Want to hit the open road in Spain? Get to grips with driving in your new home with our guide to driving and parking in Spain
If you plan to drive in Spain, learn the local road rules, and find out if you need to get a Spanish driver’s license to legally drive.
Spain is a great country to drive in but road users should acquaint themselves with the rules before hitting the road.
Foreign drivers can also use their foreign driving license to legally drive in Spain. However, after a set amount of time, residents need a Spanish driver’s license.
Road rules in Spain
Driving in Spain is on the right-hand side of the road, similar to many other continental European nations. There is a number of rules that drivers must adhere to in order to legally drive in Spain:
- All car owners must carry two warning triangles if the car is registered in Spain. Motorists must also carry a complete set of spare bulbs, fuses, a spare wheel, and any necessary tools.
- Drivers are required to wear a high-visibility jacket or vest when getting out of their vehicle on intercity roads.
- If your car breaks down in Spain, you risk a fine if you don’t use warning triangles and a high-visibility jacket.
- If a person requires glasses or contact lenses it is a legal requirement to carry a spare pair while driving, if your driving license indicates this in the restriction code area.
- Drivers should carry relevant license and insurance documentation at all times.
You must pay special attention when accessing roundabouts in Spain, as cars driving on the inner lane can have right-of-way. To exit a roundabout, you need to take the outside lane.
Tourists driving in Spain
Citizens from EU/EEA countries (EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Norway) only require a valid driver’s license from their home country to drive in Spain, as long as it has a photograph on it. If not, drivers must have their passport alongside their license.
Nationals from outside the EU/EEA can drive in Spain using their existing foreign driver’s license. However, you must also have an International Driving Permit.
Driving and carrying only one of these, or none at all, can lead to a €500 fine, and you could be obliged to pay the fine on the spot with cash or a credit/debit card if you don’t have a NIE number or Spanish residency, although a 50% discount is applied to immediate payments.
The minimum age to drive a car in Spain is 18. If you’re 17 or younger you will be unable to drive, even if you have previously been issued a license in your home country.
Spanish licenses for foreign residents living in Spain
After two years of residence in Spain, all EU/EEA drivers must obtain a Spanish license by renewing or exchanging their foreign license. Read about the rules for exchanging EU driving licenses in Spain.
For non-EU/EEA residents in Spain, Spain also allows the exchange of foreign licenses from a number of countries, with varying conditions attached. You can exchange your foreign license for a Spanish driver’s license at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters.
If your country does not have an exchange agreement with Spain, to get a Spanish license applicants will have to take theory and practical tests similar to the Spaniards.
You may need to join a driving school and undergo a medical test, a written theory exam and a practical driving exam. Read more information in our guide to exchanging a foreign driver’s license.
Spanish road taxes and expenses
When driving a Spanish car, it is important to pay the local car tax (impuesto sobre la circulación de vehiculos) each year at the town hall or similar local organization where the car is registered.
All Spanish cars older than four years must also get an ITV test (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos or vehicle technical inspection). This ensures the car is still roadworthy.
After four years, a car needs an ITV test every two years until it is 10 years old; after this, the ITV test is annual. There are several websites that allow you to book an ITV test online.
The two documents you must always carry in your Spanish car, along with your driving licence, are:
- ITV card and report
Foreign cars must have the following documents:
- Proof of car insurance
- Any form of foreign certificate equivalent to the ITV, which states the car is in good condition
Speed limits in Spain
Failing to comply with speed limits is serious business with on-the-spot fines. Speed limits vary across the country but are generally as follows:
- 50km/h in town, residential and built-up areas;
- 90km/h out of town;
- 100km/h on dual carriageways and roads with overtaking lanes;
- 120km/h on motorways.
The speed limits are lower for motor caravans and vehicles with trailers.
In the past few years Spain has increased the number of speed radars all over the country. Both fixed radars (permanently placed) and mobile radars (used by police or Guardia Civil) are used.
If you receive a fine, you receive a fine depending on your residency:
- Any foreigner holding a NIE (foreigner’s identification number) or Spanish residency will receive a notification at their address in Spain.
- Those who don’t have either NIE or Spanish residency will have to pay the fine on the spot, either cash or using a credit/debit card. Not being able to comply with this rule can possibly end in vehicle immobilisation or getting your car towed to the police headquarters.
Drinking and driving in Spain
Spain is strict on drink driving and severe penalties are applied if the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05% or more. These can include fines or even the withdrawal of a driving licence. Levels for drivers with less than one year of experience are even lower – 0.03%. In serious cases imprisonment can result.
|Drivers||In airstream||In bloodstream|
|Professional (freight trucks and passenger vehicles)||0.15mg/L||0.3g/L|
Driving under the influence of drugs is illegal. Unlike alcohol where a small dose is permitted, illegal drugs are not allowed whatsoever when driving, and police have means to test the presence of some drugs.
There is a number of legal drugs that can test positive in a police drug test. In this case, drivers should carry with them a medical prescription, translated into Spanish if necessary.
Traffic information in Spain
The telephone number of traffic information for all of Spain is 011 (fees apply). It provides information on traffic conditions throughout Spain.
The Spanish General Direction of Traffic (Dirección General de Tráfico, or DGT) has an official website (in Spanish) for general queries and further information, and includes up-to-date traffic information in Spain.
Spanish road safety laws
Seat belts are a requirement for all passengers and children under the age of 12, who cannot sit in the front seat unless they are taller than 1.35m. All small children should be in the back of the car in secure child safety seats.
If a passenger does not use a seat belt, they will personally get a fine. In the case it’s an underage passenger, it will be the parents’ responsibility.
Speaking on the phone while driving
Any actions that cause distraction while driving are generally illegal.
It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, even if you have pulled over to the side of the road. Only emergency phone calls are possible in this case.
Earpiece use is illegal. Only completely hands-free units that are properly installed into the car are acceptable. Speaking using the mobile’s hands-free feature is illegal. Additionally, messaging or checking your phone is illegal, as well as manipulating the GPS.
Sounding the horn is illegal at any time, except:
- in emergencies (taking somebody to the hospital, for instance);
- to avoid accidents;
- to get people’s attention – including the police – because of a serious issue (for example, theft, crash, or hit and run).
Parking in Spain
Parking in town or city centers is controlled by ticket machines in many places. These are often in blue zones where you see blue ticket machines and street markings.
Buy a ticket from a machine and place it clearly on the dashboard, showing the hours of validity. Parking is sometimes free in siesta hours, between 2pm and 4pm Monday to Friday, and after 2pm on Saturdays. It is usually free on Sundays.
In addition, depending on the city, there are other coloured zones for those who pay annual fees. These are resident zones. You cannot park in those zones at all (unless you are a registered resident) or you will be fined.
If you get a parking fine while in the blue zone, you may be able to cancel the ticket by inserting several euros into the machine but only if it has not been issued long time ago (generally two to three hours). You cannot cancel a parking ticket if fined in a resident zone.
You can also generally get a discount up to 50% on your fine if you pay immediately (for example, within 24 hours) – it will be stated on your ticket.
Private parking in Spain
Many towns and cities offer off-road car parks that are much like the ones in other countries, such as the UK, whereby you receive a ticket on entry and then pay before you leave, based on the amount of time that has elapsed. After paying, you have around five to 10 minutes to insert the ticket at the exit barrier and leave the site.
Be sure that you can park in your chosen area, otherwise, you may be subject to a fine. Never park at a yellow curb, in front of dropped curbs, gates, or garages, or where you see no parking signs or no through road signs.
Take note of where other vehicles park, as in some areas you can only park during certain days of the month. Be warned that illegally parked vehicles can be towed away