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Driving in Spain: driving licence validity and driving laws

driving in Spain passeig de Gràcia

A lot of visitors come to Barcelona by car. The driving rules are similar to many EU countries but there a few things to bear in mind.

Principles of Spanish driving legislation

Car insurance

In Spain, as in the rest of the EU you can only drive with a valid licence and car insurance. With regard to insurance:

  • If you are coming from an EU country, Switzerland, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Norway or Croatia you don’t need to take any special steps. A driving licence from your country is sufficient.
  • If you come from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belarus, Israel, Iran, Morocco, Moldova, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Tunisia, Turkey, Russia or Ukraine, you need to obtain a green card before your departure for civil liability insurance.
  • Finally, if you come from another country you will need to register for border insurance.

Which goes to show it is sometimes very easy to rent a car on the spot!


The police don’t mess around when it comes to fines, and even less so when it comes to foreign cars. If you park badly or park without paying you are sure to get a ticket. And this goes for other infractions too. In Barcelona inspectors are a common sight and the fines are particularly large.

If you do get stuck with a fine, pay it immediately. You receive a 50% discount on the fine if you pay it within 20 days. To do this, go to the traffic service (dirección general del tráfico, DGT) at 184, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes.

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You can also pay your fine over the phone by calling 060 from Spain (in Spanish) or on the DGT site (in Spanish), in the post office or at branches of the Santander bank.


If you haven’t paid your fine and you live in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy or Germany you can get points on your licence. These countries have signed a very effective cross-border police and customs agreement.

Bear in mind that if you pay your fine on the spot you will receive no penalty points.


If your vehicle is impounded (it happens more often than you would think…), follow the recommendations in our article Impounded in Barcelona: where and how to recover your car?

Other rules

Children under 1.5 metres must sit in the back in a car seat and children under 12 are not permitted to sit in the front seat.

It is strictly forbidden to drive while speaking on the phone, except with a hands free kit. The level of alcohol in the blood should not exceed 0.5g/litre. In the case of an accident, it is imperative that you signal your car with two triangles and wear a reflective vest. You should also have spare lights in your vehicle.


Driving licence

If you are visiting Barcelona as a tourist

If you are driving in Barcelona but you don’t live there, there are two scenarios:

  • You are coming from an EU member state, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein: Your driving licence from your own country is sufficient, and there are no further steps to take.
  • You are coming from another country: before leaving, get an international driving licence from the authorities in your country. There is no test to pass, it is simply an administrative process.

If you live in Barcelona

In this case you should register to change your driving licence (even if you are from an EU country). You have two years from the time you arrive, to carry out this process.

To do this you will need to make an appointment at the DGT, choosing “área conductores” after selecting Barcelona here. On the appointed day, head along equipped with the following documents:

  • Valid ID stating your current place of residence (passport, NIE or identity card if you come from an EU country).
  • Your driving licence
  • A completed form (available there)
  • An original photo measuring 32 x 26 mm.
  • A written declaration stating that you have not been forbidden from driving.
  • A written declaration stating that you are not in possession of another driving licence.

The process will cost you around €30.

Whatever your situation, remember you must change your registration plates if you bring your car to Spain. Only Spanish plates are permitted for cars belonging to people residing in Spain.

Happy driving!


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