Rules of the road in Spain

The roads are titled differently in Spain and it is important to know what type of route you are on at all times.

  • A motorway is called an autopista and will have an A or E before the number on any road signs. Often these are toll roads and carry with them a speed limit of 120kph.
  • A dual carriageway is called an autovia. Speed limits range between 80kph to 120kph.
  • The local highways are called Carretera Local. Speed limit is generally 100kph but can be much lower in some stretches.
  • The national highway is called the Carretera National and will be marked with an N or CN before any number on a sign. Speed limits range between 60kph and 100kph.
  • Country roads are called Carretera Camarcal and will be marked with a C before the number. Speed limits range between 80kph and 100kph.

-In Spain always drive on the right side of the road and give right of way to traffic coming from the left.

-Do not pull into the middle of the road even if making a left when there is a solid line separating the lanes. A solid line indicates a left turn is not allowed even if there is a road intersecting the street.

-If indicating signs are present parking is not allowed

-Parking is not allowed in areas where curb is painted yellow

-Blue spaces indicate metered or ticketed parking

-When driving in Spain you must have registration, certificate of insurance and a driver’s license at all times. It is recommended that you also have your passport or a small colour photocopy of it with you.

-The legal limit for drink driving in Spain is .05% and for new drivers .01% (a new driver is one that has had a license for two years or less) this effectively means new drivers can not drink any alcohol before driving. The laws for drink driving in Spain are harsher than in other EU countries and carry with them loss of license, heavy fines, and possibly imprisonment

-In some countries you would have to commit a driving offence to be stopped for possible drunk driving, in Spain roadblocks are the main tool of traffic police, so ‘being ok to drive’ even if over the limit, will not work.

-All passengers in back and front seats must have seatbelts on at all times

-Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat of a vehicle at any time

-Small children (toddlers and infants) must be in a car seat at all times in the back of the vehicle

-Talking on a mobile phone while driving is strictly prohibited, even if you are pulled off to the roadside. Hands free units are allowed but earpieces are not allowed while driving

-Carry the phone number of your breakdown cover at all times

-Be aware of thieves. There are reports of criminals that cause small accidents by bumping into rental cars. While filling out paperwork and accomplice sneaks in and steals luggage from the rental vehicle. If in doubt, call the police and then trade paperwork.

-If you hire a car remove the car hire stickers so that you do not stand out as a tourist

-Be aware that if commit a traffic violation and do not have any Spanish assets or are not resident in Spain, as a tourist you can be fined on the spot by the police

-Spanish National Police number is 112 and the Guardia Civil is 062. If in doubt over an unmarked car of plain clothed policemen’s real identity call the police and ask them to verify the registration of the vehicle that has stopped you.

-Always travel with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and tool kit

-Toll roads are the best maintained roads in Spain, but you will have to pay to utilize them

-On roundabouts Spanish people drive in the outside lane and will overtake any car in the inside lane when their exit comes up

-Spanish law dictates that all cars must have at least one visibility vest in the backseat. (Not in the boot because it is not accessible).

-Spanish law also requires all drivers to have at least two warning triangles in the car at all times if you are driving a hire car. Non-Spanish registered vehicles must carry at least one warning triangle.

-In addition, all cars must have a replacement bulb set. If a light burns out and you do not have the proper replacement you may be fined by a police officer.

-Corrective lenses wearers must have an extra set of glasses or contacts in the car at all times.

-Lights must be used when passing through a tunnel

-Minimum age for driving a car in Spain is 18 and for a motorcycle that is bigger than 75cc.

While many of these rules (Hi visibility vest must be inside car, a spare set of bulbs must be carried) may be totally ignored by many drivers in Spain, it is the law, and the police can, and very possibly will, issue a ticket if you ignore the law.

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