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DRIVING IN SPAIN

Driving in Spain: Can I take my theory and practical tests in English?

Can the 'examen práctico' and 'examen teórico' be done in English in Spain? How about if you don't speak any Spanish? Here's what English speakers who need to get a Spanish driving licence need to know.

Learning to drive in Spain.
Image: Andraz Lazic / Unsplash

Learning how to drive for the first time or even retaking your test, if you’ve been driving for a while, can be a daunting process, especially when it’s in a different country and in a different language.

Fortunately in Spain, there are many different driving schools offering lessons in English, but many of our readers want to know if you can take your driving test in English too.

Can I do my theory test in Spain in English?

Yes, you can sit your driving theory exam in Spain in either Spanish, English, Catalan, Galician, Euskera, French or German.

Many driving schools in Spain can help you prepare for your theoretical driving test in English, offering you English instructors and practice exams.

You’ll need to answer 30 multiple choice questions from a pool of 3,000 and answer 90 percent of them correctly to pass.

While the option of taking the DGT’s theory exam (examen teórico) in English is available, some English speakers in Spain have said that exam questions that have been translated into English aren’t always clear and can be confusing.

It’s true that written Spanish can be more long-winded than English, but if you’re getting your driving licence in Spain it probably means you’re settling here, so learning the right Spanish driving vocab, and Spanish in general is probably the right way to go.

Can I take my practical driving test in English?

While you are able to sit your theoretical test in English if you inform your driving school and the DGT beforehand, unfortunately, the practical part has to be done in Spanish. 

Even though your practical driving lessons can be in English, the actual practical test is always with a Spanish-speaking examiner sitting behind you. Therefore, you’ll need some knowledge of Spanish, least to understand the words and phrases you’ll need during your test.

READ ALSO: Spanish driving licence: the essential language to pass your practical test

Silvia Romero from Corsa International driving school in Barcelona says: “Currently the practical exam can only be done in Spanish since the Provincial Traffic Headquarters does not have this service. Only the common theory exam is translated into English”.

Is there a point in taking driving lessons in English if my final practical exam will be in Spanish?

This depends entirely on your Spanish level and the confidence you have in your Spanish ability, as well as your driving ability.

If you are taking driving lessons for the first time and have a very limited knowledge of Spanish, you may want to take your lessons in English, however, when you get a little more confident on the road, it might be a good idea to get a few lessons in Spanish so you can get to know the vocabulary.

If you can already drive, but are taking lessons so that you can get your Spanish license, you may want to take a few more lessons in Spanish so you can concentrate more on the language than the driving. 

Silvia Romero told us: “It would be advisable to already know some Spanish so that when doing the practical lessons, the student can be more aware of driving than the vocabulary, but it is not essential since the number of words that you have to know is quite small”.

Reader Neda Ahmadiani told us that she recently took her theoretical driving test in English. “The practical is in Spanish but doesn’t require fluency in Spanish. There were few words exchanged between me and the examiner,” she said. 

“In our practice classes, we use both languages – English and Spanish, so that the student understands what he/she has to do, and gets used to how the examiner will speak to them on the day of the exam,” added Romero.  

English-speaking driving schools in Spain

Barcelona 

Corsa International

Corsa International driving school has three different locations in the city. They offer both face-to-face and online practical and theoretical driving lessons in English. 

Driving School Barcelona

Driving School Barcelona is a specialised English-speaking driving school. They offer both classroom-based theoretical classes and private driving lessons.

Autoescuela Driving BCN

Autoescuela Driving BCN offers European-certified driving instructors who have experience driving and teaching in different countries. Director Paula and her team have a great level of English and teach both theoretical and practical driving lessons. 

Alicante Province

Autoescuela Eurovial 
Located in Benidorm, Autoescuela Eurovial has many years’ experience and multilingual teachers to help you obtain your license.

Autoescuela Jonia
Situated in the centre of Villajoyosa, Autoescuela offers a special English driving course, which includes English theory books, access to English theory tests and driving lessons taught in English. 

Málaga province

Urbano Autoescuelas
Urbano driving school has various locations across the Malaga province. They offer both theoretical and practical lessons in English at their schools in Fuengirola, Marbella and Mijas. 

Member comments

  1. Driving Licence Conundrum
    You pass your driving test in a EU country (not UK). You move to the UK and obtain a UK licence. Brexit happens, then you move to Spain.
    Why do I have to take a Spanish test when my original test was within the EU and is automatically recognised in Spain?

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For members

DRIVING IN SPAIN

Driving in Spain: Getting your driving licence when you already have one

South African in Spain Melissa Booyens, who recently passed her Spanish driving test despite having had a licence from her home country for 14 years, offers her tips to others in the same situation, talks costs and tells us about the pros and cons to expect.

Driving in Spain: Getting your driving licence when you already have one

Starting my life in Spain as a non-EU national came with its own set of complications and bureaucracy that EU nationals are fortunate enough to not usually experience. 

With many official processes, I’ve learned that if your home country doesn’t have an “agreement” with Spain on certain matters, it means you have to start from scratch with it.

This is often the case with driving licences. Except for a handful of non-EU countries, most non-EU nationals cannot simply exchange their driver’s licence for a Spanish one but rather need to resit their theory and practical driving exams.

READ ALSO: Who can exchange their licence and who has to resit the exam?

As a South African licence holder, my driver’s licence needed to be changed for a Spanish one after six months of residency in Spain. 

It’s frustrating knowing that no matter how much experience you have driving (I got my licence when I was 18 and have driven regularly ever since), your licence won’t be valid here after a certain period of residency. 

But it’s just one of those things in life where you have to bite the bullet and get on with it. 

After a few months of studying and practical classes, I can now proudly say that I’m a Spanish licence holder. Fortunately, I managed to pass the theory and practical exam the first time round. 

I know there are plenty more foreigners in Spain who are in the same boat as I was, not least the UK licence holders who are now not sure whether they will have to resit their driving exams.

So I’d like to share some tips for foreign drivers who have to get their licences again in Spain, as well as give a breakdown of some of the conclusions I’ve drawn from my experience of doing it and passing.

 

The positives

You familiarise yourself with the road rules and signs of Spain

This may seem unnecessary since a lot of road signs are internationally understood, but there seems to be a few that are different and come with their own sets of rules.

You get to better understand the roads in the place where you live in Spain

It may seem silly, but each country and city even has its own eccentricities in terms of road structures and rules. 

Here in Tenerife, there are certain areas where the roads seem put together randomly and then sprinkled with road signs and warnings. It doesn’t always make sense as to why they chose to do it that way, and as a foreign driver you may misunderstand them (because who wouldn’t?).

 

You improve your Spanish

I chose to do the theory test in Spanish (you can also do it in English) and felt it helped my Spanish improve to a certain extent. 

As a result, I also understood my driving instructor better during practicals as I knew the names of the manoeuvres and actions in Spanish already. 

As you probably know, you have to do your practical driving exam in Spanish, and I felt that thanks to that linguistic prep, I could understand the examiner far better during the exam, even though he was sitting behind me and his voice was slightly muffled as he was wearing a mask.

READ ALSO: The essential Spanish you need to pass your practical test

 

 

The negatives 

You spend a lot of money

Based on my experiences, getting a licence in Spain requires a fairly big financial investment, even if you’re a seasoned driver. 

When you work with a Spanish driving school (which you sort of have to if you want to understand the DGT’s complicated MO), it comes with some extra expenses but the process of getting a driving licence in itself is already expensive.

There’s the matrícula (the registration) which is €50, the tasas de tráfico – €93,12 and the processing fee – €35 which you pay all before taking your first theory test. 

You can use the DGT website to do practice exams, but that login expires after 30 days and from there you have to pay €5 every time to use it for another 30 days.

You have two opportunities to pass the theory exam. If you don’t pass it on the third, you have to pay your tasas again.

When you pass your theory exam, you can start thinking about your practical lessons. On average a driving class costs around €25,50 for 45 minutes. 

Unfortunately, you are forced to book double sessions because the areas where the exams take place are usually on the outskirts of the city, so driving there and back already costs you half an hour of your precious 45 minutes.

All in all, I spent €459 on classes. Admittedly, I probably did more classes than necessary because I didn’t have the correct strategy from the start (I have a tip on how to do fewer classes further down).

That brought me to a total of €647, which did feel like an unnecessarily high expense for something that I already had.

READ MORE: How much does it cost to get your driving licence in Spain?

 

Driving schools want you to do as many classes as possible

How many driving lessons you do is up to you and your instructor but you may they discourage you from taking too few classes. 

They seem to always say that the roads are tricky, that you have to be ready for the exam, that you have to do at least a certain number of classes, even though you already know how to drive.

There is no minimum amount of classes that you have to do. And ultimately you can decide on how many classes you want and ask to do your exam.

 

You have to put the L square in your car

Your driving school will tell you after you pass your practical exam that you have to put the “L” sign in the back window of your car for a year to indicate that you are a new driver. This doesn’t seem fair or to make sense considering your driving experience, but there you have it.

 

My tips for passing your Spanish driving test

  • Instead of studying the DGT rule book, start practising exams directly on the DGT website. You can look up doubts in the book from there, but ultimately it is a big waste of time to study the theory first, and the theory exam is based on the questions in the practice exams anyway.

  • If your Spanish is reasonably good, do the theory in Spanish. It will help you understand your instructor and examiner better and overall give you more confidence in the practical test. I’ve also read that the translation into English of the theory exam isn’t always clear.

  • Don’t make the same mistake that I did and take a few classes a month in an unorganised fashion. Take one or two classes to familiarise yourself with your instructor and the roads. Then, ask for an exam date a month in advance. From there you can plan to have some intensive classes in the weeks right before the exam to learn the exact routes and areas where the exam takes place. It will also be fresher in your mind right before the practical exam.
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