Top 12 Crucial Driving Tips for Spain

Plaça Espanya, Barcelona, Spain
Plaça Espanya, Barcelona, Spain, 2017

Here are Rick’s top 12 reactions while driving in Spain, and what he learned driving there.

  1. “But there were only two exits at the roundabout. Google Maps said to take the fourth exit.” Google Maps on your cellphone is not a good option for navigating in Spain. It is not as accurate as it may be in North America. Get GPS with your rental car. Their maps are more up-to-date. Yes, it may cost $8-10 per day. Or try bringing your portable GPS Navigation Unit with you, but remember to download the latest maps for Spain.
  2. “But sweetie, there was no exit going straight at the roundabout!” Having a passenger re-interpret GPS or Google Maps instructions to the driver is not ideal anywhere. As smart and lovable as your passenger may be nothing beats the driver seeing the map for themself. Again, get GPS with your rental car. I know, $8-10 per day. Or set up your portable GPS Navigation Unit so the driver can see it clearly and safely.
  3. “Woah! There’s no acceleration lane!” Some on-ramps to Spain’s freeways don’t have acceleration/merge lanes. These on-ramps end abruptly at the freeway, dumping you onto a freeway lane. You are expected to stop on the on-ramp and wait until it is clear to merge and accelerate to the speed limit.
  4. “What is the difference between a blue speed limit sign and a red speed limit sign?” Learn the European and local country traffic signs.
  5. “Which traffic light is mine?” When you approach an intersection in Spain that is controlled by traffic lights, your traffic light is just before the intersection. So if you do stop at the intersection, your light is now above you and you often cannot see it anymore. If there are traffic lights on the other side of the intersection, they are not for you. Instead, there is often a small light near the bottom of a post at the crosswalk you are stopped at. That light is for you.
  6. “Who is that traffic light for?” At intersections in Spain with traffic lights, there is often a separate set of lights for the pedestrian crosswalk on the opposite side of the intersection. Those lights are not for you. They are for traffic crossing that pedestrian crosswalk to turn onto that road.
  7. “Uh, what does that flashing yellow light mean?” If a pedestrian crosswalk has a traffic light for you then the crosswalk has a light for the pedestrian too and both you and the pedestrian should obey your respective light. But, if your light at a pedestrian crosswalk is flashing yellow then it is warning you that the pedestrian crosswalk has a green, but you can proceed if there are no pedestrians. And if a pedestrian crossing doesn’t have a traffic light for you then neither does the pedestrian and you should always stop for pedestrians. Warning; there are a lot of traffic lights at some intersections.
  8. “What are the inside lanes of a roundabout for?” There are no road signs explaining how to use the roundabout. Learn the European and local country rules for roundabouts.
  9. “There are traffic lights in the roundabout?” At most roundabouts In Spain the cars entering the roundabout have to stop for cars already in the roundabout. At some roundabouts the cars in the roundabout have to stop in the roundabout for cars entering the roundabout. The bigger roundabouts may have traffic lights in the roundabout and/or for entering the roundabout. Muey confusing.
  10. “Can they do that?” Yes, apparently it is legal for bicycles and motorcycles to pass anywhere. So watch out for them weaving between cars when you are stopped in traffic, or even when you are moving. I am told motorcycles can even pass in no passing zones.
  11. “Is that lane going my direction?” The lines that divide the two sides of the road are not yellow, so they can look the same as the lines that divide the two lanes on one side of a four-lane divided highway. So unless you can clearly see the lanes on the other side of a four-lane divided highway, you really can’t be sure or may have forget what type of road you are driving on. Trust me. It happens, and I don’t have a solution.
  12. “It seems like all the transport trucks are on this road.” They are. Transport trucks are on the non-toll roads, en masse, and those roads may have a lot of hills. So if you don’t like truck traffic or you don’t have the patience to follow trucks slowly up hills, use the toll roads. Full warning though; the toll roads are not cheap and not clearly marked. It seems if the highway number has a ‘P’ in it, it means “Pay”.

Bonus Tip:

The Barcelona subway (Metro or TMB) is cheap, easy to navigate and within walking distance of most of the sites in the city. The Metro also connects to trains that take you to surrounding cities and sites, like the airport, Montserrat and Girona. Buy a multi-trip TMB ticket and share it by passing the ticket back over the gate after you’ve used it. For more tips on traveling in Spain, please see our 12 Things To Know Traveling In Spain.

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