What you need to know about driving during Spain’s coronavirus lockdown

When can you use your car during Spain's coronavirus lockdown?

What you need to know about driving during Spain’s coronavirus lockdown
Photos: AFP

Very strict regulations have been in place since Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declared a state of alarm on March 14th with rules in place to stop residents from leaving their home unless they have good reason.

These reasons include shopping for essential items, visiting vulnerable relatives or your children (if you share custody with someone in a different residence), attending a medical appointment or travelling to work if you are considered a key worker or from an exempt profession.

Those caught leaving their homes without good reason are liable to fines and possibly even arrest.

But what exactly are the rules for driving? When is it acceptable to get in the car and who can travel in the vehicle with you?

The Local takes a look at the regulations determined by Spain’s traffic authority (DGT) to find out.  

The DGT has outlined seven reasons why it is acceptable to be in your car during the lockdown, which has now been extended to at least April 25th.

These are:

1-To purchase food, medicines, newspapers or those items that are considered essential

2-To travel to a medical appointment  or for hospital treatment

3-You can drive to your workplace if it is considered essential and therefore not subject to recent confinement restrictions

4-To return to your habitual residence

5-Traveling by car to a financial or insurance entity is allowed as long as there are compelling reasons to do so

6-Go to the home an elderly or vulnerable person who may require your help.

7-In case of force majeure or urgent need, citizens can use their car but they have to be able to clearly justify the reason

The last point is vague and implies that extraordinary circumstances will be considered on a case by case basis.

But beyond these basic rules for being on the road, there are other questions that have come up about driving during lockdown, some of these are answered in the FAQ section of the DGT's coronavirus page.

How many people are allowed in the car?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions with lots of reports in the Spanish media of police fining those who are caught with passengers in the car.

According to Article 7 of the Royal Decree 463/2020 concerning the state of alarm, only one person should travel in the car at any one time unless the passenger is an elderly relative, child or vulnerable person and there is a justifiable reason to leave the house, in which case the passenger must sit in the back seat furthest away from the driver.

What if my driving licence expires during the state of alarm period? Will I still be able to drive?

The DGT informs those with Spanish driving licences that validity is automatically extended throughout the lockdown period and for 60 days after it ends to give drivers time to update it.

I’m driving in Spain with a driving licence issued by foreign country is that ok?

You can continue driving in the same conditions as before the alarm situation was declared.

The same rules apply during lockdown as they do at normal times, as in you can drive for up to six months with your foreign licence ( if it is recognised in Spain) before having to apply for a Spanish one. However, that time limit is suspended during lockdown and will resume again when it is over. Which means that the six months won’t take into account the months of lockdown.

What should I do if my car is due its ITV (annual road worthy test) during the lockdown period?

The DGT states that the ITV validity will be automatically extended which means you can continue to drive your car during the lockdown.

Plus ITV test centres are all closed.

Can I take my car to the mechanic during lockdown?

Repair shops are allowed to stay open to carry out ESSENTIAL maintenance on those who require their vehicles during lockdown but check with your chosen mechanic as they may not be open or have reduced hours.

Can I still hire a rental car?

Yes, rental car offices are allowed to remain open but the same limitations are in place for rental cars as private cars so only go out on the road for the permissible reasons.

The roads are virtually empty across Spain right now.


Member comments

  1. This is a good article but when will people stranded in Spain be able to fly home specially if they have to fly via Italy? Meaning may they drive to the airport with a taxi or been taken by family members? Will their visas automatically be extended? It is very difficult to get a straight answer on this

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Can the UK’s Blue Badge for disabled parking be used in Spain?

The UK’s Blue Badge scheme allows disabled drivers to park in special parking spaces closer to their destination, but can it be used if you're on holiday in Spain or living in Spain? The Local has spoken with the British Embassy in Madrid to find out.

Can the UK's Blue Badge for disabled parking be used in Spain?

The Blue Badge for disabled drivers issued by UK authorities features a symbol of a person in a wheelchair and should be displayed in the front of your car if you’re parked in a special disabled spot.

But can you use the same badge in your car in Spain?

When the UK was still part of the EU, these disabled badges for parking could be used throughout the bloc, but since January 1st 2021 when Brexit officially came into force, there have been some doubt regarding this. 

In other words, some disabled drivers visiting Spain who wish to rent a car or British residents living in Spain with UK disability cards are now uncertain as to whether their badges will be recognised here or not. 

In Spain, on roads and in car parks, parking places reserved for disabled people are marked with a wheelchair symbol.

The EU has its own parking card for people with disabilities and the recognition of the UK’s badge has always been an informal agreement between governments.

The advice from the UK government has always been for UK Blue Badge holders to check locally within the country they are travelling to, before using it abroad. 

The British Embassy in Madrid told The Local: “This advice did not change following the UK’s exit from the EU and to date no EU/EEA nation has specifically stated that it will not recognise a UK-issued disabled parking card”. 

However, the rules and advice are slightly different depending on if you are visiting Spain or living here. 

The UK government website states “You can use your UK Blue Badge when travelling in some European Union (EU) countries, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland”.

However, under the list of EU countries where you can use the UK Blue Badge, the UK government says Spain is “undecided” and asks drivers to check with the Spanish Embassy for more information.

This is causing a lot of uncertainty among UK Blue Badge holders and has sparked many debates on social media groups used by Brits in Spain. 

The British Embassy in Madrid has confirmed to The Local that: “Where the table states ‘undecided’, that doesn’t indicate that a particular nation has stated they will not recognise a UK issued parking card, merely that the UK doesn’t have a specific notification of reciprocity of the UK’s goodwill gesture”. 

This means that while Spain has not officially said that it will not recognise a disabled blue parking badge issued in the UK, there is no reciprocal agreement in place. 

While many British people visiting Spain say that they are continuing to use them without problem, others are reporting that Spanish authorities in some areas will not accept them anymore.

One member of the N332 Facebook group, (a group created by Spanish traffic police officers and volunteers) wrote: “To be honest I use my blue badge in Spain and it has not caused me any issues since Brexit. I think as long as a badge is displayed in the parking spaces no one will say or do anything”.

However, another commentator said that their friend was fined for using a UK blue badge in Spain.

According to the Spanish authorities, fines of up to €200 can be handed out for those who park in a disabled spot without the proper permit, although that’s not to say that a UK Blue Badge is not a proper permit.

So if you’re visiting Spain and have a disabled parking card, you should contact the local authorities first to find out if you can use your UK-issued parking card, otherwise you technically could be using it at your own risk and could be fined.  

In some places in Spain, you may find that authorities turn a blind eye, while in others may tell you that your badge is not valid.

Can you use your UK Blue Badge if you’re living in Spain?

The UK government website states: “If you have a UK Blue Badge and live in Spain, you must return it to the original UK issuing authority. You can apply for a new Spanish disabled parking card. The process is different in each region of Spain. Contact your local town hall or social services department for further information”.

So those who live in Spain should apply for the equivalent of the UK’s blue badge here. This is called the Tarjeta acreditativa de discapacidad or Tarjeta de grado de discapacidad, depending on where you live.

Examples of different disabled parking cards issued by Spain’s regions. Image: Fundación Once

The not-for-profit project Support in Spain warns that it can be a lengthy process to apply for the Spanish equivalent and that many have been waiting months or even years for their cards to be issued. This has left many foreign disabled residents in Spain in a difficult situation.

Another member of the N332 Facebook group wrote: “Why does it take so long to get a blue badge in Spain? My husband has advanced Parkinson’s and dementia. We have been waiting almost a year and our town hall tells me this is normal”. 

How to apply for Spain’s disabled parking card?

Firstly, in order to apply, you will need to make an appointment with your doctor in Spain to certify that you have a degree of disability that warrants a disabled parking card. Typically, applicants must prove that they have a disability of at least 33 percent in order to be eligible for the Spanish disabled parking card.

Your doctor may also need to refer you to a specialist. Getting this disability certificate, or reconocimiento de discapacidad as it’s called in Spanish, is the reason the process takes so long. This certificate is the same document you’ll need in order to apply for disability benefits in Spain too.

As mentioned above, the process of applying is slightly different, depending on what region of Spain you live in. Typically, you will have to go to your local Equality and Social Policies Department (Departamento de Igualdad y Políticas Sociales) or at your local town hall (ayuntamiento) and fill out the necessary paperwork.

This will then need to be submitted along with your disability certificate and any notes from your doctors, before your application can be processed. 

Those who are worried about how long the process will take should contact their local town hall to find out the average time frame in their area.