Driving in Spain: What you need and license requirements

By , 21 March 2024

6 mins read

Driving in Spain: What you need and license requirements

Renowned for its stunning beaches and historic towns, there is plenty to see and discover when driving in Spain.

Whether you are used to the Spanish roads or will be driving in Spain for the first time, it is important that you are fully aware of the road rules and how they may differ from what you are used to.

It is estimated that eight million Brits drive abroad each year, but nearly a third (31%) have driven on the wrong side of the road.

To make sure you feel well-prepared and have a safe trip, we have put together a guide that covers the requirements and laws for driving in Spain, as well as further information on parking, fuel, and fines.

Preparing to drive in Spain

It is important to never assume that driving abroad will be exactly the same as driving in the UK; in fact, the experience can differ greatly.

GOV.UK advises checking laws surrounding speed limits and drink driving ahead of time, as well as if you are required to carry any extra equipment, have emission stickers, headlight converter stickers, or a UK sticker.

Ahead of taking to the Spanish roads, it is your responsibility to check if your car is fully equipped; otherwise, you may risk a fine.

Can I drive in Spain with a UK license?

Good news! You can legally drive in Spain with a full and valid UK driver's license.

Always be sure to double check your license before travelling to ensure it is in date and not about to expire.

Documents checklist

In addition to your driver's license, you are legally required to carry the following documents:

Your hire car company will provide you with all the documents you need, so it is just up to you to read them carefully and ensure you have them to hand at all times.

Equipment checklist

When driving in Spain, you are also required by law to carry the following equipment in your hire car:

Other non-mandatory items you could keep in your hire car so you are prepared for all eventualities include:

Do I need a UK sticker for driving in Spain?

If you are driving your own car in Spain, you will need a UK sticker.

GOV.UK states that drivers must display the UK identifier when driving a UK-registered car in Spain.

However, if you are driving a Spanish-registered hire car, the UK sticker will not be necessary.

Do I need a green card?

Drivers are no longer required to carry an insurance green card to drive in Spain as of 2nd August 2021.

What are the road rules for driving in Spain?

Now that you are fully aware of what documents and equipment are required when driving in Spain, it is time to learn more about the rules of the road.

You may be surprised to learn that some of the rules are not too dissimilar from the ones you are familiar with in the UK; however, there are some rules that differ, so it is always best to brush up thoroughly before driving.

What is the driving age in Spain?

The legal age for driving a car in Spain is 18 years old, while you must be 16 or over to ride a motorcycle of up to 125cc.

All drivers must have a full and valid driver's license. Provisionals will not be accepted.

Do I need to wear a seat belt?

Just like in the UK, all passengers are required to wear a seat belt at all times, whether they are in the front or rear of the car.

Failure to wear your seat belt or ensure your children are wearing theirs could result in you receiving a two hundred euro fine.

Which side of the road do I drive on?

One of the most striking differences you will encounter is driving on the right-hand side of the road.

If you have hired your car in Spain, your vehicle will already be set up for driving on the right-hand side of the road, with the driver's seat located on the left-hand side.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to adjust to this change and practice on quieter roads initially until you build up your confidence.

How do I overtake?

To overtake other vehicles in Spain, you must only use the left-hand side of the road.

Just as you would in the UK, you need to follow the standard rules and regulations for overtaking, such as checking your blind spots, using your indicators, and maintaining a safe distance.

Can you turn right on a red light in Spain?

Unlike countries such as France and the USA, it is illegal to turn right on a red light in Spain.

When you come to a red light, you must stop.

Otherwise, you risk a hefty fine, a collision – or both.

How do roundabouts work in Spain?

Roundabouts can be a daunting part of driving for many, but more so when you are abroad and not sure how they work.

To navigate roundabouts in Spain, it is important to remember that you must give priority to vehicles that are already on the roundabout.

Just as you would on a UK roundabout, you need to ensure that you are in the correct lane according to where you will be exiting the roundabout.

Once you have joined the roundabout, you must only exit it using the outside (left) lane.

What are the speed limits in Spain?

Much like the rest of Europe, Spain follows the metric system on all of its road signs for distances and speed limits.

The speed limit can vary depending on the type of road and area you are driving in, as it would in the UK.

On some roads in Spain, you may find that the speed limits can vary every few miles, so it is important to always pay close attention to the road signs.

How much are Spanish speeding fines?

If you are caught speeding while driving in Spain, you are likely to receive a fine.

The amount will depend on how fast you were going and the road you were driving on.

Speeding fines of up to 600 Euros can be issued, and offenders can also receive points on their license.

Penalties for more serious offences can include having licenses revoked or receiving a court summons.

Can I use my mobile or headphones when driving?

The European Union states that using a mobile phone or any other communication devices while driving is strictly prohibited.

In addition, it is also against the law to use an earpiece or headphones.

Are there child seat regulations?

When driving in Spain, you must ensure that anyone under the age of 18 and measuring less than 135cm is seated in an approved child seat in the rear of the car.

Be sure to bring your own seat when hiring a car, as rental companies will try to sell you expensive extras you do not necessarily need.

If you are found to be driving without a car seat when it is required, you could face a fine of up to 300 Euros.

Do I need to wear a helmet if I am riding a bike?

If you fancy soaking up the sights on your bike, then it is important to know that helmets are mandatory outside of urban areas when you are cycling in Spain.

For those under 16 years old, helmets are required by law, even when riding in urban areas.

The fine for not adhering to this law could leave you out of pocket to the tune of 200 Euros.

Spanish drink driving laws

The legal limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.5g/l, while the limit for professional and newly qualified drivers is 0.3g/l.

It is not uncommon to see Spanish police carrying out regular and random roadside checks on motorists for drugs and alcohol.

Toll roads in Spain

While it can be easy to get caught out by toll roads in the UK, the roads that require a toll payment are clearly signposted with ‘AP’ or ‘PEAJE’ in Spain. What’s more, they are very easy to use.

Ahead of your day out, do some research about which motorways require a toll payment and their current rates.

You can usually pay by cash, card at the toll booths, or use an electronic toll tag system, which allows you to pay automatically and avoids wasting time which could be spent exploring!

Parking in Spain

Ahead of driving in Spain, it is important to brush up on where you can and cannot park.

Most of the towns and cities will have regulated parking areas, which will be clearly signposted and allow you to pay at a meter.

However, parking in restricted areas could result in a fine or, worse yet, your car being towed away.

There are coloured lines to indicate the parking restrictions – here's an overview:

I have received an on-the-spot fine - what should I do?

If you have been unfortunate enough to receive an on-the-spot fine, the best course of action is to pay it as soon as possible.

Visitors to Spain are required to pay their fine immediately, unless they can guarantee payment by providing details of an address in Spain.

If the fine cannot be paid or guaranteed, the vehicle will be impounded. Should the figure be settled immediately, it will be reduced by 50%.

You will not be allowed to continue driving without reaching an agreement with the police officer who stopped you.

Availability and cost of fuel in Spain

Filling up your hire car can be quite a daunting task when you are abroad, as not everything always looks and works like you are used to.

To avoid misfuelling your hire car and encountering problems at the car hire desk, it is always best to research what fuel is available in Spain.

If you are looking to fill your car with LPG, you will need to look for the pump under the name of ‘Autogas.’

Meanwhile, diesel can be found under ‘gasoil’ and unleaded under ‘gasolina.’

Fuel prices can vary throughout the country, so it is always best to check the current prices before travelling.

What if I add the wrong fuel to my hire car?

If you do accidentally add the wrong fuel, it is important not to panic.

You can ask the service station attendants for advice; they may be able to drain your fuel tank.

Alternatively, you can contact your car hire company, and they will arrange for an engineer to come out to you.

Take any potential stress out of your trip and plan ahead by taking out a standalone excess insurance policy.

Our excess insurance for hire cars will cover any accidental damage caused to your hire car, including misfuelling costs of up to £1000.

Final thoughts

Embarking on your trip to Spain should be an exciting time, so make sure you do plenty of research ahead of getting into your hire car.

By understanding the different laws and regulations you are required to follow when driving in Spain, you can ensure you have a safe and stress-free experience abroad.