Spain at a Glance
Driving in SpainiStockphoto
Driving in Spain allows you to travel on an extensive network of roadways.
While driving in Spain’s big city centers may be a liability, it can be a necessity in suburban or rural areas, as accessibility to shopping centers as well as medical and entertainment facilities can be quite spread out. The Spanish road system is very well developed and spans over 681,000 kilometers of paved roadways. Therefore it is for you to decide whether or not you need to be driving in Spain. If you live directly within a city, it is probably not necessary to have a car, as the hassle of finding parking space and maneuvering rush hour traffic as well as the style of driving in Spain may be more stressful than convenient. The public transportation system in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia is excellent and can get you to your inner-city destination for little cost and little bother. If you are a good driver, secure and cautious, you will not have a problem driving in Spain.
Driving in Spain: Road Infrastructure
Spain’s roadway network is very well developed and its roads are well kept, making driving in Spain a real joy. The roads are classified into motorways, national roads (carretera nacional), and rural roads. There are two types of motorways, autovías and autopistas, the latter being toll roads (carretera de péaje) which form about 2,000 kilometers of Spanish roadways. Since tolls are relatively expensive, most people driving in Spain tend to avoid these and usually take the national roads. As a result, toll roads are comparatively uncongested and safer.
To get free maps and general information on Spanish roads, contact the Spanish Association of Turnpikes, Tunnels, Bridges and Other Toll Road Concessionaire Companies. While most Spanish drivers are, in fact, very good drivers, they often have no understanding for sharing the road. Therefore it is not uncommon for you to be overtaken from both sides multiple times while driving in Spain.
Driving in Spain: Regulations
As with all countries of the European Union, EU driver’s licenses are accepted for driving in Spain and are valid until they run out, at which time you must get a Spanish license.
If you are a non-EU citizen driving in Spain, you must either have your license translated and notarized, or get an international driver’s license, which happens to be the easier and probably cheaper alternative. Know that this international driving permit is issued in your home country and must be valid before you hit Spanish roads. If you have been living and driving in Spain for more than a year, you are required to get your Spanish license. This process will require you to complete both the written and practical test.
Regardless of whether you are an EU national or not, you must bring the following information and documents to the Dirección General de Tráfico when applying for an official Spanish license. The Spanish ministry of traffic’s website, although in Spanish, will provide a list of local offices. You need to submit the following paperwork for driving in Spain:
- valid passport
- two passport photos
- old driver’s license