Driving in Spain: speed limits, laws and requirements

Fancy some sun, sand, sea and sangria (when you’re not driving, of course)? A driving holiday in Spain is a great way to see all that the country has to offer beyond the package holiday.

Cars on a motorway in Spain

Can I drive in Spain with a UK licence?

Yes, you can drive in Spain using your full UK driving licence. But you must be at least 18 years old and, obviously, it must be in-date.

Unlike in some other European countries, you don’t need an international driving permit to drive there.

 

What do I need to drive in Spain?

It’s important to have all the necessary documents and other kit with you before you head to Spain in your car.

Speak to your car insurance provider to make sure you’re covered, and upgrade your cover if necessary.

Here are some handy checklists of what you should take with you.

Documents

  • Full UK driving licence
  • Passport as proof of ID
  • Car insurance documents
  • V5C registration document

If you've lost any of the above documents, don't panic. You should be able to replace missing paperwork fairly quickly. 

Other kit 

These items may already be part of your breakdown kit, but you should take:

  • Warning triangle (compulsory)
  • UK sticker (not ‘GB’)
  • Headlamp adjustment
  • Hi-vis jacket (not strictly mandatory to carry, but you can be fined for not wearing one in certain dangerous situations)
  • Spare pair of glasses.

Spain driving checklist

 

What are the Spanish driving rules?

Drink-driving limit

The Spanish drink-drive limit is 0.5mg/ml of blood, and 0.3 mg/ml for people with fewer than three years’ driving experience.

By comparison, in Wales, Northern Ireland and England the drink-drive limit is 0.8 mg/ml of blood, and 0.5mg/ml of blood for Scotland.

You could be given a roadside breath test if the police suspect you of being over the limit.

Fuel

It’s against the law to carry spare petrol in the car in Spain. But you could also be fined for running out of petrol on certain main roads, so keep an eye on your fuel gauge!

Mobile phones

It’s against the law to hold a mobile phone while driving.

Indicating

You must use your indicators when coming on or off motorways (autopistas). You should also use your indicators when you change lanes. If you’re caught not doing so, you could be fined.

Using your horn and flashing your lights

You’re not allowed to use your horn unnecessarily, and never in built-up areas unless in an emergency.

If you need to warn another motorist, flash your lights instead.

Meanwhile, cars approaching you from behind might flash you to let you know they’ll be overtaking you.

 

Toll roads in Spain

The autopistas are usually quite light on traffic. This is because the motorways are littered with toll booths, meaning you could rack up quite a bill if you’re travelling a fair distance.

The amount you pay per toll depends on the length of the road and the area you’re driving in. For example, driving from Barcelona to Calella – a distance of about 35 miles – would cost around 7€ (prices correct at the time of writing).

Rather than paying the tolls, many of the locals opt for the back roads, which might get quite busy. If you’re after a fast and smooth (but potentially expensive) drive, take the autopistas.

Then again, if you want to enjoy the scenic Spanish countryside, a slower journey on slower roads might be just what you need.

 

Spanish road signs

Most road signs are fairly consistent across the continent, and they’re fairly easy to decipher.

However, there are a few signs in Spain that you might not be too familiar with:

 
 
Spanish road signs

 

a. If you need to make a U-turn, take the next right and turn around on the next level.

b. Drivers should switch on their headlights now.

c. Drivers should check their headlights and switch off if necessary.

d. Speed cameras ahead.

 

Spanish speed limits for cars

Spain measures distance in kilometres and speed in km/h, so remember this when you see distance and speed signs.

As a rough rule, 10km is the equivalent of just over six miles.

Stricter limits were brought in during 2021 for driving in ‘municipalities’ – this doesn’t mean absolutely every road within a town or a village, but it does cover most of them.

Road types Speed limites
Municipalities: Shared by pedestrians and cars
20km/h (12mph)
Municipalities: Single lanes
30km/h (18mph)
Municipalities: Dual carriageways
50km/h (31mph)
Single carriageways
90km/h (55mph)
Dual carriageways
100km/h (62mph)
Motorways
100km/h (62mph) to 120km/h (74mph)

You’re allowed to exceed the speed limit by up to 20km/h (12mph) to overtake a slower vehicle on some roads outside built-up areas. But you can’t do this on motorways or dual carriageways.

There’s a 60 km/h (37mph) minimum speed on the motorway.

If you’re heading to Spain with a caravan or motorhome, make sure you know the speed limits. The Caravan and Motorhome Club has a handy guide.

Radar and speed camera detectors are illegal in Spain, which is also the case if you're driving in France. But if your sat nav includes speed camera information as standard, you should be OK.

In fact, the Spanish authorities are pretty good at making people aware of the location of speed cameras. Most cameras are signposted and there’s even an app that shows you where they are.

 

Driving in Spain after Brexit

Although the UK is no longer part of the EU, little has changed as far as driving in Spain is concerned.

Different countries within the EU have different requirements regarding international driving permits. But the good news is they aren’t required in Spain for visits of up to six months.

From mid-2021, there’s also no requirement to show an insurance green card when entering the EU.

But you must make sure your car identifier is ‘UK’ rather than ‘GB'. This might mean you need to get some new country stickers before you leave.