Driving in Spain – Be Safe Be Legal
Spain is generally 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 driving laws, recent legislation has now made some driving offences criminal rather than civil and therefore the consequences can be much more serious than a simple fine.
Our checklist will hopefully help you understand what you need to do to enjoy a safe secure driving experience in Spain.
Driving in Spain Checklist
What you will need to carry with you or in your vehicle to be able to legally drive in Spain.
1. Full and valid driving licence - ( permiso de conducir ) or a valid EEC driving licence.
2. Insurance documents - ( Poliza de Seguro ).
3. Identification - Some form of identification such as your passport, national ID or residence permit ( permiso de residencia ).
4. Vehicle Registration Documents ( Vc5 if you're British ) and if the vehicle is Spanish registered ( ficha tecnica and the permiso de circulacion ).
5. Warning Triangle
6. Reflective Jacket/s
7. GB Sticker if you do not have a EU symbol on your number plates
8. Headlamp beam deflectors
Stay On The Right Side Of The Law
Always carry the following documents in your vehicle when driving in Spain.
» Your driving licence - ( permiso de conducir ) or a valid EEC driving licence.
» Insurance documents - ( Poliza de Seguro ).
» Identification - Some form of identification such as your passport or residence permit ( permiso de residencia ).
» 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 definite don’ts.
- Do not drive under the influence of drugs or drink. Penalties here can range from fines, community service, prison sentences and loss of driving licence.
- Children up to 12 years old should be seated in the rear of the vehicle and children up to the age of 3 must be seated in an 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, speakers may not be attached to the driver's ears. You are not allowed to use audio earphones or headsets except for
- You don’t need to worry about buying a breathalyser kit for driving in Spain, but you should make a note of the more stringent drink-drive limits. The blood alcohol limit in Spain is 0.05 per cent and even lower for drivers with less than three years of experience, currently just 0.01 per cent.
- Blue tooth devices, music players etc are also prohibited.
- Drivers are not allowed to use DVD players, videos or internet screens.
- You are not allowed to use radar speed checking devices which can be part of or separate to GPS systems.
What Is The Alcohol Limit For Driving In Spain?
The Spanish authorities have really cracked down on drink drivers with new laws being passed in 2014, now many driving offences are classed as criminal ones rather than civil.
The blood alcohol limit in Spain was reduced to just 0.05 per cent, this limit is even lower for drivers with less than three years experience which is now 0.01 per cent.
Enforcing the Laws!
There are two types of law enforcement agencies operating on Spain’s roads which you should be aware off when driving in Spain.
The local police ( Policia Local ) are responsible for 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.
Petrol – Fuel
There are a number of companies offering petrol, the main ones being:
There are also many petrol stations run by smaller independent companies so it's well worth shopping around as the price per litre can vary quite a lot.
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 several fuels on offer in Spain with Diesel and Unleaded being the most popular.
The most used unleaded petrol is 95 Octane Gasolina ( Sin Plomo ) and the superior version, usually 98 Octane Gasolina ( Sin Plomo ) both are distributed from the green pumps. Diesel fuel ( Gasoleo ) from the black pumps is 97 Octane Gasolina which 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 so best not to use this on a modern diesel car.
Charger stations are becoming more popular although are not readily available in all areas. There are currently around 6.000 chargers in Spain which is far lower than in most EU countries. Luckily you can check your nearest car charger using websites such as Electromaps which offers users an easy to use interface.
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 a few minutes to pay their bill at the cashier's desk.
General Rules For Driving in Spain
EEC Country stickers showing where the vehicle has been registered are no longer 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.
The minimum age for driving, For holders of the 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 motorbikes 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 your journey if they feel the conditions are to hazardous.
Speed Limits and Road Types
As in other EEC countries, there are varying speed limits in Spain depending where on the type of road and the area 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 maybe 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.
Children 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 child’s 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.
Parking ( Estacionamiento/Aparcamiento )
As anyone knows who has visited and driven in Spain before, most of the typical Spanish villages were 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-advised to park on the outskirts and walk into the town's 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 throughout the blue zone area.
Parking usually has to be paid for from 9 or 9.30 am until 2 pm and from around 4 pm until 9 pm, Mondays to Fridays, and from 9.30 am until 2 pm on Saturdays. Parking is free on Sundays and public holidays.
Parking costs are approximately 70 cents to 1 Euro per hour, depending on the town. You can usually park from 30 minutes up to a maximum period of two hours.
Once the ticket has 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 Euro 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.
Hiring a Car Hire in Spain
To hire a car 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 hire online or directly from a supplier in the country the following rules and checks should be made BEFORE driving in Spain.
Make sure the car hire cost covers the insurance you are paying for. i.e. fully comprehensive with or without 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, wheels, windows, 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.
See our quick guide on how to save money when hiring a car in Spain.
What Items Should Be In Your Car Hire Vehicle
Check in the vehicle for the following items which should be carried at all times before driving in Spain.
» The Insurance documents.
» The Rental contract
» At least one reflective jacket.
» 2 approved breakdown triangles
Is Your Vehicle Insured In Spain?
Before setting off on your journey it is strongly advisable to check the level of insurance cover you have your vehicle and its passengers whilst driving in Spain.
Make sure you understand the level of cover when it comes to third-party liability, fire, theft, fully comprehensive. Also, does it cover you fully to drive within the EU for the duration of your visit?
Roadside Breakdown Assistance
For UK registered vehicles insured via UK based roadside assistance companies, it is advisable to contact them before driving within the EU. Most UK companies will limit the amount of time you are covered during any one visit to Spain, usually around 90 days maximum.
It is also advisable to check the level of cover, for example, will it cover for the cost of repatriation of a damaged vehicle and you and your family members.
If you have UK based cover make sure you carry the current contact numbers and emails should you need urgent assistance?
Driving In Spain After Brexit
In the case of a No-Deal between the EU and the UK then you may be required to carry the old-style IDP - International Driving Permit. Check the RAC website for further details on the types of permits and how to apply for them.