Skip navigation guide to driving in Spain

A road bridge in Puente Carlos, SpainGetting started

Driving in Spain is the perfect antidote to the stop-start misery of British traffic. Escape the big cities and you can cruise along gleaming blacktops that hug verdant hillsides and carve across endless plains.

Spain’s impressive network of autopistas is surprisingly light on traffic. That’s because most locals prefer not to pay the tolls and stick instead to the back roads. If you do decide to pay up, console yourself with the thought that fuel is cheap: unleaded is about 75% of the price in the UK, with diesel even cheaper.

Hit the road

One thing you’ll notice when you get behind the wheel is that the Spanish tend to drive quickly and aggressively – so don’t take it personally.

What you may not immediately notice is that the authorities are remarkably intolerant of offenders. Speed traps are common and, if you’re caught, you’ll have to pay an on-the-spot fine, the amount dependant on how far you were over the limit.

Drink-drive laws are strict, with a legal alcohol limit of 50mg per 100ml of blood, compared to 80mg in the UK.

In Spain, you’re legally obliged to carry a warning triangle, a set of spare bulbs and the tools to fit them. If you wear glasses to drive you must have a spare pair in the car. And you must carry a reflective vest - in the main cabin of the vehicle, rather than the boot.

Star drive

The Ruta de la Plata - the Silver Route - was built by the Romans to connect the sublime city of Seville with the Atlantic port of Oviedo. The first great road across Spain, it extends across mountains, valleys and plains, linking the great historical centres of Salamanca, Oviedo and Caceres.

Best of the rest

Real pilgrims walk it, but the Road to Santiago along the Atlantic coast through Asturias and Cantabrica is also a dream to drive, and easily accessible from the northern ferry ports of Santander and Bilbao.

Laws of the land

  • All car passengers must wear seatbelts if fitted
  • Children under 12 years old or less than 1.35m tall must use a suitable child restraint system appropriate to their size and weight, whether travelling in the front or back. Children above 1.35m tall may use an adult seat with seatbelt
  • You can be fined for running out of petrol on main roads
  • It’s illegal to use full-beam headlights in built-up areas
  • If you witness an accident you must tend to any victims and call emergency services. For an English-speaking operator dial 902 102 112
  • Motorcyclists must dip their headlights during the day and wear crash helmets (including passenger)

Spanish speed limits

Road type

Speed limit

Residential areas

20 kmh

Built-up areas

50 kmh

Outside built-up areas

90 kmh

Dual carriageways

100 kmh


120 kmh

PLEASE NOTE: As of March 7th 2011, a temporary motorway speed limit of 110km/h has been enforced as a fuel saving measure until further notice.

Local knowledge

In the countryside you can drive for miles without seeing a filling station – so top up when you get the chance. If an oncoming vehicle flashes you, watch out for a police speed trap.

In big cities car crime can be a problem. Be careful where you park at night – either use a secure car park or strip the vehicle of valuables. Don’t park on yellow-painted pavements – you could get towed.

Did you know?

You can be fined for not indicating before overtaking.

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