Guide to Driving In Canary Islands - Drive Safe in Canary Islands

driving in the Canary Islands

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Canary Islands?

Driving is on the right in the Canary Islands. You may be allowed to overtake slow moving traffic on the left on some motorways and toll roads. Don’t obstruct the fast lane or you will risk being undertaken.

Buses and taxis will expect you to give way to them.

Early March is not a good time to drive through the mountains as a championship rally is being held at that time. Take care on the windy mountain roads at all times. Ask our car rental Canary Islands staff if you have any further questions.

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

It is illegal to be in a moving vehicle without wearing a seatbelt in the Canary Islands. You face an on the spot fine for doing so.

Drinking and Driving

The legal limit for blood alcohol in the Canary Islands is 50mg per 100ml of blood – less than in the UK. If you have been driving for less than two years the limit drops to 30mg per 100ml of blood. The penalties include a fine of up to 600 euros and six points off your licence. If you have more than 120mg of alcohol in your blood you'll face a jail sentence of up to six months, a fine and suspension of your licence.

Must Have Documents

You will need to have your driving licence and your passport and you can be fined for not having both on you when driving. Your licence needs to be in the Roman alphabet or you'll need an international driving licence. It's also useful to have your registration certificate and insurance documents with you. If hiring or using a local car make sure it has its roadworthiness sticker clearly displayed on the windscreen.

Speed Limits

Motorways have a minimum speed of 60km/h and a maximum of 120km/h
Major out of town roads are 50km/h minimum and 100km/h maximum
Trunk roads 45km/h to 90km/h
In town a maximum of 50km/h

Minimum Driving Age

The Canary Islands set the minimum age for drivers at 18 but car hire companies usually insist you are at least 21 and may charge a young drivers' excess.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Safety camera warning devices are illegal in the Canary Islands and you can be fined for using them and have the device impounded. It's also illegal to warn other drivers that they are approaching a speed trap. 

On the Spot Fines

On the spot fines are very common in the Canary Islands and are not always fixed. It's recommended that you are polite to the police officers involved and address them formally using Senor or Senora/Senorita!

Child Safety Rules

The law in the Canary Islands states that children under 12 or 135cms must only travel in the front of the car if they have been provided with the appropriate approved child restraint system. 


A minimum of third party insurance is compulsory in the Canary Islands. It's useful to have a green card, provided free by your insurers, to prove the level of cover.

Rules of the Road

Standard European driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
You must have two warning triangles in the car along with reflective vests for you and your passengers.
You mustn't sound your horn in built up areas except in an emergency
You mustn't use headphones or earphones when driving

Towing Regulations

Other than the standard EU regulations there are no specific regulations for towing – just use common sense and make sure other drivers know what you are doing.

Speed Cameras

You'll find fixed and mobile speed check devices in the Canary Islands and if it's a fixed device you will get the fine by post or through your car hire company. Mobile speed traps will ask for an on the spot fine. 

Using Mobile Phones when driving

You cannot use a mobile phone without a hands free kit in the Canary Islands. The hands free equipment must not be earphones or headphones. There is some debate over whether a bluetooth earpiece is allowable so be prepared.


Parking regulations
The letter P on a blue and white sign indicates parking. In a blue zone, you'll have to find the ticket machine and display a ticket in your car. Yellow lines or a blue sign with a red border indicate no parking. Some cities have green or blue zones for different kinds of parking including residents only – the sign will tell you which.
Paid parking
As well as roadside ticket machines there are municipal and private undercover and open lot parking areas where you'll have to pay by machine or to the attendant. 
Blue Disc
Despite being in the EU, Spain and therefore the Canary Islands are not part of the Blue Disc scheme.
Enforcement of parking is often done the police although some towns and cities have parking officers. If parked illegally or causing and obstruction you will be fined and may have you vehicle towed away.
Disabled parking
Disabled drivers are entitled to use allocated parking spaces under the Blue Badge scheme but should print off and display a notice in Spanish alongside their badge. The notice is available at 

Motor Way Signs

The main motorway on the east side of the island of Las Palmas is marked as the GC1. To reach the motorway from the airport follow the blue signs which are marked ‘Sur’ – south.


  • Give way - Ceda el paso
  • Right of way – Prioridad
  • Exit – Salida
  • Danger – Peligro
  • No parking - Prohibido aparcar
  • Slow – Despacio
  • Lane – Un carril
  • City centre – Centro ciudad
  • 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

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights generally follow the European standard in the Canary Islands with one or two exceptions. 
Some lights can flash amber to warn of a hazard such as pedestrian crossing 
Most intersections only have traffic lights on the stop line with none on the other side of the junction. Instead, you'll find there's a smaller set at eye level to warn you of the sequence above you.

Toll Roads

There are a few toll roads in the Canary Islands but the distances are short and so the fees are small. Most tourists tend not to use them as they are designed to be fast rather than scenic and there are usually much prettier routes to travel. Payment is made by taking a ticket as you enter and paying the toll at a booth when you leave the road. 


The emergency services can be accessed by calling 112, the European standard.

What to do in an emergency

In cases where there are no injuries, the details can be sorted out between the parties involved. If there is still a dispute, call the police and await a report from them. The same should be done if someone is injured. Where possible, don't move the vehicles involved and take photographs. Remember to be polite to the officers attending.

Fuel Costs

As of April 2014, the price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in the Canary Islands is 90p a litre whilst diesel is 93p.


I know this is an odd question but would it be possible to hire a right hand drive car anywhere in ran Canaria, age and model is unimportant. thank you
Martin Brady
4/10/2010 10:50:02 AM

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Hiring a Car

With our Drive Smart guide you're fully prepared to hire a car in Canary Islands and stay safe on unfamiliar roads.