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Penalties, speed limits and prohibitions: Spain’s tougher driving laws for 2021

Spain's new Traffic Code came into force on January 2nd 2021, an updated rulebook which includes new speed limits for urban roads, harsher penalties overall as well as limitations to where e-scooters can be ridden.

Penalties, speed limits and prohibitions: Spain's tougher driving laws for 2021
Photos: AFP

On November 11th, Spain's Cabinet of Ministers approved a new draft of its Traffic Code, a decree which stands out for featuring harsher penalties for common driving offences and changes to speed limits on many of its roads.

Although the new rule book became official on January 2 2021, Spain's Directorate General of Traffic has announced that only the clauses relating to e-scooters and similar mobility devices will be applicable from that date, whereas those relating to speed limits and other general road offences will be properly implemented six months after November 11, on May 11.

Points off licence

Drivers in Spain caught using their mobile phone while at the wheel will lose 6 points off a total of 12 on their licences, rather than the current penalty of 3.

Any driver caught using their mobile device a second time will lose an extra 4 points off their licence, instead of 3.

This is part of a stricter approach to the point system for drivers in Spain, “for behaviour which causes the biggest risk while driving”.

“Since 2016, distractions are the main cause of serious accidents,” Spain's Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska said in a press conference on Tuesday, pointing to messaging app WhatsApp as one of these primary disturbances at the wheel.

The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt (or not wearing it properly) in cars and other four-wheeled vehicles will go from 3 to 4 points, as will the penalty for motorcyclists caught not wearing a helmet, or when young children aren't sat in a proper booster or car seat in a vehicle.

Having a device to detect speed cameras installed in a vehicle will incur fines of €500 and the loss of 3 points off the driving licence.

Drivers will be able to recoup two points by carrying out a ‘driving safety course' which is currently being developed.

Lower speed limits

The Spanish government is aiming to reduce road deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic accidents by 50 percent with this new bill.

In order to achieve this, it will limit the speed on one-way roads to 20km/hour, when there is no height difference between the sidewalk and the road.

For roads with one lane in each direction the speed will now be a maximum of 30km/h.

Many provincial capitals across Spain have already rolled out their own legislation limiting the speed on urban roads to 30km/h rather than 50km/h given the long wait for this amendment of Spain's Traffic Code by the national government.

READ MORE: Why you will soon have to drive more slowly in Spanish cities

On roads with two or more lanes of traffic in each direction, the limit remains at 50km/h.

Spain's Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska has said that these new speed limits won't apply to main roads in Spain's big cities.

Vehicles won't be able to surpass the speed limit at all when overtaking on secondary roads, whereas before it was allowed by up to 20km/h when overtaking.

E-scooters banned from pavement

Personal mobility vehicles such as electric scooters or Segways will now have to follow most of the road rules that already exist for four-wheel vehicles in Spain.

The standout change is that riders will no longer be allowed on sidewalks or on pedestrianised areas, nor on motorways, inter-city roads or in urban tunnels. 

The new laws also enshrine earlier proposals by Spain's Directorate General of Traffic such as not being to ride while using a mobile phone, headphones or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

These types of electrically-powered mobility devices that have taken over many Spanish cities in recent years will now require a driving certificate to be used and have the speed limit has been set at 25km/h.

All the above rules for e-scooter and similar mobility devices will be applicable across Spain from January 2 2021. 

READ MORE: Spain plans crackdown on electric scooters

New rules for beginner drivers

Spain’s updated Traffic Code also has tougher penalties for budding drivers caught cheating with a mobile phone or another device whilst sitting their theory test: a €500 fine and a six-month ban before being to sit the exam again.

It’s also now possible for anyone over the age of 18 to get a driving license for trucks and coaches. In the case of trucks, the license can be obtained from the age of 18 as long as the 280-hour Certificate of Professional Aptitude (CAP) has been passed

For coaches, it will be possible to drive from the age of 18, but without passengers and in a radius of less than 50 kilometres. From the age of 21, with the CAP certificate approved, they will be able to carry passengers.

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For members


How much does it really cost to live in Barcelona?

Barcelona is one of the most popular cities for foreigners to move to in Spain, but it's also among the most expensive. Long-time Barcelona resident Esme Fox explains exactly how much you'll need to live in the Catalan capital.

How much does it really cost to live in Barcelona?

Barcelona is made up of 10 different districts and each one of these has its own neighbourhoods, or barris as they’re called in Catalan.

Depending on which district or even which neighbourhood you live in, your cost of living will be very different in everything from rent to a simple cup of coffee.

Generally, the most expensive neighbourhoods are located in the centre and northwest of the city and some of the cheapest can be found in the outer-lying areas or to the east of the centre.

But wherever you live in the city it’s worth keeping in mind that the cost of living in Barcelona has risen by 31 percent in the last five years and rising rental prices are mostly to blame.

According to the annual report by the Metropolitan Area of ​​Barcelona (AMB), the minimum wage needed to be able to live comfortably in Barcelona is €1,435 gross per month.

But of course, it will depend on your living circumstances. According to the report, if you’re living on your own you will need around €1,553 per month, if you’re a single parent you will need €2,220 per month. A couple without children will each need to earn a minimum of €1,054.80 and a couple with two children needs two salaries of €1,547 each.

Map showing the ten districts that make up Barcelona.


Rent is your biggest expense in Barcelona and unfortunately, rental prices have been spiralling recently due to inflation, the return of tourism after Covid lockdowns and the ever-growing popularity of the city.

Cost of living website Numbeo states that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is €1,031 and a one-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre is €795.

Those looking for somewhere slightly larger to rent will be forking out €1,672 for a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre and €1,299 for a three-bedroom apartment outside the centre.

If you’re prepared to rent a room in a shared apartment with others, this will cut your rental costs considerably. Apartment sharing website Badi states that the average price for a room in a shared apartment in Barcelona costs an average of €500.  

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona


With inflation, the cost of groceries has soared in Barcelona in the past few months. Prices will depend on where you shop. Generally, chain supermarkets such as Mercadona are the cheapest, while larger supermarkets where you can also find important products such as Carrefour and El Corte Inglés are more expensive.

According to Expatistan, the average price for a litre of milk costs €0.93, 12 eggs cost €2.92 and 500g of cheese costs €5.76.

In terms and fruit and vegetables, Numbeo states that the average cost of1kg of tomatoes is €2.16, 1kg of apples costs €1.96 and 1kg of potatoes costs €1.33. While the same website gives the average price for chicken fillets as €7.09 and a bag of rice as €1.26. 

Eating out

Barcelonians love to eat out whether that’s going for tapas with friends, trying out a new international restaurant or going for brunch on a Sunday. It’s an important part of socialising in the Catalan capital, so you’ll want to budget to eat out a least a few times per month. 

Expatistan gives the price of dinner for two in a normal restaurant at €35, while Numbeo states that a combo meal at a chain or fast food place will set you back around €9.

A menú del día (menu of the day) costs an average of €17 in the centre or an expensive area of the city, while you can pay as little as €11 for 3 courses in the cheaper neighbourhoods.

Going out for a coffee will set you back around €2.08. Remember that it’s always cheaper to ask for a café con leche rather than a cappuccino. 

READ ALSO – Moving to Barcelona: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in

Going out, leisure and entertainment

Barcelona has a great entertainment scene, whether you want to listen to live music in small bar, go clubbing until the early hours of the morning, go on a date to the cinema or spend the night at the theatre.

A cinema ticket costs an average of €9, while you’ll pay €42.74 for a monthly gym membership in the city. 

A normal-sized glass of draught or bottled beer at a bar will be around €3 and a cocktail will be around €8-12.


Public transport in Barcelona is good and affordable. Metros, buses, trams and trains (Rodalies and FGC) all run throughout the city. A 10-journey ticket which can be used on all modes of transport for one zone currently costs €7.65 with the government’s 30 percent reduction, but is normally €11.35.

If you commute, you can get a monthly unlimited journey ticket for one zone called the T-Usual which normally costs €40, but currently is only €20 with government aid.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Barcelona you should be aware of before moving