- the alternative guide to Spain
Things you must have with you when driving in Spain
generation or so ago
vehicles must have or carry the following items:
insurance, normally in the form of a Green card
(A Green card is
recommended but not compulsory for
vehicles from other EU countries. Within the EU, any vehicle insurance
policy automatically includes third
party cover throughout the European Union).
- European union driving
licence (or Swiss,
Norwegian or Croatian), or an international driving licence.
hazard warning triangles
to be used in the event of immobilization of
the vehicle at the roadside.
waistcoat for driver and each passenger, to
be put on in the event of breakdown or
and rear seatbelts,
that must be used.
right-hand drive cars (from Britain or Ireland), headlamp converter
- If you need
for driving, you must carry a spare pair in the glove
And note that.....
- Use of mobile
driving is strictly forbidden (except fully hands-free units)
up to 12 years
old must travel in the back of the car.
, travelling round Spain
was a time-consuming business; while the main roads radiating out from
Madrid - numbered in Roman numerals from N I to N VI, were well
surfaced, they were both dangerous and cluttered with slow-moving
lorries. Among the dangers was an alarming feature of Spanish lorries,
which had two left-side indicators at the rear - an amber one to
they were pulling out or turning left, and a green one with an arrow,
to tell a vehicle behind that it was supposedly safe to
overtake... It was your life in their hands.....
All that is history, and today Spain has perhaps
the best domestic transport infrastructure of any country in Europe...
and thanks to Europe. Since Spain joined the European Union, it has
benefited from major development funds to help transform its
isolated and impoverished regions into part of the modern Europe.
Spain today is a country where
beautifully built and surfaced roads criss-cross
the land, reaching into some of its deepest corners. And the
greatest joy is that very often, other than in the densely populated
areas round Madrid and on the coast, there is little or no traffic on
Furthermore it is possible to drive "off the
beaten track" even between cities. Over the last half century, many
main Spanish roads have been upgraded not just once, but twice or three
times. And unlike in more populated countries, where upgrading means
improving the existing road, the Spanish solution has often just been
to build a new road near the old one. Consequently, on some routes,
there are actually three parallel roads, the historic route, the
post-Franco new road, and the more recent "autovia" divided highway.
Where - as in most cases - the autovia is free, that leaves the old
main road as empty as the most minor of minor cross country roads. Just
occasionally, old main roads have been downgraded and /or equipped, as
in France, with speed bumps and other devices - notably at the entrance
to small towns; but generally speaking this is not the case.
On cross-country routes, those that are not part
of the national highway network designated as "N" roads, traffic in
most parts of Spain is very light. The majority of
minor roads, those linking villages and small towns, are very well
built and modernised, even when they serve no more than a few hundred
vehicles a day. And signposting on Spanish roads is generally excellent.
Motorways in Spain come into two categores;
the busy to very busy ones - often toll roads - most of them radiating
and along the Mediterranean coast: and the others, most of them
carrying only light traffic. Nearly all of these are free.
Generally speaking - though there are exceptions -
Spain's toll motorways - known officially as Autopistas - are
designated by the letters AP, as in AP8. Spain's free motorways,
as Autovias, are generally designated by the letter A, as in A66.
Around Madrid, the system is different, and complex. Madrid is a maze
of motorways, with in addition to the A motorways M motorways (for
Madrid) and R motorways (for Radial). Motorways M30, M40, M45 and M50
are the main orbital routes round Madrid. M50, the outermost, runs 80%
of the way round Madrid, and connects all the main national A
motorways, from A1 to A6. The missing section is the northwest, from
the A1 to the A6 - for which the A40 should be used. Orbital M
motorways are free, the radial R motorways are toll roads.
overview of Spain's motorways, see Spanish
Click here for a no-tolls
from Bayonne (France) to the South of Spain
Travelling via Bayonne (sw France) rather than by Perpignan and
Barcelona is actually shorter for most destinations south of
distinguishes autovias from autopistas ? Frankly, very little....
except for the tolls on some of the Autopistas, those with a number
starting AP. Otherwise there is very little difference.
Most but not all Autovias
have numbers starting with A, for instance the A3
which runs from Madrid to Valencia. But some, those built by the
regions, not by the Spanish national highways agency, are numbered
differently. Catalonia's C25
for instance (photo top of page) , linking Girona and Lleida,
is as good a motorway as any, even if many maps do not mark it as such.
Where toll autopistas and non-toll autovias offer alternative routes
between two points, trucks usually take the free autovia leaving the
autopista for those in a hurry and those happy to pay the tolls. But
for itineraries where there is no autopista, HGV (truck) traffic uses
the autovias when available. However, it's worth noting that
most autovias, except those on the Mediterranean coast and close to
Madrid, truck traffic is light to very light, compared to motorways in
the UK, Germany or the Netherlands.
Autovias tend not to have
many dedicated service areas. Instead, they have plenty of exits with
off-highway garages or service stations, restaurants and sometimes
hotels or hostals. These are clearly announced in advance of the exit.
tolls in Spain:
In Spain as a whole, tolls must be paid on about
the motorway network; the rest is free. However, there are big
variations by region, and in Catalonia over half the state motorway
is composed of toll routes.
Spanish toll motorways are relatively expensive:
for instance, tolls on the Mediterranean motorway between the French
border at Le Perthus and Valencia - a distance of 500 km. mostly on the
AP7 - cost almost 45 €uros for a car.
tolls on the
updated 2019. It
is possible to avoid the tolls by taking the free parallel A7 motorway,
where it exists, and the old N340 national route, but if you decide to
completely avoid the AP7 toll motorway, the saving may be
offset by hassle and slow traffic, specially on the single carriageway
N340 in summer. There are plenty of trucks using this route at all
times of the year, so unless you are driving a slow-moving HGV or
truck, trying to avoid all
tolls is pretty pointless.
Far better use the toll motorway where it
represents a major saving in time and hassle, and leave it where there
less to lose, by following our recommended toll-saving route.
Recommended route avoiding
most but not all tolls :
Starting from Perpignan in France, take the French A9 toll
you reach Spain (the former N9, now D900, is just too much hassle south
of Perpignan). Once in Spain, leave the motorway and take the old NII
as far as near Vidreres,
Girona. Join AP7 at exit 9, and stay on it all round Barcelona (where
it's partly free anyway) until exit
before Tarragona. Here join N340 which turns into the free A7
motorway after about 4 km. Follow the A7 for 60 km, after which it
becomes the N340 again. Turn off N340 at kilometre-marker 1114, for
Ametlla de Mar. Turn towards the sea, then after 600 metres rejoin the
toll AP7 at exit 39
as far as exit 44 for
Torreblanca. At the exit roundabout follow CV13 / CV10,
signposted "Aeroporto de Castello" among other things . After
9 km of high-quality single-carriageway
road, the CV 13 becomes an autovia (motorway) as it passes Castello
airport. You are then on free motorway to beyond Valencia. The CV13
becomes the CV10, which used to be the A7 and may be marked as such on
some maps. It then merges with the AP7 where the latter becomes
Toll cost using this route:
13.30 €, compared to over 50 € making full use of the
rates - car.) The tolls on this route are well worth paying
the time they save and stressful driving conditions they
It's best to avoid the single-carriageway N340 between Ametlla and
Torreblanca as it can get quite congested and slow moving
On the other hand, traffic moving southwest from
the French border on the Atlantic coast at Irun (near Biarritz) can
most of the tolls and
take a shorter route between San Sebastian and
Vitoria, by using the N1 and A1 autovia, rather than the AP8 and AP1
tolls on the
motorway - to the south via Madrid
after entering Spain, it makes little sense to avoid the couple of
Euros of tolls on the 20 or so km. between the border and San
Sebastian. The AP1 / AP8 round San Sebastian is free anyway. Leave it
however at exit 24, onto the N1 / A1 (dual carriageway - divided
highway), following signs for Tolosa and Vitoria. Continue past Vitoria
as far as Miranda de Ebro, where the A1 becomes the toll AP1. Do not
take the AP1, but continue on the old N1 as far as Burgos. It's an easy
road. Just before Burgos, join the A1 again, following signs for A1 -
Madrid. Give Madrid a wide berth, using the M50 outer orbital route to
the east, following signs for the M50, A2 and A3 (take this for the
coast between Valencia and Cartagena) until signs for the "A4
Cordoba" are shown (not the R4 Cordoba, which is a toll road).
The same goes for traffic heading for Saragossa and Madrid,
Leave the AP7 (which is free round Barcelona)
at exit 26,
and follow the free A2 as far as Fraga, after Lleida.
The best advice is to use a satnav or a good post
2010 map -
which should remain fairly up-to-date until at least 2020, since on the
one hand Spain's strategic motorway-building plan is now largely
complete, and on the other hand the economic crisis has put paid to any
more projects for the time being.
On sections of intercity toll motorway, the
normal system is to take a ticket when you enter the toll section, and
pay when you leave. On shorter sections of toll motorway, toll booths
come at strategic points on the motorway, and there is a small fixed
toll for using the section. Payment can be made in cash in
€uros, or by credit card. Credit card lanes at toll points are
a credit card logo, and sometimes the word "tarjetas".
Speed limits in Spain
The normal speed limits are as follows:
(autovias and autopistas) : 120 km/h
roads : 80 km/h, 90 km/h or 100 km/h as indicated
areas : 50 km/h or 70 km/h as indicated
There are now plenty of speed traps, or radars, on main roads
in Spain, and police can and do issue on-the-spot fines. Advance
warning of speed traps tends to be given, and the speed cameras are
sometimes painted in fluorescent yellow, with the speed limit painted
on them; but this is not always the case. Speed cameras are uncommon on
minor roads in Spain.