Driving your own car is a great convenience; you don’t have to revolve around the availability of public transport, can easily make a road trip to other Spanish cities or commute anywhere you need to. Once you’ve enjoyed the pleasure of driving your own vehicle, it’s natural to want to drive in the country you're moving to.
If you moved to Spain and already have a driving license, you can drive in Spain either by getting a new license or getting the old one exchanged, depending on your nationality.
To legally drive in Spain, you’ve to be at least 18 years old. Those younger than 18 can’t drive in Spain even if they hold a valid driving license back in their home country.
If you’re 18 and older, you can drive in Spain with a valid national driving license for a while — but for how long depends on your nationality.
After this time, you’ve to hold a Spanish driving license either by retaking the exam, or exchanging or renewing your old one. How you’ll obtain a Spanish driving license also depends on your nationality.
If you’re an EU national (also Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein), you can drive with your foreign license for 2 years as a legal resident of Spain. But you must obtain your driving license from your home country before registering in Spain.
Within 6 months of your move to Spain, you’ve to register with the traffic authorities to drive in Spain with your foreign license. You can do this by going to the traffic office of the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT). Once you’re there, they’ll ask you to undergo a medical exam at the authorized driver’s examination center (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado) to see if your health is in good condition to drive.
After 2 years, it’s illegal to drive with your foreign license in Spain. If the police catch you driving, they’ll penalize you with €200. So you’ve to exchange yours for a Spanish one. But luckily, it’s a very simple process for EU nationals.
Bring the following documents to the DGT to exchange your driving license.
You don’t have to wait for 2 years to exchange your driving license for a Spanish one. You can do it voluntarily anytime. In addition, if your foreign license is expiring, you can just renew your license in Spain, which converts your foreign license into a Spanish driving license automatically.
If you’re a non-EU national, you can only drive with your foreign driving license for 6 months once you become an official resident of Spain. You’ve to carry an official translation of your driving license or an International Driving Permit (IDP) — a document translating your driver’s license into the language of your destination country.
Keep in mind IDP is not a replacement for your foreign driving license. An IDP is only valid if you’ve your original license with you.”
You’ve to apply for IDP in your home county before becoming a Spain resident. Because the bureaucracy of receiving the residence permit in Spain can take a while, the IDP is issued for 1 year to account for any delays. But the IDP is only valid for 6 months once you become a Spanish resident.
After the period ends, depending on your nationality, you’ve to either exchange your foreign driving license or obtain a Spanish driving license by retaking the driving test.
If your home country has a driving exchange agreement with Spain, you can exchange your foreign driving license for a Spanish one.
But remember, the driving license is not exchangeable if you’ve obtained it in your country of origin while you are already a legal resident in Spain.”
Countries with which Spain has an exchange agreement are: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominical Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Macedonia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Only citizens of Switzerland, Andorra, Korea, and Japan can exchange their driving license for any type of vehicle. The rest can only exchange to drive A and B vehicles — motorcycles, cars, and light vehicles. So for driving trucks (type C) or buses (type D), you’ve to take a theory or driving test depending on your nationality.
You can exchange your driving license either online or in person at any office of DGT by submitting the documents below:
For exchanging online, submit the documents above at the website of DGT. After finishing your submission, you’ll receive a printable version of the temporary license. Then you’ve to make an appointment at the DGT office to hand in your old driving license and get your new one.
If you want to do the whole process in person, you’ve to make your appointment at the DGT office, where you’ll hand in the documents above. There, they’ll grant you a temporary license for 3 months while they send your Spanish driving license home.
You can make an appointment via the website of the DGT. But keep in mind, you might receive your appointment to exchange the license on a distant date. Especially in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona they usually give appointments 6 months later. So look for nearby small cities to make an appointment to change your driving license on time.
If you aren’t from a country with a driving agreement, you’ll have to retake the driving test after 6 months of arriving in Spain. This includes nationals of the United States, Australia, Canada, South Africa, etc.
As a British citizen, you need to exchange your driving license because of Brexit.
If you’re moving to Spain in 2022 or have moved to Spain after January 1st, 2021, you’ve to take the driving test within 6 months of legal residence.
If you registered with DGT before 30 December 2020, you had until May 1st, 2022 to exchange your driver's license for a Spanish driver's license, following the same rules as an EU citizen.
To take the Spanish driving test, you’ve to be a legal resident of Spain. You can only apply for a driving test at DGT office of the province you’re residing in. The test consists of 2 parts: written theory and practical driving.
To sign for the test you’ll need the following documents: 1. Application form 2. Residence permit 3. Proof of adress (empadronamiento) 4. Medical examination report from an authorized doctor 5. 2 passport-sized photos 6. Declaration that no suspensions or legal cases are preventing you from driving 7. Declaration that you don’t already hold a similar license
How to sign up for the test - To take the test, you’ve to sign up for an official driving school (autoescuela). Then the school will sign you up and give you all the resources for the tests.
Spanish driving test in english - Generally, driving tests and schools are in Spanish. But in international cities like Madrid and Barcelona, you can find a driving school and tests in English. If you can’t find a driving school in English, ask your driving school to provide you with books in English. You’re also allowed to bring a dictionary with you to the test.
How many times you can the tests - You can only fail one of the tests once. So if you re-take the theory test, you’ve to pass the practical test in one go. If you fail, you‘ve to pay for the test again.
Time limit between tests - Your result from the theory test is valid for 2 years. Your practical driving test scores are only valid for 6 months.
Where you live, how many classes you take at the driving school, and how many times you take each test will determine your final cost. On average, expect to pay the following prices to get a driving license in Spain:
What side of the road do they drive in spain - the right-hand side of the road.
Pedestrian rights - priority on zebra crossings, pavements, and pedestrian areas.
Speed limit - 1) 30km/h in residential areas, 2) 50km/h on urban roads, 3) 90km/h on out-of-town roads, 4) 120km/h on motorways. Fines are from €100 to €600 and between 2-6 points on the license.
Alcohol limit - 1) general driver 0.5g/L, 2) beginner driver 0.3g/L, 3) truck and bus drivers 0.3g/L. Fines are from €500 to €1,000 and between 4-6 points on the license.
Using mobile phone - holding a mobile phone while driving isn’t allowed. Fines start from €200 and up to 6 points on the license.
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