Spain Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Driving in Spain –

Spain drives on the right and you can use the photo licence of any EU country to drive here. Drivers from other countries need their own licence plus an international driving permit. Speed limits range from 120kmh on motorways to 90kmh on other roads and 50kmh in urban areas.

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 carry spare bulbs for the vehicle’s 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. Also you need to carry your licence and insurance documents for the car at all times.

Spain has a highly efficient and very well maintained road system with the third highest kilometre count of multi-lane highways in the world. Motorways are called either Autopista (prefixed AP)  or Autovia (Prefixed A). The main difference between the two is that Autopistas only allow access to vehicles which can maintain a minimum speed of 60kmh, and will generally meet all the international requirements of a motorway eg emergency lanes, central barriers. Autovias are often upgrades to older roads so may follow a more circuitous route and may, in cases, not have all motorway safety measures, though most now do. Autovias are never toll roads, whereas Autopistas often are. Another type of Spanish main road is a beltway which is a ring road circling a large urban area. These are prefixed according to the city they are situated in eg B for Barcelona , CA for Cadiz.

The longest autopista route in the country is the AP7 Autopista del Mediterráneo which runs for almost 1000km down Spain’s east coast passing Girona, Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia and Benidorm to Cartagena, with an additional section on the south coast from Málaga to Guadiaro.  The Autopistas which are toll roads are generally on the route along the Mediterranean coast, the southern Pyrenees route from Bilbao to Barcelona and around Madrid, Seville, Malaga, Leon, Pamplona and Santiago. Toll roads are indicated by signs saying ‘carretera de peaje’ or ‘carretera de cuota’. An approximate cost is around one Euro per 8-10km. Payment of tolls can be by cash or credit card at the barrier or via a VIA-T box in the vehicle. Most rental cars will be fitted with this device, but if driving your own vehicle, its is now possible to purchase one without a Spanish bank account. This is the official site, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an English language version.

Main roads in the Balearic islands include –

On Menorca – Me-1 -Mahón to Ciutadella.

On Majorca- Ma-1     Palma port to Peguera

Ma-13  Palma to Sa Pobla

Ma-15   Palma to Manacor

Ma-19   Palma to Llucmajor

Ma-20   Palma Beltway/Ring road

On Ibiza – E20 – Ibiza town -airport

The only toll road in the Balearics is the Soller tunnel in Majorca.

For details of roads on the Canaries, see the page for the islands.

As with most large urban areas around the world , Spanish 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 of towns. Roads are usually well sign posted but one way systems may be confusing. 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 may 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. Spain drives on the right but is popular with British visitors so be alert to visiting drivers occasionally driving on the wrong side of the road near to popular resorts. In my experience this is most likely on quiet country roads without a steady flow of traffic.

There have been occasional reports 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 have previously taken out radio advertisements 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.

Also 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

Barcelona-Valencia 351km, estimated travel time, 3.5 Hours

Madrid-Valencia 355 km, estimated travel time, 3.5 Hours,

Madrid- Seville -532km, estimated travel time, 5 Hours

Barcelona-Marseille 480km, estimated travel time, 4.5 Hours

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

Madrid-Lisbon 637km, estimated travel time, 6 hours

Madrid-Porto 563km, estimated travel time, 6 hours

Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.

Spain Car Rental –

All the big multinationals have outlets throughout Spain ie Sixt, Hertz, Europcar, Alamo, National,Avis, Budget, Thrifty.

Also Spain will feature heavily on every car rental broker website  and web discount sites like Expedia.

We currently have no local car rental partners in Spain. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on

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.



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