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Car Rental and Travel Blog - 12.04.2021.

Road Signs in Spain

You want to rent a car and drive through sunny Spain, along vineyards to sandy beaches and make unforgettable memories. There is so much to see and do in Spain that renting a car and visiting all the cities and natural wonders is a great idea.

Here we will go over the following topics about road signs in Spain. 

  • Driving habits in Spain (When in Spain, do as the Spanish do)
  • What kind of a road sign is that?
    • Information road signs
    • Warning road signs
    • Priority road signs
    • Prohibitory road signs
    • Mandatory road signs
  • How to read road signs
  • Driving regulations 
  • International driving license
  • Toll roads and tunnels

We understand that no one wants to be dependent on public transportation, and renting a car gives you complete freedom as to where and when you will be during your vacation. You can drive to Pamplona to see the famous "Race with the Bulls", or drive along the Way of St James which runs throughout the Santiago de Compostela route that goes across the entirety of Spain. But first, check what kind of road signs they even have in Spain, as well as what other regulations you need to keep in mind.

Driving habits in Spain (When in Spain, do as the Spanish do)

Most cars in Spain have a manual transmission, which might be a bit of a problem for those coming from the US. But don't worry, it's not a disaster! You will have the option at any car rental agency to book a car with an automatic transmission car as well, but be prepared to pay a little more for it as there are generally fewer of them. Another option is to go old school and drive a manual car. We promise it's not as hard as it might seem.

When choosing a rental car for your next trip, keep in mind that many of the older roads in Spain are quite narrow, so it's best to choose a smaller car that can fit in all the places you want to visit. Of course, you also need to consider the number of passengers and the amount of luggage you have, but that's another story. The last thing to remember is that if you do not take extra insurance with the rental car, you will be responsible for any scratches and dents that you get on it and with a smaller car the chances of that happening are quite a bit smaller.

Driving inside city limits in Spain

What kind of a road sign is that?

Nobody wants to get fined for breaking the rules, right? So, before you take a car, there are a few different types of traffic road signs that you might encounter while enjoying the ride in your new rental car.

Information road signs

They are usually blue and white in colour and rectangular shape. These road signs give you information about the beginning and end of a certain traffic situation (e.g. entry into a residential area, parking is allowed, pedestrian crossing).

Warning road signs

These road signs are there to warn you of a potentially dangerous traffic situation where you must take extra care. They are traditionally in the shape of a triangle, with a white centre and red edge all around (examples of this kind of road signs are warnings for children, moving bridge, and poor road surface). Exceptions are the Stop road sign, which is standard throughout Europe and the cross at a railway crossing.

Priority road signs

They mark places where the normal right-of-way rules are changed in some way so that it is clear what the new driving rule is. For example, the white square with the yellow centre marks that you are entering a right-of-way. 

Prohibitory road signs

These road signs mark that specific action is prohibited at that spot. They are in a round shape with a red edge and white centre. On a crossroad, you might, for example, see a road sign with a number 60 written in it. This means that you are not allowed to exceed the speed limit of 60 km/h.

Mandatory road signs

They are there to inform you that a certain action is mandatory. The same as information road signs, they are round in shape with a blue background and white lettering. They are placed at the beginning of one-way streets, when entering a roundabout, or when a lane or zone is reserved only for a certain type of vehicle.

How to read road signs

Often you see 2 different road signs one on top of another. When this is the case, it means that both regulations are active at the same time. If you see such a sign at the beginning of a village, it means that the regulation applies to the whole village area.

Another road rule you may not know is that if there is a sign with a speed limit and then a crossroad shortly after, the limit does not end there. It continues past all the crossroads until another road sign shows the speed limit crossed out.

Road sign in Spain

Driving regulations 

The minimum age to drive a car in Spain is 18 years. However, most car rental companies require you to be at least 21 to rent a car and at least 25 years to avoid paying an additional young driver fee. We're sure that you are a very capable driver even before that age, but unfortunately not all car rental companies see it that way. They consider young drivers to be a higher risk age group, so they want to add extra protection. 

General regulations 

As in most of Europe, people drive on the right side of the road and speed in the left lane.

The speed limit is 50 km/h in cities, 90 km/h on rural roads and 120 km/h on the motorway.

It's illegal to wear sunglasses while driving through a tunnel (save the cool number for when you're driving along the coast with the sunset behind you).

We don't advocate drinking and driving, but if you can't resist a glass of sangria before driving on, by all means, stop. The Spanish government imposes very heavy fines if they find you have more than 0.5 grams/litre (0.25 mg/litre for the alcohol meter), which is roughly equivalent to 1 glass of wine or beer.

If you are travelling with children that are under the age of 12 or are under 135 cm in height you are required by law to have a child seat in the car. If you don't have your own, most car rental agencies will provide one for a fee, but it's advisable to request one before you pick up the car, otherwise, they won't always have one available.

As in most countries, it is compulsory to have certain equipment in the car. So, check with the car rental company if your rental car already has everything to avoid a fine. The required items are:

  • Glasses (in case you need glasses, it is imperative that you always have a spare pair in the car).
  • Light bulbs (are usually already in the car and are provided by the car rental company)
  • Warning triangle (2 are required for all vehicles registered in Spain and 1 if coming from abroad)
  • High visibility vest (recently made compulsory)- First aid kit (not actually compulsory, but we strongly recommend you have it with you, just in case).

A sign by the road in Spain

International driving license

If you are from a country outside of European Union, it is a legal requirement to have an international driving license. This usually applies to countries in Europe if the permit is not written in the English language. The same applies if your license is not written in the Latin alphabet ( for example Russian and Chinese). It is not enough to have only an international driving license, as you also need the original driver's license issued by your country of residence. Otherwise, you will not be able to rent a car! If you are not sure whether you need an international driving license or not, call us or email us at customerservice@orbitcarhire.com and we will check it for you!

Toll roads and tunnels 

If you're driving a rental car in Spain, you'll probably be using the highways there as well. Note that similar to many other European countries, there is a toll system for using the motorways that charges you depending on how long you use them and the type of vehicle you drive. Normally when you enter the motorway you are given a machine printed ticket which you then pay when you exit. A payment system called Via-T has also been developed that pays toll booths automatically, so you don't even have to stop for it (pretty awesome, right?).

But tolls for highways are not the only ones that you might need to pay if you decide to rent a car there. They also charge passage for some of the tunnels, two of them that are worth noting are Tunel del Cadi and Tunnels de Vallvidrera. Prices range from 4.5€ for Tunels de Vallvidrera to 12€ for Tunel del Cadi. When you're driving your rental car around the well-maintained roads of Spain, you will know exactly where the money from the tolls is going to!

Some car rental agencies will offer special service where you do not need to pay for tolls during your rental, but will instead get a final bill to pay when you return the rental car to pay it all together based on where you drove. If they do not offer this option, you will are able to pay for the tolls either with cash, credit card (which you need anyway to be able to rent a car) or Shell cards in some cases Shell cards.

Payment system Via-T

It's an automated payment system that some car rental agencies can offer to facilitate the payment of tolls while driving. The device automatically charges you the appropriate amount when you pass a toll booth, with discounts available if you drive a certain part of the highway more than once. You don't even have to stop to pay, just slow down to about 30 km/h for the sensor to register the device.

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