A few pointers for driving within the law ….

Just to clarify, because the message clearly isn’t getting through to some, that Spain has strict alcohol limits for drinking when driving. They are 0.5 grams of alcohol per litre of blood = 0.25 mg per litre of exhaled air, which, as a general guide, is two small glasses of wine or one small can of beer (police descriptions) for a man of average build and weighing around 12 stone – obviously less for smaller people.

Fines are €1,000 for drivers who have double the permitted alcohol level, or who are second offenders, plus a 6 point penalty; for first offenders, or those with less than double the permitted alcohol level, the fine is €500 with a 6 point penalty. If a driver refuses an alcohol or drugs test, s/he will be committing a further offence under article 383 of the Código Penal which can be penalised with a prison sentence of between six months and a year, and a driving ban of between one and four years. (First offenders won’t be imprisoned). This is in addition to an automatic maximum €1,000 fine as though the driver had tested positive with double permitted alcohol level. Vehicles of drunk drivers will be impounded if there is no other (sober) driver who can take control.

Where there is a zero limit, however, is with drugs. Here the slightest trace will result in a fine of €1,000, plus a 6 point penalty, and police say that detectable traces of drugs can remain even six hours later.

A few other points:

  • UK provisional licences are not valid in Spain and so may not be used for driving here under any circumstances and with no exceptions, because a British provisional licence is not a full EU driving licence.
  • Children under three years of age or any child under 135cm tall regardless of age must be seated in the rear in a child car seat; those under twelve years of age and who are over 135cm tall must sit in a booster seat, which can be in the front or rear. (See HERE for this and a raft of other legislative measures in force for motorists since 2015).
  • Flipflops are not illegal for drivers to wear but, the law requires footwear to be comfortable and, above all, safe, and Tráfico says that it does not consider flipflops to be safe. So, although technically not against the law, a fine for driving unsafely is always a possibility if wearing flipflops, and if involved in an accident whilst wearing them, a charge of dangerous driving is an actual likelihood.

Do remember that speed cameras throughout Spain are now automatically checking number plates to confirm whether cars have an insurance policy registered to them. Fines from €600 to €3,000 are already being issued for those without insurance. Police say that the first €3.50 of all insured drivers’ premiums goes towards compensation for victims of those who have not bothered or who are unable to insure themselves.

And finally, please see THIS post for speeding points and fines (though also see THIS post, and THIS post for general information about the most recent legislation on driving in Spain.


  1. Would the authorities inform the DVLA of a Uk licence holder who was fined and disqualified for a period of 7 months for a drink driving offence. They took the licence from him at Court.

  2. Can I also add a couple of points about carrying dogs in cars. It is my understanding that they should be in the rear seats attached to restraints (similar to seat belts which fit into the seat belt “holders”). These restraints MUST be attached to a harness not to the dog’s collar (to avoid the risk of its being strangled should it fall off the seat following sharp breaking for instance) OR they can be loose in the back provided that there is a metal “Dog Guard” fitted to the car to segregate them from the driver..

    Can you confirm that my understnding is correct?

    1. Author

      Driving and road safety legislation focuses on drivers having good vision and safety, eg footwear must be “safe” rather than specifying any type that’s banned, and in respect of animals, this legislation requires packages and animals inside a vehicle to be appropriately secured.

      Tráfico says that “appropriately secured” for animals is that which prevents movement which could interfere with the driver’s vision and command of the vehicle. The three approved methods are anchored harnesses, separation grilles (behind which the animal doesn’t need to be tied), or closed carrying transporters – bags, boxes, cages, crates etc.

      So, dogs must be secured, and there are various “advised methods”, but nothing is prohibited. Leads, which police say don’t contain animals properly and can risk strangling, are specifically named, in the same way as flipflops, as “not recommended”, but they are not banned. And so, just as with drivers wearing flipflops, if there were an accident and the police felt that something was inappropriate, they could and probably would issue a fine on that basis.

  3. When living in tenerife and drive with my uk licence do I have to re take my test after 12 months x

    1. Author

      Assuning you have a UK (European) photocard licence (as opposed to an old British paper licence), you can keep it and drive on it until it expires. Then, Eu law requires you to renew it in Spain if you are living here – and renewing in Spain means exchanging for a Spanish licence. That’s the law, but police on the ground have been known to refuse to accept UK licences, and insist that drivers resident here must change to a Spanish licence. This is incorrect, but any fine issued on such grounds will have to be appealed.

      Although such an appeal would be successful, it is a pain, and there really is not much reason to keep with the UK licence … not least because a Spanish (European) licence is able to be used anywhere in Europe and, in Spain, is almost universally accepted as ID, thus saving the resident having to carry a passport. Given that a UK licence needs to be renewed in Spain, and so exchanged for a Spanish licence, when it expires in any case, I myself see little reason not to exchange it straightaway.

  4. Can I ask the legality of driving bare foot, if you have removed flip flops for safety reasons

    1. Author

      Same as with flipflips: not technically illegal, but not “safe footwear”. They will be unlikely (but not certain) to fine you if you were stopped in a random check, but if you were involved in an accident, would almost certainly face charges of dangerous driving.

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