Home Living in Spain Transport Getting a Spanish driving license
Last update on July 28, 2020

Want to drive in Spain? Before you get behind the wheel, read our guide to driving in Spain using a foreign driver’s license or exchanging yours for a Spanish one.

You can drive in Spain using a foreign driver’s license for a set period, after which all overseas nationals driving in Spain must obtain a Spanish driver’s license.

If you want to drive in Spain, you can use your foreign driving license for the first six months if you are from outside the European Union (EU) area, or for up to two years if you’re from the EU or EEA area (European Economic Area).

After these periods have passed, most foreign residents driving in Spain must obtain a Spanish driver’s license, although some exceptions do apply.

Who can drive in Spain?

The driving age in Spain is 18 years – and those aged below this cannot drive here, even if they hold a license in their home country.

Everyone over the age of 18 can continue to use their own national driving license to drive a car in Spain for either the first six months after gaining official residency (non-EU citizens) or for the first two years of residence (EU/EEA nationals). To find out more, check out our guide on driving licenses for EU/EEA citizens in Spain.

A car driving through the mountains in Mallorca
A car driving through the mountains in Mallorca

After the specified time period, EU/EEA citizens who are resident in Spain will have to obtain a Spanish driving license either by exchanging their foreign license or renewing their foreign license. Exceptions apply depending on the expiration date of your license.

Non-EU/EEA citizens will need to get a Spanish driving license by either exchanging their foreign license or taking a Spanish driving license. The process depends on their nationality or occupation (outlined below), as some countries have agreements with Spain.

EU/EEA citizens driving in Spain

If you’re a national from a European Economic Area (EEA) country (EU plus Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein) you are free to drive in Spain using your existing driver’s license for the first two years of residence in Spain, although you must register your details with the traffic authorities after six months.

You must adhere to the same conditions as Spanish license holders:

  • Undertake relevant medical checks.
  • Have reached the minimum age in Spain for the category of vehicle you wish to drive e.g. car drivers must be at least 18 years old.
  • Renew or exchange the license after the first two years’ residence in Spain. If an EU license is renewed in Spain it effectively converts it into a Spanish EU license, which then needs to be renewed every 10 years up to the age of 65, and every five years after 65. Read more about the conditions for driving licenses for EU/EEA citizens in Spain.

Spanish authorities can compel a person to obtain a new Spanish license if there are issues with penalty points.

If you don’t obtain a Spanish driver’s license after two years of residence in Spain and are caught driving, you can face a fine of around €200.

Additionally, you must register with the traffic authorities within six months of moving to Spain. You can do this at your Central Register of Drivers and Minor Offenders (Registro Central de Conductores e Infractores) of the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico).

Once you have registered you will need to take a medical examination at an Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado). This is to demonstrate that you have the proper mental and physical fitness to drive, in the same way as Spanish drivers.

If you wish you can voluntarily exchange your license for a Spanish equivalent at any time. You will need to inform the relevant authority in your home country. Similar to registering, this is done at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters. The local authorities will request the following documents:

  • application form
  • valid passport or national identity card
  • proof of residence (Certificate of Registration in the Central Aliens Register i.e. your NIE number or Número de Identificación de Extranjer)
  • valid driving license to be exchanged (original and photocopy)
  • two recent photographs (32x25mm)
  • declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving
  • declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s license of the same class in another country

Non-EEA citizens driving in Spain

If you’re from outside the EEA you may drive in Spain using your existing foreign driver’s license for up to six months after you have registered for residency in Spain. If your foreign license is not in Spanish, you must always carry an official translation or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

The IDP is a document that provides a translation of a person’s driver’s license into a number of different languages, including Spanish. It must be carried at all times with the actual driver’s license. The IDP is valid for one year and must be applied for outside of Spain.

A man driving in Gran Canaria

After six months of residency, your foreign driving license will no longer be valid in Spain and you must get a Spanish driving license. Depending on your nationality, you may be able to exchange your license for a Spanish license. If not, you will be required to take the full Spanish driving test.

If you don’t have residency then you can use a valid driving license along with an international driving license for one year. If your residency is not approved before the international driving license runs out, then you’ll be driving using an illegal license. But if at any point residency applies, the six-month rule comes into force.

Exchanging a foreign driver’s license in Spain

Spain has agreements with more than 20 countries, which allow drivers to directly exchange a foreign driver’s licenses for the equivalent Spanish license. These agreements change, so always check with your home country’s consulate in Spain or the Spanish traffic authority. Certain categories of people, such as diplomats and international staff, can also exchange their license regardless of their nationality (see below).

1. Citizens of Andorra, Japan, Korea, and Switzerland can exchange their driving licences for a Spanish licence and will need:

  • application form;
  • valid national identity card or passport (original);
  • residence permit and valid residence card;
  • medical fitness report from a recognized medical center (such as the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado);
  • valid driving license to be exchanged (original and photocopy);
  • two recent photographs (32x25mm)
  • declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving;
  • declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s license of the same class issued by another EU country;
  • official translation of the permit by a consulate or embassy (Korea);
  • official translation of the permit (Japan).

2. Citizens of Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominical Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Macedonia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela can exchange their driving licenses for a Spanish license and will need:

  • application form;
  • valid national identity card or passport (original);
  • residence permit, identity card or foreign passport, along with the Certificate of Registration in the Central Register of Foreigners for EU foreigners or residence permit for non-EU: original effect. Valid residence card.
  • Medical fitness report from a recognized medical center (such as the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado);
  • valid driving license to be exchanged (original and photocopy);
  • two recent photographs (32x25mm);
  • declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving;
  • declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s license of the same class issued by another EU country.

3. Diplomats and International staff

Spain allows diplomats and members of international organizations with offices or headquarters in Spain, together with their families, to obtain a Spanish driver’s license without needing to undertake the proficiency testing theory or practice. The following documents must be submitted:

Requests are sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who in turn send the application to the provincial traffic headquarters in Madrid for processing.

4. Schools, military and police organizations

Spain will exchange license issues by the above types of organizations provided the following conditions are met:

  • normal/legal residence in Spain;
  • free from any driving ban or suspension;
  • psychologically and physically capable of driving for the relevant license category.

The following documents are required:

  • application form (must be filed within six months of end of service – if applicable).
  • valid national identity card or passport (original);
  • medical fitness report from a recognized medical center (such as the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado);
  • valid driving license to be exchanged (original and photocopy);
  • two recent photographs (32x25mm);
  • certification proving active service or the end date.

Taking the Spanish driving test

Citizens of many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, will have to take the full Spanish driving test to get a Spanish license.

You must apply at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico). You’ll need:

You must take lessons through a recognized driving school (ie. a family member does not qualify). Look online or in the Paginas Amarillas (Spain’s Yellow Pages) under ‘autoescuela‘.

The test is divided into two: a written theory test (see some test questions) and a practical test. Both are usually taken in Spanish although you can take a translator with you and in some areas of Spain there are English-speaking examiners.

Road rules and tips for driving in Spain

  • Drive on the right in Spain.
  • Speed limits for passenger cars: 50km/h on hour urban roads; 90 km/hr on non-urban roads, no hard shoulder; 100 km/hr on non-urban roads, hard shoulder; 120 km/hr on motorways.
  • Keep your license, vehicle logbook, and vehicle inspection documentation with you.
  • You must have an inflated spare tire, reflective vests for driver/passengers and two warning triangles in the car.
  • You can only use mobile phones with a hands-free set.

Driving your own car in Spain

If you are driving a car in Spain that has been registered abroad, you must register it with the Spanish authorities after six months.

For more information

  • Dirección General de Tráfico: Spanish Traffic Office, with information about the Highway Code and traffic regulations.
  • To find a regional traffic office in Spain, click here.
  • RACE: Spanish national motoring organization.