When looking to tour Madrid, travelers will arrive at Madrid-Barajas Airport. The airport itself is about 10 miles from the city center, but it's easy to get a low-price rental car right from the airport.
Renting a Car at Madrid-Barajas Airport
Travelers can pick up a Sixt, Europcar, Avis, Budget, Goldcar, Enterprise, or Hertz rental car from the Madrid-Barajas airport. They will find these businesses at the T1 terminal arrival hall and baggage claim area (floor 0) and at terminal T4 (floor 1). Some of these companies offer a discount or special for booking early, and visitors can rent most types of cars from these companies.
Driving In and Around Madrid-Barajas Airport
Three highways, or "ring roads," encircle the city, the M-30, M-40, and M-50. Several smaller ring roads connect to these major roads, making for a fairly complex traffic system. First-time visitors to the area should plan ahead. The M-30 is the closest to downtown Madrid, so traffic will be particularly dense there. Visitors should have their passports with them, and they must remember that vehicles go on the right side of the road in Spain.
The M-40 and M-50 are known for heavy traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours, though traffic can be bad on any of these roads during moderate to heavy storms. The weather in Madrid is often sunny and clear, but tourists should remember to double-check the forecast when creating an itinerary.
Visitors leaving directly from the airport should probably connect to the M-13 or M-14 and head east on the R-2 or A-2 (heading away from the city) or take the M-11 for the quickest route to downtown Madrid. The R-2, R-3, R-4, and R-5 are toll roads. Drivers should have cash to cover these costs if they're heading this way (or if they want to beat the traffic on these less traveled roads). Finally, streets like La Calle de Gran Vía and Paseo del Prado have heavy foot traffic, so travelers should plan for extra delays if they're driving inside the M-30.
Stopping to See the Sights in Madrid
Visitors should consider a trip to downtown Madrid. They can head to Calle Cava Baja street and find parking in a metered spot or the nearby Parking Plaza Mayor or Parking La Latina garages. There are many excellent, authentic Spanish restaurants and bars in this area, as well as historic monuments. The peak times for this street are on the weekends from noon to 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight.
In downtown Madrid, it's also worth visiting some free attractions, such as Mercado San Miguel, a cast iron market near Plaza Mayor, for shopping and Plaza de Cibeles for some local culture. The Gateway of the Sun, or Puerta del Sol, a busy square in the center of Madrid, and the magnificent Royal Palace of Madrid, or Palacio Real, are also must-sees.
Returning Rental Cars to the Madrid-Barajas Airport
Travelers have the option of returning their rental car with the same amount of gas that was in it when they picked it up. If they're doing that, they can go to one of the three gas stations off the M-13 that are about a four-minute drive from the airport. They should then head to terminal T1 or T4, depending on which one they're departing from, to return the car.
No matter what they want to see, visitors to Madrid can get easy access to discount car rentals at Madrid-Barajas Airport.