cibeles is T1 at the airport! But I would second the idea of dropping your car and luggage at/near the airport and taking the Airport Express bus into town, too. You wouldn't want to get into town and discover that office closed. Then you would have parking issues, too. The International Driving Permit is required in Spain. It is basically a translation of your license into several languages, so it is easy for police to tell your license is valid. It is not a license itself.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
672 posts

Sorry to keep this going, but just so you're not disappointed. I have found both Avis and Hertz's GARAGE AREA car return aisles (no comment about the terminal desk ... ) at BRU (Brussels) unattended, very early on regular business days. In Paris in 2012, I returned at an Avis location near Etoile (nightmare traffic) in the middle of a business day, and the return stall was way down five spiral ramps in a typically narrow-stall, narrow aisle Euro garage. No one inspected my car before I did the paperwork at the street-level, attended desk. Again, just so you're not shocked. I am not urging you to take the now CONFISCATORY-priced collision waiver. I used to take it, but now that they charge you for one level after another, costing hundreds of dollars on a week or ten day rental, I go with the Credit Card coverage. But I do worry about it, and take a lot of pictures. (Newspaper in some of the "return" day photos." I do worry about the fact that this sometimes leaves you without flat-tire protection.

Posted by Rhon
Wichita
13 posts

I appreciate the replies. Now we have decided to go with Avis instead of Hertz because they have a counter INSIDE the Atocha train station, so surely, if they say they are open from 8-midnight, there should be someone at the counter, right? :). And we have checked our credit cards and found one with CDW coverage, so we will be using that. So, yay, we can save some money there! Is this a better plan, or should we still consider the airport drop off? Again, our stubbornness for the Atocha station is that we will have more time available to us for Madrid city center. And I am hoping the Sunday morning drive there won't prove to be too difficult, but if you know of any snags to my plans, please let me know. BTW, I found this great website www.carjet.com/blog that gives pictorial directions on picking up and dropping off car rentals in multiple cities around the world. And one last thing, if I may, we are still debating on bringing our GPS and buying a Spain map SD card, which is cheaper than renting one from the car rental. I have seen comments, however, that most car rentals now have GPS's already in them. Is this true? What are our chances of getting a car with a GPS automatically? Thanks.

Posted by Brian
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
103 posts

Don't drive in the city. Drop the car at the airport and take the Metro into Madrid center. 12 minutes, no headaches. Driving in Madrid is no fun. It can be crowded, hectic and a lot of circles to navigate. The Metro is great.

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
110 posts

Rhon-we rented last year from Europcar for Sicily/mainland Italy and are using them again this year for Spain. Our Peugeot last year didn't come automatically with GPS, and none was advertised as automatically included for this year, either. We rent small, economy models for the 2 of us (mandatory in Sicilian and Andalusian hilltowns with extremely narrow "streets" and tight parking situations), but a luxury model from Avis or Hertz might have GPS - check with the company to be sure. BTW, we use a Michelin Atlas and not GPS, so that's not something we've paid much attention to.

Posted by Rhon
Wichita
13 posts

Ok, it is finally starting to soak in. (Thanks for putting up with my stubbornness.) Dropping off the car at the airport is the better option. I didn't realize it only took 15 minutes to get from the Madrid airport to city center. As best as I can tell, we will have to drop off the car at terminal 4. Then we do need to go to the Atocha train station to put our son's luggage in storage while we sightsee. He is leaving from there to go back to school on the AVE later that day. And thanks for the info on GPS and small cars. Our trip will include the Andulusia area. We have been debating how small a car to get and still have room for 3 carry-on (max size) suitcases. Can we trust what they say on the car rental site? It seems that if you look at different sites, they each state something a little different. We are leaning towards a mid-size, but are even wondering if that is too large for some of the streets.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7682 posts

Bring your own GPS. You already know how to operate it, and you can program in some of your destinations ahead of your trip. From the airport, you will want to head for the Sol (Puerta del Sol) metro stop. Everything is walkable from there - Prado and Retiro Park to east, palace and cathedral to the west, Plaza Mayor just to the southwest.

Posted by Marbleskies
USA
280 posts

Last October we rented from hertz a mid-size car and had no issues with driving on narrow streets. But..... When possible we chose to park away from main tourist area and walk to the tourist area. This made parking an easier issue and far less stress for trying to navigate a spiderweb of narrow streets. Typically we would park in a residential area after having driven around the block to ascertain the appearance of safety in the area. We had a hatchback and kept our luggage covered with a thin black blanket. TIP: strive to get out of your vehicle and not open other doors while getting out cameras/backpacks. This makes for a less noticeable target to thieves of the vehicle containing valuables.

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
110 posts

The car you appear to be reserving may not be the model you get. Rental companies tend to list size categories rather than a specific model, so what you get upon arrival could vary from what was shown or described on a Website. Inside and outside dimensions can vary, but European cars tend to be smaller on every level than in the USA. We've wound up with a small diesel Fiat sedan rather than the gasoline econobox we expected, or gotten a relatively large Renault Scenic crossover whan we anticipated a small sedan. Be prepared to fold in your side mirrors and also to hunt for big-enough parking space at times. Reserve the smallest category you can comfortably use, but 3 people + luggage could be cramped in the 2 smallest size categories. On arrival, you may need to see the car and its luggage capacity before accepting it. Our hatchbacks have recently all had a panel attached to the hatch that covered and concealed the luggage compartment when it was closed. Trunks can be spacious but 3 full suitcases might not fit like puzzle pieces if they're particularly long, wide, and/or deep. We've strived to not keep anything visible in the back seat, but sometimes that trunk was stuffed. Happy travels.

Posted by Rhon
Wichita
13 posts

Thanks for all the responses and helpful tips. We have our int'l DL from AAA. Check. We have on reserve a compact car from Avis, knowing full well from experience that trunk sizes vary in the same category. Check. Thanks for reminding us to bring something black to hide our luggage if needed. Our black "blanket" is a large garbage bag. Check. Ordered a Spain SD map card for our GPS. Check. We've scoped out parking lots in various cities so we can keep out of city center's narrow roads. Check. We plan to return the car to the airport in Madrid, and take the C1 train directly to Atoche train station. Any opinions on that vs. the airport express bus? Since our son has a ticket for later in the day on the AVE, it appears that his ride from the airport would be free on the C1. Are there any gotchas with that?