Driving in Andalusia : Essential Tips for driving around Southern Spain

Driving in Andalusia :  Essential Tips for driving around Southern Spain
Image by Paul Gagnon via Flickr

The idyllic landscapes of Andalusia consist of irresistible whitewashed villages nestled along sun-drenched coastlines and sensational mountain ranges. While there is public transportation available, exploring the region by car allows you to fully appreciate its true treasure trove of beauty. Before setting off on this adventure, it’s important to know a few things about driving in Andalusia. This includes understanding the rules and regulations and finding convenient places to park. Being prepared will ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

Driving in Andalusia : Essential Tips for driving around Southern Spain driving in andalusia

I recommend to rent a car in Spain through Discovery Car with free cancellation and insurance included. Book your rental car here.

key takeaways

  • Driving in Andalucia is much like driving in other European countries, but there are many small differences.
  • Andalucía has small hilltop towns, bustling cities, and some incredible scenery. Going on a road trip would be a really nice way to see this part of Spain.
  • If you’re heading to Seville: lots of tourists realize that driving in the city can be trickier than they thought.
Road between nerja and marbella
Image by Karan Jain via Flickr
Driving in Andalusia
Image by Karan Jain via Flickr

How is Driving in Andalusia different?

Driving on the Right Side of the Road

In Spain, driving is done on the right side of the road. (Sorry UK)

Speed limits in Southern Spain

People generally follow the speed limits while driving in Andalusia.

On highways, the maximum speed allowed is 120 km/h, while on rural roads, it’s 90 km/h. When driving through city centers, towns, and villages, the speed limits are usually set between 30 to 50 km/h.

Remember to check your mirrors often for local drivers who may be in a hurry and want to pass you.

Left Turns and Crosswalks

Turning left in Spain can be a bit more complicated compared to other countries.

In the US, there are left arrows everywhere, and we don’t even question them. However, in Andalusia, it’s not as straightforward. You might see confusing signs like this one. What does it mean?

Many roads have a solid white line in the middle, which you’re not allowed to cross. So, if you want to turn left from a main road, you have to first turn right and take the road that lets you cross the main road safely.

It may sound confusing, but don’t worry too much. It wont happen often while you’re driving in Andalusia. The image here will help you understand better.

Turning Left in Spain
Image by Travel Choreography

Crosswalks are indicated by black and white lines on the road. If there’s no traffic light at the crossing, pedestrians have the right to go first.

Don’t be afraid of heights

People often mention the hills of Andalusia, and there’s a good reason for it.

Whether you’re going to Granada to see the amazing Alhambra, exploring the charming white towns of Las Alpujarras, or trying to reach Ronda with its stunning gorge, you’ll notice something when driving in Andalusia: the country has beautiful mountains spread all around.

Just don’t be scared of driving on beautiful roads that are high up in the moutains.

Headlights in tunnels

When driving in Spain, you’ll unfailingly notice that the country loves to put tunnels on its roads. It is of course due to the hilly landscape of the region.

When entering a tunnel, it is required to use headlights and you’ll see sign telling you exactly this. However, these signs may not be instantly recognizable to foreigners. You might think that the look more like a crosswalk or a floating jellyfish instead and be wondering what this is all about. You can see such signs here.

Make sure to turn on your headlights when entering a tunnel, and when you come out, there will be another sign telling you to check if you still need them, and if not, to turn them off.

Vejer de la Frontera roundabout
Image by Lee Cannon via Flickr
Driving in Andalusia
Image by Lee Cannon via Flickr

There are so many roundabouts!

When driving in Spain, one notable feature that may be unfamiliar to North American drivers is the prevalence of roundabouts. Roundabouts are commonly used throughout Spain instead of “traditional” intersections with traffic lights or stop signs.

Rules to follow in a Roundabout:

  • The important thing to remember is that drivers who are already in the roundabout have the right-of-way.
  • You should always yield to the traffic already circulating within the roundabout.
  • It’s also important to use your turn signals to indicate which exit you plan to take and stay in the correct lane, especially when there are multiple lanes.
  • Before entering or changing lanes in the roundabout, make sure to give way to the vehicles in the right-hand lane.

Crossing borders

Spain is not an island. While you’re there, you could easily include a side trip to Portugal and Morocco. (or even France and Andorra if you’re in the north!) There are also opportunities to enjoy island getaways in places like the Balearic Islands or the Canaries.

However, it’s important to know that taking ferries with rental cars can be a problem, even if crossing borders with a rental car is usually fine. This can be an issue if you want to visit destinations like Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, or Tangier.

Therefore, if you’re thinking of visiting other countries or taking a ferry with your rental car, it’s essential to check the rules of your car rental agency beforehand.

Where are the tolls in Andalusia?

There are a few toll roads in Andalusia that you should know about. You can recognize them by the letters AP at the beginning, which means Autopista Paeje.

The main toll highways in Andalusia are the AP-7 and AP-46.

  • The AP-7 connects Fuengirola to Algeciras/Gibraltar, passing through places like Marbella, Estepona, and ending near Sotogrande.
  • The AP-46, also known as Autopista de Málaga, goes from Malaga to Villanueva de Cauche in the North.
  • It’s worth noting that the old AP-4 starts in Seville and ends in Cádiz. It is, however, no longer a toll road, so you don’t have to pay to use it.

You can pay for tolls with either cash or a credit card.

Driving in Andalusia : Essential Tips for driving around Southern Spain driving in andalusia

I recommend to rent a car in Spain through Discovery Car with free cancellation and insurance included. Book your rental car here.

Driving in Southern Spain
Image by Faelomx via Wikimedia Commons

What you need to drive a car in Spain and Andalusia

Renting a car in Spain can be easy and useful, allowing you to freely explore Andalusia at your own pace. But before you make a reservation, there are a few things to think about.

Minimum Age

The minimum age for driving in Andalusia (and Spain) is 18, but you need to be 21 to rent a car.

International Driving Permit (IDP)

If you plan to drive in Andalusia, you’ll probably need an International Driving Permit (IDP). The IDP acts as an official translation of your regular driver’s license and is recognized by the Spanish authorities.

Make sure to always carry your IDP along with your valid driver’s license when driving.

To get an IDP, you can visit your local automobile association (like AAA in the US or CAA in Canada) before your trip.

If you have a driver’s license from a EU country, you won’t need an IDP. Just remember to carry your passport as an extra form of identification.

It is crucial to have the IDP with you while driving in Spain, as not having one can result in fines.

Insurance Coverage

First, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance company and see if your current coverage applies when driving in Spain. Some insurance policies may already cover rental cars abroad, but it’s important to make sure before your trip.

If your insurance doesn’t cover driving in Andalusia, you can also ask your credit card company if their insurance includes rental cars (I learned this the hard way… hahahah).

If neither option applies, it’s highly recommended to buy insurance from the rental car company. It might cost extra, but having the right insurance gives you peace of mind and protects you in case of accidents, damages, or theft during your rental period.

Things that are illegal while driving in Spain

There are a few things that you can’t do while driving in Spain.

  • Firstly, you can’t use your cell phone without a hands-free system. It’s okay to talk on the phone, but you can’t hold it in your hand while driving. it needs to be connect to the car via Bluetooth or use the Speakerphone. You also can’t change songs touching your phone. Obviously, using headphones or earpieces while driving is not allowed, and if caught, you can be fined €200.
  • Secondly, although there are no specific rules against wearing flip-flops while driving, it can be considered unsafe. If a police officer thinks that wearing flip-flops might make it difficult for you to drive safely, they can give you a fine of up to €200.
  • Lastly, kids under 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat of the car.

Can you take alcohol and drive in Spain?

In Andalusia, it’s important to know that the legal alcohol limit for driving is 0.05%.

If you exceed this limit, you may be fined €500 as a penalty. (or more depending of how much alcohol you have in your blood.) Driving after drinking alcohol is a big deal, and if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you can get a fine of €2000.

To stay out of trouble, it’s easier and safer to just not drink at all if you’re going to drive.

Vejer de la Frontera Driving
Image by Lee Cannon via Flickr
Driving in Andalusia
Image by Lee Cannon via Flickr

Renting a car in Spain

Opt for a small car

If you want to explore the hidden treasures of the old towns and villages in Andalusia, you’ll need the right vehicle. These places have narrow streets that wind through old buildings, so it’s best to avoid using wide cars. Instead, choose a smaller vehicle that you can easily maneuver through the charming alleys.

Rental Agencies in Spain

There are many well-known car rental agencies available in Southern Spain, including Sixt, Europcar, and Hertz. These companies offer a wide range of vehicle options to fit different preferences and budgets.

Car rentals can be found in various cities across Andalusia. Additionally, all five major airports in the region, namely Malaga, Seville, Granada, Almeria, and Jerez, have car rental services available. However, it’s important to note that renting directly at the airport might come with an extra fee.

If you’re planning to rent a car in the Costa del Sol area, you can consider Miami Car Hire and Malaga Car, both based in Malaga. Keep in mind that if you need a one-way rental, your choices may be limited, and it’s best to stick with the larger rental companies.

Vejer de la Frontera
Image by Lee Cannon via Flickr
Driving in Andalusia
Image by Lee Cannon via Flickr

Parking in Spanish cities

In Spanish cities like Seville, you’ll see parking areas marked in different colors.

  • Blue markings are for visitors and allow you to park for up to two hours. Remember to pay the parking fees at the ticket machines and display the ticket on your car’s dashboard. You can also park in green spots, but only for one hour, and they are more expensive as they’re mostly for residents.
  • If you find white parking spots, you can park there for free and for as long as you want.
  • However, avoid parking where the curb is painted yellow or red because it’s not allowed.

If you prefer, you can also use underground parking lots, which are often cheaper than paid parking spots.

Driving in Andalusia : Essential Tips for driving around Southern Spain driving in andalusia

Parking in Seville : Read my take and learn to park under 15 minutes