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Banks are generally open weekdays 8:30-2, Saturdays 8:30-1, but in the summer most banks close at 1 PM weekdays and do not open on Saturday. Money exchanges at airports and train stations stay open later. Traveler's checks can also be cashed at the El Corte Inglés department stores until 9 PM.

Most museums are open from 9:30 to 2 and from 4 to 7, and are closed one day a week, usually Monday, but opening hours vary widely, so check before you set off. A few big museums, including the Prado and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, do not close at midday.

Almost all shops close at midday for at least three hours, except for the big department store chain El Corte Inglés. Generally store hours are from 10 to 1:30 and 5 to 8. Shops are closed all day Sunday and on Saturday afternoon, except for El Corte Inglés.

National holidays include January 1; January 6 (Epiphany); March 19 (St. Joseph); March 28 (Good Friday); March 31 (Easter Monday); May 1 (May Day); August 15 (Assumption); October 12 (National Day); November 1 (All Saints Day); December 6 (Constitution); December 8 (Immaculate Conception); December 25; and December 26 (Boxing Day).

In addition, each city and town has its own holidays honoring political events and patron saints. Madrid holidays include May 2 (Madrid Day), May 15 (San Isidro), and November 9 (Almudena). If a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, many businesses also close on the nearest Monday or Friday for a long weekend called a puente (bridge).


From countries that are not part of the EU, visitors age 15 and over are permitted to bring into Spain up to 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, up to 1 liter of alcohol over 22 proof, and up to 2 liters of wine. Dogs and cats are admitted, providing they have up-to-date vaccination records from their home country.


Unfortunately, Spain has done little to make traveling easy for visitors with disabilities; however, most public buildings constructed within the past five years are accessible. Only the Prado and newer museums, such as the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, have entrances or elevators that are accessible for people who use wheelchairs. Most of the churches, castles, and monasteries on a tourist's itinerary involve quite a bit of walking and climbing uneven terrain.


Police (tel. 092), ambulance (tel. 91/522-2222 or 91/588-4400), doctors (Conde de Aranda 7, tel. 91/435-1823).

Hospital Emergency Rooms: Major hospitals include La Paz (tel. 91/358-2600) and 12 de Octubre (tel. 91/390-8000).

Health Concerns: Two problems frequently encountered during Spanish summers are sunburn and sunstroke. On hot, sunny days, even people who are not normally bothered by strong sun should cover themselves with a long-sleeve shirt, a hat, and long pants. Carry some sunblock lotion for nose, ears, and other sensitive areas, such as eyelids or ankles. Be sure to drink enough liquids. Above all, limit your sun time for the first few days until you become accustomed to the heat.

Spain has recently had the highest number of AIDS cases in Europe. Those applying for work permits will be asked for proof of HIV-negative status.

Late-Night Pharmacies: Emergency pharmacies are required by law to be open 24 hours a day, on a rotating basis. Listings of those pharmacies are found in all major daily newspapers.


J&J Books and Coffee (c/ Espiritu Santo, 47 Metro Noviciado), is probably the carrier of the largest collection of English-language books, most of which are second-hand and very cheap. The bookstore - which doubles as a kind of English-language expatriate bar and coffee chop - also offers free Wi-Fi internet access and hosts "intercambios" - cultural exchange social gatherings.

There are a couple of free English-language newspapers in Madrid as well, being "In-Madrid" and "The Broadsheet".


Madrid has one of the most kinetic gay & lesbian "scenes" in all of Europe and boasts its own "Gay Neighborhood" - Chueca (metro: Chueca). While not patronized solely by gays, the hip, happening, chic, and trendy neighborhood does cater to a high concentration of gays and lesbians as well as young artists, actors, and two-income gay households. Madrid also hosts one of Europe's largest "Gay Pride Parades" every July, which passes through Madrid's Gran Vía, the main east-west thoroughfare, dividing the city. Spain's capital city is considered to be very "Gay Friendly".


Bus Tours
Standard city tours, in English or Spanish, can be arranged by your hotel but you may arrange these yourself with information found at the city Tourist Information locations. The Madrid City Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing bus makes a 80-minute or 65-minute sightseeing circuit of the city with recorded commentary in English as well as a number of other languages. No advance reservation is needed. 2 different routes cover different regions of the city and buses leave every 8-15 minutes (depending on season) from any start/stop along the route. A 1-day ticket can cost as little as 26 Euros while a 2-day pass costs 32 Euros.

Walking Tours:
MadridMan recommends Welltours; Historic Tours of Madrid, Segovia, Aranjuez, Toledo, Salamanca and Avila by historian and writer Stephen Drake-Jones. English expatriate Drake-Jones, also recommended by travel personality Rick Steves, gives entertaining evening tours of Madrid with direct emphasis on its rich historical past. Tours are free with your paid Wellington Society membership. Tour includes FREE tapas at a few of Mr. Drake-Jones' favorite tapas bars.

Tapas Walking Tours are becoming increasingly popular in Madrid. The 4-hour Tapas Walking Tour offered through MadridMan's affiliate combines an introduction to the real Madrileño lifestyle with traditional Spanish food and drink. Their aim is to leave you with a lasting feeling for the city and its people, whilst feasting on fabulous food and drink. The tour visits four traditional bars/restaurants to try authentic Spanish delicacies, which may include chorizo in cider, octopus from Galicia, cider from Asturias, sherry from Andalucia and other regional specialties.

Madrid Bicycle Tours:
Mount your bicycle for a fun and interesting way to see the sights of Madrid! You have two options to choose from on this tour, you can choose the Urban Route and see the sights and sounds of the city or you can kick back and enjoy the country side on the Country route.

Madrid Segway Tours:
Zip through the streets of Madrid on a revolutionary Segway! Not only is it easy but, loads of fun as well. You will see the Royal Palace, the Almudena, Templo de Debod and the Mayor and de Espana Plaza's on this unique tour. Start your tour with a safety briefing and some basic training before setting off on a route through central Madrid.


Roughly half the people you come in contact with will speak some English. But they may speak the British variety, so don't be surprised if you are told to queue (line up) or take the lift (elevator) to the loo (toilet). All your attempts at Spanish are genuinely appreciated, and Spaniards will not make fun of your mistakes. It's a always a good idea to learn a few phrases before you depart. Many guided tours offered at museums and historic sites are in Spanish; ask about the language that will be spoken before signing up.


Sending Mail Home
Airmail letters & postcards to the United States and Canada cost 0.80 Euros up to 20 grams. Letters & postcards to the United Kingdom and other EU countries cost 0.65 Euros up to 20 grams. Letters & postcards within Spain are 0.35 Euros. Stamps can be bought at post offices and government-run tobacco shops called "Estancos" - but they won't weigh letters or calculate postage.

Receiving Mail
Only residents can receive mail in Spain as the recipient's name must appear on the local mail box. Because mail delivery in Spain can often be slow and unreliable (but quickly improving), you might consider opening a temporary or long-term mail box at one of the many non-government postal stores in Madrid which rent mailboxes for customers such as Mail Boxes, Etc.. is Spain's official postal website (website in English and Spanish).


Sending Mail Home
In 2002, the EURO became Spain's currency unit, joining most of western Europe. Bills are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, & 500 Euro notes while coins are 1 & 2 Euros as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, & 50-cent pieces. Please visit MadridMan's Foreign Exchange Currency Converter for your exchange rate.

The Peseta, Spain's long-time currency, is no longer legal tender and is not accepted (or found) anywhere in Spain except among collectors.

Food/Drink costs vary from place to place depending on location, quality, and popularity. But generally speaking, all drinks from soft drinks to beer and wine are very very affordable in Madrid. For table service - where food or drinks are served to you by a waiter/camarero - prices are higher than when the patron orders food or drinks while standing at the bar. Lunch expenses can be low if one orders a sandwich and drink at a bar but many choose the Menú del Día ("The Menu of the Day") which allows the customer to choose from a pre-set menu. These can range from 8-12 Euros. Dinner expenses might either be going for tapas/raciones (little dishes of food) at a bar for 7-10 Euros each or a sit-down meal at a restaurant for 15-30 Euros each.

Transportation expenses vary on the particular type of transportation used. Details about these modes of transportation can be found on the Madrid Transportation page.


Pack light. Although baggage carts are free and plentiful in the Madrid Barajas Airport, they are rare in train and bus stations.

On the whole, Spaniards dress up more than Americans or the British - although this is changing. What you bring will depend a great deal on what time of year you visit. Summer will be hot nearly everywhere, but don't forget a raincoat or an umbrella. Visits in winter, fall, and spring call for warm clothing and boots.

It is sensible to wear casual, comfortable clothing and shoes when sightseeing, but remember to pack some dressier outfits to wear to fine restaurants and nightclubs. American tourists can be spotted easily in Spain because they are the ones wearing sneakers. If you want to blend in, wear leather shoes and skip the baseball hat. On the other hand, summer hats - for women and follicly-challenged men - can be great protection against the harsh summer sun.

To use your U.S.-purchased electric-powered equipment, bring a converter and a plug adapter. The electrical current in Spain is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC); wall outlets take Continental-type plugs, with two round prongs. Many computer laptops and digital cameras, whether bought in the USA, UK, or other country, can be plugged into any Spain wall-socket by simply utilizing a plug adapter as these appliances tend to carry automatically switchable electrical currents.


All U.S., U.K., and Canadian citizens, even infants, need only a valid passport to enter Spain for stays of up to 90 days.

United States (web:, Serrano 75, tel. 91/577-4000), Canada (Nuñez de Balboa 35, tel. 91/431-4300), and United Kingdom (Fernando el Santo 16, tel. 91/319-0200).


The country code for Spain is 34. Area codes normally begin with 9X ("X" being some other number depending on the province) and are different for each province. If you're dialing from outside the country, you must first use the appropriate area code. One MUST use the area code as well as the local phone number even when calling within Madrid.

To dial Madrid from, say, the USA, one would dial the following sequence of numbers:
011 34 91 123 45 67
011 = International Access Code
34 = Spain's Country Code
91 = Madrid's City Code
123 45 67 = the local telephone number

Long Distance
To call other provinces from within Spain, both from pay and private phones, dial the area code first. Large cities, including Madrid (91) and Barcelona (93), have a two-digit area code followed by a seven-digit local number.

International calls are awkward from public pay phones because of the enormous amount of coins needed, and can be expensive from hotels, which often add a surcharge. The best way to make them is to go to one of the dozens of "Locutorios" found throughout the city. Locutorios are similar to small cybercafes which not only have telephone booths but also computer/internet terminals. At these same locutorios, one can also send and receive money using a money-transfer service and paying a small surcharge.

These same locutorios mentioned above, as well as many cybercafes, may well have Skype installed on their computers. By using Skype's "Skype Out" feature, one can make VOIP ("Voice Over IP") calls over the internet for just pennies per minute, but the user must first open a Skype Out account and deposit funds into that account.


Pride keeps Spaniards from acknowledging tips, but while waiters and other service people are generally paid a "living wage" you can be sure your contribution will be appreciated. On the other hand, if you run into some bad or surly service, don't feel obligated to leave a tip. Also, you may have heard stories about some waiters becoming angry upon receiving VERY LARGE tips. I think this is mostly a myth or "Urban Legend".

Restaurant checks may or may not include service, but no more than 10% of the bill is necessary for a tip. And if you eat tapas, sandwiches, or have drinks at a bar, leave less, enough to round out the bill to the nearest 1 Euro or leave the smaller coins of your change behind. For bar service, little or no tips are usually left by Spaniards

Taxi drivers get about 10% of the total fare, but more for long rides or extra help with luggage, although there is an official surcharge for airport runs and baggage. Paying the exact amount of the fare will not likely bring an unfriendly reaction from the taxi driver. Oftentimes, if the fare is not large, just round UP to the nearest Euro.

Hotel porters are generally tipped 1 Euro per bag or 1-5 Euros to someone who brings you room service. A doorman who calls a taxi for you gets at least 1 Euro. If you stay in a hotel for more than two nights, tip the maid about 1 Euro per night. A concierge should be tipped for any additional help he or she gives you. Tips in hotels are always welcome but does not appear to be customary from most tourists - and Spaniards nearly never leave tips for maid service.


Tourist Offices:
Madrid has several Tourist Offices as well as dozens of Kiosk-like tourist centers set up throughout the city.

Barajas Airport. Tel. 91/305-8656. Open weekdays 8 AM-8 PM, Sat. 9-1.

Chamartín railroad station. Tel. 91/315-9976. Open weekdays 8-8, Sat. 9-1.

Duque de Medinaceli 2. Tel. 91/429-4951. Open weekdays 9-7, Sat. 9-1.

The Main city tourism office on the Plaza Mayor's northern side of the Plaza. Tel. 91/366-5477. Open weekdays 10-8, Sat. 10-2. There, multilingual attendants offer advice and maps of the city.

Contact the Spanish National Tourist Office (web: - addresses: 666 5th Ave., 35th fl., New York, NY 10103, tel. 212/265-8822, fax 212/265-8864; Water Tower Pl., Suite 915, 845 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611, tel. 312/642-1992, fax 312/642-9817; 1221 Brickell Ave., Miami, FL 33131, tel. 305/358-1992, fax 305/358-8223; 8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 960, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, tel. 213/658-7188, fax 213/658-1061; 102 Bloor St. W, Suite 1450, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1M8, tel. 416/961-3131, fax 416/961-1992).

In the United Kingdom, the Spanish National Tourist Office has an information line (57-58 St. James's St., London SW1A 1LD, tel. 0891/669-920, fax 0171/629-4257).

Travel Agencies
Travel agencies, found almost everywhere in Madrid, are generally the best bet for obtaining deals, tickets, and information without hassles. Most travel agencies have at least one attendant which speaks English fairly well.


May and October, when the weather is generally warm and dry, are considered the best months for touring Madrid. May gives you more hours of daylight for sightseeing, while October offers a chance to enjoy the harvest season. MadridMan recommends April and October as his favorite months to visit Madrid.

Because Spain is the number-one destination for European tourists, the months of June, July, August, and September tend to be crowded and more expensive. August is the month when Spaniards take vacations; the annual migration to the beach causes huge traffic jams on August 1 and 31. During August Madrid is delightfully relaxed and empty. Small shops and some restaurants shut down for the entire month, but museums remain open.

The following are average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for Madrid: December-February 36-52°F (2-11°C); March-April 41-64°F (5-18°C); May 50-70°F (10-21°C); June and September 57-81°F (14-27°C); July-August 63-88°F (17-31°C); October-November 41-66°F (5-19°C).

Please visit Madrid Weather by MadridMan for more information including a month-to-month climate table for cities through Spain in both Fahrenheit & Celsius/Centigrade.

Festivals & Seasons:

New Year's Eve ticks away at Madrid's Puerta del Sol, where crowds of mainly foreigners & tourists gather to eat 12 grapes, one on each stroke of midnight to guarantee good fortune in the coming year. (Most madrileños stay home for late-night dinners with family or attend private parties) HINT: Don't expect to be able to HEAR the individual bells at midnight - some say there actually aren't any.

Epiphany, on the 6th, is a Spanish child's Christmas. Youngsters leave their shoes on the doorstep to be filled with gifts by the three wise men, or Three Kings.

Depending on the year, Semana Santa or "Holy Week" takes place throughout Spain at the end of March or early in April, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. This is a historic and interesting weeklong festival where individual catholic churches participate in processions or "pasos" by carrying "floats" of Jesus or the Virgin on strong shoulders of parishioners throughout the streets of their town, including Madrid. Processions are fewer in Madrid but are most popular in Seville and throughout Andalucía.

San Isidro begins four weeks of the best bullfighting in Spain in honor of the patron saint of Madrid. See Fería de San Isidro cartel/schedule (in Spanish) @ the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas official website of Madrid's bullring. Also, view seating arrangement and entire-fería pass prices for San Isidro. FYI: This official website is notoriously outdated.

"Veranos de la Villa" cools off Madrid's hot summer nights with a series of outdoor films and concerts of everything from flamenco to rock and roll all summer long.

August is when MANY Spaniards take up to a month for vacation to visit beaches or stay at country homes. Many of the smaller family owned and operated shops, restaurants, and bars in Madrid are closed during August.