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From San Francisco to Madrid, Spain

I just finished my trip from San Francisco to Madrid, Spain. I flew Iberia once again this time. The flight cost me $884, round-trip. This didn’t include the BART to SFO, nor the renfe in MAD.

I’ve done the trip from US to Spain before. Last time I landed in Barcelona. This time, I’m going to try to live in Seville for a few months and see how I like it.


Flight itinerary

I booked my flight 1.5 months in advance through Iberia’s website from San Francisco to Madrid. I mistakenly thought I was going to check in luggage so I sprung for an extra $100 which also included in-flight meals.

I was leaving from Oregon but since I had friends I wanted to visit in Oakland, I booked my ticket out of SFO.

The flight was on a Monday at 6 pm on July 2nd, 2018.

Flight duration was 11 hours.

I had no delays. In fact, we arrived nearly 15 minutes early.


San Francisco to Madrid

The actual flight would have ideally been from Portland, Oregon to Seville, Spain. There was no easy way to piece that together so I decided to break it up because I definitely wanted to stick with Iberia. 

I flew Norwegian once from Barcelona to Sacramento – once, and never again.

The prices aren’t bad for this time in the season. I’m sure there are budget airline options which are tolerable but this was a very easy and comfy flight.

PDX → OAK (Southwest Airlines)
Oakland → SFO (BART train)
SFO→ MAD (Iberia)
Madrid → Seville (Ave train)



The BART can be a halfway decent train ride during certain hours of the day. No crazies and it wasn’t super packed.

My San Francisco to Madrid flight was at 6 pm so I got the Rockridge (Oakland) BART station at 3pm. It took 53 minutes to get to SFO. Cost, $11.

SFO is the end of the line which makes it brainless.


TSA Security Screening

By 4:00 pm I was at the international terminal and made it through TSA in under 10 minutes with 2 laptops and 2 carry ons.

I didn’t have any bags to check. I managed to fit everything comfortably into 2 carry-ons.

It’s slightly cumbersome carrying 2 heavy bags but it was nice not having to worry about lost luggage, theft, damage, and being able to have all my shit with me.


Business Class Upgrade

The past few weeks I’ve been battling a high blood pressure. Every time it’s high, I feel as though I’ve been run over by a truck. Almost feels like anxiety or panic – which it could be.

My last experience with Norwegian Airlines was so bad that I decided to try my luck at an upgrade. Fortunately, none were available at the ticket counter for San Francisco to Madrid.

I say fortunately because my regular peasant seat was more than comfortable. Not only was the airline only halfway full but there were empty isles strewn across the plane as well.

During the online check-in, I was offered a Business Class upgrade for $500. Though the business seats are really nice, I am glad I didn’t spend the extra money.

My seat was fine for me. I’m 6′, 175 lbs. I had a nice lady next to me from Israel and we chatted it up.


Iberia Flight Amenities

By 4:30 pm I made it to my gate and was sitting down and relaxing.

They said we would board at 5:00 pm but ended up boarding closer to 5:25 pm.

I stuck one bag in the overhead and stuffed the other in the seat in front of me. Got my noise cancelling headphones out and lounged until take-off.


The entertainment console was an Android-based touch screen – really nice, really responsive. Amazing movie selection. Great music choices. There were games and other things which I didn’t mess with.

Charging/USB/Headphone Jack

There is a USB charging port which kept my phone battery topped up the entire 11 hours of flying.

I was using the phone quite a bit since I did some telemedicine on the flight.

The headphone jack was your standard 3.5mm headphone jack. My noise cancelling headphone wire fit in there perfectly.


Iberia partners with Panasonic to purchase satellite internet. For €29.99 I purchased internet for the entire flight.

I was capped at 200 MB which is probably why the internet kicked me out after 8 hours. I would have like to use it longer but it was time for sleep.

The internet speed was slow and they don’t allow movie or music streaming. I managed to get a few things done so it was well worth the money which I’ll discuss further below.


It was hot as sin outside but in the cabin it was freezing.

With the jacket I fortunately brought with me and their blankets, I managed to stay fairly comfortable.


4 hours of sleep. Not bad.

I usually have my baseball cap on. I then throw the blanket over my face, so I’m not bothered by noise or bright LED screens – looking like a slumped over corpse.

With an empty seat on each side of me, it was quite easy to stretch out my legs.


Flight Meals

I ordered a vegan dish for dinner and breakfast. They also came around and offered fresh rolls and small sandwiches to anyone who had purchased the meal-option.

The food was great. I got spinach and tofu with rice. There was a nice salad and some fresh fruits.

They offered juice and water and coffee. I loved it all – tasted great.

In hindsight, it’s nice getting a warm meal when you have cold, dry air blasted on your for 11 hours straight. $100, well worth the money.


Telemedicine on the Plane

I had enough of a connection to do about $125 worth of telemedicine for one company and another $45 for another on my San Francisco to Madrid flight on Iberia.

I spent $35 to get online and, really, I just wanted to test out and see if I really could do telemedicine or not – worked out great.

I did all the work from my phone because I think the laptop would have been risky if someone were to look over my shoulder.


Madrid Airport

I thought I had to fill out one of those pain-in-the-ass cards for declaration but nobody game me one.

Got off the plane, walked nearly 10 minutes to get to the passport line and it wasn’t packed. Within about 5 minutes the security officer checked my passport and I was done.

I was already in Terminal 4 but needed to take a quick train shuttle to the baggage/exit which is free.


MAD to Atocha (City Center)

Near the train terminal, a friendly employee helped me with the automated machines where you purchase your ticket.

I used my Amazon Credit Card as a reader suggested which has saved me a lot of money so far. The exchange rate is better than what my bank gives me ($1.169 = €1) and I don’t get charged a transaction fee which usually is 3-5%.

I paid 2.60 EU for the ticket and headed out to the platform. It was a little confusing but after looking at the map I finally figured it out.

6 exits later, I was at Atocha train terminal in the center of Madrid. I decided to get my AirBnb here because my Ave train leaves from Atocha to Seville.

AirBnb Drama

By this time I was a little tired but not too bad. I had drunk a lot of water and ate well on the plane. But my head was pounding. I could feel my blood pressure was through the roof.

I walked over to the AirBnb location where my host was supposed to meet me at 4:30 pm. I arrived 30 minutes early but wasn’t able to get my cell phone to work. Silly me, I should have lounged at a cafe and used their free WiFi.

He didn’t show up even by 5:00 pm so I bounced and headed for a nearby Marriott. I got a night’s stay for €192. I should have been more patient because once I was able to connect, the guy apologized and wanted to rush over but I had already paid for my Marriott. I was nice about it – just wanted to get into a shower and crash.

The AirBnb was gonna cost me €90 for 2 nights. So I’m nearly €200 in the hole but that’s okay. I’m in a really luxurious hotel and I’m lounging in the lobby with hi-speed internet and doing what I love – writing.

For dinner I walked over to a really clean fruit stand and for €7.13 got 2 avocados, 2 oranges, 4 figs, and 5 bananas. I devoured them all – delish.

Tomorrow, I’ll wake up and head back to the Atocha train station and head out on a 2.5-hour train ride to Seville, my final destination.

2 replies on “From San Francisco to Madrid, Spain”

Long time lurker here, writing to wish you well on this new adventure.

Clever use of online connection in the air! Wonder if you could pay for the full cost of airfare by working through the flight someday…

Finally, we’ve been traveling Greece and had great experience using a Fidelity debit card linked to a brokerage account to avoid fees ( all get reimbursed) with decent exchange rates. Go Curry Cracker highlighted it in a helpful post on paying no fees internationally. Hope it’s not too little too late.

Best wishes for Ethpaña!



The Amazon card by Chase has been amazing so far. I’ll keep Fidelity in mind as well. I have gotten amazing conversion rates and no foreign transaction fees which is fantastic.

I hear Greece is incredible. My folks did that trip a while back and loved it.

Dude! Ethpaña for sure … gotta lisp that C… takes a while getting used to. Sevilla is a little less lispy than Barthelona. Fortunately for me, more people know a little English here. But I’ve been learning a lot so I’m getting by better as well.

Currently lounging at a library near the river and doing some writing and a little telemedicine. Hope you have a new and fun destination planned next.

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