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Getting through custom/immigration at the Madrid airport

Camino(s) past & future
Frances (May/June 2015)
VdlP (April 2019)
Hi all, We will be arriving in T1 around 10 am on March 31st from Canada. Would anyone know how long (average) it takes to get out the door for non-european travellers once we pick-up our bags.Thanks
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Well, you will go through immigration before you pick up your bags, and having flown into the Madrid airport many many times, I can only tell you that it is extremely variable. On the occasions when I check bags and pick them up in Madrid, I find that I am almost always through immigration and waiting at the baggage carousel before the luggage arrives. It seems to take forever for them to unload the plane, but I am always landing in the remote satellite part of T4 and they have to cart the bags a long distance -- I say that only to suggest that it may take less time for luggage in T1, I just don't know.

As far as the line for immigration goes, sometimes it is long if you happen to coincide with a lot of arrivals. It is really the luck of the draw. If the planes that landed ahead of you are from the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America, I find that the non-European lines lines go much more slowly than if they are from the US or Canada. I won't speculate on why that is, but it has definitely been my experience.
 

Anamya

Keeping it simple
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015)
Portugues (2017)
Lebaniego (2019)
I travel with a Latin American passport and for me it can be anything from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours. Lines for European passports, US, Canada and Australia tend to be quicker though. Depends a lot on which flights are landing before you.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Also depends on where you are sitting in your aircraft, especially if you are on a large airplane. If you disembark last, that’s hundreds of folks ahead of you from just YOUR plane. Plan for the worst, but have a Plan B for the best.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
I have flown in there four times and I would estimate that from disembarking the aircraft to getting to baggage pick-up before exiting outside has always been less than an hour. Mind you, I only had a carry-on, so I don't know how much longer it would have been to get a checked bag.
 
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mark connolly

Member
Camino(s) past & future
sept 2016 CF
sept 2017 Lourdes to SJPDP via Piemonte
SJPDP to SDC via CF
2019 CF (God willing)
First of all, I am under the impression that all, if not most international flights would arrive at T-4. The first time I flew into MAD was in 2016 from JFK. The flight arrived at approx. 8:30am local time. Upon arrival at Immigration, there were 3 lines: One for EU passport holders, one for non-EU passport holders, and one for American passport holders. I went to the American passport holders section, there was no line/wait, presented my passport, agent stamped it, and went along. No questions asked. I believe there is a dedicated line for Americans due to treaty we have with Spain and other nations. The second time I went in 2017, I arrived at approx. 6:30am local time. I was expecting a dedicate line for American passport holders, etc. There wasn't. There were 2 lines this time: one for EU and one for non EU passport holders. Went to the non EU line, waited about 25 minutes, presented my passport to the agent, asked me a couple for questions, told him I was here for the Camino, stamped my passport and went about. I am under the impression there was no American passport line because it was closed since we arrived very early in the morning or simply that we live in a post September 11th world. They want to safe about who they let in, etc. Both of these times, I arrived at T-4. Don't know what else to tell you, other than follow the advice listed above: prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Hope this helps.

Buen Camino

Mark
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Actually, the only planes that arrive in T4 are Iberia (domestic and international) and its One World partners (American, BA,etc). So if you are on Delta, United, etc, you will arrive in T1.

I have never seen an immigration line just for US passports but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. The EU and non-EU division is the only thing I’ve ever gone through. And the lines do sometimes get long, just depending on all those things others have mentioned.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
One for EU passport holders, one for non-EU passport holders, and one for American passport holders. I went to the American passport holders section
I've never seen a line for US passport holders in Europe. I've never arrived directly from the US to Madrid, I always have a connection somewhere else, usually Frankfurt, and I've only seen EU and Non EU lines there.
 

jefferyonthecamino

http://www.barrerabooks.com/ - Guidebooks
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (1994)
Camino Francés (2013 - 2018)
Camino Portugués (2015 - 2018)
Hi all, We will be arriving in T1 around 10 am on March 31st from Canada. Would anyone know how long (average) it takes to get out the door for non-european travellers once we pick-up our bags.Thanks
immigration: depends, usually fast unless you coincide with a flight arriving from an african/asian/southamerican country - then your line (sadly) gets slow
customs: no idea what it's like in canada, but my experience in the USA is that it's a nightmare. this does not happen in spain where once you have cleared immigration, you grab your bag and walk through the 'nothing to the declare' exit; no forms, no officers, no hassle, unless you are unlucky and pulled aside, which has never happened t me in 40 years.

in my opinion, give yourself at least an hour to clear immigration, wait for your luggage and walk out of the terminal.
Buen Camino
 

David Manzo

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugese (2018)
I had only one experience. I flew from Boston to Madrid and then switched planes and flew to Porto Portugal to begin Camino Portuguese. It took so long I missed my connecting flight.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
This explains why I only fly on American Airlines and its codeshare (OneWorld) partners when flying into Spain. All arrivals and departures are at T-4. The process is smooth, despite T-4 and the Satellite terminal being HUGE. Moving walkways and a good underground train connect the satellite to the main terminal and make moving from arrival to connecting gates relatively easy.

As MSPATH states, you frequently arrive at baggage reclaim, after passport control, before your bags arrive. If you are connecting at Madrid, say to fly to Bilbao, Oviedo, Pamplona, Sevilla, Barcelona, or Santiago, the transfers are relatively easy and your bags are automatically sent to your final destination.

In the EU, customs is done at your final destination. Only passport control (immigration) is done at the first port of entry. So, for example, if you are transiting Madrid to head for Pamplona, you clear passport control at Madrid, on your way to make your connection.

You will not see your checked luggage until Pamplona. Usually customs clearance at your destination is an easy green door / red door thing. Typically, if you do not choose to declare something, they leave you alone.

So, if you only use the airlines that use T-4 at MAD, your arrival or departure to or from Spain will be much less dramatic and quicker... at least IMHO and experience.

Hope this helps.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Roncesvalles to Sahagun Oct 2016
Sahagun to SDC April 2017
This explains why I only fly on American Airlines and its codeshare (OneWorld) partners when flying into Spain. All arrivals and departures are at T-4. The process is smooth, despite T-4 and the Satellite terminal being HUGE. Moving walkways and a good underground train connect the satellite to the main terminal and make moving from arrival to connecting gates relatively easy.

As MSPATH states, you frequently arrive at baggage reclaim, after passport control, before your bags arrive. If you are connecting at Madrid, say to fly to Bilbao, Oviedo, Pamplona, Sevilla, Barcelona, or Santiago, the transfers are relatively easy and your bags are automatically sent to your final destination.

In the EU, customs is done at your final destination. Only passport control (immigration) is done at the first port of entry. So, for example, if you are transiting Madrid to head for Pamplona, you clear passport control at Madrid, on your way to make your connection.

You will not see your checked luggage until Pamplona. Usually customs clearance at your destination is an easy green door / red door thing. Typically, if you do not choose to declare something, they leave you alone.

So, if you only use the airlines that use T-4 at MAD, your arrival or departure to or from Spain will be much less dramatic and quicker... at least IMHO and experience.

Hope this helps.
Air Canada only flys into T-1.. Customs has been quick and the hold up is the arrival on the carousel of your checked bag. Exit with nothing to declare is simply walking out a door. I would allow an hour though just to be safe
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
I note that, from Pearson Airport at Toronto, Iberia flies to Madrid, via Heathrow, on its British Airlines codeshare partner.

Air Canada is a very good airline. But there are options...

Personally, when traveling intercontinentally, I favor overall convenience and lack of drama over cost. Changing terminals sucks...

Just sayin...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (May/June 2015)
VdlP (April 2019)
Also depends on where you are sitting in your aircraft, especially if you are on a large airplane. If you disembark last, that’s hundreds of folks ahead of you from just YOUR plane. Plan for the worst, but have a Plan B for the best.
Thanks for your reply. In your experience, what is a “reasonable“ worst scenario? :)
Air Canada only flys into T-1.. Customs has been quick and the hold up is the arrival on the carousel of your checked bag. Exit with nothing to declare is simply walking out a door. I would allow an hour though just to be safe
Thanks Bumpa, it’s very useful. I’m flying Ott-Tor-Madrid and was afraid I would not be able to catch my 1:30 pm train from Attocha. Hopefully I’ll have time to buy a SIM card before boarding the train. 😁
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Roncesvalles to Sahagun Oct 2016
Sahagun to SDC April 2017
I note that, from Pearson Airport at Toronto, Iberia flies to Madrid, via Heathrow, on its British Airlines codeshare partner.

Air Canada is a very good airline. But there are options...

Personally, when traveling intercontinentally, I favor overall convenience and lack of drama over cost. Changing terminals sucks...

Just sayin...
I usually check one bag and so I am not keen on non direct flights.
 

peb

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
C. Ingles March 2018
and on March 31st, depending on what happens to Brexit, you may also find yourself behind a long line of confused Brits not being able to go through the EU passport control. Could possibly by choatic
 
Camino(s) past & future
Caminos Frances (x4), Finisterre, Aragon, Via de la Plata, Portuguese 2011 -2015. Hospitalero 2015
Don't forget that arrival time is the time the aircraft wheels touch the runway and it may take 15 mins or so to get to the gate, and getting off the plane and walk to the immigration could take another 15 mins.
It's better to be conservative in your planning if you are planning to get another flight or train that day.
Buen Camino
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Oh, I quite agree. LHR is the pits, especially if you need to change terminals for a connection.
 

erikakiana

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés July-August 2019
I live in Madrid, so I have been through the passport control a few times. Usually it's like 10 minutes tops, but one time I arrived at 6 AM at the same time as four other flights from Latin American countries, so there were more people. Still, that only took like 30 minutes maximum. When you arrive in T4, you have to take a tram to get to your luggage. It will usually be there by the time you get through security or you will have a little wait.
 

alaskadiver

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2017-Camino Primitivo
April 2019-Camino de Invierno
I live in Madrid, so I have been through the passport control a few times. Usually it's like 10 minutes tops, but one time I arrived at 6 AM at the same time as four other flights from Latin American countries, so there were more people. Still, that only took like 30 minutes maximum. When you arrive in T4, you have to take a tram to get to your luggage. It will usually be there by the time you get through security or you will have a little wait.
Same experience with us. Fastest was 5 minutes at immigration and longest was maybe 25 mins tops. Waited longer for the checked bag with our poles and knives. Total time to leave the airport and catch the commuter train? Maybe an hour. A bit longer the first time we took the train to Chamartin because we couldn’t find the place to pick up the free tickets :) and it wasn’t open yet.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2017-Sarria to Santiago and Lires to Finisterre
I have been to or through Madrid on two occasions from the US and found the process to be fairly quick, probably less than 30 minutes on both occasions. Much quicker and easier than Heathrow and US airports (until I signed up for Global Entry).
 

CaminoMatt73

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances & Portuguese 2016. Via de la Plata & to Porto Mar-June 2017, Norte Way in Sept.
Hi all, We will be arriving in T1 around 10 am on March 31st from Canada. Would anyone know how long (average) it takes to get out the door for non-european travellers once we pick-up our bags.Thanks
Good morning camino0515-it. Give yourself an hour to 90 minutes. I’m not sure what terminal I’ve flown into but I believe that’s be an average. We arrive March 27, 2017 and bused it to Seville and off hiking within 36 hours. Watch out for the terrain at that time of year. It’s pretty wet!

Go Sens! MJ
 

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