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EXPLAINED: The rules for driving around roundabouts in Spain

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EXPLAINED: The rules for driving around roundabouts in Spain
One of Barcelona's huge roundabouts (rotondas in Spanish). Photo: Benjamin Voros/Unsplash

Find out if you know how to drive properly around roundabouts in Spain (you could be steering clear of a €200 fine).


There are 38,000 roundabouts in Spain, making it the third European nation with the highest density per capita of this type of intersection (behind neighbours France and Portugal).

That means that if you drive in España, you’re pretty much certain to have to navigate your way round more than the odd “rotonda”.

Spaniards are by and large renowned for being good drivers, with less of a bad reputation than their Italian or Greek counterparts (not that stereotypes always ring true). 

However, one recurring complaint among foreigners in Spain is the locals’ haphazard understanding of the rules for driving inside a roundabout. Admittedly, this isn’t something that any particular nation is famous for having a complete grasp of.

More importantly, something that Spaniards and foreign residents most likely share in equal amounts is the fact that they don’t know that not driving the right way inside a Spanish roundabout can land them a €200 fine. 

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And it’s for good reason, as in the past five years in Spain the number of fatal car accidents in roundabouts has doubled. In urban areas, the rate of overall accidents has increased a worrying 86 percent according the European Drivers Association (AEA). 

The most common traffic violation according to Spanish police involves drivers ‘taking shortcuts’ by dangerously exiting and cutting through the lane of drivers who are in the other roundabout lanes. 

But that’s not all. According to logistical analysis company Foremaster, 75 percent of Spaniards don’t know what the purpose of each roundabout lane is and 60 percent of them don’t indicate properly in roundabouts either.

So how do I drive properly in a roundabout in Spain?

The rules are in fact no different to those of the majority of countries around the world, with the exception of course of those where you drive on the left. 

Firstly, you give way to those already driving inside the roundabout and when it’s clear you drive in through the right, as in anti-clockwise. 

Upon entering, you must position yourself in the lane that suits the exit you’re going to take. You should not indicate upon entering the “rotonda”. 

If you’re planning to take the first or second exit, stick to the outside lane and indicate to the right when you approach your exit (only if second exit).

Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic actually suggests that you don’t indicate to the right if you’re taking the first exit as it might confuse other drivers. 

If you’re going to take the third exit, choose the inside or middle lane and start moving over to the outside lane when passing the second exit, checking your blind spot for oncoming cars that aren’t following the rules.

Indicate when you’re getting close to your exit. You should not indicate to the left to indicate that you are still circumnavigating the roundabout even though this is a common practice worldwide. 


If you’re taking the fourth exit (often a 180-degree turn) enter the roundabout and head to the inside lane.

If there are three lanes, drive into the third (inside) lane. If there are two, take the inside. As soon as you pass the third exit, carefully make your way into the outside lane and indicate that you’re heading out of the fourth exit. 

Generally speaking, you must always exit a roundabout from the outside lane unless there’s a road sign that states otherwise. 

A cyclist or group of cyclists must always be given priority. 

The following diagram where each car's trajectory is labelled bien (right) or mal (wrong) illustrates even further how to behave in Spanish roundabouts. 

Anything else to watch out for?

Spanish drivers don’t always give way to traffic already on roundabouts when entering them, so keep your eyes peeled at all times. 

Tailgating can sometimes be a problem in Spain as well so make sure you don’t make any sudden movements in roundabouts without first indicating in order to avoid possible collisions from the cars or in other lanes.

Under no circumstances should you cut the course of other vehicles using the roundabout in order to exit from it. Just go round again until your route is clear. 

Technically the roundabout’s inside lane can also be used to overtake. Use your indicator accordingly if you choose to do so.

Remember as well that in many city roundabouts, there are zebra crossings just after the exits, so keep your eyes peeled for traffic lights and pedestrians.  





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