Speed Limits

General Driving


Drink Driving


Useful Phrases

Road Laws

First things first, for UK drivers the biggest difference when driving in Spain (like most of the rest of the world) is that drivers drive on the right hand side of the road.   This can be a big change, especially when negotiating things like roundabouts, turning at junctions or even as a pedestrian crossing the road.  It’s a good idea to get into the habit of looking both ways all the time!  Bear in mind too that when you’re first driving on the ‘other side’ of the road, you will probably be particularly attentive to not make errors.  But as you get more comfortable driving in that location you may relax and forget!

If you’re from outside the EU, then you may be required to hold an international driving permit (which is essentially a translation of your ‘home’ driving license) as well as your ‘home’ driving license.  For more details you can check your embassy’s website well before leaving on your trip.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that in Spain you are required to carry a valid identity document (in most cases this would be a passport or a national identity card (with a photograph) at all times.  And of course, this also applies when driving.

You must be 18 years old to drive in Spain.

When driving on highways/motorways (called Autopistas or Autovías in Spain), be considerate of other drivers and only use the left-most lane when overtaking.  Bear in mind that local drivers may be very assertive if you stay in the ‘fast’ lane and want to overtake you.  It’s very common for drivers to get very close to your car, flash their lights, blow their horn etc if you don’t move ‘quickly enough’.  Even if you are travelling at the speed limit, there will always be drivers that want to drive faster!  Lane discipline can be particularly tricky if you’re on a highway with two lanes, as you will find yourself changing lanes very often – so be careful to use your mirrors well, indicate in advance and get out of the fast lane promptly to avoid problems.


Make sure that everyone in the car is using a seatbelt

Use headlights in tunnels


Let children who are under 12 and under 1.35m in height sit in the front seat.

Use a cellphone while driving.

Listen to music on headphones while driving

Drink and drive (see section below)

Overtake on the right hand side or where there is a solid line in the middle of the road

Wear ‘flip-flops’ or sandals with an open back while driving


On a roundabout (or traffic circle), follow these rules:

Drivers who are already on the roundabout have the right of way.  When leaving the roundabout make sure that you indicate (signal).  But where there is more than one lane on a roundabout you should give way to drivers in lane(s) to the right of you.  So make sure you get into the correct lane in time to make your turn to leave the roundabout.

And remember that these are the official rules, but you will often find that local drivers may disregard them when driving.  So, expect the unexpected – especially when it comes to people giving way, or to overtaking!

Essential Equipment:

You are obligated by law to carry:

A warning triangle

Deflectors (for example, if you’re driving a Right Hand Drive car, you should adjust your beam or apply stickers so that your headlamps don’t dazzle oncoming drivers)

Reflective jackets (if you walk on the road or hard shoulder of a highway you should wear a reflective jacket – so while there isn’t a legal obligation to carry them, you should do so in case of accidents or breakdowns)

A spare set of glasses if you require glasses to drive.


Speed limits

Standard speed limits are 120 km/h for motorways, 100 km/h for other major roads (more than one lane in each direction), 90km/h for normal roads.  Of course, these are maximums, so always obey a posted speed limit if it’s lower than these.


Remember that by law you are obligated to help other drivers if they are involved in an accident.  If you are involved in an accident (even if not your fault) you must help the other injured river.  It’s usually best to call the police too.


Leave plenty of space for motorcycles and expect them to overtake when they shouldn’t and that they may try to fit between cars.  Check your side mirrors regularly, especially in the city.


Spanish driving fines can be very expensive, so of course, it’s best to avoid getting them in the first place.  Most fines are given for speeding, so pay careful attention to speed limit signs.  Beware that the Spanish authorities often set up radar speed traps to catch speeding drivers.  You may find these on highways soon after leaving the city.  They have also recently started to use helicopter radar systems.

The Guardia Civil, once they realise that you are a foreign driver, may well demand immediate payment in cash of any driving fines.   If you don’t pay, then they have the right to impound your vehicle.  See below to get an idea of how much you may need to pay for different types of fine.  Many foreign drivers carry cash with them just in case they receive a large fine!

Speeding – up to €600

Driving without a seatbelt – up to €200

Driving while using a mobile phone up to €200

Drink driving – up to €1000

Drink Driving

The Spanish authorities take drink driving very seriously, breath tests are common and penalties are severe, so our advice is not to drink at all if you plan to drive.

The legal limit is .5g/litre (blood alcohol) and .25mg/l breath.  The police can obligate you to take a breath test (or saliva test for drugs) at the road side.  If you refuse then they can immobilise your vehicle, suspend your driving licence for several years and/or imprison you.

They will automatically breathalyse any drivers involved in a road accident and they will often set up roadblocks in the early hours of the morning designed to catch drivers who have been drinking at bars/clubs.

If you are asked to do a breath test then it’s best to act normally and cooperate respectfully.  Bear in mind that what you say to the police may be used as evidence if you go to court.

Useful Phrases

Key Phrases:

English Spanish
Car park Aparcamiento
Danger Peligro
Diesel Gasoleo
Exit Salida
Fine Multa
Give way Ceda el Paso
Highway, Motorway Autopista
Petrol Gasolina
Road Carretera
Roadworks Obras
Sharp or dangerous bends Curvas Peligrosas
Slow, slowly Despacio
Street Calle
Town hall Ayuntamiento
Unleaded petrol Gasolina sin plomo
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