If you from the United States and moving to Spain to work, to study or even for a vacation, there's a good chance that you will want to drive a motor vehicle during your time here.
When it comes to driving laws and documentation requirements, Spain is no different from the United States and most other countries.
American Driving Licenses and Spain
The Spanish as in the U.S. can be quite strict when it comes to having the correct documentation.
If you are an American driving in Spain, you will need to carry both your valid U.S. driving license, plus an International Driving Permit (IDP).
The International Driving Permit is a separate document which translates your driving license into 10 different languages. It is recognized in over 174 different countries worldwide and allows any foreign authorities to be able to easily interpret your driver's license in their native tongue.
The IDP makes life a lot easier when driving in a foreign country, especially in non-English speaking countries, so is well worth the relatively small investment. Many car hire companies in Spain may also insist on presentation of an IDP along with your driver's license.
How to Get Your IDP (International Driving Permit)
An IDP can be easily obtained for $15.00 from the American Automobile Association or via the National Auto Club.
Application for the IDP has to be made in person at your local AAA or NAC office. Applications cannot be made via the internet due to the need to supply two passport sized photos.
There are certain requirements and things you will need when applying for your IDP which you should be aware of. These include:-
- The fee
- The applicant must be over 18 years of age.
- A current valid U.S driving license, which is valid for more than six months from issue of IDP.
- Two passport sized photos
- A completed IDP application form - http://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html or from http://www.thenac.com/idp_faqs.htm
Please note that the IDP is only valid for 12 months, at which time it must be renewed.
The IDP can be renewed from overseas, but your driver's license must be valid for at least six months from issue. You will also need to allow up to 15 business days for delivery of your new IDP.
Traffic Citations and Your American Driver's License
If you do get a traffic citation while in Spain, it's important to note that this is placed against your drivers license and not the IDP document.
Any citations incurred in a foreign country only apply to that country, as the various states Departments of Motor Vehicles are only able to access a national database. There is no international traffic citations database at this time.
Staying Long-Term in Spain
Unfortunately, Spain and the United States do not have reciprocal agreement in the validation of the U.S. driver's licenses.
If you plan on staying in Spain long-term and become a resident here, you will need to take a Spanish driving test and obtain a Spanish driving license this way.
You can read more about this at our Spanish Driving Licences page.
If you will be living, working or studying here in Spain, we can provide you with a wide range of expat health insurance policies to cover your everyday health protection needs. All of our policies are in English (or Spanish, depending on your requirements..) and are underwritten by BUPA.
Please see our policies page for further information.