Travel information: Madrid fast facts A-Z

Everything from embassies to emergency services, customs to currency

By Natalie Pédestarres

Addresses

Individual flats in apartment blocks have traditionally been identified by the abbreviations 'izq' (izquierda, left) or 'dcha' (derecha, right) after the floor number (C/Prado 221, 5ª dcha) and occasionally 'int' (interior, inward facing) or 'ext' (exterior); in newer buildings they may be shown more simply (C/Prado 223, 4B). A building with no street number (usually huge places like stations or hospitals) has s/n (sin número) after the street.

Age restrictions

In Spain, you have to be 18 to drive a car, smoke or drink, and get married, but the age of consent is a startling 13.

Business

Administrative services

A gestoría is a very Spanish kind of institution, combining the functions of lawyer, accountant, business adviser and general aid with bureaucracy. They can be very helpful in seeing short cuts that foreigners are often unaware of. English is spoken at these gestorías.

Gestoría Calvo Canga
C/Serrano 27, Salamanca (91 577 07 09). Metro Serrano. Open 9am-2pm, 4.30-8pm Mon-Thur; 9am-3pm Fri.
A general gestoría that deals with the areas of labour law, tax and accounts, and residency.

Gestoría Cavanna
C/Hermosilla 4, Salamanca (91 431 86 67/www.gestoriacavanna.com). Metro Colón. Open Sept-June 9am-1.30pm, 5-7.30pm Mon-Thur; 9am-1.30pm Fri. July, Aug 9am-1.30pm Mon-Fri.
Specialises in taxation and employment law.

Conventions & conferences

IFEMA/Feria de Madrid
Recinto Ferial Juan Carlos I, Northern suburbs (902 22 15 15/www.ifema.es). Metro Campo de las Naciones. Open Office 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Madrid's lavish state-of-the-art trade fair centre has ten main pavilions, a 600-seater auditorium, a brand-new 10,000sq m convention centre and many smaller facilities, plus 20 catering outlets and no less than 14,000 parking spaces. By the entrance is the Palacio Municipal de Congresos, a 2,000-capacity conference hall.

Oficina de Congresos de Madrid
C/Mayor 69, Los Austrias (91 588 29 00/www.munimadrid.es). Metro Ópera or Sol. Open Oct-May 8am-3pm, 4-6pm Mon-Thur; 8am-3pm Fri. June-Sept 8.30am-2.30pm Mon-Fri.
An office of the city council that assists those planning to hold a conference or similar event in Madrid. The Oficina de Congresos will facilitate contacts with venues and service companies.

Palacio de Exposiciones y Congresos
Paseo de la Castellana 99, Tetuán (91 337 81 00/www.madridconventioncentre.com). Metro Santiago Bernabéu. Open 9am-2.30pm, 4.30-7pm Mon-Fri.
This venue is longer established than the Feria de Madrid (see above) and used for several major international conferences. It has conference rooms and galleries of all sizes; the facilities are excellent.

Recintos Feriales de la Casa de Campo

Avda de Portugal s/n, Casa de Campo (91 588 93 93). Metro Lago. Open Sept-July 8am-3pm Mon-Fri. Aug 8am-2pm Mon-Fri.
An attractive site with three halls and open-air space.

Courier services

DHL
Ground services 902 12 30 30/air services 902 12 24 24/www.dhl.com. Open Phoneline 24hrs daily. Pick-ups & deliveries 9am-7pm Mon-Sat.

MFR Distribución Urgente

Avda del Manzanares 202, Southern suburbs (91 476 71 61/www.motorecado.com). Metro Laguna. Open 8am-7pm Mon-Fri.

RUM
C/Galileo 91, Chamberí (91 535 38 16). Metro Quevedo. Open 9am-7pm Mon-Fri.

Trébol
C/Buenavista 32, Lavapiés (91 530 32 32). Metro Lavapiés. Open Sept-July 9am-8pm Mon-Fri. Aug 9am-3pm Mon-Fri.

Office & computer services

Data Rent
C/Mesena 18, Northern suburbs (91 759 62 42/www.datarent.es). Metro Arturo Soria. Open Sept-June 9am-2pm, 4-7pm Mon-Fri. July, Aug 8am-3pm Mon-Fri.
PCs, printers, OHPs etc for rent by the day, week or month.

Translators

Lionbridge Solutions
C/Orense 69 1º, Tetuán (91 567 54 00/www.lionbridge.com). Metro Nuevos Ministerios. Open 9am-6.30pm Mon-Fri.
A professional translation service.

Traductora Jurada (Official Translator)

Concepción Pardo de Vera: C/Costa Brava 20, Northern suburbs (91 734 23 31). Bus 133 from Callao/Metro Herrera Oria, then 134 bus.
Polidioma: C/Cea Bermudez 6, 6º izq, Chamberí (91 554 46 20/polidioma@polidioma.com). Metro Canal.
In Spain, official and other bodies often demand that foreign documents be translated by legally certified translators. Call for an appointment; rates are higher than for other translators. Some consulates also provide these services or they can put you in contact with other translators.

Useful organisations

Bolsa de Comercio (Stock Exchange)
Plaza de la Lealtad 1, Retiro (91 709 56 10/902 22 16 62/www.bolsamadrid.es). Metro Banco de España. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Thur, 9am-2pm Fri.

Cámara de Comercio e Industria de Madrid
C/Ribera del Loira 56, Campo de las Naciones (91 538 35 00/www.camaramadrid.es). Metro Campo de las Naciones or Mar de Cristal.
Has a useful information service for foreign investors in Madrid. You must make an appointment first.

Instituto Español de Comercio Exterior
Paseo de la Castellana 14-16, Salamanca (91 349 61 00/902 34 90 00/www.icex.es). Metro Colón. Open Oct-May 9am-2pm, 3-5pm Mon-Thur; 9am-2pm Fri. June-Sept 8.30am-2.30pm Mon-Fri.
The state-run ICEX (Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade) has an excellent information service to aid small- to medium-sized businesses.

Complaints

If you have a complaint, ask for an official complaint form (hoja de reclamación), which most businesses, shops, bars and so on are obliged to have available for customers. Fill out the form, leaving the colour copy with the business. Then take this, and any receipts or other relevant paperwork, to the official consumer office, listed below.

Oficina Municipal de Información al Consumidor

C/Gran Via 24, Gran Via (91 211 18 51). Metro Gran Via. Open 9am-2pm Mon-Fri.
The official centre for consumer advice and complaint follow-up. You need to make an appointment first.

Customs

If tax has been paid in the country of origin then EU residents do not have to declare goods imported into Spain from other EU countries for their personal use. However, customs officers can question whether large amounts of any item really are for your own use, and random checks are made for drugs. Quantities accepted as being for personal use include:

  • up to 800 cigarettes, 400 small cigars, 200 cigars or 1kg of loose tobacco
  • 10 litres of spirits (over 22% alcohol), 20 litres of fortified wine or alcoholic drinks with under 22% of alcohol, 90 litres of wine (under 22%) or 110 litres of beer

Limits for non-EU residents and goods brought from outside the EU:

  • 200 cigarettes or 100 small cigars or 50 cigars or 250g (8.82oz) of tobacco
  • 1 litre of spirits (over 22% alcohol) or 2 litres of any other alcoholic drink with under 22% alcohol
  • 50g (1.76oz) of perfume
  • 500g coffee, 100g tea

There are no restrictions on cameras, watches or electrical goods, within reasonable limits, and visitors are also allowed to carry up to €6,000 in cash. Non-EU residents can also reclaim the Value Added Tax (IVA) they have paid on certain large purchases when they leave Spain.

Disabled travellers

Madrid is still not a city that disabled people, especially wheelchair users, will find it easy to get around. However, the situation is steadily improving as new buildings are constructed with accessibility in mind and old ones are gradually adapted: technically all public buildings should have been made accessible by law, although in practice a great deal still remains to be done. Access to public transport is also patchy. There is an excellent guide, Guía de Accesibilidad de Madrid, which is published by the Ayuntamiento (city council) in collaboration with the disabled association FAMMA. This booklet is available from the FAMMA office at C/Galileo 69 (91 593 35 50/www.famma.org).

Access to sights

Some of the city's wheelchair-friendly venues are listed below:

Centro Conde Duque
Centro Cultural de la Villa
Museo de América
Museo de Cera
Museo de la Ciudad
Museo del Libro
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte
Reina Sofía
Museo del Prado
Museo Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
Museo Romántico
Museo Tiflológico
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Palacio Real
Planetario de Madrid
Real Fábrica de Tapices
Santiago Bernabéu stadium

Buses

There are seats reserved for people with mobility problems behind the driver on most of the city's buses. Buses on many routes are now of the piso bajo (low floor) type, with low doors and spaces for wheelchairs. These are identified by the red on white stripes at the front and back of the bus and the slogan 'piso bajo pensado para todos'.

Metro

All new metro stations have been built with access in mind, which means that those on newer lines (Line 8 to the airport, the Gregorio Marañón interchange, Line 7 to Pitis, some others) have good lifts. However, older stations in the city centre generally have a lot of steps, and although you may get on at a station with a lift, it may turn out to be impossible to get off at your destination. The free maps available at metro stations indicate stations with lifts.

RENFE & cercanías

Of the mainline rail stations, Atocha, Chamartín, Nuevos Ministerios and Príncipe Pío all have good access. Cercanías trains have very limited access, but some newer stations such as Méndez Alvaro (by Estación Sur coach station) have lifts connecting metro, train and bus stations. There are also good interchanges at Moncloa and Plaza Castilla.

Taxis

Special taxis adapted for wheelchairs can be called through Euro-Taxi on 91 547 82 00/91 547 86 00 and Tele-Taxi on 91 371 21 31. Make it clear you want an adapted model (ask for a Euro-Taxi). The number of such taxis in Madrid is very limited (although it rose by 100 in 2004) and waiting time can be up to 30mins. Fares are the same as for standard cabs, but the meter is started as soon as a request is received, so the cost can be quite high.

Drugs

Many people openly smoke cannabis, but its possession or consumption in public are illegal. It's theoretically OK to smoke cannabis in private, but not to possess it; this law is rarely enforced. There's been a recent crackdown in bars, however.

Electricity

The standard current in Spain is now 220V, but a few old buildings in Madrid still have 125V circuits, so it's a good idea to check before using electrical equipment in older hotels. Plugs are all of the two-round-pin type. The 220V current works fine with British 240V products, with a plug adaptor. With US 110V appliances you will need a current transformer.

Embassies

For a full list look in the local phone book under embajadas.

American Embassy
C/Serrano 75, Salamanca (91 587 22 00/www.embusa.es). Metro Rubén Darío. Open Phoneline 24hrs daily. Office 9am-6pm (8am-1pm passports) Mon-Fri.
The general switchboard will put you through to the consulate.

Australian Embassy
Plaza del Descubridor Diego de Ordás 3 2º, Chamberí (91 353 66 00/visas 91 353 66 90/emergency phoneline 900 99 61 99/www.spain.embassy.gov.au). Metro Ríos Rosas. Open 8am-4pm (visas 10am-noon) Mon-Fri.

British Embassy
Paseo de Recoletos 7-9 4º, Chueca (91 308 06 18/visas 807 429 027/passports 807 429 026/www.ukinspain.com). Metro Banco de España or Colón. Open 8am-1.30pm Mon-Fri. Visa/passport lines 9.30am-5.30pm Mon-Fri.
General commercial, economic and other information about the UK. For information on British passports, call 807 429 026 (9.30am-5.30pm).

British Consulate: Paseo de Recoletos 7-9 4º, Chueca (91 308 52 01). Metro Banco de España or Colón. Open 8am-3pm (until 6pm for emergencies) Mon-Fri.
For queries relating to passports, visas and legal problems.

Canadian Embassy
C/Núñez de Balboa 35, Salamanca (91 423 32 50/www.international.gc.ca). Metro Velázquez. Open Sept-July 8.30am-2pm, 3pm-5.30pm Mon-Thur; 8.30am-2.30pm Fri. Aug 8.30am-2.30pm Mon-Fri.
Emergency number for citizens (reverse charge calls accepted) is 1 613 996 8885.

Irish Embassy

Paseo de la Castellana 46 4º, Salamanca (91 436 40 93/visas 91 431 97 84). Metro Rubén Darío. Open 10am-2pm Mon-Fri. Visas 9.30-11am Mon-Fri.

New Zealand Embassy
Plaza de la Lealtad 2 (91 523 02 26/www.nzembassy.com). Metro Retiro or Banco de España. Open Sept-June 9am-2pm, 3-5.30pm Mon-Fri. July, Aug 8.30am-1.30pm, 2-4.30pm Mon-Fri. Visas 10am-1pm Mon-Fri.

Emergencies

Madrid has a general number – 112 – to call for the emergency services (you also dial this number from GSM mobiles). Some staff speak English, French and/or German. However, you can be kept on hold for a long time; it's usually quicker to call direct.

Ambulancia (Ambulance) 061/092/91 335 45 45.
Bomberos (Fire service) Madrid capital: 080. Whole comunidad: 085.
Policía Municipal (City Police) 092/91 588 50 00.
Policía Nacional (National Police) 091.
Guardia Civil General 062 / Madrid capital 91 534 02 00.

Emergency repairs

Electricity

Unión Fenosa 901 38 02 20/www.unionfenosa.es or Iberdrola 901 202 020/www.iberdrola.es.
The company you need to call will be indicated on the electricity meter as well as your bill. Both phone lines are open 24hrs.

Gas

Butane gas: Repsol Butano 901 12 12 12.
Gas Natural 900 75 07 50/www.gasnatural.com.

Water

Canal de Isabel II 901 51 25 12/www.cyii.es.

Gay & lesbian

COGAM
C/Puebla 9, Malasaña & Conde Duque (91 522 45 17/91 523 00 70/www.cogam.org). Metro Gran Via. Open 10am-2pm, 5-9pm Mon-Fri.
The largest gay and lesbian organisation in Madrid, COGAM is one of the main organisers of Gay Pride and campaigns on various issues. The on-site café is a great place to chill and find out what's new on the scene.

Fundación Triángulo
C/Eloy Gonzalo 25, 1 ext dcha, Chamberí (91 593 05 40/www.fundaciontriangulo.es). Metro Quevedo. Open 10am-2pm, 5-9pm Mon-Fri.
A gay cultural organisation that campaigns on equality issues. It also runs a helpline (91 446 63 94, same schedules as above) and offers legal help and health and AIDS prevention programmes.

Health

EU nationals are entitled to free basic medical attention if they have the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaced the old E111 form in January 2006. Travellers from the British Isles should apply for one online at www.dh.gov.uk (providing name, date of birth, and NHS or NI number) at least ten days before leaving home. Citizens of certain other countries that have a special agreement with Spain, among them several Latin American states, can also have access to free care. These arrangements won't cover all eventualities, so always take out private health insurance.

Accidents & emergencies

In a medical emergency go to the casualty department (urgencias) of any of the city's major hospitals (see below). All are open 24 hours daily; Clínico or Gregorio Marañón are most central. If you have no EHIC or insurance, you can be seen at any casualty department (pay on the spot and get reimbursed back home by presenting the invoices and medical reports). In a non-emergency, pharmacists are very well informed.

For an ambulance call 061. You can also try the Red Cross (Cruz Roja 91 522 22 22/www.cruzroja.es) or the SAMUR service (reached via the Municipal Police on 092).

AIDS/HIV

Free advice is available on freephone 900 11 10 00 (10am-8pm Mon-Fri).

Centro Sanitario Sandova
C/Sandoval 7, Chamberí (91 445 23 28). Metro Bilbao or San Bernardo. Open 8.45am-noon Mon-Fri.
An official clinic that carries out free, confidential HIV tests.

Hospitals

Ciudad Sanitaria La Paz
Paseo de la Castellana 261, Chamartín (91 727 70 00). Metro Begoña. Near Plaza Castilla to the north.

Hospital Clínico San Carlos

C/Profesor Martín Lagos, Moncloa (91 330 30 00). Metro Moncloa. Enter Accident and Emergency from C/Isaac Peral, off Plaza de Cristo Rey.

Hospital General Gregorio Marañón
C/Doctor Esquerdo 146, Salamanca (91 586 80 00/www.hggm.es). Metro O'Donnell.

Complementary medicine

Instituto de Medicina Integral
C/Fernández de la Hoz 30, Chamberí (91 576 26 49). Metro Iglesia or Rubén Darío. Open 9am-1.30pm, 5-7.30pm Mon-Fri.
There are several English-speaking practitioners at this clinic, which offers treatments including homeopathy and acupuncture.

Contraception & women's health

Condoms (profilácticos, condones or preservativos) are available from most pharmacies, and vending machines and supermarkets.

Asociación de Mujeres para la Salud
Avda Alfonso XIII 118, Chamartín (91 519 56 78/91 519 59 26). Metro Colombia. Open 10am-1pm, 4-8pm Mon-Thur; 9am-3pm Fri. Closed Aug.
A feminist medical association offering free advice and counselling.

Clínica Duratón
C/Colegiata 4, Los Austrias (91 429 77 69). Metro Tirso de Molina. Open Sept-July 9.30am-1.30pm, 4.30-8.30pm Mon-Fri. Aug 4.30-8.30pm Mon-Fri.
Family-planning centre run by women doctors and staff.

Dentists

Dentistry is not covered by EU reciprocal agreements, so private rates apply.

Clínica Dental Cisne
C/Magallanes 18, Chamberí (91 446 32 21/24hr emergencies mobile 661 857 170/www.clinicadentalcisne.com). Metro Quevedo. Open Oct-May 10am-1.30pm, 3-8pm Mon, Tue, Thur; 2-8pm Wed; 9am-3pm Fri. June-Sept 10am-1.30pm, 3-8pm Mon, Tue, Thur; 9am-3pm Wed, Fri.
British dentist Dr Ian Daniel is based at this clinic. Hours may vary in summer, and the clinic sometimes closes in August.

Doctors

Centros de salud are local health centres with three or so doctors and various specialised clinics. Waiting times can be long and consultations brief, but if necessary you will be referred to a hospital. Usually open 8am-9pm Mon-Fri and 9am-5pm Sat. These are some of the most central:

Centro de Salud Alameda
C/Alameda 9, Huertas & Santa Ana (91 420 38 02). Metro Atocha.

Centro de Salud Argüelles
C/Quintana 11, Argüelles (91 559 02 23). Metro Argüelles.

Centro de Salud Las Cortes
C/San Jerónimo 32, Huertas & Santa Ana (91 369 04 91). Metro Sevilla.

Opticians

Try Grand Optical, a centrally located optician.

Pharmacies

Pharmacies (farmacias) are signalled by large, green, usually flashing, crosses. Those within the official system of the College of Pharmacies are normally open 9.30am-2pm, 5-8pm Mon-Sat. At other times a duty rota operates. Every pharmacy has a list of the College's farmacias de guardia (duty pharmacies) for that day posted outside the door, with the nearest ones highlighted (many now show them using a computerised, push-button panel). Duty pharmacies are also listed in local newspapers, and information is available on 010 and 098 phonelines and www.cofm.es. At night, duty pharmacies may look closed; knock on the shutters to be served.

There are two 24-hour pharmacies open every day of the year: Farmacia Central and Farmacia Lastra.

Private health care

Unidad Médica Anglo-Americana
C/Conde de Aranda 1-1º izq, Salamanca (91 435 18 23/www.unidadmedica.com). Metro Retiro. Open Sept-July 9am-8pm Mon-Fri; 10am-1pm Sat. Aug 10am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Offers full range of services, including dentistry. Will make house/hotel calls.

Helplines

Alcoholics Anonymous
C/Juan Bravo 40 2º, Salamanca (91 309 19 47/www.alcoholicos-anonimos.org). Metro Diego de León.
English-speaking group meets 8pm Mon-Fri; 6pm Sat; 7pm Sun.

Narcotics Anonymous
C/Doctor Piga 4 (902 114 147). Metro Lavapiés.
English-speaking meeting every Sunday at 5.30pm.

ID

Foreigners should carry national ID or a passport with them at all times, although a photocopy is usually OK. You'll be asked to show the passport itself or a driving licence when paying by credit card in shops.

Insurance

EU nationals are entitled to use the Spanish state health service, provided they have a European Health Insurance Card, which must be applied for well in advance of travel. This will cover you for emergencies, but for short-term visitors it's often simpler to avoid dealing with the state bureaucracy and take out private travel insurance before departure, particularly as this will also cover you for stolen or lost cash or valuables.

Some non-EU countries have reciprocal healthcare agreements with Spain, but, again, for most travellers it will be best to take out private travel insurance before arriving.

Internet

Internet access options keep evolving, but the basic choice is between internet service providers (ISPs) that offer free basic access, such as Orange (1414, dial 5 for internet option/www.orange.es) and those that charge a fee for better service, such as Ono (1400/www.ono.com). Gonuts4free (807 51 70 45/www.gonuts4free.com) is an Anglo-Spanish free ISP. In both cases you pay for your internet time in your phone bill. Madrid has plenty of cybercafés, particularly around Puerta del Sol.

Cibercafé Alamo
C/Alamo 7, Malasaña (91 542 82 62). Metro Noviciado. Open 8am-2am Mon-Fri; noon-2am Sat, Sun.
A real café with music, friendly staff and a pleasant atmosphere.

WORKcenter
C/Alberto Aguilera 1, Malasaña (91 121 76 00/902 11 50 11/www.workcenter.es). Metro San Bernardo. Open 24hrs daily.
An office centre where you can send or receive faxes and emails, access the net, print from a disk, make copies or get ID photos. Internet access is pricey (from €1/10mins or €3/hour). Other locations: Paseo de Castellana 149, Salamanca (91 121 76 30); C/Conde de Peñalver 51, Salamanca (91 121 56 60); C/María de Molina 40, Salamanca (91 121 56 80).

Left luggage

Barajas airport
Terminals T1 & T2 Open 24hrs daily. Rates €2.65 first 24hrs; €3.30 (small locker) & €4.65 (big locker) per day thereafter.

Terminal T-4 (91 746 60 65) Open 24hrs daily. Rates €2.85 first 24hrs; €3.58 (small locker) & €5 (big locker) per day thereafter.

Estación Sur (buses)
Open 6.30am-11.30pm daily. Rates €1.25 per case per day.
A staffed office.

RENFE train stations

Open Chamartín 7am-11pm daily. Atocha 6.30am-10.30pm daily. Rates €2.40-€4.50 depending on locker size.

Libraries

Madrid has many municipal public libraries, but few are in the centre of the city and they generally have limited selections of books in English. For a full list of libraries, check 'bibliotecas' in the local Páginas Amarillas (Yellow Pages), call 010 or visit www.madrid.org/bpcm.

Ateneo Artístico, Científico y Literario de Madrid
C/Prado 21, Huertas (91 429 74 42/www.ateneodemadrid.com). Metro Antón Martín. Open 9am-12.45am Mon-Sat; 9am-9.45pm Sun.
A literary and philosophical club founded in 1820, Madrid's Ateneo has often been a focal point in the city's cultural life. It also has the second largest library in Spain, and has the advantage of being open when others are closed. Membership costs €94 to join, then €40 every three months, and members have access to talks, cultural events and other activities.

Biblioteca Nacional
Paseo de Recoletos 20, Salamanca (91 580 77 19/www.bne.es). Metro Colón. Open 9am-9pm Mon-Fri; 9am-2pm Sat.
Spain's national library has early books and manuscripts on display (in the Museo del Libro), and is also the home of the Hemeroteca Nacional, the national newspaper library (see below). To use the library regularly you need accreditation from a university or similar institution, but a one-day pass is quite easy to obtain (you need to take a passport or residency card).

Biblioteca Pedro Salinas
Glorieta de la Puerta de Toledo 1, La Latina (91 366 54 07). Metro Puerta de Toledo. Open Oct-June 8.30am-8.45pm Mon-Fri; 9am-1.45pm Sat. July-Sept 8.30am-8.45pm Mon-Fri.
The most attractive and convenient of Madrid's public libraries. Books can be taken out on loan.

British Council
Paseo del General Martínez Campos 31, Chamberí (91 337 35 00/www.britishcouncil.es). Metro Iglesia. Open Sept-June 9.30am-6.45pm Mon-Wed; 9.30am-8.45pm Thur; 9.30am-5.45pm Fri. July, Aug 9.30am-2.45pm Mon-Fri. Membership €15/mth; €35/3mths; €60/yr.
The library in the British Council study centre has a massive selection of books and videos in English, as well as CD-Roms, internet access and daily newspapers.

Hemeroteca Municipal
C/Conde Duque 9-11, Conde Duque (91 588 57 71/www.munimadrid.es/hemeroteca). Metro Noviciado. Open Sept-July 9am-8.30pm Mon-Fri. Aug 9am-2pm Mon-Fri.
If you just have to track down that essential piece of information, the city newspaper library in the Centro Conde Duque is the place to do it. You need a researcher's card to get in, for which you must provide a copy of your passport and two ID photos.

Lost property

Airport & rail stations
If you lose something before check-in at Barajas Airport, report the loss to the Aviación Civil office (AENA) in the relevant terminal, or call 91 393 61 19 for terminals T1, T2 and T3, or 91 746 64 39 for T4. If you think you've mislaid anything on the RENFE rail network, look for the Atención al Viajero desk or Jefe de Estación office at the main station nearest to where your property went astray. For phone information on lost property call 91 300 69 69 (Chamartín) or 91 506 69 69 (Atocha) and ask for objetos perdidos.

Sección de Taxis del Ayuntamiento
Paseo del Molino 7, South of centre (91 527 95 90/www.emtmadrid.es/interest/lost.html). Metro Legazpi. Open 9am-2pm Mon-Fri.

EMT (city buses)
C/Cerro de la Plata 4, Salamanca (91 406 88 43/www.emtmadrid.es). Metro Pacífico. Open 8am-2pm Mon-Fri. Phone lines 8am-9pm Mon-Fri.
The lost-property office for items that have been lost on Madrid's city or airport buses.

Negociado de Objetos Perdidos (Madrid City Council)
Plaza de Legazpi 7, South of centre (91 588 43 46/44). Metro Legazpi. Open Oct-June 9am-2pm Mon-Fri. July-Sept 9am-1.30pm Mon-Fri.
This office mainly receives articles found on the metro or in taxis, but if you're lucky, something lost in the street may turn up here.

Media

Newspapers

Spanish newspapers may come in tabloid size, but they are far from light-hearted, preferring heavy political commentary. Sensationalist, celeb-dominated stories are reserved for the prensa de corazón (press of the heart), such as ¡Hola!, Diez Minutos or ¡Qué me dices!. Free daily papers Metro, 20 Minutos and the gossipy ¡Qué! are handed out outside most central metro stations. The plethora of other free newspapers now on offer includes Latino, aimed at the South American market, and Gol!, a round-up of the weekend's sport.

ABC
Despite its conservative outlook, ABC's journalists have the highest professional reputation. Read by Madrid's most respectable citizens.

Marca & As
Sports-only (in fact, mostly football-only) papers. Marca is usually the country's bestselling daily paper.

El Mundo
This centrist, populist paper made its name by unearthing many corruption scandals under the Socialists during the 1990s. Friday's 'La Luna de Metrópoli' supplement is a good source of listings and information on the cultural agenda.

El País The liberal El País is the established paper of record, and also carries good daily information on Madrid, with Friday's 'Tentaciones' supplement great for music and popular culture.

La Razón
Right-wing and sensationalist daily with much of its editorial coming from ABC.

English-language

Foreign newspapers are on sale in FNAC, all Vip's stores and at most kiosks around Sol, Gran Vía, Calle Alcalá and the Castellana.

The Broadsheet
A glossy free monthly with articles on all aspects of life in Madrid and Spain, along with useful classified ads pages.

InMadrid
A free monthly aimed at English-speaking residents – you can pick it up in pubs, bookshops, universities, language schools and tourist offices. Good articles on the Madrid scene, plus listings information, events, reviews and small ads.

Listings & classifieds

Local papers carry daily film and theatre listings, and the Friday supplements of El Mundo (Metrópoli) and El País (Tentaciones) give fuller information, reviews and so on. For monthly music listings look out for the Barcelona-based magazines Mondo Sonoro and Go (in bars and music shops).

Segundamano
www.segundamano.es
'Second-hand' comes out three times a week and is the best place for small ads of all kinds.

Guía del Ocio
www.guiadelocio.com/madrid
A weekly listings magazine with cinema, arts, entertainment, concerts, nightlife and restaurant listings, and a good galleries section. It's handy, but can be inaccurate.

Music & style mags

Undersounds, Rockdelux, the Spanish version of Rolling Stone and the new MTV magazine are mainly sold in kiosks or music shops and at festivals. A few free mags to look out for are clubbers' zine AB, the smarter monthly Cartel and Mundo Sonoro.

Radio

The Spanish are avid radio fans; you'll hear radios blaring out in bars, cafés, buses and taxis. Radio Nacional de España stations to listen for include RNE-2 (96.5 FM, classical music) and RNE-3 (93.2 FM, an excellent and eclectic mix of rock and world music). There are dozens of other local stations. The main commercial broadcaster is SER (Sociedad Española de Radiofusión), which controls four networks: SER, a news network, and two music channels. One specific English-language programme to look out for is Radio Círculo's Madrid Live on Tuesdays from 8.30pm to 9pm (repeated on Friday at 10pm), which can be found on 100.4FM. Produced and presented by radio journalist Ann Bateson, it focuses on the city's arts, entertainment and social scene. The BBC World Service can be found in the evenings on 12095 kHz short wave.

TV

There are seven main channels, which pump out an endless diet of tacky game shows, talk shows, really bad imported telenovelas (soaps) from South America and badly dubbed American movies. Just about the only redeeming feature is the news, although Canal 2 does show some good documentaries and films. Non-Spanish films and shows on some channels can be seen in undubbed versions on stereo TVs; look for VO (versión original) in listings and a 'Dual' symbol at the top of the screen.

TVE 1 (La Primera)
The flagship channel of state broadcaster RTVE has a reputation for toeing the government line. However, the recent appointment of a committee assigned with restructuring the network comes with the promise from Prime Minister Zapatero that the era of political bias in the broadcaster has come to an end. Time will tell.

TVE 2 (La Dos)
The least commercial of all the TV channels, La 2 is good for documentaries and late-night movies (often in VO).

Antena 3  
A private channel with an emphasis on family entertainment mixed with late-night salaciousness.

Tele 5 
Another private channel. This celeb-obsessed station is the one to blame for the Spanish Big Brother, El Gran Hermano. It is also the Formula 1 channel, which has become a national obsession since the rise and rise of one Fernando Alonso.

Telemadrid  
Madrid's own station. Good for live football on Saturday and the Megahit movie on Sunday nights, but bad for political bias. It functions as a mouthpiece for the local PP administration to such an extent that opposition PSOE politicians boycotted the station in early 2007.

digital +
A subscriber channel with a good selection of sport, movies and US hits. Many hotels and bars receive it.

Cuatro
This new channel, which filled the gap left by Canal+, is aiming squarely at people in their twenties with its mixture of American imports, flashy news programmes and chat shows.

La Sexta
La Sexta's launch was plagued by the need to retune everyone's receivers – particularly important given they showed some of the more significant matches in the 2006 World Cup. Now they're up and running, their programming focuses on a mixture of documentaries, films and the obligatory American imports.

Money

Spain is part of the euro zone. One euro is made up of 100 céntimos. One thing to remember is that the British/US practice on decimal points and commas is reversed (so 1.000 euros means one thousand euros, while 1,00 euro is one euro). There are banknotes for €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500, in different colours and designs. Then there are three copper coins (five, two and one céntimo), three gold-coloured coins (50, 20 and 10 céntimos) and large coins for one euro (silver centre, gold rim) and two euros (gold centre, silver rim).

Banks & exchange

Banks and savings banks (cajas de ahorros) readily accept cash and travellers' cheques (you must show your passport). Commission rates vary, and it's worth shopping around before changing money (although banks usually give the best rates); also, given the rates charged by Spanish banks, it's often cheaper to get money from an ATM machine by credit or debit card rather than with travellers' cheques. It is always quicker to change money at larger bank offices than at local branches. There are many small bureaux de change (cambio), particularly on Gran Vía and Puerta del Sol. Exchange rates are usually worse than in banks.

Bank hours

Banks and savings banks normally open 8am-2pm Monday-Friday. From October to May many branches also open from 9am to 1pm on Saturday. Hours vary a little between different banks, and some have branches that stay open until around 5pm one day a week (usually Thursday). Savings banks often open late on Thursday afternoons, but are less likely to open on Saturdays. Banks are closed on public holidays.

Out-of-hours services

Outside normal hours you can change money at the airport (terminals T-1 and T-2, open 24hrs daily), at main train stations (Atocha, 9am-9pm daily; Chamartín, 8am-10pm daily), in El Corte Inglés, in hotels, at private cambios and at the places listed below. At the airport, Chamartín and outside some banks in Gran Vía and Puerta del Sol there are automatic cash exchange machines that accept notes in major currencies, in good condition (be careful if you need to use these at night).

American Express
Plaza de las Cortes 2, Huertas (902 37 56 37). Metro Banco de España. Open 9am-7.30pm Mon-Fri; 9am-2pm Sat.
The usual services, including money transfer worldwide in 24 hours. Other locations: C/Juan Ignacio Luca de Tena 17 (902 37 56 37).

Western Union Money Transfer
Change Express, Gran Vía 16, Sol & Gran Vía (91 542 81 80 Mon-Fri only/900 63 36 33 daily). Metro Gran Vía. Open 9.30am-6.30pm daily.
The local Western Union agent. It's the quickest if not the cheapest way to have money sent from abroad. Other locations: Gran Vía 25, 46, 53.

Chequepoint
Plaza de Callao 4, Sol & Gran Vía (91 532 29 22). Open 9am-11pm daily.
An international exchange company.

Credit cards

Major credit and charge cards are accepted in most hotels, shops and restaurants. You can withdraw cash with major cards from most bank ATMs, which provide instructions in different languages. Exchange rates and handling fees often work out more economical than exchanging cash or travellers' cheques. Banks will advance cash against credit cards over the counter, but prefer you to use an ATM.

Lost or stolen cards

American Express freephone 900 99 44 26.
Diners Club 902 40 11 12.
Mastercard freephone 900 97 12 31.
Visa 91 519 60 00/freephone 900 99 12 16.

Tax

There are different rates of sales tax (IVA): for hotels and restaurants, the rate is seven per cent; in shops, it's generally 16 per cent, but on some items four to seven per cent. IVA is generally included in listed prices - if not, the expression 'mas IVA' (plus tax) must be stated after the price. In shops displaying a 'Tax-Free Shopping' sticker, non-EU residents can reclaim tax on large purchases.

Opening times

Eating, drinking and shopping all happen late in Madrid. The siesta has faded to a myth, but madrileños do operate to a distinctive schedule. Most shops open from 10am to 2pm, and 5-5.30pm to 8-8.30pm, Monday to Saturday, although many stay closed on Saturday afternoons. Food markets open earlier, around 8am. In July and especially in August most shops and services (such as the Post Office and administrations) close in the afternoon. August is also the time when most shops, bars and restaurants close for their annual holidays (from two weeks up to the whole month). Major stores and malls are open from 10am to 9pm without a break, Monday to Saturday. Big supermarkets (Al Campo, Carrefour) open from 10am to 10pm Mon-Sat and the first Sunday of each month.

Madrileños still eat, drink, go out and stay out later than their neighbours in virtually every other European country. Most restaurants are open 1.30-2pm to 4pm, and 9pm to midnight, and many close on Sunday nights and Mondays, and for at least part of August. Many businesses finish at 3pm in the summer. Most museums (state ones) close one day a week, usually Monday.

Police

Spain has several police forces. In Madrid the most important are the local Policía Municipal, in navy and pale blue, and the Policía Nacional, in darker blue and white uniforms (or all-blue combat gear). Each force has its own responsibilities, although they overlap. Municipales are principally concerned with traffic and parking problems and local regulations. The force with primary responsibility for dealing with crime are the Nacionales. The Guardia Civil, in green, are responsible, among other things, for policing inter-city highways, and customs.

Reporting a crime

If you are robbed or attacked, you should report the incident as soon as possible at the nearest Policía Nacional station (comisaría), where you will be asked to make an official statement (denuncia). It is extremely unlikely anything you have lost will be recovered, but you need the denuncia to make an insurance claim. Very few officers speak any English.

Comisaría del Centro
C/Leganitos 19, Sol & Gran Vía (station 91 548 79 85/operator 902 10 21 12). Metro Santo Domingo or Plaza de España.
The Policía Nacional headquarters for central Madrid, near Plaza de España. Some other police stations in the city centre are listed below; all are open 24hrs daily.

Puerta del Sol
Inside metro Sol, by C/Carretas exit, Sol & Gran Vía (91 521 09 11). Metro Sol.

Huertas/Retiro
C/Huertas 76-78 (91 322 10 17). Metro Antón Martín.

Chamberí
C/Rafael Calvo 33 (91 322 32 78). Metro Iglesia.

Postal services

If you just need normal-rate stamps (sellos), it's easier to buy them in an estanco (see below). Post offices now have automatic stamp dispensing machines (with a weighing system) but they do not always work.

Palacio de Comunicaciones
Plaza de Cibeles, Salamanca & Retiro (91 396 27 33/902 19 71 97/www.correos.es). Metro Banco de España. Open 8.30am-9.30pm Mon-Fri; 8.30am-2pm Sat (from 2pm to 9.30pm, service is given at Puerta N, in the C/Montalbán).
In the magnificent central post office, all manner of postal services are available at separate windows. Faxes can be sent and received at all post offices, but rates are expensive, so use a private fax bureau. There is an information desk near the main entrance. Not all services are available at all times. Mail sent poste restante should be addressed to Lista de Correos, 28000 Madrid, Spain. To collect, go to windows 17-20 with your passport. For express post, say you want to send a 'carta urgente'.

Other city centre post offices are at El Corte Inglés, C/Preciados 1-4, Sol & Gran Vía; Carrera de San Francisco 13, La Latina; C/Mejía Lequerica 7, Chueca; C/Jorge Juan 20, Salamanca, and at Terminal 1 in the airport.

Postal rates & postboxes

Letters and postcards up to 20g cost 30¢ within Spain, 58¢ to Europe and North Africa, and 78¢ to the rest of the world. Note that you will pay more for 'irregular' shaped envelopes (basically, not rectangular). Cards and letters to other European countries usually arrive in 3-4 days, those to North America in about a week. Normal postboxes are yellow with two horizontal red stripes. There are also a few special red postboxes for urgent mail, with hourly collections.

Postal Exprés
Available at all post offices, this efficient express mail offers next-day delivery within Spain of packages up to 1kg (2.2lb), for €10-€12, according to distance and dimension.

Estancos

The main role of the tobacco shop or estanco (look for a brown and yellow sign with the word 'tabacos') is, of course, to supply tobacco-related products. But they also sell stamps, phonecards and Metrobús and monthly abono tickets. Estancos are the only places to obtain official money vouchers (papel de estado), needed for dealings with Spanish bureaucracy. Some have photocopiers/fax facilities.

Queuing

Despite appearances, Spaniards have a highly developed queuing culture. People don't always bother standing in line, but they generally know when it is their turn. Common practice is to ask when you first arrive, to no one in particular, '¿Quién da la vez?' or 'Quién es el último/la última?' ('Who's last?'); see who nods, and follow on after them. Say 'yo' (me) to the next person who asks.

Religion

Anglican
St George's (British Embassy Church): C/Núñez de Balboa 43, Salamanca (91 576 51 09). Metro Velázquez. Services Sept-June 7.30pm Wed; 10.30am Fri; 8.30am, 10am, 11.30am Sun. July, Aug 8.30am, 11.30am Sun.

Catholic (in English)
Our Lady of Mercy: Avenida Alfonso XIII 165, Chamartín (91 230 53 36). Metro Pío XII. English Mass 11am Sun.

Jewish
Sinagoga de Madrid: C/Balmes 3, Eastern suburbs (91 591 31 31). Metro Iglesia. Prayers 8am Mon-Fri; 9.15am Sat; 9am Sun & at dusk daily.

Muslim
Centro Cultural Islámico de Madrid: C/Salvador de Madariaga 4, Eastern suburbs (91 326 26 10). Metro Barrio de la Concepción. Open 10am-8pm Mon-Thur, Sat, Sun; noon-4pm Fri.

Renting a flat

The price of flats to rent in Madrid varies wildly, so it pays to shop around. A room in a shared flat costs upwards of €300 a month, while a one-bedroom flat is around €600 or more. Places to look for flat ads are the papers Segundamano and Anuntis and the English language magazine InMadrid. Another option is to look around for 'Se alquila' (to rent) signs.

Contratos de alquiler (rental agreements) generally cover a five-year period, within which a landlord can only raise the rent each year in line with inflation, set in the official price index (IPC). Landlords usually ask for the equivalent of one month's rent as a fianza (deposit) and a month's rent in advance. Details of contracts (especially with regards to responsibility for repairs) vary a lot; don't sign a contrato unless you're fully confident of your Spanish and/or a lawyer or gestor has looked at it.

Safety

As in most major cities, street crime is a problem in Madrid and tourists are often targeted. One plus point is that pickpocketing and bag-snatching are more likely than any violent crime. Places to be especially on your guard are the Puerta del Sol, Gran Vía, the Plaza Mayor, the Plaza Santa Ana and, above all, the Rastro and Retiro park; watch out, too, on the metro.

The area around the junction of Gran Vía and Calle Montera is a centre of street prostitution, and can feel uncomfortable at night. Recently, the Lavapiés district has acquired a reputation for street crime, which has developed alongside growing racial tension in the area, with robberies often attributed to young, homeless North African illegal immigrants, even though most thefts reported by Time Out readers and local media seem to involve teenage eastern European or gypsy girls.

Staying safe tips

Street criminals prey very deliberately on the unwary, and their chances of success can be limited greatly by the following simple precautions.

  • Keep valuables near When sitting in a café, especially at an outside table, never leave a bag or coat on the ground, on the back of a chair or anywhere you cannot see it clearly. If in doubt, keep it on your lap. Wear shoulder bags pulled to the front, not at your back, especially in the underground. Keep the bag closed and a hand on top of it.
  • Street wise Give the impression of knowing what's going on around you, and – without getting paranoid – be alert and watch out to see if you are being followed.
  • Big bucks Avoid pulling out large notes to pay for things, especially in the street at night; try not to get large notes when changing money.
  • Hunting in packs Be aware that street thieves often work in pairs or groups; if someone hassles you for money or to buy something, or pulls out a map and asks for directions, keep walking, as this can be a ruse to distract you so that the thief's 'partner' can get at your bag. This is often done pretty crudely, and so is not hard to recognise.
  • ATMs Be extremely careful when you withdraw money from ATMs. Don't let anyone distract your attention while putting in your PIN code.

Beware of fake policemen: if someone asks to see your ID, ask to see their identification first.

Smoking

Spaniards smoke – big time. It's not unusual for a bank cashier to serve you while puffing on the first of the day. Likewise, it's unusual to find non-smoking areas in restaurants or bars, although smoking bans in cinemas, theatres, the airport and on mainline trains are generally respected. Smoking is officially banned throughout the metro system, but many people take this to mean on trains only, and not station platforms.

Study

Foreign students from the EU staying more than three months require a residency permit (Tarjeta de Residencia Para la Realización de Estudios); non-EU students may also need a visa.

Accommodation

RoomMadrid
C/Conde Duque 7, Malasaña (91 548 03 35/91 548 10 21/www.roommadrid.es). Metro Plaza España. Open 10am-8pm Mon-Fri.
This agency specialises in finding rooms in shared flats, with a minimum stay of one month in summer and three months from September to June. Commission starts at €70. At busy times you'll need to make an appointment a few hours in advance.

Madrid Sal y Ven
C/Recoletos 11, 1º B, Salamanca (91 435 22 62/www.salyven.net). Metro Retiro. Open 9.30am-2pm, 3.30-7pm Mon-Fri.
Finds rooms in shared flats with a minimum stay of one week. The agency charges an inscription charge of €60 and commission on top of that.

Language learning

Todo Español
C/General Díaz Porlier 1, Salamanca (91 435 42 38/www.todosp.com). Metro Goya. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Fri.
A very efficient and friendly school, with five students per class. Staff can help students to find accommodation in Madrid.

Carpe Diem
C/Fuencarral 13, 2˚, Malasaña (91 522 31 22/www.carpemadrid.com). Metro Gran Vía. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Fri.
A young, funky Spanish-language academy, with small groups and enthusiastic teachers.

Academia Actual Plus
Gran Vía 71, 1º izq, Sol & Gran Via (91 547 56 08/www.actualmadrid.com). Metro Plaza de España. Open 9.30am-2pm, 4-8pm Mon-Fri.
A central and highly recommended school. There are no more than eight students per class.

Escuela Oficial de Idiomas
Camino del Caño 2, Chamberí (91 636 19 36/www.eoidiomas.com/eoi/eoi.html). Metro Islas Filipinas. Open 10am-1pm, 4-9pm Mon-Fri. Closed July, Aug.
This government-run school offers courses in Spanish through the academic year. The school has several other centres in the Madrid area; call for a full list. Registration is in August/September and April/May; competition for places is extremely stiff.

International House
C/Zurbano 8, Chamberí (91 310 13 14/www.ihmadrid.com). Metro Alonso Martínez. Open 9am-8.30pm Mon-Fri.
Offers Spanish courses at all levels.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Secretaría de Cursos para Extranjeros, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Ciudad Universitaria, 28040 Madrid (91 394 53 25/www.ucm.es). Open Office Sept-June 10am-1pm, 3-6pm Mon-Fri. July 10am-1pm Mon-Fri. Closed Aug.
Three-month Spanish courses for foreigners are held during the academic year. Higher-level students can study linguistics, literature and culture; there are also intensive language courses.

Universities

Erasmus, Socrates & Lingua programmes
Information in the UK: UK Socrates-Erasmus Council, Rothford, Giles Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7LR (01227 762712/fax 01227 762711/www.erasmus.ac.uk).
The Erasmus student-exchange scheme and Lingua project (for language learning) are the main parts of the EU's Socrates programme to help students move freely between member states. To be eligible you must be studying at an exchange institution. Prospective students should contact their college's Erasmus co-ordinator.

Universidad de Alcalá de Henares
C/Escritorios, 4, Alcalá de Henares (91 881 23 78/www.uah.es). Open Office 9am-2pm, 4-7pm Mon-Fri.
Offers Spanish courses for foreigners.

Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Ciudad Universitaria de Cantoblanco, Ctra de Colmenar km15, 28049 Madrid (91 497 46 33/www.uam.es). Open Office 9am-2pm, 4-6pm Mon-Thur; 9am-2pm Fri.
The UAM now competes in prestige with the Complutense.

Universidad Carlos III
C/Madrid 126, Getafe, 28903 Madrid (91 624 95 00/91 624 98 39/www.uc3m.es). Open Office 9am-2pm, 4-6pm Mon-Fri.
One of Madrid's newest universities, with campuses in Getafe and Leganés.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Avda de Séneca 2, Moncloa (91 452 04 00/www.ucm.es). Open Office 9am-2pm, 4-6pm Mon-Thur; 9am-2pm Fri.
The prestigious Complutense is Madrid's main university. The largest and oldest in Spain, it is home to 98,000 students, 3,000 of them from abroad.

Telephones

Since the Spanish national phone company (Telefónica) was privatised, other companies – such as Jazztel and Ono – now compete with it in certain areas. Nevertheless, Telefónica remains the main player in the field as far as infrastructure is concerned, though its prices remain relatively high.

Dialling & codes

It is necessary to dial provincial area codes with all phone numbers in Spain, even when you are calling from within the same area. Hence, all normal phone numbers in the Madrid area are preceded by 91, and you must dial this whether you're calling within Madrid, from elsewhere in Spain or from abroad. Numbers beginning 900 are freephone lines; 901, 902 or 906 numbers are special-rate services and can be very pricey. Spanish mobile phone numbers have six digits and begin with a 6.

International & long-distance calls

To call abroad, dial 00 followed by the country code, then the area code (omitting the first zero in UK numbers) and number. To call Madrid from abroad, dial the international code (00 in the UK, 001 from the USA), then 34 for Spain.

  • Australia 61.
  • Canada 1.
  • Irish Republic 353.
  • New Zealand 64.
  • United Kingdom 44.
  • USA 1.

Mobile phones

The Spanish are mobile (móvíl) mad and just about everybody has one (or two). You can pay each month or use rechargeable pre-paid cards. Call costs depend on the type of contract you have. Mobile phones from other countries can be used in Spain with a 'roaming' system, which you need to activate before leaving home.

Spain Cell Phone
687 558 529/www.puertademadrid.com/rentacellphone
Offers short- and long-term mobile phone rental. Call rates are low and incoming calls are free.

Phone centres

For international calls it's often worth using a call centre (locutorio). You don't need change (you are charged when you've finished your call), the booths keep out noise, and many offer international call rates cheaper than Telefónica's. There are many phone centres around Lavapiés, Huertas and Malasaña. Often other services – fax, internet, currency exchange, money transfer – are available. There is a directory of locutorios at www.ociolatino.com in the 'Guía Latina'.

Eucaris
Plaza Dos de Mayo 22, Malasaña (91 446 10 12). Metro Tribunal. Open 9am-midnight daily.

Money Exchange
C/Infantas 1, Chueca (91 532 75 35). Metro Gran Vía. Open 10am-10pm daily.

Public phones

Payphones are plentiful in the city, although due to the traffic noise, it's often worth using a phone in a bar or café, even though they often cost 50 per cent more than regular booths. Most models of payphone take coins (from five céntimos up), phonecards and credit cards, and have a digital display with instructions in English and other languages.

The first minute of a daytime local call costs around 11 céntimos; to a mobile phone around 35¢; to a 902 number, around 18¢. You are usually given credit to make more calls without having to insert more money.

Kioskos and estancos sell €5 (up to 70 minutes of communication) and €10 (up to 140 minutes) phonecards by various companies. Many of the cards give you a free number to call; an operator or automatic system then connects you with the number you want and can tell you how much is left on your card.

Operator services

Usually, operators will only speak Spanish, though most international operators speak basic English.

  • National directory enquiries 11818.
  • International directory enquiries & operator 11825.
  • National operator 11822.
  • National operator for reverse charge calls 1009. After the recorded message, press the asterisk key twice, and then 4.
  • Telephone faults service 1002.
  • Time 093.
  • Weather 11822.
  • Wake-up calls 096. Key in the time when you want to be woken, using the 24hr clock, eg 0830 for 8.30am.
  • General information 098. Although less comprehensive than the 010 line, this Telefónica local information service is open 24hrs.

Time

Spain is an hour ahead of UK time, six hours ahead of US EST and nine ahead of PST. Daylight saving time runs concurrently with the UK.

Tipping

There are no rules or percentages for tipping and in general Spaniards tip very little. It is usual to leave five or ten per cent for a restaurant waiter, rarely more than €4, and people often leave a few céntimos of small change in a bar. It's also usual to tip hotel porters, toilet and cinema attendants. In taxis the norm is around five per cent; more for longer journeys, or if a driver has been especially helpful.

Toilets

Public toilets are rare, although there are some with an attendant in the Retiro, by the lake; at Chamartín and Atocha stations; and in the Paseo del Prado. However, proprietors usually don't mind if you pop into a bar or café (better, though, if you ask first), and big stores such as El Corte Inglés or fast-food restaurants are a good bet.

Tourist information

City and regional authority (Comunidad de Madrid) tourist offices all provide similar basic information on Madrid and its region, plus free maps. The city also runs a phone information line for locals, 010, that can be useful to visitors. Tourist offices do not make hotel bookings but can advise on vacancies; for booking agencies see our hotels section.

Oficina Municipal de Turismo

Plaza Mayor 27, Los Austrias (91 588 16 36). Metro Sol. Open 9.30am-8.30pm Mon-Sun.
Also where walking tours begin.

Oficinas de Información Turística
C/Duque de Medinaceli 2, Huertas (91 369 70 70/902 10 00 07). Metro Banco de España. Open 8am-8pm Mon-Sat; 9am-2pm Sun.
Other information offices on the general 902 number are located at: Barajas Airport Terminal 1 & 4 (91 305 86 56); Chamartín Station, near platform 20 (91 315 99 76); and Atocha Station (91 528 46 30). Hours vary slightly between offices.

Summer information officers
During July and August pairs of young information guides, in bright yellow and blue uniforms, are sent to roam the central area ready to answer enquiries in a courageous variety of languages (8am-8pm daily). They also staff information stands at Puerta del Sol, Plaza del Callao, Plaza Mayor, by the Palacio Real and by the Prado.

010 phoneline
Open 8am-9pm Mon-Fri; 9am-2pm Sat.
A city-run information line that will answer enquiries of any and every kind on Madrid, and particularly on events promoted by the city council. Calls are accepted in French and English, but you may have to wait for an English-speaking operator. From outside Madrid, call 91 540 40 10/40. There is also a tourist information line, 901 30 06 00, which usually has more limited information.

Visas & immigration

Spain is one of the EU countries that is party to the Schengen Agreement (which includes all of the EU except the UK, Ireland or the countries that joined in May 2004). These countries share immigration procedures and have reduced border controls between each other. To enter Spain nationals from countries that are party to the agreement need only show their national ID card, but British, Irish, those from the new EU countries and all non-EU citizens must have full passports.

Additional visas are not needed by US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand or Israeli citizens for stays of up to three months. Citizens of South Africa and some other countries do need a visa to enter Spain. They can be obtained from Spanish consulates in other European countries as well as in your home country.

Water

Madrid's tap water is good and safe to drink, with less of the chlorine taste that you get in some Spanish cities. There are occasional water shortages in summer, and signs posted in hotels urge guests to avoid wasting water. If you want tap rather than bottled water in a restaurant specify that you want agua del grifo.

Women

Instituto de la Mujer
C/Condesa de Venadito 34, Concepción (91 363 80 00). Metro Barrio de la Concepción. Open 9am-2pm Mon-Fri.
A government organisation that acts as an umbrella for many other bodies, with a useful information service. The Institute has a legal office at C/Génova 11, Chueca (91 700 19 10/www.mtas.es/mujer).

Working

There is a huge number of foreigners living and working in Madrid. Ninety-five per cent of those from the EU are teaching English. To get a job in one of the academies with better pay and conditions, it's advisable to have a relevant qualification such as TEFL. Private classes are also available, but bear in mind that work often dries up over the summer and holiday periods.

There is a lot of red tape involved in working in Madrid; you can ignore the bureaucracy for a while, but in the long run it's best to sort things out. If you come here contracted from your country of origin, papers should be dealt with by your employer. The quickest way to deal with the state's love of form-filling is to resort to the agencies called gestorías.

A new ruling, made in March 2003, effectively exempts many EU citizens living in Spain from the obligation to apply for and carry a resident's card (tarjeta de residencia). Students, along with contracted workers, freelancers, business owners or retired people who have already made Spanish Social Security contributions, are entitled to live in Spain and use their own country's ID card, or passport, for all dealings or transactions. Not all branches of the administration are aware of the ruling but it is clearly stated both on the British Embassy's website (www.ukinspain.com) and the Ministry of the Interior's (www.mir.es/SGACAVT/extranje).

Everybody in Spain, both nationals and foreigners, however, is obliged to carry a valid form of ID. In the case of those foreigners who do not have a national ID card, this means carrying your passport, which is risky. Technically not legal, but usually acceptable, is to carry a photocopy of the relevant pages. Alternatively, you can apply for a resident's card voluntarily, at the foreigners' police station, the Comisaría de Extranjería. First you must obtain the NIE (número de identificación de extranjeros – foreigners' identity number).

The process is simple – go to the Comisaría de Extranjería or a police station that deals with foreigners' affairs with your passport and a photocopy of the important pages, fill out an application form and you will be sent your number by post. The number is used for all financial dealings and is necessary for opening bank accounts, tax declarations and so on. For the residency card, you will then need three passport photos, along with your passport and a photocopy. Proof of income and medical insurance are no longer necessary.

Non-EU citizens have a tougher time. While in Spain on a tourist visa you are technically not allowed to work, though many do. If you are made a job offer while in Spain you must return to your home country and apply for a visado de residencia (residence visa). Without this you may not enter Spain to work. The process can take some time and applications aren't always successful.

Once the visa has been issued, you can travel to Spain, take up the job and begin the lengthy application process for a resident's card and work permit (permiso de trabajo). On making the application, the following documents must be submitted along with the official application form: photocopy of a valid passport; a police certificate from your home city stating that you have no prison record (officially translated into Spanish by a sworn translator); an official medical certificate (obtained upon arrival in Spain); three identical passport photographs; where applicable, documents proving why you are more capable of performing the job than a Spaniard or EU citizen; where necessary, proof that you have the qualifications or training required for the job. Work permits and resident's cards, once issued, are initially valid for one year, the second for two, the third for three. After five years you will be granted a permanent work permit, which, though valid indefinitely, must be renewed every five years. Good legal advice is recommended throughout the process.

Comisaría de Extranjería
C/General Pardiñas 90, Salamanca (general 91 322 68 40/student 91 322 68 13/14/residency 91 322 68 01). Metro Núñez de Balboa. Open 9am-2pm, 4-7pm Mon-Thur; 9am-2pm Fri.

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While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.

More travel information

Getting to Madrid
Getting around Madrid
When to go to Madrid

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