Free Madrid, Spain
Madrid is the capital city of Spain. It is Spain's largest city with an approximate size of 600 km sq, and with a population of approx. 3 million. It is a multicultural city, with immigrant groups from South America, Africa, China and other European countries being perhaps the largest of these. The winters are cold. The summers are warm, very hot in July/August.
The area around Puerta del Sol/Gran Via/Chueca is the heart of the city. Always busy with people, more so in Summer.
The 'Parque de Retiro' is a busy place, thronged in the Summer.
The neighbourhood of Salamanca is probably the most well-to-do.
The neighbourhoods with most immigrants tend to be poorer and are Carabanchel, Vallecas, Villaverde, Usera, Latina and Lavapiés.
Whatever the rumors, experiences with the police have at all times been fair and courteous. No matter the situation or circumstance in which you find yourself with them, even in the event of being caught red-handed, don't act like a dickhead and you'll find they won't either. Try to carry official documentation.
Madrid is a very safe, friendly and welcoming city. Any dangers probably center around the city center. The worst that will happen is having your pocket picked. If they are empty...
Random violence on innocent people/parties for no reason is extremely rare. Relax in Madrid.
If you decide to stay in Madrid on a short-term basis and want to sleep free, you have a few options.
The airport in Barajas is very comfortable and the best option. Unlike the train and bus stations, it is open 24/7/365
If you can sleep in a seated position, you'll find many seats. They are benches split individual by armrests. These armrests restrict you from stretching out and taking a full bench to lie on. The floor is the option if you want to lie down. They are kept quite clean. In Terminal 4, they sparkle.
At night, especially if you look like a passenger/traveler, you will be left alone to sleep undisturbed by security. If you are an English speaker, they will take you for a tourist anyway. However, try not to stand out or draw attention to yourself. Once you stay for a few nights and they register it, your cover as tourist is blown. The longer you can go without them paying attention to you the better. During the day, you can catch a little more sleep in the seats, but they will not allow you to use the floor.
If you don't look like a passenger/traveler and look (a little) more worn and torn, or indeed (see above) have been rumbled as homeless by the guards in the more 'luxurious' areas of the airport. Have no worries. There is still a place for you. Terminal 2 lower level, arrivals. This is a spot where some homeless people sleep. It is a little shabbier than the rest of the airport. There appears to be an silent agreement in-place between the security and the sleepers there. 'Don't fuck around and you can stay'. This makes it quite safe as the 'usuals' don't want to risk what they have. They tend to be older gentleman anyway, and are nothing like the utterly disheveled homeless you will see around the city-center. Security will get to know your face and will do what they do with the rest.....allow you to sleep until about 6am when they will wake you and tell you to leave the airport. Do what they say. As mentioned above, these guys can be nasty. Do not make a nuisance of yourself. Leave at 6am and don't return until later at night when you want to sleep. In short, these security guys are doing you a favor leaving you stay. Pissing them off in any way will result in them saying 'adios' for good. Don't ruin it for yourself. The terminals are warm.
If you are blind drunk, covered in blood, barefoot, or anything of that sort, stay away.
The airport has well-kept toilets where you can have a quick spruce up. The handicap toilets are like small rooms. The doors are lockable and allow you to have some privacy and (with a little agility) use the sink to wash your feet. All have soap dispensers. At night, when the place is a little more quiet, you can shave. The airport has a cafe (terminal 1) that is 24hrs, but is rather expensive. The new terminal 4 has McDonald's, also 24hrs, and many items are priced at 1 euro. Coffee is cheaper there than from the cafe in T1. A 24hr bus connects the terminals. You can get your hands on free food which will be outlined in that particular section of this 'Free Madrid' page.
For whatever reasons, its a great place to bum cigarettes too. Many people are smoking outside the terminal buildings and the place seems to put them in a generous mood. The airport has 24hr lockers should you wish to lose some weight off your back or hide valuables. About 3.50e/day
The airport is connected with the city by bus and metro. The bus is cheaper and it goes to/from the Intercambiador on Avenida de America. There is an airport supplement to be added to the price of the metro ticket. It is one of the harder underground barriers to go through ticketless. Impossible to jump. It is possible to sneak behind someone after they have validated their ticket. You don't have to stand so close to them, just stay close to the suitcase/bag on wheels they usually have trailing them. You run the risk of security guards with this though. This metro barrier is by far the most securitized on the network.
Last bus to the airport leaves at 11. Last metro at 1. If you miss these you will have to make other plans.
Another option sleeping rough is 'Cajeros', bank/atm/hole-in-the-wall machines...
These are less hole-in-the-wall and more room-in-the-wall. Cajeros are walk-in bank machines. Not all banks will have them but a lot do. If you are unfamiliar with them and can't imagine what they look like, don't worry you soon will while on the streets of Madrid.
Do not take this option in the city center. There will be people coming and going all night to take out money and you wont sleep nor relax to any extent. There will be party goers and drunk people. Under those circumstances, the chances of trouble increase. You probably won't get one that is free anyway. There are many 'hardcore' homeless around the city center, and they will have those ones taken.
You will need to scout out a good location.
Pick a neighbourhood that is residential, middle class or better and that has no significant nightlife such as bars or clubs. This will provide you with a quiet cajero that has no traffic. If one or two people do enter during the night they are more likely to be wary of you than cause you any harm. From experience, it is possible to find cajeros, where not alone will no one enter during the night but you wouldn't even see a person pass by. The key to this option is scouting a good location. They exist, and if you find one, it will allow you relax enough to get a decent nights rest. Bring cardboard to lie on. You will be woken about 7am by the staff member charged with opening. Some friendly, some not.
Sleeping out under the stars is also an option. If you have a sleeping bag, you'll be alright. During the Summer months, the weather is fine and the nights are relatively warm. Experiences sleeping on benches around the city have been acceptable.
Again, avoid anywhere very close to the city center. Too much noise and increased chances of trouble. Follow similar guidelines as with 'cajeros'. A residential neighbourhood free of significant nightlife. Scout a location during your free time.
Two spots that have served well and are safe and hassle free follow:
1. There are a few benches within the grounds of the church at the junction of C/Juan Bravo and C/General Pardinas. Experience says they are safe. Very peaceful during the night. Very nice neighbourhood. 2. In the same neighbourhood, find McDonalds on C/Francisco Silvela. With McDonald's on your left start walking toward C/Ascona. You are walking in a direction away from Avenida de America. Turn onto C/Ascona when you reach it, and walk about 3/4 minutes until you reach the junction with C/Cartegena. You'll see a car tunnel leading to an underground car park. Just behind that is a little plaza that is very safe and peaceful at night. It also has a water tap.
These are just two. Madrid is full of little plazas and quiet areas with benches to allow you rest up and sleep without worry. Just be respectful to the neighbourhood and the people you come into contact with. Don't ruin it for yourself or others.
These options are short term, and will see you through a stay in Madrid without the need to spend cash
If you plan to stay long term and live in the city, you should do the necessary to become legally entitled to work and live there. This will also open up much of the services both local and national that are available to the population.
Free/low-cost markets, produce, butchers, day-old bakeries, Food banks, missions, church meals, etc.
Dumpster diving, as it is sometimes called is possible and popular in Madrid. You will see many people waiting after supermarkets close. They will bring the bins out a little after closing. There are many chains of supermarkets. As far as is known, Mercadona is one chain that do not leave their bins out. You will find everything from vegetables to dairy to meat. A very popular spot is 'Carrefour' on Calle del Conde Penalver. They close at 11 and will wheel out about 3/4 dumpsters. They are packed with food, meat and fish included. Many people come here and at times it can be a free for all. Don't be afraid to be slightly aggressive. It is needed at this location. It may be assumed that all branches of 'Carrefour' will do the same.
'Dia' supermarket on Calle de Francisco Silvela leave out a small amount as does 'Eroski' on C/Alcantera. Scout around. You'll find plenty.
Bakeries and cafe's will leave bread and pastries. Not everyday, some days.
There are many 'Comedores' in Madrid, much run by religious orders. These are essentially dining rooms for those in need. The food quality varies. Some offer meals, but most offer a well filled baguette with some biscuits(cookies for you guys on the other side of the pond), along with a coffee. Some only offer a take-away facility. Some will also require a registration, where you will be issued with a card. Queues tend to quite long, depending on the location and people are let in to eat in shifts. The list of comedores is numerous. Here is a link mapping out the locations where you can link to individual centers to see timetables, entry requirements etcetera. In Spanish only.
Link to 'Comedores' in Madrid. In Spanish.
As mentioned in the 'Housing' section, it is possible to eat at the airport without paying.
There is a restaurant in terminal one(upper level). It is a very busy, buffet style layout eatery. There are about 50 tables. It is surprising the food people leave behind uneaten. Whole burgers, chips(french fries), pizza and chicken among other things. There are table cleaning staff, but only one person generally and they/she/he tend to be slow. When you spot a table with ample food left, just take a seat and the food is as good as yours. As said, it is a buffet style, mostly self-service restaurant which leads you along to a two till pay station. During busier times, it is very possible to fill your plate and double back, take a seat unnoticed, and as a consequence uncharged. You will need to check the location yourself for layout and such to see if you are comfortable with this option.
Planned parenthood, free clinics, free medical advice, Medicare resources, low-cost clinics, etc.
ACLU, free legal aid/counseling, pro bono attorneys, etc.
See Free Play section, include details for this city.
Beaches, Swimming Pools, Parks, Sports, Museums, Music, Theatre, TV shows, Movies, etc.
General weather, traffic, news resources, etc.
If washing occasionally is your thing then Madrid offers many 'Casas de Bano'.....installations that offer showers for about 0.15cents.
There are at least 2 casas de baño in Madrid. They are run by the local authorities and cater for people who don't have running water in their homes or for people on the margins of society.
There is a time allotment of 20mins. You will need to bring your own soap and towel.
Perhaps the biggest one is found at c/Glorieta de Embajadores, metro stop 'Embajadores'. It has 59 showers, split into male and female. Some are adapted to facilitate people with physical difficulties. Opening hours are Mon-Sat 8.30-18.30 and Sunday 8.30-14.30. These times are always subject to change, always check. Price 0.15cents
Another is Casa de Baños de Alvarado, c/Bravo Murillo 133, metro stop 'Alvaro'. Mon-Fri 9.15-2.15(morning). No weekend service. Price 0.15cents.
If public showers are not your thing you can avail of showers while also taking a swim at one of the 'Centros Deportivos Municipales'
Subways, Buses, Ferries, Shuttles, etc.
Free Clothing and Furniture
See Free Clothing and Furniture section, provide details for this city.
See Assorted Freebies Section, provide details for this city, including other topics. Whatever fits and is useful.
Go to the Survive section and provide any city-specific details, including new topics.