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DRIVING IN SPAIN

Can the UK’s Blue Badge for disabled parking be used in Spain?

The UK’s Blue Badge scheme allows disabled drivers to park in special parking spaces closer to their destination, but can it be used if you're on holiday in Spain or living in Spain? The Local has spoken with the British Embassy in Madrid to find out.

disabled parking
Can you use your UK blue disabled badge in Spain? Photo: Paul Brennan / Pixabay

The Blue Badge for disabled drivers issued by UK authorities features a symbol of a person in a wheelchair and should be displayed in the front of your car if you’re parked in a special disabled spot.

But can you use the same badge in your car in Spain?

When the UK was still part of the EU, these disabled badges for parking could be used throughout the bloc, but since January 1st 2021 when Brexit officially came into force, there have been some doubt regarding this. 

In other words, some disabled drivers visiting Spain who wish to rent a car or British residents living in Spain with UK disability cards are now uncertain as to whether their badges will be recognised here or not. 

In Spain, on roads and in car parks, parking places reserved for disabled people are marked with a wheelchair symbol.

The EU has its own parking card for people with disabilities and the recognition of the UK’s badge has always been an informal agreement between governments.

The advice from the UK government has always been for UK Blue Badge holders to check locally within the country they are travelling to, before using it abroad. 

The British Embassy in Madrid told The Local: “This advice did not change following the UK’s exit from the EU and to date no EU/EEA nation has specifically stated that it will not recognise a UK-issued disabled parking card”. 

However, the rules and advice are slightly different depending on if you are visiting Spain or living here. 

The UK government website states “You can use your UK Blue Badge when travelling in some European Union (EU) countries, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland”.

However, under the list of EU countries where you can use the UK Blue Badge, the UK government says Spain is “undecided” and asks drivers to check with the Spanish Embassy for more information.

This is causing a lot of uncertainty among UK Blue Badge holders and has sparked many debates on social media groups used by Brits in Spain. 

The British Embassy in Madrid has confirmed to The Local that: “Where the table states ‘undecided’, that doesn’t indicate that a particular nation has stated they will not recognise a UK issued parking card, merely that the UK doesn’t have a specific notification of reciprocity of the UK’s goodwill gesture”. 

This means that while Spain has not officially said that it will not recognise a disabled blue parking badge issued in the UK, there is no reciprocal agreement in place. 

While many British people visiting Spain say that they are continuing to use them without problem, others are reporting that Spanish authorities in some areas will not accept them anymore.

One member of the N332 Facebook group, (a group created by Spanish traffic police officers and volunteers) wrote: “To be honest I use my blue badge in Spain and it has not caused me any issues since Brexit. I think as long as a badge is displayed in the parking spaces no one will say or do anything”.

However, another commentator said that their friend was fined for using a UK blue badge in Spain.

According to the Spanish authorities, fines of up to €200 can be handed out for those who park in a disabled spot without the proper permit, although that’s not to say that a UK Blue Badge is not a proper permit.

So if you’re visiting Spain and have a disabled parking card, you should contact the local authorities first to find out if you can use your UK-issued parking card, otherwise you technically could be using it at your own risk and could be fined.  

In some places in Spain, you may find that authorities turn a blind eye, while in others may tell you that your badge is not valid.

Can you use your UK Blue Badge if you’re living in Spain?

The UK government website states: “If you have a UK Blue Badge and live in Spain, you must return it to the original UK issuing authority. You can apply for a new Spanish disabled parking card. The process is different in each region of Spain. Contact your local town hall or social services department for further information”.

So those who live in Spain should apply for the equivalent of the UK’s blue badge here. This is called the Tarjeta acreditativa de discapacidad or Tarjeta de grado de discapacidad, depending on where you live.

Examples of different disabled parking cards issued by Spain’s regions. Image: Fundación Once

The not-for-profit project Support in Spain warns that it can be a lengthy process to apply for the Spanish equivalent and that many have been waiting months or even years for their cards to be issued. This has left many foreign disabled residents in Spain in a difficult situation.

Another member of the N332 Facebook group wrote: “Why does it take so long to get a blue badge in Spain? My husband has advanced Parkinson’s and dementia. We have been waiting almost a year and our town hall tells me this is normal”. 

How to apply for Spain’s disabled parking card?

Firstly, in order to apply, you will need to make an appointment with your doctor in Spain to certify that you have a degree of disability that warrants a disabled parking card. Typically, applicants must prove that they have a disability of at least 33 percent in order to be eligible for the Spanish disabled parking card.

Your doctor may also need to refer you to a specialist. Getting this disability certificate, or reconocimiento de discapacidad as it’s called in Spanish, is the reason the process takes so long. This certificate is the same document you’ll need in order to apply for disability benefits in Spain too.

As mentioned above, the process of applying is slightly different, depending on what region of Spain you live in. Typically, you will have to go to your local Equality and Social Policies Department (Departamento de Igualdad y Políticas Sociales) or at your local town hall (ayuntamiento) and fill out the necessary paperwork.

This will then need to be submitted along with your disability certificate and any notes from your doctors, before your application can be processed. 

Those who are worried about how long the process will take should contact their local town hall to find out the average time frame in their area. 

Member comments

  1. I am amazed at how many articles in the Local are focused on those from the UK wanting to maintain their EU rights, but not be part of the EU. A vote was held, you or your neighbours voted to leave the EU. Now stop whining about what you can’t do anymore. Why would any country accept a practice that you bring from the UK to Spain? Your a 3rd country now, understand it and move on. Another article about getting a special UK visa in Spain so you don’t have to show the income levels everyone else has to because “we are special”. Enough with the Local publishing these ‘stories’ from UK writers, keep it to news please

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TRAVEL

Spanish fuel prices fall but can’t stop most expensive August ever

Although the cost of filling up in Spain has been falling in recent weeks, petrol and diesel prices in August make it the most expensive on record despite government discounts softening the blow.

Spanish fuel prices fall but can't stop most expensive August ever

Filling up a tank of petrol or diesel in Spain costs between €16 and €23 more than a year ago, making it the most expensive August on record – despite the government’s 20 cents per litre discount on fuel.

Filling an average 55 litre tank with either petrol or diesel now costs around €93, which is equivalent to €16 more than a year ago for petrol, and €23 more for diesel.

READ ALSO: REMINDER: How drivers in Spain can get 20 euro cents off every litre of fuel

Until this week, peak prices for the first week of August were back in 2013, when petrol cost €1.472 a litre and diesel €1.376, 16 percent and 19 percent less than current costs.

Prices have also already exceed the average monthly costs in August 2021, by 17 percent and 25 percent respectively, when fuel reached €1.416 and €1.29.

Falling prices

Despite these record breaking prices, fuel prices in Spain have actually been falling in recent weeks, reaching their lowest values since May.

As of Thursday 4th August, petrol in Spain is sold on average at €1.702 per litre, and diesel €1.693, including the government discount. 

Without the discount, the price of petrol is €1.902 per litre and diesel €1,893 on average, according to figures from the European Union Oil Bulletin.

The government’s reduction on fuel costs, introduced as part of an ongoing raft of measures to help Spaniards amidst the cost of living crisis, means consumers save around €11 every time they fill up the tank.

The 20 cent reduction on the litre was introduced in March of this year, when fuel prices jumped and crossed the €2 per litre threshold.

READ ALSO: Where to get the cheapest fuel in Spain

Below European averages

Fortunately for Spaniards, the combination of falling prices and the government taking 20 cents off the litre mean that Spanish fuel prices are below the European average, where petrol costs €1.856 and diesel €1.878 across the member states.

The most expensive EU countries for petrol are Denmark (€2.218) and Finland (€2.19), while for diesel Sweden (€2.37) and Finland (€2.153) are the priciest places to fill up.

On the other hand, although Spanish prices are falling they are not the cheapest in Europe. The cheapest places for petrol prices are Hungary (€1.29) and Malta (€1.34), and also for diesel: Malta (€1.21) and Hungary (€1.558).

Of surrounding western European nations, Spaniards are paying the least for their fuel. In Germany, for example, petrol costs on average €1.814 a litre and diesel €1.943. In France, the costs are €1.844 and €1.878 respectively; in Italy €1.877 and €1.851; and across the border in Portugal, the prices are €1.889 and €1.83.

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