Aerial shot of Sagrada Familia surrounded by Barcelona grid.

Spain Driving Guide

Explore Spain by driving with International Driving Permit

2023-12-31 · 9min read

Driving in Spain for First Time Visitors

Dreaming of exploring the breathtaking landscapes of Spain at your own pace? Driving in the major city of Spain unveils the real magic of this diverse country, taking you beyond typical tourist routes and into the heart of Spanish culture.

Imagine cruising through rolling vineyards, historic Spanish cities, and along the stunning Mediterranean coast while graced with the flexibility to discover hidden gems at your whim.

If you're a first-time visitor, don't let the uncertainty of driving in a foreign country stop you. This guide will discuss everything you need to know about driving in Spain.

How can this guide help you?

This driving guide is designed to provide crucial information for your journey to Spain. The next sections offer valuable tips on essential aspects such as obtaining an International Driver’s Permit in Spain, navigating the car rental process, understanding driving etiquette, and observing local laws.

Whether you've already booked your flight or are in the early stages of planning, explore this guide to enhance your understanding and ensure a memorable and smooth travel experience.

Let's take a closer look at Spain

Geographic Location

Spain is geographically located in the southwestern part of Europe and proximally situated near the south of France and Andorra.

It is also adjacent to the bordering country in the east, which is Portugal. The country shares maritime borders with Italy and Algeria, and it also shares territorial rights in some parts of Morocco and some significant islands in the Mediterranean Sea.

Languages Spoken

The Spanish language has transformed into numerous dialects in many culturally diverse regions, contributing to the diversity the country celebrates. These dialects made each area distinctly unique in terms of its linguistic diversity, tone inflection, and overall intonation, such as the following:

  • Catalan
  • Basque
  • Galician
  • Llanito


Spain’s historical background shares some valuable insights into its diverse ethics. The monarchy's attempts to explore distant and inhabited areas, such as the Pacific and parts of Asia, played a significant role in uncovering uncharted territories.

As a result, the formation of Spain's constitutional monarchy contributed to a notable increase in socioeconomic stability.


Spain ranks number one in the 2019 World Economic Forum’s global ranking of countries best equipped to welcome tourists.

Considerably, the country’s tourism efforts have helped transform its tourist spots’ global competitiveness, making it one of the world’s leading travel destinations as of September 11, 2020. Also, it is noteworthy to indicate that the number of tourist arrivals has increased to 129.4 million as of 2017.

International Driving Permit FAQs

Do I need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to drive in Spain?

Yes, it is advisable to obtain an International Driver’s Permit in Spain along with your valid driver’s license. It serves as a translation of your license and is generally required for renting a car.

What if I get involved in an accident?

Actions to take in the event of a car accident in Spain depend on the severity of the situation. In general, promptly stop your car, assess injuries among passengers, wear a reflective jacket, activate hazard warning lights, and, if possible, document the scene with photos. Exchange information with other involved parties, call the police and emergency services.

Once local authorities arrive, complete an accident report for submission to your insurance company. If there's disagreement about the events, refrain from signing any documents until a resolution is reached. Notify your insurance provider within seven days, as delays may impact your claim. You have a two-month window to file charges against the other party.

How can the Spanish traffic map help you?

The traffic map offers a comprehensive view of the potential traffic congestion that may happen on a particular road. If you are driving in Spain, it is critical that you also learn what the traffic maps imply. To elaborate on this, the following are some of the essential things to remember

Traffic flow lines:

  • Red lines indicate heavy traffic flow and congestion in an area
  • Yellow/orange lines indicate medium flow
  • Green signifies normal traffic
  • Black lines or No traffic flow lines could point out that a particular road is closed. Also, it may indicate that there is not enough vehicle flow to register the road activity.

Is Spain using Kph or Mph?

In Spain, they measure speed using the unit of Kilometers per hour (Km/hr), consistent with the metric system adopted by most European countries. Adhering to maximum speed limits is crucial to avoid accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Following driving rules ensures safety on the road.

Is It safe to drive at night?

In Spain, they measure speed using the unit of Kilometers per hour (Km/hr), consistent with the metric system adopted by most European countries. Adhering to maximum speed limits is crucial to avoid accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Following driving rules ensures safety on the road.

Renting A Car in Spain

If you want to make the best out of your day trips to Spain, then driving through the outskirts is a great idea.

But before you go through the specifics of your planned activities, do you have a car already? If not, this section will help you navigate how car rentals are processed and how you can get your car insurance in case your rental agency requires it.

Car Rental Companies

A car rental agency can offer unparalleled advantages, affordable prices, and convenience for foreign travelers, especially in Spain.

Thus, you can find several car rental companies online. You can also book a reservation by contacting their main page online. To make it easier for you, here are some rental companies:

  • All-In Car Hire
  • Coys Rent A Car
  • Centauro Car Hire
  • Enterprise
  • Fetajo Rent a Car
  • Helle Hollis Car Rental
  • Libra Budget (Rent A Car)
  • Malaga Airport Car Hire
  • Malco Rent A Car
  • OK Rent A Car
  • Victoria Rent A Car
  • Terry’s Car Hire

Get the best deal by booking in advance and comparing the rental companies’ rates and prices. Pay attention to the price of a car rental with unlimited mileage and insurance.

Last-minute rentals will cost you more and tend to be more inconvenient. Also, note that Spain charges a 15% tax on car rentals, so ask whether the price you see already covers that tax amount.

Documents Required

To rent a car in Spain, ensure you have the following:

  • A valid European Union driver’s license with at least 12 months of validity in the Western alphabet.
  • An identification document such as a passport or tax identification number.

Note: If you don’t possess a European Union driver’s license, obtain an International Driving Permit and include the driver’s name on the hire agreement.


  • Have a credit or debit card for explicit coverage of rental and insurance expenses, with the full coverage fees varying among companies.
  • Read the company’s policy to prevent discrepancies with transactions and comply with traffic laws.
  • Inquire with the rental company representative about any other required vehicle registration documents before renting.

Vehicle Types

Consider your preferred vehicle type carefully, taking into account your needs and preferences. Prioritize selecting the right car size, especially for trips with friends or family. Spanish car rental companies, such as AutoEurope, offer a diverse range of options to meet various needs during long trips and vacations.

AutoEurope provides choices, including miniature and economy-sized vehicles for navigating narrow spaces in cities like Madrid. Additionally, they offer spacious SUVs and Sprinter vans, ideal for accommodating 6-7 people on family trips.

Car Rental Cost

The cost of renting a car in Spain varies based on the duration. On average, it's around $29 per day or $204 per week.

Comparing this to public transportation, where seat reservations typically range from $10 to $20, or $35 for solo trips in Spain, renting a car becomes a preferable option for tourists wanting to explore the country with long drives.

Most tourists visiting Spain opt for car rentals due to their cost-effectiveness and convenience. Choosing a rental car is advantageous, providing a cheaper and more convenient option for wandering tourists. With a car, you can skip long lines, and you have the freedom to decide your destinations!

Age Requirements

For car rentals in Spain, the minimum age is typically 21, but some companies set it at 23. There's no maximum age limit imposed by the government as long as you are fit to drive with a valid license.

Drivers under 25 may face additional surcharges, usually around €20 per day.

Car Insurance Cost

When renting a car in Spain, the cost is determined by the rental company. Before going on road trips, contact your car insurance and credit card agencies to understand coverage.

Typically, rentals in Spain include minimum required insurance, with the option to add more based on the renter's preference. It's crucial to be aware of your liabilities in case of accidents.

Most car rental companies permit driving across Western Europe, but if you plan to cross borders, confirm limitations with the rental company. Additionally, be mindful of drop-off times, as late returns may incur extra charges.

Car Insurance Policy

Understanding Spain's auto insurance is crucial for a hassle-free road trip. Key points to note:

  • Coverage types include Injury liability, personal injury protection, property damage liability, collision, comprehensive, and uninsured/underinsured motorist.
  • Insurance generally covers the car, with age restrictions (usually 25-30 years old).
  • Full comprehensive insurance covers material damage, injuries, and accidents for the insured and third parties.
  • Always carry essential documents: driver’s license, IDP, log book, passport, MOT or ITV certificate, and car registration details.

Road Rules in Spain

Navigating the roads in Spain requires a thorough understanding of driving rules, with the government strictly enforcing regulations for road safety and order.

Notably, individuals under 18 are prohibited from driving, and tourists must possess essential documents, including an Identification card, an International Driver's Permit, and a local driver’s license.

Adhering to road rules is vital for ensuring everyone's safety and preventing car accidents. Several activities are strictly prohibited when driving in Spain. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind when driving in the country:


In Spain, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly illegal. The blood alcohol limit is 0.5 mg. Exceeding this limit can result in an €800 fine, with a maximum penalty of €1,000 and a driving license suspension for up to four years. Authorities strictly enforce this law, conducting breath tests on suspected drivers.

Driving While Distracted

Using a cell phone or talking while driving is prohibited. Actions that distract the driver, such as holding a mobile phone, can lead to a €200 fine and 3 points on your driver’s license.

If the case goes to higher courts, the penalty may escalate to €1,000. Wearing a recommended safety device, like a reflective jacket, is essential for visibility when exiting your car.

Seatbelt Laws

When driving in Spain, it's crucial to adhere to seatbelt laws to ensure safety on the road. All drivers are required to wear seat belts, providing a crucial defense against potential accidents and injuries caused by aggressive or distracted drivers. Seatbelts secure you inside your vehicle, preventing injury during sudden stops or crashes.

Non-compliance with these regulations is a serious offense, outlined in Article 65.4 of the Spanish Law on Traffic, with spot fines of 200 euros. Special considerations apply when driving with children. Here are important details to remember:

  • Children up to 135 centimeters must use child restraint systems.
  • For children aged 6 to 9 months, weighing up to 10kg, they should be seated at the back facing backward.
  • Children aged 6 to 15 months, with a weight of up to 13 kg, must also be seated at the back facing backward.
  • For children aged 1 to 4 years, weighing between 9 and 18 kg, they should be seated in the back facing forward.
  • Children aged 2 to 6 years, with a weight between 15 and 25 kg, must be seated in the back facing forward.
  • For children aged 6 to 11 years, with a weight between 22 and 36 kg, they should be in the back facing forward.

Ensuring compliance with seatbelt laws is not just a legal requirement but a crucial step in prioritizing road safety for both adults and children.

Driving Directions

There are about 38,000 roundabouts in Spain, making it the third European nation behind France and Portugal, with high density per capita of this type of intersection.

So when you are driving in the country, be ready to navigate your way through roundabouts or “Rotonda.” When you are driving in a roundabout, you need to go counter-clockwise, and the driver on the right always has the right of way.

In Spain, the rule is simple: exit the roundabout from the outer lane. The Department of Traffic in Spain advises that if you can't merge into the outer lane immediately, it's better to complete another lap around the roundabout.

Right of Way

Ensuring road safety in Spain involves understanding right-of-way rules. At intersections, vehicles from the right always have priority. If you find yourself on the left side of the road, yield to those on the right. In roundabouts, drivers already inside hold the right of way over those entering.

Additionally, always carry two red warning triangles in your vehicle to handle breakdowns or accidents effectively.

The legal driving age in Spain is 18 years old. Any individual who is 18 years old and above can secure a driver’s license given that they have passed all of the written and practical examinations.

It can be tempting to try to drive in the country, especially if you’re young, but it’s best to get training first for everyone’s safety. Irresponsible driving can cause road accidents.

You may ask yourself: Why do I need an IDP? If you're at a legal driving age, you can secure this essential requirement with us to make your journey smoother and worry-free.

Laws on Overtaking

If you're gearing up to drive in Spain, it's crucial to be aware of specific driving norms designed to enhance road safety and communicate your intentions to fellow motorists. As a visitor, keep the following practices in mind when considering lane changes:

1. Use Signals Effectively:

  • Always signal your intent to change or rejoin a lane, either through your vehicle's indicators or with appropriate arm signals.

2. Use Signals Effectively:

  • Slow down when executing lateral maneuvers to ensure a safe transition.

3. Hand Signals as Backup:

  • If your indicator malfunctions, be prepared to use hand signals as a substitute.

4. Horn Use for Communication:

  • Intuitively use your car's horn to alert other drivers to your intention to change lanes, ensuring they understand and can adjust accordingly.

By adhering to these practices, you contribute to a safer driving environment and foster better communication on the roads of Spain.

Driving Side

If you are driving in Spain, the side of the road that you should always stay on is the right-hand side of the road. The cars in Spain are designed for right-hand driving.

It is also important to know that most of the cars in Spain have their steering wheel situated on the left side of the car. This configuration may be quite challenging for those drivers who are used to driving on the left side with the steering wheel on the right side.

Additional Important Rules

  • Driving with one hand or arm outside the car can result in a €100 fine.
  • Playing excessively loud music near quiet areas, like hospitals, can lead to a €100 fine. Disturbing homeowners may result in a hefty €2,400 charge. Always park away from residential spaces to avoid disturbances.
  • Use horns only in emergencies or when avoiding an accident, such as alerting other motorists when planning to overtake a lane.
  • Refrain from filling up your car with petrol while the radio is on to avoid a €91 fine.

Stay informed and follow these rules to ensure a safe and pleasant driving experience in Spain!

What are the essential items to carry when driving around Spain?

Driving in Spain is one of the best ways to see what the country offers. But before you head out on long weekend drives, here is a checklist of the things that you should never forget when you are driving:

  • Passport as proof of ID
  • V5C Certificate
  • Warning Triangle
  • GB Sticker or Euro Plates
  • Headlamp Adjustment
  • High-Visibility Jacket
  • Native Driver’s License
  • International Driving Permit (IDP)

For European Union Citizens, carrying these items is a must. However, if you are new to the policies, then you should always remember these things. More importantly, whenever you are driving in Spain as a tourist, it is crucial to secure an IDP to be permitted to drive.

For an effortless transaction, see our International Driving License packages and see which one best fits your journey in Span.

Driving Etiquette in Spain

Driving is universally acknowledged as a social privilege that demands adherence to established laws. Upholding good driving etiquette is crucial globally to prevent road-related accidents. In Spain, driving expectations are notably strict, necessitating an understanding of local rules and regulations for a smooth experience. Here are essential tips for navigating the Spanish roads:

Car Breakdown

In case of a breakdown:

  • Safely pull over to the side, avoiding obstruction.
  • Call the emergency hotline (112) for breakdown assistance.
  • Display a warning triangle behind your vehicle to alert other drivers.
  • Await assistance patiently, refraining from attempting DIY fixes in traffic.

Police Stops

If stopped by the police:

  • Comply with requests, presenting identification and relevant documents.
  • Verify the authenticity of a police vehicle by dialing 062.
  • Exercise patience and avoid potential issues by acknowledging uniformed police personnel.

Asking Directions

When seeking directions, you can use the following Spanish phrases:

  • ¿Nos podrías ayudar a ubicarnos en el mapa? - Could you help us locate where we are on the map?
  • ¿Cómo llego a la calle principal? - How do I get to the main road?
  • ¿Cómo llego al parque? - How do I get to the park?
  • ¿Sabes si está por aquí el centro comercial? - Do you know if the mall is around here?
  • ¿Hay un hospital cerca de aquí? - Is there a hospital around here?
  • ¿Qué tan lejos está el/la… del/de la…? - How far is the… from the…?
  • ¿Cuál es la mejor forma de ir a…? - What is the best way to go to…?
  • Estoy perdido/a. - I’m lost.

When navigating on the streets:

  • Calle - Street
  • Avenida - Avenue
  • Bulevar - Boulevard
  • Callejón - Alley
  • Carretera - Highway
  • Plaza - Square


When encountering a checkpoint while driving in Spain, it's best to follow the instructions provided by the police. Typically, these checkpoints involve inspecting the driver's permit and relevant travel documents to confirm your eligibility to drive and ensure compliance with laws prohibiting contraband items.

Spanish police conduct themselves professionally, and concerns are unnecessary as long as you present the required documents proving your qualification to drive. For foreign drivers, possessing an International Driving Permit (IDP) is crucial to avoid any disruptions during these encounters.

Driving Road Conditions in Spain

Driving conditions in Spain differ significantly from the US and neighboring countries. Spain generally has fast-paced traffic, well-maintained roads, and affordable gasoline.

To navigate effectively, understanding road signs and consulting the Spanish traffic map is essential. Overall, driving in Spain is a pleasant experience.

Accident Statistics

In 2018, Spain recorded 102,299 accidents, with passenger cars being the most commonly involved vehicle type in 2017. Emphasizing the "right of way" is crucial for road safety.

Strict implementation of driving laws, enhanced road safety measures, and increased infrastructure contributed to the significant decrease in road-related deaths, with only 1,098 recorded in 2019.

Common Vehicles

There are different vehicles you can use when driving in Spain. The most commonly used cars in Spain are the following:

  1. Seat León (the locals used it 21,204 times in 2018),
  2. Seat Ibiza (which was voted by 19,519),
  3. Volkswagen Polo (voted for effectiveness and quality),
  4. Dacia Sandero (voted 16,728 times by people as the most cost-effective choice)
  5. Volkswagen Golf (known for its excellent transmission efficiency),
  6. Citroen C4 (known for its quality safety features and exceptional steering ability)
  7. Nissan Qashqai (quality SUV type),
  8. Fiat 500 (one of the most purchased cars in Spain)
  9. Renault Clio (one of the top-rated cars in Spain)

Toll Roads

Roads labeled with "AP" followed by a number in Spain fall under the classification of "Autopistas" or tollways, necessitating motorists to pay for passage. Toll fees can be settled using a ticket upon entry, in cash when leaving the booth, or by credit card at specific machines. Spain follows the metric system for measuring road speeds, making it one of the countries to implement this unit of measure.

The toll charges vary based on the national government's rates and the specific driving location in Spain. Typically, ticket prices are determined by the road's length. Here are the costs for some sample routes:

  • AP-7 from Ferrol to Vigo: 180 km; €19.50; approximately 1 hour 45 minutes.
  • AP-9 from La Jonquera to Vera: 696 km; €79.40; approximately six and a half hours.
  • AP-68 from Bilbao to Zaragoza: 302 km; €29.00; approximately two and three-quarter hours.

To avoid these charges, planning ahead and exploring alternative routes is advisable. Although numerous national highways are toll-free, they might add an extra hour to your journey.

Road Situation

Gran Via in Madrid claims the title of the busiest street in the country. Despite the challenges posed by heavy traffic flow, the street's lively atmosphere, diverse shops, restaurants, and hotels compensate for the congestion.

Driving Culture

Driving in Spain is generally straightforward, with motorists navigating tight corners and spaces aided by systematic driving regulations and road signage. Spanish drivers are recognized for their law-abiding nature and courtesy, particularly in yielding to others, especially during emergencies.

Notably, the well-maintained roads, coupled with the efficiency of roadworks and infrastructural designs, make lane changes reasonably easy. However, it's essential to acknowledge toll payments as a means of contributing to road maintenance.

The Top Destinations in Spain

Spain has remained to be one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. It is home to one of the world’s greatest ancient sites and it has also been widely regarded for its unique cuisine. It is said that the best way to appreciate its cultural value and historical significance is to visit its different regions.

Spain is one of the famous tourist destinations due to its captivating Mediterranean beaches, luxurious resorts, and stunning landmarks that have continuously accentuated its rich cultural and historical origin. If you plan to visit the country, you surely would not want to miss these top tourist spots.


Madrid, the vibrant capital of Spain, is renowned worldwide for its bustling streets, adorned with restaurants, shops, and museums like Reina Sofia, Prado, and Thyssen Museums. The city boasts historical landmarks such as the Royal Palace and Gran Via, offering an unbeatable authenticity. Madrid is undeniably one of the most exciting and diverse destinations in the country.

From Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport, a 25-minute drive to Madrid’s Royal Palace via the M-40 route awaits you. Here's your driving guide:

  1. Get on M-14, merge onto M-40 toward A-3/R-4/A-4/A-42/R-5.
  2. Take exit 15-AB for M-30, and follow signs for Moratalaz and Centro Ciudad.
  3. Merge onto M-30, and take the Glorieta Pirámides exit.
  4. Slight right onto Calle de Toledo, then onto Gran Vía de San Francisco.
  5. At Glorieta de la Puerta de Toledo, take the 3rd exit onto Calle de Bailén, keeping right to reach the Royal Palace.

Explore the city's highlights:

1. Royal Palace: Explore the 18th-century palace with its major attractions like Sabatini, the Staircase of Honor, Puerta del Principe, the Royal Guard’s Room, the Hall of Mirrors, and the Columns Room.

2. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum: Immerse yourself in thousands of artworks from the 13th to 20th century, featuring movements such as Impressionism and Fauvism.

3.Casa de la Villa City Hall and Casa de Cisneros House: Discover Plaza de la Villa, Casa de la Villa (17th-century prison), and Casa de Cisneros House (16th-century palace).

4. Reina Sofía National Art Centre: Visit this art center with a collection spanning from the late 19th century to the present day, showcasing over 18,000 artworks.

5. Buen Retiro Park: Relax in the heart of Madrid, exploring prominent spots like the Crystal Palace, Rosaleda Rose Garden, Alfonso XII monument, and Parterre.


Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city, captivates with distinctive architectural designs and a rich historical imprint. Notable historical figures like Miguel de Cervantes and Christopher Columbus have left their mark. The city's vibrant atmosphere reflects Spain's cultural background.

From Madrid, a 2-hour and 30-minute drive to Salamanca awaits. Take the AP-6 path or the fastest route via A-50 with a toll road. If taking the AP-6, follow these steps:

1. Head south on Calle de Esparteros toward Calle de Postas.

2. Turn right onto Plaza de la Provincia.

3. Follow streets like Calle Imperial, Cl. de Tintoreros/Pza. de Segovia Nueva, and P.º de la Virgen del Puerto.

4. Take A-6, AP-6, A-6, and A-50 to reach Salamanca.

Explore Salamanca:

  • Salamanca Cathedrals: Visit two joined churches, the Old Cathedral (12th-13th century) and the New Cathedral (16th century).
  • Plaza Mayor Square: Discover one of Spain's most beautiful squares, built in Baroque style, vibrant with locals and diverse buildings.
  • Domus Artium 2002: Explore this contemporary art museum, which opened in 2002, coinciding with Salamanca as the European Cultural Capital.
  • La Clerecía Building: Admire this baroque-style church and college, now housing the Salamanca Pontificia University.
  • Las Dueñas Convent: Interact with Dominican nuns in a convent founded in 1419, featuring Moorish-style architecture.


Barcelona, a hub of fashion and culture, offers Art Nouveau architecture, iconic landmarks like Sagrada Familia, and a vibrant Mediterranean ambiance.

From Madrid, a 5-hour drive to Barcelona is possible. Take the AP-2 and AP-7 routes, then enter the C-32 roadway.

Discover Barcelona:

  • Sitges: Enjoy the white sandy beaches of this seaside resort, encompassing 17 beaches and charming cottages by the shoreline.
  • Basilica of La Sagrada Familia: Marvel at Antoni Gaudi's brilliant design of this iconic temple, featuring intricate interiors and brightly colored exteriors.
  • Palau de la Música Catalana Auditorium: Experience opera and entertainment in this historic auditorium, showcasing Catalonian Modernism architecture.
  • Casa Milà "La Pedrera": Visit Antoni Gaudi's iconic secular building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its unique aesthetics and functionality.
  • Gran Liceu Theatre: Immerse yourself in the Catalonian Modernism style of architecture at one of Spain's major concert halls.

These destinations offer a diverse range of activities, from exploring historical landmarks to enjoying the sun on beautiful beaches. Driving allows you to uncover the hidden beauty of Spain, complementing your overall experience. Don't forget to obtain your International Driver’s Permit from the International Driver’s Association for a seamless journey.

The listed tourist spots are not just famous; they are an integral part of Spain's cultural and historical legacy, drawing tourists with their tales and significance.

Make the Most of Spain with an IDP

Ready to make the most of your Spanish driving adventure? To meet the essential travel requirements, equip yourself with an International Driver's Permit from the International Driver's Association. It's the key to unlocking a hassle-free and confident driving experience abroad.

Don't wait; start your application now! Get your International Driving Permit here.

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