Barajas Airport

Howdy, I’m flying through Barajas Airport near Madrid and changing planes there next week. Can anyone give me some general info about the place, like is it easy to get from one terminal to the next, can non-Spanish speakers make it around OK, that sort of thing? I’m hoping that one hour and 50 minutes will be enough time for me and my luggage to make it from one plane to the next.


  1. Is it easy to get from one terminal to another?

Depends on the terminals.

  1. Can non-Spanish speakers make it around OK?

About as well as Spanish speakers. Airport personnel speak at least middling English, so do many of the travelers. Signage can be a bitch but that’s no matter what language you speak.

  1. Is 1h50 enough to get my luggage and move to the next plane?

You can’t check it through? Also, I assume you’re coming on an international flight. Is the second flight international or national? Which are the companies involved? If you’re coming in with, say, British and moving on with Vueling you should be able to check your baggage through, and they use the same terminal; if you need to get checked-in luggage and go from T4 to any other it’s a completely different picture (heck, T4 is so long it takes 45’ just to go from one end of it to the other). Do you know which terminals are involved?

This page has information on connections between terminals. Here you can see which terminals does each company use.

I haven’t been to that airport, but IME airports are one of the most multilingual-friendly places in the world. There is heavy dependence on pictorial signs, and an infrastructure designed to help provide services to speakers of many languages. Look for the information desk - it should be labeled with an “i” or a “?”.

It is a bit unsettling going through an airport when your primary language is one of the “smaller” languages that is in small print below the primary language of their airport (typically, the official language of the jurisdiction in which the airport lies), but it is certainly manageable. For example, at Montreal-Trudeau, the signs typically have large text in French and provide a smaller English translation below.

I’ve been to Barajas and changed planes there too. Signage is bilingual Spanish/English. Going from one terminal to another can take some time; depending on which terminal you come from on which one you have to go to, you’ll have to take a monorail shuttle, but the stations for that are indicated in the signage, of course. Is 1:50 hours enough? I suppose yes, otherwise your ticketing agent wouldn’t have sold you a ticket that requires you to make that transfer. In fact, European airports are quite swift nowadays in moving your luggage from one plane to another, mostly because Europe follows a different policy than the U.S. with regards to luggage: It is directly routed through to your final destination, you don’t have to reclaim it and check it in at the first port of entry. As a result, the luggage systems at European airports are designed to move larger quantities than in the U.S.

Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I don’t need to reclaim my luggage; it will be checked through. What I meant was is 1 hour 50 minutes enough time for the luggage to make it from one plane to the next.

As it turns out, my arriving flight (El Al) and my departing flight (Iberian) are both in the same terminal (4S), so I’m guessing that as long as the first plane is on time, I should be OK as far as time is concerned.

Don’t worry, you’ll be fine unless your plane is more than an hour late.

Having to pick up your luggage in the middle, pass customs, and then re-check it is one of the most annoying aspects of international travel. Racing through foreign airports looking for who knows what, with the clock ticking down? Not fun. It’s worth trying to do immigration/customs at the very end, or at least at the beginning of a long layover. Watch out - some countries do weird things. If you are on a flight to the US with a layover at a Canadian airport, you will likely have to do US preclearance right there, in addition to having to clear Canadian immigration and customs if your previous departure point wasn’t in Canada. Even if you were already in Canada, changing planes to the US means getting your stuff and doing US customs right there.