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Do I Need a Spanish Licence to Drive in Spain

in Andalucia, Spain
By Nick Nutter | 29 Mar 2021

Who can drive in Spain

The legal driving age for driving a car in Spain is 18 years old. Those who are under 18 years of age cannot drive even if they hold a valid driving licence in their home country. So, sorry all you folks from Canada, Mexico and the United States, El Salvador, Guyana, Israel, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Gibraltar the United Kingdom and sundry other countries; until you are 18 years of age, no driving a car in Spain.

What type of licence do I need to drive in Spain

The type of licence you need to drive in Spain depends upon where you come from and how long you are intending to drive in Spain.

Citizens of other EU and EEA countries

If you are from another country in the European Union or from the European Economic Area, you can use your driving licence in Spain for a period of six months. After that you must go to the traffic authority in the city or town in which you are living and register your licence. You may then use that licence for two years. If you want to continue driving in Spain then you must exchange your licence for a Spanish driving licence.

Non EU citizens

Citizens from countries outside the EU can use their own driving licences to drive in Spain whilst they are on holiday. They may also use their own driving licence for up to 6 months after they have applied for residency in Spain. If the foreign license is not in Spanish, however, they must always carry an official translation or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

You do not need an IDP to drive in the EU , Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein if you have a photocard driving licence issued in the UK.

The IDP is a document that provides a translation of a person’s driver’s license into a number of different languages, including Spanish. Carry it at all times as well as the actual driver’s license. The IDP is valid for one year and you must apply outside of Spain.

Transition period for UK licence holders after 22nd June 2021

UK licences will continue to be recognised until 31 December 2021 (announced on the 26th October 2021) for those who were resident in Spain before 31 December 2020 – even if you did not get your residency document until after the end of the Transition Period. This extension applies whether you registered your intention to exchange your licence with the DGT before 30 December 2020 or not.

This does not affect the current arrangements for driving licence exchange. If you did not register to exchange your licence with the DGT before 31 December 2020 and wish to exchange your UK driving licence now, you would need to follow the DGT process for non-EU nationals, which includes taking a driving test. However, negotiations are underway between the UK and Spanish Governments on arrangements for the future exchange of UK driving licences without the need for a practical test.

You will have to give your UK licence to the Spanish Traffic Authority at your appointment. They will provide you with a temporary driving permit (‘autorización temporal para conducir’) to use until your Spanish licence is processed. This document is only valid in Spain and not in any other country. What happens after the 31st December 2021 has not yet been decided. Unless decided otherwise, UK citizens driving in Spain after the 31st December will not be able to exchange their licence and must take a Spanish driving test.

To Summarise
- The extension means UK licence holders who reside in Spain can continue legally driving in Spain for an extra 2 months.
- Those who registered their intent to exchange before the 31st December 2020 also have an extra two months in which to complete the process and get round the hold-ups and other bureaucratic issues they’ve been experiencing with the DGT, all while still being able to drive.
- If you moved to reside in Spain after 1st January 2021, your British driving licence is valid for six months from the date of your TIE or until 31st December 2021, whichever date is later.
- This does not apply to British tourists with UK licences visiting Spain who are for example renting a car during their holidays. The issues affect UK licence holders who are residents in Spain.

Countries with a driving licence exchange agreement with Spain

The United Kingdom is NOT a country with a reciprocal driving licence exchange agreement in place. As of March 2021, countries with a reciprocal agreement are: Andorra, Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, South Korea, Croatia, Ecuador, Japan, Morocco, Peru, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Switzerland, Uruguay , Venezuela, Brazil, El Salvador, the Philippines, Guatemala, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Exchanging a Driving Licence - EU/EAA citizens

If you are from a European Economic Area (EEA) country (EU plus Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein) you are free to drive in Spain using your existing driver’s license for the first two years in Spain. You must also register with the traffic authorities after six months. You can do this at your Central Register of Drivers and Minor Offenders (Registro Central de Conductores e Infractores) of the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico).

You must adhere to the same conditions as Spanish license holders, including the following:
- undertake relevant medical checks from a Spanish doctor
- have reached the minimum age in Spain for the category of vehicle you wish to drive
- renew or exchange the license after two years. If an EU license is renewed in Spain, it converts it into a Spanish license, which then needs to be renewed every 10 years

Spanish authorities can also compel a person to obtain a new Spanish license if there are issues with penalty points

If you don’t obtain a Spanish driver’s license after two years and are caught driving, however, you face a fine of €200.

Once you register, you must take a medical examination at an Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado). This demonstrates that you are fit to drive.

You can also voluntarily exchange your license for a Spanish one at any time. This occurs at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters. The local authorities request the following documents:
application form
- identity card or passport
- proof of residence
- the valid driving license
- two recent photographs
- declaration that you haven’t been banned or suspended from driving
- declaration that you don’t hold another driver’s license in another country

Your old licence will be taken from you and you will receive a certificate that allows you to drive whilst your application is being processed.

Exchanging a Driving Licence

Citizens of Andorra, Japan, Korea, and Switzerland

Residents of these countries must produce the following:
- application form - valid national identity card or passport (original)
- residence permit and valid residence card
- medical fitness report from a recognized medical center (such as the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado)
- current valid driving license
- two recent photographs
- declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving
- declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s license of the same class issued by another EU country
- official translation of the permit by a consulate or embassy (Korea)
- official translation of the permit (Japan)

Exchanging a Driving Licence

Citizens of Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominical Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Macedonia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela

Residents of these countries must produce the following:
- application form
- valid national identity card or passport (original)
- residence permit, identity card, or foreign passport, along with the Certificate of Registration in the Central Register of Foreigners for EU foreigners
- medical fitness report from a recognized medical center (such as the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado)
- current valid driving license
- two recent photographs
- declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving
- declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s license of the same class issued by another EU country

The Spanish Driving Test

If you are not a citizen of the EU, EAA or one of the countries with an exchange agreement then you cannot exchange your driving licence for a Spanish driving licence, you must take the Spanish driving test. Citizens of many countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, will have to take the full Spanish driving test to get a Spanish license.

You must apply at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico). You need the following:
- a certificate of mental and physical fitness from the Authorised Drivers’ Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado); - an application form
- two passport-sized photographs
- your residence permit
- proof of address in Spain
- a declaration that there are no suspensions or legal cases preventing you from driving
- a declaration that you don’t already hold a similar license

You must take lessons through a recognized driving school.

The test has two parts: a written theory test as well as a practical test. Both are usually taken in Spanish although in some areas of Spain there are English-speaking examiners and you can take a translator with you. Check with the test centre.



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Approved Comments

Submitted by Philip Sheldon on 16 Apr 2021
Are you 100% sure that you can take a translator on your driving test. I’m not sure this is correct

Reply by Nick Nutter:
Hi Philip, Thanks for pointing that out. The sentence is badly worded, it should read Both are usually taken in Spanish although in some areas of Spain there are English-speaking examiners and you can take a translator with you.

Submitted by Gaga Fara on 15 Apr 2021
Can I do the theory test online and then book the technical test with a driving school anytime later?.. and how many tests allowed to pass ?. Best regards,

Reply by Nick Nutter:
Hi Gaga, Lots of questions, probably best answered by experts at https://practicatest.com/en/spanish-driving-test/online?gclid=Cj0KCQjwyN-DBhCDARIsAFOELTmJ0tiSdWIvD7WkD3dpSWkHa30Cfyx1X4_b4yXKJBJ69fifw5CWPyIaAqJzEALw_wcB

Submitted by Jules on 13 Apr 2021
I have a Jersey driving licence, so I know I will have to take the Spanish test. Do you know if theory test is multiple choice? I read somewhere this could be taken in English, is that not the case? Thanks for your help.

Reply by Nick Nutter:
The theory test is multiple choice. If you want the test in English then you must request that when you apply.

Submitted by Kay Tyler on 12 Apr 2021
What if you are resident in both Spain and the UK?

Reply by Nick Nutter:
I don't think that is possible. Dual citizenship is allowed in the UK but Spain only recognises dual citizenship with a select number of countries who are judged to fulfil the requirement set out in the Spanish constitution of having 'a close/special relationship with Spain' e.g. Latin American countries that were previously under Spanish rule. In any case, the driving licence rules do not relate directly to residencia, rather the length of time you will be driving (or have been driving) in Spain.

Submitted by Lubna yousif on 8 Apr 2021
Can I drive in Spain with a driving license issued in the United Arab Emirates?

Reply by Nick Nutter:
Hi Lubna, Thanks for the question. You may use your UAE driving licence whilst on holiday in Spain. The paragraph entitled 'Non European citizens' covers your case.