Driving in Spain
Accidents in Spain
Information on what to do if you are involved in a car accident in Spain: who to call and how to fill in the accident report document for insurance after a car crash.
Buying & Selling a Car in Spain
Information on how, as a foreigner in Spain, you can buy a new or used car. Information includes information on what forms to fill out and how to find your local traffic department Jefatura de Trafico.
Driving in Spain
An overview of the rules of the road, the types of roads, parking, driving while drunk and other aspects important to a driver in Spain.
Foreign Driving Licences in Spain
Information on who may exchange their foreign driver's licence for a Spanish licence. Information applies to European Union citizens (UK, EU etc.) as well as people with American, Australian or other non-EU driver's licences.
Green Card System
Also known as the International Motor Insurance Certificate, this is an internationally recognised document (in countries in which the Green Card is valid) and acts as recognisable proof of third party car insurance in case of road accident while abroad.
Insuring a Vehicle in Spain
General information on the types of vehicle insurance available in Spain: details on insuring a vehicle (options from third party to all risks) and making a claim. What the cover provides and how to insure a foreign car in Spain.
ITV Vehicle Roadworthiness in Spain
All vehicles on the roads in Spain must be roadworthy. It's up to the car or bike owner to ensure their vehicle has a valid ITV certificate. Vehicles must be tested at an authorised centre for safety and emissions, as for an MOT test in the UK.
Spanish Driving Licences
The information you need on how to apply for a driving licence in Spain: who is entitled, how to get the driving permit and how to renew it. Also the role of the driving instructor and taking the examination and the points penalty system used in Spain.
Driving in Spain
Many of the basic rules of the road in Spain are very similar to those across the rest of Europe. Spain has recently begun imposing severe penalties for those not adhering to these regulations.
Rules & Regulations
- Drive on the right in Spain
- The legal age for driving is 18 years
- It is compulsory for a driver to have driving licence, car registration and insurance documents in the car
- Every vehicle must have a driving permit (permiso de circulación), which has to be renewed when the vehicle's owner changes when the car is bought or sold
- It is obligatory to have car insurance. It is the car owner's responsibility to get the insurance
- Valid Spanish, other EU country and International Driving Licences are accepted in Spain
- Car tax must be paid annually at your local town hall
- It is illegal to drive with headphones connected to a sound device
- Mobile cellular telephones may only be used with a "handsfree" system
- It is forbidden to carry devices to evade police vigilance (radar detectors, for example)
- It's compulsory to wear a seat belt (el cinturón de seguridad) including in the back seats if belts are fitted. It is the driver's responsibility to ensure all passengers wear their belts (and the driver will be fined if passengers are not belted)
- Children under 12 years may not travel in the front seats, unless they are over 150cm tall
- Snow chains are obligatory on some mountainous roads in the winter
- Dogs must be restrained in a moving car
- Headlights must be used in tunnels, even during the day
- It is illegal to pass on the right (to "undertake") in free-flowing traffic
- Motorbikes drivers may not carry passengers under the age of 12
- Drivers involved in an accident must stop and help injured people, collaborate in avoiding danger and other possible accidents and call the police if there are injured people or if the road cannot be cleared (Police Tel: 112)
Spain's breakdown and recovery service is the RACE.
What to carry in the Car
It is obligatory to carry the following items in a car at all times. Not having these can result in a fine if pulled over by the police, or failure of the vehicle roadworthiness test, the ITV (Inspección técnica de Vehículos).
- It is obligatory to carry a yellow, orange or red reflective danger vest. The vest must be accessible without leaving the car
- Each car must carry 2 red warning triangles
- Spare bulbs and the tools required to fit them
- A spare wheel, inflated and the tools necessary to change it
- Approved child seats for children under 12 and/or 150cm
Types of Roads
Spanish roads were re-classified in 2004 in order to make them easier to understand and more consistent across the country. However, be aware that there may remain instances where the road may have two names and maps may be outdated.
- The motorway network is the Autopista. The autopista's road signs are blue
- The regional road signs are white
For up to date information on the Spanish motorways see ASETA.
- The speed limit (límites de velocidades) on Spanish motorways is 120 Kph (74mph)
- A toll fee is charged on most motorways at the tollbooths (autopistas de peajes). Each motorway has its own pricing structure, so tolls vary. In general it is more expensive in the summer
- A ticket is taken from the peajes at the start of the route and handed over at the tollbooth where the payment is made at the end of a stretch of motorway
- Near major cities, tollbooths take an automatic payment for each stretch of road covered. Lanes allowing for "basket" payment system (automatic coin payment) are sign posted as Automatico - importe exacto
- Frequent motorway users can buy a tarjeta de la autopista, which offers savings and priority queues at the tolls.
- Motorways have services stations with fuel, snack shops and washrooms available. Some also have information points and repair garages
- There are orange, emergency SOS telephones about every 5 Km on motorways
- Motorway exits, salidas, (or sortidas in Catalan) are numbered
- In the event of a motorway breakdown, wear your reflective jacket and place the reflective triangle 30m behind the vehicle to warn other drivers
Main Trunk Road
For up-to-the-minute information on Spanish road conditions see the Dirección General de Tráfico website (in Spanish).
- Dual carriageways (autovias) are toll free and have a similar appearance and speed limit to motorways. The speed limit is 100 Kph (65mph) on a normal dual carriage way
- Main roads (carretera) have a speed limit of 90 Kph (56mph)
- Passing on the right - the inside - is illegal on these roads and overtaking is banned if there is a solid white line separating the traffic
- Orange emergency SOS telephones are usually spaced 5 Km apart on main roads.
Rural and secondary roads
- Speed limits are 50 Kph (31mph) in built up areas and will be sign posted if there are further restrictions - to as low as 20 Kph (12mph) in residential areas
- You may find railway crossings with no barriers on these roads
- Mountain passes will be closed in extreme weather
- Snow tyres are recommended and snow chains are a necessity in some areas in the winter
Parking in Spain
- Car parks and parking (estacionamiento/aparcamiento)
Parking regulations vary depending on the time of day, day of the week or even the week of the month. For example, some towns may state that parking on an even day of the month means that parking is available next to the even numbered houses and some streets change which side parking is on mid-month. Signs are in blue and red and numbered 1-15 for the first half of the month and 16-31 for the second half when parking is restricted to the other side of the street.
- Parking offenders risk getting points on their license for persistently breaking the law
- Always park facing the same direction as the traffic on one-way streets
- Some places require a permit to park during work hours (horas laborables).
- "No Parking" signs (estacionamiento prohibido), are often blue with a red line across
- Yellow or red painted signs on the curb also indicate No Parking
- Where the words "prohibido estacionar" or "vado permanente"appear beside a police code number on a garage door, police have authorisation to tow the illegally parked vehicle
- Official parking attendants (guardacoches) are normally in uniform
Certain zones display a sign of a tow truck, indicating that an illegally parked car may be towed (retiada grúa). In place of the towed vehicle, there should be a sticker or note stating where the vehicle has been impounded, or a giving number to call. If there is no note, contact the local policia municipal.
Parking is restricted and most of the time roadside parking must be paid for at a parking meter.
- Individual meters (parquímetros) are being phased out and replaced with ticket machines (expendedor de tickets de estacionamiento).
- Blue zones (zonas azuls) indicate that parking must be paid at a ticket machine.
- Usually, parking must be paid for Monday to Friday 09:00-14:00 and 16:00-21:00 and Saturdays 09:00-14:00.
Different towns and provinces in Spain employ different methods of restricting parking. It is recommended to always check the local customs.
Many city centre car-parks are underground, (aparcamiento subterráneo), with signs outside indicating if there are spaces (libre) or if it is full (completo). It is the norm to pay at the cash desk or pay station (cajero) before returning to the car and leaving.
Note: It is illegal for anything other than an authorised towing company to tow a broken down vehicle.
Paying a parking fine
All parking fines must be paid at the town hall (ayuntamiento) of the town in which the ticket was issued. In a few towns payment should be made at the police station, the Town Hall enquiries desk will be able to advise (open 09:00-12:00).
All motorists should know their codigo de la circulacion, the rules of the road in Spain - the Spanish Highway Code.
All "on the spot" motoring fines (muitas) paid within 30 days will receive a 30% discount. This allows time to appeal the fine and/or pay
If the driver is not resident in Spain fines should be paid on the spot, otherwise the police could immobilise the vehicle. The police may go with the driver to a cash machine/bank to get money for the fine
Driving & Drinking
A driver with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 grams per litre (or, a blood alcohol level of 0.3 grams per litre in the case of a driver who has had a licence for two years or less), will be considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol. The amount of alcohol in the system will vary according to weight, sex, normal alcohol consumption and the amount of food in the system.
The police have the power to carry out random alcohol tests on drivers at anytime. Testing is more common around Christmas/New Year and in the main holiday period of July/August
Drivers involved in accidents or who are not driving in a suitable manner will be subjected to automatic testing
- The police will confiscate the driving license of a person caught driving over the legal limit. Failure of a drink drive test has serious implications: the vehicle and driving licence will be confiscated, a hefty fine will be imposed, and they may even be imprisoned
- A driver's Insurance is void if they cause an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Note: The same strict rules regarding driving while drunk also apply to cyclists.
- In the cities, rush hour (horas puntas) tend to be from 08:00-09:30 and 12:30-14:30 then again 15:30-17:00 and 18:30-20:30
- In Barcelona and Madrid the traffic jams (atascos) can last all day, the average traffic speed in Madrid is thought to be around 20 Kph
- Traffic around the coast will be much worse in the summer