written on August 30, 2011
Boy, I did not realize how expensive a trip like this would be. I kept thinking I’d spend as much as I do living at school [as I'm fed most meals and have my housing]—how wrong I was. Already all all the little extra costs I hadn’t thought of or planned on have started to add up, making this a far more expensive semester than on campus.
But it is great is that I don’t have to pay to do laundry, and I don’t have to worry about the hours of a dining hall for breakfast and dinner. My pay-as-you-go phone from Movistar [a carrier here, spelled like movie star without the e, but pronounced MOH-vee-star] is pretty expensive but still the most cost-efficient option.
I refill it with 10 Euros roughly every two weeks at the local supermarket (yes, I literally walk up to the register where you buy food, give them my number, and choose how much I want to put on!). At least I don’t use it for calling much, which is pricier than texting, even if it’s local.
Movistar also has automated machines on the street where you can put more money on your phone (called “recargar,” or essentially refilling, in Spanish) smaller amounts using coins. It can also be done at some ATMs, tobacco shops called “estancas” which are like little drug stores, but conveniently I live on a relatively main road, so there are two supermarkets within a block of me.
Got my metro/bus pass and my experience with both has been great. The system is actually very easy, clean, prompt, and there’s a lot of room on the cars to sit or stand. So far, I haven’t been on a really crowded train but that will probably be coming when I ride at a more peak time. There are signs telling you exactly how long until the next train comes, and I haven’t had to wait more than a couple minutes.
The metro is more straightforward than the NYC subway, which I’m comfortable with but have entered going in the wrong direction a couple of times and gotten a little lost. The maps available at stations are easy to read with a quick glance, the system here is so well set-up and the signs so clearly labelled and displayed, it’s dummy-proof—it’d be hard to get lost if you tried because all the lines have several connections and there are so many stops nothing in the city is too far away from a Metro stop.
It is not too far even to walk past two or three metro stops. I read on Wikipedia that Madrid has the 6th-largest underground public rail transportation system in the world, even though population-wise, at around seven million, Madrid is something like the 50th most populous city in the world! This is extensive transport system relative to population size is great because, with almost 300 stops in one city, there’s enough room for everyone and a stop for wherever you may be.
There’s already been a lot of expansion of the Metro in recent decades, adding stations and more lines, and there’s plans to extend the lines futher in coming years!
Palabra Española del Día:
el cartel = “poster” or “sign”