From Joy to España – Travel Tips!

¡Let’s freakin’ go! My name is Joy if you weren’t painfully aware, and I’m happily exploring new lands & waters abroad after graduating USC and before returning to work @instagram 😍 Tagged some helpful inspo! My first true day in Madrid, España was fantastic (last time, I was 7 and a boy named Nico spit on my head). Today, I toured the city completely on foot with my backpack and cubes in tow. No plan. No digital maps. Just signs and friendly Spanish-speakers😁🇪🇸 As I start to share these travel photos, I’m already struggling to present something equally authentic and carefully curated. The sky isn’t really this blue en Puerta del Sol, and I don’t dress like this all the time (Thanks @nia.inc ) but I’m bringing y’all all the tips I have as I learn solo travel on the fly! Sound aite?

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If you’re coming from IG or FB, you already know I’m out in Europe pulling culturally-sensitive touristy shenanigans on the Gram

My Madrid layover was BEAUTIFUL! If you plan on visiting Madrid for an extended vacation or just a short layover, these tips may help. And to all my ladies traveling solo and worried about safety, I GOT YOU! See some general notes on safety & walking, as well as overall tips:

If the architecture in Madrid doesn’t make you want to jump out of your bed and into a Group 7 Economy boarding line, I don’t know what will. All historic city center destinations are within comfortable walking distance from each other. The second you start to feel you’ve been walking a while, you’re distracted by another treasure. Taking into account that it was broad daylight, I was still surprised not to find anyone following me, harassing me, catcalling me, leering, or attempting to pickpocket me. Madrid might beat LA AND SF 😳 In the stores, owners carefully explained recipes, origins and prices. It might have helped that I speak fluent Spanish, but my biggest fears before I arrived were my financial and physical safety. All fears quelled.

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  • Change your currency (USD to EUROS) in the UNITED STATES! Order it way ahead of time from your bank so as not to pay the airport or ATM’s exchange rate (i.e. They bite $20 on a $170 exchange)
    • USD to € is 1.00 to ~0.81
  • When traveling, don’t keep all your currency in the same place; keep some in your bag, some in the hotel, some on your body etc. Don’t get stuck!
  • COMFORTABLE. Walking. Shoes. Sneakers. Trainers. NOT sandals. Are a MUST!
  • Take only one bag/traveling backpack to avoid baggage claim and breeze through customs. A roller backpack will KILL YOU on Madrid’s stones! Try this backpack on Amazon for $38.99 (no need to shell out $150)
  • Learn some basic, for-travel and dining Spanish before you go. I became fluent long before visiting, and even my Spanish was tested. This sign of respect will get you far with local employees and residents
  • Print or obtain this free Madrid City Map at the Suarez airport from an Información booth. Those booths will be your friends both in the airport and the city center.
    • Study the map well in the airport and on the bus so you only need whip it out for quick reference
    • I would not recommend downloading and using an offline app or Google Maps as you walk through Europe; that’s a dead giveaway that you’re lost, alone, or a tourist. Walk with your head up & with purpose!
    • Madrid’s City Center has dope, clear signs denoting not only streets, but also tourist-friendly Plazas and Monumentos
  • Just landed? Scared and confused? Don’t waste €30 on a taxi! I PROMISE you can do this! Grab a map, get super pointy and polite and quizzical of anyone in uniform should you get lost, but:
    • Take the giant grey/yellow airport express bus (€5, 50min. to city center in traffic) to the Plaza de Cibeles.
    • That stop puts you at the tip of a beautiful & easy tourist walk. Just follow the signs up the road. I recommend following large crowds, or heading toward Puerta del Sol for a free tour by this amazing company (be sure to tip your guide!!)
      • If I failed to make it clear, this tour is a must-do
    • I ate at the Inclan Brutal Bar in the Barrio de Letras – the food I had was decently seasoned and gorgeous, but on the pricier side. Would recommend eating closer to Luis Candelas when leaving Plaza Mayor

Madrid is safe & bright during the day! I had absolutely no trouble, but I’m also fluent in Spanish and English and have a mean walk. Just be about your business, breath deep, ask a ton of questions with clarifying points and thumbs-up and nods and you’ll be FINE!

Enjoy!

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