Driving in Spain – Spanish driving culture

Spain is not actually a difficult country to drive around if you’re psychic and/or have incredible reflexes. If, however, you are without those skills then it can be a frustrating method of conveyance.

Firstly, blinkers (indicators). It seems that driving schools in Spain are funded by German car manufacturers who, as we all know, do not fit their vehicles with blinkers. If they did English drivers would have less to complain about and their hair would last at least a decade longer.

Spanish drivers NEVER use their blinkers so you have to judge their ‘body language’ and road posturing to tell where they’re going. That in itself is no easy task as most Spanish drivers with a passenger will be deeply entrenched in meaningless conversation with them and most definitely not watching where they’re going, causing them to meander across lanes. I’d like to say this is generalisation but it’s not.

Secondly, parking. In Catalunya more than any other region we’ve visited, good parking is a very low priority for the Spanish driver. So many cars bear the scars of parking incidents and we witnessed several gaffes as people misjudged parking spaces, the length/width of their own car and optimism concerning both.

One incident involved a man and his family trying to squeeze in between two cars from an acute angle. He hit the first car and scraped his bumper along their wing, clipped the other car with his rear wing and then every family member (five of them) hit both cars with their doors as they exited. They left no note of apology, no insurance details and the father actually looked pleased with his effort.

Thirdly, overtaking at inappropriate moments. Spain is a hilly and mountainous country and so the roads tend to get a bit twisty in places. 1500 metres up a mountain on a steep road with hairpin bends is not the place you want to be overtaken. Cue Spanish drivers overtaking you on the approach to a hairpin, unable to see round you or the oncoming bend. I think you get the picture.


It feels like this sometimes. My rule is, "RED= STOP". And that's it.


Lastly, traffic lights. Traffic lights in Spain are a complete mystery to me. I’ve asked several people to explain them and none can. They seem to come in different arrangements of three different colours; your standard red, amber, green combination. But that’s where standard ends. Some are only red and two amber lights (generally around pedestrian areas) while some are all three but the amber never seems to come on. In Asturias and Cantabria they have warning lights which turn red as you approach them and as you stop they turn amber (which means you can go). Very annoying.

All that being said, I have only witnessed two accidents in the year I’ve spent travelling the country, both involved only one car, one of which was a fatality.

Other things to watch when driving in Spain are speed traps which you can read about by clicking here.

If you found this amusing, useful or irritating, please let us know by leaving a comment. If you understand the deep complexity of Spanish drivers and road signals share the knowledge on our forums by clicking here.

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