Driving in Spain: Tips & Advice for Safer Road Travel

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With its rich culture, diverse landscapes and stunning coast, Spain is fantastic to explore by car.


Winding coast roads in Spain Photo © Getty Images/Artur Debat

Spain is a wonderful country to explore by car. Geographically diverse, the country is a mix of stunning coastline, mountains and countryside dotted with fascinating cities and world heritage landmarks. Roads are well maintained, there is an extensive freeway (autovias) system.

Here’s how to safely get the best out of a Spanish road trip.

Do I need an international driver's license for Spain? 

  • To drive any car or a motorbike over 125cc, you must be at least 18, or at least 16 to drive a motorbike up to 125cc
  • You must have a valid driver’s license
  • You must have proof of motor vehicle insurance (with a minimum of third-party cover) and ID
  • Driving without a license is not only punishable by a prison term but will also void your motor vehicle insurance.

Renting a car in Spain 

  • To rent a car in Spain you will need a valid EU or an International Drivers Licence and be at least 21
  • Most rental car companies will ask for a deposit to be held on your credit card, which will be refunded once you return its undamaged car
  • Always thoroughly check the car over for any damage or broken parts before you drive away, and always return the car with a full tank to avoid unnecessary charges
  • Picking up and dropping off the car in the same location usually works out cheapest.
Villajoyosa, Comunidad Valenciana, Spain.
Villajoyosa, Comunidad Valenciana, Spain. Photo credit: Getty Images / Allard Schager

Road rules for driving in Spain

  • Driving is on the right-hand side of the road, and overtake on the left
  • All drivers must carry two red warning triangles to be used in the event of an accident or breakdown to be positioned 50 meters in front of and behind the vehicle
  • You must also have a functioning spare tire and the tools to fit it and wear a reflective vest if you step out of the vehicle
  • Even though most gas stations sell alcohol, drink driving is illegal, laws are strict and the police regularly carry out roadside checks for alcohol and drugs. Penalties include heavy fines, loss of license and even imprisonment
  • The police also issue immediate fines for a number of reasons including speeding and not using seat belts which are compulsory in the front and back seats. Children under 12 must use the appropriate child restraints and sit in the back seat
  • Talking on a mobile phone is not allowed unless it’s a hands-free unit, even when pulled over on the side of the road, and earpieces are not allowed
  • There are rules around emissions to limit air pollution, and if levels are exceeded, car access is restricted, and speed limits are imposed
  • Full-beam headlights are not allowed in built-up areas and you must use dipped lights in tunnels  
  • Be wary of fake police officers. Traffic police always wear a uniform and carry official ID
  • See the European CommissionAA and RAC guides for more information on driving in Spain
  • Dial 112 in an emergency.

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1 Comment

  • Case Whipple said

    I'm thinking about renting a car for our trip, if the price is ok. I have been driving in the Ukraine & Russia
    with no problems. As long as the price is right I will rent a car, so we can travel along the coast for a couple days. The only days I would be driving would be the 26th thu 28th.

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