How to Save Money in Madrid

April 30th, 2012 | Posted by guiri in Guiri Guest - (0 Comments)

For most people being a savvy shopper on their home ground and in their native tongue is second nature. However, moving to another country where you no longer speak the lingo means you often rely on the major department stores for shopping and the advice of well meaning friends regarding which companies to use for phones and utilities contracts.

So, until you learn the Spanish language, here are a few tips on how to save in Madrid:


  •  Most hotel lobbies will have a selection of MiniCards – these are aimed at tourists but some have great discounts for restaurants, leisure activities and more. So just pop into any hotel when you’re around town and pick some up.
  • Before you visit a museum, check out the conditions for free entrance. For example, at the Prado Museum it’s free if you’re a student under 25 years old, unemployed (need proof) or you’re under 31 and have a Youth Card. And if you don’t fall under any of these categories, Monday to Saturday from 18:00 to 20:00 and Sundays & holidays from 17:00 to 19:00 h it’s free for everyone.
  • Sign up to sites such as, put in your email and you’ll be informed of offers in the Madrid area. No prepayments, only discount coupons mainly for restaurants and beauty treatments.
  • And if you really want to buy something in El Corte Inglés, don’t forget to take your passport and request your 10% tourist discount – it’s available on items in plenty of departments.



There are many ways to learn Spanish once you get to Spain.

The biggest reason I have heard for not moving to Spain has been “I don’t speak Spanish!” At first, I thought that was an acceptable reason to avoid the country, given how difficult language barriers can make communication in the most ordinary of interactions. However, I have come around to the point of view that, if you are a person with a chance to move to Madrid, it doesn’t matter all that much whether you know Spanish initially and here’s why!

  1. You’ll start learning as soon as you get here: if you have to start work before taking any Spanish classes, you will still start to pick things up instantly. That said, Madrid is home to a lot of high quality Spanish academies, so the opportunity to learn is right here waiting for you! Our favorite is AIL Madrid, since you’ll also start to build an immediate sense of community and a friend group as a newcomer to the city. I spent years in the United States learning “donde está la biblioteca?” type phrases, but the Spanish you learn here will be more applicable and instantly fire-tested because you will be really trying to buy groceries or tell the taxi driver where you are going, not just practicing with a classroom partner.
  2. You are probably prized for your English speaking skills: whether you are here as an English teacher or as a business person in another field, knowing English will be a helpful if not essential element of your job, and there’s a good chance that (as long as you let them know ahead of time) Spanish won’t be. Every day there are more people who speak English in this country, and even those who don’t speak it really well often can understand you. If you’d like to take advantage of this, try getting your TEFL certification with TTMadrid and they will link you in to the network of English teachers here in Madrid.
  3. Living in a country where you don’t know the language does something special to you: Everyday life is more of an adventure when you are constantly trying to understand and express yourself in a non-native language. You will learn unforgettable lessons, laugh at yourself, and be frustrated, but you will not cruise through your days without any memorable experiences. I know this is true because, even though I came to Spain with a reasonable level of Spanish for someone who had never been immersed in the language, I myself have experienced it. I feel more alive here because every conversation has to be a little more intentional and, in the middle of a conversation, I get to ask what a word means and learn something totally new.

Don’t let the reason why you don’t come to Spain be lack of knowledge of Spanish; while it won’t be an easy life at first, the benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks!

You didn’t think you’d be safe from zombies in Madrid, did you?

If you haven’t heard the rumors, I’m here to tell you right now that they are true: zombies are coming much sooner than you might think. In fact, for the past few years they have freely roamed the streets of Madrid once a year in a great demonstration of zombie strength and solidarity. What’s even worse is that they aren’t even secretive about it:

2012 Marcha Zombi poster

So what can you do?

  • 1. Grab  your camera. Nobody will ever believe you were in the presence of so many zombies at once and survived unscathed. Charge those batteries as full as you can, because you never know how long they’ll keep you on the run…
  • 2. Wear comfortable shoes. I must repeat: you never know how long they’ll keep you on the run…
  • 3. Bring your friends. The 2009 film (or preparatory pseudo-documentary) Zombieland presents us with a set of rules to abide by in order to survive in a zombie-filled world. Rule #29 is simply, “the buddy system.” You don’t want to be caught out there alone.
  • 4. Fool the zombies; disguise yourself. There is little evidence to support that zombies are intelligent beings. They tend to only be out for blood, so if you’re a good actor and makeup artist, get yourself in your best zombie gear and put on your most vacant expression so you can covertly join them at this year’s meet-up.

If all else fails, and you honestly do not think you can survive an onslaught of zombies, I present you with my last suggestion…

  • 5. Enjoy the show. The 2012 “Marcha Zombi” will take place this Sunday, April 15, in Felipe II (Metro: Goya) at 7pm, with zombies gathering at the “Zombie tree,” or the tree statue in the middle of the plaza. I suggest you do as I did last year (and lived to tell the tale!): find a table at a nearby terraza, order a round of your favorite beverages and snacks, and watch the fun unfold.

Our food at Ojalá

If you want amazing Spanish food, you need look no further than your neighborhood bar or restaurant: while there’s a chance of a dud here or there, you can usually count on a sparsely furnished bar with plenty of tortilla, croquetas, fish, sausage, and beer to wash it all down. You’ll probably even be treated to the ambiance of pig haunches hung up on the walls and maybe a mural depicting a famous piece of art or scene in Spanish history. However, if you are looking for something entirely different in Madrid, you might want to try Ojalá Awareness Club in Malasaña.


You’ll notice the difference immediately when you arrive; the upstairs is entirely lit with neon green lights and full of vintage, funky decor. In a neighborhood already somewhat set apart for bars and cafes, this one still stands out. People will often be getting drinks or something light to eat upstairs, but if you have the option, definitely opt to take your meal downstairs.


After you are led down the windy staircase, you will arrive in a cave-like basement full of… sand. It is the closest thing to a beach that Malasaña has to offer. What’s more, you should leave the high heels at home because you will be seated on the floor on the wide array of fluffy cushions that surround the low tables. The room is lit with undulating red and yellow neon and old cartoons are silently projected on the wall while music of many varieties plays.


The menu contained both Spanish and more American style food, with many items in the 6-10 euros range. I went with a friend and we were both not too hungry so we split two dishes: the first was a salad with aged cheese and thinly sliced apples and a hazelnut vinaigrette on top, which was delicious and, while not large, hearty. The second was their tasting tray of appetizers: it had both pita and tortilla chips along with surprisingly good hummus and guacamole, as well as a fish/shrimp wrap. Together, they were delicious, light, and a nice departure from the basic Spanish tapas and raciones; I’ve missed thick guacamole in a country where it is often served more like a sauce than in the chunky style I’m accustomed to.


We arrived early (around 8:30 in the evening) so we got a great spot, but the place was packed by the time we left, so consider getting there early if you want a spot in the downstairs beach. Later evening drinks and breakfast are also served; check it out any time of day.

Ojalá Awareness Club

San Andrés 1

Malasaña neighborhood

Semana Santa – the Holy Week – is the week directly before Easter and is a big deal in Spain. Most businesses give their employees the religious holidays off, while some businesses (like mine) enjoy an entire week of vacation in which many people leave the city, often to travel or to spend it in their pueblo with family. However, if you find yourself staying in Madrid next week, you’re not alone. A recent survey found that about seventy percent of madrileños do not plan to leave during the Easter holidays, due to both personal reasons and because of the economic crisis still crippling many Spanish residents.

So, now you must be wondering, what’s there to do in a place that doesn’t celebrate hunting down candy-filled plastic eggs on the president’s front lawn? Head over to your neighbor’s house and tell them not to fret – together, the two of you can enjoy this year’s Semana Santa in Madrid (1-8 April).

The majority of the week (Monday-Thursday) will be relatively normal. But in the evenings, stop in nearly any church in town to see beautiful displays made with candles and flowers. Many of these churches will also have these displays brought out in processions to be held during the weekend.

The first important processions, Cristo de la Fe y el Perdón and Nuestro Padre Jesús de la Salud, will be held on Wednesday, April 4. You can find the latter on the Paseo del Prado and surrounding streets.

The most popular processions will be held on Thursday, April 5. The Nuestro Padre Jesús del Gran Poder y María Santísima de la Esperanza and the Jesús Nazareno y la Virgen de la Soledad will have huge crowds gathering to watch.

On Friday, April 6, you can expect to see three more parades, and on Saturday, April 7, you will see one last parade.

While Madrid doesn’t boast the same level of fame as our Andalusian neighbor Sevilla, you can see a parade very similar to that of Sevilla’s famous (or infamous?) Easter procession. It is called the Procesión del Silencio and it takes place in the early morning hours on Good Friday (April 6). During this procession you will see worshippers dressed in traditional robes and pointed hoods silently walking the streets of Madrid.

Like any other festival in Spain, Easter comes with delicious treats that you must try. First up are torrijas – a sweet bread made with milk and cinnamon, perfect with coffee or for an afternoon snack. You can also enjoy various fish-filled croquetas, as Lent is still upon us. Or try out potaje de garbanzos a la madrileña, a chickpea stew similar to cocido madrileño.

Finally, on Easter Sunday (April 8), the drum band from the Brotherhood of Jesus from Zaragoza’s Villamayor de Gallego will be joined by the instrumental section of Madrid’s Congregación de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y Desamparo at 12pm in Plaza Mayor.

What are your Semana Santa plans? Will you be staying in the city or traveling?