Spain is in general a very safe country to drive around as long as you follow some simple rules. The country has moved well into the modern era and so have the laws governing the use of motor vehicles which should be respected and adhered to at all times not least as they are now being rigorously enforced by the Spanish authorities. Recent legislation has now made some driving offences criminal ones.
RENTING A CAR IN SPAIN
To rent a vehicle in Spain you will need a valid driving licence recognised within the EEC , rental companies will also place age limits on people wishing to hire cars with them, usually between 21 and 70, it is best to check with the rental company their policy before hiring a vehicle.
Whether you pre book the car on line or directly from a supplier in the country the following rules and checks should be made BEFORE driving the vehicle away.
Make sure the hire cost covers the insurance you are paying for. i.e. fully comprehensive with or without an excess or a waiver which will exclude any general excess payments should you be responsible for the accident. Ask if the insurance covers things like mirrors, etc. Full roadside assistance should also be standard and most policies in Spain nowadays is provided in English by the insurer, make sure you have a standard EEC compliant road accident form in English.
Check in the vehicle for the following items which should be carried in the vehicle at all times.
The Insurance documents.
The Rental contract
At least one reflective jacket.
A spare set of light bulbs.
2 approved breakdown triangles
If you require glasses to drive you will also need a spare set also to be carried in the vehicle. If you will carrying babies or young driving in the car make sure you have a baby seat.
Make sure the tyre pressure is correct, engine oil levels are ok and have enough fuel to get you to your destination. Most rental vehicles in Spain use 95 UNLEADED ( Green pump ) , some will use DIESEL ( Black pump ).
CHILDEN AND PASSENGER SAFETY
All children must be carried in a manner which ensures a maximum chance of survival in case of an accident or forced to make a sudden stop. All persons in vehicles up to nine seats must wear an approved seat belt and in the case of children and approved seat specially designed for that purpose.
Babies up to 9 months old and up to 10kg should travel in a carrycot which must be laid across the back seat and secured with the cars safety belts or other approved safety attachments. From 10 to 13kg up to 2 years old should be sat in a Childs car seat fitted in the rear of the vehicle facing rearwards. From 9kg to 18 kg or from 9 months to 3 years old a child's seat facing forwards or rearwards may be used although it should be in the rear of the vehicle. From 15 to 25kg o up to 6 years old, a seat elevator can be used to lift up the child and travel more comfortably. From 22 to 36kg or 6 to 12 years old a combination of a seat elevator and the cars seat belts is acceptable. Children up tot the age of 12 years old are not allowed to sit in the front seat.
STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LAW.
Always carry the following documents in your vehicle. Your driving licence, ( permiso de conducer ) or a valid EEC driving licence. Insurance documents ( Poliza de Seguro ) , some form of identification such as your passport or residence permit ( permiso de residencia ) , the vehicle registration documents ( V5 if your British ) and if the vehicle is Spanish registered ( ficha tecnica and the permiso de circulacion ) .
Drive carefully and you will probably never come into contact with any of the law enforcement agencies patrolling the roads in Spain, however here is a reminder of the dos and don'ts.
Do not drive under the influence of drugs or drink, the legal limit for drinking now has just been lowered to 0.5 per cent. Penalties here can range from fines, community service, prison sentences and loss of your driving licence.
Children up to 12 years old should be seated in the rear of he vehicle and children up to the age of 3 must be seated in n approved child seat again in the rear of the vehicle.
Mobile Phones are a definite no no with police strictly enforcing this law, only true hands free units may be used, the speakers may not be attached to the drivers ears.
You may not have use hearing devices attached to your ears except for an hearing aid. Blue tooth devices, music players etc are a no no.
Drivers are not allowed top use DVD players, videos or internet screens.
If you require glasses to drive then you will need to carry a spare set in the vehicle at all times.
You will need two approved triangles in the vehicle ( only one if the vehicle is UK registered ) along with an approved light reflecting jacked. Should you break down on a main public highway or motorway you are not allowed to leave the vehicle unless you are wearing a jacket, the triangles can then be placed at a distance of around 30 meters behind the vehicle to warn oncoming traffic.
You are not allowed to use radar speed checking devices which can be part of or separate to GPS systems, the fines are heavy if you are caught using this type of device.
On the spot fines can be issued although you are in your right to request an official receipt from the officer collecting the fine.
ENFORCING THE LAWS !
There are two types of law enforcement agencies operating on Spains roads and highways.Firstly you have the local police ( Policia Local ) they are responsible to maintaining order on a local scale in and around the municipal boundaries of each town or city. This force also deals with pretty crime and general low level law enforcement along with other municipal duties.
The main police force you will encounter on open roads and motorways will be the more serious and well prepared Civil Guard ( Guardia Civil ) patrol units. Their vehicles are usually white with green bonnets which show there official coat of arms.
They use very well equipped vehicles, powerful bikes , 4 x 4s, helicopters and high powered speed boats to carry out their duties to the max.
GENERAL INFORMATION and ADVICE
It is a good idea to carry a small first aid kit on the car, although this is not compulsory it is well advisable top do so.
You will almost never be more than a few kms from a petrol filling station. Mostly provide self service pumps which do not always require you have to pay the amount required. In the busy areas most petrol stations are open all night but will have limited personnel on duty , out of normal hours and for security reasons you will be required to pay for the fuel before filling up the car.
There are six fuels on offer in Spain with Diesel and Unleaded being the most popular. 95 octane gasolina ( Sin Plomo ) is the most used unleaded fuel whish is distributed from the green pumps, along with Diesel ( Gasoleo ) which comes from the black pumps. 97 Octane Gasolina has a lead replacement chemical for older vehicles. Diesel ( Gasoleo “A” ) is a cheaper lower quality diesel on offer for the owners of older engines, do not use this on a modern diesel car.
Credit cards are widely accepted in all stations these days.
It is advisable to lock your doors when leaving the vehicle to fill up the tank and when you go to pay for the fuel as many vehicles have been reported stolen from the forecourts while the driver has left it unattended for w few minutes to pay their bill at the cashiers desk.
EEC Country stickers showing where the vehicle has been registered are no loner required when driving in European Union countries.
Headlamp converters are compulsory.
Lights: dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility. Motorcycles must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.
Minimum age for driving, For holders of a full UK driving licence you are allowed to drive class B vehicles which are cars, bikes up to 75cc and light goods and vans up to 3500 Kilos in weight. If you wish to drive motor bikes over 75cc you will need to take the corresponding test either in Spain or abroad.
Motorcycle and moped ( 49cc) drivers and passengers must wear crash helmets.
Motor insurance: The vehicle must be insured for a minimum third-party cover, all other types of Insurance are freely available in Spain such as Fire, Theft, Fully Comprehensive, extended roadside assistance etc . Carrying a green card is no longer obligatory within the EEC.
Replacement bulb set is compulsory.
Seat belts are compulsory for front and rear seat occupants, if fitted.
Snow chains If you Planning a trip up into one the Spanish mountain resorts during the winter season then it is highly recommended to carry snow chains , if you do not have them the police can prevent you from continuing you journey if they feel the conditions are to hazardous.
Warning triangle is compulsory. One only is required for non-Spanish registered vehicles. Two required for Spanish vehicles, I would recommend that at least two triangles are kept in the car at all times.
SPEED LIMITS and ROAD TYPES.
As in other EEC countries there are varying speed limits depending where on the type of road and the area are your driving in.
Carretera Locale or Via Urbana – Urban Driving, within built up areas , towns, villages, cities etc. The normal speed limits here are 30 Kms p/h although some stretches may be 50 depending on the area, keep a good eye out for the signs which are clearly marked.
Autopista (motorway) - The Maximum speed is 120 kph (73 mph), this also applies to the toll roads ( Peajes ).
Autovia - dual carriageways which may or may not have a central reservation. Speed limits vary from 80 to 110 kph, again these roads clearly mark the speed limits in each case.
Carretera Nacional - N or CN , main roads vary from 50 to 100 Mph.
PARKING ( estacionamiento/aparcamiento )
As anyone knows who has visited and driven in Spain before, most of the typical Spanish villages where never built to handle the high and sometimes disproportionate amount of traffic that exists on Spain roads today.
In some cases it will never be easy, however here are some good pointers to watch for.
If you plan to visit small villages where you dead end streets or very narrow ones are commonplace, it is well advisable to park on the outskirts and walk into the towns centre.
Whenever possible parking should be in the same direction as the traffic flow in one-way streets or on the right-hand side of roads with two-way traffic.
In some areas parking is permitted on one side of the street for the first half of the month (blue and red parking restriction signs marked 1-15 ) and on the other side for the second half of the month (signs are marked 16-31 ).
Always try to park in a correct and tidy manner, leaving two wheels mounted on the kerb infuriates pedestrians, irritates the locals and could get your vehicle towed away for good measure.
Resident parking areas can be found around Spain and are marked with black bands on street lighting posts or telephone posts. Residents may park here by obtaining parking card from the local town hall ( you will need proof of residence for this ) and display it in their windscreen. Some towns have zones where parking is regulated during working hours ( horas laborables ), when you need a permit covering the period you intend to stay.
Most Spanish town and city centres now have blue zones (zonas azules), indicated by blue street markings, to park here you will need to pay for a ticket which is paid via the blue ticket machines which can be located through out the blue zone area. Parking must usually has to be paid for from 9 or 9.30am until 2pm and from around 4 until 9pm, Mondays to Fridays, and from 9.30am until 2pm on Saturdays. Parking is free on Sundays and public holidays. Parking costs are approximately 70 cents to 1 Euros per hour, depending on the town. You can usually park from 30 minutes up to a maximum period of two hours. Once the ticket have been purchased be sure that is correctly displayed behind your windscreen where it can be easily seen by the parking attendant.
If you exceed your time limit and find a parking ticket with a small envelope placed on your windscreen you can in many cases cancel it out immediately by paying a small penalty of 3 Euros . This is done by purchasing another ticket from the machine for 3 Euros , then place the new ticket in the small envelope provided with the parking fine and then post it in a special slot at the bottom of the ticket machine or by giving it to the parking attendant. This must be done within a limited period, usually 24 Hours , otherwise you will be liable for a fine of up to 40 Euros or more.
Some towns operate a monthly card system costing around 15 Euros a month.
Towns and cities are creating more parking areas, mostly in the form of underground or multi story car parks, although at the moment the number of places available is still insufficient. Parking rates vary considerably and are usually from around 1 Euros an hour. Spaces available in a multi-storey or underground car park (aparcamiento subterráneo) are indicated by a FREE ( libre ) sign at the entrance, while COMPLETO indicates that it's full.
One final sound word of advice…its definitely better to arrive 5 minutes late than never at all…..PLEASE drive carefully .