Healthplan Spain


Spanish police officers in car How To Identify An Unmarked Spanish Police Car Expat Tips

If you have ever driven on the Spanish roads, either as a holiday-maker or as a resident, you will know that the police presence is far greater than in many other countries including the UK.

In most cases, if you do get pulled over, it will be by a regular traffic police car or motorcycle, but there's also the possibility that you could be stopped by an unmarked Guardia Civil Trafico vehicle.

The Guardia Civil do like to adopt a more stealthy approach from time to time in order to keep the Spanish roads nice and safe and the use of unmarked cars is not as uncommon as you may think.

So how do you know whether you have been pulled over by a legitimate unmarked Guardia Civil traffic officer, or by someone looking to take advantage of your naivety and scam you for some cash?

Actually, identifying an official Guardia Civil police vehicle is not too difficult. You just need to familiarise yourself with a few things.

How to Know If You Have Been Pulled over by Real Traffic Police?

  • The unmarked vehicle will have red and blue flashing lights to the front and rear. (Red light means STOP)
  • There will also be an electronic matrix sign in the rear window that will read "GUARDIA CIVIL, ALTO" or "G.CIVIL TRAFICO STOP". (This can be changed by the operator)
  • The officers will still be wearing their uniforms, even in an unmarked vehicle.
  • There will usually be two police officers in the vehicle.

Fines and Fine Formats

If you are unfortunate enough to be issued with a fine, these will be issued in one of two ways.

PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)

This is the more modern way of issuing fines. The police officers will usually have a small handheld PDA that connects to a thermal printer in the vehicle. The PDA also allows the officers to run a check on your vehicle or NIE number and can tell very quickly whether you are the legal owner, whether the vehicle is insured and whether there are any outstanding fines etc.

Paper Format

If the PDA is not available or there is no connectivity, a Guardia Civil officer may also issue you a fine using the old-fashioned paper tickets, which are filled in manually by hand.

These are the only two ways used to issue tickets by genuine Guardia Civil officers.

It is important to note that you will need to have your NIE number with you. If you only have a passport, you will need to pay the fine on the spot. If you do not have the money, you may well find yourself escorted to the nearest ATM or home to get the money.

Another thing to consider is your driving licence. If you are resident in Spain, you will have two years from the point in which you become a resident to swap your UK driving licence for a Spanish one. If you do not have one, but should, this may take the Guardia more time to identify you and give them another good reason to fine you.

At the bottom of the printed fine, you will find the ID of the officer issuing the fine.

What Documentation Will I Be Asked For?

In a previous blog post, we discussed the legal documentation that you must carry with you when driving here in Spain. As a guide, you will need to present one or more of the following:-

  • ITV (Inspección técnica de vehículos)
  • Log Book - Permiso de Circulación
  • Insurance document
  • Valid driving licence
  • European Accident Agreement - (in Spanish "parte de declaración amistosa de accidentes" or sometimes "Declaración Amistosa de Accidente de Automóvil") This is to be completed in the event of an accident.

As outlined above, you should also have your NIE number or passport if non-resident.

What If You Are Still Unsure?

So you've been pulled over and reprimanded for breaking the law, but you still have a suspicion that the police vehicle is not genuine. What do you do?

You call 062 (Guardia Civil) or 112 and ask them to verify that the registration plate of the vehicle is that of an official Guardia Civil police car.

Learn more about how to pay a traffic fine in Spain.

Information courtesy of