Madrid is far from a perfect city. Like any large urban center it’s got its share of problems – some dreary neighborhoods, cases of crime, and outbreaks of pollution – to name a few.
Despite these blemishes, there is one thing this city possesses that outshines any other I’ve seen in comparison.
Since it’s Friday and I’m still in “school teacher mode” let’s turn this into a guessing game with three hints 🙂
What I’m describing is:
- frequented by “all walks of life” of the city
- costs less than a Euro to enter
No, it’s not Madrid’s most “happening” gay bar…. 😉
….It’s the Metro (Madrid’s underground public transportation system)!
Yes, I realize this is about the fifth time I’ve mentioned the Metro since I began blogging from Madrid – but it truly is amazing and I honestly believe it’s worth all the hype I’ve been giving it.
Still not convinced? Take a look for yourself!
Your guided Metro tour (a.k.a. my commute home from work) 😉
All Metro experiences begin the same – by entering the underground tunnel via a staircase on the street (very standard I know, but trust me it gets better!)
The Metro receives its first “awesome” point because it has SO MANY street access entrances. To give you and idea, this very trusted source states that as of March 2011, Madrid had almost 300 Metro stops. Score! I bet from wherever you are in the city, a Metro stop is literally always within 15 minutes walking.
After entering the station and purchasing your ticket from a touch-screen machine (I have been buying the 10 pass ticket for 9 Euro 30 cents, but tomorrow I’m upgrading to the monthly unlimited pass) you insert your ticket and pass through the turn-style.
When you pull your ticket out the machine tells you how many rides you have left, pretty nifty huh?? 🙂
Now beings your descend to the Metro platform. Notice how clean and well-lit the station is? Yup, that’s pretty standard for any Metro stop of the city. Compared to other subways systems I’ve used around the world, Madrid definitely wins major points in the safety and hygiene department.
Once you’ve gone down as far as required, you’re now required to review this type of sign. It lists the names of the stops in order so you know which side of that platform you need to board the train on.
After deciding which side of the platform is the correct one, it’s time to wait. I love that the Metro has electronic signs in all its platforms informing you when the next train is scheduled to arrive. I would say that average wait between trains (especially if you’re close to the downtown) is only 5 minutes. So really there’s no need for publishing any type of train schedule – anytime you’re there during the scheduled hours (6am-1:30am) you’re bound to be on a train in no time!
Now notice the interior of the train – isn’t it super clean?? I love that the insides of the Metro are made from a hard plastic material (and not fabric or surfaces that are easily stained or that trap odors). That means that the trains never smell very funky and if ever there is any type of mess, it’s easily cleaned up! (The designer of the Metro must have been a mother with small children) 😉
After boarding, take care to listen to the announcement of your stop. If you’re lucky enough to have scored a seat on the train sit back and enjoy the ride 🙂 In this case my trip on the Metro only lasted about 10 minutes since I live super close to the English academy that I work at.
Now comes the trickiest part for me, deciding – after you’ve gotten off the train – which exit you want to take to end up on the correct street. Since I hardly ever know street names around here, I have to really on my trusted “Guess and Check” method for selecting the correct Metro street exit.
There you have it! Painless, right? As I explained, for me Madrid’s Metro is so great because it’s easy to use and I don’t feel like I need to douse myself with hand sanitizer upon exiting! Props to you City of Madrid for designing an efficient, practical, and affordable public transportation system and for keeping it so well maintained.
Now that you have an idea of how the Metro works, here’s a few tips for using it like a pro.
1) When taking the escalator go on the right side if you want to ride up standing and only use the left side if you want to go up walking.
This is a major one! People get really annoyed if you’re standing on the left impeding their speedy ascend. This is mostly applicable during busy morning hours when people are rushing to work.
2) If you need to exit a crowded train and there is a group of people blocking the door, politely tap someone on the shoulder and ask “¿Vas a salir?” (Are you going to get off?)
My friend Hillary picked this up right away when we studied abroad here. No need to over-complicate things – everyone understands those three little words and will make an effort to get out of your way.
3) Let others get off the Metro before you enter.
My personal pet-peeve. There’s so much commotion when passengers don’t follow this one. It’s easy – just wait until everyone who wants to get off if off before you go on – this prevents collisions and the possibility of getting your foot caught between the train the platform!
Weirdest Metro Experiences
On time I got on a busy train during rush hour and my fellow passengers and I were so packed together that I was literally pressed up against some man unable to move my arms, legs, or head. So, the pass the time during my twenty minute Metro journey, I remember that I entertained myself by counting the dandruff flakes on the back of his head. Talk about up close and personal 😉
Finally, one of my friends who studied abroad with me here claimed to have seen a man dressed in a nice business suit (during normal day hours) casually leafing through a hard-core porn magazine on the Metro as if it were a copy of Forbes! Ha! To each their own I suppose…
Now that you’re totally “Metro savoy”, there’s no excuse for not coming to visit Diego and I since you have a super cool transport system to take you all around the city 🙂
See ya soon!