Our Guide To Driving In Spain

By hiring a car or taking your own, you can experience so much more of Spain, however there are lots of things you need to know before travelling. There are important documents that you’ll need to carry with you, as well as certain equipment. You’ll need to be aware of the local rules and regulations and understand the process if you’re unfortunate enough to get a fine. In this driving guide, we have collated all the information to create this one-stop driving guide to Spain.

Important documents you need when driving in Spain

A full, valid driving licence

An International Driving Permit or IDP is not compulsory but is recognised. All UK driving licences are valid in Spain but paper licences can be harder to understand so may not be accepted on their own. If you only have a paper driving licence you could apply for a photocard licence or get an IDP prior to travel. The legal age for driving in Spain is eighteen, so you’ll need to be eighteen or older, even if you’re a qualified driver at home.

Your passport

You should carry this as proof of ID.

Proof of ownership

When driving your own car in Spain, you’ll need to carry your V5C log book. When using a hire-car, you should carry the rental agreement.

Proof of insurance with at least third-party cover

If you’re driving your own car to Spain, your existing insurance may already include third-party cover in Europe, so check before you take out a separate policy. If you’re renting a vehicle, insurance will normally be included as part of your car hire agreement.

Important equipment you must carry when driving in Spain

Speeding fines in Spain are hefty and are payable on-the-spot. As speed traps are common, speed limits should be familiarised with in advance:

Headlamp beam deflectors

When driving a right-hand drive car in Spain, you must have deflector stickers on your headlights or adjust the beam manually.

Warning Triangles

As a foreign driver, it is compulsory to carry one warning triangle, but it is advisable to carry two. This is because Spanish law requires that warning is given to both directions of traffic if you break down or have an accident. If you’re hiring a car, it should be equipped with two warning triangles.

A GB sticker or rear number plate

If you are driving your own car in Spain, you should have a GB sticker, or a rear number plate with ‘GB’ on the EU background.

Reflective jacket

Reflective jackets are a legal requirement for any passenger who exits their vehicle on a main road or motorway. A fine can be issued if you walk on the road or hard shoulder without one. Reflective jackets should be put on before exiting the vehicle when stopped on the road or hard shoulder.

General information about driving in Spain

Driving glasses

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you should carry a spare pair. The law was revised in 2015 so it’s no longer mandatory, but you can be fined for driving without corrective lenses if you need them.

Hands-free mobile device

You must only use a mobile phone whilst driving if it is fully hands-free. Headphones and earpieces are not permitted to be used while driving and the fine for doing so is €200, or approximately £185.

Sat nav

You must only operate your sat nav when parked off the road and away from traffic in a safe place.

Other screens

Except for a sat nav, devices with screens like portable DVD players must be positioned out of sight of the driver so they can’t cause distraction.

Towing information

If you plan on towing or driving a motorhome that exceeds twelve metres in length, you’ll need to fit reflectors to the rear of your vehicle. These should be yellow with red borders and should comprise one reflector of 130cm x 25cm or two of 50cm x 25cm each.

Carrying loads

You can carry a load on the rear of your vehicle but it must not extend by more than ten percent of the vehicle’s length. Any such load must be fitted with a red and white diagonally striped marker board.

Carrying bicycles

If you carry any bicycles on the rear of the vehicle, a reflective panel measuring 50cm x 50cm must be attached instead.

Radar detectors and jammers

Radar detectors and jammers, which can be used to try to evade speed cameras, are illegal in Spain. If caught with such equipment, fines can be as high as €6,000, which is around £5,500.

Thieves

Thieves are known to target foreign vehicles and hire-cars. Be wary of people who approach you in service stations or gesture you to pull off the road under the guise that something is wrong with your car. Keep bags out of sight and lock your doors when you stop at petrol stations or on the hard shoulder.

Speed limits in Spain

Speeding fines in Spain are hefty and are payable on-the-spot. As speed traps are common, speed limits should be familiarised with in advance:

Maximum speed of 31mph / 50kmph on ordinary roads in built-up areas, unless a lower speed limit is indicated by signage.

Maximum speed of 55mph / 90kmph on ordinary roads outside built-up areas. This speed limit is lower if you are towing or driving a motorhome and varies according to weight.

Maximum speed of 74mph / 120kmph on motorways and dual carriageways outside built-up areas. This speed limit is lower if you are towing or driving a motorhome and varies according to weight.

Maximum speed of 49mph / 80kmph on motorways and dual carriageways in built-up areas, unless a lower speed limit is given on signs.

Maximum speed of 62mph / 100kmph on roads outside built-up areas with more than one lane in each direction. This speed limit is lower if you are towing or driving a motorhome and varies according to weight.

Minimum speed of 37mph / 60kmph on all motorways and dual carriageways.

Headlights

In addition to using headlamp beam deflectors or manually-adjusted headlights when driving a right-hand drive car in Spain, there are important laws and customs on headlight use that all drivers should note:

Full-beam headlights must not be used in built-up areas.

Full-beam headlights must be dipped when driving through tunnels.

If local drivers flash their lights at you, it may be a warning that it is their right of way.

Important information on travelling with children

When driving in Spain with children, you must take care to follow the legislation on child restraints and adult seatbelts:

A child less than twelve years old and under 1.35m in height must be seated in a child restraint system that is appropriate for their height and weight.

A child with a height greater than 1.35m is allowed to use an adult seatbelt.

Children under the age of twelve may only use the front seat if the rear seats are occupied by other children or if there are no rear seats, such as in a coupé or minivan. In such cases, they must travel in a suitable child restraint system unless they are taller than 1.35m.

Seat belts

It is a legal requirement that seat belts are worn by all occupants. The exception is rear-seat passengers travelling in cars manufactured before 1992, where they may not be fitted.

Fines for breaking driving laws in Spain

As we’ve seen, there are a lot of things to remember when driving in Spain. In case you make an error and receive a fine for breaking a driving law there are some things you should be aware of:

If you are issued a fine by police for breaking a driving law in Spain it has to be paid immediately.

Should you be unable to pay on-the-spot, you may provide the name of a person or business that knows you and will guarantee payment of the fine. If this is not possible, your vehicle will be confiscated until you pay the fine.

You can pay a fine in cash on-the-spot, at branches of CaixaBank or at a post office. To use a credit card you can pay by telephone, although you will need to speak and understand Spanish. You can also pay online or at a provincial traffic office with a credit or debit card.

If you settle a fine within twenty days of its issue there is a fifty percent reduction.

At the time of payment, you will receive an official receipt.

You may contest a fine via the Spanish legal system within fifteen days of its issue.

Drink and drug driving laws in Spain

You might be going on holiday, but just as you would at home, always keep a close eye on how much you’re drinking and never take drugs when driving in Spain.

Here’s what you need to know before setting off:

The standard blood alcohol limit in Spain is 0.05%, which is 49mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Drivers with under two years’ driving experience are subject to a lower limit of 0.03%, or 29mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

A breath test or drugs test is mandatory if requested.

Punishment for drink or drug driving is severe and includes fines, confiscation of driving licence and/or a prison sentence. To understand what Spanish alcohol limits are in terms of quantity of drinks, gender and weight, check out our guide to Drink Driving Limits in Europe.

Toll information

In Spain, there are tolls for using the motorways. However, you won’t feel too sore about it because Spanish toll roads are much less congested than British motorways. Additionally, service stations tend to be pleasant with no inflated prices and good food on-the-go. Here’s how tolls work in Spain:

Tolls are payable at roadside booths. If driving your own right-hand drive car, remember that the toll booth will be situated on the left side.

You can pay tolls in cash or by credit card

If you’re staying in Spain for an extended period of time, it is worth buying an electronic transmitter like Via T or Bi-Model. Such a device is fitted inside the windscreen and enables Telepeaje which is an electronic form of toll payment. By using a Telepeaje device you’re allowed to use a dedicated lane on the motorway and you just have to slow down to 18mph / 30kmph instead of stopping at toll booths. The devices are available to purchase at local banks and some petrol stations.