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Things to know before driving in Spain

Driving in Spain
Driving in Spain

So, you plan on driving in Spain. Do you want to drive all the way from the UK to Spain in your own car? Or maybe you’ll hire a car when you get to Spain. Whether you’re on a road trip or just plan a few days of driving you need to know the rules of the road. Take some time to understand the rules to drive in Spain before you set off. Read this guide for the information you need to drive in Spain.

Firstly, check out my general guide to driving in Europe. Make sure you have all your car documents in order. Although nobody will stop you if you just head off to Europe without them, there are a few documents you really do need to carry. Plus there’s insurance and a few other things to check.

Driving in Europe

Driving in Spain

Do not assume that driving and traffic regulations are the same in Spain as they are in the UK. European road signs are all pretty standardised so they’ll look the same as the UK. That’s good for us tourists. However, that doesn’t mean all the rules are the same. You need to stay aware as if you commit an offence while you’re driving in Spain then being a tourist is no excuse. Check the guidelines carefully and make sure you stay within the law.

Check what equipment you need to carry in your car. Obviously, if you hire a car you’ll expect any compulsory kit to be included. This should include things like snow tyres and/or chains if required. However, don’t just assume. If you’re driving the car you’re still responsible for obeying the law so check before you drive off.

Driving in Madrid Spain
Driving in Madrid Spain

Driving in Spain

In Spain, they drive on the right. If you arrive by ferry there will be signs to remind you. Of course, if you’re hiring a car the steering wheel will be on the left-hand side. If it’s an automatic then it’s easier but it can take some getting used to the gear still on the ‘wrong’ side. You’ll soon get the hang of it though. Unlike in the UK, Spanish speed limits are Remember that the speed limits are in km/hour so get used to looking at the other row on your speedometer. Also, remember to slow down when it rains.

Spanish speed limits:

  • Urban areas 50 km/ph
  • 2nd category roads 90km/ph
  • 1st category roads 100 km/ph
  • Motorways 120 km/ph (Min. speed of 60 km /ph)
  • Motorways and dual carriageways in urban areas 80km/ph

Also, the speed limit is sometimes reduced to 20 km/ph near schools. Watch out for warning signs.

Further requirements for driving in Spain

Children under the age of 12 must not sit in the front seat. They should also occupy an approved car seat.

There are a few headlight rules which you should know. You should not use your full beam headlights in a built-up area. Also, you must use dipped headlights in tunnels even during the day.

You must carry a warning triangle. The AA recommend you carry two as it is possible that you could be fined if you only use one if you breakdown or have an accident. I must admit we only carry one. The only people I know who carry two are caravanners. However, those are the rules.

If you drive in Spain then you should have a spare tyre and the tools for changing it. We have run-flat tyres so we don’t carry one. I assume that is ok although we’ve never tested the law on that. I’ve searched extensively and can’t find a definitive answer. If I ever do then I’ll update this page.

In case of breakdown

Also, you must carry at least one reflective safety jacket inside the car where you can reach it before leaving your vehicle. If you breakdown or have an accident you should put it on before exiting the vehicle. You won’t get a fine if you’re not carrying one but you will if you don’t put it on in a breakdown or emergency situation. You may find that hire cars don’t bother to supply these. So, even if hiring make sure you pop one in the car. Better safe than sorry.

A few more things. If you wear glasses to drive then keep a spare pair in the car when you are driving in Spain. You can use a fully hands-free phone but absolutely no headphones or ear-pieces.

Download a full guide to driving in Spain from the AA website.

In summary

Overall, driving in Spain is nothing to worry about. Just familiarise yourself with the rules before you go. As long as you remember that it isn’t exactly the same as the UK you’ll be fine.

Ready to start planning your own trip to Spain? Take a look at some of our other articles.