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Driving in Spain: what do I need to know?

As with the rest of continental Europe, the Spanish drive on the right hand side of the road. It is easy to forget when pulling out of a petrol station or taking a roundabout, so don’t be offended if your passengers remind you here and there.

Once you have the hang of driving on the ‘wrong’ side, driving in Spain is fairly simple and you’ll find your fellow road users to be quite laid back. You may think that they are being impatient when they flash you before overtaking, but when driving in Spain such a warning is commonplace and no reflection on your driving abilities.

Items you must have in your vehicle

There are some items that are compulsory when driving in Spain, including:

Speed limits

When driving in Spain, speed limits are broadly similar to the UK, set at 50 km/h (31 mp/h) in built up areas, 90– 00 km/h (55–62 mp/h) on major roads and 120 km/h (74 mp/h) on motorways. But beware; like many residential areas of the UK, driving on Spanish residential roads can mean limits as low as 20 km/h or 13 mph. Radar traps are common in Spain, but radar detectors are strictly forbidden so it’s best to stick to the limits to avoid large on-the-spot fines.

Alcohol limits

Drinking alcohol and driving is best avoided altogether, with just one small beer putting you dangerously close to the limit, which is set lower than in the UK. Large fines and even prison await anyone found to be over that limit.

Using your mobile while driving

Using your mobile phone is also best avoided when driving in Spain, unless you have a fully fitted hands free kit. Even headphones and earpieces are banned, with a fine of up to 200 Euros if you are caught. The same goes for programming your satnav on the go; you must pull over and be stationary before you touch such equipment.


Take care to park legally when driving in Spain as clamps and tow trucks are common, especially in the cities and popular tourist resorts. This includes the rather charming tradition that in larger cities, one way streets only allow parking on the odd numbered side on odd numbered days, and the even numbered side on even numbered days.

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