Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Spain?
Driving is on the right and you must not overtake on the right on highways. Outside of the cities, driving in Spain is a pleasure and road trips around and across Spain are very popular because of their differing scenery.
Seat Belt Laws
All passengers in a car must wear a suitable seat belt restraint whilst the car is moving. You will be fined if you don't comply with the regulations.
Drinking and Driving
Drink driving is heavily penalized and only 50 milligrams of alcohol per litre of blood is permitted. This is less than the limit in the UK and a single drink will put most people over the limit. You will have your car impounded or immobilised, get a stiff fine and possibly face a prison sentence which may be suspended.
Must Have Documents
You'll need a full set of documents when driving in Spain. These include your driving licence, both parts or an International Driving Licence if from outside Europe and your licence isn't printed in the Roman alphabet, the registration document for the car, its MOT, proof of identity and proof of insurance.
Urban 50 km/h
Open Road 90 km/h
Dual Carriageway 100 km/h
Motorways 120 km/h
You are allowed a leeway of 20km/h over the limit if overtaking another vehicle.
Minimum Driving Age
The minimum driving age in Spain is 18 but you will have to be a minimum of 21 to hire a car. Even then, some companies may charge you a young driver's excess. Check when booking.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
Safety camera warning devices aren't illegal in Spain although radar jammers are. Despite the ability to use a speed trap detector, our advice is, as always, to stick to the speed limits at all times - they're there for a purpose.
On the Spot Fines
On the spot fines are considered something different in Spain. Here, you'll be given a ticket which you can choose to pay immediately - compulsory for non-residents, or you can pay within twenty days and have your penalty halved. Car hire clients will have to pay immediately.
Child Safety Rules
Children under the age of 12 or 135cm cannot sit in the front of the vehicle without an appropriate seat and restraint system. In the rear of the vehicle, young travellers also need to have an appropriate seat and restraint system.
A minimum of third party insurance is required. You need to carry proof of insurance with you and a green card is advisable.
Rules of the Road
Standard European driving regulations apply with one or two exceptions:
In your car you should have two red warning triangles and a reflective jacket to be worn if you need to get out of the car on a highway.
If you wear glasses, you must carry a spare pair with you.
Some motoring offences are classed as criminal such as dangerous driving and drink driving and carry stiffer penalties.
You must not sound your horn unless it is an emergency in a town after dark.
There are no specific regulations for towing a car in Spain but if you're towing a trailer or caravan where the total length is over 12m you must display one (130cm x 25cm) or two (50cm x 25cm) yellow reflectors on the rear of the towed vehicle.
There are both fixed and mobile speed cameras operating in Spain. Fixed cameras will send the penalty ticket to the registered address of the vehicle whilst car hire companies will send the ticket on to your home address.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
It is against the law to use a mobile phone when driving in Spain unless you have a hands free kit. An on the spot will apply if you contravene the law.
Where parking is restricted it will be indicated by a 'Blue Zone' sign. Most restrictions stop for twelve hours from 8 pm.
You can park in blue zones for up to two hours. This parking is usually payable, either by parking meter or ticket machine, some of which take card payment. Paid parking can be also be found in municipal garages and dusty lots.
Local wardens enforce parking regulations. Your car can be towed or ticketed. If it's towed you'll need to pay a release fee, the parking fine and a parking charge for its time at the pound.
International disabled badges are recognised in Spain and entitle you to the same benefits as in the UK except that where parking is prohibited, you must seek the consent of a traffic warden to park there.
Motor Way Signs
Motorways (autopista) have the prefix A or E. The Carretera Nacional Roads have the prefix N or CN.
- Give way - Ceda el paso
- Traffic lights - Semaforas
- Right of way – Prioridad
- Exit – Salida
- Danger – Peligro
- No parking - Prohibido aparcar
- Slow – Despacio
- Lane – Un carril
- City centre – Centro ciudad
- Carretera – Local Highway
- Roadworks – Obras
- Where is the nearest petrol station? – ¿Donde es la gasolinera la más cercana?
- Excuse me, I’m lost – Por favor, estoy perdido…
- Go straight on – ‘Siga todo recto’
- Turn right – ‘Toma el giro a la derecha’
- Turn left – ‘Toma el giro a la izquierda’
- Detour - Desviacion
- Toll Road – Carretera de Peaje
- Road Closed – Cerrado.
- Road Open – Abierto
- Motorway – Una autopista
- One way street – Direccíon unica
- Dual Carriageway - Autovia
The traffic light system in Spain follows the Vienna Convention so no surprises there. You will however find red, yellow or green arrows in use at many urban intersections.
There are many toll roads, some toll bridges and two toll tunnels in Spain. Look for the word 'peaje' and you'll know it's a toll road. Long distances can be expensive but the toll roads save lots of time compared to the often congested secondary roads.
See our guide to toll roads in Spain here.
See our guide to toll roads in Mallorca here.
The emergency services can be accessed by calling 112.
What to do in an emergency
If you have a problem with your vehicle, call the number given to you by your car hire agent or, if in your own car, use the number for the Spanish partner of your motoring organisation. Use the warning triangles to let other drivers know you have a problem and wear your reflective vest at all times when out of your car.
If you're involved in an accident, call the emergency services on 112 and wait with the car until they arrive. You shouldn't move any vehicles unless they are causing a danger to others. You should always address the police as Senor or Senora and ask for a copy of the accident report for your insurers or the car hire company.
Be aware that many garages close for siesta, normally from one until four but sometimes three until six.
As at May 2014, the price of 95 octane unleaded in Spain was £1.21 whilst diesel was a few pence cheaper at £1.18