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Driving in Spain: the ultimate guide

From sun-seekers to culture vultures, Spain really has something for everyone. Whether you’re driving to Spain from the UK, or flying over and hiring a vehicle when you land, travelling by car or motorbike is one of the best ways to explore this stunning country. 

If you’re driving in Spain for the first time, it’s very important (or muy importante – we’ll get you started on the lingo right away) that you familiarise yourself with the various rules for driving in Spain before you set off. 

So, we’ve compiled all the info you’ll need for driving in España; from road rules to driving kits, read on below. Vamonos (that means ‘let’s go’).

What you need when driving in Spain

Before you get in your car or board the plane, it’s worth looking through this checklist of what you’ll need while driving in Spain as a tourist: 

  • Driving license
  • International driving permit, if you have one (it’s not a requirement, but IDPs are accepted in Spain) 
  • Passport
  • Proof of your insurance
  • Proof of ownership (V5C certificate) 
  • Headlight converters
  • High vis jackets
  • Two warning triangles
  • Spare bulbs and fuses 
  • A spare wheel (with all the tools you’d need to replace it)
  • GB sticker 

Of course, we can’t be accountable for all your documents, but if you’re looking to take care of most of this checklist in one fell swoop, our essential European driving kit is a must. 

It’s worth noting that driving in Spain after Brexit may require additional documentation. This will depend on the outcome of Britain leaving the EU. Should these requirements change, we’ll update this blog with all of the latest need-to-know information.

Spanish driving law

So, now that you’re all kitted out, it’s time to explore the law over in Spain, starting with Spanish speed limits: 

Road typeSpeed limit
Built-up area50 kph
Single carriageway90 kph
Dual carriageway100 kph
Motorway120 kph

Advertencia (that’s ‘warning’). If a driver is caught speeding by the police, they risk receiving an on-the-spot fine, these fines can be contested within a 15-day window. If your offence is minor and you pay within 20 days, the fine can be reduced by as much as 50%.

It’s also worth noting that both cars and motorcycles are allowed to exceed the above limits by 20 kph, but only when overtaking a slower vehicle. But remember, this is only allowed outside built-up areas and on single-lane roads. 

Obviously, we recommend you don’t speed. At all. Not ever. 

Other motoring penalties

Offences deemed more serious than speeding are considered criminal offences. They can result in higher fines than your average speeding ticket, possible vehicle confiscation and even a prison sentence. None of those look particularly fun.

You also risk having your vehicle immobilised should it be found to have any mechanical issues, no insurance (remember that handy checklist) or if it produces excess noise and pollution.

Drink drive limit in Spain

Your vehicle may also be immobilised if you’re found to be under the influence of alcohol. The drink-drive limit in Spain is 0.5 mg per ml of blood for experienced drivers, while those that have under three years experience on the road must be under 0.3 mg per ml. 

Spanish road rules

Okay, you know what you need to drive in Spain, you know your speed limits, but what about all the other road rules of Spain?

These rules may be confusing for those that don’t hold a Spanish driving license, so presta mucha atención (‘pay close attention’, we really hope you’re writing these down?).

Motorways and toll roads in Spain

When driving on Spanish motorways - or autopistas - you may encounter quite a few toll booths. 

Toll roads in Spain are numerous, so if you’re heading on any motorway, it’s best to have your Euros or a credit card at the ready, just to be safe. The amount you pay will depend on the length of the road, as well as the area. 

One benefit of these tolls is much less traffic. The motorways in Spain are often fairly empty, because locals choose to avoid the tolled roads in favour of back roads and single carriageways. So, expect to see more traffic on these smaller roads instead. 

Spanish road signs and traffic lights

Thankfully, road signs in Spain are pretty easy to understand. For the most part, they are consistent with the rest of the continent. 

Traffic lights use the international three-colour light system, so you’ll be fine there. However, there are few unique Spanish road signs that you should be aware of: 

  • A blue square with a curved white arrow and a measure of distance in metres indicates where you can next make a U-turn
  • A blue square with a white dot and curved lines coming from it indicates there are speed cameras ahead
  • A blue square with a white number indicates the maximum speed limit
  • A blue rectangle with a camera symbol indicates a viewpoint at a place of interest

Spanish road markings

Most road markings in Spain are white in colour and in-line with the rest of the continent. The only exceptions are: 

  • Blue lines, which represent limited parking
  • Yellow zigzagged lines, where parking is prohibited
  • Yellow criss-cross patterns at an intersection, which means no entry, unless the exit is clear
  • Yellow lines along a kerb, which means parking is either restricted or prohibited 

Parking in Spain

We’ve covered almost everything now, but for all you parking information fans out there, we’ve saved the best for last.

Parking regulations

Blue parking zones are indicated by signs. Within these zones, you’ll ordinarily find that you’re able to park for a maximum period of two hours during the day. Depending on local authorities, there is usually no parking limit between 8pm and 8am.

You shouldn’t park within five metres of a bend or an intersection, and unless you’re parking on a one-way street, your vehicle must be parked on the right-hand side of a carriageway. 

Areas with paid parking

Again, these zones will be indicated by signs. Motorists will be required to pay for their parking via a parking meter or an automatic machine, which will dispense a ticket that displays the amount of time you’re able to park for. 

Disabled parking

A disabled parking permit is valid for one year and available from each local municipality, so if you’re travelling to Spain, it’s best to contact the relevant local authority ahead of your visit. Of course, your Blue Badge is recognised across Europe, but specific rules apply in certain locations. 

You can find out more on this by checking out our ‘Using a Blue Badge in Europe’ guide. 

Spanish parking fines and enforcements 

Vehicles both registered and temporarily imported to Spain run the risk of being towed if they’re found to be parked illegally. 

In order to retrieve your vehicle, you’ll need to visit the local police station and pay the fine for the parking offence in question, a parking fee for the time registered when the vehicle was impounded, as well as the vehicle’s towing costs. 

If you’ve got a fine that you need to pay, you can do that online here

So, there we go, you’re now all set to clock up the miles around sunny Spain. 

We know what you’re thinking. You’re full of information, but the one thing you don’t have is one of those awesome European driving kits we mentioned earlier. Well, don’t worry, you can get one right here

That’s it, viaje seguro (‘safe journey’)!