Dec 092013

Driving in Spain


Having a Spanish driving license can be hazardous, as I have just found out.  Unlike UK driving licenses, Spanish driving licenses expire every ten years.  Unfortunately, you receive no notice that they are about to expire and that you need to apply for a new license. 

So, sadly, the only time that you likely to find out that your Spanish driving license has expired is when you are stopped by the Spanish police.  At this stage, if your license has expired, you can expect a 200 Euro fine (reduced to 100 Euros, if you pay within 15 days).  This is a painful experience – the moral of which is to look at the back of your license every so often and check that it is still in date.

To renew your existing Spanish driving license is not a problem, although it is a perfect example of pointless bureaucracy combined with some nifty tax raising.  It costs around 65 Euros to renew your license and this is undertaken at a Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores – an office of which you will probably find in every town in Spain, of any size.

The re-issuing of your Spanish driving license is subject to a medical test (my blood pressure was the only thing tested) and tests for your sight, hearing and co-ordination.  The sight test, in my recent experience, took about two minutes, the hearing test about the same time with the co-ordination test only a touch longer.  The co-ordination test had two parts – working out when a ball travelling across a computer screen arrived at the end of a box and a test where I had to keep a ‘car’ on the computer screen within two lines, using a couple of levers.

Frankly, if you can still breathe and make it from one room to another without needing a full intensive care team from your local hospital – then you will pass the tests.  To state that it is a pointless waste of time would be to put it very mildly, indeed.

Of course, you may be wondering about whether you should apply for a Spanish driving license, if you are resident in Spain?

Well, I am no longer clear about this, as it used to be the case that you had to apply for a Spanish driving license after being a resident for six months.  However, I have heard conflicting advice on this from a number of sources – possibly because different Regions of Spain have different applicable laws (as is often the case with many legal matters in Spain).

Certainly, I have heard of a number of cases where foreign drivers have received very significant fines for driving in Spain on their own country’s license when their principal address is in Spain.  Accordingly, I am of the opinion that, overall, as a permanent resident in Spain, it is worth obtaining a Spanish driving license. 

If you need (or wish) to apply for a Spanish driving license to replace your current ‘foreign’ one then you can battle Spanish bureaucracy (if you are very brave or incredibly stupid) or ’beat the system’ by using a gestor to do all the work. 

Gestors, as you probably know, are professionals who act as the interface between the state and the public and it is they who can quickly and easily get your Spanish driving license etc.  They rarely cost much and are critically important to any foreigner residing in Spain, who needs to penetrate any element of Spanish bureaucracy from motoring matters through to tax returns.  Find a good one and they are a life saver.

Incidentally, you may ask how I know so much about Spanish driving licenses?

Well, I was stopped by the police over the weekend having made the ‘error’ of crossing an unbroken white line on a country road, to go round some cyclists, to give them as much room as possible.  This (when no traffic was coming the other way), you may think, was good, safe driving.  However, the Guardia Civil thought otherwise – and fined me 200 euros for the offense and then a further 200 Euros because my Spanish driving license had expired a month ago (unbeknownst to me!). 

My wife was apoplectic but when we calmed down we realised that it was nearly Xmas and every year, at Christmas time, we have had a similar experience.  Tax raising, fulfilling targets – who knows?  But it is the state behaving at its most heartless and stupid and the best possible way of making enemies of the law abiding…

Drive safely!

Nick Snelling

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  2 Responses to “Spanish driving license – beware!”

  1. HI Nick, I would just like to add the reason for why I have now changed to a Spanish license… Although the UK license is valid until retirement, or there abouts, the PHOTO does however have to be updated, so when that date came around, on the documentation to renew, I had to declare and sign stating “that I permanently live in the UK”. I wasn´t happy about that so, as I am now living in Spain, full time with no plans to go back, I thought I had best do things as they do it here!

  2. Just to add to your blog, the Dept of Trafico are considering adding a theory test to the renewal of all licences. I hear that the theory test is available in English but can be very confusing due to bad translation. So that’s going to add another level of bureaucracy to our lives here if they decide to go ahead with it. Somehow I don’t think it would achieve it’s objective of improving the standard of driving here.

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