Driving in Spain : All you need to know

The legal age for driving in Spain is 18 so regardless of your holding a driver’s licence in your home country, if you are under 18 you are not permitted to drive in Spain.

If you are a non-resident of Spain and only wish to drive during your holiday/vacation and you are over 18, then the wisest thing to do is apply for an International Driver’s Licence in your home country before you go.  If you have an Automobile Association near you then it will be an easy matter.

IDP (International Driving Permit)

This is a translation of your present valid driver’s licence that will allow your licence to be read and understood.  There is a fee for a IDP but if you have negative points against you on your licence the it may be that you will have a problem not only with the IDP but with driving in Spain on a foreign licence.

To Apply for your IDP

You will need.

  • Your application form
  • Payment in the amount applicable in your country of residence
  • Two ID passport photographs
  • Presentation of your valid driver’s licence
  • Your valid passport
  • Remember your IDP is only valid for 1 year.

Foreign Licences:

Outside the EU

If you are from outside the EU your current licence you will be able to drive on your current licence for up to 6 months, however you should have a certified translation in Spanish with you at all times as this will help avoid awkward situations.

EU Nationals – including Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein

Those holding driver’s licences issued in the EU can drive on this licence for up to 2 years in Spain.

New Residents

You must register with the local traffic authorities and they will require you to take a medical as you would do in your own country.

Once you are aware that the period of driving on your foreign licence is soon to expire then it is time to apply for a Spanish Driver’s licence.  You will not have to sit a Driving test if you exchange (depending on the country of your current driver’s license) your present licence before its use expires.

If the period of driving on a foreign licence has expired and you have not applied for and received your Spanish licence you will be in contravention of the law and will be fined a large sum and you will have to sit the Spanish driving test.  So it is important that you keep an eye on expiry dates and apply in good time.

Exchanging your driver’s licence for a Spanish licence.

Spain has agreements with over 20 countries which allows driver’s licences from the listed countries to be exchanged for a Spanish licence without the need for a driving test.  As this list is changed from time to time, it is wise to check and ensure that your licence is eligible for a straightforward exchange. You can check with your local traffic authority if you are in Spain, or you can check with the Spanish Consulate nearest to you

What you need to exchange your driver’s licence

  • An application form from the traffic authority
  • Valid passport or national identity document
  • Proof of residence
  • Your NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjer),  
  • Your present, valid driver’s licence (original plus 1 photocopy)
  • Two recent passport photographs (32 x 25mm)
  • An affidavit (declaration in writing) that you have not been suspended from driving for any reason.
  • An affidavit (declaration in writing) that you do not hold any other driver’s licence in same class in any other country other than one you are presenting.

Rules for Drivers in Spain

  • You drive on the right
  • Urban roads have a speed limit of 50kpm all non-urban roads with no hard shoulder 90kpm and hard should non-urban roads 100kpm. Motorways 120kpm.
  • The law requires you to have your licence (and if applicable, you Certified Spanish translation) and your log-book with you at all times.
  • Your vehicle should have an inflated spare Tire in good repair, reflective vests for driver and passengers, and two red warning triangles.
  • Mobile devices are not permitted – you are permitted to use hand-free sets.

Driving a hire car (rental car) in Spain.

It is best to have an International Driver’s licence and to get one you will need your valid passport showing that you will be driving within the period prior to the last 6 months of your passport’s expiry date.  Your local Automobile Association will be able to provide you with one for a fee.


How to get Spanish driving license

Experienced Drivers:  If you have overlooked the time to exchange your driver’s licence and now need to take the Spanish driving test, it is a good idea to register with a driving school, and regardless of you past experience take a few lessons as this will count in your favor.

First Time Drivers:  If you are to take a test for the first time then it is in your interest to enroll with a driving school and let them make the application for the test and prepare you for it.

Spanish driving license : Driving in Spain
Spanish driving license : Driving in Spain

But before you do anything be sure you have all the correct documentation:

Required Documents

  • Proof of legal residence in Spain – minimum 6 months – with valid NIE certificate or passport and visa.
  • 2 passport photos (foto carnet)
  • Certificate proving you are mentally and physically fit to drive. (Certificado Medico). This is issued at the driving center and will cost between €20 and €25.
  • Driving Permit (Obtención de Permiso de Conducir) – this can only be obtained through a driving school.
  • The registration free. It is best to check as this can change but at present €90,30

Cost of getting a License

Getting your drivers license in Spain can be fairly costly depending on the amount of experience that you may have.  If you qualify for a drivers license exchange, then the cost is only €27,70.  If you are an experienced driver and are not able to exchange your drivers license for a Spanish one, be prepared to spend at least 300 euros in getting your Spanish license.  There are several costs such as, signing up fee, lecture fee, book an material costs, exam costs, registration costs for trafico.  Even though you may know how to drive, there are some regulations that might still be different so it is recommended that you take at least 5 sessions of driving lessons with an instructor.  The going rate is around €30 for each 45 minutes session.



To be successful you will need to pass two exams.  Be sure to arrive 30 minutes before the time of your test.

Before you are permitted to take a course of lessons with a driving school you have to pass the theory exam.

  • A theory exam consisting of 30 multiple choice questions.

Some testing stations have computer generated exams but most are pencil and paper based.  From the 30 questions you can only miss a maximum of 3 questions.  It is recommended that you do as many sample tests as possible to prepare you for the test.  Sample tests are provided by the driving school and also on the internet from DGT.  You can also download an app called Todo Test which has 60 sample tests which are very similar to the actual test you will be taking.

Once the instructor is satisfied that you are ready to take the practical driving test, the driving school will arrange the day and time.  Don’t be surprised when two other candidates for the same driving test clamber into your car.  Or, it may be that you are first a passenger before it is your turn to drive.

  • A practical driving test – there are 3 parts to the test.
    • Mechanical Questions – this is when you check your car before moving off.  The instructor will ask you some basic questions.  For example,  where do you check the level of engine oil,  or how do you check the coolent level in the car.
    • Autonomous driving – driving the car for 10 to 15 minutes and undertaking.
    • Directed driving – specific driving tasks where the instructor will ask you to make a left, right or u-turn in the up coming streets.  You could also be asked to drive in the highway.  You could also be asked to parallel park.

NOTE:  If the instructor is forced to touch the brake on their side of the car you will know that you have failed.

Once you have passed you will still be required to drive with a large green ‘L’ on display in the rear window as you will still only have “Learner” status for 12 months after passing the tests.

Your driver’s licence should take around 2 weeks to reach you after passing the Driving Test.


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