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DRIVING

Operación Salida: What to know about driving during Spain’s summer exodus

This weekend marks the start of Spain's big summer exodus when people flee the cities and drive to the countryside or the coast for their holidays. Here's what you need to know if you want to avoid traffic jams and other problems on the road.

Operación Salida: What to know about driving during Spain's summer exodus
Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

With millions of people expected to be hitting the Spanish highways throughout August 2022, traffic jams at peak times are inevitable.

This is after all Operación Salida, the name Spaniards have given to the ‘great exodus’ that occurs every year as millions head to the coast for their summer holidays. 

There’s nothing like being stuck in traffic on a hot highway for hours and hours to put a dampener on that holiday feeling, but help is at hand.

Here’s what you need to know to avoid the busiest travel times, find the best routes, and avoid difficulties as you head off for your summer break.

When are the roads at their busiest?

Last year, Spain’s traffic authority (DGT) provided these handy infographics to help drivers where to expect traffic jams. 

The first map shows where in Spain most cars are expected to be on the roads and motorways on the first weekend of ‘Operación Salida’, which in 2022 is on Friday July 29th, Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st.

A total of 6.9 million vehicles are expected on Spain’s motorways over the course of the weekend.

This second map by the DGT shows the traffic density forecast specifically for July 29th 2022.

And this third map shows where the heaviest traffic will be over the course of August. Note that none of the maps include specific data for Catalonia, which is a very popular tourist region during the summer. 

The roads are expected to clog up again on Monday August 15th (a national holiday across Spain) and the following day Tuesday 16th.

The same is likely to happen when people drive back home at the end of their summer holidays on Saturday August 30th and Sunday August 31st, which will see the biggest number of cars on the roads returning to the cities.

The worst times, according to the DGT are heading away from the cities on Friday afternoon between 15:00 and 22:00, Saturday morning between 9:00 and 13:00 and between 19:00 and midnight on Sundays driving away from the coast.

The following table shows the motorways/highways in each Spanish region that are expected to have the highest traffic density during Operación Salida

For live traffic information visit the DGT website  HERE

Spanish traffic authorities will add additional lanes in peak rush hour times, halt all road construction work and prevent slow vehicles such as lorries from driving during these periods of heavy traffic.

Apps to avoid worst of the traffic

A choice of apps can be utilised to warn you of traffic hotspots in real time, help find alternative routes, warn of police controls and steer you away from motorway tolls or locate the best-priced fuel on your route.

Google Maps

It’s most likely already on your smart phone. It provides real time info on traffic jams and offers faster alternative routes.

Waze

This is one of the best apps for Operacion Salida, providing real time traffic and alternative routes, it also allows users to share information on accidents, police checkpoints and other roadside dangers or annoyances. This app also offers comparative prices at fuel stations along your route.

DGT

The official app from Spain’s traffic authority provides info on speed cameras, and up to the minute trouble spots along your route.


File photo of traffic jam on a motorway in Madrid. Photo: AFP

SocialDrive

This app is an information sharing platform that relies on drivers sharing info on traffic in real time.

RACC

This app doesn’t just provide minute by minute updates on traffic congestion, it also allows you to plan your journey to beat the traffic, calculating the best time to leave. It also provides info on service stations along the route and parking at your destination.

Via Michelin

The Michelin app gives real time traffic updates, will advise you of a route to avoid tolls and can also calculate how much fuel you need and the cheapest place to buy it on the way.

Truck Parking Europe

This app is the Tripadvisor equivalent for rest stops advising on good places to eat at roadside service stations and where to find the best facilities.

Eyes in the skies

Traffic helicopters and drones will likely be patrolling the skies over Spain’s busiest roads and at known traffic hot spots to look out for dangerous driving, traffic accidents and tail backs.  

The drones are equipped with cameras to beam live footage back to road traffic monitors who will use the information to alert ground patrols to traffic problems such as accidents.

One drone will be deployed on the Canary Islands and another over the Balearic Islands to monitor holiday traffic.

There will also be 15 undercover police vans on the roads to keep a close eye on drivers. 

Roadside patrols and speed traps

Photo: AFP

The Civil Guard have said there will be more than 1,800 patrol cars out on the roads during the busiest periods of Operacion Salida and at peak times leaving beach resorts.

Expect to see roadside checks where you could be asked to present your papers (car registration/insurance/driving license) and to see random breathalyser tests to check for drunk driving.

Speed traps are installed across Spanish roadsides to check for speeding vehicles. Keep to the speed limit or you may find you come back from holiday to a rather stiff speeding fine.

MAP: The trick to find out where Spain’s invisible speed cameras are

 

Check your car before your journey

Spain’s car owners club, RACE, warns that the majority of car problems resulting in roadside assistance come from battery and tire problems.

Make sure that you check your tire tread (it should be a minimum of 1.6mm across the central ¾ line of the tire) ahead of the journey and that you have a functional spare tire in the vehicle.

Also check tyre pressure at the start of your journey, and the fluid levels of oil, windscreen cleaning liquid and radiator coolant.

READ MORE: What you need to know if you are in a road traffic accident in Spain

Drive safely and wear a seat belt!

Last summer 260 people lost their lives on Spanish road during the months of July and August with the DGT recording that 23 percent of those that died were not wearing a seatbelt.

Take regular breaks

The DGT advises drivers to stop at least every 200km to stretch their legs, have a drink and use the toilets and get some fresh air to prevent tiredness.

During a previous Operación Salida, the DGT also produced this handy guide to outline the responsibilities of everyone in the car.

Driver: Drive, concentrate on the road, focus on the destination, don’t stress about the traffic.

Front seat passenger: Stay awake, responsible for the music, responsible for Google maps, Waze etc, warn driver of any dangers.

Back seat passenger: Chief distributor of sweets, issue complaints about air conditioning, hit the front seat passenger to make sure they don’t fall asleep, sleep like a bear.

READ ALSO: How to survive summer in the city in Spain

ENERGY

EXPLAINED: Why is Spain running out of ice?

A combination of skyrocketing utilities bills and scorching summer weather has made ice cubes a hot commodity and increasingly hard to come by in Spain.

EXPLAINED: Why is Spain running out of ice?

If you’re in Spain at the moment, you’re probably struggling with el calor – the heat. With record breaking heatwaves coming earlier every year and the mercury touching 45C in places, Spaniards across the country are struggling to find ways to keep cool and avoid the heat, using fans, air-conditioning, and ice.

This summer in Spain, however, the intense heat combined with rising energy bills have made ice much harder to come by.

A perfect storm of suppliers struggling with spiking energy bills, the scorching summer heat and return of tourists means that Spain is running out of ice. 

So, what’s actually going on?

READ ALSO: Sweating like a chicken: 18 Spanish phrases to complain about the heat like a true Spaniard

The numbers

In Spain approximately 2 million kilograms of ice are produced every day. During a normal year, the spring months would see another 2 million kilograms put aside and stored every day in preparation to meet the increased demand for ice during the summer, which doubles to around 4 million kilograms a day.

This year however, with its sweltering summer heatwaves, demand for ice cubes skyrocketed to staggering 8 million kilos per day and, with very little ice stored, suppliers only have the capacity to prove around two million kilograms a day – nowhere near demand.

READ ALSO: Will Spain’s third heatwave be as bad as the last one?

This shortage has made ice a very hot commodity and increasingly hard to come by. In some supermarkets purchases of bags of ice have been limited to one per person, a move reminiscent of the rush for toilet rolls in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And with the current volatility of the energy markets, it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Energy bills

Spiralling inflation and utilities bills are affecting all walks of life, not only in Spain but across Europe and the world.

People have been forced to make sacrifices, adjust their lifestyles, and just like the Spanish government requesting companies and public buildings to limit their energy consumption to save on fuel, the energy market has also played a direct role in Spain’s ice shortage.

Ricardo Blasco, owner of one of Madrid’s oldest ice manufacturers, Hielo Blasco, told Reuters this his power bills have risen by between 50 and 60 percent since the start of the year and that he was forced to delay production from March to May to try and offset the crippling costs.

Blasco’s story is a common one. At the start of the year, Spanish ice suppliers did not produce as much as normal – certainly not enough to stockpile as much as they usually would – because of a combination of the financial impact of energy bills and the unpredictability of tourist demand during the first real restriction free summer following the pandemic.

But tourism has returned to Spain in a big way. According to Spain’s tourism ministry, 22.7 million tourists visited the country in the first five months of 2022 alone, seven times the number in the same period a year earlier, with the trend set to continue into the summer.

READ MORE: Spain eyes tourism record after ‘dazzling’ summer surge

With holidaymakers desperate to enjoy Spain’s record breaking summer heatwaves and manufacturers worried about paying the bills, ice, a staple of Spanish summer life, has now become much harder to get your hands on.

Although it may mean you now have to have your drink without ice, or can’t take a bag of ice cubes down the beach, perhaps nothing encapsulates as perfectly the two major problems facing Spanish society today: extreme weather and extreme energy bills.

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