For those first-time travelers or repeat travelers who have never rented a car before, Madrid can be a fast-paced, complex city to drive in. Knowing the rules of the road and doing some route planning can make driving in Madrid a fun, exciting adventure.
Madrid has a very good public transportation system and plenty of taxi cabs available, but many visitors find that having a rental car gives them the flexibility, autonomy and freedom to choose destinations based on their attractiveness, not distance to public transportation. Knowing the challenges of driving in Madrid before getting behind the wheel can be extremely helpful.
Visitors to Madrid often report that it is a very fast-paced city with somewhat aggressive drivers. Traffic clips along at a healthy pace, sometimes making timid drivers uncomfortable. To offset this, it’s advised that travelers familiarize themselves with a map of the city, charting one main route with several other routes that can be picked up in the event that the driver misses a turn.
Drivers should not hesitate to pull the car over if they feel lost or as though they are causing traffic to slow significantly. There are many tourists in Madrid and this is common practice. Take the time to pull over and orient yourself to your surroundings until you feel that it is okay to get back on the road.
Parking in Madrid poses as much of a challenge as driving, but again, with some planning and research, visitors can avoid headaches and large parking fees. Street parking in many parts of the city is sparse and very expensive. Underground garages are plentiful, but also very costly with some costing visitors up to €30 per day.
There are, however, several parking companies that can be researched, reserved and paid online for rates starting at about €5 per day. Take the time to find parking companies near your destinations in the city to find the best parking deals available.
Street parking is more of expensive in Madrid than most of the European Union. Because this capital city is a hub of economic boom and government, smog rates are very high. To offset this, Madrid installed “smart” parking meters in the city in the spring of 2014. These meters charge parking rates based on the vehicle being parked. Electric cars are free of charge. Hybrid vehicles get a 20% discount off base rate. Vehicles with high emissions are charged up to a 20% surcharge on top of the base parking rate.
With this in mind, select your rental vehicle carefully at the time you book it. Paying a few euros extra to rent a hybrid or electric car can save a lot during the course of your trip when it comes to parking it on the streets of Madrid.
When booking your trip to Madrid, seek out hotels that offer free parking as a perk to guests. There are many hotels in desirable areas that offer free, safe parking to guests. This allows travelers the flexibility to use public transportation a day or two to visit other destinations around the city and not worry about parking the car. Weigh in the costs to park a car at a hotel against the room rate for hotels with free parking and often, travelers find that the hotels with free parking end up costing less overall. Here is a list of hotels in Madrid with parking, both free and paid.
Tourists should also note that enforcement of traffic laws is very strict in Spain. In particular, police target alcohol violations and penalize them strictly. The maximum blood alcohol limit is just 0.05% which is the equivalent of a glass of wine or beer. When driving in Madrid, it is best to not consume alcohol at all and avoid a costly citation.
Traffic and speeding enforcement is also very stringent. Police often insist that foreign visitors pay speeding and traffic tickets immediately. This is because they don’t want foreigners to leave the country without paying the fines. It is advised that tourists pay these tickets before leaving to avoid penalties.
A little research about the city, attractions, destinations and parking can save a lot of hassle, stress and money as you visit this wonderful capital city.