Requirements for Americans to drive in Spain

If you're coming from the United States for a vacation or moving to Spain for work, study, or even vacation, there's a good chance you'll want to drive while you're here.
Requirements for Americans to drive in Spain

If you're coming from the United States for a vacation or moving to Spain for work, study, or even vacation, there's a good chance you'll want to drive while you're here.

When it comes to driving, laws and documentation requirements, Spain is no different than the United States and most other countries.

American Driver's License in Spain

Spanish rules, like those in the United States, can be quite strict when it comes to proper documentation. If you are an American driver in Spain, you need to carry both your valid U.S. driver's license and your International Driving Permit (IDP).

International Driving Permit IDP

The International Driving Permit IDP is a separate document that translates your driving license into 10 different languages. IDP is recognized in more than 174 countries and allows any foreign authorities to easily translate your driver's license into their own language.

IDP makes life a lot easier when driving in another country, especially in non-English speaking countries, so it costs a relatively small investment. Many car rental companies in Spain may also insist on an IDP presentation along with your driver's license.

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How do you get your IDP: International Driving Permit?

An IDP can easily be obtained for $20.00 from the American Automobile Touring Alliance. The application for IDP must be made by mail to the following address: American Automobile Touring Alliance P.O. Box 24980 San Jose, CA 95154.

There are certain requirements and things you will need when applying for your IDP that you should be aware of. These include:

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International Driving Permit Validity

Please note that IDPs are only valid for 12 months, during which time they must be renewed. IDP can be renewed from abroad, but your driver's license must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of issuance. You will also need to allow up to 15 business days for your new IDP to be delivered.

Traffic fines and your U.S. driver's license

If you receive a traffic citation while in Spain, it is important to note that it will apply against your driver's license, not your IDP. Any fines and notes made in another country apply only to that country, as the various state departments of motor vehicles only have access to the national database. There is currently no international traffic database.

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Long-term residency in Spain and a U.S. driver's license

Unfortunately, Spain and the United States do not have a reciprocal agreement regarding proof of a U.S. driver's license. If you plan to stay in Spain long-term and become a resident, you will need to take your driving test in Spain and obtain a Spanish driver's license.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

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