Driving in Spain

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Mar 11th, 2018, 08:40 PM
  #1
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Driving in Spain

Hello,

We are going to Spain for the first time in June (me, my husband and our 11 year old twins). Towards the end of June, we will pick up a car and drive from San SebastiŠn to Tossa de Mar. We will be in Tossa for 5 nights and explore that area, and then fly out of Barcelona. Questions:

1) Do we need international drivers permits? Are these really necessary? Our rental contract for the car says we should have them if our driverís licenses do not use the Roman alphabet. They do.

2) Any general advice about driving in Spain? We are from the US and usually prefer to take the train in Europe, but chose to rent a car for this leg of the trip because it seemed easier.

Thank you!

Daria
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Mar 11th, 2018, 08:52 PM
  #2
kja
 
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Are you willing to risk problems if you don't have an IDP? I've never been willing to take that risk.

i drove those stretches; you might find some useful information (including comments about driving) in my trip report:
Four Awesome Weeks in the North of Spain and Catalunya
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Mar 11th, 2018, 09:22 PM
  #3
 
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The police can get crabby if you do not have an IDP. Also if you wear glasses be sure to have a second pair in the car.

Do not rent a car until you leave San Sebastian/Donostia. Are you dropping the car off at BCN or spending time in Barcelona. Do not keep a car in Barcelona.

I have rented countless times in Spain, but I have not made the road trip you are making. For a first trip to Spain unless you have relatives or a convention or some mitigating purpose, you are missing some of the more impressive sights of Spain. Additionally the expanse between Donostia and Tossa is not the most exciting. There are things to see and do but they are secondary.
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Mar 12th, 2018, 01:29 AM
  #4
 
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IDP is required. But that will matter only to the Guardia Civil, (police).
Your children could need booster seats as they are too young to sit with just seatbelts designed for adults.
Whilst driving you should have
Fluorescent jacket (for all occupants). The Guardia Civil like to catch out motorists for not wearing their fluorescent jacket when stepping out of the car. So, if they stop you, take your time to put it on before you get out of the car. Store them within reach of the passengers/driver.
The drivers use of phones while driving is prohibited. Blue tooth connections are the way to go.
The drivers use of screen-based navigation systems is prohibited.
The following documents must be carried within the car.
Drivers license
Insurance documents
Rental documents.
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Mar 12th, 2018, 01:53 AM
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Don't know the exact routes you'll be taking... but in our experience, Spain's roads are wonderful! They made me remember how roads in California were back in my childhood days!

As stated above, we also prefer to return our car in a small town outside of the big city... or at the airport. We don't like to hassle with big city traffic unless we have to.
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Mar 12th, 2018, 04:43 PM
  #6
 
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You don't say what you're doing before you pick up the car in San Sebastian. I hope you'll be touring. As these comments indicate, there's a lot more to see than the San Sebastian - Barcelona corridor.

We had a three week vacation by car in Spain in September of 2015 and didn't have any problems at all. The roads are good and signage is good. Technically, I think the IDP is "required" throughout Europe but sometimes I get one and sometimes I don't. Can't remember if I had one in Spain. As you say, it's optional with your rental contract. The thing about the IDP is that you don't need it unless you need it, i.e. get stopped by the Guardia. Your call. Do you speak Spanish? We found Spanish useful off the beaten track.

Driving in the cities is very tough and parking is hard to find. We generally parked the car at or near our hotel and used public transportation in the cities. The Barcelona metro is great.
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Mar 12th, 2018, 08:40 PM
  #7
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Thank you all! This is very helpful.

Yes, we are picking up the car on our last day in San Sebastian, and we are returning it at the Barcelona airport the day we fly out. Before going to SS, we will be in Barcelona and Madrid. We will not have the car for any of our time in Barcelona, Madrid or SS. We are driving to Tossa from SS not because we thought it would be such a lovely drive, but because we decided it would be easier to have a car in Tossa, and then upon leaving Tossa to get to the airport, and also an easier way to get to Tossa from SS (otherwise we would have to take a train back through Barcelona). We do, however, plan to stop in Zaragoza as I would like to visit the Aljaferia Palace (particularly since we aren't going to the South of Spain at all).

I hear what you are all saying about the permits, and we will get them. I was just feeling lazy as we never used them the last time we were in Italy, but you are right. I don't want to risk it. Thank you!

I did the research about boosters, and my kids are tall enough and weigh enough not to have them in Spain. Also, they are 11 years old. They are required for younger kids, ribeirasacra.

Thank you all again.
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Mar 13th, 2018, 12:56 AM
  #8
 
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Weird, wife and I will be making very similar trip this May. I say weird because it's definitely not the usual travel path. We'll be renting car after visiting Madrid, then go to SS area for a few days, then drive to Tossa with stop at Zaragoza for a quick look. Then go to Barcelona. However, we have to be in Tossa and Barcelona for some business, otherwise we would have spent more time in Basque country. How long is this first trip to Spain? Make sure itinerary is not too rushed.
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Mar 13th, 2018, 01:11 AM
  #9
 
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Originally Posted by daria View Post
Thank you all! This is very helpful.

Yes, we are picking up the car on our last day in San Sebastian, and we are returning it at the Barcelona airport the day we fly out. Before going to SS, we will be in Barcelona and Madrid. We will not have the car for any of our time in Barcelona, Madrid or SS. We are driving to Tossa from SS not because we thought it would be such a lovely drive, but because we decided it would be easier to have a car in Tossa, and then upon leaving Tossa to get to the airport, and also an easier way to get to Tossa from SS (otherwise we would have to take a train back through Barcelona). We do, however, plan to stop in Zaragoza as I would like to visit the Aljaferia Palace (particularly since we aren't going to the South of Spain at all).

I hear what you are all saying about the permits, and we will get them. I was just feeling lazy as we never used them the last time we were in Italy, but you are right. I don't want to risk it. Thank you!

I did the research about boosters, and my kids are tall enough and weigh enough not to have them in Spain. Also, they are 11 years old. They are required for younger kids, ribeirasacra.

Thank you all again.
Obviously Ido not know the height and weight, but they are certainly under the legal age not to be exempt from use child booster seats. Here.
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Mar 13th, 2018, 02:57 AM
  #10
 
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I just want to point out that recently people have reported that rental car agencies have been insisting on an IDP before renting the vehicle. Since your contract stipulates an IF, that might not be a problem for you. However, in Spain, France, and Italy there are recent reports of people being turned away at the rental agency, after they had reserved a vehicle and not been told they needed an IDP. In Italy, at least, i know that this is a very recent issue; in the past rental agencies never asked to see an IDP even though it was required by Italian law.

I live in Italy, and before I got an Italian driver's license, I was once stopped for a routine document check, and was asked to show an IDP (along with my US license). To say you've never needed it is like saying you've never needed your auto insurance.
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Mar 13th, 2018, 04:22 AM
  #11
 
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I can confirm that a car rental agency in Spain asked to see my brother-in-law's IDP, as well as his Californian driving licence, when he was registered as a second driver in January 2016. This was the Centauro desk at Alicante Airport. My advice is not to risk it.
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Mar 13th, 2018, 04:30 AM
  #12
 
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Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
... The drivers use of screen-based navigation systems is prohibited.
ribeirasacra, I'm puzzled by this restriction. If it means that a driver cannot hold a phone or GPS in their hand while driving, I would completely understand the prohibition. But what about a navigation screen built into the car, or a GPS or phone-based nav system, if the device is mounted on a bracket?
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Mar 13th, 2018, 07:54 PM
  #13
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I too am puzzled by that restriction on GPS units. AutoEurope has rented me a GPS unit for this trip and I have heard about others using them. ribeirasacra, where did you get that information? Thank you!
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Mar 13th, 2018, 08:20 PM
  #14
 
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I think it is forbidden to manipulate a GPS while driving, or have it blocking parts of the windshield. I have seen GPS on many buses, and in two cars (owned and driven by locals) just last week. Though Daria, you might be better off with google maps on your phone than a GPS rented from AutoEurope
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Mar 13th, 2018, 08:23 PM
  #15
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Thank you! We will probably use both, along with a Michelin map. I am not fond of driving in Europe.
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Mar 14th, 2018, 01:47 AM
  #16
 
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Yes I was not clear enough sorry.
The driver is not permitted to touch the navigation unit whilst driving. You cannot programme or reprogramme or zoom in to see the map in greater detail. Yes it is correct one should not place the navigation unit in line of sight.
And yes you will see loads of other drivers doing the opposite. But what will not make it correct.
News in spanish.
As far as I can understand there is no difference for the law between units integrated or not in the car. It is easy for a passenger to do the changes or for you to stop in a safe location.
Do not think just because the Guardia Civil are not around you can get away with an any infringement. Helicopters are often used to find infringers.
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Mar 14th, 2018, 02:12 AM
  #17
 
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Driving in Spain is really easy.

As almost anywhere else in Europe, road signs do not feature compass directions but destinations.
So when you drive from Lleida to Barcelona, you will not see any sign saying "AP-2 East" but "AP-2 Barcelona".

Parking garages, multi-storey or underground, often have quite narrow entrances and spaces.
You usually pay by the minute, so it does not really matter when you go back to your car as no "additional hour" will start.

Motorways labeled "AP" are usually toll roads. Many "C" motorways in the greater Barcelona area are toll roads, too.
You can pay with cash. But I cannot remember if every exit has staffed booths or if you require money/coins at lesser frequented exits.

Street signage in Catalunya is in Catalan only.
It's not much of a big deal in most cases for finding your way.
Just when you try to figure out if there are restrictions for on-street parking on certain days or hours it can be an issue.

Regarding your route:
I don't know when you plan to arrive in Tossa, but I would avoid the Barcelona metropolitan area during the evening rush hour.
You can partially by-pass the area by taking A-2 from Lleida to Cervera and then C-25 via Manresa and Vic.
If you had more time and/or had planned an overnight stay in Zaragoza, I'd have visited the Bardenas Reales natural area.
But for a one-day drive, I think you want to focus on Zaragoza as you planned.
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Mar 14th, 2018, 03:16 AM
  #18
 
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Thanks for the clarification, ribeirasacra and rialtogrl; that makes perfect sense.
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Mar 14th, 2018, 12:41 PM
  #19
 
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Hi Daria,

What hotel are you using in Tossa? My husband and I are heading along the coast after arriving at the Barcelona airport in April, and Tossa might be a good place to stay for our first night after touching down. We'll have a car, and so will you, so I"m assuming you found something with parking!
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Mar 14th, 2018, 03:04 PM
  #20
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Hi pthomas, we are staying at the Hotel Cap D'Or. It is sort of a budget option, I believe, but sounds really cute. It is on the beach and owned by a family, and serves breakfast. We got a room with a view. All of that suits us as we are trying to do this trip economically. As for parking, they have a space where you can park for 20 minutes to unload your luggage, and then there is a lot about 5 minutes away that costs E7. It is a municipal lot. Enjoy your trip!
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