As one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe, Spain is an incredibly diverse country packed with plenty of attractions, sights and culture to indulge in. Whether you are visiting the inland mountains, lounging around at a beach resort or exploring the country side, hiring a car is a cheap and practical way to explore Spain. The scenic landscape along the way make the roadtrip a worthwhile one. The costs of car rental are affordable, which means you get to do a lot of sightseeing without breaking your budget.
Prices and Standard of Vehicles
Which type of vehicle should you choose? This largely depends on what you plan to do – the activities involved and distance to be covered. If you are just going to explore major Spanish cities, you can hire a compact car which is both practical and economic in terms of fuel consumption. If you prefer to go out on the road and explore the countryside, it’s advisable to choose a family car (so a slightly bigger car) or even a 4×4 if you fancy doing some extreme driving.
Please note that prices can vary according to the driver’s age (the lower the age, the higher the price). Obviously prices vary between companies so make sure to do some search before you decide on the company.
An economy or compact car can be hired for about €50 per day in Barcelona (pick up at the airport) during the high season (July and August). If you plan to visit the coast and want to hire a car in Alicante, prices are very low compared to Barcelona as an economy car would cost about €30 per day.
The standard of hire vehicles is usually rather high, most of them are first-hand continental cars. Most Spaniards still drive manual operated vehicles, so make sure that you are familiar with driving the stick before hiring the car. Alternatively, you can simply pay a surcharge to rent an automatic vehicle.
Some cheap car hire companies in Spain are:
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Driving in Spain
If you come from a European Union country and want to drive your own car in Spain make sure to always have with you: your passport (valid until you return home, at least), driving license (ideally one having the EU symbols on it), two EU approved red warning triangles, approved reflective jackets that have to be worn by all outside the car at any time of the day, a set of spare lamps for the car and the tools to change them, a spare pair of glasses if you wear any, valid insurance, your number plate should bare the EU signs and all vehicle papers. First Aid kits are not mandatory but are recommended.
If you come from a non-EU country and want to drive your own car in Spain, you must an International Driving License.
Roads, signs and speed limits
The roads in Spain range from poor countryside unpaved roads to very good high-speed expressways. Road works are constantly in progress to improve the road standards, if you’re not very confident with your driving skills, stick to the main motorways.
There are several types of roads in Spain:
- Autopista (motorway) marked on the map with A or E; some are toll roads; the maximum speed limit is 120 kmph / 73 mph.
- Autovia which is a dual carriageway; maximum speed limits range between 80 kmph / 50 mph to 110 kmph / 68 mph.
- Carretera Nacional is a main road marked with C or CN on the map; the maximum speed limits range from 60 kmph / 37 mph to 100 kmph / 62 mph.
- Carretera Local (highway): the speed limits are marked on the signs but usually are below 100 kmph / 62 mph
Give way to the traffic from the left, unless signed differently. This is especially important on roundabouts. All the passengers must wear seatbelts. Don’t drink and drive as the penalties can range from high fine to imprisonment (the legal limit is currently 0.5 g per liter of air using a breathalyzer). You are not allowed to have a radar speed detector in your car, let alone use one. You are not allowed to use your hand held mobile phone while driving or while on the side of the road but you can use the hands-free set. All fines are payable “on the spot”.
If you park illegally you will be victim of the tow truck so make sure to look for parking spaces marked in blue, make sure to pay for parking and never park on yellow marked spaces. Getting your car back is not cheap or easy (especially if you don’t speak Spanish). It’s advisable to look for underground parking where it exists.
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