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This guide covers when you can drive in Spain using your ‘home’ driving licence, when you must apply for a Spanish driving licence and how to obtain one.
It describes, in particular, how to deal with driving licences in the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol. See a map here. Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one “autonomous community” (comunidad autónoma) to another.
Driving in Spain is not complicated, but you need to observe all traffic rules and signs and carry with you all relevant legal documents.
The rules that will apply in terms of paperwork depend upon whether you are a citizen of the European Union (and hold a driving licence from an EU country) or you come from somewhere else in the world.
Video guide to getting a driving licence in Spain
You can get a quick overview of driving licences in Spain by watching this video interview (below) with Spanish lawyer Miguel Manzanares. Learn more by scrolling down and reading the guide he has written with us.
Using your ‘home’ driving licence
As Spain is a member of the European Union, the provisions of EC directive 80/1263/EEC (available in several languages including Spanish and English) concerning the international use of driving licences within the EU will apply.
Driving a car you have temporarily brought to the Costa del Sol
If you have brought your car or vehicle, which is registered within an EU country, to Spain on a temporary basis (see our Guide to Importing a Car into Spain) you are allowed to drive it in Spain for a period of six months using your ‘home’ driving licence, or two months is you come from a EU country. You must be able to produce proof of ownership of the car.
The right is a strictly personal right. Only you, your spouse or children may use the car, or the persons specifically included in the insurance document.
These rules are as a result more of the restrictions on importing vehicles than they are the law relating to driving licences.
Driving any other car or vehicle
Under the EC Directive, the holder of a driving licence issued in a member state of the EU may drive a vehicle in Spain. They may only drive a vehicle of the type authorised by their licence.
This rule applies whether or not you are resident in Spain.
The right to use your licence continues for as long as the licence remains valid.
However, in the event you become resident, you must exchange your EU licence for a Spanish driving licence when you live permanently here –you have three months since the moment you become resident-, upon payment of a small fee (2016 – €30) and without taking a driving test. This is an important right because, once your ‘home’ driving licence has expired, you would otherwise have to apply for a driving licence in Spain and take a driving test.
If you exchange your licence the new Spanish licence will be valid for the remaining period of your original licence. At that point you have to apply for an extension. This may require a medical test.
Driving in Spain for non-European Union citizens
People visiting Spain on a temporary basis
A person coming to Spain for less than six months in any year may do either of the following:
International driving licences in Spain
An international driving licence (more properly called the International Driving Permit or IDP) is, as the name suggests, recognised internationally. This includes Spain.
There are two types of international driving permits. These are based on the two conventions under which various countries agreed to adopt them. Spain requires what is known as a “1949 Convention IDP”. The people who issue the permit will know this but it’s worth reminding them that it is the 1949 version you need.
The agency that issues IDPs is usually the main motoring association in your country. A Google search will reveal where you need to apply in your country.
An application for an IDP cannot be made more than three months before the date when you intend to use it. It is valid for 12 months. It must be used in conjunction with and presented with your own licence.
Although the IDP is valid for a period of 12 months, it can only be used in Spain at any one time for a period of six months. So, for example, you could go to Spain in January and remain there until April (four months) and then return in September and stay until the end of October (two months) using the same IDP.
The important thing is that you do not spend more than six months in the year in Spain driving on your combined ‘home’ driving licence and IDP.
Certified ‘home’ licence for use in Spain
As an alternative to obtaining an IDP, you can apply to the consulate of Spain in the country in which you live for them to certify that your national licence is valid. This, too, will usually last for one year.
The cost of obtaining an IDP varies from country to country but is typically about €25.
The cost of obtaining the certified copy of your own license at the consulate of Spain is also €25.
The choice probably comes down to what is more convenient for you.
Residents in Spain
If you are going to be in Spain for more than six months in the year or if you have a resident’s permit for Spain (even if you spend less than six months in the year there) you must obtain a Spanish driving licence.
In most cases this will be a simple administrative task, with no need to take a fresh Spanish driving test.
If you are not eligible for changing your driving licence into a Spanish one or you do not have a driving licence at all, you will need to obtain this licence from scratch.
To obtain a Spanish driving licence you need to do the following:
- Take a test concerning your knowledge of Spanish traffic law. The test will have two parts: written and driving –you need to pass the first part before been entitled to take the second. This test is usually done in Spanish, but the written part can also be done in English. However, whether an English version of the driving part is available will depend upon the region where you take this test. For the examination, you need to pay a €90 fee.
- Pass a medical examination showing that you are fit to drive. This will focus on your eyesight, your hearing and your reaction times. This medical report needs to be attached to the application for doing your Driving Test.The cost of a Spanish medical examination is €100 approx.
- Issuing of your driving licence.Once you have passed the driving test, you will receive the driving licence to the address you specify in your application.The licence will be valid for 10 years.
If you are going to settle in Spain, you definitely need a Spanish driving licence.
In the case of EU citizens, this is very simple and straightforward. For non EU citizens, it will depend on the country of origin and on what international or bilateral agreements are in place.
The easiest is to have a local office called a gestoría to do this for you. They specialise in this type of administrative and bureaucratic work. Your Lawyer may also be able to assist with this as they may include this service in their portfolio or work with a gestoría on an everyday basis for certain types of work, including this.