Getting around the two main train stations in Madrid (Chamartin and Atocha) is fairly easy once you orient yourself to the different sections for the local Metro, the Circular (Cervantes) trains and the fast Ave trains. Studying the signs will help you figure out what some of the terms mean even if you can’t totally read them. There are information booths throughout the train station where you can get some navigation help.
From what I have noticed the blue machines are used for purchasing metro tickets. The red ones are for the circular. Also notice the Red C on the train indicating that it’s the circular train. The fast Ave train also says Renfe, but it doesn’t have the red C on it. I have always just purchased fast train tickets ahead of time online, however there are ticket machines and ticket agents at the station.
For the Metro and Circular you can purchase one way or multi tickets. If you plan to use the bus, metro or circular for most of your transportation needs it’s best to get a card at the machine as you can use the samee card for the bus, metro and circular, just not the fast Ave trains.
A one way fair is approximately 1.70 euro whereas a card for ten one ways is only 10.00 euro plus 2.00 for a refillable card. You can use cash in either the machines or at a ticket agent booth.
Keep your ticket as you need it to enter and exit the turnstyles.
If using the machines you may not be able to read the instructions as they are written in Spanish. It took me pushing several buttons to finally figure out how to choose my destination. Just don’t put your money in them a hike unless you are used you are getting the right ticket.