With some 48 million people estimated to be hitting the highways throughout August 2021, 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?
Spain’s traffic authority (DGT) has provided these handy infographics to help you know where to expect traffic jams.
The first map shows where in Spain most cars are expected to be on the roads and motorways from Friday July 30th until Sunday August 1st .
And this second map shows where the heaviest traffic will be over the course of August. Note that neither map includes data of Catalonia, which is a very popular tourist region during the summer.
The roads will clog up again around August 15th which is a national holiday across Spain (observed in lieu on August 16th in some regions as the 15th falls on a Sunday), and then the return journey on Saturday August 28th and Sunday August 29th, 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 will have the highest traffic density during Operación Salida.
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.
It’s most likely already on your smart phone. It provides real time info on traffic jams and offers faster alternative routes.
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.
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
This app is an information sharing platform that relies on drivers sharing info on traffic in real time.
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.
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.
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
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 nasty speeding fine.
Handily, the location of all speed traps can be found here:
— Dir. Gral. Tráfico (@DGTes) July 20, 2018
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.
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.