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Driving in Spain - everything you need to know

  • What are the latest regulations for driving in Spain?
  • Check up before you leave the UK
  • New clean air zones in major cities introduced for 2019
  • What are the latest regulations for driving in Spain?
  • Check up before you leave the UK
  • New clean air zones in major cities introduced for 2019

If you’re planning a driving holiday in Spain, or if you have to drive through the country for work, make sure you know all the rules and regulations that will cover your journey.

From knowing the blood alcohol levels, to how many warning triangles you need to carry in your car, remember that driving in Spain isn’t as straightforward as just popping to Tesco in your old reliable runaround.

New environmental regulations introduced in November 2018 mean that if you want to enter large cities that are covered by Zero Emissions Zone ruling will need to display stickers, similar to those needed for driving in Paris. Read more below.

Latest regulations for driving in Spain 

  • Updated emissions regulations regarding driving in Madrid require compliance stickers. The easiest rule of thumb is just don't take your car into the capital, especially as there are no provisions to sell these stickers to overseas-registered cars. For more information, scroll down.
  • You cannot drive a car or ride a motorbike until the age of 18 in Spain, even if your own driving licence qualifies you at home.
  • Alcohol limits: The general limit for drivers of private vehicles and cyclists is 0.5g per litre. For drivers of commercial vehicles, and those with less than two years’ experience, the limit is 0.3g per litre. Both are lower than the UK limit of 0.8g per litre. After a traffic accident, all road users have to undergo a breath test.
  • Talking on your mobile phone is banned, as is using an earpiece, but you can use a completely hands-free kit.
  • Speed camera detection devices are banned

>> Test your knowledge - take our Driving Abroad Quiz!

In case of emergency while driving in Spain 

In the event of an accident you should call 112 and in case of assault or criminal offence on the road, it may be reported in English by calling the police on 902 102 112. 

What to carry with you while driving in Spain

Warning triangle - driving in Spain

  • Full, valid driving licence
  • Proof of insurance
  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of ownership (original V5C document, not a photocopy)
  • Reflective jackets – it’s not compulsory to carry them, but you must wear one if you have an accident and leave your car
  • Two red warning triangles
  • Spare wheel
  • Headlamp beam deflectors
  • A GB sticker, or EU number plate
  • Safety helmets for motorcyclists and their passengers
  • Spare pair of glasses if you use them for driving

Driving on the right in Spain

Driving in Spain

Be confident, keep up with the traffic flow, and remain alert to making manoeuvres the opposite way around to usual.

Pay particular attention when overtaking, which will be on the left, especially on single carriageway roads where it might prove difficult to see around a slow-moving truck in your right-hand drive car. A front-seat passenger might be able to assist, but remember responsibility always remains with the driver.

Roundabouts can prove tricky the first few times you encounter them but before long it feels second nature. Remember to give way to traffic already on the roundabout.

Pollution restrictions in Madrid and Barcelona

When air pollution levels are high, there might be temporary restrictions on car usage in the city. When in force, only cars with a number plate ending in an even number are allowed to circulate on even dates, and cars with number plates ending in an odd number on odd dates.

Madrid exclusions

The easiest thing to do is just don't take your car inside Madrid's M30 inner ring road. Only Spanish vehicles displaying the 'Madrid Central ZEZ' stickers will be allowed in. There will also be parking bans for vehicles with the B and C badges. Restrictions apply within the city boundaries (within the M30) between 6.30am and 9.00pm. For more information you can follow Madrid Town Hall on Facebook and Twitter.

Barcelona has a progressive low emissions zone scheme, plus congestion and emissions based emergency restrictions in place until December 2018, both of which require qualifying vehicles to be identified with a sticker. Stickers can be bought at Spanish post offices, listed here.

Barcelona exclusions

Barcelona city restrictions limit petrol cars registered before 2000, diesel cars registered before 2006, and vans registered before 1994 to the hours of 20:00 - 07:00 during periods of high pollution on weekdays. From 2019, Greater Barcelona will restrict cars registered before 1997.

Towing in Spain

If your camper van exceeds 12m in length, of if your car and caravan/trailer combination exceeds 12m, there must be one or two reflectors (either one long reflector, about 130x25cm, or two shorter 50x25 cm reflectors), yellow with red borders, at the rear of the camper van or caravan/trailer.

Penalties and on-the-spot fines

Driving in Spain

Police can issue on-the-spot fines, and as a visitor you must pay your fine immediately, unless you can nominate someone in Spain to pay the fine for you.

Cross-Border Enforcement means if you commit a speeding offence in Spain, or a number of EU countries, your licence details are available to the authorities in the country the offence was committed. So don’t assume that because you’re abroad, the authorities can’t access your details and chase you for a fine.

Take our Driving Abroad Quiz!

How much do you think you know about driving in Europe? Take our fun quiz to find out!

What to read next:

Everything you need to know about driving in France
Driving in Italy - everything you need to know
Driving in Germany - everything you need to know

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