If you have any concerns regarding the driving licence from your home country, you can ask for an International Driving Permit, which is a document valid for one year that is translated into 8 languages and valid only with the original driving licence. It has wide international recognition.
Exchanging your driving licence
If you have an EU/EEA driver's licence, you can keep using it and you don't have to exchange it as long as:
- Your licence is still valid
- You are the minimum age for the different categories
- Your licence has not been revoked and you do not have a driving ban in the country where you got your licence
So it is not mandatory to exchange your driver's licence, but, if you really want to, you can in most cases.
The countries that have agreements with Spain are: Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, the Dominican Republic Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Macedonia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Paraguay, Peru, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela.
If you're moving from a non-European country that is not one of the above mentioned, then you do have to exchange your licence for a Spanish one.
The exchange has to be done at your nearest Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico (Provincial Traffic Department). You can make an appointment online and fill out an official form to do your exchange.
The documents to provide for the exchange are:
- a proof of identity (passport)
- a proof of residence (for foreigners, the Número de Identificación de Extranjero - NIE is required)
- For EU residents, Your EU registration card
- For non EU residents, your Tarjeta de Residencia (Residence Card)
- the valid driving licence to be exchanged
- two photographs (32 x 35mm)
- a written declaration from the applicant that they have not been banned from driving
- a written declaration from the applicant that they do not hold another driving licence of the same type in another country (apart from the one they're exchanging).
Remember that Spanish driving licences do need to be renewed. 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.
If your issuing country (or state in the case of the US) does not have a licence agreement with Spain, then you will have to sit the full exam (theory and practice) to get a driving licence.
Getting a driver's licence
The Spanish driving licence is sometimes regarded as more difficult to pass than in other European countries. The easiest way to go for it, is to register with a driving school (autoescuela) that will take care of the registration procedure with the Jefatura. Otherwise, you can also apply directly to the Jefatura by yourself (see above for the link with all the addresses).
Once you've enrolled in a driving school, you must first get a medical and eye exam. Recommend is to do this at your doctor.
For the theory test, you can just buy manuals (in English and/or Spanish) that will cost you around 50€ and will allow you to study for the test from home. You can also practice on websites such as www.todotest.com where all the questions for different types of driving licence can be found. If you want to use that site, then you will have to register as a user. Registration is free.
The written test must be taken in Spanish, though a few places offer the written test in English. Some driving schools offer translations for the Spanish test exams, which makes it easier to practice.
The practical test
Driving in Spain has been regarded as a challenge by many expats. Even if you are an experienced driver, you may want to take some driving lessons.
Driving lessons in Spain cost between 15€ and 30€ an hour. Many driving schools offer an abono, or a pack of five or 10 classes that when purchased together have a slight discount.
While it's possible for you to take your practical test in English, this is not offered everywhere. This means that in most Jefaturas, you will need to speak at least intermediate Spanish to be able to sit the test.
The minimum age for getting a licence for motorcycles between 50cc and 125cc is 16 (type A1, licencia de ciclomotor) and you have to be 18 for motorcycles with a maximum power of 35kW. After this period, you are granted a type A licence, which imposes no restriction on the size of the motorcycle that you can ride. If you have a vehicle that is under 75cc, then you cannot drive on the freeway.
There are two theory exams and two practice exams (one on circuit and the other one on the street/highway) for this type of licence. The theory exams can be practiced online at: http://aplch.dgt.es/aeDGTWeb/examen/TiposExamenes.htm
Moreover, children must be over 7 to be able to sit on a motorcycle with their parents, and a specific written authorisation must be written if the driver is not the parent of the child.