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DRIVING

Do I need a Spanish emissions sticker to drive my foreign car in Spain?

With the introduction of Spain's new 'low-emission zones' in towns and cities this year, many foreigners and tourists might be wondering if they need a Spanish emissions sticker to drive their foreign-registered car on the roads here.

Do I need a Spanish emissions sticker to drive my foreign car in Spain?
Though you won't have to buy a Spanish emissions sticker you'll likely have to register your car and pay to use the ZBEs, perhaps on a daily basis. Photo: Pixabay.

As part of the Spanish government’s climate change and energy transition legislation, a series of low-emission zones (Zonas de Bajas Emisiones, ZBE) were introduced across the country from January 1st 2023.

In order to help enforce these new ZBEs, the Spanish government are rolling out emissions stickers to identify which type of car you have, its emission status, and to help fine those drivers who disregard the new rules of the road.

You can find out more information about the different types of stickers and how they will affect drivers, which The Local covered here.

READ ALSO: GUIDE: How to get an emissions sticker for your car in Spain 

Understandably, as so many millions of people visit Spain on holiday every year, many are wondering how all this will affect them especially if they drive in Spain in a foreign registered car.

Do I have to buy a Spanish emissions sticker for my internationally registered car?

No, well at least not the emissions-specific stickers Spanish drivers will use, anyway. But you may have to purchase something depending on where you are from and where you are going, as we explain below. 

In fact, the DGT do not even release or allow Spanish emissions stickers on foreign cars.

READ ALSO: The new road signs drivers in Spain need to know in 2023

So what do I have to do?
 
As these low-emissions zones are newly established and many areas aren’t even enforcing them yet, it isn’t clear yet how exactly cars with international license plates will have to identify themselves in the new ZBEs. There are a handful of European countries (see below) that have equivalent emissions stickers that can be used in Spain, but most don’t.
 
And as these ZBEs will be so localised, that is, town and city halls will have a certain degree of autonomy with regards to the rules because there are nationally binding regulations, it is likely that the rules on foreign cars will be on a city by city basis.
 
We can, however, use Madrid and Barcelona as examples that might give us a better idea of how it’ll probably work.
 
 
The short answer is: though you won’t have to buy a Spanish emissions sticker (like Spaniards will be required to have), you’ll likely have to register your car and pay to use the ZBEs, perhaps on a daily basis.
 
If we take Barcelona, for example, according to the ZBE registration and authorisation page foreign cars wanting to drive in the ZBEs must be registered. Of course, some internationally registered cars will meet the environmental requirements and can obtain long-term permits to be able to drive anywhere in Barcelona whenever they want. These vehicles are generally:
 
  • Motorcycles and mopeds (category L) classified as Euro 2 or higher (usually registered after 2003).

  • Passenger cars (M1) classified as electric, Euro 3 gasoline (usually registered after 2000) or higher or Euro 4 diesel or higher (usually registered after 2005).

  • Trucks (N2, N3), buses and coaches (M2, M3): electric, diesel Euro 4 or higher (usually registered after 2005).

Others however, especially older cars, won’t meet those requirements and have to apply for day permits, and can use up to 10 one-day authorisations throughout the year.

You can find all the information you need about registering, applying and paying for the day permits here.

Registration is €5 and it’s €2 per extra day authorisation, so we can use those figures as a ball-park estimate for what other ZBE passes around Spain might be.

You can find information on registering your car in the Madrid ZBE here.

Though most areas are still finalising the details of their ZBEs, it’s likely other cities will use similar systems and you’ll have to register you car and pay for some kind of daily permit to use the low-emission zones.

What happens if I don’t?

If you drive into a ZBE without authorisation (and are caught), you’ll be fined €200. This is the flat-rate fine for Spaniards and foreigners, established in Spain’s Traffic Law reforms back in March 2022.

What if I live in a country with its own vehicle emissions categories?

If you live in a country like France and already have an equivalent sticker then you won’t have to buy a Spanish emissions sticker. In fact, you likely won’t have to pay anything at all, depending on your car.

There are several other countries in Europe that have their own system of environmental car stickers. These are Germany, Austria, Denmark, and France.

If you have a car registered in one of these countries and want to drive in Spain, specifically in one of the newly established ZBEs, or in certain parts of Madrid and Barcelona, where they’ve been established for some time, you’ll be able to drive with the sticker from your own country but will need to understand what they entitle you to do and where they entitle you to go.

What their equivalent in Spain would be, in other words, as this could potentially affect where you’re allowed to drive.

Fortunately, the DGT does have some guidance on this, which you can find here.

Petrol cars

According to the DGT website, if you have a petrol car or small van the sticker equivalencies are as follows.

Equivalent emissions stickers for petrol cars and small vans. Photo: Dirección General de Tráfico

Diesel cars

If you have a diesel car or small van:

Equivalent emissions stickers for diesel cars and small vans. Photo: Dirección General de Tráfico

Motorbikes and other two-wheel vehicles

Equivalent emissions stickers motorbikes and other two-wheel vehicles. Photo: Dirección General de Tráfico
 
Alternative energy vehicles 
 

Equivalent emissions stickers for alternative energy vehicles. Photo: Dirección General de Tráfico
 
Low-emissions zones
 
The new rules apply to municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, which number 149 across the Spanish territory, and authorities in municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants and high air pollution levels will also have to introduce the new measures.

It is worth noting, however, that despite the new rules officially being introduced to start 2023, they are not being actively enforced yet. In fact, many cities have already suggested that it could take some time, such as Zaragoza, which has said it will take months to begin applying it, and Valencia, where the deadline to finalise the rules and fines has been vaguely defined as sometime “in the course of 2023.”

The only places implanting the rules (and fines) to start of 2023 are Madrid, Barcelona, Pontevedra, in Galicia, and Zaragoza.

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ENVIRONMENT

Spain’s Menorca gets green light to limit cars

The regional parliament of Spain's Balearic Islands approved Wednesday a law that allows the holiday island of Menorca to limit the number of cars that can visit.

Spain's Menorca gets green light to limit cars

The text passed by the assembly grants the government of the tiny Mediterranean isle the power to limit the entry of “all types of motor vehicles” to prevent it from becoming choked by fumes and overrun during summer months.

It also allows Menorca to set a “maximum ceiling” for the number of vehicles that can circulate on the island’s roads during a “defined period”.

Menorca, one of the most popular destinations for British holidaymakers in Spain, has so far not specified what limit it might set on the number of cars allowed.

During the peak summer season tens of thousands of cars arrive on ferries from mainland Spain or the neighbouring island of Mallorca.

“This is a historical milestone for Menorca,” the head of the island’s government, Susana Mora, said in a statement. “It is a tool that should help us boost our sustainability policies.”

Protecting the environment and keeping tourism at sustainable levels have long been priorities for Menorca, which has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1993 and is home to around 100,000 people.

The easternmost of the Balearic Islands, it remains distinctly rural with rolling fields, wooded ravines and humpy hills punctuated by dozens of pristine beaches.

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