I recently booked a holiday to Malta for later this year.  As always in preparation for a trip, I searched the internet to research the island, the area, culture, customs and the weather.

I found some very interesting and helpful information although a lot of it was geared towards the American visitor.

It occurred to me that a helpful post might be top tips about rural Spain, so here I go with tips on driving.  Any suggestions on other top tips, such as eating out, will be most welcome and I’ll see what I can do.


There is often a preconception about driving on the Spanish mainland.  It is one of suntanned Spanish men, filled with testosterone whizzing past you at ridiculous kilometres an hour and forcing your little Fiat hire car off a mountain road.

OK a bit OTT but it is an impression shared by a lot of people.  I drove all over the UK for 30 years and by the time I moved to Spain I would have been happy never to drive again BUT driving out here has become a renewed pleasure, little or no congestion, great roads (unless you go off road) and amazing scenery.  Plus NO road rage!!

So, hope the following makes your driving experience in rural Spain a delight.


  • We drive on the right.  Having learned to drive on the left and driven on the left for 30 years I actually find it much more natural to drive on the right.  Of course it is easier if you have a left hand drive car!!  If it’s your first time driving on the right try changing your wristwatch over to the other wrist.


  • Don’t expect everyone to indicate their intentions or if they do indicate it will often be at the very moment they are carrying out the manoeuvre and certainly not before.  If joining a motorway (autovía) always indicate, don’t cross the solid white line, wait for the broken line.  Always indicate when pulling out to overtake and rejoin the inside lane.  Not everyone does it, but the police are starting to enforce this law.


  • Although roundabouts have been in existence for decades in Spain, there are still drivers who don’t understand who has right of way.  On approaching a roundabout, remember to look left and give way to traffic approaching from the left.  Drivers will often stay in the outside lane even if they are going all the way around the roundabout.  Don’t assume that just because they are in the outside lane they will be taking the next exit.


  • Drinking, drugs and driving don’t mix.  In Spain, you’re no longer considered fit to drive when your blood/alcohol concentration exceeds 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (or 30mg for drivers with less than two years’ experience and professional drivers). (current at the date of this post)
  • Random breath tests can be carried out by the police at any time and motorists who are involved in accidents or who infringe motoring regulations are routinely given alcohol and drug tests.
  • Drunk driving can result in a fine of up to €1,500, loss of points from your licence or its suspension and even imprisonment.
  • If you have an accident while under the influence of alcohol, your car and health insurance could be nullified. This means that you must pay your own and any third party’s car repairs, medical expenses and other damages, which could run to millions of euros.
  • However, drink driving continues to be a problem in Spain and alcohol is a major factor in a high percentage of Spain’s road accidents (around a third of drivers in fatal accidents are over the alcohol limit), particularly those that occur late at night.


As a resident or visitor you are required to carry the following documents in the vehicle:

  • A full, valid driving licence.
  • Proof of Insurance. Normally this is a photocopy of your car insurance payment plus the policy note.
  • Proof of ownership (the car registration document).
  • ITV (MOT) inspection certificate.
  • If you don’t have a Spanish driving licence, you will need to show your passport if stopped by the police.


By law you are required to carry certain items in your vehicle and you will incur heavy fines if you are found not have complied.

  • Reflective jacket for the driver and kept inside the car for easy access. (It makes sense to have one for each passenger as a breakdown on the motorway would mean all occupants should leave the vehicle)
  • 2 warning triangles
  • A spare pair of spectacles if you use them for driving.
  • Light bulbs; a replacement set (usually present in hire cars).
  • First aid kit; Not compulsory, but recommended.
  • Fire extinguisher if pulling a trailer.

All of the compulsory items listed above should, and usually are in the boot of your hire car, but check before leaving the airport!


  • Seatbelts must be worn by front and rear passengers and the driver.
  • Children under 12 must be placed in a suitable car seat or booster seat and may not travel in the front passenger seat.
  • Crash helmets are compulsory for riders of mopeds, motorcycles, trikes and quads, unless these are equipped with seat belts. Motorcycles on the road must have their lights on at all times.


  • Using a hand-held mobile phone whilst behind the wheel of a vehicle is illegal; ‘behind the wheel’ includes stationary at the side of the road.
  • Only true hands free systems where the speaker is not attached to the ear are allowed.
  • You will see many locals ignoring this law, but the police are becoming increasingly vigilant.


  • There are three types of police in Spain
    • Municipal Police; Blue uniform, responsible to the local mayor, their duties include traffic and parking violations.
    • National Police (La Policia); Black uniform, duties include protecting important people and buildings, also responsible for investigating more serious crimes.
    • Civil Guard (Guardia Civil); Green uniform, if you’re caught speeding on a motorway, these will be the boys who take your money from you, also responsible for national security.


  • Visitors are usually given on-the-spot fines if stopped for speeding. Remember to ask for a receipt ( un recibo por favor).
  • Residents can have their fine reduced by 50% if the pay within 20 days, though this does not apply to serious offences. Fines can be paid on line (to my shame I keep the website on my favourites!!!)

I have always found the police and Guardia to be approachable and friendly, a lot of them speak English but it’s always worth trying a bit of Spanish as they certainly appreciate it.

A really useful website is http://n332.es

This is a website produced by Guardia civil, in English and is all about driving in Spain.  They also have a Facebook page which you could follow.


  • In towns blue zones are paid parking areas, pay at the machine and display your ticket in the car.
  • Where you see white lines, you may park for free.
  • Yellow lines is no parking, however, you may also see signs on gates or work entrances which say vado permanente (no parking at anytime or you will be towed).

  • Car parks tend to have narrow spacing, especially those underground, so tricky for larger vehicles. As in the UK, illegally parked cars will be towed away by the police. You will need to go to the nearest Police station to get it back, and will have to pay the fine for the parking offence, plus the costs of towing together with a parking fee for the time during which the vehicle was impounded.
  • Rather than park, locals will often stop in front of you to collect or drop their passengers.  Sometimes they will even stop to have a chat with someone they know who is walking along the street.  Be patient, chill out and enjoy the view. There is very little road rage in rural Spain, most people just chill and wait…..  it’s far too hot to get angry!!

2 responses »

  1. Matthew says:

    Thanks for the tips, though I hadn’t realized that as an expat I had observed/absorbed these requirements. But have never seen/experienced a three lane roundabout.

    • Thanks for your comment Matthew. Yes it’s interesting that we see and do these things without thinking. For example if you are coming up behind slow moving traffic, the last person in the queue always puts their hazzards on until replaced by the person behind you. I’ve never seen it written anywhere but it’s something I always do.

What do you think of this post?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s