Driving Laws in Spain

Drive on the right!

  • Be careful when setting off from service stations or restaurants on the left side of the road.
  • Take care when overtaking – allow more space between you and the car in front so you can see further down the road ahead.
  • Spain has strict drink driving laws, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood – stricter than the UK where the limit is 0.8. New drivers are effectively forbidden to drink and drive, with a very low 0.1 mg/l limit.
  • Seat belts front and rear have to be worn everywhere.
  • At roundabouts, give way to traffic already on the roundabout, on your left, unless signed otherwise.
  • Speed limits, shown below, are implemented rigorously. Radar traps are frequent.
  • Remember – Speeding and other traffic offences are subject to on-the-spot fines.

In all countries a full UK driving licence is required. As in the UK, seat belts should be worn front and rear. Below are motoring regulations relating to Spain.

Beware in Spain.

The law operating in Spain regarding the use of indicators on motorways is being strictly enforced. You risk being fined for not indicating before overtaking and again before pulling back to the nearside lane after overtaking. Also, ensure you do not cross the solid white line as you enter the motorway from a slip road, but wait until the line is broken.

Bail Bond: a guarantee to be lodged with the police in the event of an accident or major traffic violation – no longer a legal requirement for Spain and most insurance companies have stopped issuing them.

Children in cars: Children under 12 cannot travel in the front unless using a suitably adapted restraint system. In the rear, passengers under 135cm tall must use specially adapted safety devices and restraints.

Documentation: always carry your driving licence, vehicle registration document (V5), and certificate of motor insurance. If your licence does not incorporate a photograph ensure you carry your passport to validate the licence. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive.

Drinking and driving: Don’t do it. Over 0.05 per cent and you could face anything from a severe fine, withdrawal of your licence, up to imprisonment. New drivers are effectively forbidden to drink and drive, with a very low 0.1 mg/l limit.

Fines: On the spot fines are issued. Ensure an official receipt is issued by the officer collecting the fine.

First-aid kit is advised, but not compulsory.

Fuel: All grades of unleaded petrol (benzin), diesel (gasoleo ‘A’) and LPG are available as well as lead substitute additive. Leaded no longer exists. It is allowed to carry petrol in a can. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, although they probably won’t work at automatic pumps, which are often the only pumps open out-of-hours and at lunch-time (from noon to 3pm) away from the Autoroutes. It’s a good idea to let your card issuer know you will be travelling abroad. This ensures they don’t suspend your card if they spot it being used in unfamiliar places, which they sometimes do as an anti-fraud measure.

GB sticker: UK registered vehicles displaying Euro-plates (circle of 12 stars above the national identifier on blue background) no longer need a GB sticker when driving in European Union countries.

Glasses (Spectacles): wearers must carry a spare pair in the car at all times.

Headlamp converters are compulsory.

Lights: dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility. Motorcycles must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.

Minimum age for driving, provided you hold a full UK licence, is 18 for a car and for a motorcycle over 75cc. If you’ve got an old-style all-green licence you might find the police will not understand them, so either get them up-dated or take an International Driving Permit as well.

Motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear crash helmets.

Motor insurance: third-party insurance is compulsory. A green card is not required but your insurer should be advised of your trip.

Replacement bulb set is compulsory.

Seat belts are compulsory for front and rear seat occupants, if fitted.

Snow chains are recommended to be carried in the Spanish Pyrenees and all mountainous regions of Spain during winter, and if you do not carry and fit them when conditions demand the police can prevent you continuing your journey.

Visibility Vests are now compulsory in Spain. They are also compulsory in Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Norway and Portugal and (and likely to become compulsory throughout the EU). The rules vary from country to country concerning number of vests required and whether they should be carried in the car or boot. Common sense suggests that there should be a vest for every occupant, and that the vests should be carried in the car, and put on before getting out. Do this and you will not have a problem.

Warning triangle is compulsory. One only is required for non-Spanish registered vehicles. Two required for Spanish vehicles, but to avoid difficulties with the police we recommend two triangles should be carried.

Fuel

Unleaded petrol, diesel and LPG are available in Spain.

In Spanish, unleaded petrol is gasolina sin plomo, diesel is gasóleo A, and LPG is Autogas.

Speed limits

In built-up areas, speed is limited to 50 km/h, except where a sign indicates a lower speed limit.

In built-up areas, speed is limited to 50 km/h, except when signs indicate a lower limit.

Outside built-up areas, the following limits apply, except when signs indicate a lower limit.

Vehicle Motorways and Dual Carriageways Roads with more than one lane in each direction Ordinary roads
Motorcycle and car

Car towing trailer up to 750 kg

Vehicle towing trailer over 750 kg

Motorhome up to 3,500 kg

Motorhome up to 3,500 kg

120 km/h

.

80 km/h

.

90 km/h

.

100 km/h

.

90 km/h

100 km/h

.

80 km/h

.

80 km/h

.

90 km/h

.

80 km/h

90 km/h

.

70 km/h

.

70 km/h

.

80 km/h

.

90 km/h

What to Do When Stopped by the Police in Spain

The Spanish Police is split into 3 levels, the Guardia Civil is the first level with the others being the Policia Municipal and the Policia Nacional. The most likely thing they will catch you for is not wearing your fluorescent jacket when stepping out of the car, which Spanish law says must wear whenever you stop by the side of a highway. So, when they stop you, take your time to put it on before you get out of the car.

The Guardia Civil are entitled to ask you to pay your fine immediately as a tourist, unless you can prove you have a Spanish address that will cover for you if you don’t pay. If you are unable to pay immediately, they can impound the car. It is therefore wise to pay immediately, especially as there is a 20% reduction if you do so. Be sure to get a receipt, especially if you think the police officer has been unfair.

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