A Guide to Driving in Spain

Top Rules and Tips to Know Before a Road Trip

Spain is one of the best European countries for road trips. Its road infrastructure allows you to get to the most distant locations of the continental territory of the country and even its islands by using a ferry. So, let’s highlight the most important things you need to know before exploring Spain by car.

Time to Visit Spain

Time To Visit Spain
  • The best weather for driving in Spain is in the spring and autumn. Summer is too hot, especially in the inland cities and towns.
  • Resorts, beaches, cities and towns by the seashore are usually overcrowded in the summer, in July and August in particular.
  • Every year, various well-known festivals are held in different cities and towns all over Spain. The largest number of festivals take place in the summer, while the smallest – in the winter.
Best Times to Visit Spain Table
There is no bad time to go to Spain. You can find something to do and see in any season of the year. Check out the calendar of festivals in Spain, so you won’t miss your favorite ones. Maybe it will help you to choose the perfect time for your trip.

Driving Habits of Locals

Driving Habits of Locals
  • Local drivers are generally not polite to other drivers. They typically won’t let you into their lane. That is assumed to be a sign of weakness. So, don’t wait for courtesy on the roads.
  • Spanish drivers rarely use flashing signal lights when turning or changing lanes.
  • The drivers can sometimes try to cheat on traffic lights and rush through red lights without a second thought. Thus, be attentive when starting your drive, particularly as the lights turn green.
  • Be careful, there are thieves on the roads! In recent years, the number of thefts from vehicles has increased, especially from rental cars and foreigners’ vehicles. That’s why you should not leave any valuable belongings in the car or at least where they can be seen from outside the car.
Tip: Try to stay off the roads when it is a national holiday or a festival day. Also, it is usually better to leave your car on the outskirts of small towns and discover them on foot. That’s because of busy town centers and very narrow streets. If you are in a big city, try to avoid the city center’s traffic by using ring roads around the cities. For instance, try the M50 motorway that circles Madrid.

Spanish Toll Roads

Spanish Toll Roads
  • You might not be a proficient Spanish speaker, but there are some things that you simply have to know while traveling by car. If you see a sign with “Peaje” written on it, which translates to English as “toll”, you should expect to open your wallet and get your euros ready for spending. Studying a road map with all the toll roads in Spain would be a smart move before the journey itself.
  • The prices for traveling on toll roads in Spain can vary quite a lot. From a harmless 1 EUR payment for traveling the short M12 highway to a whopping 27,50 EUR for the full AP-7 road journey. Feel free to calculate the full price for your planned journey by using this handy table with Spanish tolls.
  • When it comes to actually paying for the trip on a toll road, there are a few options. First, you can use the traditional gate exits where you have to pay either by cash or by using a credit card. Another way is to order and install a VIA-T tracking device on your car. It automatically tracks your journey’s route and deducts money from your credit card or bank account when you exit the toll road. Vehicles with the VIA-T installed get to skip the big queues of cars and exit highways using separate traffic free gateways.
  • Possible tollgate signs:
    • Credit card - you can pay with a credit card;
    • Coins - you can pay with cash;
    • T - you can pass with VIA-T device;
    • Person - there will be a person who will help you with payment with cash or credit card (happens rarely).
  • In Spain, you can obtain a VIA-T box in various banks, boxes and non-financial organizations. Many of them are displayed on the VIA-T website. The cost will depend on the organization you choose and generally is about 35 EUR. Note that if you want to get a VIA-T in one of the institutions in Spain, you need to have an account with them!
Tip: If you want to easily avoid any toll roads during your trip, use Google Maps. It will help you to avoid toll roads, if you select this in options.

Speed Limits

Speed Limits
  • Usually, maximum speed limits are as follows:
    • Motorways - 120 km/h;
    • Fast main roads – 100 km/h;
    • Other non-urban roads – 90 km/h;
    • Urban towns and cities – 50 km/h.
    The minimum speed allowed on motorways is 60 km/h. Be observant! Some residential roads in Spain have lower speed limits – even 20 km/h. Luckily, all speed limits are adequately indicated on large warning signs in their locations.
  • Speeding fines (multas) are high in Spain and depend on the degree to which you exceed the speed limit. On-the-spot fines can reach 600 EUR. Speeding fines must be paid within 60 days. If you pay your fine within a certain amount of time, you may get up to 50% discount.
  • Spanish police use numerous static speed cameras and portable radar traps. Static cameras are mainly set on the 120 km/h motorways. They can be occasionally painted in fluorescent yellow with a speed limit on them.
Speeding Fines Table
Warning: You can be fined even for going only 1km/h above the speed limit!

Parking in Spain

Parking in Spain
  • It doesn't matter whether you are doing a one hour ride to the beach or a large transfer between two major cities – the time will come when you will need to park your car. Parking in Spain (estacionamiento/aparcamiento) is not so much different from other developed countries. If you want to park your car on the side of the road, you should always pick your right hand side on two-way traffic roads, and the direction of the traffic side on one-way roads. Among locals, there is a tradition in larger cities that the cars should be parked on different sides of the road on odd numbered days and on even numbered days.
  • Some parking areas in Spain have blue and red parking restriction signs that allow you to park on one side of the road during the first half of the month (marked 1-15) and on the other side during the last half of the month (marked 16-31).
  • Black bands on telephone and street lighting posts indicate resident parking areas. You need a parking card from the local town hall to park there. Only those who have proof of residence can get it.
  • In many Spanish towns and cities, you will find blue zones (zonas azules) with blue street markings. In order to park there, you need to find the blue ticket machine within the zone and buy a ticket. It costs about 1 EUR per hour, depending on the city or town. Then, the ticket must be placed behind your windscreen so that the parking attendant can easily see it.
  • The possible time of parking in blue zones is mainly from 30 minutes to 2 hours. If you exceed the time limit or the parking attendant can’t see your ticket, a small envelope will be displayed on your windscreen. You will find inside a penalty of up to 40 EUR or even more. But if you pay the fine within an hour or 24 hours (depends on the location), you will reduce your penalty to about 3 EUR. So, be attentive, when reading the paper inside the envelope!
  • Use multi-story or underground car parks (aparcamiento subterráneo) with a libre (free) sign at the entrance. Completo sign means that there is no free space available. The parking rates are usually the same as in blue zones.
  • On Sundays and national holidays, parking is free of charge.

Fuel for Driving in Spain

Fuel for Driving in Spain
  • The fuel station network is well developed in Spain. The most popular and widely spread stations are Cepsa, Galp, Repsol, etc. The first thing you need to decide when you come to such stations is which petrol your car needs. There are two main types of unleaded fuels: Euro 95 and Euro 98. Euro 95 is a cheaper option, which is widely used, while Euro 98 is more expensive fuel, but has a higher quality.
  • The average gasoline price in Spain is approximately 1,14 EUR per liter. Cash, debit and credit cards are widely accepted in most of the petrol stations.
  • Many fuel stations in Spain have fuel attendants who fill your tank for you. This will make your fueling easier. If you need to fill your tank fully, just ask for Completo.
  • Still, there are some petrol stations with self-service, especially at nighttime. In this case, you need to know some Spanish words that often appear in the pump display: Importe means total cost; Litros stands for liters of petrol, Precio – price per liter.
Tip: Pay special attention, Gasoleo and Gazole does not stand for gasoline. It is diesel in Spanish. Gasoline in Spanish is Gasolina and Sin Plomb means unleaded.

Other Spanish Rules and Fines

Other Spanish Rules and Fines
  • Spanish drinking law states that the Spanish drink-driving limit is 0.05% of alcohol in the bloodstream. For drivers with less than 2 years’ driving experience, it is 0.03% of alcohol in the bloodstream. Large fines (up to 600 EUR), withdrawal of the driving license from 1 to 4 years, and even imprisonment await those who are found to be over the Spanish drink-driving limit. Thus, the best decision is not to combine driving and drinking ever!
  • No matter which part of the day you are driving through the Spanish tunnel and how well they are lit, everyone who drives through them must have their headlights on. Otherwise, it may cost you up to 200 EUR.
  • The usage of cell phones and even headphones or earpieces is forbidden when you are driving in Spain. If you are caught with such devices while driving, you will be penalized with a fine of up to 200 EUR.
  • Never drive bare-chested or barefooted. Otherwise, you will have to pay a 200 EUR fine if caught.
  • Check your car to make sure it doesn’t have any For sale or Se vende signs on the window while driving in Spain, because you can be penalized with up to 200 EUR fine.
  • Try not to put your elbow out of the window while driving. A fine of up to 100 EUR applies for those who do so.
  • Prepare to pay 100 EUR if the police officer notices you trying to eat, set a GPS device or put on makeup while you are driving a car.
  • In case you need eyeglasses for driving, always have a spare pair of glasses in your car while driving in Spain. You may get a fine of up to 90 EUR if you don’t have them with you.
  • Always try not to go through the yellow traffic light. It may cost you up to 80 EUR. Although it is permitted to skip the traffic light when it is yellow when it is impossible to brake, it is not always easy to convince the police officer that it was impossible for you to slow down before the traffic light.
  • Use your horn wisely – only in order to avoid an accident. If you sound a horn for any other reason, you may be penalized with a fine of up to 80 EUR.
  • Try to listen to music so that you don’t annoy or distract other people. Drivers may get a fine of up to 80 EUR for turning on the music extremely loudly.
Alcohol Limits Table
Tip: Always drive your car in Spain with the following items:
  • Your driving license;
  • Insurance documents;
  • The rental contract (if you rent a car);
  • A reflective jacket;
  • A spare set of light bulbs;
  • Two breakdown triangles.

Driving Distances in Spain

Driving Distances in Spain
  A Coruña Alicante Barcelona Bilbao Granada Madrid Malaga Seville Valencia
A Coruña 1016 1088 544 1009 591 1118 922 948
Alicante 1016 537 805 350 419 472 595 165
Barcelona 1088 537 592 811 619 932 994 350
Bilbao 544 805 592 811 402 920 861 591
Granada 1009 350 811 811 419 124 248 498
Madrid 591 419 619 402 419 526 509 355
Malaga 1118 472 932 920 124 526 206 574
Seville 922 595 994 861 248 509 206 654
Valencia 948 165 350 591 498 355 574 654

Spanish Border Crossing

Spanish Border Crossing
  • If you decided to cross the Spanish border with a rental car, check to make sure your car hire supplier allows it. If so, get ready for additional expenses.
  • Some companies, for instance, Alamo and Enterprise, require “Outside Spain Insurance”, which will cost you about 45 EUR. Others, such as Firefly, allow cross border travel only after purchasing the additional cover of about 10 EUR per day and charge of 27-100 EUR per rental.

Call 112 in case you need the help of ambulance, firefighters or police!
Safe Travels!