If you have an EU photo driving licence or a paper licence that was issued from 1990 onwards you can legally drive in Spain.
If your licence was issued before 1990 you must obtain an official Spanish translation of the licence, which you can get from the Spanish Embassy in London or from the Real Automobile Club de España if you’re already in Spain.
To be honest, if your licence was issued prior to 1990, it’s probably easier to apply for a new EU licence through the DVLA. The plastic photo part can be used as an ID card in Spain. By law you must always carry photo ID in Spain so it’s very useful to have as it saves you having to carry your passport all the time.
If you are living permanently in Spain the UK Government advises you to apply for a Spanish driving licence. This is because they will not issue a UK licence with a overseas address on it, nor will they post a UK licence renewal or application overseas. (Spanish driving licences are valid when driving in the UK.)
This means, unless you have an address in the UK, and if you lose your UK driving licence you will not be able to apply for a replacement in the UK. Also, if you incur a driving penalty in Spain, you will be forced to apply for a Spanish driving licence in order to have points deducted from your licence. (In Spain points are deducted rather than added for diving offences.)
If you drive a motorbike, scooter or moped in Spain, make sure your UK licence covers you to drive a bike in Spain. There is some confusion over the A category on older UK licenses which appears on the paper part of the licence only and is not accepted by the Spanish traffic office as valid – even though it covers you to drive a bike up to 125cc in the UK. If in doubt, go to the traffic office with your licence and ask them.
How to apply for a Spanish driving licence
To apply for a Spanish driving licence contact the Jefatura Provincial de Trafico in your area. In Barcelona this is at:
Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes 184, Barcelona 08071
Tel: 932 986 539 / 932 986 548 / 932 986 567 / General info: 060
Fax: 934 228 843
For other regions visit this website to find your local office: www.dgt.es
For many none EU residents the driving licence is valid for the first six months of living in Spain, after that you must apply for a Spanish licence.
Taking your driving test in Barcelona
There are two parts to the Spanish driving test, theory and practical. Now, you can have lessons and take your test in English – for learning to drive a car only. If you want to learn to drive a moped or motorbike you have to do those tests in Spanish.
Autoescuela Corsa, based in Sant Gervas and Sarriá, run courses in English, and you can choose from an intensive course or a weekly course.
Autoescuela Corsa have three centres:
Calle Mandri 41, Sant Gervasi, Barcelona. Tel: 93 253 1370.
Cornet i Mas 69, Sarria. Tel: 932 042 952.
Calle Beethoven 16, Sant Gervasi. Tel: 932 003 324.
Importing a Car to Spain
A UK national can bring a car into Spain, as long as they have owned it for more than six months and they must have paid VAT on the car, otherwise you need to pay the VAT tax in Spain. If you take up official residence in Spain you don’t pay import tax. However, you can only drive the car for six months a year! You must also register the car with the local authorities, and they will give you permission to drive the car with UK plates.
If you are moving to Spain for more than six months, it’s best to apply for Spanish registration plates. The Real Automóvil Club de España can give you help and advice on this, but this is what needs to be done.
First of all you need to have your NIE and your empadronamiento. You must take your car to a garage here in Spain for an ITV certificate – this is the equivalent of the MOT in the UK – and checks the roadworthiness or road safety of your car as well as the emissions. When your car passes this test you will be give a Arietta de Inspection Technical.
Once that’s done take all your paperwork (NIE and empadronamiento) including all the existing paperwork for your car from your home country, such as vehicle registration, insurance, driving licence… to the Traffic Department (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico). You may be asked for proof of address so take either a rental contract or utility bill in your name and you will need photo ID such as your passport.
The traffic office usually ask for a ‘baja‘ from your original country. This means a certificate issued from your home country which states that the car is no longer registered in that country. However, in most other countries this is something which is not issued – in fact it can happen in the opposite way – your home country needs a certificate of registration from Spain in order to unregister the car in your home country. Therefore you need to explain this to the traffic office and push to register your car without the baja.
The Barcelona Traffic Office or Jefatura Provincial de Trafico (referred to locally as La Campana):
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 184, 08071 Barcelona.
Tel: 932 986 539 / 932 986 548 / 932 986 567
Fax: 934 228 843
Opening times: Monday – Thursday: 8.30am – 3pm. Friday: 8.30am – 1.30pm.
Holidays and Summer: 9am – 1.30pm.
Madrid Traffic Office:
Directorate-General of Customs in Madrid
Dirección General de Aduanas, C/ Guzmán el Bueno 137, 28003 Madrid
Tel: +34 91 553 02 00
Fax: +34 91 553 52 42
Use a gestor
If you don’t speak Spanish you will need to employ a gestor. They will guide you through the process of registering a vehicle in Spain and / or obtaining a Spanish driving licence. Gestors will manage any Spanish administration for you including getting your NIE in Barcelona.
Please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org for recommended gestors.
Car Hire in Barcelona
There are all the usual car hire companies in Barcelona, such as Avis, Hertz and many budget companies. If you have your NIE you can use Avancar.
Avancar hire cars by the hour which works out much cheaper than a daily hire if you only need a car for a short time. This is only worthwhile if you need hourly car hire on a fairly regular basis as you have to become a member and pay an annual subscription (although it’s not expensive): www.avancar.es.
If you hire a car one of the most expensive costs is the excess reduction fee that car hire companies charge you – on cheap daily rentals this can be more expensive than the actual car hire. Usually all hire cars have an excess – of anything from €600 to €2000 – and they offer additional insurance to reduce that cost which is about €20 or £15 per day or more depending on the type of car you hire. This insurance is optional, but if you have a bump or accident, you are liable for all costs up to the excess limit.
Car hire excess reduction insurance
insurance4carhire.com sell very cheap excess reduction insurance which saves you a good deal of money compared with the car hire companies. I’m an Avancar member and have an annual policy with insurance4carhire.com, so I’m fully covered.
You can pay to insure one car hire or you can take out an annual policy which covers all your car hire for the year in your nominated area: Europe, US, Worldwide. There is also a Wordwide 60 day policy. The policy covers additional drivers, baggage cover and damage to tyres and windows (tyres and windscreens are often not included in the main car hire insurance). You can pay in GB pounds, euros or US dollars and pay online.