Driving advice for every country in Europe

Find up-to-date driving laws and advice for any country in Europe before you visit, including any accessories you may need to purchase. Don't forget the RAC provides European breakdown cover while you're driving in Europe.

Driving in Spain

Spain
Population: 46.5m
Area: 506,030 square kilometres
Currency: Euro (EUR) € = 100 cents

Coronavirus update

Please be aware that driving in Europe may be restricted at the moment.

Check the Foreign travel advice section of the GOV.UK website for up to date advice on all European countries.

With a sunny climate, historic towns and the freedom of the open road to enjoy, driving in Spain has a lot going for it. But if you’re planning a trip, it’s essential you’re fully prepared ahead of time as driving there is different to the UK. 

To make your trip to the Continent as safe and effortless as possible, we’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know before you go, from required documents to rules of the road.  

Driving a rented vehicle? Jump to the advice for driving a hire car in Spain section.

RAC European Breakdown Cover (Basic and Comprehensive) provides a wide range of benefits should you breakdown in Spain to ensure you stay safe. 

To supplement this, RAC also offers travel insurance. Cover will include medical expenses, baggage, personal money and belongings, among many other benefits.

Advice for driving in Spain

driving-in-spain-tips

In an emergency

Emergency telephones linked to an SOS telephone network are installed at 2km intervals along motorways.

112 - Here's a really important bit of knowledge; you can dial 112 from anywhere in Europe and an operator will connect you to an emergency service in the country you're visiting. 

Operators can answer your call in their native language, English or French. 

Driving licence laws

Visitors must be aged 18 or over and hold a full, valid driving licence to legally drive in Spain. Riders of motorcycles up to 125cc must be aged 16 or over. 

Driving licences issued in EU and EEA countries are accepted. International driving permits are recognised, but not required.

Things to take when driving in Spain

Documents for driving in Spain

Vehicles from the UK can be temporarily imported into Spain for up to six months in any period of 12 months. In order to stay on the right side of the law, the following documents should always be carried:

  • Full, valid UK driving licence
  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • Motor insurance certificate
  • V5 registration document

Do I need a GB sticker for driving in Spain?

Yes, you will need a GB sticker on your car to drive in Spain unless it’s equipped with EU number plates, which show the country code in a circle of stars on a blue background.

Other items

In addition to required documents, motorists are also required by law to carry the following items when driving to avoid hefty on-the-spot fines:

  • Reflective jackets (although not mandatory to carry, you could be fined for walking on the road or hard shoulder if not wearing one)
  • Warning triangle (compulsory in every vehicle with four wheels or more) (Residents must carry 2)
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (Depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually)
  • Crash helmets are compulsory for riders of mopeds, motorcycles, trikes and quads, unless these are equipped with seat belts. Motorcycles on the road must have their lights on at all times
  • Green Card (although not a legal requirement, it could be useful to back up your insurance documents and show you've got the minimum legal level of cover. To find out more, contact your insurance company)

Driving in Spain packing checklist

European Breakdown Cover

Get covered from just £7 this winter. Plus, get a full refund if Covid-19 restrictions prevent travel.†

Rules of the road in Spain

Overtaking and passing

In Spain, motorists drive on the right and overtake on the left. 

Vehicles exceeding 10 metres in length and exceeding 3.5 tonnes must keep a distance of at least 50m with the vehicle in front. The exception to the rule is in built-up areas, on roads where overtaking is prohibited and when there are several lanes in the same direction, or when the traffic is so heavy that it is not possible to overtake another vehicle.

Who has priority?

As a general rule, drivers approaching an intersection must give way to all vehicles coming from the right.

At a roundabout, drivers already on the roundabout have priority over drivers approaching the roundabout.

Drivers on secondary roads must give way to vehicles coming from either direction when entering a main road.

Emergency vehicles and vehicles on rails have priority over other road users.

Warning of approach

Unnecessary use of horns is forbidden.

In urban areas, sounding the horn is not allowed at any time, except in an emergency. If you need to give a warning, flash your lights instead.

Towing

On camper vans or cars with caravans exceeding 12 metres in length, there must be one long or two short reflectors at the rear. This applies to vehicles registered abroad as well as those in Spain. The reflectors can be obtained from car accessory shops. 

Seat belts

It’s compulsory to wear seat belts in the front and rear seats of cars equipped with belts. 

The fine for failing to wear a seat belt is set at €200. 

Traffic lights

The international three-colour traffic light system is used in Spain.

Green, amber and red arrows are used at some intersections.

Speed limits in Spain

Spain uses the metric system for all road signs, meaning speed limits and other road signs including distance are indicated using kilometres and metres.

Residential areas 20km/h
In built-up areas 50km/h
Outside built-up areas90km/h – 100km/h (according to local signs)
Motorways120km/h

Special speed restrictions apply to certain classes of vehicle, including mopeds, motorhomes and vehicles with trailers, so check before travel.

You may exceed the speed limit by 20km/h to overtake a slower vehicle outside built-up areas, except on motorways and dual carriageways. 

Motorways and dual carriageways may not be used by vehicles that cannot reach a minimum speed of 60km/h.

Spanish speeding fines

Speeding fines in Spain range from €100 to €500 depending on the speed at which offenders are caught, or the road on which they’re driving. 

Someone caught exceeding the limit by 60km/h or more could have their licence suspended for up to four years.

Speed camera detectors

In Spain, you’re still allowed to use a GPS navigation system that shows you where fixed speed cameras are. However, it's illegal to carry or use any radar jammer equipment when driving.

Specialist Breakdown Cover for Caravans and Motorhomes

RAC Arrival offers best in market UK and European cover for caravans, motorhomes and trailers.

Travelling with children in Spain

driving-with-children-in-spain

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that all passengers under 18 are wearing a seat belt or appropriate restraint.

Car seats

Children up to the age of 12 and measuring less than 135cm travelling on the front seat of a car must be seated in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight. Children measuring more than 135cm may use an adult seat belt.

Children measuring less than 135cm travelling on the rear seat must also be placed in a child restraint system adapted to their size and weight.

In vehicles with more than nine seats, passengers over three years old (except those measuring less than 135 cm) must use seat belts if they are installed. 

Bike helmet law

It is compulsory for cyclists under the age of 16 to wear a helmet.

It’s also mandatory for all cyclists, whatever their age, to wear a safety helmet on all roads outside built-up areas, except on a long steep hill or in very hot weather. 

Driving a camper van and towing a caravan in Spain

Camper vans and cars with caravans are not allowed to exceed 18.75 metres in length, 4 metres in height and 2.55 metres in width.

On camper vans or cars with caravans exceeding 12 metres in length, there must be one long or two short reflectors at the rear.

Loads mustn’t exceed 10 tonnes at a single axle but may exceed the length of the vehicle at the rear by up to 10% of its length. This should be indicated by a panel with diagonal red and white stripes.

Please note: The Department for Transport advises that A-frames are not legal for use by UK campers and caravanners abroad. In practice, this could mean towing your car while it’s fixed to a trailer.*

Penatlies and fines in Spain

On-the-spot fines

Police can impose fines on the spot. Fines may be reduced by 50% if paid within 20 days. A fine can be contested within 15 days.

Visiting motorists must pay their fines immediately unless they give the name of a person or corporation in Spain willing to guarantee payment of the fine. Otherwise the vehicle will be confiscated until the fine is paid. They can then contest the fine through the legal system.

Minimum and maximum fines

Fines range from €100 for a minor speeding offence to €6,000 for driving a vehicle with a radar jammer. 

Some motoring offences are considered criminal offences and can lead to much higher fines, as well as vehicle confiscation and a possible prison sentence.

Confiscation of vehicles

A vehicle can be confiscated for the following reasons:

  • Mechanical defects
  • Excess noise or pollution
  • Lack of insurance
  • The driver refuses to pay a fine
  • The driver is under the influence of alcohol

The Cross-Border Enforcement Directive

An EU cross-border directive came into effect in the UK in May 2017. This is aimed at tracking down people who commit traffic offences in cars that are registered in an EU member state different to where the offence was committed.

This means if you commit a driving offence abroad, the crime will effectively follow you back home to the UK where you can still be prosecuted.

Parking in Spain

Regulations

Parking is prohibited within 5 metres of a bend or intersection.

Vehicles parked during the night on inadequately lit streets must have their side lights illuminated.

Vehicles must be parked on the right-hand side of the carriageway except in one-way streets where parking may be allowed on both sides.

Paid parking

Road signs indicate the areas where parking is restricted and must be paid for, either at parking meters or automatic machines which issue tickets indicating the length of parking time that has been paid for.

In Madrid, there is a regulated parking zone (the ‘SER’) where parking spaces are shown by blue or green lines. In these areas, parking is limited to 1 or 2 hours for visitors and can be paid by means of parking ticket machines or by mobile phone. In some large towns and cities, parking fees can be paid by inserting a credit card into the machine.

Enforcement of parking regulations

Illegally parked vehicles may be towed away. If your car is taken away, you will need to go to the nearest police station and, to get it back, you must pay the fine for the parking offence plus towing costs.

Wheel clamps are used in some towns when an illegally parked vehicle is not causing an obstruction.

Disabled parking access

Foreign disabled permits are recognised in Spain.

Permits for disabled drivers, which must be displayed on the inside of the windscreen, allow the vehicle to be parked for an unlimited time in zones which are for loading and unloading, and with a time limit in pedestrian zones. They also allow parking in some places where it’s usually prohibited by signs, if permission has been granted by a traffic warden.

Drink driving law in Spain

Legal limit

The general limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05%.

For professional drivers (driving a bus, coach, HGV or public service vehicle), as well as for newly qualified drivers (less than two years' experience), the limit is 0.03%.

Random breath test

A driver suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who has committed a traffic offence, must undergo a breath test for alcohol or a saliva test for drugs. All road users must undergo a breath test following a traffic accident.

If you refuse a test, your vehicle may be immobilised by the police and your driving licence may be suspended for one to four years.

Tolls in Spain

Like other central European countries, Spain has motorways with tolls. You can pay for them with cash or a credit card.

Most motorways also have an electronic system of payment known as Telepeaje or Via T, which allows you to travel without stopping at toll booths.

Spanish service areas

There are many service areas along the Spanish motorways.

Availability of fuel in Spain

Different types of clean fuel are available in Spain. LPG is available under the name ‘Autogas’. 

Automatic petrol pumps are found in some large towns.

Driving a hire car in Spain

Not all of the information in the guide above will be relevant to those looking to rent a hire car in Spain. Though it might be a good idea to read through everything anyway, here are the most important things to know for drivers of rental vehicles:

Rental information

  • The minimum age to hire a car is 21, although this may vary depending on the vehicle type
  • You need a full, valid UK driving licence and usually a second proof of ID (passport)
  • Car rental companies ask that you have held your licence for a minimum term of 1 year
  • Some companies may require you to use a credit card for deposit
  • You may not be able to drive outside of Spain unless planned in advance - check with your hire company first
  • Make sure you get car hire excess insurance before your trip to protect yourself from unexpected costs. It's almost always cheaper to do this with a separate insurer and in advance

Hire car driving tips

  • The Spanish drive on the right - the opposite to the UK
  • The national speed limit on motorways in Spain, unless otherwise indicated on local signage, is between 100km/h (62mph) and 120km/h (80 mph). On a main road outside a built-up area it's 90 km/h. For built-up areas it’s 50km/h.
  • Dial 112 in an emergency
  • If seat belts are fitted to your car, they must be worn by both drivers and passengers.
  • The blood alcohol content limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.05%. That's lower than the 0.08% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the same as Scotland.

Driving in Spain FAQs

  • Can I drive my car in Spain?

    Yes. You must have a valid UK licence and V5 document, along with sufficient insurance and breakdown cover for your trip. You should also familiarise yourself with the laws around driving in Spain before you set off to keep yourself and other road users safe.

  • How do I drive to Spain?

    Getting to Spain by car from the UK is probably easier than you think. Firstly, you’ll need to take your car across the Channel to Calais on either a ferry from Dover or the Eurotunnel from Folkestone.

    Once you’re in Calais, drive down through France and across the border into Spain, which should take around 10 hours.

    Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Plymouth or Portsmouth to the northern Spanish cities of Bilbao and Santander. Journeys take up to 24 hours but it could be a good option if you don’t fancy driving through France.

  • What side of the road do they drive on in Spain?

    Unlike in the UK, motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road in Spain and overtake on the left – which can take some adjustment if you’re used to driving on the left.

  • Can you drive in Spain with a UK licence?

    Yes, you can legally drive in Spain with your UK-issued driving licence without the need to apply for an International Driving Permit.

  • Do I need extra insurance to drive in Spain?

    Spain and the UK are both part of the Green Card System, a Europe-wide scheme allowing all countries to recognise foreign vehicle insurance policies of visiting motorists, so it’s quite possible your existing insurance will cover you.

    However, before setting off on your trip, you should contact your insurance provider to make sure that no additional cover is required, as you won’t be able to buy short-term cover at the border entry points.

  • Is driving in Spain dangerous?

    Driving in Spain is generally very easy once you get used to driving on the right side of the road.

    All main roads are in good condition and well signposted, and the toll motorways are very quiet. Be careful if you go off the beaten track, however, as the quality of the roads and signage can vary considerably.

  • Do I need a GB sticker to drive in Spain?

    You will need to display a GB sticker on the rear of your car unless it has EU number plates with the country code in a circle of stars on a blue background.

  • Do I need headlamp converters in Spain?

    Yes. Depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually. This is so you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic when driving on the right side of the road at night.

  • What is the national speed limit in Spain?

    The national speed limit on Spanish motorways is 120km/h (75 mph). If you’re driving on a main road outside a built-up area, the limit is 90km/h, and for built-up areas it’s 50km/h.

  • Do I need snow chains in Spain?

    Although Spain is known for its sunny climate, it does snow in some areas. In certain circumstances, particularly on mountain passes, the use of snow chains or winter tyres may become compulsory.

  • How much are toll roads in Spain?

    The amount you pay per toll will depend on the length of the road and the area you’re driving in.
    Visit https://www.viamichelin.com to calculate the cost of your journey.

  • How do you pay for toll roads in Spain?

    There are two ways to pay for tolls – electronically or manually. On most toll roads, you take a ticket when you enter the motorway and pay when you exit at a booth with a green arrow. Simply insert your ticket into the machine and it will show you how much you need to pay. You can either pay by cash or credit card.
    If you regularly use toll roads, it’s worth signing up to the Telepeaje scheme which takes you through the fast lane without having to stop and pay.

  • Does Spain use mph or kph?

    Spain uses the metric system for all road signs, so speed limits and other signs including distance are shown in kilometres and metres.

  • Is it compulsory to carry a spare wheel in Spain?

    For Spanish residents, a spare tyre or puncture repair kit must be carried in the vehicle, but if your car is registered outside Spain this is not obligatory.
    You should, however, make sure you check all your tyres before setting off. The legal minimum depth of tyre tread is 1.6mm for the full circumference of the tyre.

European Breakdown Cover

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UK Government travel advice

See up-to-date travel advice


<div class="text-extra-small"><em>Source: Information in this document is sourced from the AIT (Alliance Internationale de Tourisme) &amp; the FIA (Federation Internationale de l&#39;Automobile) and, to the best of the RAC&rsquo;s knowledge, is correct at the time of publication (November 2020).</em></div>

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<div class="text-extra-small"><em>*https://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/helpandadvice/travelplanning/eurotraveladvice/europeancampingguide/page5 </div>

British Embassy Madrid

Office: British Embassy Madrid
Street Address: Torre Espacio
Postal Address: Paseo de la Castellana 259D
ZIP Code: 28046
City: Madrid
Country: Spain

Telephone: +34 917 146 300
Fax: +34 917 146 301
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate Alicante

Office: British Consulate Alicante
Street Address: Edificio Espacio
Postal Address: Rambla Méndez Núñez 28-32
ZIP Code: 03002
City: Alicante
Country: Spain

Telephone: +34 913 342 194
Fax: +34 965 14 05 28
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate-General Barcelona

Office: British Consulate-General Barcelona
Street Address: Avda Diagonal 477 – 13
Postal Address:
ZIP Code: 08036
City: Barcelona
Country: Spain

Telephone: +34 913 342 194
Fax: +34 933 666 221
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate Ibiza

Office: British Consulate Ibiza
Street Address: Avenida Isidoro Macabich 45
Postal Address: 1º1ª (corner with Calle Canarias)
ZIP Code: 07800
City: Ibiza
Country: Spain

Telephone: +34 913 342 194
Fax: +34 971 301 972
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Office: British Consulate Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Street Address: Calle Luis Morote 6-3º
Postal Address: E-35007 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
ZIP Code:
City: de Gran Canaria
Country: Spain

Telephone: +34 913 342 194
Fax: +34 928 267 774
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate Malaga

Office: British Consulate Malaga
Street Address: Calle Mauricio Moro Pareto, 2
Postal Address: Edificio Eurocom
ZIP Code: 29006
City: Malaga
Country: Spain

Telephone: +34 913 342 194
Fax: +34 95 235 9211
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate Palma de Mallorca

Office: British Consulate Palma de Mallorca
Street Address: Carrer Convent dels Caputxins, 4
Postal Address: Edificio Orisba B 4ºD
ZIP Code: 07002
City: Palma de Mallorca
Country: Spain

Telephone: +34 913 342 194
Fax: +34 971 71 75 20
Email: [email protected]

British Consulate Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Office: British Consulate Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Street Address: Plaza Weyler, 8, 1º
Postal Address:
ZIP Code: 38003
City: Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Country: Spain

Telephone: +34 913 342 194
Fax: +34 922 289 903
Email: [email protected]

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover

† Comparison based on RAC Arrival against standard level of cover from other major providers as of 06.02.20

† Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year old in Zone 1. For more information visit rac.co.uk/breakdown-cover/european-breakdown-cover