Madrid is a beautiful, walkable city. Walking is the best way to familiarize yourself with the city, and to relieve a bit of stress through exercise. Many of the places you will be living are within a 20-40 minute walk from downtown Madrid. Europeans walk much more frequently than Americans. You will notice that a Spaniard’s idea of “walking distance” will differ significantly from the average American’s definition! A map is key for Madrid, and will be priceless for creating your own walking tours. Buy a good map and don’t rely solely on GPS on a smartphone. Ask locals for directions instead of looking up things on-line in your smartphone. Interact with locals and you will find your semester in Madrid far more meaningful!
You will also want to carry around a metro map so you can easily figure out the best way to get to where you want to go. If you can’t walk somewhere, then you will use Madrid’s efficient metro and bus system. You will find Madrid's system excellent. Subways, buses, and local commuter trains (called cercanias) provide frequent and efficient service to all parts of the city and surrounding areas. The metro system in Madrid is far larger than the DC metro system, with many more lines and TONS of transfer stations. Stops are much closer together than DC metros. There are a LOT of steps and escalators in the system. When transferring lines, you may walk a lot longer underground that you normally do in the DC metro system.
The metro does close at night, around 1:30 am, and doesn’t open again until around 6 am; however, there are different options for getting around the city after the metro closes. Night buses run from around 2-6 am, all week long, and conveniently follow the many of the same lines as the metro. There are also special night buses called Buhos that connect different parts of the city on weekends, during the hours that the metro is not open. We recommend you purchase a monthly-unlimited use travel pass after you arrive, as it will invariably save you money in the end. Information on the travel pass will be furnished to you at your in-country orientation.