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9 Tips for Driving in Spain

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The impression that immediately springs to mind at the thought of driving on the Spanish mainland is of reckless, testosterone fuelled, suntanned Hispanic males recklessly forcing your rented Fiat Cinquecento careering off a remote mountain road, into a dry riverbed 600 feet below.

OK! so maybe that’s a little dramatic to say the least, but it is an impression shared by a lot of people, when in actual fact nothing could be further from the truth. After many years driving in Europe, I think I can accurately say it is one of the most fulfilling driving experiences, enjoying spectacular scenery and little, or no congestion.

It isn’t uncommon for Spanish drivers to pull out in front of you without indicating, but there is one big difference! NO ROAD RAGE, try it…. carefully! There will be no flashing lights six inches from the rear of your car, or angry motorists pulling alongside demonstrating their knowledge of English profanities, they will just pull back to a safe distance, (unless they too are tourists).

But seriously, if you are considering renting a car in Spain, or even taking your own, there are some things you should be aware of, I have listed some of the more important ones below.


This sounds ridiculously obvious, but for those of us conditioned to driving on the left it causes more incidents than anything else…”Drive on the right.” “Well of course I will.” I hear you say, but it is all too easy to forget when pulling out from a petrol station or restaurant, one momentary lapse of concentration is all that is needed to ruin a perfectly good holiday.


When driving on a motorway (Autopista), don’t react angrily to cars flashing their headlights before overtaking you…. It’s the law! They are warning you that they are about to pass.


When moving onto a motorway, never cross a solid white line, wait for the broken line, and when overtaking, always indicate pulling out and back in. The Spanish authorities are strictly enforcing this law, so break it at you own peril!


The current speed limit in towns is 50km/h; open roads 90 km/h to 100 km/h and motorways 120 km/h although these are variable, and can change at any time, so keep an eye on the signposts. If your car does not show km/h, which unless you are in possession of a vintage automobile is very unlikely, the calculation is divide by 5, multiply by 8. So, 50 miles per hour is 80 km per hour. Be aware that radar traps are frequent and infringements are dealt with with on the spot fines.


Another misconception is that Spanish car rental companies are unscrupulous, interested only in conning you out of as much of your hard earned cash as possible…. bunkum! I returned to a supermarket car park to find that someone had broadsided my Seat; at the end of my holiday I returned the car, which was only three months old, only to be told, “Don’t worry, you’re fully covered on the insurance.” This has happened not once, but twice! (No reflection on my driving I hope).  On a cautionary not, always consider the 20€ or so for tyre cover as it can be expensive for roadside assistance, if collecting the car from an airport this can paid for on arrival and not at the time of booking.


Don’t even consider it, unless you are in the process of writing an account of incarceration in a Spanish prison, the blood alcohol level is 0.5 per mg, which equates to one small beer, dropping to 0.1 mg for new drivers (who have passed their test for less than two years)


The following items must be carried when driving in Spain, and it is an offence not to!

  • Glasses; wearers must carry a spare pair in the car at all times.
  • Light bulbs; a replacement set (usually present in hire cars).
  • Documentation; driving licence; (vehicle registration (V5) and certificate of motor insurance, if driving your own car).
  • Warning triangle; One for non-registered vehicles, two for Spanish vehicles.
  • Visibility vest; Now compulsory in Spain.
  • First aid kit; Not compulsory, but recommended.

All of the compulsory items listed above should, and usually are in the boot of your hire car, but check before leaving the airport!


Should you be unlucky enough to find a parking ticket attached to the windscreen on returning to your car, don’t worry if it’s a hired car, and you are staying for a short holiday, I have it on very good authority that it would be far too costly for the authorities to trace you via a rental company, my advice…. Throw it in the nearest bin! I always do.


There are three types of police in Spain,

  • Municipal Police; Blue uniform, responsible to the local mayor, their duties include traffic and parking violations.
  • National Police (La Policia); Black uniform, duties include protecting important people and buildings, also responsible for investigating more serious crimes.
  • Civil Guard (Guardia Civil); Green uniform, if you’re caught speeding on a motorway, these will be the boys who take your money from you, also responsible for national security.

I have always found the Spanish Police to be approachable and friendly, only too keen to help tourists whenever possible

I sincerely hope this article doesn’t put anyone off driving in Spain and thereby missing out on a truly spectacular driving experience. I was recently driving from Nerja to Malaga on the N-340 coastal motorway, it was a balmy Saturday morning and, as usual, the sun was beating down relentlessly, causing the surface of the Mediterranean Sea to shimmer slightly, there was one car ahead in the distance, nothing in the rear view mirror, the air conditioning hummed slightly, almost in tune with Van Morrison when a thought popped into my head… Does it get any better than this?………. Probably not, happy motoring!

Photo of road  in  Extremadura, Spain originally posted by PhillipC

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer mikey

Mikey is a 54 year old photographer based in the United Kingdom. He is working towards completing his first novel. His interests include, photography, writing, sailing and he is passionate about travel. He and his wife Lorraine travel extensively throughout Europe, where they plan to retire eventually.

12 responses to “9 Tips for Driving in Spain”

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  1. Mark says:
    August 29th, 2008 at 10:10

    Good article, but you don’t make any mention of the points system that now operates in Spain and can be applied to holders of EU drivng licences. More articles on driving & transport in Spain can be found here

  2. dawn says:
    June 24th, 2011 at 18:39

    Thanks for this handy article. This will be our first ever experience of driving abroad and to be truthful I was full of dread, but after reading this, I’m not too worried. One thing I was wondering though, we are renting a car, will the compulsory items already be in place ????

  3. Jen says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 13:14

    Thank you! Very helpful.

  4. Graeme says:
    October 12th, 2011 at 17:34

    I have been in Spain for two weeks and previously only driven right hand drives. A left hand drive is initially daunting but a good co-pilot helps a lot. Spanish drivers are very safety conscious, well skilled and very considerate.

  5. Marjorie Snoswell says:
    February 27th, 2012 at 04:37

    Extremely helpful, thank you very much.

  6. Carson says:
    March 2nd, 2012 at 18:02

    I will be in Spain in April, this is very helpful.

  7. Tracey Sanderson says:
    April 25th, 2012 at 13:27

    Really helpful, like dawn, this our first driving holiday in Spain and was filled with dread until I read your happy and cheeful tips. Thanks Tracey

  8. Marlene Crossland says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 21:29

    Watch for people at garages holding a can or large bottle asking for money because they have run out of fuel. I watched as one man obtained some money and then hid until the motorist filled his car and moved off. He then repeated the scam each time a new set of motorists entered the garage. When the police came he again went into hiding until they left and started again.

  9. Suzy Patzner says:
    June 17th, 2013 at 02:15

    You can definitely see your skills in the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  10. tomsfoodieblog (@tomsfoodieblog) says:
    April 8th, 2014 at 22:37

    Are there any cities in Spain which you do not recommend driving? Visions of driving in Rome come to my mind.

    Is there a car rental agency you most recommend that does not try to charge the “extras”?

  11. Brian_87! says:
    May 24th, 2014 at 09:09

    It feels wonderful driving in Spain, a lovely feeling I must say :)
    But yes, safety has to be maintained and this has to be a priority. Thanks for sharing those wonder tips, I am sure they will be a great help for many. After all the fun of ride should not get disturbed with anything unpleasant.

  12. Ray Bragg says:
    March 29th, 2015 at 06:09

    Can I use my California Drivers License to rent a car and drive in Spain? Or, do I need an International Driving License?

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