Driving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs

Driving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs, All of the tips are provided for you with many resources for your time in Spain. Read more on WagonersAbroad.comAs you know, we have been living in Spain for a few 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.  I promise it will be well worth the $6.99!
Driving in Spain- Everything you need to know & more. If you are planning a trip to Spain and intend on driving, this is an essential book for you. We offer you a complete guide to driving in Spain.

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 October 2017

Road Signs in Spain

Giraffe Approaching

 (Merging Traffic - Giraffe) Driving in Spain

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).

Jellyfish Crossing

jellyfish or headlights

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?”.

How many jellyfish? Check your headlights.

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)

Driving in Spain precaucion

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!

Control_de_velocidad_autovia_o_autopista (Radar ahead)

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

cambio sentido - change direction, left turn, u-turn

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 de Sentido).

Potty & Poo Stop?picnic spot or potty 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

Roundabout in Spain

Photo credit – www.carinsurancespain.es

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. 

When you Drive in Spain, you must understand the road signs!

STOP!

Stop sign in SpainOkay, 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!)

Explosives

No Explosives SpainJust 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!

 

Confusion!


NOI 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.
  • No pedestriansFor 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.
  • WNo more highway - leaving the highwayhen 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.
  • No No Right TurnBut 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”.
  • Spain speed limit noThe 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.
  • pedestrian crossingSlam 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!

Discover Spain:

If you want a complete guide to the road in Spain, please read our ebook Driving in Spain, Everything you need to know & more.  Click Here Now! We offer quick reference for signs, what to do in emergencies, how to navigate a roundabout, general road rules and more!  What do you do when there is a stop sign and a green light at the same intersection?  Do you have to have that international driver’s license?
Driving in Spain- Everything you need to know & more. If you are planning a trip to Spain and intend on driving, this is an essential book for you. We offer you a complete guide to driving in Spain.

 It is just $6.99!  It will save you so much time and help aviod fines!

 

Update 2017 Obtaining a Spanish Drivers License!

Americans Getting a Drivers License in Spain. We share the entire process to obtain a Spanish Drivers License, including the process, costs and more. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

 

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Driving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs, All of the tips are provided for you with many resources for your time in Spain. Read more on WagonersAbroad.comDriving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs, All of the tips are provided for you with many resources for your time in Spain. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other references:

Organized Tours

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:

Property Owners: you may list your holiday property or room rental for free!

 

Are you heading to nearby Portugal or Morocco?  Not to worry, we have driving tips for Portugal and Morocco too.

 

If you have any tips about driving in Spain, please do share in the comments below.

Updated: As of October 2017

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.

We help you plan and adjust for your move to Spain. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

Cost to Travel - Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

48 thoughts on “Driving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs

  1. I love the Ninja one too Heidi! Great tips and advice, It will probably be a while before I do any driving in Spain but I’ll make sure I check back on here before I do. What’s it like for cyclists over there? Are there many cycling lanes and things like that?

    • Isn’t that the best Andrew. We get such a kick out of that one, every single time. There are loads of cyclists around, but often they share the road. In our town there is a bike path along the paseo, but that is more like cruising along the beach.

  2. Getting a license in Spain last year was a trip – but I had a leg up because I already knew how to “circular.” Spanish has two words for drive, circular (pay attention to traffic and road signs) and conducir (know how to move the wheel and pedals). I love driving stick now and can’t believe it took me so long to do!

    • Hey Cat, when I learned to drive it was with a manual, so it is second nature to me (a million years later). I actually prefer it, as it keeps me on my toes.

  3. We’ll be there in about 6 weeks, So this should be useful! I’ve driven in Spain loads of times and never had a clue what the signs mean. You’d love the Australian road signs they’re hysterical. Axx

  4. Haha NO WAAY!! I have always thought exactly the same thing about the jellyfish question mark sign!! But I don’t think I’ve ever shared that with anyone because I just thought it was me being peculiar…
    Great to know i’m not alone!
    Funny and really original idea this Heidi. Useful too! I’ll be sure to refer back before my road trip to Lisbon next month! (and to be on the look out for jellyfish on the way 😉 )

  5. Great post! I’ve never thought of the sign reminding you to turn your lights on or off as a jellyfish but I’m going to point it out from now on. I’d just have to disgreee with you on one point though and that is the drivers stopping for pedestrians. In my experience they rarely want to stop or slow down at all, the same goes from when the light changes from green to amber it is in an invitation to speed up and try to beat the red light. I’ve seen heaps of cars run red lights this way. At least that is my experience here in Barcelona.

  6. Great post – loved the jellyfish!

    I would suggest that anyone coming to Spain and wanting to drive here download a couple of really useful apps: Trapster to see where the speed radars are (avoid being fined) and Gasolineras España to find the cheapest petrol (gas) prices.

    • Aw thanks Maxine. Thanks for the suggestions, nice to know about the apps. The speed traps are what get you! I haven’t noticed gas prices differing much from location to location, but that is just within Costa Tropical. I bet it is far more expensive near the big cities with varying prices.

  7. I love it! I of course recognize many of the signs as we have them here in the Netherlands as well. We also have the word ‘STOP’ on the sign, but hey, stop in Dutch is exactly the same as in English LOL
    The ninja one reminded me of the Matrix (part 2 or 3 or something). But the one I really liked is the one saying you should not blow up your car. Hilarious! It really seems like a strange thing happens to that car..
    Great idea to write this post!
    Emiel

  8. Great read and insights Heidi, As Alyson said we will be there soon so will have the chance to drive it. Have only driven manual cars on left hand side roads so will be first time changing gears with the other hand. Could be interesting 🙂

    • Hi James, Ive been living in Gibraltar Since august and drove down here from kent in my Primastar van, so no problems for me regarding the gear stick. However, without a passenger it meant quite a bit of crawling across the cab a the toll booths (peage) on the way down. I found driving here quite easy to adapt to, the roundabout system seems the same as the UK, just look to your left and not the right. Motorway entrance and exits are a bit different, they don’t seem to be as long, and around Seville, the entrance and exit almost join, you need a clear head for that one as it is quite busy. But I love driving in Spain, the roads are generally good,wide and spacious, even the tolls are not too excessive. I went from Gib to Malaga on the Autovia last week cost €9 in total.Going back to driving a “left hooker”, when I was in Crete I rented a car, the only thing I found was when changing gear I usually hit my left hand on the window first!!!

  9. Hey James, you will be fine adjusting. We had that challenge when we lived in London, oh so many years ago. It was strange for a day or two, changing gears with our left hand, but then it as no problem. I sure hope we can all meet up somehow.

  10. omg too funny. i guess emiel will be the only one who will know how to drive there. what’s up with all the lines, slashes, and animal life? too funny heidi. now, at least when we get there, we’ll be able to laugh and say, ‘heidi warned us about this’

    hugs, gabi

  11. Funny! Love it. Now you just need a picture of an intersection where all those signs are posted at once. Nothing confusing about the giraffe, jellyfish, potty & poo combinations!

    • Oh Ann, if you only knew. As you enter the highway, there are loads of signs all bunched together (a tractor, scooter, horse, pedestrian and more!) For the longest time, we thought all of those things were allowed. When we realized that no slash meant NO then we understood they weren’t allowed.

  12. I used to live in Spain so this made me chuckle. I got confused moving to the UK because the signs are so different here! It took a long time to tell my Dad that if you went to right you’d go left, but he got there in the end. Right after he stopped trying to open the door instead of using the shift stick.

    • That is too funny Sammi. It is tough switching sides of the road and the car, especially if it is a manual. Good thing we didn’t have to do that in Spain, it is difficult enough to navigate the narrow roads.

  13. Hey Ben, Well the signs are real, but the meanings have been mangled by our visitors. There is no giraffe, but a visitor of ours thought that is what it was.

  14. Hilarious! I think “Incorrecto!” will be my word of the day today, though I look forward to trying to slip in “Jellyfish Crossing” somewhere, too…

    • Aw thanks Elena. While I think jellyfish are beautiful creatures, they sure to pack a mean sting. I remember when we first moved to Spain and took a dip in the sea. That Fall there were record numbers of jellyfish stings. Jelly anyone? OUCH!

    • i*Kan Yes, those are funny. No explosives means you can’t have explosives in your car, where that sign is posted. Good thing I am not in the habit of driving around with explosives.

  15. Very helpful, thank you. Can you please tell us about the traffic lights. What do flashing yellow lights mean? What is the requirement for the flashing colours of each colour?

    • Oh thank you Peter. Flashing yellow is similar to Yield, so move forward with caution. There may be crossing traffic which doesn’t need to stop or slow down. I have not seen a flashing red or green, but I would treat a flashing red as a stop sign. Stop, Look and move forward when clear. I hope htat helps. What part of Spain are you in or planning to be in?

  16. HI all. After many solo trips back and forth to Spain I have found a kiddies fishing net on a stick invaluable at the toll booths for being on the wrong side. Always raises an eyebrow but works! However my last trip I found most booths are now unmanned so I need to invent a sticky stick for my bank card!

  17. This post made me giggle! My daughter recently wanted to know why there were “no snakes” signs on the roads here in Germany – took me a while to realize she was talking about the U-turn prohibited signs 😉 We’ll be visiting Spain next month and I’m happy to have found your blog for information – thank you!

  18. A grey circle with 5 dotted diagonal lines in grey, clearway, no speed limit???,I have inquired in the local police station, there is no official highway code book issued in Spain.

    • I am pretty sure we cover this one in our book Driving in Spain, with over 200 of the Spanish road signs.

      I am not sure about a grey circle, but there is a white circle with black outline and 5 black diagonal lines from top right down to bottom left. This means all previously signed restrictions have now ended. Of course you needed to know there were restrictions previously to know what was being “undone”. Ha, it is crazy here when you get into the details. I hope that helps.

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