Driving in Spain – Mistake #1: Using an Invalid Driving Licence

driving in Spain - Mistake #1

This is the first article of a series of seven articles, which are based on my book “Driving in Spain: How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes Most Foreigners Make”.


Special Thanks

I would like to thank the Guardia Civil Traffic Division in charge of the Web and Facebook page: N332.

Some important details of this ebook could only have been clarified by a professional view on driving in Spain; this is the main reason why I contacted them.

Undoubtedly, this ebook would not be the same without the accurate information provided by one of the major Spanish safety forces on the road.

Thanks again.

I’m also a regular collaborator of N332 translating documents or writing articles on my driving licences mainly.


You can learn more about the informative work that is being carried out by this group of serving Guardia Civil officers on their Facebook page:


Or visiting their website:




When I was small, my dad told me one day: “the most important parts of a car are the brakes, tyres and direction”.

Although my dad explained to me why those parts were so important, I did not understand completely what he meant, until I obtained my driving licence in Spain in January 1997 and had my first experiences behind the wheel.

I assume the tyres, direction and brakes of your vehicle are in good condition, right?

If you are not really sure, go to see your mechanic no later than tomorrow and let him perform a quick inspection of your car.

Something no less important is the car insurance, which you have, correct?

Good. We can move on then.

You are reading this article because you’re not a Spaniard, and you usually drive in Spain (or do it from time to time).

You are a legal resident, non-resident or tourist who depends on your car to a certain degree.

Anyway, my main goal is to give you some good tips to avoid fines, accidents or even endangering your own life, as well as somebody else’s.

My intentions are not to scare you with “sensationalised” information which, in the end, will hit me back somewhat in a negative way. There are many sites executing a great “sensational” job already.

What I truly want is that you become aware that Spain is for you a foreign country with different rules to those of your country of origin and, of course, where the official language is Spanish.

I spend many hours on the road every week, helping foreigners who have similar needs as you probably do, with whom I hold countless conversations about lots of different topics.

I often hear and read quite a lot of silly things from people who have no idea about the Spanish system, and much less about driving in Spain.

Being mis-informed brings up fines and accidents, as things are not like they are in your country.

spanish guardia civil trafico

(Your tickets may come from the Spanish Guardia Civil – C. Estrelas)

I see a lot of innocence and disbelief, particularly among Europeans. They think that because of the fact of belonging to the European Union, we all use the same rules on the road and the same driving licences and vehicle documentation.

Huge mistakes.

But let’s be honest: a fine is paid off with some money and stays in the past.

Your life, and that of those who are with you in your car (or any other vehicles around), are lost forever.

Death is irreversible.

This is something I’m sure you know.

So, to conclude, and as I mentioned before, I hope my articles make you reflect about everything you are going to read from hereon.

I know you will have impeccable behaviour on Spanish roads after reading my articles :-)


Driving in Spain – Mistake #1: Using an Invalid Driving Licence

Query with your embassy in your country, or at the Spanish DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico – General Direction of Traffic) as to whether you need an “international driving permit” to drive in Spain.

If this is the case, remember that you must drive using your original driving ID along with the international driving permit; both of them physically with you at all times.

Driving using only one of them is considered “invalid driving license” and that’s a €500 fine (€ = Euro, European currency).

The international driving permit is only for non-European countries.

Are you from the EU? Has your EU driving licence expired? Renew it now before you drive within the Spanish territory.

Now, I’m going to ask you something:

Do you think that your EU driving licence entitles you to drive all over Europe with no problems at all?

Well, in Spain there are some conditions when you have Spanish residency.

You must renew your driving licence if you:

  • Are from the European Union.
  • Drive using a European Union driving licence.
  • Are a legal resident of Spain.
  • Obtained your Spanish residency on or before the 19th of January 2013
  • Obtained your Spanish residency any time after the 19th of January 2013 but only if you have been a resident for 2 years or more.

Also, if you (any or all four of the following):

  • Have a driving licence which never expires.
  • Have a driving licence with a validity of 15 years or more on date of issue for Group 1 (AM, A1, A2, A, B, BE).
  • Have a driving licence with a validity of 5 years or more on date of issue for Group 2 (BTP, C1, C1E, C, CE D1, D1E, D, DE).
  • Have a driving licence which has already expired or is close to its expiry date.

If your EU driving licence falls under the new regulations, the deadline to renew it is 1st January 2016; afterwards, the fine will be €200 if not renewed.

Driving in Spain and being a resident with an expired foreign driving licence incurs a €200 fine.

You can read more about the renewing and exchanging your EU driving licence on these four articles I have posted on my website:

  1. Warning – 200 Euro for not renewing your driving licence
  1. Renewing Your EU Licence to Spanish – 3 case studies
  1. 9 facts you must know about renewing your EU driving licence in Spain
  1. Driving in Spain: Renewing vs. Exchanging your EU licence

How to avoid this mistake

If you are not from the European Union, find out about the international driving permit before driving in Spain

Ask at official institutions, like your country’s embassy, consulate or Spanish DGT and not at non-profit organisations, forums and other unofficial sites.

If you are an EU citizen but have no Spanish residency, your driving licence will be valid as long as it has not expired.

Otherwise, if you have Spanish residency, have a look at the four articles I pasted above.

You can read more about the Spanish residency in this article:

The Ultimate Guide on Spanish Residency




Click on the image please:

How to exchange driving licence in Spain


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