The British and Spanish governments are currently in talks discussing extending the validity of British driving licenses in Spain. But as it stands right now, if you live in Spain and you want to drive in the country then, at some point, you will need to secure a Spanish driving license. The current rules state that you can use your foreign driving license for the first six months of your stay in Spain if you are a third party national (including the UK) whilst if you are from an EU member state then you can use your home country license for the first two years of your stay: at this point, you must take and pass the Spanish driving test.
This means that if you are a tourist in Spain, or have a second home in Spain but never outstay the terms of the 90 day in each 180 day period visa rule, then you will be able to continue using your British driving license in Spain. But if you are living in Spain, or thinking of moving to Spain, then the following information will apply:
Rules for Driving in Spain
It’s important to note that when you drive in Spain you must follow the Spanish driving rules. One such rule is that you can’t get your driving license in Spain until you are 18 years old- even if you hold a license in your home country, therefore, if you are under 18 then you cannot drive in Spain. For those aged 18 or over, you are free to drive as you normally would (following Spanish road rules) until the deadlines outlined above come into play, at which point you must either exchange your foreign license or take a Spanish driving test (both practical and theory).
Driving in Spain if You Are a EU/EEA Citizen
If you are from an EU or EEA country, and your original driving license was secured in one of these countries then you can use this license to drive in Spain for the first two years of your stay in the country. Within six months of your arrival, you should register with the traffic authorities in the region where you are residing. You will also need to abide by the following rules, which apply to all Spanish driving license holders:
- Undertake a medical, conducted by an authorised Spanish doctor
- Meet the age restrictions for the vehicle you wish to drive
- Renew your license every two years. If your license from another EU country is renewed, it will be exchanged for a Spanish license.
- If you are given a Spanish license, this needs to be renewed every ten years.
If you are caught driving without a Spanish license, having been resident in the country for more than two years, then you will face a 200 euro fine. But you can voluntarily exchange your EU driving license for a Spanish one at any time: Simply visit the Provincial Traffic Headquarters and present the following documentation:
- application form
- identity card or passport
- proof of residence
- Your current valid driving license
- two recent passport sized photographs
- Declarations that you haven’t been banned or suspended from driving, and that you don’t hold any other drivers licenses
Driving in Spain if You are Not an EU/EEA Citizen
If you are a third party national (which includes the UK, now that Brexit has officially taken place) then the rules for driving in Spain are a little different. You can drive in Spain without exchanging your license for up to six months, but you will need to carry either an official translation of an International Driving Permit (IDP) if your original license is not written in Spanish. Securing an IDP is easy (in the UK, you can obtain one from the post office) and each IDP document is valid for one year.
Once you have been in Spain for longer than six months, you can no longer use your foreign driver's license, and this cannot be exchanged for a Spanish drivers license. Instead, you will need to take the full Spanish driving test (both theoretical and practical elements) to secure a Spanish driving license. If you don’t have Spanish residency then you can use a valid driving license along with an international driving license for one year. If your residency is not approved before the international driving license runs out, then you’ll be driving using an illegal license. But if at any point residency applies, the six-month rule comes into force.
Can I Simply Exchange my Driver’s License?
Spain currently has bilateral agreements with more than 20 countries, allowing drivers from these countries to simply exchange their licenses without having to retake their drivers test. At present, one of these agreements is not with the UK. If you fall into any of the categories below you can exchange your license, otherwise, as a third party national, you will be expected to take the Spanish driving test:
- Citizens of Andorra, Japan, Korea, and Switzerland can exchange their driving licenses for a Spanish license on presentation of an application form, valid license, residence permit, medical, two passport sized photographs, relevant declarations, and official translation of their existing driving license.
- Citizens of Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominical Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Macedonia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela can exchange their driving licenses for a Spanish license on presentation of an application form, valid license, resident permit, medical, two passport sized photographs and relevant declarations.
- Diplomats and members of international organisations based in Spain, as well as their families, can exchange their driving licenses without needing to retake a test, and must provide the same documentation outlined above.
- These same rules apply to those working within schools, military and police organisations, provided they currently hold a clean and valid driver’s license.
Will I Have to Take the Spanish Driving Test?
If you are a citizen of a country that isn’t outlined above, including the United States, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, or the UK, the in order to obtain a valid Spanish driving license, you will have to take the Spanish driving test in full. To do so you will need to apply at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico) with the following documents:
- a certificate of mental and physical fitness from the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado);
- an application form;
- two passport-sized photographs;
- your residence permit;
- proof of address in Spain;
- a declaration that there are no suspensions or legal cases preventing you from driving;
- a declaration that you don’t already hold a similar license.
Unlike in many other countries, you cannot be taught to drive by a friend of family member in Spain. Instead you must book your lessons through a recognised driving school and they will prepare you for both the written and practical elements of your test. Both of these tests are usually taken in Spanish, although there is an English version of the theory test that you can specifically ask for.
Passing the Spanish driving test can be hard work, but the good news is that, no matter how long you plan to live in Spain for, once you have taken and passed it, you will never have to take it again!
Passing your Spanish driving test and securing your Spanish driving license may not be in your plans but that shouldn’t put you off moving to and living in Spain! If you’re looking for estate agents in Southern Spain then why not get in touch? Our locally based property experts are a font of local knowledge, and are perfectly placed to help you find the home of your dreams.