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Driving Spain – What We Learned!

When you get to Spain will you rent a car or campervan? Driving through Spain gave us fantastic views of mountains, rivers, medieval cities, and plenty of livestock from pigs to cows. We loved it, and it is surprisingly easy.

By now it is obvious, we love self-driving our way through a country, as we did in Norway and Israel not too long ago. So our recent trip to Spain proved the perfect opportunity to get out on the road and drive! On this trip we didn’t use a car hire in Spain, because we were able to bring our own car.

The trip from Germany was long, over 23 hours of driving time, but easily broken up over three days with some fantastic stops along the way but today we’ll focus on the driving in Spain.

Spain is a large country with plenty of roads to travel.

All of my research prior to the trip indicated a relaxed, easy to navigate road system and that’s pretty much what we found with only a few exceptions. Highway driving, for instance, was stress free and well regulated.

The only issue I had was that our GPS unit thought the speed limit was only 110 kph when in reality it was signed at 120 kph. A little nerve-wracking at first but it became clear that the speed would be consistently posted even right before speed cameras, so it was easy enough to ignore the GPS on the open highway. Luckily it was accurate in most other situations so I am not expecting any speeding tickets in the mail–knock on wood!

Our drive through Avila provided some gorgeous views.

City driving, on the other hand, was much more tricky. In most of the towns and cities we were visitng the road system had been laid out centuries ago and constantly manipulated and updated since. The GPS was good but it wasn’t up to date in many areas that had undergone traffic pattern changes. I’ve never been too reliant on the GPS so it wasn’t hard to ignore the directions it gave and use it more as a general direction map.

We never got lost and we always found our destination. The worst case, however, was driving down a road that suddenly had the dreaded sign “entry only for taxis or buses, camera enforced.” This happened in many towns. But in Ávila‎, the sign was a little different, the old town there was closed only to tourist buses. We even found several good roadside photo ops that were marked, “No parking, except for tourists!” You gotta love that!

Driving in Spain is surprisingly easy, especially when we get views of Segovia.

Once reaching our destination we often found parking simple and cheap, and in most towns parking was free after 2:00pm. But, the worst parking situation was Madrid. We had to park in a 24 hour parking garage that was nearly a kilometer away from the hotel, and it was not cheap (37 Euro per day), but it was secure and the car was safe there overnight.

Driving in Spain was on the expensive side with gas averaging about 1.6 euro/liter and tolls on the Autopista around 1 Euro every ten kilometers. Happily, we were able to travel on Autovias through most of the trip avoiding tolls. Gassing up, though expensive, was usually pretty straight forward. Almost every pump we used had a sign saying to prepay before pumping, but that was only required once in Sevilla. And the restrooms in the service areas were always clean.

Our jeep parked right up by one of Spain's iconic windmills.

Overall we drove more than 3500 kilometers in Spain and enjoyed beautiful scenery, delicious food, and friendly people. We made it to places that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to get to through public transportation, and that is one of the main reasons we drive whenever possible.

Have you been driving in Spain? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.

Tom Bartel

Friday 27th of May 2016

We've driven a lot in Spain and your observations are right on. You have to be crazy to drive around Madrid. Park somewhere and take the Metro.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 1st of June 2016

Tom, So true! Call us crazy, we drive all over including the cities.