When you arrive at the Madrid airport, you will go through a section that takes you directly to customs. At customs, you answer the standard questions about your stay. After going through customs, you will be able to retrieve your bags from baggage claim – a fairly simple process.

The Check-in process at the Madrid airport is very different from the process in the US. In the US all carriers have their own area for their guests to check in at, the Madrid airport has several desks spanning the terminal numbered 1-300 where each flight has a different desk. To find out where you check in, you check the flight status board and look next to the flight status for the check-in desk number. While waiting in line to check your bags, there is a crew checking passports to verify your flight and destination – it’s similar to the questions asked during customs. Some common questions include: “Where are you going?” “Why are you going?” “what was your purpose for being here?” “Did you pack these bags and are they yours?” After, they put little stickers on your luggage and your passport to verify they’ve been claimed by you.

At the Madrid Airport, you have to take out any and all electronics and small liquids, no matter how small. To make going through security easier, I would recommend packing all of your electronics in the same bag if possible to make it easier to pack and repack your electronics and your liquids on top of another bag if possible.

I recommend that if you want breakfast at the airport, you should bring your own food. Any breakfast place doesn’t open until 9:30-10am and there will be a long line. Also, any other restaurant in the airport that would normally have breakfast, does not have breakfast options at the airport and the snack stands don’t have any small breakfast items either.

Overall, the terminals are wide open and easy to navigate once you get into the terminal. There are a lot of chairs to sit in, and the gates are wide open – wider than terminals in the US. There are also a few beds along one side of the terminal for people to take naps in. I think this is a great thing that could be good to have in the US for long layovers.

Happy Travels!