According to YouGov, in a poll conducted on behalf of Motors.co.uk in 2013, Spain is considered to be in the top 5 hardest places to drive along with Russia, Greece, France and Italy. Italy, as you might expect, was at the top of this list.
And I can personally concur that Spain is less hard, but the rules of the road just got a bit more stringent and the penalties considerably higher, so, to save you some trouble, here are some don’ts to observe while driving in Spain.
1. Don’t get caught on the speed cameras leaving Málaga airport (or anywhere else for that matter) in your hire car.
The maximum speed limit on most motorways is 120 kph, but on some it has been increased to 130 kph (that’s 75 and 80 mph in Sterling), so do watch out for the variable speed limits. It is quite easy to get caught out on speed camera as you are leaving the airport and just getting to grips with your hire car, and you will get fined. No one wants to find that lurking in the pile of post on return from holiday.
You can also get fined on the spot if you are caught in a radar trap and you only have to be travelling at 1 kph over the limit to be subject to this.
2. Don’t imagine that the nice safe space that you have left between you and the car in front is a buffer zone of lovely safety for you.
No, think of it more as a bugger zone.
This is a space that the average motorway driver in Spain does not understand and therefore cannot respect. He (or she, of course) will enter your bugger zone and, well, bugger you up. After repeated buggering, you too will find your self abusing other road users in a similar fashion, because, well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? It’s a regular gang bang on the autovia folks.
Having said that, it is all done in very good humour. If you cut up someone on the Granada Circunvalación you are not going to get stabbed at the next petrol station, in fact, they probably won’t bat an eyelid. Don’t try this on the M25, people.
Likewise, don’t slow down to let people onto the motorway. This behaviour will only serve to confuse. It’s every man for himself on the on-ramp as you will soon find out.
Remember: common courtesy causes confusion.
3. Don’t Fail to stop. The Guardia Civil Trafico (in the green and white marked cars and on bikes) enjoy hanging out under bridges on motorway off-ramps and roundabouts.
They like to catch you when you are still in motorway mode. If there is a stop sign at the end of the off-ramp, stop.
Other infringements that you might be pulled up on are: failure to indicate when changing lanes or overtaking on the motorway (applies to pulling out and back in), crossing the solid white line to overtake or join the carriageway, failure to use your lights when in a tunnel (any tunnel no matter how short), drink driving (don’t do it, you may be on holiday but the Guardia Civil are not), talking on your mobile phone while driving, not wearing a seat belt… etc. A bit like being at home really.
4. Don’t get caught NOT in possession of the following items: all relevant documentation…
This includes passport/residencia, valid licence, vehicle registration, insurance, tax, (or car rental documents) replacement set of light bulbs for the car, spare pair of driving glasses, warning triangle, and high visibility jacket (don’t get out of the car on the motorway without it). Check your rentals before you get going so you know where to lay your hands on these items before you actually need them.
5. Don’t think that you know the size of your car until you have driven it through the narrow streets of an Alpujarran village.
The tip to remember here is to first imagine that you are in a Sherman tank (or something slightly more contemporary if you prefer) and then ask yourself if you can get down that narrow road.
And whatever answer you come up with, don’t do it. DO NOT DO IT.
OK, go ahead. Go ahead if what you want is to have the mother of all rows with your partner while negotiating a tight <90° turn on a cobbled street amidst a host of potted geraniums, as you venture further into the bowels of an increasingly less charming whitewashed village, trying to remember what the insurance excess was on the hire car, with another vehicle (or donkey) coming the other way.
Oh, and did I mention that it would be clutch-buggeringly steep? Marriages have come to an abrupt conclusion over less.
6. Don’t display any kind of road rage, not even mild gesticulation, towards cyclists while driving on windy mountain roads.
They move in packs and, if you annoy them, will bugger you even more rigorously than the motorway drivers mentioned in point #2.
Whether you are bringing-up their rear on the way up, trying to get past them on the bends, or, and this is by far the worst, getting in their way on the descent, you should always approach with care, courtesy and caution.
Remember that they are already in a bad mood because they have had to shave their legs and must wear high viz Lycra from head-to-toe.
7. Don’t breastfeed while driving or in anyway dangle your children out of the car window while the vehicle is in motion.
They should be secured in an age/weight/height appropriate car seat. Remember, the Spanish love children and failure to comply could lead to heavy fines and even the confiscation of your car.
For a more detailed and serious look the issues that should be considered while driving in Spain please do check out our article here. In the meantime we would love to hear from you about your experiences on Spanish roads. Please leave a comment in the discussion box below.