Any foreigner visiting Spain, can legally drive in Spain, as long as they hold a valid driving licence in their home country. This applies to both privately owned cars from outside of Spain, and rented or borrowed vehicles. However, if you become resident in Spain things become different.
EU citizens holding a driving licence from outside of Spain are expected to exchange their driving licence for a Spanish ‘Permiso de Conducir‘ within six months of becoming a resident in Spain.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, this can be time consuming and frustrating process. However if you do know, it is actually quite straight forward. The most important thing is to be prepared with all the appropriate documents, originals and copies. Document requirements do vary slightly depending on the administrative jurisdiction in which you are requesting your license.
However the general process is to go to the local Direccion General de Trafico (DGT) or ‘Trafico‘ office with the following:
- the completed official ‘Canje’ form provided by the DGT.
- a photocopy of your national ID card or Passport.
- two current ‘carnet’ size photos.
- the drivers’ license from your home country, that you are wishing to exchange, along with a photocopy of it.
Upon submission of your application for your Spanish driving licence, you will be provided with a temporary ‘Permiso de Conducir‘ to use until your new Spanish driving licence arrives.
Once you have a Spanish driving licence, there is a formal timeline for renewal. Up to the age of 65, the licence must be renewed every 10 years, above the age of 65, renewal is every 5 years. There are small fees for renewal and a physical exams required to be completed at the time of renewing a driving licence.
Non-EU citizens are allowed to use their home country drivers’ licenses only while a tourist in Spain. For some this can be an International driving permit or an official translation of your home country drivers’ license or a “Certificado de Equivalencia” prepared by Spain’s Royal Automobile Club – RACE.
Various countries have a reciprocal agreement with Spain to exchange licenses. If this is the case you follow the same procedure as a EU citizen if you become resident. Many others from the United States, Canada, Switzerland and Australia drivers are required to start at the beginning, join a driving school and take the official Spanish Driving exam- just like any Spaniard.