Legal Requirements for Foreigners
If you are on holiday, or are a non-resident, car rental agencies will accept a passport and a valid driving license from the driver’s country of origin. If you are a resident in Spain (you have been issued with a NIE number) a driving license from the country of origin can be used for up to 6 months. After this time it is legally required to convert the driving licence so that it is valid under Spanish law.
Converting a Driving License
Once you have been a resident in Spain for 6 months, it is necessary to convert your driving license. To do this you must go to the traffic depot in the area where you live and acquire the application form and relevant documents. You can collect the documents and fill them in at home before returning to the depot with the correct information. You can also ask someone else to pick up the documentation on your behalf. In Barcelona the traffic depot is situated in Gran Via Corts Catalanes, 184 (Tel: 932 986 500 / Buzon.firstname.lastname@example.org). Once you have filled out the application form, you will need to present the following original documents and their respective photocopies:
- Valid NIE and photocopy (or passport) that is evidence of (student/normal) residency
- Two recent photographs, 35 x 25 mm
- Signed self-declaration that you have not had your license suspended or vehicle apprehended due to reckless driving in your country of origin. (form obtained at depot)
- Signed self-declaration that you do not have another driving license for any other country apart from the license that you want to convert. (form obtained at depot)
- Original driving license that you want to convert. (This will be retained by the traffic depot and returned to your country of origin)
If you are a non EU resident, in addition to the material sited above it is necessary to provide the following documents:
- A medical report obtained from the relevant centres that costs approximately €25-30 (there are centres of this type on Gran Via Corts Catalanes, next to the traffic depot)
- Signed self-declaration that testifies to the authenticity and validity of the original driving license as well as an official translation (if it is not in Spanish) of this document carried out by a legal interpreter; Spanish consulate abroad; consulates in Spain form the country of origin or by the Royal Spanish Vehicle Club (Real Automóvil Club de España).
To carry out this process you will need to speak and understand a minimum of Spanish. If you have difficulties with the language, it is advisable to go accompanied by a Spanish speaker. The whole process takes about 2 hours, depending upon queues, and costs approximately €20.
Learning to drive
Driving theory tests consist of multiple choice questions, and since the answers can appear to be very similar you do need a good level of Spanish in order to stand a chance. Autoescuela Corsa (C/Mandri, 41 Barcelona, 93 253 1370) was the first school to offer theory classes and the test in English. You can choose between an intensive course, with classes held over two weekends from 10am-8pm, or weekly classes. The Autoescuela Corsa has also recently introduced the option of taking practical classes in English with instructor Eduardo. However, the practical test is usually conducted in Spanish, since the level of language required is very basic, and it involves you knowing your directions and basic vocabulary, such as “stop”, “turn” and “go”.
Another experienced and reliable driving school we spoke to is Autoescuela Mayor de Gracia (C/ Gran de Gràcia 73 Entlo ), which currently offers different promotional packs, including 10, 20 or 30 hours of practice respectively, theory classes, mock tests, and books either in English or Spanish. Buying a pack at the start of your course is bound to cost you less than paying a separate fee for each section of the course. You can find more info on their website: www.mayordegracia.com or call 93 237 6149 and ask for Victor. This school provides their own theory books and materials.
If you feel confident that your Spanish or Catalan is up to it, why not check out the Autoescuela Madrazo. They have three different branches around Barcelona. The Autoescuela Madrazo offers intensive theory classes for 8 days, or shorter classes taken over a month. They offer a flexible timetable in order to fit around your existing schedule and commitments. Contact 93 237 5151 or visit one of their offices to discuss your options, specific prices and class timetables. These are located in Ronda General Mitre, 248 (Metro Lesseps), C/ Balmes 281 (next to Plaza Molina), and C/ Teodora Lamadrid 52-60. www.autoescuela-madrazo.com
Driving schools will prepare a specific package to suit the needs of each individual that wants to learn with them. For example, peak hours which are before and after the normal working day are usually slightly more expensive as there is more demand. If you pre-book a block of lessons you’ll also receive a discount. The following information is based on the prices given by the different schools we spoke with and is just intended to give you an indication of what you can expect to pay. Depending on the individual school, enrolment fees start from €350 including books. Once you have passed the theory test you can begin driving lessons. It’s estimated that a new driver will need an average of 20-30 classes to pass. Each class costs approximately €30, and €40- €50 on the day of the exam. An exam fee of approximately €85 has to be paid to the state, and covers two attempts at the practical exam. In total, getting a driving licence in Spain should set you back about €1250- €1500. In order to enrol with the driving school of your choice, you will need to register with a couple passport size photos, a medical certificate stating that your physical and mental health is sufficient for driving and 2 photocopies of your NIE.
Drivers in Spain are fast and aggressive; the speed limit on the motorways is 120 KM per hour although this is generally used in the extreme right, slow lane. Beware of drivers that go though red lights, especially late at night, when the rules don’t seem to apply so much. Watch out for the random speed camera checks on the “Rondas” (bypasses that go though and around Barcelona). The speed limit is 80 per hour and if you go over, expect to receive a fine though the post. Be extremely attentive where you park in the centre of Barcelona as illegal parking results in your car being towed away by the police after which you will have to pay up to €180 to retrieve it. Watch out for the one way system in the centre of Barcelona; usually maps will show which direction the road goes in.
So what are you waiting for? Get connected, get with it, get driving! But promise us one thing: YOU WILL DO IT SAFELY! The summer is the prime time for road accidents and it is the number one cause of death in Spain.
For more information
Madrazo Driving School: 93 237 51 51 / www.autoescuela-madrazo.com
Catalonian Driving School: 976 32 84 90 / www.autoescuelacataluna.com /
Avis Car Hire: 902 480 354 / www.avis.es
Car bookers Car Hire: 902 345 333 / www.carbookers.com