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Driving in Spain: The new device traffic authorities want you to keep in your car

The warning triangles drivers in Spain have to carry in their cars in case of a breakdown are being replaced with these emergency lights from July 2021.

Driving in Spain: The new device traffic authorities want you to keep in your car
Photos: Help Flash

2021 has brought with it plenty of changes for drivers in Spain, from the speed drop to 30km/h on most urban roads, to new fines for drivers distracted by phones even if they’re not using them and updates to the rules for overtaking cyclists

But one other change to Spain’s Traffic Code which came into force on July 1st 2021 is the introduction of a new device as part of any car’s accessory kit.

Called la luz de emergencia V-16 (V-16 emergency light) in Spanish, it’s a pocket-sized light which is meant to be kept in the glovebox and when there’s a breakdown or emergency forcing the vehicle to stop, it’s placed on the roof of the car.

This allows drivers to alert others that they are stationary without having to get out of their vehicles and place a warning triangle behind and often in front of their car on the road, or put on a reflecting yellow vest before getting out.

It’s considered a much safer alternative by road experts, as drivers don’t risk being run over by any oncoming traffic.

Twenty people lost their lives in Spain while placing their emergency triangles on the road in 2020.

Photo: Rico Loeb/Pixabay

As of July 1st 2021, the V-16 emergency light is supported by Spain’s Traffic Code, although it won’t be obligatory for drivers to have one in their vehicles until January 1st 2026. 

However, Spain’s DGT traffic authority has changed the wording of its official advice for what should be done in the event of a breakdown to incorporate situations in which the use of the emergency light is allowed but not the use of emergency triangles. 

In the event that your car breaks down, the triangles should not to be placed on the ground if to do so you have to walk along the hard shoulder or along one of the lanes of the road. 

That means drivers can only get out of their vehicles to put the emergency triangles down if they can walk along the sidewalk/pavement or outside of the road in the case of secondary roads.

Previously, Article 130.3 of Spain’s Traffic Code didn’t give these details, stating that placing down the triangles was only discouraged “if the traffic conditions do not allow for it”.

The DGT is also no longer recommending that triangles be placed 50 metres away from the vehicle to be visible from 100 metres away. 

What this ultimately means for drivers is that unless they have the new V-16 emergency light, there will be situations in which they won’t be able to warn others of their breakdown.

How does the V-16 emergency light work?

This battery-powered device emits a yellowish LED light in short bursts which can be seen from one kilometre away in all directions.

It also uses magnets or similar features to easily stick to the roof of the car. This must be done from the inside of the vehicle.

Any portable light device won’t do, it has to be an approved (homologada) light that also includes a geolocator that sends updates to the DGT cloud every 100 seconds. This in turn allows Spanish road authorities to warn other drivers on traffic information displays along the road that a vehicle has broken down up ahead. 

The device doubles up as torch as well, as it has a function which emits constant light, in case you need to change a wheel or check your car’s engine at night.

Spain’s new emergency light was initially being sold online by a company called Help Flash for around €22, but there are now other brands selling V-16 lights that have been reportedly approved by the DGT.

Regular emergency triangles can still be used in situations which allow for it, but these are also being slowly replaced by the virtual V-27 triangle, an app in new vehicles which sends information about a breakdown to others that are connected to the online network (not compulsory).


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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