If you’re traveling to Spain from the US, you’ll probably be arriving at the Madrid–Barajas Airport, terminal four (T4). It is a new and beautiful terminal with hundreds of yards of forced walkway for international arrivals. After debarking and walking nearly a mile inside the new facility (T4) towards Passport control, if arriving in the early morning, you may wait until Spain opens for business at 7 AM to transit passport control. We arrived just a few minutes after six and had to wait until security employees arrived at the passport control at seven. No worries, just unexpected.
Once through customs, you then meander down to a tram that takes you over to the main T4 terminal to collect your bags. Grab your bags and then you must immediately exit the terminal. Fortunately you’re still indoors and you will get to the metro/trains under the same roof.
Madrid is connected by high speed rail to Spain's major towns and cities, as well as to Portugal and France. Departures are frequent and punctual. The trains are fast and very inexpensive. If you choose to travel by train, like a flight, get your tickets ahead of time through Renfe, or for a small charge through a better/easier to use app like Train Line.
If you have tickets for train travel in Madrid, then you will need to get to the station from the airport. Just after exiting bag claim, you make a right turn to head towards the elevator, watching for a sign for the metro. Take the elevators down to the metro level -1. Here you have an option to buy metro tickets or Renfe train tickets for Estación Madrid - Puerta de Atocha,
If you have train tickets for departing Madrid by train from the main train station (Atocha), you can purchase either tickets. But it is advisable to buy a train ticket to the Atocha station if you are traveling on Renfe trains as they are only three euros, which is about a third of the cost of a metro tickets to the Atocha station. If confused, just remember you can go to the main train station from the airport either by train or by metro, your choice.
Once you have bought your tickets, proceed down to the train or metro station tracks. On Renfe you’ll be riding on C1 Train. After about five stops (30 minutes) you’ll be at the Atocha station. When you get off at the Atocha station you’ll take the escalators back up to the station. Here you will find Renfe automated ticket purchase machines and several Renfe customer service deskd that are pleased to assist.
While waiting for your train out of Madrid, there’s a lovely indoor tropical garden located inside the Atocha Station. Adjacent to the gardens is a small restaurant - Mahourid, with light fare, coffee and beer.
Watch the train departure board for your time and destination. When your train is listed, you can move into the waiting area. Please note that there are several different embarkation points (Planta 0, Planta 1), so watch closely. Generally, longer distance trains leave from the Planta 0 terminal. Shorter regional trains leave from the Planta 1.
Once through security and inside the embarkation area watch as your train rises to the top of the departure board. Once it receives a track number, you can then immediately go to the entrance doors for your track. You will then be able to board your train, taking note of both the coach number and the seat number as you’re board.
There is limited room for heavier suitcases at the entrance of your coach. Be advised if this storage is full you may have to hoist your suitcase into an overhead bin, which can be difficult with a medium or large suitcase.