Navigating Public Transportation in Madrid with a New Baby
Living in the city center, “la almendra central” as they call it here in Madrid, can often mean that getting around by public transportation is a must. Even if you don’t live in the city center, you may choose to go downtown from your town, and once in the city, it can be simpler to get around by metro or bus depending on where you’re going.
As a person who had been on a public bus a handful of times in my life before moving here, I was in awe of the ease with which I could get around the city. Everywhere felt within reach and even at night, the night buses (búho) were working. And, it always felt safe.
When my first baby, I began to notice and understand the difficulties of moving around the city with a little one and as I had more children I became a bit of an expert in getting around the city with a brood of children.
Though my family has a car, I exclusively get around using public transportation with my kids when I’m taking them somewhere on my own. I absolutely love that it still feels as safe as ever, but there are definitely some pointers I can give when it comes to the details of getting around.
First things first: what public transportation options are available in Madrid?
In the city center, you’ve got taxis, metro lines, and bus routes. You also have the train lines that take you out of the city called Cercanías. Today we’ll be looking at getting around with a new baby on the metro and buses in Madrid.
And remember, your own two feet can take you many places too!
Before diving into logistics and explanations of each of these – I will take a moment to recommend an app that can help you find the best combination of options to reach your destination: Moovit.
Moovit will show you combinations of metro and bus whereas Google Maps may show just metro or just bus routes.
For a day out and about town with baby, here are some things that may help it be a success:
Wear sensible, comfortable footwear and clothing that allows for movement.
Carry a backpack with all your diaper bag necessities instead of an over-the-shoulder diaper bag
Plan to leave about 20 minutes before you actually need to leave to reach your destination. This allows a bit more time for those last-minute diaper changes and feeds! And if you manage to leave 20 minutes before you need to – you may arrive earlier and have some downtime.
Get comfortable with public breastfeeding (if you breastfeed) – I’ve breastfed all my children on a bus at least once!
Map out your route the day before you plan to go somewhere and know how long it will take you.
Expect the unexpected. Elevators may be out of service. Escalators may require maintenance. Having a backup plan or having a way to ask passersby for some help can set your mind at ease when you run across these challenges.
Even if your baby isn’t a fan of babywearing, carrying a baby carrier can be a lifesaver for these moments when you find yourself having to get up a flight of stairs and get the stroller up too.
Getting around on the metro:
The metro of Madrid is generally clean, well-lit and safe. The metro runs from 6:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the morning. It closes for those four hours for maintenance and cleaning, which during Covid is more important than ever. To enter the metro, you need to have a red card called a tarjeta de transporte público which you can buy at the metro station in one of the machines.
If you're traveling with a stroller, look for the accessible entrance which may look like the photo on the right or a door to the far end of the turnstiles that you'll have to ring to ask them to open.
When taking the metro with a baby, one thing to consider is how you’ll get around on stairs or escalators. We’ll look at elevators in just a moment.
One way to conquer stairs and escalators is to use a baby carrier. You can wear your baby from home or take a stroller and put the baby in the carrier once you arrive at the metro station. If your stroller folds up easily you can carry it down the stairs yourself or you can ask a passerby for help. There is nearly always someone who is willing to help a mom with a small child get up and down the stairs.
If you don’t speak Spanish, a great phrase to know (and the first one I learned when I moved to Germany with a 6-month old!) is “Can you please help me?”. In Spanish this is, “Me puedes ayudar, por favor?”. You don’t have specify that you need help with the stroller – just gesture at it and the person will understand and hopefully help!
When baby-wearing, remember that baby can overheat easily so when going into the metro, baby will ideally be wearing one layer of clothing. This means in the winter that baby can be wearing a long-sleeved onesie and leggings with socks. With a coat, baby will quickly get too warm in the overheated metro. During the summer, choosing cotton clothing, lying a thin muslin between the baby’s face and your chest (or wearing a high-neck cotton shirt) and carrying a good old-fashioned hand fan can be helpful to keep cool.
Some metro stations have elevators and are considered accessible. Here is a full list of those: https://www.metromadrid.es/es/accesibilidad#panel1
Getting around by bus:
Buses are one of the easiest ways to get around town because they are all adapted for strollers and many bus stops indicate how long until the next bus will come. At this time, you can also pay for a bus ticket with a contactless bank card which makes it easy to hop on even if you don’t have a transport card or cash on hand.
Note: There is a bus ticket that allows you to transfer from one bus to another within 60 minutes of using it on the first bus, but this does not allow bus to metro transfers. This ticket is called the TransBUS and you can get it by downloading an app called Madrid Mobility 360. You can purchase the ticket on the app, then validate the ticket on the first bus by holding your phone to the bus pass reader when you get on the first bus. Then use the same ticket for the following bus.
Some older buses only have space for one stroller which can mean having to wait a long time for a bus with a free spot available, especially during high traffic times.
New buses are made with space for two or three strollers (or wheelchairs) making hopping on a bus much more accessible for many new parents. More good news – double strollers (that have both seats facing the same direction) are also allowed on buses! If you have a double stroller, you can get on the bus through the back door and there will often be a place to validate your card by the stroller platform.
The correct position for any stroller on a bus is having the baby facing backward, the same as if they were riding in a car rear-facing.
Some new buses also have carseats for older babies built into the bus at the front.
You can also use a baby carrier on the bus or simply pick your baby up and hold them in your arms during the ride if you prefer to sit.
With some patience and preparation, you’ll not only be able to get anywhere you need on public transportation – you may actually find it an easy and manageable way to get around town!
If you're an expecting mom or dad living in Madrid (or anywhere in Spain) and you're wondering what giving birth in Spain is going to be like, Madison from Madoula can support you on that journey! As a doula, Madison's goal is to help every family feel confident and have peace of mind as the birth of their baby abroad approaches. She mainly works with intercultural couples and English-speaking couples to help them understand the process here in Spain compared to their home culture, to have hands-on support during the birth itself, to feel confident breast or bottle-feeding, and to lend practical and emotional support during the postpartum period.
Madoula Services include:
All services are available online or in-person (in Madrid and surroundings).
Giving birth in Spain, far from your home country, can be an empowering experience that you can approach feeling totally at peace and ready!