Spain is home to stretches of sunny beaches as well as spectacular mountain ranges, making it the perfect country for a road trip. Whether you’re planning to relax on the Costa del Sol, discover the sites of Madrid or Barcelona, or explore the Basque Country, our guide to driving in Spain will ensure you are equipped and confident behind the wheel on Spanish roads. So if you’re wondering, ‘what do I need to drive in Spain?’, keep reading for all the information you need on driving regulations in Spain. Additionally, you might find our driving in Europe checklist helpful!
Firstly, you can legally drive in Spain with a UK driving license, provided you are over the age of 18. You are also legally required to keep the following items within easy reach. If you fail to carry these items in your car, you may be fined:
Proof of insurance
Passport as proof of ID (and for travel purposes)
GB sticker or Euro plates
Headlamp beam deflectors
Spare wheel or tyre repair kit
Hi-Viz jacket if you are required to walk on the hard shoulder
Spare pair of glasses if you wear them
Driving regulations in Spain can differ to rules in Britain, so familiarise yourself with the particulars, so you know what to do when on the road in Spain.
Unlike in France, you don’t need to carry a breathalyser when driving in Spain. However, there are strict alcohol limits for drivers. The blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.05%, but this drops to 0.03% for drivers who have been driving for under two years, are driving a vehicle with more than eight passenger seats, or are driving vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
If you run out of fuel on certain main roads, you can be fined. However, it’s illegal to carry spare fuel in the car in Spain, so keep an eye on your fuel levels.
In Spain, cars already on the roundabout have priority over cars that don’t. If you’re approaching an intersection, you should give way to vehicles coming from the right. Additionally, trams and emergency vehicles have priority.
Like its neighbouring European countries, Spain uses the metric system and speed is measured in kilometres per hour, rather than miles. If you’ve driven your own car from the UK, it’s essential to be extra vigilant that you measure your speed in km. Speed limits will be clearly marked on signs, but there are general speeds for different areas and roads.
Built-up areas, such as towns and suburbs, generally have a speed limit of 50km/h. This equates to 31mph. It’s worth knowing that some Spanish towns are ancient and can have narrow streets and one-way roads. Single carriageways have a speed limit of 90km/h (55mph) while dual carriageways are slightly faster as 100km/h (62mph). You are legally required to drive at least 60kmh (37mph) on motorways/autopistas but no faster than 120km/h (74mph).
If you break the speed limit in Spain, the penalties are sorted into a graded system, so your fine is determined by the extent to which you have exceeded the speed limit. You could be fined €600 (£525) for a serious offence, with varying other fines ranging from €100 to €500. Currently, it’s not possible to gain any points on your licence for speeding with a UK licence in Spain.
In Spain, it’s illegal to use a speed camera radar as these can scramble signals. You could be fined up to €6000 if you’re caught using one. This doesn’t apply to Satnavs or GPS systems with speed camera alerts, and the Spanish Transport Department has even created an app that tells you where speed cameras are located.
Spanish traffic lights are much the same as British traffic lights. It’s useful to know that solid amber means you must stop at the stop line while flashing amber lights on the side of the road mean you’re approaching traffic lights or an area with a 50km/h speed limit.
Cars attempting to overtake you will often flash their lights to give you a warning. The speed limit can be exceeded by 20km/h if you are overtaking on smaller roads with one lane in each direction. If you’re driving a vehicle or an outfit exceeding 10m in length or 3.5 tonnes in weight, you must stay at least 50m behind the vehicle in front of you. This doesn’t apply in built-up areas where overtaking is not permitted.
If you are considering taking your bikes with you or towing a caravan, there are a number of rules to be aware of. Overhanging loads, such as bike racks, must be indicated by an aluminium or plastic reflectorised red and white panel measuring 50cmx50cm. If your outfit (including a caravan) exceeds 12 metres, you will need to fit one large or two small marker boards to the back of your vehicle, between 50-150cm off the ground. The boards must have plain yellow centres with a red outline and be made from aluminium.
Family holidays are fantastic, and it’s extra important to make sure you are following the rules when it comes to seat belts and safe travel. All passengers must wear seat belts when the car is in motion. If you are travelling with children under 12 who are under 135cm tall, they must travel in a child restraint seat or system tailored to their height and weight. Children exceeding this height may wear an adult seat belt instead.
Spanish motorways are known as autopistas and are faster and smoother than the scenic routes! Roughly 20% of autopistas charge tolls from €7 to €30. If you are travelling on autopistas, it’s worth investing in a toll tag to keep momentum and avoid the hassle of handling change in a foreign currency every time you reach a toll booth. Remember to signal when joining or leaving the autopistas or whenever you change lanes to avoid being fined.
Be careful when planning to park on the street in Spain. It is banned in many areas, especially in towns and city centres. If you’re not sure, look for a sign saying ‘estacionamiento prohibido’ or a large crossed-out ‘E’ - this means that parking is prohibited! Other signs that parking is banned are yellow, red or white markings on the kerb or road. However, there are ticket machines in most Spanish towns and cities which allow you to pay for parking for up to two hours between 8 am and 8 pm. There is usually no parking limit outside of this window but check the local rules. Alternatively, some towns have ‘ORA’ or ‘OTA ZONA’ systems that allow you to buy parking permits in local shops. Or, look out for car parks where you can pay to park for extended periods. If there are spaces available, the sign outside the car park may say ‘libre’ at the entrance, while ‘completo’ means it’s full.
If you do decide to park on the street, you must leave your sidelights illuminated at night if the street is not well lit. You can only park on the right-hand side of the carriageway unless you’re parking on a one-way street, where you can park on both sides.
Most road signs are self-explanatory, but there are some worth being extra aware of:
A blue rectangle with the symbol of a camera - a vista point
A blue square with a white number - the maximum advised speed
A blue square with a curved white arrow and distance in metres - where a U-turn is allowed
Some road markings to be aware of:
Yellow zigzag - parking prohibition
Yellow line along the kerb - parking prohibited or restricted
Blue lines - limited parking
For a more in-depth guide to Spanish road signs, we recommend Rhino Car Hire's guide to road signs.
Now you’re up to speed with driving regulations in Spain you can put your knowledge of Spanish road rules to good use and begin preparing for your trip to Spain! You can find more information on our Spain and Portugal toll tags here.