Folks, traveling post-COVID is not recommended. Forreals.
Having said that, if you’re the type to go to the airport 5 hours ahead and double-check all rules and regs beforehand, you’ll be fine. It’s something I wish I did!
Ok, now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about how my Spanish “vacation” went! I’ll be splitting up my post into two sections: how the logistics of my trip went; and what I did & ate on my vacation (the fun part lol).
TRAVEL DURING COVID:
First off, we flew from JFK to Madrid-Barajas. Prior to boarding, we were required to fill out forms on the SpTH app, which asked for basically all your travel info (passport number, flight number, address of where you’ll be staying, reason for visit, etc). It spits out a QR code, which you have to present to boarding staff (very unorganized; we flew Air Europa and they had us switch from one line where we had been waiting 15m on to another, where we waited another 15m on just to scan everything and print out a physical boarding pass for some unknown reason).
After the flight, you are asked again to show the QR code, but they don’t make you take any tests, nor do they ask for your vaccine passport. Made me wonder why I even bothered to get vaccinated, tbqh!
Riding in cars:
You must wear a mask when you ride in a cab or uber at all times. This didn’t bother me, but what did bother me was the requirement of only 3 people per ride. What was the point of that? If someone in your group has covid, what does it matter if you ride with an additional person??
Because of this, it led to me missing my train. Basically, I didn’t know only three people were allowed max per ride; and we were cutting it close to our train boarding time. I panicked because the fourth person in our party had to leave to call another car, and in my mind, it did not make sense to split up (because if one of us didn’t make the train, our trip is essentially ruined). This led to me cancelling our ride with the thought that we could ride in another car together. We ended up missing the train and having to spend extra money on a car rental, since there were no more spots on future trains the next day.
Long story short: CHECK HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO RIDE IN AN UBER OR CAB BEFORE REQUESTING. Because we were cutting it so close to our train boarding, I panicked and didn’t realize I called a car that only allowed three people (of course we could all have fit but the driver did not allow it).
Flying back to your home country:
This was the most frustrating part of our trip which could easily have been avoided. Basically, all travelers going to the USA, vaccinated or not, need to take an antigen COVID test or you are not allowed to board.
Not knowing this, we wasted time (an hour and a half) waiting to get the test, which caused us to miss our return flight, sleeping overnight in the airport and spending extra money on one-way tickets home.
We weren’t the only ones — there were at least 50 people in line in front of us, many who probably missed their flights as well.
Prior to your return flight, make sure to CHECK FLIGHT & ENTRY REGULATIONS TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY. The fact that we were vaccinated; again; had absolutely no bearing.
Overall, people in Madrid were very COVID-conscious. Lots of people wore masks outside. They often asked us to use hand sanny whenever we entered the store.
Chilling Cafe: 4.5 out of 5
Of course, my first choice was my favorite from the last time I visited and it didn’t disappoint!
Chilling Cafe had a brunch special the last time I went and I loved it just the same! Honestly, price and value-wise, this was the best vegan spot in all of Madrid (and I think Spain in general!). You get all of the below for €12; we ordered two brunch specials and mixed and matched because #fatties lol
One thing I really appreciated (and that we take for granted in the USA) is that they had a water jug in Chilling Cafe. As most Spaniards know, water is nearly never free (you have to buy bottle at 2-3€ each) and the cost for paying for water adds up! There is no option to choose “tap” so I skirt the rules a bit by bringing my own glass refillable water bottle wherever I go.. and I fill it in the bathroom . Tap water in Spain is high quality and safe, so really, there’s no real reason to be paying for drinking water.
Hakuna Matata: 3 out of 5
My first dinner out in Madrid wasn’t my favorite, but it was decent.
Hakuna Matata had both indoor and outdoor seating. We ordered a seitan stir-fry, veggie meatballs w/ mashed potatoes and gravy and a passionfruit cheesecake (my favorite part of the meal).
Freedom Cakes: 3.5 out of 5
I loved the decor and ambiance of Freedom Cakes, which was very whimsical, pop-art and 80s vibes. The staff seemed a bit bored with their jobs, but nonetheless I enjoyed what I ordered.
Chocolatería San Ginés: 4 out of 5 (churros only)
One of the oldest and best churro places in Madrid (IMHO Bonilla à la Vista is the best), and they know it: service is a little snippy, but the churros are very tasty and I was happy with them. The chocolate is typical, nothing special. An iconic treat you need to eat when you’re in Spain!
Sanissimo Principe Pío: 3.5 out of 5
A small chain of vegan burger joints, Sanissimo did not disappoint! We thoroughly enjoyed our Hipster & Logan burgers, which were juicy to the point of falling apart (totally didn’t mind) and expertly seasoned and sauced potato slice fries.
We paired our burgers with freshly-squeezed juices, which had a BOGO deal— so why not? The juices had a little bit of pulp to it, which I liked; the flavor was not too sweet (you choose from a base and then pick two fruits, or more for an additional cost.
Pizzi & Dixie: 4 out of 5
This was one of my favorite meals in Spain! Each pizza was baked to perfection and had that wood-fired taste and crispy, thick crust.
Frutas Prohibidas: 3.5 out of 5
Although I did enjoy the cakes here, the service at Frutas Prohibidas was seriously lacking: it took 10m for them to get our two slices of cake (how long does it take to slice a piece of cake??) and the attitude wasn’t the friendliest.
However, I did really enjoy the blueberry layer cake, which was unique and light in consistency. The passionfruit cheesecake was also good, though a little blah on the cheesecake sweetness level (a bit like eating tofu cake).
Mandarina Plant-Based Kitchen: 4 out of 5
Simple, delicious vegan food with a touch of class is how I would accurately describe Mandarina Plant Based Kitchen. It’s the perfect little restaurant for a date or to catch up with an old friend!
The service was also excellent and friendly, one of my favorite restaurants I tried this time around.
Tuk Tuk Asian Street Food: 3 out of 5
In a pinch, we tried this Thai fusion joint with meh expectations. It was nothing special, but since there were really not many vegan options at all in Cuarto Caminos, it wasn’t an awful choice.
I did like their tagline; “Asia sin jet lag,” very cute and clever
When in Spain, try to eat Spanish food
Freddo y Freddo – 5 out of 5
Delicious delicious gelato! This was the BEST gelato I’ve had in my life. I have no idea why it tasted so good — the coconut was the right amount of sweet and creamy, silky and soft consistency and perfectly paired with the tartness of their blackberry flavor. I regret not getting my own cone tbqh (shared it with Emily 😪) but I definitely could have eaten ten cones, so probably for the best!
Madrid surprised me this time around with their vegan offerings; it seems pretty easy to find veg-friendly food and the options are ever-growing. I hope to see even more restaurants the next time I stop in!