- Exchanging money
During your stay in Madrid, you’ll need euros, the single European currency of the euro area whose notes and coins were introduced in 2002. The euro has eight coin denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros, while bank notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros.
Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport, Atocha and Chamartín train stations, and the main transport hubs – Avenida de América, Méndez Álvaro and Moncloa – are dotted with foreign currency exchange offices. There are several bureaux de change in central Madrid, especially in Puerta del Sol. Most banks and some hotels offer currency exchange services as well.
Market conditions usually cause price fluctuations, so you should check the euro’s exchange rates beforehand on the day of the transaction.
Running out of cash isn’t a problem in Madrid, since chances are you’ll find an ATM within walking distance wherever you are. Also, most establishments accept credit cards, which you can even use to purchase your tickets to get around Madrid on the underground.
Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards, American Express and Diners are less common. You should contact your bank if you wish to find out what commission they’ll charge you for using your card in Spain.
In Madrid, you may tip or not depending exclusively on how happy you are with the service you get. Among the locals, at least, it’s always been up to the consumer to decide whether and how much to tip. Your waiter won’t protest if you just get up and leave.
Some restaurants may add a 2- or 3-euro charge to the bill for bread and appetisers, a service which they have the obligation to tell you about and which you can refuse. As a general rule, it’s you who decide whether to reward the quality of the service and the kindness of the staff with a gratuity.
The same rule applies in hotels, taxis, beauty or hair salons, and other one-on-one services.
Remember that in all establishments, service is included in the price. This isn’t the case in hotels and restaurants, where the legend ‘IVA NO INCLUIDO’ (VAT NOT INCLUDED) usually comes next to the price. This means you should add 10%.
If you come from a non-EU country, you can reclaim VAT on items worth over 90.15 euros. Show your tickets or receipts for the goods at the tax refund counters at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport.
Once customs officials have gone through your purchases and stamped your tickets, you can choose to post them back to the retailer in order to have the money credited to your credit card or bank account. Alternatively, you can get paid on the spot by registered VAT refund agents, which usually charge handling fees.
In order to get VAT refund in cash at the airport, you should buy in shops displaying a ‘Tax Free for Tourists’ sign and ask the sales assistant for a tax-free form showing the refund amount. The VAT refund agent will ask you to hand in your forms before they give you the money.
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