Madrid Airport Transfers: Learn How to Navigate Barajas Like a Pro

Having just flown into Madrid Airport’s Terminal 4 from Bangkok via Doha I realised that I wasn’t as knowledgeable about the terminals and transportation options as I used to be. So I’ve completely revised this page and provided all the information you’ll need to make your way through Madrid-Barajas Airport.

Adolfo Suárez, Madrid-Barajas Airport is Spain’s 1st and Europe’s 4th busiest airport with over 50 million annual passengers. It lies about 15km to the north-east of the Spanish capital. The airport is well served by national carriers including Iberia (40% of total traffic) and budget operators such as Air Europa and Ryanair. As well as international services, there are also many domestic flights which connect with regional Spanish airports all over the country.

When I first visited Madrid Airport in the early 1990s it was a fraction of its current size. In fact I used to park across the road from the terminal building when collecting visitors. Over the years the airport has undergone significant expansion and modernization with the opening of Terminal 4 in 2006 being the biggest change. This terminal is one of the largest airport terminals in the world which can handle 70 million passengers per year.

Madrid Airport
The Space-Age Terminal 4 at Madrid Airport

This capacity was increased further with the construction of the Terminal 4S satellite terminal which is connected to Terminal 4 by means of a driverless people mover. This transit system can transport 13,000 people per hour on the 2km journey between the two terminals in a few minutes.

Madrid Airport Terminals

There are five terminals at Madrid Airport which serve different airlines. Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are located within the same building and passengers can easily walk between them. Terminal 4 and its T4S satellite terminal lie about 2km away and are reached by means of the free, automated train which connects them.

Terminal 1: is the oldest terminal which is mainly used for (non-Schengen) international flights by airlines which are not members of the Oneworld Alliance. These include SkyTeam and Star Alliance members together with some budget operators including Ryanair and easyJet.

Terminal 2: deals mainly with domestic flights and flights within the Schengen area of airlines which aren’t members of the Oneworld Alliance.

Terminal 3: used to deal with passengers on the Puente Aéreo between Madrid and Barcelona but this service now operates out of Terminal 4. Today T-3 serves as an extension of T-2 and isn’t an independent terminal. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that your flight will arrive or depart from here.

Terminal 4: is the largest and most modern terminal which is used by Oneworld airlines including Iberia and British Airways. It caters for most flights within the Schengen area as well as domestic services within Spain including the Puente Aéreo which connects Madrid with Barcelona in just 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Satellite Terminal T4S: welcomes most non-Schengen international airlines who are members of the Oneworld Alliance.

What Are Schengen Countries?

The terminal used by flights to and from Madrid Airport is partly determined by whether they are flying to and from Schengen countries, non-Schengen counties and other countries.

Schengen countries: These are the 26 countries that have signed what’s known as the Schengen Agreement through which they abolished border controls and made it easier for citizens of member countries to move between the various nations.
Non-Schengen countries: These are flights to and from countries that are members of the European Union who have not signed the Schengen Agreement and so do not enjoy the same freedom of movement.
Other Countries: These are flights that are to and from countries that are not members of the European Union and are not part of the Schengen Agreement.

Which Terminal Does My Flight Depart From At Madrid Airport?

The top 10 airlines ranked according to passenger numbers operate from the following terminals:

  • Iberia – Terminal 4
  • Air Europa – Terminals 1 and 2
  • Ryanair – Terminal 1
  • Iberia Express – Terminal 4
  • Air Nostrum (Iberia Regional) – Terminal 4
  • easyJet – Terminal 1
  • Vueling – Terminal 4
  • Norwegian Air – Terminal 1
  • Lufthansa – Terminal 2
  • American Airlines – Terminal 4

If your airline doesn’t appear in the above list you can check the official AENA Madrid Airport website which lists the terminal used by all 72 airlines which operate flights to and from Madrid Airport.

Transfers Between Madrid Airport Terminals

There’s a free shuttle bus at Madrid Airport which stops at all five terminals so no matter which terminal you need for your flight you will be able to get there. The shuttle bus operates 24 hours a day with frequency varying between every 15 to 40 minutes depending on the time of day or night.

The Terminal 4 Satellite (T4S) is reached by taking the automated people mover (APM) from Terminal 4 (T4). This service operates 24 hours a day.

Madrid Airport Transport Options

Passengers arriving at Madrid Airport can travel into the city by means of the highly efficient metro system, on a suburban train from T-4 or on the Airport Express bus which runs around the clock. In addition, there are plenty metered taxis available and private transfer services can be arranged before travelling.

Madrid Airport Metro

The metro is a quick and cheap way to travel from the airport to the city centre which takes around 30 minutes and operates from 6:05 am to 1:30 am every day. Line 8 of the Metro links the airport with the centre of Madrid at Nuevos Ministerios. There are Metro stops in both Terminal 2 and Terminal 4. On arrival at Nuevos Ministerios passengers can change to Line 6 or Line 10 to reach destinations all over the city.

Once in the city, the extensive metro network can be safely used for travel beyond the central area. To get the right direction look for the name of the last stop on the line you are using, for example, to go north on line 10 look for dark blue signs for Hospital Infanta Sofía. To go south on line 10 look for dark blue signs for Puerta del Sur. The 10 journey ticket is good value and is also valid on all city bus routes.

Madrid Airport Express Bus

There are several bus services which connect Madrid Airport to the city centre. The most popular is the Exprés Aeropuerto (Airport Express), which operates 24 hours a day and takes around 40 minutes to reach the Cibeles bus stop before continuing on to the Atocha Transport Interchange. The fare for the Autobús Express Aeropuerto is €5 and tickets can be purchased from ticket machines at the airport or from the bus driver. Other bus services include the 101 which connects the airport to Canillejas station and the 200 which connects the airport to Avenida de América station.

Madrid Airport Trains

Madrid Airport has its own train station which is located in Terminal 4. The C-1 and C-10 Cercanías lines connect the airport to stations close to the city centre in 25-30 minutes. The most useful stops for most visitors to the capital are Madrid Chamartín, Nuevos Ministerios, Recoletos and Madrid Atocha Cercanías. You can check the train map on the RENFE website. The fare from Madrid Airport to these stations is €2.60 and there are departures approximately every 30 minutes from 6:00am to 11:30pm every day.

Madrid Airport Taxis

When you arrive at Madrid Airport you’ll see signs directing you to taxis from each of the terminals. Follow them to the taxi rank where you’ll see white taxis with a red stripe and the official Madrid taxi logo. The taxi fare from Madrid Airport to the city centre is a fixed rate of 30 euros. This fare applies to all destinations within the M-30 ring road which includes popular tourist areas such as Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol, and Plaza Mayor. The journey time by taxi is around 20-30 minutes depending on traffic.

On my recent arrival from Thailand I wasn’t going to the city centre but to a hotel near the trade centre at IFEMA Madrid so the fare was determined by the taxi meter which started at the minimum fare of €20. The final price was approximately €23. If you have a hotel booked in this area it’s well worth arranging for their shuttle buses to collect you rather than paying this taxi fare. There are a good number of good hotels close to Madrid’s Barajas airport which offer free shuttle buses to the airport terminals. Below are a few recommended options:

  • Hotel Maydrit (my favourite)
  • Holiday Inn Express Madrid Airport
  • Hotel Axor Barajas
  • Hotel Clement Barajas
  • Hotel ibis Madrid Aeropuerto Barajas
  • Hotel Madrid Alameda Aeropuerto
  • Hotel Meliá Barajas
  • Hotel NH Madrid Barajas Airport
  • Hotel Nuevo Boston
  • Hotel Sercotel Madrid Aeropuerto

Additional fees: There are a few additional fees that may apply to your taxi ride. For example, if you take a taxi at night (after 10pm), on a public holiday, or on a weekend, there may be an additional fee of 5 euros. If you have a lot of luggage there may also be an additional fee of 3 euros per bag. If in doubt, you can ask the taxi driver for a receipt at the end of the ride which indicates the fare charged, any additional fees and the taxi driver’s identification number.

Private Madrid Airport Transfers

A hassle-free way of getting from Madrid airport to your city centre hotel is by pre-booking a private transfer from Madrid Airport. When booking you are given clear instructions as to where you must go to meet your vehicle and driver. Transfers are available to all city centre hotels as well as to popular tourist destinations near the capital such as Toledo, Segovia or El Escorial.

Madrid Airport Car Hire

Whilst Madrid Airport is served by most of the best known car rental companies you really should ask yourself whether you need a car during your visit. Madrid is a large city with an aggressive driving culture and parking in the city can prove impossible or very expensive, Thanks to the city’s extensive public transportation network most visitors won’t need a car when staying in the city. However, if you plan to explore further afield you can rent a car at the airport from the likes of Hertz, Europcar, Avis and Sixt as well as with local companies.