09 Oct Rules of the Road: Spain

Ignore any age-old jokes regarding locals’ driving abilities – it really is very safe for responsible drivers to take to the Spanish roads and get out exploring. If you’re traveling to Spain in the future and fancy hiring car, you’ll certainly see more of the country than you would from a sun lounger!

Madrid Traffic

If you want quiet roads, think about going outside of peak tourist times from September onwards. As Spain’s southernmost city, Málaga enjoys one of the warmest year-round European climates. This results in a much milder winter and therefore makes it a great city to visit regardless of timing. You can hire a car direct from Málaga airport from companies such as Economy Car Hire, allowing you to step off the plane and straight into your rental.

There is a lot to be explored in and around Málaga via car, however, there are a few essential rules you need to know to ensure you stay behind the wheel, rather than the back seat of a Civil Guard’s car.


First off, driving licence – you need one! You will also need to be the required minimum age of 18 to legally drive in Spain. All licences issued in EU and EEA countries are accepted, you need both paper and card parts with you, and international driving permits are recognised but not required.

Essential items

We’re not talking sunglasses and lilo! Spanish law requires you to carry a few select pieces of safety equipment at all times, so make sure you have them all in your car before setting off on any road journeys, regardless of how long or short they are. You must have a:

  • Reflective jacket – if the car breaks down and you’re spotted anywhere on the road or hard shoulder without one, you can be fined by the Spanish authorities.

  • Warning triangle – this is compulsory in all four-wheeled vehicles.

  • Headlamp beam deflector – this can be stickers or a manual job depending on the car.

Check with your rental company if they provide all of the above before booking.

It is always an intelligent idea to know a little about the rules of the road and driving styles of the locals in the country you’ll be driving in, especially if it is for the first time.

Spain, like every country, has both slow and manic motorists. The slow road users tend to drive special cars for which you don’t need a licence. These crawl along at an exceptionally sluggish pace as they are limited to 50 kph – just be considerate if you find yourself behind one. The fast drivers are the ones you see lane dodging and overtaking everything on the road using their tried and tested, although not recommended, method of getting other drivers out of the way. They simply pull right up to your back bumper so they’re only centimetres away, then put on their left indicator to tell you that they want to get past. Most people promptly move over so keep an eye out for it unless you want an agitated driver on your tail.

Due to the facts that it doesn’t rain all that much, driving in Spain can be really fun – plus you get to see some great countryside and landscapes in the process. There is noticeably less road rage than neighbouring European countries and once you have your route planned, it’s pretty easy to get around. However, if you want more advice regarding rules and regulations of the road, RAC has a very comprehensive guide online.

One last tip: the Spanish police take talking on mobile phones whilst driving very seriously – they will pull you over if they see you doing so. Stay safe and let the call go to voicemail.

photo by JP on flickr

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Victoria Brewood

Hi I'm Victoria, a British girl from Manchester. After graduating from university I decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so I packed my journalism degree into my suitcase to travel the world and find a way to make money at the same time. I now call London home, although I still travel whenever I can. I hope to inspire you to be your own boss, live life and see the world.

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