Driving in Spain? Here’s a Checklist of Things to Know Before You Go

The public transport in Spain will not necessarily take you to all the places you may want to explore; that’s why it’s a great idea to do a Spanish road trip!

Getting your own pair of wheels – whether you drive a car over or rent – will enable you to see quaint mountainous villages and beautiful beaches, which you otherwise would never have been able to access. Whether you choose to hire a car or drive your own over, it is essential to know a thing or two about the driving laws, in order to make your experience in Spain free of all hassles. So read this driving in Spain checklist before you head out there!


Spain’s roads are generally safe, and you shouldn’t have too many problems driving around. The highways are very good, but some parts of regional Spain may have narrow and windy roads. For example, when you’re checking out the best things to do in Mallorca, make sure that you are prepared for mountainous, one-way roads.


Double check the papers you must have on you while diving in Spain with your rental agency. These may include an International Driving License, your own and the car’s valid insurance and documents for the car. It’s also a great idea to print out details of the reservation. If you’re taking your own car, make sure you have proof of ownership with you.

Terms and Conditions

Book in advance with a reputed agency and avoid exceptionally cheap companies in order not to have a bad experience. Pay and little more instead of trying to bargain with an obscure rental agent, who may anyway charge you extra for mileage, insurance and a non fuel efficient car.

The internet is a great way to find out what different agencies charge and to look up reviews of reputable agencies. Read the fine print carefully and check for dents and flaws in the car before you drive it away. If you find any, be sure to bring them to the notice of the company representative, to avoid paying hefty damages afterwards.

Mobile Phones

Do not even dream if talking on the mobile, even with an earphone. Spanish police are understandably very tough with mobile phone offenders and deal out big fines. In case of necessity, stop the car and either get out or move to the passenger seat, so there can be absolutely no question about whether you were driving.

Toll Roads

The highways in Spain are mostly toll roads, also known as ‘autopistas’.Though alternate routes may be there, these roads are generally best taken in order to save time and money – you’ll often spend more in petrol taking the alternative route. Therefore, it is important to keep sufficient cash in hand always, even though cards are accepted widely.

Driving the Car

Road rules in Spain are similar to most other European countries, though there may be a few differences.

  • The most significant one is that that driving in Spain is on the right side, as opposed to left in UK, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. If you’re travelling from continental Europe or the US, you’ll be used to the side of the road.
  • The minimum age to drive a car in Spain is 18 and it is a legal requirement for all passengers to wear a seatbelt, and for no child under the age of 12 to sit in the passenger seat of the car.
  • If a car flashes their lights at you, it could either mean that there is a speed radar ahead or that it is their right of way (which is the opposite to what it means in Britain!)

Don’t want to drive all the time? Taking a taxi in Spain is very popular among locals as well as tourists. Prices depend on the region: they are 2-3 times higher in large cities and on the coast than in the provinces. A great tool is the Kiwitaxi web site, which shows the price of local trips immediately.

Getting Fuel

It’s worth knowing that in rural Spain, petrol stations can be few and far between and are not open 24/7 – they often shut at night and for up to 2 hours at lunchtime. Bear this in mind and fill up when you can to avoid running out of fuel.

What Fuel to Buy

  • Leaded Petrol is super/ super 97
  • Unleaded Petrol is sin plomo 98 or eurosuper 95
  • Diesel is gasoleo

Useful Vocabulary

Some great Spanish words to know when driving in Spain are:

  • Left – izquierda
  • Right – derecho
  • Straight Ahead – al frente
  • Street – calle
  • Slow down – ve más despacio
  • Lorry – camión
  • Car – coche

Things to Carry

It is mandatory under the Spanish law to keep the following items onboard at all times while driving, unless you want to pay a huge fine for non compliance.

  1. A spare pair of spectacles if the driver wears them.
  2. An extra pair of light bulbs
  3. All documents like, driving licence, vehicle registration and insurance.
  4. Warning triangles – one for a non registered car and two for Spanish cars

Speed Limits

The speed limits vary from place to place. While in the towns it is 50 km/hour, it is 90 to 100 km/h on the open roads and 120 km/h on the motorways. Keep an eye for sign posts as there are hidden cameras and breaking limits attract on the spot fines.