Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to get a metro/bus pass (an abono)


Abono joven, abono normal
When I came to Madrid with my study abroad program, we were all simply handed abonos, our metro and bus pass, when we arrived.  The part you buy every month is the coupón mensual (the small ticket at the bottom), which says the month, year, and zone it's valid for.

Currently, the abono joven (youth pass) is 30,50 euros/month, and the abono normal is 47,60 euros/month*.  Two years ago when I was there, you could have the abono joven if you were under 21 years old -- so I got to have the cheaper one all year even though I turned 21 in April.

Since then, they have changed the regulations, and you can now have the abono joven if you are under 23 years old -- score for me!

The coupón mensual is easy enough to purchase each month. When you remove the ticket from your abono, there's a bar code underneath.  In every entrance of every metro stop, there are machines where you scan that bar code, then can pay with either cash or credit card, and the machine dispenses your coupón mensual for the next month.

But how do you get the whole abono to begin with?


You go to an estanco, a tobacco shop:


There are estancos every couple of blocks, just like pharmacies and grocery stores.

Mention that you need an abono, and they'll hand you a short form to be filled out. You will need to attach a copy of your passport and a passport photo to the form, and pay a mere 1,20 euros.  Be prepared to give an address and phone number on the form. You will select the type of abono, and the region (if you're using it within the central part of Madrid, select "Zona A".  You then mark if you want to pick it up by correos, in the mail, or estanco, by returning to the tabacos stand.

I asked which was faster, and the girl in front of me said estanco, because sending it in the mail holds up the process.  The man looked over my application, stamped some numbers onto it, then handed me a small piece of paper with my application number and said to come back in 15 days.

I'm going to try back in a week and see if it's not there earlier, because in the meantime, I'm paying 9,30 euro for 10 trip tickets (which will usually add up to going to 5 places -- I use one trip on the way there, then when I re-enter the metro on the way home, that uses another trip).  So when I'm going to see apartments (I saw three today), the trips get used up quickly.  I think I'll probably need to buy another 10 trip ticket on Thursday.

New Public Transportation Cards, 2012

Tarjeta transporte público
UPDATE Summer 2012: Madrid's metro system is slowly rolling out metro cards (the size/shape of an ID card or credit card) to replace the abonos and small monthly tickets.

Through July 31, 2012 they were switching over youth (under 23) to the new card for free.  After that point, changing to the public transportation card will cost 4 euros.

These public transportation cards will last 7 years from the date they are issued.

Pay attention to metro announcements and flyers, as the roll-out will probably continue through 2013.

*Current as of the date of publishing, 9/27/11.  Rates have since increased, and as of July 2013 are the following:

Abono transporte mensual (precio en euros)


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  3. Thanks for your post! I'm moving to Madrid in September and I'm planning to apply for the abono joven. How long did you end up waiting for it? I'll also be apartment hunting (auxiliares de conversacion represent!) so I'm wondering whether it will be cheaper/smarter for me to apply for my abono joven, then cough up the extra 20 euros for the regular abono and use that for the first month I'm in Madrid. Basically, I don't want to spend more money on 10-trip passes than I would have on the regular abono while I'm wait for my abono joven. (Is that totally confusing? Let me know if so, and I can try to explain better.)

    Anyway, I'd love any advice you have! Thanks!

    1. Hi Olivia! My post must not have been clear; you can't get an "abono normal" if you're under 23 though -- so you won't have to decide between the two. You can only apply for one abono, depending on your age: joven, normal, or tercera edad. After you make that distinction, you can choose the area you want it to be valid (A, B1, B2, etc.). So, had I been older than 23 when I applied for an abono in 2011, I would have applied for an "abono normal" and waited the same amount of time.

      I don't remember exactly how long it took, but my abono was there within 15 days -- earlier, I think. I went back after about a week, which I recommend. The first time it wasn't done yet, but the second time it was there.

      So definitely apply for the abono joven as soon as you get there. Use 10-trip passes in the meantime, but also don't forget to take into consideration the time of the month that you arrive. (i.e. if you get your abono and there's only a week left in the month, wait until the next month to start using it because it will be cheaper to use the 10-pass tickets for a week). Don't worry if you don't finish a 10-pass ticket, because at some point in the year it will come in handy (maybe you'll have a visitor or be out of town so much in December or a summer month that it won't make sense to buy the month's pass).

      I hope you have a wonderful time in Madrid! Feel free to email with any more questions!

  4. Hi! Thanks for your quick response. :) That makes a lot of sense. I've known about abonos joven/normal for awhile now, but I didn't think they checked your age for the normal. (I studied abroad in Alicante and you could get a regular bus pass without showing any identification, but you had to submit a photo ID/photo for your joven pass. I'm not surprised things are different in Madrid!) Your tip about the time of the month is really smart, too. I'll keep that in mind when I head over there. I'm a new auxiliar, so I definitely might be back with more preguntas.

    Thanks again!

  5. Sorry, I'll *probably be back. ("Definitely might" doesn't make a lot of sense! Hah.)

  6. Thank you so much for this post! I moved to Madrid about a month ago, and it's been a little overwhelming. I wasn't sure how to get a metro card, and your post was really helpful. I'm excited to stop rationing my metro passes, and I can't wait to explore your blog :)

    1. You're very welcome! Glad it's helpful!

      Feel free to email if you have any questions—I hope you'll enjoy Madrid as much as I did!