Madrid buses are, along with the Metro, the best way to move around the city. Apart from being an efficient and cheap means of transport, you can get anywhere you want, including the airport, and the main bus (Estación Sur and Avenida de América) and train stations (Atocha and Chamartín).
City buses are run by EMT Madrid (Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid), a public company. It has a network of 170+ bus lines, plus 27 night ones.
More than 2,000 buses cover this wide network. All are clean, safe, efficient, and have disabled access. Each one has heating, air-conditioning, and offers free Wi-Fi access.
Buses generally operate from 5:30 to 23:30 although each line has its own schedule and it may not match. All the buses are blue and white except the ones operating the airport express line, which are yellow and white.
The bus won’t stop unless you waive or raise your hand.
If you want to get off at a stop, press one of the red buttons scattered around the bus with some time in advance.
As a rule of thumb, bus passengers form a line to enter the vehicle one by one. Please respect it.
Night buses start to operate as soon as the regular ones end their shifts. The large majority do so around midnight when departing from Plaza de Cibeles and around 23:30 when departing from the suburbs.
These buses are called búhos (owls) and there are 25+ routes. Most of them operate from Plaza de Cibeles terminus stop, but there are a couple of routes that start at Alonso Martínez.
The frequency varies depending on the lines and goes from 15 to 30 minutes. The fare is the same as during the day service.
For more information, download a brochure of Madrid night buses network.
In order to get on one of Madrid buses you must pay the corresponding fare.
You can do so paying in cash for the number of single tickets you intend to purchase. Please note that in Madrid, bus drivers have a minimum amount of money for change in the vehicle. Don’t try to pay with bank notes higher than 5€.
However, my recommendation is that you purchase one of these two cards first.
1. The Madrid Multi Card. The Madrid Multi Card is not personal, so anyone can use it. If you are traveling in a group all of you can use the same Multi Card until you have no credit on it.
2. The Madrid Tourist Travel Pass. This is a Tourist Ticket. In other words, it’s a transport pass allowing you to get free unlimited rides using all public transport services (subway, light rail, buses and trains) in Madrid and the rest of the region (comunidad autónoma). The pass is available for 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 days, and it is personal and non transferable.
It will help you save money and avoid the hassle of having change in your pockets.
Always validate your Multi Card or Tourist Travel Pass. You can get a fine of 30€ for being caught without a ticket.
You can have all the information on Madrid buses on your smartphone downloading the free EMT app (iPhone or Android).
The EMT Madrid site is the best source to have a look at the timetables and routes.
Alternatively, you can use one of my traveling tools: Citymapper. It’s the best public transit app (and website!) integrating data for all urban modes of transport.
Finally, you can download a Madrid buses tourist map. It provides all the information of the routes you are probably be using, a summary of all the Búhos stops locations at Plaza de Cibeles, and other practical information about fares and services. You should definitely get it!
Madrid buses are one of the many alternatives you can use to reach or exit Madrid Airport.
You have two complete tutorials on the subject that will guide you step by step:
Once again, Madrid buses are a good public transport option to reach or exit Atocha, Madrid’s main train station.
You can reach the station taking the 10, 14, 24, 26, 32, 37, 54, 57, 59, 85, 86, 102, 121, 203 and C2 buses.