Survival Guide: Killing Time in Madrid-Barajas Airport
Long-layovers. So necessary but so despised.
I’ve had so many delays on outbound flights that I now aim for a layover of 2 to 3 hours between flights. It may be a little excessive, but I am usually assured to make the next leg of the flight instead of waiting several more hours -or overnight- for an alternative flight which is a lot less fun.
Sure, I end up sitting around for a while. With part of the Madrid Barajas Airport being newly added in 2006, waiting around is not so bad.
What do you do with 3 hours to kill at Madrid Barajas Airport?
Let’s look at ways to plan your time in this Madrid Airport Survival Guide.
Flying from the US to Malaga, I had to do a transfer in Madrid and figure out what to do with myself during long layovers both going to Spain and leaving.
If you happen to be taking one of these airlines into Madrid, you’ll be arriving in the modern new Terminal T4S and then making your way to terminal T4. These terminals went live in 2006, are spacious and have plenty of amenities. These airlines use terminal T4S:
- Aerlingus, Aeroflot, Air Algerie, Air Cairo, Air Nostrum (Iberia), Air Senegal, American Airlines, Avianca, British Airways, CSA Czech Airlines, Egypt Air, El Al – Israel Airlines, Finnair, Iberia, Iberworld, Japan Airlines, Lan Chile, Lan Ecuador, Luxair, Olympic Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, SN Brussels Airlines, Sterling, Syrian Arab Airlines, Tarom, Transportes Aéreos de Cabo Verde, Turkish Airlines (Turquía), Ukraine International, Virgin Express and Vueling.
The first 45 minutes when arriving to Madrid airport from the United States typically goes as follows:
- 10 minutes to get off the airplane. If you are at the very back of a large plane, tack on 5 to 10 minutes.
- 5 minutes walking to passport control. The US flights arrive and depart from Gate U, usually, which is at the far end of the terminal T4S.
- 5 to 20 minutes through passport control. I did it in 5 minutes. I was lucky and only had 3 people in line in front of me.
- 20 minutes to walk and take train from terminal T4S passport control to terminal T4, which is where the flights within Spain depart/arrive.
- 10 minutes to figure out which gate to go to. Your ticket won’t have the exact location. You’ll have to look at one of the many digital signs listing the departures. If your flight is more than 2 hours away, you may have to wait a while for your exact gate to be determine.
At this point, the wandering around Madrid Barajas Airport begins.
Things to do in Madrid Airport while waiting for next flight:
- walk around, get your bearing and looks at the modern architecture
- get a coffee or beer or two
- grab a meal – there are several self-service restaurants
- do some shopping at the many shops:
- Clothing shops including Puma sports
- Duty free shops
- Magazine/Book shops
- buy some water for your next flight – staying hydrated keeps your body feeling good and helps with jetlag
- visit the bathroom
- check your email and surf the web at one of the Internet kiosks. These are reasonably priced.
- Exchange money at the money exchange booth
- Be aware of the going rate. At the money exchange booth, I noticed that some fees are added to the rate.
- There are several ATMs but I could not find any ATM machine anywhere inside the terminal. It was probably right in front of me and I didn’t see it – that’s what an overnight flight and a lack of sleep will do. If you need an ATM machine, ask at the information booth. For me, I was headed to Malaga airport which has ATM machines at the exit by the taxi stand.
- watch the planes take off and land
- grab a seat and just watch the many people walking by from many other parts of the world
If you do miss you flight and the next one is not for 10 hours away or more, you may want to explore Madrid. There is a left luggage storage facility where bags can be stored for €3.70 a day. If you have he time, go and see the Prado museum or some of the other Madrid sights.
For more information about Madrid Barajas Airport and the amenities of the older terminals 1-3, visit the official website here.