- › Driving habits in Spain (When in Spain, do as the Spanish do)
- › What kind of a road sign is that?
- › How to read road signs
- › Driving regulations
- › International driving license
- › Toll roads and tunnels
We understand that no one wants to depend on public transport and renting a car gives you complete freedom where and when you will be during your vacation. You can drive to Pamplona to see the famous »Running with the bulls«, or drive along the Santiago de Compostela route that goes across the entirety of Spain. But first, check what kind of road signs they even have in Spain, as well as what other regulations you need to keep in mind.
Driving habits in Spain (When in Spain, do as the Spanish do)
Most cars in Spain have a manual transmission, which might cause a bit of a problem for the ones coming from the USA. But don't worry, it's not a disaster! You will have an option with every car rental agency to book an automatic car as well, but you will need to be prepared to pay a bit more for it as they are generally fewer of them available. Another option is to go old-school and drive a manual car. We promise that it's not as hard as it might seem.
While choosing what kind of a rental car you want for your next trip, be mindful that many of the older roads in Spain are quite narrow so its best to choose a smaller car that will fit in all the places that you want to visit. Of course, you need to also keep in mind the number of passengers and the amount of luggage that you have, but that is another story. The last thing to remember is that if you do not take additional insurance with the rental car, you will be responsible for any scratches and bumps that you sustain on it and with a smaller car the chances of that happening are quite a bit smaller.
What kind of a road sign is that?
No one wants to get a fine for breaking rules, right? So, before taking a car there are a few different types of road signs that you might encounter while enjoying the ride in your new rental car.
Information road signs
They are usually blue and white in color and a rectangular shape. These road signs give you information on a start and end of some kind of traffic situation (for example entering a residential area, parking is allowed, pedestrian crossing).
Warning road signs
These road signs are there to warn you of a possible dangerous traffic situation where you need to be especially careful. They are traditionally in a triangle shape, with a white center and red edge all around (examples of this kind of road signs are warnings for children, movable bridge and bad road surface). Exceptions are the Stop road sign which is standard all around Europe and the cross at a railway crossing.
Priority road signs
They mark spots where the normal priority rules are changed in some way, so they clarify what the new driving rule is. For example, the white square with the yellow center marks that you are entering a priority road.
Prohibitory road signs
These road signs mark that specific action is prohibited at that spot. They are in a round shape with a red edge and white center. On a crossroad, you might, for example, see a road sign with a number 60 written in it. This means that you are not allowed to exceed the speed limit of 60 km/h.
Mandatory road signs
They are there to inform you that a specific action is mandatory. The same as information road signs, these ones are a circular shape with a blue background and white markings. You will see them at the start of one-way streets, when entering a roundabout or when a lane or zone is reserved only for a specific type of vehicle.
How to read road signs
You will often see 2 different road signs one on top of another. If that is the case it means that both regulations are active at the same time. If you see a sign like that at the beggining of a town it means that the regulation applies to the entire town area.
Another rule of the road that you might not be used to is that if there is a sign with a speed limit and then a crossroad shortly after, the limit does not end there. It continues past all the crossroads until another road sign shows the speed limit crossed off.
The minimum age to be able to drive a car in Spain is 18 years. Most car rental agencies will, however, require that you are at least 21 to be able to rent a car, and be at least 25 years to avoid paying an additional young driver fee. We are sure that you are a very capable driver even before that age, but unfortunately not all car rental agencies agree. They consider young drivers a riskier age group, so they want to ensure themselves additionally with this.
As in most of Europe, the correct side of the road to drive on is on the right side and speeding on the left lane.
The speed limit in the cities is 50 km/h, when driving on open roads it's 90 km/h and on the highway its 120 km/h.
It's forbidden to wear sunglasses while driving through a tunnel (save the cool act for when you will be driving along the coast with the sunset behind you).
We do not approve of drinking and driving, but if you can't resist a glass of Sangria before driving onward, be sure that you stop there. The Spanish government has very high fines if they find out that you have over 0.5 gram/liter (0.25 mg/liter for the alcoholmeter), which is around 1 glass of wine or beer.
If you are traveling with children that are under the age of 12 or are under 135 cm in height you are required by law to have a child seat in the car. If you do not have your own, most car rental agencies will offer them for a fee, but its advisable to request it before you come to collect the car as they might not always have one available otherwise.
As in most countries, it's mandatory to have certain equipment in the car at all times, so be sure to check with the rental agency if your rental car already has everything to avoid paying a fine. The items needed are:
- Glasses (in case you need glasses, it's mandatory that you have a spare pair in the car at all times)
- Light bulbs (usually already in the car and provided by the rental agency)
- Warming triangle (2 are needed for all vehicles registered in Spain and 1 if they are from abroad)
- Visibility vest (they recently made it a compulsory part of the equipment)• First aid kit (it's not actually mandatory, but we strongly recommend you have it, just in case)
International driving license
If you are coming from a country that's outside of the European Union its mandatory by law to have an international driving license. This usually also applies to countries in Europe if the permit is not written in the English language. The same applies if your license is not written in Latin alphabet (for example Russian and Chinese). Having only an international driving license is not enough, as you will also need your original license issued by your country of residence. You will not be able to rent a car otherwise! If you are not sure whether you will need an International driving license or not, give us a call on +44 203 1295 406 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will check for you!
Toll roads and tunnels
If you will be driving a rental car around Spain you will probably be using their highways as well. Do note that similarly to many other European countries they have a toll system in place for use of highways that will charge you depending on the length of time spent on it as well as depending on the type of vehicle that you are driving. Normally you receive a machine printed ticket when entering the highway which you then pay when you exit it. They also developed a payment system called Via-T which pays for the toll gates automatically so that you don't even need to stop for it (pretty neat right?).
But tolls for highways are not the only ones that you might need to pay if you decide to rent a car there. They also charge passage for some of the tunnels, two of them that are worth noting are Tunel del Cadi and Tunels de Vallvidrera. The prices are from 4.5€ for Tunels de Vallvidrera up to 12€ for Tunel del Cadi. When you will be driving your rental car around the well-maintained roads of Spain, you will know exactly where the money from the tolls is going to!
Some car rental agencies will offer special service where you do not need to pay for tolls during your rental, but will instead get a final bill to pay when you return the rental car to pay it all together based on where you drove. If they do not offer this option, you will are able to pay for the tolls either with cash, credit card (which you need anyway to be able to rent a car) or Shell cards in some cases. If you are already planning the trip you will do with the rental car, you can find even calculate an estimated cost of the tolls depending on where you will drive here >>.
Payment sistem Via-T
It's an automated payment system that some car rental agencies can offer to ease the payment off tolls while driving. The device automatically charges you the appropriate amount when driving past a toll checkpoint, applying discounts if you are traveling along a particular part of the highway more often. You don't even need to stop for the payment to be done, just slow down to around 30 km/h so the sensor can register the device. If you want to read more you can check on how the payment system works, you can find additional information on viat.es >>