As you know, we have been living in Spain for just over a 1 1/2 years, and during that time we have done our fair share of driving. I remember when we first arrived and trying to figure out the rules of the road. Coming from the United States, there were plenty of things that were familiar, but many others that just made us wonder, or look up the answer on the internet. We have welcomed several visitors to Spain and it has been fun driving around with them. It is fun hearing their thoughts on driving in Spain as well the meaning of road signs or street markings. Did you know we have a Zebra, Giraffe and Jellyfish crossing? What about the Poo Stop or Ninja’s on the loose?
If you want a complete guide to the road in Spain, rental car deals and tips, as well as knowing where the speed traps are and how to pay a ticket at a discount, then please click here to learn more about our ebook Driving in Spain – Everything you need to know & more.
Okay, now on to our post.
We thought it would be fun to share a few of the funny ones with you and then review some of the “official” rules, regulations and tips for driving in Spain.
Updated December 2016
I bet you didn’t realize there were Giraffe in Spain. Well, there aren’t, except maybe in a zoo. But that didn’t stop one of our many visitors from asking “Why is there a giraffe on the road sign?”. I remember thinking “Huh? A giraffe?” I had them point out the sign with the “giraffe” and had a good laugh. Let me know what you think about the giraffe sign (merging traffic).
As we were meandering along our beautiful roads of Costa Tropical, another visitor asked “Why do you have a jellyfish sign on the road? Are there problems with jellyfish here?” Again, I am “Huh? Jellyfish?” She said, “Yes we just passed a sign with a jellyfish. Oh look, there is another with a question mark. Are they asking you about jellyfish?”.
This one has been my all time favorite for sure. I replied with “Yes, we need to be on the look out for jellyfish in every tunnel we enter. Then when we exit, we need to give the count.” What do you think the jellyfish sign really is? (Turn on headlights and Check your headlights, before/after a tunnel)
Beware Of Ninja’s Sneaking Up On You!
(Doing Rear Wheelies)
No matter where we drive in Spain, we get the biggest kick out of this sign. We get it! We do understand they are trying to tell us not to follow too closely, but every single time we see this sign, we think if Ninja’s sneaking up behind us to spy. Spanish drivers do tend to follow very closely behind the car in front, so keep a good eye on the rear view mirror.
An Alien Life Form Is Drawing You In!
Spain means business when they warn you about the speed limit. This sign is warning you to play it safe and control your speed. It usually means there are speed cameras ahead and they will be sending you a ticket in the mail, if you over the speed limit. It is funny as traffic will be buzzing along, well above the speed limit. Then, all of a sudden one of these signs or a known speed trap is upcoming and traffic feels like it comes to a halt. A brief halt for the cameras and then it picks back up again. For me, I just like to set the cruise control and not have to worry about it.
LINK for Spain Traffic Cameras and LINK for Spain Speed Control Cameras.
Watch your speed! There are speed cameras all over, especially near the cities. There are also many cities with restricted driving for residents or public transit only. Granada is especially popular for those camera tickets for driving in a restricted zone. They usually warn you with signs, but you need to see and understand those signs. There are often cameras at then end of tunnels as well. Oh, and if you are driving on a toll road (AP – Autopista), watch your speed there too. Sometimes they note the time of entry onto the toll road and the time of exit. If you covered the distance too rapidly, a ticket may soon be arriving in your mailbox.
If you would like to estimate the cost of the toll there is a great site here showing the toll roads in Spain and prices.
With Just One Right You Will Make A Left
Many roads have a solid white line in the center, which you are not meant to cross. If you need to make a left turn, it is very typical for you to make a right to make your left. If it isn’t in a round about, you will often need to turn right onto a frontage road and then wait to cross over to make your left and/or U-Turn (Cambio Sentido).
Potty & Poo Stop?
When we first arrived in Spain, we kept noticing this sign that looked like someone was using the toilet. I remember thinking that it was an odd sign for a rest stop and I couldn’t figure out why they had the big “P”. What do you think it is? It is a picnic sign! Usually it means there is a picnic table ahead. Finding places to eat along the highways in Spain is very different from the US. There aren’t fast food stops at every exit, in fact it is rare to see such a sight. If there is a rest stop, it often had a typical Spanish restaurant or maybe a convenience store. Many Spaniards, bring their own food and just stop for a quick picnic. We have even seen people who pull out their own table and chairs for their meal, alongside the road.
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Round and Round and Round You Go
Spain is full of roundabouts and in some cases, double roundabouts. Sometimes you may feel like just closing your eyes and jumping in, but they aren’t that bad. If you are unsure, you can just stay to the outside lane and keep going around until you know where you need to exit. The driver who is already in the roundabout has the right of way, unless there are traffic lights at the roundabout that govern the flow of traffic. Before you leave the roundabout, you should turn your right turn signal indicator to indicate that you are leaving the roundabout. That is the law in Spain, but it isn’t always followed.
Okay, we are in Spain. In Spain they speak Spanish, but not when it is time to stop. You will not see a sign that says “Alto”, like you would in Mexico. Nope, here you get plain old English on your sign. It is odd, and I almost forgot about it, but thought it was worth mentioning. (Thanks for the reminder MaryAileen!)
Just in case you didn’t know, you shouldn’t blow up your car (Especially if you are in it)! Really it is no explosives, but doesn’t it look like you left a volcano school project on the roof? Or maybe a little sparkler stop your cake? Thanks for the reminder to add this on Cat!
I am so confused about the Double negative or no negatives, slash and no slash!
- A white sign with a red circle means (Prohibited, No or Don’t). Sometimes there is a slash and sometimes there isn’t.
- For example this sign means no pedestrians on the garage ramp. In the US, we would likely see a slash through a circle to represent “No”. The sign to the right represents no higher than 2.25 meters.
- When leaving the highway or a town you will often see a sign with a slash. This is letting you know you have “left” that area, but it doesn’t tell you where you are. All you know is where you are no longer.
- But I have to say the all time most confusing is the double negative. The red circle alone means don’t, but when there is a slash through it too, does it mean No Don’t? Do 2 no’s make a yes? Are you leaving the right turn area? Maybe it means “We really really mean NO right turn”.
- The same goes for the speed limit on the highway. You will often see a speed limit sign with slash through it. You know it is no longer that speed, but what speed is it?!!! Should you drive faster or slower?
Driving in Spain Tips:
- They drive on the right! This is a bonus for the American, as it is familiar and the same as the US! That said, they do drive pretty fast and typically only use the far left lane for passing. If you find yourself sightseeing in the left lane, scoot on over and drive in the right lane.
- Are you planning on a Car Rental? We share 9 tips to help you navigate the car hire in Spain process. Most car rentals will be manual transmission you will need to specify automatic and it will typically cost quite a bit more. Unless you are staying in a city environment, we do recommend renting a car. This will allow you to explore off the beaten track and make some amazing discoveries, like we did in Castril, Spain. Just make sure you have a map of Spain or some sort of navigation in the car, on your smart phone or other electronic device.
- Do not use a cell phone while driving because it is against the law, unless it is hands-free. The Guardia Civil has fined many motorists for using their cell phones and often set up checkpoint at on/off ramps near the highway. I was pulled over once, accused of using a cell phone. I was only adjusting my sunglasses and it took some convincing to prove I was not using my phone.
- Slam on your brakes for pedestrians. Spaniards (in Southern Spain and most places we have visited) are very courteous to pedestrians and you better stop if you see someone in the cross walk / Zebra crossing. Many pedestrians don’t even look before crossing, because they know vehicles are supposed to stop. The pedestrian crossings or cross walks are marked with black and white wide striped lines. If there is no traffic light at the crossing, the pedestrian has the right of way. Always expect the unexpected, as you can see in the comments below, someone has had a different experience in Barcelona.
- Your car is meant to be scratched, dinged and loved.
Ride Shares In Spain
Just in case you don’t want to do the driving, here are some sites which offer ride sharing in Spain!
- Costa Tropical Spain is a world of its own.
- Things to do in Barcelona, Spain with kids.
- Just north of Barcelona, discover Girona key attractions.
- Merida, Spain is a place to discover with the Roman Ruins as a top attraction.
- Spend Spring in Seville and experience the Feria.
- Cordoba is devine, check out our 1 day guide to Cordoba, Spain
- There are plenty of things to do in Madrid, and it is an all time favorite of ours.
- Malaga is the hub of Costa del Sol and is special.
- Valencia is modern and full of history.
- Take a mud bath in Murcia, Lo Pagan.
If you want a complete guide to the road in Spain, please click here to learn more about our book Driving in Spain, Everything you need to know & more. We offer quick reference for signs, what to do in emergencies, how to navigate a roundabout, general road rules and more!
Pin me for later!
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- Parking In Almuñécar
- I Need A Pit Stop – Tips driving in Europe
- Map of Spain
- Driving in Spain Road Signs
- The Official Spain Traffic Site
- General Rules
- Many Tips for Driving in Spain
- European Road Signs (Photo credit: most of the photos are from this site)
There are also many organized tours for you to enjoy from being active on walking or biking tour, to enjoying a food or wine tour. There is so much to do and Viator has so many great offers for you. Click here to see their latest Spain Deals!
Where to Stay in Costa Tropical
We have the best Spain holiday rentals here:
- Apartments & Villas – click here for deals (Over 2000 listings for the area)
- Apartments, Villas, & more – click here for availability and pricing (Over 1000 listings, some have long-term rental pricing as well)
- Apartments, Hotels & more – click here for availability and pricing
Property Owners: you may list your holiday property or room rental for free!
If you have any tips about driving in Spain, please do share in the comments below.
Updated: As of June 2105
If you are thinking of moving to Spain, we have collected most of the info we have, all in one spot. We will help you plan and execute your Move to Spain, Just click on the image below.