For members


Driving in Spain: 16 things that could land you in trouble with the law this summer

Apart from the usual driving offences that exist in countries around the world, Spain has a whole host of punishable misdemeanours that can result in fines of €500 for drivers, many of which are particularly common during the summer months.

driving rules spain
Driving with your elbow hanging out of the window can result in a fine of up to €80 in Spain. Photo: Austin Neill/Unsplash

Every day, Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) hands out 10,000 fines to drivers in the country, mostly for the same punishable offences that exist in other countries: speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, talking on the phone whilst driving etc

But there are also plenty of other driving errors that aren’t strictly illegal but could result in a fine if you are caught by a Spanish Guardia Civil traffic unit.

The following infractions are not expressly forbidden by law but fall under Articles 17 and 18 of Spain’s Driving Code, which states that the driver must be in control of the vehicle and all those within it at all times.

“The driver of a vehicle is obliged to maintain freedom of movement, clear field of vision and full attention, to guarantee the driver’s own safety plus that of the occupants in the car and other road users”.

Here’s a list of the actions that are dependent on the officer’s discretion as to whether in doing them, the driver is posing a danger to himself and others on the road.

Wearing flip-flops

Driving while wearing flip-flops is considered ill-advised when in Spain, as they could get stuck under the pedal and therefore cause you to lose concentration or even provoke the direct loss of control of the vehicle.

If a Spanish traffic cop considers that you’re not wearing the right kind of summer footwear (loose and not tightly fitted to your feet), you could be fined up to €200 and lose 2 points on your licence. The same applies if you are barefoot or wearing other unsuitable footwear such as stilettos.

Putting on make-up or shaving

Photo: Asim Bharwani/Flickr

Not surprisingly, if you are caught shaving at the wheel or attempting to apply mascara, or any kind of make-up while driving, then expect a fine and 2 points docked from your licence.

Playing loud music

Driving with the volume up so high that you might not be aware of sirens could also earn you a fine, going from €100 up to €3,000 depending on the municipality and how much noise pollution you were causing. It’s also a big no-no to drive with music blasting out when in an urban area or close to a hospital.

Eating, drinking or lighting a cigarette

Photo by Gil Ribeiro on Unsplash

Eating behind the wheel, and even drinking from a bottle of water could result a penalty if a traffic officer catches you and considers that you are risking distraction. You could be fined €200 and lose 2 points off your licence. Likewise lighting or ashing a cigarette can be considered a distraction and is subject to a penalty, even though smoking while driving is allowed.

Tossing a cigarette butt out a vehicle’s window however is illegal, punishable with a minimum €500 fine and the loss of 6 points off one’s driver’s license.

Hanging your arm or elbow out of the window

Driving with your arm hanging out of the window, gesticulating out the window without cause or even sticking your elbow out could result in a fine of up to €80.

Not wearing enough clothes

Driving without a shirt on could also result in a fine of €200, but ultimately it’s up to the traffic cop to decide. This is covered in Article Three of Spain’s Driving Code, as in the case of an accident, an injury could be sustained by the driver or passengers if their bare skin comes into contact with the airbag or seat belt, for example.

Using a sat-nav or mobile GPS while driving

Having a sat-nav attached to the interior of your windscreen could be considered a distraction if it affects visibility of the road ahead. So to is fiddling around with it while driving the car. 

It is legal to use wireless or other approved devices if they don’t involve the use of hands or helmets or headphones.

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

Holding your phone while driving

Driving while holding your mobile phone in your hand – even if you’re not using it to talk, text or read – now results in the loss of six points from your driving licence in Spain and a €200 fine. Needless to say, actually using and being distracted by your phone while at the wheel is also a punishable offence.


Overtaking bicycles and mopeds

It’s now mandatory to change lanes when overtaking cyclists or moped users on roads with more than one lane in each direction.

Endangering or hindering cyclists when overtaking or without leaving the mandatory minimum separation of 1.5 metres results in the loss of six points and a €200 fine. 

Arguing with a passenger

Anything that might be considered a distraction while at the wheel is subject to a penalty and that includes having an argument with a passenger. So no gesticulating wildly or shouting uncontrollably, and certainly no turning round to have a go at a passenger in the back seat as it could result in an €80 fine, or much worse still, an accident.

On the same note, other distractions such as kissing your co-passenger or biting your nails could result in a fine. 

Unjustified use of the horn

This might surprise regular drivers in Spain, but beeping the horn without good reason can apparently land you with a fine of €80. Justified use of the horn includes alerting someone to avoid an accident. It isn’t considered justified to beep at your neighbour to attract his attention so you can wave at him. Nor is it justified to sound the horn if the driver in front is taking his time pulling away on a green light.

Not storing your luggage and belongings properly

If you’re in a rush or overloaded, you may feel you don’t need to store all your belongings safely in the car boot before hitting the road. Depending on the risk posed due to lack of visibility or the nature of the objects on the seats or the rear deck, a traffic police officer can take up to four points off a driver’s licence and fine them €500.

Driving through a traffic light on amber

It seems like everyone in Spain does this, but the guidelines state that if you can come to a stop in time on an amber light without risking someone running into the back of you, then you should stop. Or face a €80 fine.

Wearing the wrong kind of hat

Hats or caps aren’t outright banned but if a hat comes too low over your eyes and is considered to be detrimental to the vision of the driver or covers the ears and could limit the ability to hear well, then the driver could be pulled over and fined.

Putting your feet on the dashboard

We trust that there isn’t a driver reckless enough to attempt to drive a car while putting his feet up, as in Spain a fine can be handed out even if the front seat passenger sits back with their feet on the dashboard.

Photo by Victoria Bilsborough on Unsplash

Behave yourself at filling stations

There also a list of no-nos when filling up your car at a petrol station, which includes smoking, talking on a mobile phone and leaving the lights or the radio on while filling up.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


How much can I save on my Spanish electricity bill now that VAT has been cut?

With welcome news that Spain will cut VAT on electricity from 10 percent to five percent to shield consumers from soaring inflation, how much can you expect to actually save?

How much can I save on my Spanish electricity bill now that VAT has been cut?

On Wednesday June 22nd Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a further reduction in VAT on electricity prices.

Speaking to the Spanish parliament, Sánchez explained that the VAT reduction, from 10 percent to five percent, would be approved at a cabinet meeting this weekend.

But this isn’t the first time that the Spanish government has taken direct action to tackle skyrocketing electricity prices.

Last year it also slashed the VAT rate on electricity 21 percent to 10 percent to try and soften impact of rising electricity price rises on consumers facing price increases across the board.

Facing criticism for his government’s record on helping consumers, Sánchez blamed “a war at the gates of Europe” for the rises, and said the latest cut will form part of a package of measures to try and stem the effects of inflation, which hit a staggering 8.7 percent in May, the highest level in Spain for decades.

READ MORE: Spain to cut electricity tax by half to ease inflation pain

But how much can you actually expect to save on your electricity bill following the news?

How much will I save?

While a cut to the VAT rate paid on electricity is welcome, in reality it seems the difference to electricity bills will be minimal.

According to experts, lowering VAT from 10 to 5 percent will mean savings of around €4 a month for households with an average consumption (270 kWH per month and a contracted power of 4 kW) on the regulated market.

Let’s look at an example. A household with consumption at 270 kWH per month would have paid €95.43 in the last 31 days. If VAT had been applied at 5 percent, as it will be under the government’s proposed cut, their monthly bill would have worked out €4.30 cheaper.

For comparison, if the government had not stepped in at all and no tax reductions of any kind had been applied, that same receipt would have been €109.6. 

How much will it cost the government?

Cutting VAT, although welcome and much needed by most consumers at the moment, does come at a cost. Officials from the Hacienda believe that lowering VAT to 5 percent will cost the public coffers up to €460 million in the next three months alone. 

Hacienda estimates that the government has so far spent €3.8 billion on all tax cuts to lower electricity bills.

Is it enough?

Is another VAT cut enough to recoup the difference and negate rising prices? Simply put, if wholesale electricity prices (something the Spanish government has no control over) continue to rise at the rate they have been, the prices passed onto the consumer will most likely make the cuts to VAT negligible.

At the start of June, the daily price of electricity began at €210/Mwh, but by this week this Thursday it had already climbed to €272/mWH – a 29.5 percent spike since the beginning of the month equivalent to €62 extra on bills.

With no end to war in Ukraine or the volatility on the energy market in sight, the Spanish government is searching for ways to ease the burden on consumers. Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz recently proposed slashing the price of monthly public transit passes by 50 percent and offering €300 to people hit hardest by rising prices.

READ MORE: Spain eyes €300 handouts for most vulnerable and further fuel reductions