If you are thinking of driving in Spain, you will surely be interested in finding out beforehand how to rent a car and whether your driving licence is compatible in this country, and what is required to get valid international insurance. Find out all about it below.
What driving licences can you use in Spain?
If you are taking your car, you must find out if your driving licence is valid to drive in Spain, whether you must exchange it or if you need to obtain the International Permit.
Permits issued in countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) are fully valid to drive in Spain as long as they are in force.
If you come from any other country, it is a good idea to get an international driving permit in your country before you travel. This permit is valid for one year and is complementary. So, whenever you are going to use it, you must also present your passport and your foreign driving license.
More information on other valid permits for driving in Spain.
Also, keep in mind that the minimum driving age in Spain is 18 years old.
Also, remember that it is absolutely necessary to have valid international insurance. If you're from the European Union, Switzerland, Great Britain, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia or Montenegro you'll need to have your insurance policy with you, together with the payment receipt demonstrating its validity. If you're from Albania, Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Iran, Israel, Macedonia, Morocco, Moldova, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine or Russia you must get a Green Card or International Civil Liability Insurance Certificate. For all other cases, it will be necessary to take out Border Insurance.
Since conditions may vary, we suggest that you contact the Spanish Embassy or Consulate to verify these requirements before you start your trip.
How do you rent a car?
To rent a vehicle in Spain, you must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driving licence. Many companies also require you to have had your driving licence for a minimum of one or two years. To complete the car hire process, you will need a credit card.
Remember that if more than one person is going to drive, the others must appear as additional drivers on the contract. Also, the rate tends to be higher for those under the age of 25.
In Spain, it is usual for rental cars to have manual transmission and the rate for those with automatic transmission tend to be higher.
What are the most important rules?
In Spain, we drive on the right, safety belts are mandatory for all the occupants of the vehicle and there are speed limits on all roads. These are 120 km/h on dual carriageways and motorways, 90 km/h on all other roads and 30 km/h in built-up areas.
Other important rules are:
It is forbidden to talk on a mobile phone without a hands-free device or to handle one while driving.
Overtaking can only be done on the left side of the car which you wish to pass.
Children under 135 centimetres in height cannot sit in the front seat and they must always use an approved restraint system. It is recommended to use a restraint system with a back until the child is over 150 centimetres tall. These instructions also apply to taxis, so if you want to travel with a baby in a taxi, you must carry an approved restraint system.
Don't drink and drive. Your blood alcohol levels must not exceed 0.5 g/l (0.25 mg/l in exhaled air).
Helmets must be worn on motorbikes, mopeds and bicycles.
Parking in public thoroughfares is not always permitted or free. In many cities the parking areas are regulated and subject to payment. Normally these can be identified by the presence of parking meters in the vicinity.
Which roads have tolls and which do not?
In Spain, the vast majority of roads in the national network are free to use. These include motorways (independent roads in each direction and with no intersections at the same level).
Nevertheless, there is a series of roads that may require the payment of a toll. These are the motorways. The cost varies in each case, but there are generally alternative routes that are free to use.
You can find out which motorways require toll payment on this website.
Tolls may be paid in cash, by credit card or using electronic toll services (requires the installation of a device in the car)
What should you do if you get a fine?
Traffic violations sanctioned in the Road Safety Act must always be paid. There are two possibilities when you receive a traffic fine:
If you are notified of the penalty at the time of the offence and the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) is involved, you can pay the fine to the officer, by credit or debit card.
If you are informed of the fine by post, you will have various options to pay:
1. By phone 060 (from Spain): This service is only available in Spanish. Payment is made by credit card. If phoning from abroad, the contact number is +34 902887060.
2. By Internet: through the Spanish General Directorate of Traffic
3. In person:
In branches of La Caixa (Caixabank).
In Correos post offices, subject to an additional fee of 1.50% of the value of the fine.
In the offices of the Provincial Traffic Offices by credit or debit card.
4. If you live abroad, you can also pay by bank transfer. If you have any questions or queries about traffic fines, contact the DGT helpline on +34 987 010 559.
Remember: there is a 50% reduction in the fine if you pay within 20 calendar days.