Driving in Spain: Local Laws, Speed Limits & Road Signs

May 15, 2023

Spain is one of the top holiday destinations in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. The country is filled to the brim with friendly locals, mouth-watering food, and beautiful scenery as far as the eye can see. 

Aside from the difference in culture, language, and currency, the road rules in Spain can be quite different from what you’re used to. From the different road signs to driving on the opposite side of the road, today we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about driving in Spain. 

If you’re looking to take a break from regular life, Spain and its many party islands should definitely be one of your top considerations. If you do plan on visiting Spain in the near future, there are a few things to keep in mind, especially if you’ve never been there before. 

What Side of The Road Do They Drive on in Spain?

Have you ever asked yourself, “Does Spain drive on the right side of the road?”. Well, If you’re visiting from somewhere like South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand, you might be in for a bit of a culture shock. The answer to that question is yes. In Spain, they drive on the right-hand side of the road. 

Driving on the right side of the road might sound like an easy aspect of driving to learn. However, if you’ve been behind the wheel for a number of years it might be a challenging skill to master.  

You might be thinking to yourself, “remembering to drive on the right-hand side of the road is easy”. But, keep in mind that it takes just one lapse in judgment to ruin your entire holiday. So the next time you pull out of a Spanish gas station or restaurant, remember to stick to the right side of the road. 

Spanish-road

Can You Drive in Spain with a US License? 

There is nothing worse than traveling to a new country only to find out your driving license is not valid. Thankfully, Spanish laws are relatively relaxed when it comes to international drivers. 

If you’re visiting Spain from elsewhere in Europe or USA for that matter, both European Union driving licenses and international driving licenses will be accepted. This means you will be allowed to drive on Spanish roads. 

It is, however, important to keep in mind that if you are looking to get an international driving license, you must first have a valid license from your country. International driving licenses are also only valid for one year, so if you plan on staying driving around Spain for longer than a year, you will need to apply for a new one. 

The Driving Age in Spain

Driving ages differ depending on where you are from. In the UK, the driving age is set at 17 years old. However, the most common age around the world when a person can start driving is 18 years old, and that applies to Spain as well. The minimum age for drivers in Spain is 18 years old. 

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Spanish Road Signs 

The road signs you encounter in Spain are relatively similar to the ones you would come across in your own country. If you aced your driver’s theory test, navigating around Spain using the road signs should be a breeze, as most of them were designed to be understood universally. 

There are, however, a few signs that you might not be familiar with. This includes the ‘movable bridge warning’. As the name suggests, this warns drivers about the potential of a bridge moving temporarily. 

Trams are also quite popular in Spain, so don’t be surprised to see quite a few tram warning signs as you drive. Check out a comprehensive list of all the different road signs in Spain by clicking here. 

Additional Road Rules to Keep in Mind When Driving in Spain 

Along with driving on the right-hand side of the road, there are a few more Spanish road rules to remember. 

Speed Limit 

Spain might be home to the world-famous Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which hosts the Grand Prix every year, but that doesn’t mean you can go around and do your best Michael Schumacher impression. Just like any other country in the world, there are strict speed limits that you need to obey when driving. 

In Spain, the national speed limits are as follows:

  • A maximum speed of 74 mph on dual carriageways and motorways.
  • A maximum speed of 55 mph on all other public roads.
  • A maximum speed of 18 mph in built-up areas like school zones. 

madrid-road-signs

Seat Belts 

It is required by law that all the occupants in the vehicle must be wearing a seat belt. In addition, drivers must also make sure they use a child restraint system if they have young children with them. 

It is also forbidden to let a child sit in the front seat if they are below 53 inches in height. If you’re stopped by a traffic officer and are not following these rules, you could be walking away with a hefty fine. 

Talking on a Mobile Phone

This rule might seem obvious, but it’s still worth remembering. In Spain, along with many other countries around the world, it is against the law to handle a mobile phone while driving unless you use a hands-free kit. 

Don’t Drink and Drive

The laws surrounding drinking and driving in Spain are just as strict as in any other country. If you’ve been out for a night on the town and had a few drinks, our best advice would be to catch an Uber or taxi back to where you’re staying. 

Alternatively, you could look for a hotel within walking distance that you can stay at for the night. Spain is known for having some of the most unique hotels in Europe, so that could be a good way to make a couple of new memories.

If you are stopped by a traffic officer and your blood alcohol levels are above 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood, you could get an up-close and personal look at the inside of a Spanish jail cell.

Driving-in-spain

Renting a Car in Spain  

So, you’ve just arrived in Spain for a long-deserved holiday. The first thing you should do is collect your luggage and head to the nearest car rental agency to select the vehicle you’ll be using throughout your stay.

Alternatively, you can book a rental vehicle online to ensure you secure the car you want and won’t face any availability issues.

Last update was on: February 17, 2024 6:56 am

Once you arrive at the car rental agency, which is usually located near the airport, you’ll be asked to present your valid driver’s license along with a credit card to complete the rental. 

It is important to keep in mind that if more than one person is going to be driving the vehicle during your holiday, both names should be put down on the contract. 

In terms of pricing, Spanish car rental agencies tend to increase the price for those who are younger than 25. It is also common practice in Spain to list vehicles that have a manual transmission at a lower price, while cars with an automatic transmission are listed at higher prices. 

busy-spanish-road

Final Thoughts on Driving in Spain

Spain is a spectacular country with plenty of fun things to do for the whole family. From visiting the quaint little villages to touring some of the world’s most famous football stadiums, and everything in between, Spain has it all. 

However, simply driving around the beautiful country of Spain and enjoying the breathtaking scenery as you make everlasting memories is enough to elevate any holiday to the next level.

If you plan on visiting Spain anytime soon, we strongly suggest opting against the use of public transport like trains, trams and buses. Instead, hire a vehicle big enough for you and your companions and drive to as many unique and interesting places as possible!

Bikers, we haven’t forgotten about you. If you’re looking to take a trip to Spain and explore its beautiful landscape on two wheels instead of four, check out our detailed list of the best motorcycle trip destinations in Barcelona. 

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