Spain Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Driving in Spain –

Drivers from EU countries can drive in Spain on their own licence. Visitors from other countries, including USA, need an International Driving permit. Spanish roads are usually in good condition, including rural roads but most of the big Cities have congestion issues and unless you really need a car to travel round its probably best to look at options such as metro or taxis whilst you’re in the centre. Roads are usually well sign posted but one way systems may be confusing. Spain has strict laws on equipment to be carried in cars. This includes two warning triangles which you must place in the road in front of and behind your car in the event of a breakdown.You must also carry a high visibility jacket and wear this if you have to get out of the car on the road for instance to change a tyre. You must also carry spare bulbs for the cars lights and spare glasses if you need them to drive! Failure to have the necessary equipment may result in a fine which the police can request you pay immediately. The car rental company should make sure your car has all necessary equipment but if using a smaller company it may be wise to check. Also you need to carry your licence and insurance documents for the car at all times. Driving style in Spain is typical of Southern Europe – drivers will generally abide by the rules of the road with some ‘bending’ but may seem to drive faster and more aggressively than drivers in Northern Europe. As in most countries, drivers in Cities will be impatient with slow moving , lost tourists so expect some horn action if you do choose to drive in a big City. Roads away from Cities and near the coast will be especially busy in July and August, though you may find the interior cities quieter at this time.


There has been an increase in the number of attacks by ‘highway pirates’ who target foreign-registered and hire cars, especially those towing caravans. The situation has got so bad that the UK Foreign office has taken out radio advertisements in Spring 2013 to warn British visitors of the potential danger on Spanish Motorways. The usual method is to make you stop, claiming there is something wrong with your car or that you have damaged theirs. If you decide to stop to check the condition of your/their vehicle, stop in a public area with lights like a service station, and be extremely wary of anyone offering help.

Beware of fake police officers in plain clothes travelling in unmarked cars on Spanish Motorways. In all traffic-related matters, police officers will be in uniform, and all police officers, including those in plain clothes, carry official ID. Unmarked police vehicles have a flashing electronic sign on the rear window which reads Policía or Guardia Civil and normally have blue flashing lights. Genuine police officers will only ask you to show them your documents and will not ask for your bag or wallet/purse.If in any doubt, you should talk through the car window and contact the Civil Guard on 062 or Police on 112 and ask them to confirm that the registration number of the vehicle corresponds to an official police vehicle.

Spain is a large country and driving distances between cities can be huge. Some approximate driving times between Cities within Spain and to neighbouring countries are as follows-
Barcelona-Madrid 624km, estimated travel time, 6.5 Hours, Toll 25 Euro

Barcelona-Valencia 351km, estimated travel time, 3.5 Hours, Toll 35 Euro

Madrid-Valencia 355 km, estimated travel time, 3.5 Hours, Toll 0 Euro,

Madrid- Seville -532km, estimated travel time, 5 Hours, Toll 4 Euro,

Barcelona-Marseille 480km, estimated travel time, 4.5 Hours, Toll 36 Euro,

Barcelona–  Paris-1035km, estimated travel time, 9 hours, Toll 65 Euro

Madrid-Lisbon 637km, estimated travel time, 6 hours, Toll 20 Euro

Madrid-Porto 563km, estimated travel time, 6 hours, Toll 12 Euro


Spain Car Rental –

Spain is a country where your only problem will be choosing a rental company from the thousands of options. All the big multinationals have outlets throughout the country ie Sixt, Hertz, Europcar, Alamo, National,Avis, Budget, Thrifty.

Also Spain will feature heavily on every car rental broker website such as  Car rental broker sites such as Argus Car Hire and web discount sites like or Expedia. There are also some Spanish broker sites such as

The broker sites will seek out the best deal for you and will invariably be cheaper than the big international companies. The drawback is that you probably won’t know which rental company you’ll be dealing with until you’ve made your booking. Even then the name will probably mean nothing to you. There are hundreds of car rental firms in Spain many operating from a desk at the main airports and with a space for their vehicles in the car park. Many may not even have an office. Therefore the trade off is between the cheap price and the lack of knowledge of the quality of the company and its cars. If service and quality is more important, you may be better using one of the big international companies. If you’re after the best price, the broker websites will usually be your best bet. Another option is to use a named Spanish company. There are a number of bug rental firms in Spain such as those below but searching on an English language search engine tends to push them down the list. They may offer a balance on price and knowing who you’re dealing with.

If you want to deal with a named local company , these are all Spanish based –

In Mallorca this  is an English owned car rental company-

This company have outlets in Ibiza and Majorca and rent out modernised Citroen 2CVs complete with ipod docks, sun roofs and funky paint jobs.


Spain Self Drive Rules –

Most companies will allow cars to be driven to mainland Europe countries plus the UK and possible Scandinavia. There may be restrictions on taking certain types of car into Eastern Europe. One way rentals are much more likely with one of the big international companies or the big Spanish ones.


  1. Sue Spalding

    My son is 20 years old and plans to drive in Spain this summer. Are there any restictions on young poeple? Does he have to have had his licence 3 yrs or be 21 years old? He passsed his test here when he was 17 so he has been driving 3 yrs but is not 21?


  2. Driver Abroad

    Hi Sue – Have a look at my page on car rental for under 21’s. Hopefully that should help, though it may be that your son needs to sort out a car ‘on the ground’ when he gets to Spain. I did that when I was 18- depending where he’s going there are usually a lot of small companies who may be less stringent than the big international rental companies. Good luck!

  3. Billy Cheung

    Do I need to have an international driving licence if I hold an Australian licence and rent at those Spanish based local companies or international car rental companies?

  4. Driver Abroad

    From the Australian embassy in Spain -Under Spanish law, Australians on a 90 day ‘Schengen Visa’ may drive a vehicle in Spain if they hold a valid Australian State or Territory Driving Licence and a valid International Driver’s Licence. To obtain an International Driver’s license contact your relevant State or Territory Automobile Club, such as the NRMA, RACV, RACQ etc.

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