How much do you know about driving in Spain? If you never get behind the wheel of a car here then you don’t need to know anything. However, if you drive here when you’re on holiday or are a resident who drives regularly then you really should make it your business to understand the Spanish Highway Code or Codigo de Trafico y Seguridad Vial.

Realistically though, this is not a document that you are going to read on your holidays. It is 972 pages long and, as you might expect, it is written in Spanish. It’s hard going too and it’s doubtful that even those fluent in Spanish would be able to understand some of the rules and regulations it contains.

So, what can you do to make sure you have the ‘basics’ before driving in Spain? There are people who are experts in driving law and who can speak English. Referring to their websites and information can help you to decipher the important points that you need to know.

Some very good sources are:

–       Graham Shelton – Spanish number plates www.spanish-number-plates.com            

–       N332 website and Facebook page http://n332.es

–       RAC http://www.rac.co.uk/driving-abroad/spain

Graham Shelton’s site includes a number of articles that he has published in Costa Blanca News under the title ‘Mediterranean Motoring’. His articles make interesting and often amusing reading. You should, however, take note that the articles were correct at the time of publication.

The N332 website is written and updated by some English-speaking members of the Guardia Civil. It has become very popular as a reference for those people unsure about Spanish driving law. Both the website and Facebook page are worth visiting for some up-to-date and candid accounts of what you should and shouldn’t do when driving in Spain.

These are good sources to access, but in the meantime we include some of our own frequently asked questions and answers for you. If you have other questions of your own, check either Spanish Number Plates or the N332 site.

How do you exit a roundabout?

It’s important to remember that you must stay to the right and drive as far to the right as possible when travelling around a roundabout in Spain. The right hand lane is the normal driving lane. Try and think of the roundabout as a normal road that has curves. Which lane would you be in? Under normal circumstances you should always exit the roundabout from the right hand lane.

What documents must I have in my car?

You must carry:

–       The ITV  (MOT) card and sticker (if applicable)

–       The Permiso de Circulacion (log book)

These are not compulsory but it is advisable to carry them:

–       insurance policy – a central computer also carries this information so it isn’t absolutely necessary to have it but you will need to have details of your policy if you are involved in an accident

–       European accident form – this is a standard form that you should complete in case you are involved in an accident.

You should also carry your driving license and proof of ID with you.

What else should I carry in the car?

You should have with you:

–       Reflective jackets – sufficient for any passengers to wear if they should have to leave the car and walk along the road

–       Warning triangles – you need two of these if you are a resident and they must be placed before and after the car if you should break down.

What are the speed limits in Spain?  

The roads in Spain are separated into four main groups and the speed limits in each of these during optimum conditions includes for cars:

  1. toll roads and motorways (autopistas and autovias) – 120
  2. conventional roads – 100
  3. other conventional roads – 90
  4. urban roads – 50

Different speeds limits apply for buses, lorries and vehicles that are towing. You may not always be able to spot easily the different types of road so need to keep an eye open for the circular sign with a red border that indicates the maximum speed limits.

Where can I park?

You are not allowed to park where the kerb is painted yellow and also where there is a sign indicating ‘vado permanente’. The circular vado sign means that someone has paid for access and you can find yourself towed away if you park in front of here. Where the kerb is painted blue this means that you can park but that you have to pay and this is usually at a meter.

Where do pedestrians have priority?

Just like other countries, Spain has zebra crossings which are white and black. There are also pelican crossings at lights. Be warned, some of these pelican crossings flash green for pedestrian’s to go when your lights have also indicated that you can turn onto the main road.

How much can I drink when I’m driving?

The best advice is not to drink at all. The legal drink drive limit in Spain is lower than in some other countries and you must make sure that you stay beneath the 0.5 g/l limit for ordinary drivers. If you are a new driver or drive in a professional capacity, like a tax driver, the legal limit is even lower at 0.3 g/l.

What should I do if I get stopped by the police?

The police in Spain do make routine stops. Make sure you have your documentation ready to show and cooperate with them. If you have documentation missing or you have done something illegal then they will fine you on the spot. You will need to pay on the spot too if you do not have an NIE number or Spanish residence.

If you are a resident then you can pay your fines on line on the Dirección General de Tráfico website: http://www.dgt.es/es/ or you can pay your fine at some branches of the post office or Santander bank. Your fine will be reduced by 50%  if you pay it within 20 days.

Driving in Spain is not that different from driving in most other European countries. However, making sure you are familiar with what the few differences are will make your driving experience much safer.

Codigo de Trafico y Seguridad Vial:

http://boe.es/legislacion/codigos/codigo.php?id=020_Codigo_de_Trafico_y_Seguridad_Vial&modo=1