Many foreign driving licences are recognised in Spain under reciprocal agreements, including all EU licences and some US state licences, in which case you can drive on the licence of your home country and are not required to obtain a Spanish driving licence.
Note, however, that the above rule is not always known or recognised by the local police, and there have been cases of EU nationals resident in Spain driving Spanish-registered vehicles and being fined for not having a Spanish licence. For this reason, many people find it’s simpler to exchange their foreign licence for a Spanish one! The National Department for Traffic, (Dirección General de Tráfico, DGT) website does say that foreign licenses, including the ones for EU residents, which are valid to drive within Spain become invalid 6 months after the license holder becomes resident in Spain. If there is an agreement.
Foreign drivers from within the EU still need to register with the traffic authorities within six months of moving to Spain. Afterwards, you have to apply for a Spanish driving license and prove your residency in Spain.
Holders of licences issued by countries without a reciprocal agreement with Spain must take a Spanish written and/or practical driving test. The written test must be taken in Spanish, though a few places offer the written test in English (Practica Test is a company that can help you through the process). Some driving schools offer translations for the Spanish test exams, which make it easier to practice.
If in doubt, consult a Spanish consulate abroad or your country’s embassy or consulate in Spain. All non-resident non-EU licence holders must obtain a Spanish driving licence and are entitled to drive in Spain for a maximum of six months in a calendar year.
To apply for a Spanish licence, you will need the following documents:
- an international driving permit (IDP), as well as the licence from your home country;
- an official translation of your licence, which can be obtained from a Spanish consulate;
- a certificate of equivalence (certificado de equivalencia) issued by the Spanish RAC.
An international driving permit is obtainable in Spain from the Royal Automobile Club of Spain (Real Automóvil Club de España/RACE) on presentation of a valid foreign driving licence, a Spanish ID card or a Spanish resident permit, an online form and one photograph. Note, however, that if a non-resident obtains an international driving licence in Spain, it’s valid only for driving outside of Spain.
A Spanish driving licence is a plastic-coated card, the same size as a credit card, with personal information (including a photograph) printed on one side and driving information on the other. The card is similar to those issued in many EU countries such as Germany, Sweden and the UK. The old-style licence is gradually being replaced by the new one when licence holders renew their licence.
You must carry your foreign or Spanish driving licence at all times when driving in Spain.
Validity of driving licenses in Spain
The validity period of a Spanish licence depends on your age and the type of licence held, e.g. a motorcycle (A-1/A-2) or car (B-1) licence is valid for ten years if you’re under 65 and for five years if you’re over 65. A commercial, passenger vehicle or heavy goods licence must be renewed every five years up to the age of 65, every three years from 65.
In an attempt to reduce the high accident and mortality rate on Spain’s roads, the government has introduced a points system, similar to that used in France, Germany and Italy. The scheme, widely acclaimed by motoring associations and insurance companies, became law in July 2006.
Since the licence points system was introduced, there has been a marked decrease in the number of deaths on Spanish roads. For drivers with less than 3 years of driving experience or drivers that have lost all their points in the past, the license will have 8 points. For experienced drivers, it has 12 points. You can add up to 3 points if you don’t commit any infringements over several years, but for any infringement, you will receive a fine and, depending on how big the infringement was, some points will be taken.
If you lose all your points, you will also lose your license and after six months without it and a course on sensitivity and a theoretical test, you will be given a new license with 8 points. Driving without your license is a crime.
For more info on the points system, you can read this from the DGT (in Spanish).
To apply for a Spanish driving licence you require the following:
- a completed application form (Solicitud de Carnet del Permiso de Conducir), available from the información-impresos counter at the local provincial traffic department or downloadable from www.dgt.es
- your Spanish residence permit and/or passport (residencia) and a photocopy
- your current foreign driving licence and a photocopy
- a sworn written statement that your licence has not been suspended and that you don’t own another driving licence in another country (other than the one you wish to change!)
- the fee (the same price as for the replacement of a lost or damaged licence) payable at the traffic department, which can be found on www.dgt.es, on the section “Trámites y Multas”.
- photocopy (and original) of a Spanish residence permit (Residencia) or a copy of the passport along with the NIE number.
- proof of address in Spain dated within 3 months (empadronamiento) available from your local Town Hall.
- two passport-sized photographs.
Holders of non-EU driving licences also require an official translation of their licence and a certificate of equivalence (certificado de equivalencia) available from the Royal Automobile Club of Spain, a medical certificate of fitness to drive and a stamped self-addressed envelope.
You can use a gestor to obtain a Spanish driving licence or apply through a Spanish motoring organisation such as the Royal Automobile Club of Spain.
It usually takes between one and three months to obtain a Spanish licence. You’re given an official receipt for your application and a copy of your foreign licence, which is valid until you receive your Spanish licence. When you receive your Spanish licence, your foreign licence is returned to the issuing authority abroad. If you change your address, you must apply to have the address on your licence changed (there’s no fee).
To renew a Spanish driving licence you require the following:
- a completed application form (see above)
- your current licence
- your residence permit and a photocopy
- a medical certificate (see below)
- certificate of aptitude issued by the Authorised Drivers Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado), with a recent photograph
- two passport-sized photographs, taken on the same time as the photograph of the certificate of aptitude
- talón-foto to which the photograph should be glued. It can be obtained in the Jefatura de Tráfico (local traffic department)
- proof of address in Spain (empadronamiento) dated within 3 months of the date of application
If someone other than the licence owner makes the application, he must provide written authorisation from the owner and supply his own residence card and copy.
Holders of non-EU driving licences require a medical certificate to obtain a Spanish driving licence. The medical examination is carried out in designated clinics (centros de reconocimiento médico para conductores), which are open from 10am to 2pm and from 4 to 8pm Mondays to Fridays. The examination has been recently changed and now it includes a manual dexterity test and an eye test. This test is to be taken every ten years if under 65 and every five years afterwards.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you’re tested with them and your licence with be annotated to indicate this (note also that you must carry a spare pair when driving). The medical certificate is valid for 90 days, during which time you must make your application for a licence (or a renewal). You should bring a photograph.
For EU residents who have the old British paper licence or a licence without an expiry date, you will have to undergo a medical test once you have been resident in Spain for two years. You can keep your old licence but you will be registered on the database of Spanish drivers. Those attending the medical will have their photo taken for the database.
If you have a photocard licence with an expiry date it is valid until that date. Be aware though many police officers are unaware of the changes or the exact rules, so expats driving in Spain with an EU licence may still be fined. If you are planning on staying in Spain long-term it may be easier to convert to a Spanish licence to avoid these problems.
Legal driving ages
The table below shows the legal driving ages per permit.
Minimum Age (in years)
AM (Mopeds and vehicles for people with reduced mobility)
A1 (motorbikes up to 125cc)
A2 (motorbikes with a maximum power of 35kW a power-to-weight ratio of under 0.2kW/kg)
A (all motorbikes, at least two years experience is required)
B (vehicles with a maximum weight of 3,500 Kg and with a maximum of 9 seats)
C (vehicles > 3,500 Kg)
D (vehicles for transport of passengers)