United States Service Members and Their Families
Introduction Welcome to your new adventure in Madrid, Spain. As any new PCS there will be things that can take a little getting used to. This assignment is special because it is joint (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force), it also has international elements. This was created to guide you through your first few days, weeks and months. It is meant to answer questions and to direct you to those who will help with finding answers to different issues. This guide is a work in progress and is hoped to be used as a resource during your entire tour here at NATO Madrid. If you have suggestions as to what could be added to the guide please forward those to the United States National Support Element (USNSE) Administration Office.
First 48 Hours Take a deep breath. You’ve arrived and now the real adventure begins. This chapter is to provide you some basic information that you should be aware of immediately. In following Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’re starting with the basics…. Your sponsor has made a reservation for you at a local hotel. Depending on your arrival time you may have already checked in or will do so later in the day. It is advisable, if at all possible, for you to stay awake the whole first day so that you adjust to the time zone more easily.
Checking In NATO is an experience different to that of any other assignment you may have had. You will be working with all branches of US military and that of the international militaries as well. However, your main support element is manned by the Navy, and the Army’s Bravo Company. The USNSE and Bravo Company are the support umbrella for the American service members stationed at Force Command Madrid. Each branch has specific requirements of their members. The NSE will direct you to the proper person for your initial check-in. Within the first 48 hours you must check in with the NSE, your Division, the Housing Office and the Tricare Office. The NSE will provide you with your in-processing procedures, which is specific to your branch. The Post Office will also be included in one of your initial stops upon arrival. Make sure the Postal clerk knows that you have arrived. If you don’t already have a box number then the clerk will assign one to you. You will be assigned a mail key. Once you are issued your key, you will be briefed on the dos and don’ts of the mailroom. The Post Office is Click & Ship only. There are no financial transactions. All packages and letters are mailed using the Click & Ship method, or by provided your own stamps. You can buy stamps at www.usps.com, which is the same website used for Click & Ship. Remember, your FPO box is a privilege that can be revoked if not used properly. NIF
Within three days of your arrival, you will begin the process to obtain NIFs for you and your family. This is a Spanish government-assigned registration number that is necessary to conduct any and all business in Spain. This includes acquiring a mobile phone, home phone, setting up your bank account, getting your utilities in your home, and perhaps registering your children in school. Please ask your sponsor for your NIFs. Keep in mind that there is a difference between an NIE and an NIF. The NIF numbers are assigned to diplomats living in Spain as a guest of the Spanish government with the purposes of working at either an embassy or in another diplomatic capacity. Because of the limited number of residents using NIF’s as their form of identification many companies and banks do not recognize these numbers. Some because their computer systems are not set up to do so, and therefore it may be difficult to conduct business. The more common form of identification for foreigners residing in Spain is an NIE. Again, because you are a US member you will be assigned an NIF. Active Duty Members can obtain an NIE number. All it requires is
filling out a simple form and paying a 9€ fee through a local bank. Applying for your NIE is recommended. Doing so will simplify almost every financial Spanish government-related task for the duration of your tour. The NSE will guide you to the Status of Forces Office (SOFA) for assistance with this process. NATO ID(s)
You, along with your spouse, will be given a NATO ID. Just like your military ID, it is to provide you access to the Force Command Madrid compound. Also, it is your legal identification in Spain. You should use this ID when asked for a form of identification. With proper documentation provided by the USNSE office, you will be able to obtain your NATO ID at the front gate of this NATO installation.
For any and all traveling within Madrid and beyond, you have the best public transportation system in all of Europe at your disposal. It is a tri-faceted web of metro trains, buses and local commuter trains. For a detailed description see Appendix A. Madrid’s public transportation system is easy to use and many locals use this as their main mode of transportation. At some point you will become very familiar with this system. In the beginning you will most likely be using it to get to and from Force Command Madrid, grocery stores and downtown. The Metro Ligero (Light Metro) stops within walking distance of the NATO installation. The stop is called “Retamares” and it is on the ML3 line to Boadilla. The bus lines are 571, 573 and 574. They also stop within walking distance of the installation. Car Rental
If your needs for transportation require that you go beyond what the public transportation provides then perhaps you will want to rent a vehicle. Renting a car internationally is similar to the United States. A number of car rental agencies have establishments either in the city or at the airport. You will be able to locate these online and make your reservation. As in the US, you will need to either provide a means of insurance or purchase one from the rental agency. You are not required to apply for a Spanish driver’s license, but, before you operate a vehicle you will need to obtain a translation card, which is a laminated card provided by NATO. You will use this card in conjunction with your stateside driver’s license as a proof of your permission to drive in Spain. This can be obtained from NATO. The NSE will provide you with the required forms to get your translation drivers license. Before you rent or borrow any vehicle make sure you have familiarized yourself with the rules of driving and the road signs. (Appendix A) Although you may be a good driver in the United States, you will now be driving in a foreign country with foreign driving regulations. Although the driving rules are similar, there are some differences in driving practices. Be patient.
Opening a Bank Account A European bank account is a vital part of your transition into your new life. Without it you cannot get a mobile phone, house phone, set up any utilities, apply for your H24 gas card (see page 13 for information about
this) and much, much more. Your contract for your home will also require you to have an account. Paying the utilities and rent is typically done by granting the ability to directly debit your bank account. Checks are rarely used. You will need either your passport or your NIE/NIF to start your account and some other form of identification, usually your NATO ID. You will also need a valid mailing address. Since you have just arrived and have probably not had time to sign a contract for a house, you can use your military address. Once you are in your home you can go back to the bank and request an address change. As in the States each bank has different policies and fees. Ask before you open an account. Some banks are set up to waive some fees for NATO members. Ask other service members about their bank and do your own research. Keep in mind that “bank branches” are not always linked to each other. You can open your account at a branch close to Force Command Madrid, but the branch that is close to your new home will not recognize you nor your account. Although you may still use any branch with the same bank, you may have limited capabilities unless you use the branch with which you opened your account. This is important because once you decide on a home you may have to drive some distance to do your banking, it’s something to think about when opening an account. Most banks will also have online banking, but again it’s not like in the States. With online banking you can check your balance and your debits. You can also pay some bills and transfer money. Each bank is different so ask about online capabilities. The following is a list of some of the larger banks. Typical hours are 0830 - 1400 and 1600 – 1800. During July and August they will typically close after 1300, so if you arrive during those months remember to go to the bank early. la Caixa, 902 200 202, www.laCaixa.es BBVA, 917 416 904, www.grupobbva.com Grupo Banco Popular, 915 207 900, www.bancopopular.es Santander Central Hispano, 902 242 424, www.gruposantander.com Citibank, 902 180 516, www.citibank.com/spain Barcleys, 901 141 414, www.barclays.es
Community Center Your community center houses the Post Office, MWR Office, Library, Housing Office and Tricare Office. There is also a community room, conference room and laundry facilities. It is your “home away from home” and is sometimes called “Little America.” During your days, weeks and months at your new assignment the
Community Center will be vital to your transition in many ways. After you have settled into your home the Community Center will be the support life-line and the home base for morale-building activities. This environment has been created for you and your family so we invite you to use the facility and participate in all it has to offer. Children under 10 years of age must be supervised by an adult at all times while in the Community Center. Please adhere to this rule, and others that you will see posted throughout the facility. Internet Access
Eight computers with Internet access are available. Please sign in at the desk each time, and if there are others waiting please limit your use to 30 minutes at a time. If you have a laptop with WiFi you can use it throughout the Community Center. The building is WiFi-capable for your convenience. Ask the librarian or the MWR director for the user name and password. Laundry
Washers and dryers are available for your use. The facilities are meant to be used by incoming and outgoing families, these individuals have priority. You will need to provide your own detergent and softeners. It is expected for you to remain within the community center while doing laundry. Library
Our library has books, magazines and movies (DVD and VHS) that can be checked out. There is also a large children’s area within the library. Entertainment
In the community room you will find a sofa, a TV hooked up to AFN, DVD player, Video game players and a CD player. On occasion the room will be reserved for events.
Spanish Hours These hours apply to restaurants, banks and most commercial places of business. Restaurants
As far as restaurants, the fast-food type like McDonald’s and Burger King will open at 1300 and will remain open until 2300. Most sit-down restaurants will not open until 1400, which is the normal lunch time for Spain. Some will open for lunch at 1400 and close again at 1700, only to open again at 2100 for dinner. Other restaurants don’t open all together until 2100. When eating out keep these hours in mind or you will be disappointed when you arrive for an early dinner at a restaurant only to find they are not open yet. Banks
As stated earlier in the banking section, the typical hours are 0830–1400 and 1600–1800 Monday through Saturday. Please check, there are numerous banks, and this is general information regarding hours. During July and August they are closed on Saturday, and will typically close after 1300. NATO
The typical work day at NATO is 0800 – 1700. During July and August the NATO workday ends at 1500.
Grocery stores are open from 1000 â€“ 2200, and are closed every Sunday with the exception of the first Sunday of every month when they are open for business.
First Week Now that you’ve made it past your 48 hours, get ready for a busy week. You will get a lot of practical things done and you will meet lots of people who can be valuable resources to you during your entire tour at NATO Madrid.
Working with the Housing Office Set up an appointment with the Housing Office
One of your first stops will be the USNSE Housing Office. You will need to check in within the first 48 hours of your arrival, please bring a copy of your orders. Your initial check in will be brief, no more than 20 minutes. During this initial check in, official forms will be filled out, and an appointment will be made for your in-brief, which is close to 1 ½ hours long. The in-brief will take place after you finish the initial check in with your command. The Housing office’s main responsibilities are to assist you with finding home listings that fit your housing needs, assist with contract negotiations, mediations, contract terminations and certifying your Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA). The housing office also arranges temporary loaner furnishings and tour length appliance loaner items.
Communications Cell Phones
It is a good idea to establish a cell phone soon after arriving. Obtaining a cell phone will ease communications between you and your sponsor, as well as a very useful tool in your house hunting endeavor. You can purchase a phone and a prepaid card, or you can establish a contract. Whichever plan and company you decide to use do your research. As in the states, there are several plans and you should choose one that suits your needs.
To learn the shipping status of your POV call 956-81-1044, or go to www.Wheresmycar.com. The car will be brought up from Rota. You will need the following: 1. DDForm 788, the Original POV shipping document 2. Valid stateside registration 3. Overseas vehicle insurance (green card) 4. Military ID card
Religious Services Given the vast international community that has migrated over the last several years, there is a wide variety churches and places of worship, some of which hold services in English. The following is a list of a few. Ask around or search the internet for a place of worship that meets your needs. Mountain View International Church (Evangelical Protestant) Calle Sierra Morema #41, Las Rosas 916 303 189 www.mountainview-church.com Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church of Madrid (Roman Catholic) Calle Dracena #23, Madrid 913 503 449 www.ourladyofmercy.info The Community Church of Madrid An International Ecumenical Fellowship Suffolk University Bldg. Madrid Campus Calle de la Vina, #3 918 303 255 Immanuel Baptist Church (Southern Baptist) Hernandez De Tejada #4, Madrid 914 074 347 British Embassy Church of St. George Anglican Episcopalian (Anglican Episcopalian) Calle Nu単ez de Balboa, #43 915 765 109 MADRID 9TH WARD (Only Spanish services) (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) Calle Dairio de la Nacion 5 913 521 251
First Month You’ve made it through your three first weeks. Congratulations! Now here are a few things you should know about the next couple of weeks and beyond.
Education There is no Department of Defense (DoD) school in Madrid. Madrid falls under the category of Non DoD School Program. There are a number of private schools which meet the education standards and criteria established by the DoD and therefore, DoD will pay the tuition required at those schools as long as the children are command-sponsored. DoD does not accredit, certify or designate particular schools for dependents to attend. Parents may choose a school in accordance with the school placement tables available at www.eu.dodea.edu/nondod.htm. For more detailed information about support from DoD see the enclosed booklet The Non DoD Schools Program Guidance for Parents and Sponsors, or ask the School Liaison Officer or the NSE. Schools
The education of your children is referenced in the material sent to you prior to your arrival. If your child is attending the American School of Madrid (ASM), they should already be enrolled. Any information required for your child’s enrollment can be coordinated via the School Liaison Officer (SLO). If you have any questions about ASM and its curriculum you can ask the SLO or call the school directly at 91 740 1900. If you have chosen to educate your children at a school other than ASM contact the SLO for more information about your options. Do your research and ask all the same questions you would ask of any new school. Visit the DoDs Europe website for information. (www.eu.dodea.edu) Preschool
DoDDS does not support education before the age of 5. The child must be 5 years old by 1 September of that year in order for reimbursement of any tuition or fees related to pre-schooling your child. However, starting at age 3 your child is eligible to enroll in the Spanish public schools. To enroll your child, you begin by registering you and your family as residents at your city hall (ayuntamiento) (see page 12). So, once you are established in your home and have a signed lease, if you are interested in enrolling your preschooler, you should begin this process. Ask the SLO, Ombudsman, USNSE or your sponsor for details. The enrollment process begins in March for the following school year. If you are arriving after the March enrollment deadline the local Spanish Education office will accept your application, but because your child is assigned a school on a space-available basis you may be assigned a location that is not close to your home. If this is not convenient for you, don’t worry, you will have the option to change schools the following March, when the enrollment process begins again.
Vehicles Duty Free
All active duty military personnel and DOD civilian employees are entitled to import one privately owned vehicle (POV), not manufactured in Spain, free from all Spanish duties and taxes. If the spouse is also military active duty or DOD civilian coming to Spain on separate PCS orders, he/she is also entitled to import one POV into Spain under the same tax exemption conditions. U.S. Forces personnel who chose not to ship a vehicle can acquire one, duty free, by purchasing one from another U.S. Forces member, purchase a new vehicle directly from NEX New Car Sales in Rota, or purchase a new or used vehicle from official Spanish distributors. In addition to the duty-free imported vehicle, one Spanish-manufactured vehicle free from registration tax and Spanish VAT (Value Added Tax) which amounts to 24% of value of vehicle, may be acquired. Registering
Whether you bought your car on the economy, had it shipped from your last duty station, bought it from another NATO person or bought it through diplomatic or military car sales, you will get tags and a compound vehicle parking pass for your car through Force Command Madrid. The NATO -assigned tags are yellow-orange. In accordance with force protection, it is recommended you get cover plates. These plates look like ordinary white plates but the letters and numbers are not in the police database. Visit the vehicle registration office at Force Command Madrid to get information about registering your vehicle(s) and getting cover plates. Requirements
Warning triangles and spare bulbs are required in all POVâ€™s, you must carry at least one spare bulb of the different types used by the vehicle and the tools required to change them if necessary. Failure to fix a light on the spot, if stopped by Spanish traffic enforcement officials may result in the obligation to take the vehicle for an inspection. POVs must meet the minimum standards of exterior appearance that are considered acceptable in the military and civilian community. The importation of vehicles whose body or motor structure has been modified is prohibited. Only active duty members, DOD civilian employees, and their family members in Spain are allowed to operate duty-free imported vehicles registered under the provisions outlined above. This prohibition applies to all visitors, including families of personnel stationed in Spain.
You are required to maintain the following in your vehicle at all times while driving in Europe: Official Documents
Red Triangles (2 each)
Vehicle Insurance (green card)
Reflective vests (2 each)
Spain Paid Receipt (Insurance)
First aid kit
NATO ID Card
For vehicles registered through Force Command Madrid, an annual inspection is not necessary. However, if you own a vehicle that is not registered through Force Command Madrid and instead is registered through Spanish government you will have to periodically get your car inspected at an ITV station. This process can take several hours and it is a rigorous inspection done by establishments scattered throughout the city. Visit the vehicle registration office at Force Command Madrid for information and locations for getting an inspection.
Moving Into Your Home The Housing office will help you get settled into your home by assisting in arranging appointments, coordinating delivery of loaner and full tour furnishings and helping with interpretations you may need regarding your new home. The Housing Office offers an extensive briefing shortly after your arrival, which was full of information about the process of finding and moving into your new home. The following is some information, which is also in the briefing, but important enough to highlight in this guide. Utilities
Utilities include gas, water, electric and phone. Utility companies are set up to debit your European Bank account directly and send a paper or electronic bill. When you are establishing accounts with the utilities call and ask for an English-speaking customer service representative. If available, ask your new landlord for a few previous bills so that you can determine an average amount for utilities. Internet
Your broadband service is mainly provided via an ADSL line. Cable-type modems are not as popular nor as readily available as they are in the United States. There are a number of companies that provide ADSL service in connection with your telephone long distance service. Research your options and always ask how long it will take to establish the service. Ask others about their service provider, call the companies and visit websites in order to determine which company suits your needs. You must have a home phone line to get an ADSL connection. It is not uncommon to have to wait 6 months or more to get service connected. Some companies will offer dial-up service as a temporary mode of connectivity until your ADSL service is established. Although you may think that changing companies or services can be simple, it can be complicated and frustrating. Because of laws and corporate ownership of telephone lines, changing services requires a period of down-time that can last up to 6 months or more. Research and ask before you commit.
Permanent Loaner Appliances
You are allotted a number of appliances for the duration of your assignment in Madrid. These include one refrigerator, one stand-alone freezer, one washing machine, one dryer, two power converters, one CAC Reader, and two air conditioners. These items are on loan for the duration of your assignment. Temporary Loaner Furniture
To allow you to occupy your new home prior to the arrival of your household goods the Housing Office will assist you in getting loaner furniture, to include, but not limited to a dining room table and chairs, beds, a couch and love seat, bedside tables and lamps. Household Goods Delivery
Once you have a signed a lease and your household goods are in Rota, you can schedule the delivery of your goods. If you have damage or loss during your move, the government will assist you with repairs and reimbursement of lost/damaged items. At this time, reimbursement is on depreciated value; therefore, it is recommended that you check with your homeowners/renters insurance company for additional coverage during the move. Naval Legal Service Office (NLSO) supporting Force Command Madrid Headquarters is located in NAVSTA Rota. You can call them at 956-32-2531/2532 to start your claim.
H24 Gas Card In accordance with the SOFA, you are able to apply for a gas card which is used to provide mandated discounts for fuel. The monthly statements are used when you file for your quarterly VAT reimbursements through the Privileges office. Your discount comes in two different ways. The first is applied to your statement every three months. On the third month your bill will be a combination of the gas you charged during the calendar month and a credit of approximately 20 percent of the three previous months combined. On occasion the discount is greater than the bill for that month, which results in a credit that is applied toward the next monthâ€™s bill. The second discount comes in the quarterly tax reimbursements also allowed under the SOFA. (See following section on Tax Reimbursements)
Applying for Tax Reimbursements The Spanish government allows for reimbursement of taxes paid on gas and household furnishings. The H24 statements will show you how much IVA you have paid. That is the amount you will be reimbursed when you file through the privileges office quarterly. Aside from the gas tax reimbursement, you can also request reimbursement for the taxes you paid on household furnishings, provided that the amount is greater than 209,15â‚Ź, and you have a receipt that breaks out the tax separately. Sales prices you see on store shelves all include the IVA.
Register at your Local Town Hall Although you are not required to do so, there are a number of reasons you will want to register at your local city hall (ayuntamiento) as a resident of your neighborhood. To do so you will need to visit the Ayuntamiento with both the original and a copy of your lease, your passports and copies and your NIF/NIE. Once you are at city hall you will fill out a form with information about all the members in your family. Once you finish this process you are registered. By having done so you can now take advantage of the city services such as any classes offered for both adults and children, and you can register your child for public pre-school. Visit the website for your ayuntamiento to see what they offer and the advantages of registering. Here are some of the more common ones: Boadilla: www.aytoboadilla.com/inicio/ Pozuelo: www.pozuelodealarcon.es/ Aravaca: www.munimadrid.es/portal/site/munimadrid Madrid: www.munimadrid.es
First Year and Beyond By now youâ€™ve settled into your home and you have a routine. Life is good. Here is some additional information.
Medical During your initial 48 hours one of your visits was with the Tricare Coordinator. This is the person who will help you coordinate your medical care during your stay in Madrid. All questions pertaining to dental and medical treatment will go through the Tricare office. Doctor visits
Twice a week a family practice physician takes appointments at the Community Center. Dr. Niko Mihic (Meehich) is a primary care manager (PCM) established through the network. In order to have a consult with Dr. Mihic you do NOT need a guarantee of payment (GOP). He will have you complete a simple form during your visit and he will seek payment from International SOS. Likewise, Dr. Rubio is a Spanish Pediatrician who was trained in the US. She schedules a monthly visit. If your children need physicals and/or vaccinations you can schedule an appointment through the Coordinator. As with Dr. Mihic, Dr. Rubio is a PCM and you do not need a guarantee of payment to see her. All other doctor visits will require a guarantee of payment. Failure to do so can result in expensive medical bills.
If you want to see either doctor at NATO please call your Coordinator Frank McCord, 915 121 377. Dentist
There are a number of dentists you can visit that are on the approved list. The list is updated frequently therefore it is easiest to contact the Coordinator and request a list of local dentists.
Work for Spouses Due to the Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Spain, employment on the Spanish economy is extremely difficult to achieve. However, a bilateral agreement exists, but in order to obtain a work permit, it is required to submit a written job proposal from a company and then, with the help of the U.S. Embassyâ€™s Human Resource Office, obtain a letter from the Ministry of Labor certifying that no other Spaniard or EU citizen can fill in for the job. The permit, after this, will take 3-4 weeks to be granted. Spanish law retains tax and social security by local employers. The NSE periodically has job openings. Spouses are encouraged to apply, however, the job postings are not limited to the local community. When a position becomes available the military will take into consideration a variety of factors and geographic location is sometimes a weighing factor, but not always.
Special Shopping Needs NEX at the Embassy
Our Embassy in Madrid is equipped with a NEX store. No fresh produce is sold, but you can find some products that are not available on the local economy. This is good to know in case you are craving a certain something you just canâ€™t find locally. Bring your military ID, NATO ID or passport to get into the Embassy and NEX. If driving, you will have to show your NATO ID and your car will go through an inspection. Parking is limited and you may not always be allowed to enter. In this case you can park at a nearby garage and walk. The NEX is open Saturdays from 1000-1400, and during the week they are open from 1000- 16:00. Some Thursdays, the NEX is closed for stocking.
Community Involvement During the year there are plenty of activities going on within the American community as well as the international community. Often volunteers are needed for the planning and execution of these events. Please get involved. Check with the MWR director for more information about volunteering and participating in your community.
What Rota Naval Base Offers
Military lawyers to assist you with powers of attorneys and wills Chaplains Commissary and PX Pharmacy / Medical / Dental Barber and beauty salon Library, bowling alley, golf course, and a fully staffed MWR office Movie Theater Accommodations Military flights/space available flights
Spanish Military ID
On your first trip to Rota, the service member will need to have orders to get on base. Once on base the service members and dependents will acquire Spanish Military ID cards for Rota. The Spanish ID will allow you to get on base in the future without orders, and get gas at the on-base gas station. Vehicle Pass for Rota
The first time you go to Rota it is recommended that you get a pass for your POV. It will allow you on the base and to utilize the on-base gas station. The pass will have an expiration date that coincides with your car insurance expiration. This is especially handy when getting on base in the future. You can renew it easily.
Appendix (TRANSPORTATION) Metro
Madrid’s metro system is an efficient, inexpensive and a comfortable way to get around town. Metro trains are typically clean and safe. The biggest problem in taking the Metro is getting on the line in the correct direction. Once you get on the platform and you’re waiting for your Metro train to arrive there are a few indicators as to which direction you’re going. The direction of the train is indicated by the END STATION on that line. Single-trip “Metro” tickets cost 1€. You can purchase the 10-trip “Metro” ticket for 9€. The most logical purchase would be a “Combed 10 Journey Metro” ticket, which allows you to travel on all lines, buses and Metro Ligero for 14,50€. All metro tickets can be purchased at any metro station. Look for the vending machines just inside the station and before entering the turnstiles, or you may buy them at the ticket window. Once you enter the Metro area with your ticket you can get on and off any Metro line as many times as you need in order to get to your destination. Once you leave the Metro area labyrinth, in order to re-enter you will need to use your pass again. Keep your ticket available because in some areas you will need your ticket to exit the Metro station again, or show to metro police during spot checks on the trains. Entering/Exiting the individual Metro cars while waiting for the metro train to stop can be confusing for the first-time metro traveler. Some metro car doors open/close automatically at each stop without touching them but others require pressing a button or “twisting” a kind of toggles-switch handle to activate the door. WARNING ABOUT SAFETY: Metro stations, platforms, and metro cars are “target-rich environments” for would-be Pick-Pockets and (less often) purse-snatchers. NEVER carry a wallet in an un-buttoned back pocket or loose front pockets. Never carry money, important documents (like passports), or other valuables in an external pocket of a backpack or purse. Be AWARE of those standing next to you and behind you at all times. Be AWARE of those attempting to draw your attention away from your bags or distract you with “diversions”. Most thieves are absolute professionals at what they do – THEY ARE GOOD - and everyone in Madrid knows someone who has had their pocketbook or wallet “lifted” from their person. BUS
Madrid’s web of bus routes cover the city more completely than metro, but can be more confusing and slower too. However, when in a neighborhood where a metro station is further than the bus stop, you may consider the bus as a better alternative. Buses are popular forms of transportation with all ages and income levels because, at times, they are more convenient than Metros. They are very safe and clean in general. Bus route maps are located at MOST bus stops, often showing not only the bus route at that location but of the entire area. Bus stops will have a sign showing ALL the bus numbers which pass through that bus stop. Be sure you get on the proper
bus and you’ll get to where you’re going more easily. The first few times it might be a good idea to have a city street map with you and don’t be embarrassed to use it while on the bus. Take note of the cross streets as your bus continues on its route. Better to look like a tourist than getting lost or miss your stop! Upon getting on the bus and reaching the driver, if you’re paying by cash tell the driver, “Un sencillo, por favor” (“One ticket, please”), and you put your money on the very small counter between you and the driver or give it directly to them. Then, they will give you your ticket AND a receipt and likely put your change on the same counter for you to pick up. Be sure to deep your receipt as proof of payment while you are on the bus. If you’re paying with a ticket, you’ll put your ticket, with ARROW POINTING DOWN, into the orange/red ticket-reading box (usually just LEFT of the driver) where it will read the ticket and return to you in a couple of seconds. Take your seat (if/when available) and press the STOP buttons BEFORE your intended bus stop. Most people press the STOP button upon leaving the most previous bus stop. TAXIS
Taxis in Madrid are ALWAYS colored white with a red, diagonal banner across the front doors and also has the city’s “crest” on the body of the car. Remember, taxis are the MOST expensive form of public transportation. And given the ease of the metro system you shouldn’t need to use a taxi. Within the city, taxis do not charge the fees and supplemental add-ons that routes to/from the airport do. Lastly, be sure the driver turns on the taxi meter soon after (s)he starts driving. It’s extremely likely the driver will not speak more than a few words of English. If you want to be taken to a specific address you may consider writing down the address (have it prepared ahead of time) on a piece of paper which you can hand to the driver. Many taxis in Madrid are equipped with GPS systems. If you hail a taxi and they do not have a GPS try giving them a landmark close to where you are going, if you know. Otherwise, they can consult their Taxi Map or call dispatch via radio for directions. If they are still at a loss you may have to hail another taxi that is equipped with a GPS.
Common Road Signs
No Motor Vehicles
End of No Passing
End of Motorway
Tips for driving your car in Spain:
Seatbelts are required. Car seats are required. Children under the age of 12 cannot travel in the front passenger seat. Maximum speed limit in Spain is 120 Km/h (75mph) Speed limits are enforced, as are radar controls, so keep an eye on the speedometer and stick to the limits. Radar detectors are illegal. Drinking and driving incurs heavy fines or even prison sentences.
Speed Limits on Spanish roads:
Motorway 120 km/h Open road 80-100 km/h In town and villages 50 km/h Fuel types available in Spain:
Sin Plomo (Unleaded) Gasóleo (Diesel)
Some gas stations are often open 24 hours a day and many are self-service. Most major credit cards are accepted for fuel payment. You can get a gas card, which will provide periodic reimbursements required by the SOFA. For information on this refer to page 12. Always check carefully before filling your car or a rental vehicle to see whether you are using unleaded or diesel. If you make a mistake and fill with the wrong type fuel DO NOT start the vehicle. Simply tell one of the service station staff who will arrange for the tank to be drained and refilled with the correct fuel.
Published on Jan 12, 2012