US Citizen Driving in Spain
International Driving Permit (IDP)
is a permit to use your home-country driver's license temporarily in another country.
It's for tourists, not residents. I think you can't use it for more than 3 or 6 months in Spain ?
Getting a Spanish car driver's license
Must have residencia to take the driver's license tests. But you may be able to start taking driving lessons before you have residencia.
Wagoners Abroad's "Obtaining A Spanish Drivers License"
justlanded!BCN's "Spanish Driving License"
Just Landed's "Driving licenses for Spain"
/r/Barcelona's "Spanish driving licence"
COMO's "Getting a Driver's License in Spain"
Wagoners Abroad's "Driving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs"
SpainExpat forum's "Driving in Spain: Licenses and Regulations"
Sunshine and Siestas's "On the Road Again: Getting a Driver's License in Spain, Part I"
Sunshine and Siestas's "On the Road Again: Getting a Driver's License in Spain, Part II"
Love From Andalucia's "Driver's license"
Eye On Spain's "So You Need to Get a Spanish Driver's Licence"
Metropolitan Barcelona's "Q&A: Driving Licences"
Kate's Travel Tips' "How to get your driver's license in Spain"
From /u/DilithiumCrystals on reddit:
From /u/LupineChemist on reddit:
[Re: experienced driver from other country getting license in Spain:]
Canadian here. I have lived through this. Prepare yourself for an absolute nightmare.
- You have to go through the entire certification process as if you were an 18 year old Spaniard.
- You have to sign up with an Autoescuela. There is NO REASONABLE WAY to get the license on your own.
A few tips:
- There is a simplified version of the theory test which uses simplified Spanish. You must request this version when you sign up.
I think there are various language options as well but cannot confirm (I believe someone told me that the questions are poorly worded
and confusing and therefore it is not recommended to do it this way).
- There is a process by which you can at least get the government to credit you for existing experience (for cheaper insurance rates).
After you get your license you will need to bring a translated copy of your drivers history from home.
- The BEST way to prepare for the theory test is to do all of the sample tests on the DGT website.
- You can only fail two of the tests, so if you fail the theory twice, you have to pay and start over again.
If you pass the theory the first time, then you have two tries at the road test.
- The road tests are very difficult - they are not checking to see if you are a good driver, just to see if you
have prepared well for the road test, so I recommend at least a couple of hours with the driving instructor.
- Driving instructors in Spain are a special breed - I have had a few and they are all a bit special - hard to describe,
but they seem to be determined to show you how inferior you are.
- Shop around for a cheap driving school. Phone 10. Don't go the Groupon route, as they end up being more expensive.
Some of the schools have pretty reasonable package prices. I went to Laietana and was satisfied.
- You will need to do the farcical physical test - they will take your picture there.
Do NOT attempt to do the exam in English. The translation is terrible and between bad translation and what there
is being in UK English (where driving terms tend to diverge a bit), just learn the Spanish version.
Woman Solo's "The Spanish driving test ~ lost in translation"
From /u/gnark on reddit:
It'll cost a minimum of 300-400 euros to take the theoretical test and driving test (with a driving school's) car and
your medical exam. Most driving schools will offer a pack that costs around 600+ euros including the above
(minus the medical exam) and some theoretical classes of limited use and a handful of driving lessons.
You mostly just need to take practise tests online / cell app until you have memorized all the b.s. they'll ask about,
but the practical test must be done with a driving school's car. Bite the bullet, pay for a pack, get'er done.
From /u/chemcat392 on reddit:
Since pretty much everything has been covered already, I will only add that the pratical lessons and exams are done
with manual transmission / stick shift cars.
From /u/gnark on reddit:
You can request an automatic but then will only be licensed to drive an automatic.
From /u/alaninsitges on reddit:
I'm going through this right now (1/2015), and can add a few things to what's been said.
A local driving school gave me a price of 275€ for the theory classes and test,
plus I can do practice sessions at around 40€ per. They recommended that I do one or two
of those primarily so they can point out bad habits I've picked up over the years that will
cause me to flunk the test (one hand on the wheel, not signaling soon enough, etc).
Be aware that the theoretical test is almost completely comprised of trick questions and misleading multiple-choice answers.
You need to memorize the questions by rote from the practice tests.
There is an option to take the test in English but I wouldn't recommend it for an American (I had the English-language
manuals from the RACC school a couple of years ago that included sample tests) - when they say English they mean it.
Lots of bangers, barristers, boots and bonnets. I was completely lost. I have heard that the "simple Spanish"
version isn't so tricky but haven't seen it.
Your US license will give you a couple of benefits: insurance will be cheaper because they take into consideration
the length of time you've been driving, and you don't have to display the L
oser sign in your car window.
From someone on CAB FB group 1/2016:
People should be aware that the option to do the normal car licence multiple-choice theory test
isn't in "proper" English, but only in a very very approximate google-style auto-translation
of the original Spanish, which just makes a lot of the questions actually very difficult to grasp.
Additionally it's only the multiple-choice computerised theory exam for the CAR driving test that's
available in this non-Spanish version at some driving schools.
The theory exam for the Motorcycle licence and other special/additional vehicle licences is
only in Spanish. And of course the actual practical driving test for all and any licence here
in Spain that you must then take once you've passed the theory part, is always conducted in Spanish.
The special re-test course/exam ("curso de sensibilizacion y reeducacion vial") to get your licence back
after you've been banned (eg for drink-driving) in Spain is in Spanish.
From people on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
You have to go to autoescuela (not just because it's helpful, which it is, because there are things that are different from the US,
but also because that's the law -- you can't get a license till you've gone to autoescuela).
They teach you to pass the written test, then you have to do a certain minimum number of "practical"
classes before you are allowed to do the driving test. Most kids need a lot more than the minimum,
but if you already know how to drive you will get away with that amount (think it's 12). You also need to
do a "psicotecnico", a medical exam that certifies that you can see and have reflexes,
with a special private doctor, before you can begin practical classes. Altogether the thing's gonna cost you a good €1000.
I'm in the process of getting it now. I just passed the theory test the other day. On the theory test there are 30 questions
and you are only allowed to have 3 mistakes. I recommend that for the theory test you do a lot of practice tests.
It helps to go to the classes in the autoescuela but the questions can be somewhat tricky and have technical vocabulary
so the practice tests helped a lot.
The whole process is quite pricey. My driving school (to go to classes, the book, online access to tests, etc)
cost 265 euros, the psicotecnico cost 50 euros, the fee for the theory/practical exams is 90.30 euros and at
least at my driving school every practice driving lesson cost 22 euros without tax.
I took the written exam without going to driving school and then had to matriculate in a school to do the driving portion.
You can save some money via that route, and the questions on the tests are usually taken from the free online tests on their website.
... you only have 6 months following receipt of residency approval to obtain your Spanish driver's license
or you will be socked with a 600 Euro fine if pulled over! Next, here in Spain, you must go to a driving school
and have them present you to Trafico for the examination and practical road test. Note: YOU CANNOT PRESENT YOURSELF as
we do in the US. Someone from a school must request the appointments and take you. ...
I paid about €400-500 and finished in less than 3 months. The Groupon deals are pretty good if you already know how
to drive a stick and the school is close to you.
From Sara Beyer on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
For those of you getting your license here in Spain and not wanting to spend a bunch of money, it's definitely doable for under 300€.
I am doing the theory exam "por libre" which means I'm not going to an autoescuela. I borrowed the book from a friend and am studying it
and doing exams on the dgt website to practice. The tasa for the exams is 90.30€ and that covers both the theory exam and the driving test.
You must get a medical note (certificado medico) to apply to take your exam. That cost me 40€.
I'll probably do a few practice hours with a driving school and I got a quote for 20€ an hour.
Let's say I do 3 or so since I've driven here before that's 60€. Then the fee to use the examiners car for the exam - 40€ I believe.
In total I'll be spending about 230€ to get my license.
1) First go get your certificado medico from one of these places:
Note that this is ONLY valid 90 days so you must be taking your exams within those 3 months.
2) You need to make an appointment (or just go in depending on where you are) to the Jefatura de Trafico in your region:
You must bring a carnet photo, your certificado medico, a credit card to pay there (check on types of payment
accepted in your jefatura) - or the tasa which you can get online, and the solicitud which you can get
(note you may have to print 3 and just write the same thing on all 3 since it's not the carbon copy), plus your NIE.
At that appointment they will let you choose a date to take your theory exam. You pick a date and come it and take it at that time.
Go in and ask how much clases sueltos are, or if you want to buy a bono for 10 classes, most autoescuelas have those to
purchase as well. Do as many classes as you feel you need, and then you'll have to apply to take your drivers test basically
the same as the theory - you go in to jefatura and you pick a date - using the solicitud and tasa you've already
filled out and paid above. You will have to pay the autoescuela to use their car for the exam like I stated above.
The one drawback with doing everything through the autoescuela is that they charge you to go into the jefatura de trafico for
you - about 40 euros each time they go in. That's 80 euros for them to go to two appointments. Since I had time,
and little money, I couldn't justify paying that, but I have been in contact with an autoescuela here and the
guy is letting me come in and sit through classes where they do tests so that's been nice! If I didn't have the time
and had more money, I'd definitely go for the autoescuela because I know they definitely help a lot!
Good ones that is - I've gone to a few here that were not very kind, so I kept searching and finally got lucky.
Follow up: I went to the Jefatura de Trafico in Malaga yesterday morning to take the exam.
They take you into a huge room with a ton of computers and you need your NIE with you.
The exam is exactly the same as the practice exams on the dgt website in format.
The questions were mostly easy - and then there are always 4 difficult ones. You take the exam
and when you're finished, you just walk out. They post the results the following day on the dgt website.
So I passed! Doing it "por libre" was the best option for me. Just remember to do a lot of practice exams
online. Also there's a website called todotest where you can practice more (although their exams are extremely
difficult in comparison to the real exam - I was failing exams the day before the exam on their site, freaking out).
But all is well!! Now on to do the behind the wheels.
From someone on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group 6/2016:
I got my license in a mid-sized city. Studied in Spanish and took the test in English.
My practice exams in English were translated horribly but the exam didn't have any mistakes on it.
They must've hired someone to fix the issue.
In terms of price, it's cheaper in bigger cities. So maybe try and do it in a city with a lot of driving schools where
there's more competition. Don't expect not to do any behind the wheel. You probably need between 5 and 10 to get
used to the tricks of the city.
From someone else on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group 12/2016:
I passed my driving test yesterday. Cost me about 180 Euros for the theoretical and practical tests plus 250 Euros
for 10 lessons at a driving school (single lessons would have cost 27.50 per 45 minute lesson).
The lessons were well worth the money because even though I already knew how to drive the instructor
showed me the minutiae of Spanish traffic laws that would have kept me from passing on my own,
even if I was allowed to do it that way. The actual road test took about 20 minutes after 4 hours of waiting
for my turn and, just like the theoretical, they don't let you know right away.
I live in Almunecar and took the test in Motril. You have to be a resident to take the exam but they give the
theoretical exam in English. The driving test is in Spanish but it's not like you have to carry on a detailed
conversation on the ramifications of Brexit on the European Union. Left, right, change direction, first exit,
second exit, etc. I had an instructor who spoke enough English to help me learn the rules and he spoke to me
when needed like an examiner would. When I started they gave me a list of 35 words to learn but less
than 20 of those were actually used.
Just keep in mind that the tests are written to the level of 17 year olds with no previous driving experience.
If you know how to drive a standard transmission car and have years of experience you are already way ahead
of the average applicant. For me the hardest part was finding a school that had an English speaking driving
instructor because Almunecar has very few expats. ...
... I have a book but it was taking the practice exams over and over that got me passed. If I never had the book
it would have been the same result. ...
From someone on "Madrid Expats" Facebook group:
I have always heard people talking about the expense, the expense, but I think it's expensive because either
people need many more driving classes because they don't know how to drive or don't know how to drive a stick
AND/OR they fail a number of times. People fail these tests A LOT. One of the women in the car with me for
my driving test had already failed the driving part twice and unfortunately she also failed that day.
When they tell you to take the practice tests dozens and dozens of times, it's not a lie. There is literally
no other way to pass. The car classes were worth it to have my "bad habits" pointed out (eg, one hand on
the steering wheel, not looking in the rearview enough, etc) and to know what was expected.
From someone on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
The most common way to fail [the practical test] is either not stopping properly or not stopping at a zebra crossing.
Those 2 items are automatic failures. Everything else costs you points and it takes 10 points to fail.
We asked at a driver's school in Barcelona 7/2016:
Registration fee: €150.
Theory exam: €98.
A month of theory classes (could go every day ?): €100.
10 driving lessons of 45 mins each: €250.
Driving test at trafico: €38 to school plus €90 to trafico.
IVA 21% on everything.
Total €860; summer special (no registration fee) gives €660 ? The numbers don't add up.
Medical cert: maybe €40.
We asked at a driver's school in Jerez de la Frontera 9/2016:
The theory classes aren't lectures by the instructor; students go through tests and material online
with the instructor standing by to answer questions.
Registration fee: €50.
Theory classes: €200.
10 driving lessons of 45 mins each: €150.
Additional driving lessons of 45 mins each if needed: 6 for €120.
Driving test at trafico: €50 to school.
IVA included in the prices given.
Medical cert: maybe €20.
Driver's study manual online:
Theory test online:
Apparently medical certificate involves: vision test, blood-pressure check, co-ordination test, maybe a hearing test, and ask about
any medications you're taking.
Motorcycle and moped licenses:
Electric bicycles (eBike, pedelec):
Electric-Bicycle-Guide's "What's the difference between pedelecs and e-bikes?"
Maybe try renting an electric bike (from Hertz ?), or going on a tour that uses them, before buying.
From someone on /r/Spain
Anything that doesn't meet this criteria is considered a motorcycle and requires helmet, license and insurance:
"las bicicletas con pedaleo asistido, equipadas con un motor electrico auxiliar, de potencia nominal continua
maxima de 0,25 kilovatios, cuya potencia disminuya progresivamente y que finalmente se interrumpa cuando la
velocidad del vehiculo alcance los 25 km/h, o antes si el ciclista deja de pedalear; ni a sus componentes
o unidades tecnicas, salvo si estan destinados a ser montados en los vehiculos previstos en la presente Directiva".
[I read that to say bicycles and pedelecs don't require anything, but throttled-electric
does require helmet, license and insurance.]
[About sources of this specification:
vehiculosconingenio's "Normativa Legal"
From someone else on /r/Spain
Electric-Bicycle-Guide's "Electric Bicycle - Laws, Insurances, Accidents and Initiatives"
CAB's "Electric Bikes - Differences and the Law"
CAB's "E-Bikes, E-Scooters - Insurance and ITV"
ciudadesporlabicicleta's "Informe sobre Bicicletas Electricas" (PDF)
bikelec's "Acelerador o asistencia al pedaleo"
of the Madrid official website has links to both a compilation of the Spanish national traffic regulations
("Extractos del Reglamento General de Circulacion referentes al uso de la bicicleta")
and the Madrid local ones. It's very important to remember that road regulations and city regulations are separate,
and each city has a different set of rules, so you need to check both.
Most of the information you seek is in
I'll give you a TL;DR:
- If your electric bike has a motor of more than 0,25kw of continous power, then it's considered a motorbike.
You need to wear a helmet at all times, buy insurance, and you can only use it in the causeway of normal
roads (outside a city). It cannot be used in highways or expressways. Inside a city, it has to follow
the same traffic rules as any other motor vehicle.
- If it has a motor of up to 0,25kw, or no motor at all, then it's considered an ordinary bike.
On a normal road (outside a city), bikes have to go wayside - unless it is considered dangerous,
in which case you can ride them on the causeway temporarily - and you have to wear a helmet.
They cannot be used in highways or expressways. Inside a city, the rules depend on that city.
Most of them have banned their use on sidewalks. In some places you might be fined if you don't
wear a helmet and in some others they don't really care. In general, you are required to have
a front and back light, as well as reflective elements, when riding one at night.
I'd like to remark once more that it is important to check the rules of the city where you are using the bike.
For instance, bikes are usually told to ride on the right side of the lane, but in Madrid the new rules
say you have to do it right in the middle (which apparently has caused a fair share of arguments and confusion).
Some idea of lowest prices:
€600 at Carrefour mid-2015
Renting a car
Various people recommend: Avis, EasyOption.
Various people recommend AGAINST: Record car hire, Firefly.
"The cheap car hire companies insist you use their insurance and pay for a full tank of petrol.
That's how they make money. Better to go with a big name, eg Europcar."
Just Landed's "Car rental"
Various people recommend: Linea Directa, Abbeygate, Balumba, Liberty Seguros.
"Try Rastreator comparison site. I got a quote last year about half what I was paying Linea Directa and LD matched it !"
Apparently if you get a document from your state DMV (maybe through US consulate) in USA saying how long you've been driving,
this will reduce your car insurance rate in Spain, and maybe let you drive without a "L" on the car ?
Translate it and give it to DGT for "antiguedad" ?
From someone on "The American Society of Barcelona" Facebook group:
I went through this. I had to get a paper from the DMV from my state (CA) requesting my driving history.
Then I had to get that paper apostilled. Then argue with the DGT here because they think the consulate should provide
it like every other country. But it's confirmed that it's a state document. After talking with a manager who knew more, they accepted my document.
From someone else on "The American Society of Barcelona" Facebook group:
Ask for a letter from your state's Secretary of State office stating how long you've had your license.
And then you get it translated and with a copy of your DL, that should suffice!
From someone on "Spain Immigration and Residency Questions" Facebook group:
Be sure to get your driving recorded stamped with the apostille of The Hague before it's mailed out to you.
If you don't have it stamped, apparently your alternative is to get it authorized at the u.s. consulate and
then take it to the ministerio de asuntos exteriores to get authorized as well.
Just Landed's "Car insurance"
Importing, Buying, Selling a car
- Importing a car:
Headlights and tail-lights have to be changed, large import fees, taxes, registration, etc.
Maybe not worth doing. Typical cost around €1000 ? Varies by age and origin and engine size and emissions of car.
From people on reddit:
You may have to make modifications to make it legal in Spain. Most cars in Spain are smaller than those in the US - roads
are narrower, parking spots smaller and generally less parking. Gas is more expensive. What will you do if the
Spanish authorities will not accept your vehicle ?
I think it would not be worth the time, trouble or money to ship a car to Spain. Save the shipping fee, sell your car and buy another in Spain.
You need to homologate the car to local market regulations such as headlights, wipers, bumper height, headlight throw,
different emissions, etc. Not to mention the car that you may may not even exist there; even if the same model
does, the variant and engine choice may not. And then think about having to sell it or transport it back.
It's a lot of paperwork and potentially physical work involved.
Just Landed's "Importing a car"
Ibex Insurance's "Re-matriculation to Spanish plates"
Expat Agency Spain's "You are forced to change the car plate in Spain"
- Buying a new car:
If you get €1000 government rebate for efficient car (PIVE), that money is taxable on your income tax return.
Autofacil's "Cuanto pagaras a Hacienda si te has acogido al Plan PIVE?"
- Buying a used car:
From someone on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group 8/2016:
Used car prices are much higher in Spain than the UK. For instance, a 2004 Opel Astra with 84,000 miles
from a dealer will set you back around €4,500 and a 2004 Kia Picanto with 102,000 miles is around €2,000.
I think a dealer has to provide a warranty by law here, so worth checking. These prices do not include
transfer charges, which are around €200 - €400. ... used cars do tend to be more reliable here,
not being exposed to the harsh UK climate ...
Summarized from discussion on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group 12/2016:
Fees to Trafico will be (ITP of) 4% to 6% of the value (as they value it, not what you paid for it) plus €60 or so.
There is a Banco de España listing (official state notice) for latest values.
Just Landed's "Buying a Car"
Just Landed's "Selling a Car"
Just Landed's "How to register your car in Spain"
BlogCocheSegundaMano's "Como calcular el impuesto de transmisiones de un coche de segunda mano"
- Selling a car:
Make sure the buyer actually does submit the paperwork to the government,
else you may get billed for taxes and violations years later.
Whoever owns a car on January 1st has to pay the Impuesto Sobre Vehículos de Tracción Mecánica (IVTM) tax for that year.
Expats in Spain's "Buying and Selling a Car in Spain" (PDF)
BarcelonaYellow's "Driving in Barcelona and Spain"
"N332" Facebook page (Torrevieja Traffic Department; driving tips, scam warnings, questions about laws, etc)
N332 web site (not same as N332 Facebook page)
SpainMadeSimple's "Car & Road Tax in Spain"
Europa's "Car registration and taxes - Spain"
Buscamultas (see if you have any traffic fines)
DGT's "You have received a traffic violation ticket"
DGT's "Consulta de Puntos" (see points taken off your license)
Family in Spain's "We've Been Driving Illegally in Spain ... Luckily, We Got Caught!"
Family in Spain's "Paying Traffic Fines in Spain: This Time We Refuse To Pay!"
This page updated: April 2017.
Please send any comments to me.
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