From tipping to throwing trash on the ground and not getting your stuff stolen, Madrid is the kind of city that can feel a lot more like home if you know a little insider info. Here are a few of my must-know Madrid tips for fitting in like a local.
If you’ve ever traveled outside the US, then you probably know that much of the rest of the world isn’t quite as generous with their tipping. Same goes for Spain, where waiters typically don’t expect much more than a few leftover coins. When it comes to small purchases like coffee or a drink, a leftover coin or even nothing at all will do. For a proper meal, consider a euro or two (mind you that, during lunch especially, many people often leave nothing at all). Whatever your tipping approach, don’t expect waiters to give you dirty looks for not leaving enough extra cash.
All this said, don’t expect supreme service when at restaurants. No tips equals much more hands-off waiters. The good news: In most cases you can waste away the hours at your table and no one will ever rush you out, no matter how busy the establishment. The bad news: You’ll likely need to chase down your waiter for just about anything need, from drinks, to placing your order, and paying your bill. Don’t be shy: just gesture at any old waiter (yes, tables can typically be served by multiple waiters) from across the room and you’ll be treated more like a local.
Watch your items like a hawk
Pickpockets and thefts don’t mess around here in Madrid: they’re often shameless and will grab your belongings when you’re not looking and even when you are. So when seated at a meal, keep that bag of yours in your lap (I’ve seen many a thief simply run up and grab a bag or wallet right in front of someone). Generally, just always be vigilant (and make sure you look vigilant) and no one will bother you.
Finally, don’t be turned off by bars with trash on the floor. Odd as it may seem, it is customary in Spain that – in the old-school tapas bars – people throw their dirtied napkins on the floor. So it logically follows that the more trash on a bar’s floor, the more popular it is, and probably the better.