Road travel in Spain | Driving in Spain

Basic advice on driving in Spain

Road safety, Spanish traffic regulations and information about
driving in Spain






Driving in Madrid # Driving in Barcelona # Driving in Bilbao # Driving in San Sebastian # Driving in Murcia #

  • Speed. In Spain People drive very fast on motorways and dual carriageways. Furthermore some roads are in a bad way. Although in theory the speed limit is 120 km/h there are often cars travelling at 160 km/h or more. The Civil Guard (Spain's equivalent to traffic police) are using speed cameras more and more. They have multiplied on many Spanish roads especially on motorways where mobile speed radars are placed in unidentified cars which are used to catch drivers breaking the speed limit.

  • Lorries. There are a lot of heavy vehicles on Spanish roads. Large lorries drive from Northern Spain to the South and from the East to West of the country. This makes traffic very dense (especially at weekends and bank holidays). They create problems when overtaking and are the cause of many traffic jams, especially on the toll-free national roads and highways.

  • Defects in road surfaces and road maintenance can make driving on some roads hazadours - especially in parts of south-west and northern Spain. Although road maintenance has improved over recent years, the quality of road surfaces is still very variable and drivers should be prepared to deal with uneven surfaces, narrow lanes and frequent diversions or hold-ups due to roadworks.

  • The contrasts in climate between Spanish regions can make long drives quite a challenge. The temperature can go from hot to cold in a short space of time, and during the Winter while some people are bathing on parts of the Spanish Mediterranean coast, other people are skiing down snow-covered mountains. Bear this in mind if you are going to set out on a long journey, check the weather forecast and be prepared.

  • Penalty points licence system. The high number of accidents has forced the Spanish government to change driving laws and at present driving offences such as speeding, drink driving, mobile telephone use in cars… lead to points being taken from your driving licence.

  • Zebra Crossings. Spanish drivers do not usually stop at zebra crossings unless they are
    accompanied by traffic lights. Take care when approaching one in your car if there are cars behind your vehicle, because if you do what you are supposed to do - i.e. slow down and stop to allow pedestrians to cross - you are liable to be hit from behind or to have an irate driver shout and blow his horn at you. If you are a pedestrian waiting to cross, never ever start crossing until you are sure that vehicles on both lanes (if there is more than one) have stopped for you to cross.
  • Distance between vehicles. Maintain the distance set down by law between your vehicle and the next one in order to avoid collisions caused by sudden breaking (common when overtaking lorries when there is heavy traffic). Reduce your speed and increase the distance between vehicles if it is raining or there is a wet road surface.

  • Driving at night. Stop driving at once if you feel sleepy and rest until you are ready to continue. Also, make sure you have the necessary equipment available incase you are forced to stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway. In Spain it is compulsory to carry in your car a spare set of lights, enough fluorescent jackets for all passengers, a traffic triangle and, in snowy areas, chains.

  • Compulsory vehicle checks. If you purchase a car in Spain then bear in mind that your vehicle will be subject to maintenance checks at an official ITV centre after 4 years if it is a new car then every 2 years rising to every year for cars over 10 years old.

  • Driving and Alcohol. Do not drive if you have been drinking. Wine can flow during meals in Spain, so if you have enjoyed a relaxed lunch or dinner, don't jump into your car straight away. Have a siesta or take a taxi

  • Avoid key days such as local fiestas or the beginning and end of seasonal holidays. Look at a Spanish work calendar and check bank holidays in order to try to avoid the busiest days on Spanish roads. Bank holidays vary from region to region in Spain. Many Spanish families have holiday homes and take advantage of local and national holidays or long weekends.
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