US Citizen Driving in Spain

Woman driving a car

International Driving Permit (IDP) is a permit to use your home-country driver's license temporarily in another country. It's for tourists, not residents. I think you can't use it for more than 3 or 6 months in Spain ?

Getting a Spanish car driver's license

Must have residencia to take the driver's license tests. But you may be able to start taking driving lessons before you have residencia.

SpainGuru's "Getting a Valid Driver's License in Spain"
The Frugal Vagabond's "Getting a Spanish Driver's License"
Wagoners Abroad's "Obtaining A Spanish Drivers License"
justlanded!BCN's "Spanish Driving License"
Just Landed's "Driving licenses for Spain"
/r/Barcelona's "Spanish driving licence"
COMO's "Getting a Driver's License in Spain"
Wagoners Abroad's "Driving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs"
SpainExpat forum's "Driving in Spain: Licenses and Regulations"
Sunshine and Siestas's "On the Road Again: Getting a Driver's License in Spain, Part I"
Sunshine and Siestas's "On the Road Again: Getting a Driver's License in Spain, Part II"
Love From Andalucia's "Driver's license"
Eye On Spain's "So You Need to Get a Spanish Driver's Licence"
Metropolitan Barcelona's "Q&A: Driving Licences"
Kate's Travel Tips' "How to get your driver's license in Spain"

Fundacion Mapfre's "Guide with every type of driver's license in Spain" (normal car-driver's license is B)

From /u/DilithiumCrystals on reddit:
[Re: experienced driver from other country getting license in Spain:]

Canadian here. I have lived through this. Prepare yourself for an absolute nightmare.

  1. You have to go through the entire certification process as if you were an 18 year old Spaniard.

  2. You have to sign up with an Autoescuela. There is NO REASONABLE WAY to get the license on your own.

A few tips:

  • There is a simplified version of the theory test which uses simplified Spanish. You must request this version when you sign up. I think there are various language options as well but cannot confirm (I believe someone told me that the questions are poorly worded and confusing and therefore it is not recommended to do it this way).

  • There is a process by which you can at least get the government to credit you for existing experience (for cheaper insurance rates). After you get your license you will need to bring a translated copy of your drivers history from home.

  • The BEST way to prepare for the theory test is to do all of the sample tests on the DGT website.

  • You can only fail two of the tests, so if you fail the theory twice, you have to pay and start over again. If you pass the theory the first time, then you have two tries at the road test.

  • The road tests are very difficult - they are not checking to see if you are a good driver, just to see if you have prepared well for the road test, so I recommend at least a couple of hours with the driving instructor.

  • Driving instructors in Spain are a special breed - I have had a few and they are all a bit special - hard to describe, but they seem to be determined to show you how inferior you are.

  • Shop around for a cheap driving school. Phone 10. Don't go the Groupon route, as they end up being more expensive. Some of the schools have pretty reasonable package prices. I went to Laietana and was satisfied.

  • You will need to do the farcical physical test - they will take your picture there.

From /u/LupineChemist on reddit:
Do NOT attempt to do the exam in English. The translation is terrible and between bad translation and what there is being in UK English (where driving terms tend to diverge a bit), just learn the Spanish version.
From /u/gnark on reddit:
It'll cost a minimum of 300-400 euros to take the theoretical test and driving test (with a driving school's) car and your medical exam. Most driving schools will offer a pack that costs around 600+ euros including the above (minus the medical exam) and some theoretical classes of limited use and a handful of driving lessons. You mostly just need to take practise tests online / cell app until you have memorized all the b.s. they'll ask about, but the practical test must be done with a driving school's car. Bite the bullet, pay for a pack, get'er done.
From /u/chemcat392 on reddit:
Since pretty much everything has been covered already, I will only add that the practical lessons and exams are done with manual transmission / stick shift cars.
From /u/gnark on reddit:
You can request an automatic but then will only be licensed to drive an automatic.
From /u/alaninsitges on reddit:
I'm going through this right now (1/2015), and can add a few things to what's been said.

A local driving school gave me a price of 275€ for the theory classes and test, plus I can do practice sessions at around 40€ per. They recommended that I do one or two of those primarily so they can point out bad habits I've picked up over the years that will cause me to flunk the test (one hand on the wheel, not signaling soon enough, etc).

Be aware that the theoretical test is almost completely comprised of trick questions and misleading multiple-choice answers. You need to memorize the questions by rote from the practice tests.

There is an option to take the test in English but I wouldn't recommend it for an American (I had the English-language manuals from the RACC school a couple of years ago that included sample tests) - when they say English they mean it. Lots of bangers, barristers, boots and bonnets. I was completely lost. I have heard that the "simple Spanish" version isn't so tricky but haven't seen it.

Your US license will give you a couple of benefits: insurance will be cheaper because they take into consideration the length of time you've been driving, and you don't have to display the Loser sign in your car window.

From someone on CAB FB group 1/2016:
People should be aware that the option to do the normal car licence multiple-choice theory test isn't in "proper" English, but only in a very very approximate google-style auto-translation of the original Spanish, which just makes a lot of the questions actually very difficult to grasp.

Additionally it's only the multiple-choice computerised theory exam for the CAR driving test that's available in this non-Spanish version at some driving schools. The theory exam for the Motorcycle licence and other special/additional vehicle licences is only in Spanish. And of course the actual practical driving test for all and any licence here in Spain that you must then take once you've passed the theory part, is always conducted in Spanish.

The special re-test course/exam ("curso de sensibilizacion y reeducacion vial") to get your licence back after you've been banned (eg for drink-driving) in Spain is in Spanish.

From people on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
You have to go to autoescuela (not just because it's helpful, which it is, because there are things that are different from the US, but also because that's the law -- you can't get a license till you've gone to autoescuela). They teach you to pass the written test, then you have to do a certain minimum number of "practical" classes before you are allowed to do the driving test. Most kids need a lot more than the minimum, but if you already know how to drive you will get away with that amount (think it's 12). You also need to do a "psicotecnico", a medical exam that certifies that you can see and have reflexes, with a special private doctor, before you can begin practical classes. Altogether the thing's gonna cost you a good €1000.


I'm in the process of getting it now. I just passed the theory test the other day. On the theory test there are 30 questions and you are only allowed to have 3 mistakes. I recommend that for the theory test you do a lot of practice tests. It helps to go to the classes in the autoescuela but the questions can be somewhat tricky and have technical vocabulary so the practice tests helped a lot.

The whole process is quite pricey. My driving school (to go to classes, the book, online access to tests, etc) cost 265 euros, the psicotecnico cost 50 euros, the fee for the theory/practical exams is 90.30 euros and at least at my driving school every practice driving lesson cost 22 euros without tax.


I took the written exam without going to driving school and then had to matriculate in a school to do the driving portion. You can save some money via that route, and the questions on the tests are usually taken from the free online tests on their website.


... you only have 6 months following receipt of residency approval to obtain your Spanish driver's license or you will be socked with a 600 Euro fine if pulled over! Next, here in Spain, you must go to a driving school and have them present you to Trafico for the examination and practical road test. Note: YOU CANNOT PRESENT YOURSELF as we do in the US. Someone from a school must request the appointments and take you. ...


I paid about €400-500 and finished in less than 3 months. The Groupon deals are pretty good if you already know how to drive a stick and the school is close to you.

From Sara Beyer on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
For those of you getting your license here in Spain and not wanting to spend a bunch of money, it's definitely doable for under 300€. I am doing the theory exam "por libre" which means I'm not going to an autoescuela. I borrowed the book from a friend and am studying it and doing exams on the dgt website to practice. The tasa for the exams is 90.30€ and that covers both the theory exam and the driving test. You must get a medical note (certificado medico) to apply to take your exam. That cost me 40€. I'll probably do a few practice hours with a driving school and I got a quote for 20€ an hour. Let's say I do 3 or so since I've driven here before that's 60€. Then the fee to use the examiners car for the exam - 40€ I believe. In total I'll be spending about 230€ to get my license.



1) First go get your certificado medico from one of these places: centros-de-reconocimiento-de-conductores. Note that this is ONLY valid 90 days so you must be taking your exams within those 3 months.

2) You need to make an appointment (or just go in depending on where you are) to the Jefatura de Trafico in your region: jefaturas-provinciales. You must bring a carnet photo, your certificado medico, a credit card to pay there (check on types of payment accepted in your jefatura) - or the tasa which you can get online, and the solicitud which you can get here (PDF) (note you may have to print 3 and just write the same thing on all 3 since it's not the carbon copy), plus your NIE.

At that appointment they will let you choose a date to take your theory exam. You pick a date and come it and take it at that time.

Driving lessons:

Go in and ask how much clases sueltos are, or if you want to buy a bono for 10 classes, most autoescuelas have those to purchase as well. Do as many classes as you feel you need, and then you'll have to apply to take your drivers test basically the same as the theory - you go in to jefatura and you pick a date - using the solicitud and tasa you've already filled out and paid above. You will have to pay the autoescuela to use their car for the exam like I stated above.


The one drawback with doing everything through the autoescuela is that they charge you to go into the jefatura de trafico for you - about 40 euros each time they go in. That's 80 euros for them to go to two appointments. Since I had time, and little money, I couldn't justify paying that, but I have been in contact with an autoescuela here and the guy is letting me come in and sit through classes where they do tests so that's been nice! If I didn't have the time and had more money, I'd definitely go for the autoescuela because I know they definitely help a lot! Good ones that is - I've gone to a few here that were not very kind, so I kept searching and finally got lucky.


Follow up: I went to the Jefatura de Trafico in Malaga yesterday morning to take the exam. They take you into a huge room with a ton of computers and you need your NIE with you. The exam is exactly the same as the practice exams on the dgt website in format. The questions were mostly easy - and then there are always 4 difficult ones. You take the exam and when you're finished, you just walk out. They post the results the following day on the dgt website.

So I passed! Doing it "por libre" was the best option for me. Just remember to do a lot of practice exams online. Also there's a website called todotest where you can practice more (although their exams are extremely difficult in comparison to the real exam - I was failing exams the day before the exam on their site, freaking out). But all is well!! Now on to do the behind the wheels.

From someone on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group 6/2016:
I got my license in a mid-sized city. Studied in Spanish and took the test in English. My practice exams in English were translated horribly but the exam didn't have any mistakes on it. They must've hired someone to fix the issue.

In terms of price, it's cheaper in bigger cities. So maybe try and do it in a city with a lot of driving schools where there's more competition. Don't expect not to do any behind the wheel. You probably need between 5 and 10 to get used to the tricks of the city.

From someone else on "American Expats in Spain" Facebook group 12/2016:
I passed my driving test yesterday. Cost me about 180 Euros for the theoretical and practical tests plus 250 Euros for 10 lessons at a driving school (single lessons would have cost 27.50 per 45 minute lesson). The lessons were well worth the money because even though I already knew how to drive the instructor showed me the minutiae of Spanish traffic laws that would have kept me from passing on my own, even if I was allowed to do it that way. The actual road test took about 20 minutes after 4 hours of waiting for my turn and, just like the theoretical, they don't let you know right away.


I live in Almunecar and took the test in Motril. You have to be a resident to take the exam but they give the theoretical exam in English. The driving test is in Spanish but it's not like you have to carry on a detailed conversation on the ramifications of Brexit on the European Union. Left, right, change direction, first exit, second exit, etc. I had an instructor who spoke enough English to help me learn the rules and he spoke to me when needed like an examiner would. When I started they gave me a list of 35 words to learn but less than 20 of those were actually used.


Just keep in mind that the tests are written to the level of 17 year olds with no previous driving experience. If you know how to drive a standard transmission car and have years of experience you are already way ahead of the average applicant. For me the hardest part was finding a school that had an English speaking driving instructor because Almunecar has very few expats. ...


... I have a book but it was taking the practice exams over and over that got me passed. If I never had the book it would have been the same result. ...

From someone on "Madrid Expats" Facebook group:
I have always heard people talking about the expense, the expense, but I think it's expensive because either people need many more driving classes because they don't know how to drive or don't know how to drive a stick AND/OR they fail a number of times. People fail these tests A LOT. One of the women in the car with me for my driving test had already failed the driving part twice and unfortunately she also failed that day. When they tell you to take the practice tests dozens and dozens of times, it's not a lie. There is literally no other way to pass. The car classes were worth it to have my "bad habits" pointed out (eg, one hand on the steering wheel, not looking in the rearview enough, etc) and to know what was expected.

From someone on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
The most common way to fail [the practical test] is either not stopping properly or not stopping at a zebra crossing. Those 2 items are automatic failures. Everything else costs you points and it takes 10 points to fail.

Tips about the practical test, from people on Facebook:
  • Don't cross over white lines, when turning.

  • Watch out for faint white lines.

  • Drive a little slower than usual.

  • Major violations: hitting a curb, not stopping for peds in a crosswalk, driving over a solid line, poor clutch control.

  • Come to full stops; not the slightest "rolling stop" is allowed.

  • Have your instructor at the autoescuela take you multiple times around the expected route (or typical routes) you will drive during the actual test. Have them tell you all the "gotcha" locations. Memorize the Spanish words the evaluator will give you during the test.

    Your instructor will sit in the front with you and the evaluator will sit in the back. He/she will speak only to give you instructions. Your instructor will not be allowed to speak (such as to translate an instruction into English) unless you specifically ask the evaluator for clarification.

    Expect there to be trick locations -- oddly angled turns, pedestrian crossings at hard-to-see intersections, and places where you are told "cuando puedas, derecho" (when you can, [turn] right), told to you where the next right turn is actually 2 blocks away thanks to left-only intersections.

    Your best bet is repetition, so you know the route before the actual day of the test.

We asked at a driver's school in Barcelona 7/2016:
Registration fee: €150.
Theory exam: €98.
A month of theory classes (could go every day ?): €100.
10 driving lessons of 45 mins each: €250.
Driving test at trafico: €38 to school plus €90 to trafico.
IVA 21% on everything.
Total €860; summer special (no registration fee) gives €660 ? The numbers don't add up.
Medical cert: maybe €40.

We asked at a driver's school in Jerez de la Frontera 9/2016:
The theory classes aren't lectures by the instructor; students go through tests and material online with the instructor standing by to answer questions.

Registration fee: €50.
Theory classes: €200.
10 driving lessons of 45 mins each: €150.
Additional driving lessons of 45 mins each if needed: 6 for €120.
Driving test at trafico: €50 to school.
IVA included in the prices given.
Total €450.
Medical cert: maybe €20.

Driver's study manual online

Theory test online

DGT's free online theory practice test (in Spanish)
AEOL's "Tests de Autoescuelas y DGT" (free online tests, combined with some lottery/ad thing)
English Driving School (online tests in English, for €40)
PracticaTest (online tests in English, for free to €90)
Teorico (online lessons and tests in Spanish, some free)
"TodoTest en tu smartphone" (Smartphone app, in Spanish)
"DGTest Autoescuela" (Smartphone app, in Spanish)

Apparently medical certificate involves: vision test, blood-pressure check, co-ordination test, maybe a hearing test, and ask about any medications you're taking.

Once you get your license:
License "points" in Spain are opposite of those in USA. In USA, it varies by state, but generally you start at zero, each infraction adds points, and when you get up to 12 or something, your license is suspended. In Spain, you start with 12 points (8 if you have less than three years experience), and each infraction subtracts points, until you hit zero and get suspended.

Note: driving without getting a valid license can mean that your insurance is invalid, and won't pay if there's an accident.

Two-wheeled vehicles

Motorcycle and moped licenses

A 50cc moto can be used only on minor roads where maximum speed is 50 KPH or less (can't drive on highways or motorways).

From someone on "Expats in Spain" Facebook group:
The motorcycle licence is separate in Spain - separately tested and separately licenced. You can drive up to 125cc on a car licence.

Bsure's Motorbike Rules
Just Landed's "Motorcycles in Spain"
AngloINFO's "Spanish Driving Licences"


Electric bicycles (eBike, pedelec)

Electric-Bicycle-Guide's "What's the difference between pedelecs and e-bikes?"
Melissa Kirsch's "Should You Get an Electric Bike?"

Maybe try renting an electric bike (from Hertz ?), or going on a tour that uses them, before buying.

From someone on /r/Spain:
Anything that doesn't meet this criteria is considered a motorcycle and requires helmet, license and insurance:

"las bicicletas con pedaleo asistido, equipadas con un motor electrico auxiliar, de potencia nominal continua maxima de 0,25 kilovatios, cuya potencia disminuya progresivamente y que finalmente se interrumpa cuando la velocidad del vehiculo alcance los 25 km/h, o antes si el ciclista deja de pedalear; ni a sus componentes o unidades tecnicas, salvo si estan destinados a ser montados en los vehiculos previstos en la presente Directiva".

[I read that to say bicycles and pedelecs don't require anything, but throttled-electric does require helmet, license and insurance.]

From someone else on /r/Spain:
Madrid official website has links to both a compilation of the Spanish national traffic regulations ("Extractos del Reglamento General de Circulacion referentes al uso de la bicicleta") and the Madrid local ones. It's very important to remember that road regulations and city regulations are separate, and each city has a different set of rules, so you need to check both.


Most of the information you seek is in this PDF. I'll give you a TL;DR:
  • If your electric bike has a motor of more than 0,25kw of continuous power, then it's considered a motorbike. You need to wear a helmet at all times, buy insurance, and you can only use it in the causeway of normal roads (outside a city). It cannot be used in highways or expressways. Inside a city, it has to follow the same traffic rules as any other motor vehicle.

  • If it has a motor of up to 0,25kw, or no motor at all, then it's considered an ordinary bike. On a normal road (outside a city), bikes have to go wayside - unless it is considered dangerous, in which case you can ride them on the causeway temporarily - and you have to wear a helmet. They cannot be used in highways or expressways. Inside a city, the rules depend on that city. Most of them have banned their use on sidewalks. In some places you might be fined if you don't wear a helmet and in some others they don't really care. In general, you are required to have a front and back light, as well as reflective elements, when riding one at night.
I'd like to remark once more that it is important to check the rules of the city where you are using the bike. For instance, bikes are usually told to ride on the right side of the lane, but in Madrid the new rules say you have to do it right in the middle (which apparently has caused a fair share of arguments and confusion).

Electric-Bicycle-Guide's "Electric Bicycle - Laws, Insurances, Accidents and Initiatives"
Wikipedia's "Pedelec"
CAB's "Electric Bikes - Differences and the Law"
CAB's "E-Bikes, E-Scooters - Insurance and ITV"
bikelec's "Acelerador o asistencia al pedaleo"

Christina Bonnington's "Learn to Ride"

Renting a car

Various people recommend: Avis, EasyOption.
Various people recommend AGAINST: Record car hire, Firefly.

"The cheap car hire companies insist you use their insurance and pay for a full tank of petrol. That's how they make money. Better to go with a big name, eg Europcar."

Just Landed's "Car rental"


Usually insurance is based on the car, not the driver. Usually covers any driver of the car, but there may be exclusions for drivers under 26 years old or over 70 years old.

Various people recommend: Linea Directa, Abbeygate, Balumba, Liberty Seguros.

"Try Rastreator comparison site. I got a quote last year about half what I was paying Linea Directa and LD matched it !"


Apparently if you get a document from your state DMV (maybe through US consulate) in USA saying how long you've been driving, this will reduce your car insurance rate in Spain, and maybe let you drive without a "L" on the car ? Translate it and give it to DGT for "antiguedad" ?

From someone on "The American Society of Barcelona" Facebook group:
I went through this. I had to get a paper from the DMV from my state (CA) requesting my driving history. Then I had to get that paper apostilled. Then argue with the DGT here because they think the consulate should provide it like every other country. But it's confirmed that it's a state document. After talking with a manager who knew more, they accepted my document.

From someone else on "The American Society of Barcelona" Facebook group:
Ask for a letter from your state's Secretary of State office stating how long you've had your license. And then you get it translated and with a copy of your DL, that should suffice!

From someone on "Spain Immigration and Residency Questions" Facebook group:
Be sure to get your driving recorded stamped with the apostille of The Hague before it's mailed out to you.

If you don't have it stamped, apparently your alternative is to get it authorized at the u.s. consulate and then take it to the ministerio de asuntos exteriores to get authorized as well.

From someone on "Spain Immigration and Residency Questions" Facebook group 6/2017:
Here is just a friendly FYI for getting your antiguedad recognised from an AMERICAN license.

I had ordered my MVA (DMV) driving record, got it legalised and translated, and had turned a photocopy into the driving school which later turned it into the DGT on my behalf. The DGT only gave me antiguedad on my newest license, which I had renewed in September of last year, so it was not even worth the struggle.

Went into the Jefatura in Pamplona to ask about seeing if I could recover any more years -- to ultimately lower my insurance costs and get my full points -- and it was just a question of showing them my license, my document from the MVA, and my Spanish license. They changed it in the computer to give me antiguedad from the time I was 18 (2009).

All this information is noted on the "observaciones" of the provisional license and on the plastic card in the lower left hand corner.

They will take your plastic license and give your a new one while they produce your duplicate one. The code you should look for is 106.4 (dd/mm/yy), which is, "Fecha de primera expedicion del permiso" and "Es titular de otro permiso extranjero no susceptible de canje en España."

This will relieve you of your L and help drop your insurance rates.

It is possible, but it is best done in person at the DGT. You are not looking for a "canje" but a "reconocimiento de antiguedad".

Also, I was NOT charged for the duplicate license. Not sure if it was because it was their mistake for not doing it correctly or if it was some other glitch in the matrix!
From someone else on "Spain Immigration and Residency Questions" Facebook group 6/2017:
In the Madrid DGT I did the same thing and they rejected me. They don't want to recognize my apostilled and translated state full driving record from Washington, DC and New York because DGT Madrid only wants documents from a national government.

Just Landed's "Car insurance"

Importing, Buying, Selling a car

CarFax's "Car Registration in Spain"


Do you need a car ?
If you live in a small town, or outside any town, it may be hard to survive without a car. Anywhere bigger, the buses and trains and planes and maybe Metro will suffice. There's also BlaBlaCar, and rental cars, and taxis. And walking, and bicycles.

Also, gasoline is expensive.

BarcelonaYellow's "Driving in Barcelona and Spain"
"N332" Facebook page (Torrevieja Traffic Department; driving tips, scam warnings, questions about laws, etc)
N332 web site (not same as N332 Facebook page)

Spanish Solutions' "What to Do If In a Car Accident in Spain"

SpainMadeSimple's "Car & Road Tax in Spain"
Europa's "Car registration and taxes - Spain"

Buscamultas (see if you have any traffic fines; have to specify DNI or NIE)
DGT's "Consulta de Puntos" (see points taken off your license)
Money Saver Spain's "Spanish Driving Licence? How To Check Your Points"
Family in Spain's "We've Been Driving Illegally in Spain ... Luckily, We Got Caught!"
Family in Spain's "Paying Traffic Fines in Spain: This Time We Refuse To Pay!"
DGT's "Informe de vehiculo" (have to pay €8.40)

If your USA driver's license lapses, you have a Spanish driver's license, and you want to drive in USA

Get an international drivers permit FROM Spain in order to drive in the USA.

From someone on "Spain Immigration and Residency Questions" Facebook group:
You get it from the DGT (departamento general de trafico) in your city. All you need is a photocopy and the original of your Spanish license, your TIE or passport, and a photo. It costs about 10 euros and you pay there, with a credit card. Book an appointment online. DGT's "Permiso Internacional"

This page updated: February 2018.