Driving in Spain

Driving in Spain

Spain has some beautiful mountain roads, picturesque coastal routes, and empty motorways, but also has one of the highest road fatality rates in Western Europe. Traffic volumes have grown hugely in the past 20 years, but many locals will still overtake on blind crests and bends.

Spanish cities can be very difficult to navigate, and traffic is generally congested all the time. If you are visiting a city for the day, it is often easier to locate a car park and walk or take public transport.

Basic Requirements
Legal Requirements
Driving Tips

Basic Legal Requirements

Driving Licence

When driving in Spain, you will need to ensure you bring both parts of your driving licence - the Photocard plus the Paper Counterpart (D740). If you do not have a Photocard yet, only the paper copy is required, but you will need Photo ID, such as a Passport

UK Driving Licence (Sample)You must be the holder of a full driving licence (not a provisional), and have passed your test. Even if you have already passed your full test, you must be at least 18 years old, or 16 for motorcycles up to 125cc.

The International Driving Permit is not required, but if you would like one you can apply through the Post Office. The international driving permit is in addition to your driving licence, so you will need to carry both copies.

While a photocopy may be useful if your licence is lost, you should carry the original with you.

Car Documents

You should carry your vehicles Registration Certificate (V5C) with you, which should be updated to show your correct details. For security reasons, it's best NOT to leave the Registration Certificate in the vehicle while it is parked - it makes it harder to a thief to resell the vehicle if they do not have the documentation.

While a photocopy may be useful if your Registration Certificate is lost, you should carry the original with you.


It is compulsory to have at least third-party insurance for Spain, as for the UK. Most UK insurance policies will allow an element of European driving, often for a limited period.

Before leaving the UK, it is a good idea to contact your insurer, and check what your existing cover allows. You can also request a 'Green Card' which is an internationally recognised form of proof of insurance. You should carry proof of insurance with you while driving.

If your existing insurance does not provide European cover for the period required, most insurance brokers will have a suitable policy covering Spain.

Your Vehicle

headlight beam adaptors for European drivingYour headlights will need to be adjusted to ensure that they do not dazzle oncoming users.

Standard halogen headlights and Autobulbs Xenon HID Conversion kits can be modified by the use of a stick on Headlight Beam Adaptor. Vehicles with factory fitted Xenon HID headlights may find there is an adjuster either on the headlights themselves or on the dashboard - check your manual for details. If there is no adjuster, you may need to visit a dealer for them to make the adjustments, and again to change them back after your visit.

Reflective Jackets or vests must be worn when getting out of a vehicle stuck on a motorway, dual carriageway or other busy road. However, there is not yet the requirement to have them at all times. To comply in an emergency it makes sense to have one for each passenger in the vehicle.

European Travel Kit with Spare bulb Kit You must also carry a reflective Warning Triangle in the vehicle (two is recommended). In the event of an accident or breakdown, the triangle should be set up by the side of the road, at least 50 meters in the direction of of the traffic. If you have broken down in the outer lane of a dual carriageway or motorway, or attempting to place the warning triangle would place you in danger, do not use it. Remember to collect your warning triangle before leaving! Warning triangles are not required for motorbikes.

If you are planning on driving in mountain areas in winter, you must carry snow chains and fit them when conditions demand it. Police can stop you if you are driving without snow chains when the conditions demand it - it is not an offence, but they will prevent you from continuing.

Children under the age of 12 must not travel in the front seats, unless the seat belts have been modified for them. All passengers must use seat belts if fitted. Children under 135cm (4 feet 5 inches) must use child seats, booster seats or seatbelt adaptations suitable for their size.

Children under 18 cannot be carried on a motorcycle unless it is being ridden by a parent or authorised person, and even then they must be at least 7 years old.

Number plate with European GB Logo You may have a number plate that already has a valid 'GB' mark. If you do not, you will need to apply a GB sticker to the back of your vehicle.

There is no legal requirement to carry a first aid kit in the vehicle, but it is recommended. Similarly, there is not a requirement to carry a fire extinguisher, but they are generally a useful safety item to carry in your vehicle if you have the space.

While there is no specific requirement to carry a set of spare bulbs, you do have to ensure all your lights are working all the time. Finding yourself in the middle of a country road on a Sunday evening with a faulty headlight or tail light could lead to a fine. The safest option is to carry a spare bulb kit suitable for your vehicle.