ALSA is a great bus company that gets you to a million random cities within Spain and even to random countries! I mean…not like I would ever want to take an ALSA bus to Italy from Madrid, but at least I have that option, right? The thing about busses is that in general, they suck. I mean, you have to get to the station, wait for the bus to arrive (usually on time though!), sit in a confined space with smelly people for extended periods of time. It’s always too hot or too cold. Not to mention, people like to leave their ringers on loud so you can hear EVERY time they receive a call/text/whatsapp…whatever it may be! That being said, I actually really like ALSA, minus the fact that they are a bus company, they are great! (ha. ha. ha) Anyways, I may seem like a hater and don’t get me wrong, I totally am but by that I mean, there’s nothing good about long distance travel in a bus. That being said, I definitely use ALSA and would recommend ALSA for reasonably priced, short distance travel. I like it because you can buy tickets at the last minute and they are reasonably priced (compared to AVE or a plane ticket or whatever other option you have).
Cheap Last minute tickets usually available
Time consuming Time consuming (seriously…) Smelly
Now that you have heard what I like and dislike about bus travel, let me give you some advice as to the basics of using ALSA bus travel in Madrid. There are a few things you have to do (or things I recommend that you do) before physically getting on the bus. Also, I included some details as to how to physically get to the bus station in Avenida de America from the Metro (because seriously, how is the metro on level -3, that’s scary as fuck).
Little girl in the big city (It’s a work in progress)
So, before I go any further. I have to be honest. For the longest time I didn’t understand public transport whatsoever (Uhm, my car and GPS on my phone get me everywhere I need to be in the states, so don’t hate). Let me enlighten you as to some examples of my personal failed metro usage. In Barcelona in 2010, I thought we needed to go to Trinidad Nova (aka the end of the line). Wrong. We had to go in the DIRECTION of Trinidad Nova. Please, just get off at your stop. Then, summer 2011, I accidentally got my friends and I all the way to the Bronx in NYC, instead of to the 9/11 Memorial. So after those fiascos, I think I have officially learned how to use public transport! It is very sad that my friends from ISA are not here to see how far I have come!
Anyways, I swear I made it to my dock at Avenida de America in Madrid all by myself (and very proudly) and if I can do it, so can you!
Things to do to get yourself out of Madrid on an ALSA bus:
1. Get an ALSA BusPlus Card (NOT the credit card). Just the card that gives you points and after a certain amount of trips, you get a free ride!
I don’t have an actual card, I got mine at the Avenida de America ALSA location and the worker said that mine is now connected to my passport so when I use my passport number it will also be using my BusPlus Card and giving me points. I’m kind of skeptical as to how it works that way but I guess I will find out in the future and its not like it hurts me to have it!
Side note: EVERYONE goes to ALSA around 6 p.m. during the week days. You have to take a number, I got my number and waited over an hour! I guess they are open until 2 in the morning. So really, I think anytime that isn’t considered “rush hour” would be a great time to go. I think between 5:00pm and 8:00pm you will have about an hour wait (unless you have an immediate problem then you can get in faster but not THAT fast). People were saying things like, “PERDONA, alguien puede cambiar números?!” And crying and being crazy. Anyways, youll see that people get a little desperate when they missed a bus or need to change a ticket at the last minute, so don’t be that person! If you are patient, you can spend as long as you want up there at the counter, it’s totally normal to spend like 20 minutes shooting the shit with the ALSA worker (out of the 50 people who were called before me at least 20 were up at the counter for a good 15 minutes). I am glad there were so many workers at the time! However, you have waited your turn so you deserve some time to shoot the shit, disfrutalo! The workers are very nice and helpful (at least mine was)!
2. Decide where you want to leave from and where you want to go!
From Madrid: Avenida de America or Estacion sur.
To: wherever! If its a journey over 6 hours try to get a night bus as to not waste time in the bus during the day…or take the AVE or an airplane! However, bus is more economical.
*Keep in mind how far each station is from your home. For me Avenida de America is 30 minutes and Estacion sur is an hour. So, depending where I am going, my journey in the actual bus would be one hour shorter from Estacion Sur, I prefer to leave from Avenida de America because in the long run, it takes less time because I don’t have to get all the way to Estacion sur (I live in the north of Madrid). Also, I am not positive but I think all the busses will pass through both Madrid stations. Mine went from Avenida de America to Estacion Sur and then we left Madrid!
3. Buy your ticket. You have many choices as to where to make this purchase:
A. Internet: BUT it won’t take American credit cards (at least for me it wouldn’t)…I tried 2 different American credit cards and an American debit card. It said something about the bank won’t accept it…whatever ALSA!
B. ALSA ticket counter at Avenida de America (or any bus station)…be prepared for a line!
C. ALSA automated machines at Avenida de America (or any bus station)
D. Anywhere else that you know of that I don’t!
4. Figure out how to get to your bus station (Here are directions to Avenida de America).
It’s so easy! I promise. First figure out which metros can get you to Avenida de America. I started off at Barrio del Pilar which the number 9 (purple) metro line.
I took number 9 (purple) in the direction of Arganda del Rey. As you can see, Avenida de America will be one of the stops on this line and that is where I will get off. Metro lines 4 (brown), 6 (grey) and 7 (orange) also go straight to Avenida de America. One thing to note is that on this sign it doesn’t say anything about “Terminal Autobuses”, you’ll start seeing those signs once you arrive at Avenida de America.
So, get off the metro when you arrive at Avenida de America and you will begin to see signs for “Salida, Terminal Autobuses”, follow the signs. If you can’t understand that Terminal Autobuses is the bus station then there is a nice picture of a bus to the right to ensure you are going the right way. FOLLOW THE BUSSES!
I am already very much a rubita and obviously don’t belong in Spain, so no harm in being a weirdo who is taking pictures while walking from the metro to the bus station! Also, the picture below is where things start getting weird. So pay attention to where you are going!
If you did it right, you have made it to the ALSA counters and not to the street!
Look left into the little room and see the schedule (tells you which dock to go to) as well as the little number stand (Feel free to take a number if you need something, it might be a while though!)
To be honest, it’s not that complicated but right now there is some construction so it’s kind of weird under there. Follow the signs and you’ll do fine! Suerte!