Once your plane lands and you are in Spain, there’s the tedious, oft-expensive chore of figuring out how you’ll get around the country. Every country has a different method and definitely different rules, so it’s important to understand what you’ll need to know and do when you are abroad with a rental vehicle. Many families or groups who book their own holidays each year will opt for a car hire and find that it gives them more freedom and flexibility than if they had gone without.

Whether you are travelling to mainland Spain or to one of Spain’s amazing islands, having a car at your disposal can be a blessing and a hindrance. Read on for some tips about renting a car in Spain and the rules you need to keep in mind if you get behind the wheel.

Booking your rental

If you will be making your booking for a rental car online, be sure you do some research around the different companies that offer rentals, their cover, their options and their policies. Once you know which company matches your needs the best, you can confidently book your rental and then promptly forget about it until you take off.

At the car depot

Once you have landed and you are at the car depot and have been given the keys to your rental car there are few things to adjust before you take to the roads.  Check all mirrors and seats to adjust them to your preference and double check that all the correct equipment is also within the car, like seatbelts. Vehicle documentation is more complicated in Spain than in Australia and while you are driving in Spain, you must carry all documents with you in the vehicle. So, stash your information in the glove box instead of leaving them in your hotel room.

Make sure you are familiar with the fuel procedures with rental cars as well. Some rental companies will charge you for fuel at the time of booking and expect the car to come back with an empty gas tank while others will ask you to fill it up the day you return the car.

Before you even start the car, visually inspect the car for any dents and scratches and if you find any, report them to the depot staff and make sure it is recorded before you leave. Ask for a photocopy of the records. Perhaps the most obvious and most important thing to know before you leave the depot is what side of the car and what side of the road you should drive on. In Spain, they drive on the right side instead of the left like you are used to at home. Remember to drive on the right, look left at junctions and go around roundabouts in a counter-clockwise direction.

Know the laws

In Spain you are required to carry equipment with you that may not be a part of your normal supply—especially if you are renting. In Spain you are required to carry a reflective vest for the driver and for each passenger in case there is a breakdown and you have to wait beside your car for help. You are also required to carry 2 red warning triangles per car and have an extra set of spare lamps/bulbs for your car and the tools to change them. If you wear glasses, it’s the law to carry a spare pair with you as well. If you find yourself facing a vehicle breakdown, or if the police stop you, be sure to put the reflective jacket on to avoid facing a fine.

Driving in Spanish towns

Known as Autovias, motorways in Spain are generally well-maintained and are plentiful. There tends to be significantly less traffic than would be found in other European countries and very few traffic jams occur. Speed limits on these roads tend to average about 120kph though very few people see fit to follow those rules. Be very wary when changing lanes on a motorway as oftentimes cars will overtake you on both sides and without any prior indication of their intentions via turning signals. Instead, look for someone flashing their lights at you. They are not planning to accost you, but rather are letting you know they plan to pass you.

You should carry your license and passport with you at all times and make sure your documents cover you to drive in Spain. Any mishaps or missing documents could prove to be exceedingly expensive and time consuming—especially if you don’t speak Spanish.

While the freedom of open roads is definitely a big draw of renting a car in Spain, remember that motorway service stations and gas stations are few and far between, so do not run the fuel tank to empty and hope to find somewhere right along the side of the road. In fact, it’s considered an offence to run out of fuel on the motorway and you may find yourself with a hefty fine if you do so. In terms of personal safety for motorway service stations, be sure to keep your doors locked when away from the vehicle and to keep all valuable items out of sight.


Once you get on the road and get more comfortable driving in Spain you are sure to feel a sense of freedom where you can go anywhere and do anything without checking with a tour guide or waiting for public transportation first. If you are considering renting a car while abroad, be sure to purchase comprehensive travel insurance from Cover-More Australia. Depending on your levels of excess, your travel insurance policy will cover the excess you become liable to pay as a result of damage to, or theft of, a rental car.

Image courtesy of Flickr user CucombreLibre.