Managing Madrid airport

By John Kelling
This item appears on page 12 of the August 2013 issue.

After a couple of weeks in Spain, my wife and I were heading for the Madrid airport on May 1, 2013, for our flight back to Boston.

We had planned to take the Renfe train from the Sol Metro stop but decided instead to ease the trip by grabbing a cab, so we climbed into one near the Sol station and asked the driver how much it would be. She pointed to the meter. Off we went to Terminal 4 at the airport. 

Upon our arrival, the meter read 33 (near $44) and some change. I handed the driver 50 and she gave me back a 0.20 (27¢) piece. I asked for the rest of the change and she said the airport-delivery surcharge was extra, nearly  17. 

Now, whether or not that was legitimate, I don’t know. However, anyone taking a taxi to the Madrid airport for that price is nuts, as far as I’m concerned. The police officers I spoke to at the airport said basically the same thing. You can use the bus, the Metro or the train for about 5. Skip the taxi! 

By the way, from the time you enter Terminal 4 in Madrid–Barajas Airport, it can take 30 to 40 minutes or even longer to reach your gate. Our Iberia (British Airways) flight departed from Terminal 4S, a separate building. After a small delay to clear security, we had to take the automated train to 4S and still make the long walk to the gate. Signs are posted at particular locations stating how many minutes you are away from the gate. Allow plenty of time.

Lastly, in an airport store, we bought some vacuum-sealed Spanish ham for friends at home, but upon our arrival in Boston the USDA confiscated it. Seems you can’t bring that into this country legally.*


Windsor, CT

*To find the restrictions regarding bringing pork products back from overseas, go to the US Customs & Border Protection website,, and, in the “Find an Answer” search box, type “pork.” The relevant section states, “In very few cases swine and swine products can enter the United States. Commercially canned pork is allowed if the CBP officer can determine from the label that the meat was cooked in the can after it was sealed to make it shelf-stable without refrigeration.” —  Editor