Traveling by car in Spain

Traveling by car is such a fantastic way to explore Spain. Driving conditions are very good and each major city and beach hub is well connected. This makes a self-drive holiday in Spain a very easy option. Call it a road trip and it becomes a much more exciting way to travel.

Road trip holidays are a very popular. They allow you to see a different side to the country and freedom to explore at your own pace. Traveling by car gets you out of the city and cruising through scenic countryside and coastal roads. Spain is a large country and there is lots to see. So, quite some distance needs to be covered if you want to visit a few different places on one trip. Luckily, there are plenty of little towns and villages that will allow you break up the journey. This gives you the opportunity to rest at regular intervals and see some of the wonderful Spanish landscape that you might otherwise miss on a train or plane.

Taking a road trip in Spain is a great idea but there are a few things to think about in advance when traveling by car. Here are some things to be aware of, recommendations for car hire plus our car rental tips.

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Things to be aware of when driving in Spain

  • In Spain cars drive on the right so that means the driver sits on the left and the gear stick is on the right
  • At roundabouts you drive anti-clockwise and give way to traffic coming from the left
  • Spain is a very big country so take a little time to plan your route and travel time before setting off
  • Obey speed limit signs (they are in km/h)
  • Always wear your seat belts or risk facing a fine of €200
  • Do not be tempted to drink and drive, blood alcohol levels cannot exceed 0.5 milligrams (that’s stricter than the UK)
  • Some highways will have tolls
  • Follow the coastal route where possible for a slower but more scenic driving route
  • Avoid driving into big cities as much as possible as they can get very congested
  • Rural villages and old towns often have very narrow streets
  • When you park always check the parking rules before leaving the car
  • Don’t leave any valuables in a parked car

*RELATED article: Tips for first time travel to Spain

Traveling by car in Spain

Car hire in Spain

The first thing to book for your road trip is your means of travel… a car! It’s pretty cheap to hire a car in Spain at the moment due to the high competition. It’s also pretty straightforward (if in doubt, follow our tips below). If you’re looking for car hire in Spain we recommend Discover Car Hire. It’s a comparison website that checks the rental companies in the area you select for your specific dates. Using a comparison site saves you the time of searching each individual rental company website separately. Here’s a quick review of my experience using their website.

Using Discover Care Hire website

The Discover Car Hire website has a very simple search facility. You just enter the location and dates for your pick-up and drop-off requirements. Make sure you change the “driver country of residence” and “age” to get an accurate quote.

You will then see a selection of different cars available from different car hire companies. Look through the list for the type of car and a rental price that suits you. It clearly shows any features such as automatic gears, air conditioning, 3 doors, boot space for 2 suitcases etc.

The fuel policy for that rental is clearly displayed. Which I think is great because hidden fuel charges have been a big problem for people renting cars in Spain. They also clearly state where exactly the pick-up location is because some car hire offices are a short drive away from the airport terminal building.

Click on the “rental conditions” to see the fine print for the terms & conditions. Again, I was very impressed that Discover set this out clearly into different categories. Sometimes reading through log T&C’s jargon can be a headache. Be aware that one-way routes will incur extra charges and there are restrictions/charges for crossing the border to other countries (including Portugal).

When you click “book now” check through all the details before entering your personal information and payment details. Discover Car Hire will take a pre-payment to secure your booking, you will then pay the remaining balance directly to the rental company at pick-up. If your plans change Discover offer free cancelation if you email them 48 hours before the pick-up time.

If you want to learn more or have any questions visit the Discover Car Hire FAQ section. To book your car rental through Discover Car Hire click on the link below to visit their website.

Website features that impressed us

    • You can change the website into 15 different languages
    • There is a live chat option to speak with the customer service team
    • It’s very clear and easy to read
    • You can email yourself a quote and come back to book later
    • The cost of rental is broken down
    • There is easy access to the terms and conditions
    • It clearly states the pay now and pay later amounts

Tips for hiring a car in Spain

Book online

It is much cheaper if you book your car hire in advance. Sure, you can go to the desk at any airport or train station in Spain however they may not have the type of car you require available, it will cost more and take longer to fill in all the forms. Use the link above to get a quote for your car hire now.

Read the T&C’s

Check the fine print very carefully before booking. Some companies have hire conditions such as you must pay the deposit using a credit card, you must take out extra insurance, you must return the vehicle to the same collection point, you must be a certain age, you have limited mileage or fuel conditions. This way you know exactly what you have signed up for and will not face unexpected charges or be refused a hire car.

Pro tip: On the Discover Car Hire website you can click on “rental conditions” to read the terms for that rental company.

Think ahead

At the desk you will be offered extra insurance and asked what fuel policy you would like, this can work out expensive. Think ahead in advance and decide if you would like the extra insurance or not and whether you would prefer to return the car full of fuel or empty. Be firm and don’t allow the staff to force you into buying something you don’t want or need.

Pro tip: In my experience the rental company fuel rates are much higher than the local petrol stations. So, I always opt for the full-to-full policy and make sure I re-fill it just before driving to the drop-off office. 

Have a fun road trip in Spain with these driving tips

Add extras to your basket

If you want extras such as child car seats, an additional driver, liability waiver or a sat nav add those to the booking before checkout, it usually cheaper then asking for these items to be added on collection day.

Bring all paperwork

When you collect your car make sure you have all necessary papers with you (passport, flight confirmation, driving licences, card you booked with, another credit card, copy of your booking confirmation, copy of terms and conditions from the website etc).

Be prepared for delays

If you happen to be visiting Spain at a busy time of year you may well find a whole queue of people doing the same thing as you. You will also spend some time with a staff member checking over the car.

Pro tip: If you have just landed in the country I recommend you grab food and drinks to keep you sane during the pick-up process.

Check your car thoroughly

When you are shown to your car make sure that you check all over for any previous damage. Look for small scratches, dents and paint chips. Tell the staff member and make sure they make a note of it. If in doubt take a photo of the damage so that you can later prove it had already happened if needed.

Drive carefully and enjoy your road trip!

I hope that this guide to traveling by car in Spain and our tips for renting a hire car have been useful. If you have any questions please do leave a message in the contact box below.

Other Spain guides by Seeking the Spanish Sun that you may be interested in reading…

A great family holiday in Mojacar

How to save money when visiting Spain

The best time of year to visit Spain

Frigiliana, the prettiest town in Andalucía

8 Surprising sights to see in Spain

The best cities to visit in Spain


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