How to drive in Spain with US driver license
Where to begin your trip
If you want to rent a car in Spain, you should first choose a rental agency. Luckily, Spain has a lot of them. However, each agency has its particular rental rules. To rent a car in Spain, you should not be under 21 years old (or even 23 years old). Young drivers who have little driving experience have to pay extra money. All these restrictions are directly related to the statistics that show lack of experience results in car accidents. According to Statista.com, in 2009, 2,714 individuals were killed in motor vehicle accidents. The highest number of road fatalities occurred in 2006.
Furthermore, the price of car rental depends on the car class and brand as well as a set of additional services. Indeed, if a tourist prefers traveling alone, he can rent a car in one city and leave it in another with no need to go back to the starting point. It is very easy and comfortable for foreigners driving in Spain. We recommend tourists driving in Spain not to cut corners on technical support service. Who knows what might happen.
Foreigners driving in Spain should know that large rental agencies have more cars for to offer of different brand and excellent technical condition. In Spain, rental car companies all together have 253,000 car ready to rent in 2016, especially during the summer. The websites of car rental agencies also provide information about discounts and special offers. If you rent a car in Spain directly at the agency, you may not be told about it, since business is business and employees are always interested in setting the maximum tariffs. Want to save some money? Click here to discover new opportunities for cutting corners on your rental.
If foreigners driving in Spain rent a car on the weekends, it will cost them less than on the weekdays. The same applies to winter and summer (high tourist season).
Generally, car rental in Spain is funded through fare, insurance and deposit payment (you will get it back if you return the car clean with a gas tank that is functionally full, which is the same condition in which you received the car). Most often, the deposit amount will be blocked on your card. Insurance can be either basic or extended. The details will be displayed in the contract. A car with the manual transmission will cost you less than a car with the automatic transmission.
Make sure you have carefully inspected the car. Otherwise, you will be asked to pay for the cost of any scratches and dents, etc. if you fail to prove they have already been there. You are allowed to shoot a video. Anyway, be super responsible when signing a rental contract.
Americans should know that car rental agents may not have a good command of English. It happens quite often, especially in provincial areas. Thus, it is better to review the contract beforehand on car rental agency website. To rent a car, you need to get your international driving permit for Spain.
Documents required to rent a car in Spain
You need to provide the following documents:
- International Driving Permit (ID License or national driver’s license in Latin characters, however, there is a particular risk that some Spanish provinces will not accept it);
- Travel passport (it is required to determine the validity of the driver’s license — not more than 90 days).
If tourists or residents (those who applied for a residence permit in Spain) are going to drive a car further, they should get driving licenses for Spain. Therefore, US driver license can be valid for 90 days. However, if a tourist has applied for a multiple entry visa and it allows him to visit Spain for many years, then a 90-day period starts anew. If you go to Spain on a holiday once in 90 days and return there again, no need to worry about applying for Spanish driving license over a rather long period of time.
How to rent a car in Spain if you have US driver license
American? We recommend you, first of all, to make sure that you have the right documents for driving in Spain. US citizens are usually required to have a valid passport and a US driver’s license. We suggest you apply for the International Driving License (IDL) to be on a safe side.
US citizens who want to rent a car in Spain should apply for and get their IDL before going to Spain. Tourists driving in Spain should keep it in mind. Consider that international driving permit does not replace valid US state license. You should use it as a supplementary document. Foreigners driving in Spain should have a valid US license apart from the international driving permit.
Click the following link for more information on IDLs.
How to stay safe on Spanish roads
Road conditions for tourists driving in Spain are good enough. There are straight highways that connect different cities of the country into one network. However, these are the toll roads. There are also toll-free highways. However, they are curvier than the toll ones.
As mentioned before, US driver license doesn’t provide any advantage when renting a car in Spain. Moreover, if you rent a car in Spain, you should obey traffic rules and regulations, no matter who you are — a native citizen or just a tourist driving in Spain. According to Spain DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico) Report, 161 fatalities were recorded in 2016 as a result of non-use of a recommended safety device (seat belt or crash helmet). So, be careful driving in Spain.
Roundabouts are quite widespread in the Kingdom of Spain. There can be 6-7 exits. If you are extremely attentive, it will help you to avoid confusion.
Mobile radars are quite common on Spanish roads. They record overspeeding. A car rental agency will bill your credit card (more specifically, it will not return the deposit amount).
If traffic enforcers ask foreigners driving in Spain to stop, they will always draw up a violation report (a protocol). Traffic enforcers will specify a type of violation and fine amount. If a driver has an issue with the protocol, he has two weeks to appeal it. If there is no objection, he can pay the fine any possible way even by phone call within 45 days. Delay payment may result in penalties.
Tourists driving in Spain should park their cars carefully. Illegal parking may cost them 90 Euro. However, that’s the minimum fine.
We hope you never find yourself getting bored in Spain. Don’t forget to apply for the International Driving Permit! It is easy, comfortable and cheap.