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    A guide to driving in Spain

    A comprehensive guide to driving in Spain

    If you've booked a holiday to Spain, it's well worth considering hiring a car for your break. Not only is this country an amazing place to hit the road, but having your own wheels will give you so much more freedom to explore as you please - not to mention make life easier if you have the kids in tow!

    It's understandable to feel a little apprehensive if you've never driven in Spain - or indeed overseas - before, but you'll soon find it's simple to get to grips with. Our handy guide will help verse you in the essentials so you can drive in Spain with confidence.

    Driving in Spain: the basics

    We'll start with the basics and go from there. In Spain, you drive on the right side of the road, and overtake on the left. Wearing a seatbelt is a legal requirement, while the use of mobile phones is restricted as it is in the UK - it's illegal to use them while driving unless you're using a hands-free kit.

    In terms of speed limits, on motorways and dual carriageways you can drive a maximum of 120 kmph. On roads with more than one direction that falls to 100 kmph, while on ordinary roads it's 90 kmph.

    What you need to have in the car

    There are several things you need to remember to have with you in the car while on the road - failing to do so often means receiving a fine! The most important elements are your driver's licence, as well as insurance documents for the vehicle, while you also need to keep reflective jackets and a warning triangle in the car. You also might need headlamp beam deflectors, depending on the car you are driving, to make sure you don't dazzle other drivers.

    Hiring a car in Spain

    If you're planning to drive in Spain, it's pretty likely you'll be hiring a car rather than using your own. To drive in Spain you need to be a minimum of 18 years old - but to hire a car you must be at least 21 and have had your licence for a year or more. It's also worth bearing in mind you'll occasionally need to pay a little extra if you're a younger driver, and that different types of cars carry different fees.

    Going back to the licence itself, your EU driving licence will be fine on its own, but an International Drivers Licence is recommended. It's not mandatory, though, so there's no cause for concern if you don't have one.

    Road tolls

    Expect to encounter tolls on most Spanish motorways - toll roads are marked by the letter A. Usually, there'll be an electronic system of payment called a Telepeaje or Via T - and at local banks you can pick up a small transmitter to attach to the windscreen to handle the payment, making things nice and simple.

    A quick note on signs

    Spain isn't a country that's known for its good signage, so even if you're planning on driving to a major attraction or city, don't count on there being clear signs to guide you. As such, it's best to plan your route in advance to make your journey as smooth as possible; if you're feeling ultra-organised, plan two in case your first choice doesn't work out. Plus, it's always worth carrying a decent map in the car!

    Fuel and petrol stations

    Spanish petrol stations are typically open from 08:00 to 20:00 local time - though if you're travelling on the motorway you'll often come across 24-hour stations too. Usually, credit cards are readily accepted as payment.

    Parking

    Road signs will indicate where parking needs to be paid for, and will direct you to a machine where you can pay. The key thing to look out for is 'Zona Azul' or 'Blue Zone' signs, which offer parking for limited amount of time, depending of how much you pay. You'll need to display the ticket you get from the machine in your car for these zones. If you have a disability, you'll find that foreign disabled permits are recognised in Spain - just make sure they're clearly displayed on the inside of the windscreen.

    Travelling with children

    If you'll be travelling with children, make sure you get to grips with what's needed in terms of booster seats and restraint systems. Kids up to the age of 12 and less than 135 cm tall must be seated in a suitable child seat and restraint whether they are travelling in the front or back seats.

    Other useful information

    Here are a few other things that are worth bearing in mind:

    • Dipped headlights must be used in tunnels - remember to turn them off again when you emerge during daylight hours.
    • The Spanish tend to drive very fast and quite aggressively. On motorways, it's best to stick to the right-hand lane and only overtake if absolutely necessary.
    • Emergency telephones are found at 2 km intervals along motorways.
    • There are four main rush hours in the cities - between 08:00 and 09:30, 12:30 and 14:30, 15:30 and 17:00, and 18.30 and 20:30.