11 sept 2018

The Road to an Abono Joven

I thought I learned a lot of Spanish when I was in high school and college. I realized when I got to Madrid that my Spanish is not so much bad as it is odd, out of sync with local convention.

It all added up to me being mildly terrified of everyday encounters with Spanish-speaking people. I felt very brave whenever I walked into a shop and actually asked for what I wanted and was understood, even a little bit.

I live in a suburb, so the Metro system is a daily need. In order to do almost anything, I need to take the metro or bus, and the 1.50€-a-pop tickets (or 9.30€ for ten trips) get pretty expensive.

This meant that I needed to apply for an Abono, a monthly pass that allows me unlimited rides on buses and metro in the city. Despite my fear, I had to go and talk to real people in multiple shops in order to get what I needed. Through my own errors, I learned the steps it takes to get your hands on one of these excellent money-saving tools.

1. Determine your needs – Check out this page in order to determine whether your age qualifies you for a discount. Also, this is the place to figure out what zone you want. Some people who work in the outskirts need a particular pass, which is more expensive but still far less than individual tickets.

2. Acquire photos – In metro stations and at any photo shop around Madrid, you can get “fotos carnet,” which are a specific size photo that is used for a lot of official documents. You may need them for other things, so don’t worry if they are sold in batches of 6 or 8. You will also want to get a photocopy of your passport.

3. Visit an Estanco – These are the Tabacco shops that are all over Madrid. While some are open in the afternoons, I recommend visiting in the morning. You can apply for a regular abono on the spot, or fill out the paperwork for an abono joven, the one with the youth discount, which will be available in 15 days, either at that Estanco or by mail to your address. There will be a nominal fee (less than 5E) for the abono’s plastic wallet.

4. When your Abono Arrives – you will still need to purchase your monthly ticket. The easiest way to do this is go into a metro station and find a ticket machine. It will have you insert the card wallet, which will allow you to purchase your monthly ticket.

5. Use your Abono – Remember you can purchase next month’s pass using your card wallet a few days before the next month using the machines.

Believe me, the process and the talking-to-people-in-Spanish were well worth getting my abono and having unlimited public transit.

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