Getting Sick in Madrid

Madrid Spain StreetsI had big plans for Madrid. I was going to be here for a week, which would allow me to catch up on work, explore lots of the city, and find out all the cheap things to do. This post was going to be a great primer for traveling to Madrid. Then I got sick. A week in Valencia and Barcelona left me with a bit of a cold. My first two days in Madrid were spent sleeping. Most of yesterday was spent doing the same. My trip in Madrid will be a short, neutered, highlighted version, rather than the in-depth look I had wanted.

On Twitter, I was chastised by a few people for giving into my cold and not seeing the city. As a traveler, what do you do when you get sick? Do you give in, rest, sleep, and say “maybe next time,” or do you suck it up and go out even if it means you’ll be sick longer? I don’t think either one is right or wrong. If you have a limited time in a place that you might not get back to, then sucking it up may be worth a few extra days of illness back home. If you might get back to it again or have longer time, I’d sleep in and get better. You’ll enjoy the small time you have left in the city much more. If you’re traveling for a while, do you really want to be sick for weeks on end? There’s really no right answer here.

Everyone deals with illness differently. I’m a big baby about it. I don’t get sick often, so when I do, I just like to hide away until it’s over. Other people learn to function while being sick. I don’t. I like to sleep. Plus, I have as long as I want. I’ll be traveling for months, and I have no desire to be drinking Guinness, experiencing French wine in Bordeaux, or doing Paris’ nightlife with a cold. I don’t regret sleeping most of my Madrid trip away. You have to do what you have to. On the road, there’s no right or wrong way—there’s only your experience.
plaza mayor Madrid SpainMadrid Spain
That’s why today I spent most of the day resting. It’s my last day here. Tomorrow I leave for Dublin before heading to Bordeaux. I’d like to be well rested for both destinations because once I join my friends again, I won’t have the luxury of being able to sleep for days.

So did I see anything of Madrid? A little. I walked around for a few hours yesterday and today. Madrid is a much nicer city than Barcelona. The streets are wider, there’s less graffiti, the buildings are more typically Spanish, and the architecture is more historic. Additionally, the vibe is a lot calmer than Barcelona.

But that’s about all I can say about Madrid. I didn’t get to any good restaurants, I didn’t visit one bar. I barely explored anything. I wanted to write all about the ways to save money in Madrid, but all I can tell you is that the Prado Museum is free from 6–7.30pm, and you’ll save three euros if you buy a 10-trip metro pass. Maria from I Wanna Go There did take me to a nice tapas place yesterday near the history museum (which is closed for renovations).
Madrid SpainMadrid Spain
I wish I could report more on Madrid. It seems like a very interesting city with a lot to do. Sadly, the city took a back seat to my cold. But at least now, I’m ready to explore Dublin and, hopefully, give you a much more informative and interesting article to read. But if I can’t give you an interesting article to read, I can at least show you what Spider-Man is up to these days:

Madrid Spain fat Spiderman

I think he really let himself go.

For more information, visit my page on backpacking Europe or my guide to Spain.

  1. I agree with Matt and Daniel, rest and recharge is always a good option. I recently caught a cold on my last day in Anchorage, Alaska. I was sneezing on the airplane, but I had to get home. I know I don’t apppreciate when people are out and about when they are sick. It puts others at risk to catch your cold.

    I had to pass on my planned trip to Macau, China. Better to be home sick than quarantined in a foreign country.

    Feel better, soon.

  2. I tend to push myself hard, traveling through the sickness. Coincidentally, or not, i tend to get sick often when I travel. I explored Dublin with a bad cold, San Juan with the flu and spent an entire weekend in Amsterdam with no voice. I know it’s not wise and it makes me sick longer (I had swollen tonsils for the ENTIRE 4 months I studied abroad because I refused to slow down), but if I’m in a foreign country I want to see it dammit.

    It’s a shame you missed out on Madrid, I spent a (mercifully healthy) week there last summer and it is a big interesting city! It’s not going anywhere though and you can always come back. No regrets, right?

  3. Daniel

    Hope you’re feeling better Matt. Where to next? I recall the same thing happening to me in Agra in India — I’m of the belief that you just shouldn’t fight it. Grab some soup and hole up for a few days. Better not to be slave to any schedule, much less a self-imposed one.

  4. Brandy

    I got sick in Madrid, too – the day after I arrived, I puked all over the escalator in the Metro. It sucked, and was kind of embarrassing. Fortunately, I was in Madrid for a month, so I got plenty of rest and then still had plenty of time to see the city. I’m sure you’ll get to go back sometime, though, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you’re not sick.

    Hope you’re feeling better!

  5. For us it was a time issue. We’re away for ten weeks so when Karen got sick we decided to hunker down and let her recover as quick as possible so she can enjoy the rest of the trip rather than power on.

    I suppose it’s very subjective.

    I hope you’re feeling beter – this is your ‘Save Ferris’ moment!


    • You did the right thing. Sleep is the best medicine. I think it is absolutely insane to force yourself to do things when you are sick. The only exception would be if you only had a couple days somewhere. And honestly if you are really, really sick, it doesn’t matter how much time you have left you won’t be doing much. I can guarantee you this though – you will always remember Madrid as the place you got sick and then the things you did see will stand out even more. Plus, it’s a great excuse to get back there! It would’ve been so much worse if you pushed yourself and then stayed sick thru the next couple of weeks.

  6. Shelz

    So far I never get sick in my travel trips, but I do agree that there’s nothing much we can do if we fall sick. A good rest is the best medicine to completely recover from illness and to continue our long journey.

    I think sometimes getting sick giving us very good excuse to have a long rest without feeling guilty. (Why would we feel guilty about getting sick? Our bodies need to rest sometimes.)

    Hope you get well soon and I enjoy reading your blog.

  7. Get well soon Matt!

    I tend to take the “rest now, recuperate, then carry on” approach to illness on the road. If you’re feeling rally bad, pushing on often makes it worse. You’ll just end up in another city that you’re not able to enjoy 100%.

  8. Andrew

    Deciding on what to when getting sick during travel is such a tough thing. I mean for me it all comes down to these factors.

    A) How sick am I? If it is a sneeze, then I will be going out to the bars that night. But if I am dizzy, have a flu or can barely move, then of course I am going to stay in the hotel and hibernate.

    B) How much longer do I have in this particular locale? Well if I am 7 days into a 10 day trip, then you can bet that the rest of my stay will be in a bed watching tv. Now if I just arrived, I will more than likely push through the sickness and nurse it with an ice cold beverage.

    Enjoy Dublin! Go to Oliver St. John Gogarty and the Brazen Head for a few pints…it will surely cure your ailment.



  9. Diogo Slov

    In 2006 I caught a flu in Paris. Out of the three weeks there, one was spent sleeping. It sucked, but I know myself and I’m pretty sure I’d have hated myself throughout the day if I were forcing myself to visit places.

    I’m all for recovering as fast as possible. Good choice!

  10. Definitely sucks to get sick while traveling. The highlight of Madrid for me was definitely the Prado Museum, which is why I suggested it on Twitter, partly because I had studied so many of the masterworks housed there back in college.

    Looking forward to Dublin and Bordeaux updates!

  11. I’m sorry to hear you got sick! You’re right, everyone handles illness differently, but it also depends on the illness too (cold and stomach virus are very different — with a cold you can still go out and do things, but with a stomach virus, you want to be near a toilet!).

    I think it’s important to listen to your body. If you are feeling horrible and your body is telling you that you need to rest, you need to rest — otherwise you’ll wreck your immune system and stay sick longer, like Stephanie said. If you are somewhere for a limited time and don’t want to miss it, go out and do some exploring, but don’t push yourself. Go home and take a nap mid-day or spend the night in instead of forcing yourself to go out. Remember, if you miss out on something, you can always go back :)

  12. I think you had the Great British Man Flu, Matt. Walking around in the fresh air would probably do you better than filling your hostel pillow with it anyway. I was one of those that urged you to get up and about, and I’m sticking by my decision.

    Long term traveller or not, it makes no difference. You probably won’t be back in Madrid for a few years. Regardless, I hope you’re feeling better and Europe is proving what a great place it is.

  13. Hey!

    Getting sick sucks anywhere! I was just deathly ill for the 3rd time in Guaemala. And I too don’t get sick often. And I’m a big baby about it too!

    Love the spiderman shot! Anil is right, he has really let himself go:)

  14. Sleep it off! I remember when I tried to an illness in LA soon after I arrived many many years ago. I ended up very ill and alone in a hostel in San Francisco being looked after by 3 young Germans. I realised then what flu really was!
    Hope you feel better soon…

  15. Aww so sad you were sick for that long while there!!! :(!!
    That has happened to me, too. While in Milan for a month, we took a weekend trip to glorious
    Venice. It was much anticipated. We arrived late at night and had dinner then went straight to bed – planning to cram the next day full of everything Venice. But when I woke in the morning I had a terrible sore throat (think… FIRE!!), a stuffy/runny nose and overall shitty feeling. So pathetic! But what did I do? Yes… I went out anyway. I wandered the streets of Venice, rode in a gondola, ate a three course meal… all while feeling like death! I couldn’t believe it.
    I probably didn’t enjoy my trip to it’s full potential… but I would’ve kicked myself had I stayed in bed. In your case, bed seemed more than appropriate!

  16. Monna

    We were living in Barcelona… it was a Friday afternoon and my partner and I were packing for a long weekend in Granada. I had visited the Alhambra once but he had not yet been to Granada and I was excited to be his tour guide. When he finally told me that he was feeling unwell it took us just a few minutes to come to the conclusion that we would stay home while he recovered. If there is anything more depressing than the inside of a cheap hotel room in Granada… I can’t imagine what it is.

    Travel has brought us so much pleasure and has taught us so much over this past decade in which we have lived abroad… but it’s not our religion. We made the right decision to stay home… the Alhambra will still be there.

  17. HyderabadChick

    I hear you! I was sick prior to my visit to Spain. Fortunately, my friend wasn’t. She got me up and out every day. We only had a week, so I’m glad we toughed it out (by the end of the trip, I’d gotten HER sick, poor girl).

    We still remember that as a fun trip inspite of the sneezing and sniffling! :)

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