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Madrid

Is it cheaper to buy RENFE tickets in the US or in Spain? Which is bettter, taxi from airport or shuttle service online?

Posted by
23465 posts

More of a timing question as opposed to a location question. You can get discounted ticketsn at the same price in advance via internet or in person -- IF the ticket is available. Taxis are almost always "best" for convenience but not always for price.

Posted by
16874 posts

Your options for buying tickets in the US are to buy online from Renfe, or from an agent like RailEurope, Rumbo.es, or Petrabax. If you can buy direct from Renfe online, that is the best, as there are no handling fees. If you book well in advance, you might get the Web fares, which are 60% off full fare, or Estrella fares, ar 40% off. From Madrid airport to city center that are several options, but we like the Aerobus, which costs very little and drops you at Atocha station. There is an intermediate stop a bit north. The one time we took a taxi, the driver misunderstood the destination and took us to the wrong hotel. Not an honesty issue but one of pronunciation. Still. It cost us extra, around 35 euros total.

Posted by
513 posts

I spent two weeks in Spain in October. I had trouble with the RENFE site accepting my credit card - tried three different ones, so I gave up on the site. The day I arrived I went to the main department store in Madrid (El Corte Ingles) and bought all my tickets through their Travel Agency at a significant discount over the normal RENFE price. The clerk spoke excellent English (my Spanish was not nearly as good) and was wonderfully helpful.

Posted by
28 posts

Why not take the metro into town? Very inexpensive and flexible.

Posted by
1178 posts

A discount can be had if you purchase tickets on line, either in Spain or in the US...They go on sale 62 1/2 days prior to departure. A good deal for me each time. Think this must be done on line, not at the booth, and you print out the ticket and present it at the counter to check in. The ticket will have the coach number and the seat number on it. From the airport, taxis are available and are the most expensive. The aero city van service is excellent, and it will often be only you or perhaps one or two other passengers. Will drop you off at the door of your desitnation. The express bus from the airport makes only one stop (I think) in the city, and then antoher stop at the Atocha train station. It is only a couple of euros. Check out the web site for aerocity vay and for the bus. The links are on the Barajas airport page. Also, be sure which train station you need. --- Atocha or Charmartin...they are miles apart.

Posted by
120 posts

There is a Metro station at the airport. The limiting factor to using the Metro is how much luggage each person has. One suitcase is fine, two are unwieldy, three are impossible.

Posted by
811 posts

it's easier to buy RENFE ticket when you get in but maybe 1 or 2 days before your actual travel day, just so you don't have to deal with the website and the RENFE office people can tell you exactly what time, which train is available at what cost. you should just take the metro in town, it's very cheap just a little bit of walk but saves money and the ride is very quick and easy.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you guys for all your input.
I should have seen this site a long time ago so I could have posted my questions earlier.

Posted by
4 posts

Is it better to use my ATM card to get euros in Madrid or buy the euros here in the States. How does this work?

Posted by
133 posts

Getting euros from a Spanish ATM is very easy. We used ATMs in the foyers of banks in Spain and never had a problem. In large cities there is an ATM on practically every block in commercial areas. If you get euros in the US you will pay more for them in exchange rate and/or fees. It is nice to have some in your wallet so you don't have to deal with it as soon as you arrive...if you choose to buy them in US get just enough to start your first day. Regarding transportation from the airport, we liked the EMT yellow Express bus. It cost around 2€ and took about 40 minutes. No reservation needed, just line up and pay the driver as you board. One leaves every 15-20 minutes. The nice thing is that you board, put your luggage in a rack in the center of the bus (sit further back if you want to keep an eye on it but theft is probably not an issue on those buses), and then you can just relax. There are 2 stops before it arrives at Atocha train station. From there you can either get a taxi to your hotel, or walk, or go down to the Metro to take a train to your hotel. Using the Metro to/from the airport is an option but there are some train changes depending on where your hotel is located. There are often stairs between the different platforms which could be difficult with luggage. There is usually an elevator somewhere, but not necessarily close to your platform. Also getting luggage in/out of crowded cars can be hard so consider if you would be traveling at a busy time.

Posted by
23465 posts

All fees when using a debit or credit card are determined by your card issuer - your bank or whoever issued the card. So ask them. Some banks and especially credit unions do not charge a transaction fee. BUT even with the transaction fees, the ATM is still the cheapest place to obtain local currency. There are or should be no charges for using a bank associated ATM in Europe. However, privately owned ATMs may charge fees. Just be sure you are using a bank ATM.

Posted by
1178 posts

Re: Euros I usually take a few euros with me to cover the first couple of days, then find the atm (they are everywhere) and get the limit (300 I think) each day if I need them. Otherwise, just use the debit or credit card...easy way to deal with it. There is a small charge I think on this end of the line, but not enough to worry me. The atm will have a limit, but you can still charge on the debit/credit card at stores even though you may not be able to withdraw. Several of the banks will have the atm in the lobby for security purposes. If you go to one after hours, you atm card will let you open the door. Be sure to contact your bank BEFORE leaving the states and let them know you will be traveling and out of the country..otherwise you may be blocked.

Posted by
4 posts

Hello, but does your US bank charge you with any fees when you get cash from an ATM plus a 3% transaction fee?

Posted by
112 posts

There ARE some bank ATMs that add a service charge when making a cash withdrawal, so watch for that. There will be others that do not, so if the machine you are at tells you there's a service charge, just cancel your transaction and try a machine at another bank. That happened to me in both Barcelona and Madrid, but I was easily able to use a different bank's ATM to take out money without the service charge. (I know it's commonly thought banks aren't allowed to charge a s/c at their ATMs, but I was there last month and can attest that some do.)

Posted by
3621 posts

This thread seems to have morphed into one about using ATMs in Spain; so, here is our recent experience. It used to be true that banks in Europe did not charge for using their ATMs to get euros. This past September we encountered something new. Some banks' ATMs offered the option of what I think is called dynamic conversion. That is, they convert euros to $s and pull that amount from your checking account at a rate that is, of course, much worse for you than you would otherwise get. If I'm remembering correctly, we also encountered a bank that levied a fee for use. As someone else has said, if you run into either of these legalized scams, just try another bank. They're thick on the ground in Madrid. Santander Bank is one of those operating this scheme. No surprise - - they're affiliated with Bank of America.

Posted by
117 posts

As a single traveler to Madrid in September, I chose to take the new Express bus from the airport. It picks you up at the curb outside the arrivals. It only makes three stops, Calle O'Donnell, Banco de Espana and Atocha. The mid-size buses have luggage racks and are quite speedy. In my case, I debarked at Banco and a short subway ride later was at my destination, Puerta del Sol.

Posted by
133 posts

<<Hello, but does your US bank charge you with any fees when you get cash from an ATM plus a 3% transaction fee?>> My bank said that there would be a fee per ATM transaction but one never showed up on my bank statement. The amount in US dollars withdrawn from my account was very close to the Interbank exchange rate, so if they charged me anything it was a slight percentage built into the exchange rate. I looked into buying Euros from my bank and exchange services like Travelex and the exchange rates they gave were really bad compared to the Interbank rate. Whatever fees your bank charges for using an ATM abroad will most likely be less than you would pay for buying the Euros in the U.S.