Expat Guide on Getting Local Driving License
EU citizens don´t need a Spanish license. As a nonresident, an EU driver’s license is valid in Spain, and vice-versa. If you are a resident, then you must update your license. You can do this at your local Traffic Office.
However, if you do choose to exchange your EU (or European Economic Area) license for a Spanish one, then you must bring the following documents to the Provincial Traffic Headquarters of your local province of residence, along with submitting a completed application form issued by the Provincial Traffic Headquarters.
1. Proof of identity (original passport and photocopy)
2. Proof of residence (NIE)
3. Valid driving licence to be exchanged (original license and photocopy)
4. Two recent photographs, sized at 32 x 25 mm
5. A declaration in writing stating that the applicant has not been banned or suspended from driving
6. A declaration in writing stating that the applicant does not hold another driving license of the same class in another country
Your Spanish license will need regular renewal; a standard Spanish driving licence for a car or bike is valid for ten years when the holder is under 45 years of age, five years between 45 and 70, and two years from 70 onward.
Non-EU citizens will need to get that Spanish driver’s license.
People of 18 years and over, with valid licenses from anywhere other than the EU countries may legally drive in Spain for up to six months from first acquiring Spanish residency. During that period it is essential that an official translation or an International Drivers Permit (IDP) accompany any foreign license that is not in Spanish.
After six months the foreign license is no longer valid. Exchange agreements exist between Spain and some countries which allow for the license holder to exchange theirs for an equivalent Spanish one. The countries with which Spain has a license exchange agreement are: Switzerland, South Korea, Japan, Bulgaria, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Morocco and Chile.
Anyone with a license from a country other than those will need to take the full Spanish drivers’ test.
Note for US drivers: Each state has its own rules as foreign countries make agreements with individual states. That means that your New York driver’s license is valid in Spain for a year, but your Massachusetts driver’s license is not. It is highly unlikely that your average Spanish policemen will know this, or know what the rules are for each state. You can gamble that most Western countries are looked favourable upon, or you can get your Spanish license. Your choice. But, remember, the foreign driver’s license is only valid for 6 months.
Getting a Spanish driver’s license involves joining a driving school and taking classes. This is mandatory, no matter how long you have been driving. The instructor will let you know when you are ready and as they often offer a ´First Time Pass or Your Money Back´ kind of deal, you can trust their word on this. Be forewarned, however, that the average cost for driver’s education is in the 450 Euro range or more (depending on the school you select).
The good news is that your driving school will help you with EVERYTHING – from preparing for your written and driver’s exams (with appropriate materials included in your fee) to arranging for the date of your exams. All you will have to do is show up for class, prepare and then be on time for the date of your written and driver’s exams!
1. Enroll in a driving school. The following have English-speaking driving instructors:
- Corsa. (Mobile Phone number for English speakers to call: 679897490). Unfortunately the website is entirely in Spanish, but there will be an English-speaker available on the phone.
- TeoCenter offer weekend intensive courses to fast-track the process. No website, phone 971 907 403
2. Then you’ll need to pass a medical and eye exam. This can be done at any local doctor´s and is so easy it is almost a formality,
3. After this, there is a written exam. You will take this exam at the Provincial Traffic Office where you will also take your actual driving exam. The good news is that it’s multiple choice and you can choose to take the exam in English but you must tell the Office in advance. Also, the English exam is not always the best option for two reasons: 1) the poor translation 2) you will only be able to take the driving part of your exam in Spanish, meaning it’s easier to understand all the rules and regulations in Spanish. The written exam is extremely tedious and you can only answer up to three questions incorrectly. If you fail, you can take the exam up to three times.
4. Lastly is the driving test. This is conducted by the Traffic Office (your instructor will make the appointment for you and give you all the info you need about how to get there and the appointment time). Your instructor will sit in the passenger seat and the examiner in the back. The exam lasts for thirty minutes and takes place in live traffic. Don´t expect it to be easy – some testers are a bit sadistic and will ask you to parallel park in the middle of Barcelona peak hour, in a road-works zone.
Just stay calm and remember that driving in Spain is a chaotic affair at the best of times. If you stall in the middle of the road, other drivers will just calmly work around you. You’ll receive your results from your instructor once the examiner has gone. If you fail, you can repeat the test. If you pass, you can go back into the Traffic Office and have your photo taken for your plastic-card license. This will be valid for between five and ten years.