Driving to Spain from the UK: Top Tips

Spain offers great beaches, fantastic weather and, for Brits, it’s quite affordable. No wonder it tops the list of countries we love to go to. With over 18 million visitors traveling there from the UK each year between 2017 and 2019, it’s almost twice as popular as France.

Now, with pandemic restrictions easing, more and more people are considering driving to their vacation destinations. In the case of Spain, it is also usually cheaper to drive than to fly. We take a look at how the rules have changed since Brexit and everything you need to know before you head out on a road trip to Spain.

Our top tips for driving to Spain

  1. Have the correct documents
  2. See what has changed since Brexit
  3. Familiarize yourself with the French traffic regulations, as you will also be driving in France
  4. Calculate the best route
  5. Be familiar with Spanish driving laws
driving to spain from the uk: top tips
Not all roads in Spain look like this, obviously, but stunning scenery abounds.

1. Have the correct documents

Getting your documents in order should be the first step in preparing for a trip abroad, you should keep the following points in mind when traveling to Spain:

  • Make sure your car insurance covers you outside of the UK; take proof of this with you
  • If your vehicle is registered in the UK, you need a ‘UK’ sticker when driving abroad. The old ‘GB’ stickers are no longer valid
  • Make sure your UK driver’s license is valid; an international driving permit is not required
  • The V5C document certifying that your car is registered in your name is required.
  • Bring some form of identification, usually your passport
driving to spain from the uk: top tips

In summary you will need your:

  • Driver’s license
  • V5C registration document
  • Security test
  • Passport

2. Check what has changed since Brexit

There have been some changes since the UK left the EU. All UK registered vehicles are now required to display a ‘UK’ sticker instead of the previous ‘GB’ sticker when traveling abroad.

The UK is no longer subject to the EU’s cross-border directive, which means that EU countries can no longer prosecute speeding offenses committed by UK drivers abroad.

UK residents can travel to Spain (or any European country) for up to 90 days in a 180-day period without a visa; however, from May 2023, UK travelers will need an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System). ) visa waiver to enter EU countries.

If you have been vaccinated against Covid, please bring proof of it, as the rules and regulations in this regard are an ever-changing target.

3. Familiarize yourself with the French road rules, as you will also be driving in France

Driving to Spain will take you through a large part of France, so it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Most large French cities now have low emission zones: Zone à Faibles Emissions (ZFE). You will need to request a Crit’Air sticker on the official website, this will determine which zones your vehicle is allowed in. The cost is €3.11 + €1.40 shipping costs outside of France.
  • Display a “UK” decal on the rear of a UK registered car
  • Your UK driving license is valid in France; you do not need an international license
  • You cannot bring meat, milk or dairy products into France.
  • You are not allowed to use your radar detector while driving in France; even navigation systems that display fixed speed cameras are illegal.
  • Fruits and vegetables can be taken to France if they are inspected beforehand.
  • You will need to manually adjust your headlight or use deflector stickers to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic.
  • The national speed limit is 130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways, dropping to 110 km/h (68 mph) in inclement weather
driving to spain from the uk: top tips
You will have to adjust your headlights to drive on the right in France and Spain

4. Calculate the best route

All routes to Spain involve a trip across the English Channel to Calais, you can take the ferry from Dover which takes about 1 hour 30 minutes, or use the Channel Tunnel which takes about 35 minutes but costs more . There are many ways to drive around France and we’ve listed a few options below. Please note that the estimated time and distance start from Calais.

The fast route: Calais – Rouen – Tours – San Sebastian

  • 685 miles, 10 hours 20 minutes to the east.
  • Includes tolls
  • Channel Tunnel to Calais
  • Calais to Rouen via the A16/A28
  • Rouen to Le Mans then Tours on A28
  • Excursions to Bordeaux on the A10
  • Bordeaux to Biarritz and then to San Sebastián via the A63

This route is mainly on the motorway and includes a series of tolls.

driving to spain from the uk: top tips
Plotting a route ahead of time will help make your journey smoother

The cheap route: Calais – Rouen – Le Mans – Poitiers – Bordeaux – San Sebastian

  • 669 miles, 13 hours 51 minutes to the east.
  • Ferries to Calais
  • Calais to Rouen via the A16/A28
  • Rouen to Le Mans and then to Poitiers via the D347
  • Poitiers to Bordeaux via the N10/A10
  • Bordeaux to San Sebastian via the A63

This route avoids all toll roads; however, it will take at least 3 hours longer than the fastest route and will involve areas of single lane roads that can significantly slow progress.

The scenic route: Calais – Paris – Limoges – Bordeaux – Bilbao

  • 771 miles, 13 hours 26 minutes
  • Includes tolls
  • Channel Tunnel to Calais
  • Calais in pairs on A26/A1
  • Paris to Limoges via the A10/A71/A20
  • Limoges to Bordeaux via the E606
  • Bordeaux to Bilbao via the A63

The scenic route is longer and slower than the more direct options, so spending the night in Limoges (to see the medieval houses and impressive porcelain and glass wares) or Bordeaux (to stock up on fine wines) is a great way to break the trip.

5. Familiarize yourself with Spanish driving laws

  • You are not allowed to use your radar detector while driving in Spain, however navigation systems that display fixed speed cameras are legal.
  • Display a “UK” decal on the rear of a UK registered car
  • You can use your UK driving license in Spain
  • You will need to manually adjust your headlight or use deflector stickers to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic.
  • The national speed limit is 120 km/h (75 mph) on motorways

Driving to Spain from the UK Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to drive to Spain?

The fastest route from Calais to San Sebastian can be done in just under 11 hours. The ferry from Dover to Calais takes 90 minutes, while the Channel Tunnel takes 35 minutes. Budget at least 14-15 hours for the entire journey if you live in the south of the UK and plan to travel further inland than the Spanish border.

driving to spain from the uk: top tips

How far is Spain from the UK?

The distance from Dover to San Sebastian is 732 miles.

The distance between the two capitals, London and Madrid, is 1,070 miles.

Can I drive in Spain with a UK license?

Yes. Your UK license is legal in Spain

Do I need an internally displaced person to drive in Spain?

No. If you have a photo driver’s license, you do not need an IDP (International Driving Permit). If this is not your case, check this government portal to see what the requirements are.

What do I need to drive in Spain after Brexit?

As of May 2023, UK travelers will need an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) visa waiver to enter EU countries. You will need to display a ‘UK’ decal on the rear of any car registered in the UK.

Do I need additional insurance to drive to Spain?

You will need to confirm with your insurance company that you are covered to travel abroad.

On which side of the road do you drive in Spain?

The Spanish drive on the right side of the road, and you should too.

Leave a comment

Stay up to date

Register now to get updates on promotions and coupons
Limited time Offer 10% off Everything
Get your free discount NOW
Overlay Image
Sky Rocket Your Agency Income
Get Our Free Guide to

Shopping cart

×