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EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about getting an international driving permit in Spain

If you're based in Spain and you're planning on travelling and driving in a country outside of the EU, you may need to get an international driving permit, a process which since August 2021 is possible to complete online. Here's where you'll need one and how to apply.

international driving permit spain
You can now apply for your international driving permit online in Spain and more. Photo: Rudy and Peter Skitterians / Pixabay

What’s the latest on international driving permits in Spain?

If you have a Spanish driving licence and plan on going on a trip, driving outside EU, you can now apply for the international driving permit (permiso internacional de conducir) online, instead of having to go in person. Here’s how to do it and what you will need.

According to Spain’s General Directorate of Traffic (DGT), since August 2021 you can request and pay for your international driving licence online with your digital certificate, electronic ID or [email protected] and can pick it up two days later at your local office, without an appointment.

Previously, you had to request your international permit in person and wait for an appointment to become available in order to do this. 


Who needs an international driving licence and for which countries?

Your Spanish driving licence authorises you to drive within the European Union and the European Economic Area.

There are also other countries outside the EU, which will accept Spanish driving licences such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, El Salvador, the Philippines, Guatemala, Serbia, Turkey, Tunisia, the Ukraine and North Macedonia. 

For the rest of the countries, in theory you need to obtain an international permit if you want to drive in them. There are also countries 

However, it’s recommended that you ask the consulate or tourist office first if you’re planning on driving in these countries, just to make sure if you do need an international driving permit and if you have everything you need. 

Some countries that don’t have agreements with the EU may also set their own rules, such as Montenegro, where foreign holders of driving licences that are written in Latin script or a Latin-based alphabet (English, Spanish, French etc) do not require an international driving permit (IDP).

Can I still get an international driving permit issued in Spain if I have a foreign driving licence?

The DGT makes no mention of an option for non-EU/EEA driving licence holders to apply for an international driving permit issued in Spain.

Most non-EEA licence holders are allowed to drive in Spain for a maximum of six months before they need to get a Spanish licence (there are some third countries which have signed bilateral agreements with Spain), which indicates that the DGT cannot issue an international permit for a year when they don’t officially recognise the driver’s licence in the first place.

For UK licence holders, whether they are able to apply for an international driving permit from Spain may be dependant on how talks regarding the reciprocal recognition of Spanish and British licences post-Brexit evolve, with discussions now ongoing for around a year.

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

Spanish authorities recently extended the validity of UK driving licences in Spain past the six-month mark until October 31st 2021, but in any case an international driving permit issued by Spain isn’t valid for driving in Spain, it’s meant for abroad.

Britons can find out more about the international driving permit requirements abroad for British licence holders on the UK government website.

“You do not need an IDP to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein if you have a photocard driving licence issued in the UK,” British authorities state.

“You might need an IDP to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have either: a paper driving licence OR a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.”

How do I apply online and how much does it cost?

Now you can apply online with your digital certificate, electronic DNI or your [email protected] through the Electronic Registry of the DGT here. You will need to fill out all your details on the form and pay the fee at the same time. Click on ‘Comprar’ to pay the fee online. It has a cost of €10,40.

You can collect your permit two days after making the request, without making a prior appointment.

What do I need to bring with me to collect it?

In order for your licence to be valid, when you go to collect it, you will need a current DGT-approved original photograph measuring 32 x 26 mm, in colour and with a plain background.

You will also need to bring a valid ID so that they can identify you. 

Is there another way of applying for the international driving permit in Spain that isn’t online?

Yes, it’s still possible to apply in person by handing all the documentation required at any  DGT headquarters or main office in your part of Spain.

First, you’ll need to request an appointment (cita previa) here or by calling 060.

You can also authorise another person to act on your behalf by designatiing a representative through the DGT’s Registry of powers of attorney .

Also, if you carry out the procedure in person, you can appear in person as long as you have a document signed by the person concerned where you authorise you to make the request, and where you express its free nature. To do this, download and fill  in the DGT authorisation form “Granting of representation” .

If the procedure is going to be carried out by another person on your behalf, at the time of requesting the prior appointment by calling 060, you must indicate the ID of the interested party and also that of the authorised person.

How long is the international driving permit valid for?

The international permit will be valid for one year, without the possibility of extending it. Once the year is up, if you still need your international licence, you will have to apply for a new one again.

If you are moving permanently to another country though, you will have to exchange or register your permit according to the rules of your new country.

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Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it’s second hand

A combination of supply and demand problems caused by the pandemic and a lack of microchips is making cars much harder to come by in Spain. Here's why you should perhaps consider holding off on buying that vehicle you had in mind for now.

Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it's second hand

Getting your hands on a car – new, second hand, or even rental – is becoming much harder and more expensive in Spain.

The car industry has been hit by a perfect storm of conditions that have made new cars harder to come by and, as a result, caused prices to rapidly increase. 

According to Spain’s main consumer organisation, Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU), the microchip crisis affecting the entire globe, combined with an overall increase in the price of materials needed for car manufacturing and increased carbon emissions legislation has created a shortage of new cars in the country.

New cars

With less cars being manufactured, prices of new cars have gone up: a recent OCU report reports that new car prices have increased by 35 percent, higher even than Spain’s record breaking inflation levels in recent months. 

READ ALSO: Rate of inflation in Spain reaches highest level in 37 years

It is a shortage of microchips and semiconductors – a global problem – that has caused car production in Spain to plummet. In the first eight months of 2021, for example, production fell by 25.3 percent compared to 2019.

This is not a uniquely Spanish problem, however. The entire world is experiencing a shortage of semiconductor microchips, something essential to car manufacturing as each car needs between 200 to 400 microchips.

France’s car exports, for example, have fallen by 23.3 percent, Germany’s by 27 percent, and the UK’s by 27.5 percent.

Simply put, with less cars being produced and specialist and raw materials now more expensive, the costs are being passed onto consumers the world over.

Equally, these industry-specific problems were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.The average wait for a car to be delivered in Spain is now around four months, double what it was before the pandemic, and depending on the make and model you buy, it can be as long as a year.

Car dealerships across Spain were forced to sell cars during the pandemic to stay afloat, and now, when consumers want to purchase new cars, they don’t have enough to sell and can’t buy enough to keep up with demand due to the materials shortages that have kneecapped production.

Second-hand cars

With the scarcity and increased prices in the new car market, the effect is also being felt in the second-hand car market too. With many in Spain emerging from the pandemic facing precarious financial situations, then compounded by spiralling inflation in recent months, one would assume many would go for a cheaper, second hand option.

Yet, even second-hand prices are out of control. In Spain, the price of used cars have risen by 17 percent on average so far in 2022.

Cars 15 years old or more are 36 percent more expensive than they were in the first half of last year. The average price of a 15 year old car is now €3,950 but in 2021 was just €2,900 – a whopping increase of 36 percent.

As production has decreased overall, purchases of used models up to three years old have declined by 38.3 percent. Purchases of cars over 15 years old, on the other hand, have surged by 10.4 percent.

If you’re looking to buy a second-hand car in Spain, keep in mind that the reduced production and scarcity of new models is causing second-hand prices to shoot up.

Rental cars

These problems in car manufacturing have even passed down to car rentals and are affecting holidaymakers in Spain.

Visitors to Spain who want to hire a car will have a hard time trying to get hold of one this summer, unless they book well in advance and are willing to fork out a lot of money.

Over the past two years, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a shortage in rental cars in Spain. However, during peak holiday times such as Easter, the issue has been brought to the forefront.

It’s now common in Spain to see car rental companies hanging up signs saying “no hay coches” or no cars, similar to the no vacancy signs seen in bed & breakfasts and hotels.

READ ALSO: Why you now need to book a rental car in advance in Spain

While all of Spain is currently experiencing car rental shortages, the problem is particularly affecting areas of Spain with high numbers of tourists such as the Costa del Sol, the Balearic Islands and the Canaries.

According to the employers’ associations of the Balearic Islands, Aevab and Baleval, there are 50,000 fewer rental cars across the islands than before the pandemic.

In the Canary Islands, there is a similar problem. Occupancy rates close to 90 percent have overwhelmed car rental companies. The Association of Canary Vehicle Rental Companies (Aecav) says that they too have a scarcity 50,000 vehicles, but to meet current demand, they estimate they would need at least 65,000.

According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), fewer than 20 million foreign tourists visited Spain in 2020 and revenues in the sector plummeted by more than 75 percent. While numbers did rise in 2021, the country still only welcomed 31.1 million foreign visitors last year, well below pre-pandemic levels and far short of the government’s target.

Many Spanish car rental companies have admitted that the fleet they offer is down to half after selling off vehicles in the pandemic due to the lack of demand.

End in sight?

With the microchip shortage expected to last until at least 2023, possibly even until 2024, it seems that the best course of action if you’re looking to buy a new or used car in Spain is to wait, let the market resettle, and wait for prices to start going down again.

If you’re hoping to rent a car when holidaying in Spain, be sure to book well in advance.