Spain requires foreign drivers who have a license in English to obtain an IDP prior to arriving in Spain. This driving permit is a requirement to drive in Spain, and without the permit, you could face punishment if stopped by law enforcement officials while driving. American drivers must have both their domestic license and IDP in their possession while driving.
An international drivers permit in Spain is a translated version of your original license. It is available only to those who are currently licensed in their home country. The license makes it easy for law enforcement (and others like staff at the rental car desk) to learn your name, address and other information without language barriers standing in the way. Auto Europe has all your travel concerns on renting a car in Spain covered.
How to Exchange your foreign driver’s license
If you’re a national from a European Economic Area (EEA) country (EU plus Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein) you are free to drive in Spain using your existing driver’s license for the first two years of residence in Spain, although you must register your details with the traffic authorities after six months.
You must adhere to the same conditions as Spanish license holders:
• Undertake relevant medical checks.
• Have reached the minimum age in Spain for the category of vehicle you wish to drive e.g. car drivers must be at least 18 years old.
• Renew or exchange the license after the first two years’ residence in Spain. If an EU license is renewed in Spain it effectively converts it into a Spanish EU license, which then needs to be renewed every 10 years up to the age of 65, and every five years after 65. Read more about the conditions for driving licenses for EU/EEA citizens in Spain.
If you don’t obtain a Spanish driver’s license after two years of residence in Spain and are caught driving, you can face a fine of around €200.
Additionally, you must register with the traffic authorities within six months of moving to Spain. You can do this at your Central Register of Drivers and Minor Offenders.
Once you have registered you will need to take a medical examination. This is to demonstrate that you have the proper mental and physical fitness to drive, in the same way as Spanish drivers.
If you wish you can voluntarily exchange your license for a Spanish equivalent at any time. You will need to inform the relevant authority in your home country. Similar to registering, this is done at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters. The local authorities will request the following documents:
• application form
• valid passport or national identity card
• proof of residence (Certificate of Registration in the Central Aliens Register i.e. your NIE number or Número de Identificación de Extranjer)
• valid driving license to be exchanged (original and photocopy)
• two recent photographs (32x25mm)
• declaration in writing that you have not been banned or suspended from driving
• declaration in writing that you do not hold another driver’s license of the same class in another country
Spain has agreements with more than 20 countries, which allow drivers to directly exchange a foreign driver’s licenses for the equivalent Spanish license. These agreements change, so always check with your home country’s consulate in Spain or the Spanish traffic authority. Certain categories of people, such as diplomats and international staff, can also exchange their license regardless of their nationality.
Please see more details on the website of Direccion General de Trafico.
Note: Information may not be up-to-date. Please check official government information for latest laws and regulations.