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

If you're coming to Spain this Easter and want to rent a car, there's a high chance you won't be able to. Here's why.

Why you now need to book a rental car in advance in Spain
Renting a car in Spain at short notice is getting harder and more expensive. Photo: JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH

Visitors to Spain who want to hire a car will have a hard time trying to get hold of one this Easter or even this summer, unless they book well in advance. 

Over the past two years, since the start of 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.

Which places in Spain are experiencing shortages?

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 50,000 vehicles, but to meet current demand, they estimate they would need at least 65,000.  

While the National Business Federation of Vehicle Rental With and Without Driver (FENEVAL), which operates across Spain has revealed that they currently have 600,000 cars, which is 27 percent less than in 2019, when they had 820,000 vehicles.

READ ALSO – How to cut travel costs by carpooling in Spain: Eight trustworthy options

Why is there a shortage?

There are several factors that have led to this shortage, which primarily have to do with the pandemic.

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.  They also say that they cannot replace these vehicles because they do not have the dealers to do so.

One of the biggest issues is that also due to the drop in demand during the pandemic, the world is experiencing a shortage of semiconductor microchips, which are an integral part of automobile production. Each car requires an average of 200 to 400 microchips.

“They are manufacturing very few cars due to the lack of microchips”, explained the president of the Business Association of Rental Vehicles in Andalusia (AESVA), Ana María García.  

The car rental sector also complains that car rental companies are not priority customers for manufacturers. “They are selling them to other sectors or to individuals,” explained García.  

President of Feneval, Juan Luis Barahona also echoed this sentiment, saying “we are having problems getting manufacturers to provide us with new cars”.  

What can I do?

If you know that you’re coming to Spain and will need a rental car, the best option is to book your car as soon as you book your flights.

Make sure that you don’t leave it until you arrive, otherwise, you’ll find that you could be left without any private transportation and will be forced to rely on public transport instead – not ideal if you’ve planned a Spanish road trip or you’ve planned on visiting some of the Canary and Balearic Islands where public transport isn’t very reliable. 

In the Canary Islands, Aecav expects this problem to worsen during the summer and recommends “booking well in advance”.

Rise in prices

Due to the lack of availability and increase in demand, car rental prices have soared. As reported by LaSexta TV channel, renting a car from Palma de Mallorca airport in July 2021 cost €880 when booking one month in advance, but now even if you look three months in advance, the cost has gone up to €970.

The rise in prices affects the cheapest models, which together with the rise in fuel prices will make self-drive and road trip vacations a lot more difficult for many tourists to Spain this year.

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ENVIRONMENT

What’s the law on camping in Spain?

Spain is full of beautiful spots in nature, but is it possible to camp anywhere you want? What are the rules for wild camping, the potential loopholes and the fines to avoid?

What's the law on camping in Spain?

Camping is a popular pastime in Spain and there are many great dedicated campsites dotted all over the country.

But with so many natural and national parks, mountain ranges, forests and rivers, many people want to make the most of them and wild camp overnight.

So, is wild camping permitted in Spain?

Unfortunately, the short answer is that wild camping in any area in Spain is generally forbidden.

The reasons for restricting camping in natural areas ranging from health and safety to security and respecting the environment.

The general rule is that you must find an appropriate campsite to stay the night.

READ ALSO: Can you camp or sleep over at any beaches in Spain?

What about camping in a campervan or caravan instead of a tent?

Wild camping, even in a campervan, is not allowed, however, you are allowed to sleep in your own vehicle overnight, according to article 93 of the General Road Traffic Regulations and Manual 08/V-74. This means that you can actually park your campervan somewhere and sleep in it, as long as you don’t appear to be camping.

Practically it means that you can’t set up awnings, chairs and tables or barbecues outside your caravan and must look as though you are simply parked.

Be aware that parking by the coast is forbidden. General Traffic Regulations state that they “prohibit parking and circulation, as well as camping and camping sites, 20 meters from the beach in an urban area or 100 meters in a rural area, counted from the seashore”.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Spain’s campervan and motorhome rules

Are there any exceptions? What if I camp without a tent?

Vivac in Spanish or bivvying, as it’s referred to in English, is the practice of sleeping outside in the wild without a tent or a campervan. This is a bit of a grey area when it comes to camping law in Spain and you may be able to get away with it in certain rural areas where you can’t be seen. 

Are there any other situations I might get away with wild camping?

Wild camping is strictly prohibited in national and natural parks, on beaches, or by the coast, but there are similar grey areas when it comes to free camping on private land.

Technically you can camp in someone’s garden or field if you get permission from the owner. Remember, they may ask for a small fee for doing so.

Wild camping may be more accepted in some rural areas such as in the Pyrenees, but remember it’s still illegal so you can be fined if you’re caught.

What are the fines for camping illegally?

If you are found to be wild camping, you can be slapped with some hefty fines. According to the Coastal Law, you can be fined from €40 for each metre square of space you occupy if you’re caught camping near the coast.

You can also be fined between €50 and €150 for not parking properly near the coast.

Like most rules in Spain though, each region has its own when it comes to how much you can be fined. Here’s what you might have to pay for wild camping in nature in certain regions.

Madrid: €60.10 up to €601.01.

San Sebastián municipality: From €50 to €3,000.

Asturias: From €60.10 to €601.01. 

Murcia: Anywhere up to a maximum of €1000.

Valencia: Between €751 and €1500 for camping on the beach during high season. 

Catalonia: A minimum of €60.10, but if you’re found camping in natural areas, such as the Delta del Ebro, this can rise to €6000, the highest camping penalty in Spain. 

Extremadura: From €30 to €150.

Granada provice: €100. 

Be aware that the fines could be higher for wild camping in natural or protected areas.

General camping rules 

Campfires or bonfires are strictly prohibited in wild and natural areas, particularly due to the risk of forest fires, which caused devastation across many regions of Spain in the summer of 2022. Starting a fire is considered a criminal offence and you may get a lot more than just a fine if it gets out of hand. 

Remember to take all rubbish away with you and leave the place exactly as you found it and to bury all human waste away from water sources. 

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