For Britons living in Spain, it is now no longer possible to start the process of exchanging your UK driving license for a Spanish one. Instead, if you have recently moved to Spain or are hoping to move to Spain and drive when you arrive, then you will need to pass the Spanish driving test. Here’s everything you need to know about the whole process of applying for your Spanish driving licence, and some hints and tips to ensure you pass your Spanish driving test:
Do I Need to Get My Spanish Driving License?
The first question you’re likely to ask is whether or not you need to apply for your Spanish driving license at all. If you’re planning to rent a car in Spain in the short term (whilst you’re on vacation, or spending a few weeks in the country house hunting, for example) then you simply need a international drivers permit (IDP). If you’re pulled over by the police for any reason, you need to show your IDP in conjunction with your passport.
If you have Spanish residency, however, you can only drive using an IDP for up to six months after your residency has been approved. At that stage, you will need to go through the process of applying for your Spanish driving license if you want to drive in Spain.
Countries with Exemption
This information is largely for those Spanish residents originally from the UK and the United States. Individuals from the following countries can trade in their national license for a Spanish one without taking a driving test: they simply need to complete some paperwork and pay a small fee. Those countries are: Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Individuals from countries inside the EU or the EEA are also free to drive in Spain with their current licenses, with no need to worry about taking new tests or completing any paperwork.
How Long Will It Take?
Just like passing your driving test in the UK (or anywhere else in the world) this is a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question, and will depend on whether you are already an experienced driver, and whether you pass your tests first time. If you can already drive, and are able to read and understand Spanish road signs, expect the process to take around six months. If you don’t already have this experience of driving in Spain, allow at least eight months for the process to take place from start to finish.
Before you can get behind the wheel at all, you will need to pass a theory exam. At that stage, you will be able to begin your formal driving lessons and then you can take your practical exam. There are two exams that you have to take and pass in total.
A List of the Documents You Will Need
Like any bureaucratic process in Spain, there is some paperwork involved in applying to begin your driving lessons in Spain. You will need to provide:
- Two passport sized photographs (35X32mm)
- A health document (obtained from any Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores) plus a photocopy of this document
- Your residence permit (NIE or TIE)
- Receipt showing you have paid the correct fees (currently €92,20). You can find this form (known as the Expedición de permisos de circulación form) HERE
You can’t get your health document until you have been though a ‘fitness to drive’ examination: this is a 20-30 minute physical and mental health test that will check things like your sight, hearing and reflexes. You must take this test within 90 days of your driving exam, as it is only valid for a 90 day period.
Registering at a Driving School
The easiest way to get through your test is to register with a driving school, known as an autoescuela. Before you commit to working with a school and pay your registration fee, check that the school are able to offer you lessons or practice tests in English, unless you are a fluent Spanish speaker. Most tourist areas will have at least one driving school that offers this service to non-Spanish speakers.
Not only will your driving school be able to offer your driving lessons (if you need them) and access to practice tests, they will also be able to book in your theory and practical tests, as well as your health document test, saving you the time and headache involved in organising all of these things independently.
Passing the Theory Test
You can take your driving theory test in either English or Spanish, depending on which makes you feel most comfortable. It is also available in French, Italian, German.
The test comprises of 30 questions, and these are multiple choice questions. Many of these are easy to work out if you’re a competent driver, but the format of the questions can take a little getting used to, so it’s worth taking as many online practice tests as you possibly can. The more practice tests you can take, the more likely you are to pass your theory test the first time. It is worth noting that the English version of the test can be a little confusing to read, with the grammar of the question often being lost in translation: you’ll get used to it, but this can be very off putting at first.
Passing the Practical Test
When you feel you’re ready to take your practical test, the day you are able to take it will be determined by your driving school. Each driving school is assigned a day that their pupils can take the exam by the DGT: neither you nor your school will have any say about this calendar, so prepare to be flexible. If you fail your first test (most people do!) then you can take it again as many times as you need, but you will have to wait for the next set date to be available.
On the day that you take your test, you will go with your driving instructor in the school’s car and wait until an examiner comes out to meet you. You’ll usually go in a group of 5-6 and the examiner will determine the schedule with which you’ll take your turn to drive, so be ready. In order to pass, you will need to remain as calm as possible, and remember all of the driving rules of the road (this is especially important if you’re a confident driver who has been driving for years). Pay attention to road signs and speed limits, use your mirror (and then use them again), and generally drive like you would if you were bringing your first-born home from the hospital!
The Cost of Taking Your Driving Test in Spain
Securing your Spanish driving license isn’t cheap. The average cost of everything you need to pass your test is between 800-1200€. If you don’t need to take very many lessons (if you already have extensive experience of driving in Spain, for example) then you may find that the cost is much lower. To help you better understand the costs involved, here is a breakdown of the costs you can expect to face:
- Health document (the ‘fitness to drive’ test) -25€
- Driving school registration fee-59€
- Theory exam-92€
- Driving lessons-25€ each
- Practical exam-123€
Passing your Spanish driving test and securing your Spanish driving license may be hard work, 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.