1. Travel
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Driving in Spain

Stay Safe on Spanish Roads


Avenida de América este
Daniel Lobo @daquellamanera flickr.com Creative Commons License

The Spanish are not the most considerate of road users. When merging with a motorway, don’t expect drivers to slow to let you on – you may have to stop at the end of the slip road. Many drivers show complete disregard for speed limits and you may find some obstinant road users who deliberately straddle two lanes to prevent such speed freaks from passing.

Further Reading:

  • Renting a Car in Spain
  • Car Sharing in Spain
  • Compare Prices on Car Hire in Spain


    Speed Limits on Spanish Roads

    These speeds reflect the changes announced by the Spanish government in February 2011.
    • Expressways & major highways 68mph
    • Other roads 55mph
    • Built-up areas 18mph
    • Residential areas 15mph

    Types of Roads in Spain

    Spanish road names that begin with an ‘AP’ are toll roads and as a result are usually relatively free from traffic. They will invariably have a toll-free road running more or less alongside, which will be busier and probably more picturesque.

    Fully-fledged expressways are actually few and far between - most of the country is served by 'N' roads, which can vary in design quite considerably. Some resemble expressways in all but name, others have traffic lights and people's driveways leading straight onto the road!

    What You Need to Carry with You When Driving in Spain

    The following items must be carried at all times when driving in Spain.

    • Drivers license
    • Insurance documents
    • Ownership documents (or rental documents)
    • Wearers of spectacles should carry a spare pair
    • Fluorescent jacket (for all occupants)
    • Two warning triangles
    • Fire extinguisher (recommended)
    • First-aid kit (recommended)

    For a more complete guide, see here.

    Important Rules to Follow When Driving in Spain

    • Seatbelts must be worn.
    • The use of cellphones while driving is prohibited. Hands-free kits are permitted, but they are not allowed to have earpiece attachments. (Astonishingly, 98% of Spaniards don't know this!)
    • The use of screen-based navigation systems is prohibited.
    • Don't park where next to a yellow line. If you do, you will most likely be towed away (especially if you are in a foreign car).

    The Guardia Civil in Spain

    The Guardia Civil are notorious for being Franco's former personal guard. The service is rife with nepotism and though the reputation of the Guardia Civil is improving, it starts from a pretty low esteem in the first place.

    When I first wrote this article, I said "The Guardia Civil is the lowest of the three types of police officer (the others being the Policia Municipal and the Policia Nacional) and they are known to have quite an inferiority complex at times".

    I have since received an aggressive email (after this article was linked to on Foro Policia) from a member of the Guardia Civil, telling me I am 'stupid' for my opinions ('tonto' in Spanish). He corrected me, saying that the Guardia Civil outranks the Policia Municipal, and proving me right that 'they are known to have an inferiority complex'.

    When I said 'low', I didn't necessarily mean in terms of rank, I meant in terms of behaviour. Such as emailing journalists and calling them stupid for their opinions. For further evidence of the reputation of the Guardia Civil, google "what do the guardia civil do?" . Just on the Google results page alone, you'll see:

    It is easy to find a lot more anecdotal evidence for negative behaviour of the Guardia Civil. I have one. A friend of mine was over charged by a taxi driver. He argued. When a member of the Guardia Civil approached him, my friend explained the situation. The Guardia Civil kicked his leg from behind him, held him against the car and said he should pay the amount the taxi driver wanted.

    If the Guardia Civil have a problem with me calling them 'the lowest' type of police force in Spain, they only have themselves to blame.

    What to Do When Stopped by the Guardia Civil in Spain

    The Guardia Civil like to catch out motorists for not wearing their fluorescent jacket when stepping out of the car, which Spanish law says must wear whenever you stop by the side of a highway. So, if they stop you, take your time to put it on before you get out of the car.

    The Guardia Civil are entitled to ask you to pay your fine immediately as a tourist, unless you can prove you have a Spanish address that will cover for you if you don't pay. If you are unable to pay immediately, they can impound the car. It is therefore wise to pay immediately, especially as there is a 20% reduction if you do so. Be sure to get a receipt, especially if you think the police officer has been unfair.

    Translation of Types of Gas in Spain

    • Leaded = super or super 98
    • Unleaded = sin plomo 98 or Eurosuper 95
    • Diesel = gasoleo

    If all that puts you off, you could always go by bus, train, or fly!

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.