Explainer update: Do you need an international driver’s licence when in Spain?

Drivers miss out on over £2 million of savings by not renewing photocard licence online

If you are visiting Spain from the UK there have been mixed reports of whether you must be in possession of an international driver’s licence or you will be fined.

On the weekend of July 24 reports online suggested that “British looking” drivers were being targeted on the Costa del Sol. Those reports go on to suggest that they weren’t just targeting residents who hadn’t exchanged their licence for a Spanish one, but that even if you were just a tourist you were being fined.

The Spanish legislation is not clear on the issue with the information contained on the DGT website not making specific mention of any allowance for UK drivers. However, a tweet by Grant Shapps, the UK’s Transport Secretary says that following an agreement with Spanish authorities, UK driver’s can use their licences in Spain.

That same information is contained on the Gov.uk website,  however, the agreement only covers those who are not resident in Spain or who spend more than six months at a time in the country.

Those that will be spending more than six months or who hold driver’s licences from other countries may need an International driver’s licence. These are governed by the United Nations according to the International Driver’s Association and are easy to obtain. You can do so by going online and completing the necessary forms through any site licensed to issue licences.

The cost is not high and they can last between one and three years.

Anyone who is resident in Spain was required by law to have exchanged their UK licence for a Spanish one before the end of last year. While some grace was allowed, licences can no longer be exchanged and any newcomers or those who failed to do so being required to retake their licence here.

Discussions are ongoing between the UK embassy and the  Spanish government to get an agreement on this issue, however, no deal is expected prior to the autumn. Although documents have been exchanged these are still subject to legal checks and political approval.

So, in terms of the question of whether you do or don’t need an international driver’s licence when visiting Spain with a British driver’s licence, the answer is no.

That has been confirmed by N332, the police group that helps people understand the driving rules in Spain. They will help appeal incorrect fines by sending you the required documents. Email them at [email protected]

Language barriers may, however, result in your being fined as authorities crack down on Brits resident in Spain who failed to exchange their licences. If you are fined you should write to complain, alternatively you could keep a translated copy of the information with you as that may help to get you off the hook.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

FacebookTwitterRedditWhatsAppTelegramLinkedInEmailCopy Link
Go Back
Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]


    • Paul

      25 July 2022 • 07:51

      Utter rubbish. An IDP is not required for stays of under 6 months

    • Ian Wells

      25 July 2022 • 15:41

      UK government website states ” you do not need an IDP” provided that you do not have an old paper licence. i.e a UK photo licence is valid for up to 6 months. Different rules appy for Jersey, Guersey, Gib, etc

      • Guest Writer

        25 July 2022 • 16:49

        The problem is that the decision is made on the ground here in Spain, not in the UK and there is no doubt that certain Guardia Civil officers have been stopping drivers in the Costa del Sol and fining them for not having an IDP. In the same way that National Police at the Gibraltar land border implement their own interpretation of the rules from time to time, this may be the same on the Costa del Sol but at the end of the day, for little it costs, it’s better to be safer than sorry and UK Government advice can be ignored by Spanish Officials if they feel so inclined.

    • M

      25 July 2022 • 21:47

      We all know even during the covid period that the spanish Government was inventing fines for Drivers and their vehicles to generate income, this appears to still be the case. my advice to anyone is to deny these zeolots and arm your self with an IDP an keep the vehicle well maintained and legal, better to spend on unneccessary paper work and vehicle parts than give it away in fines, to be forwarned is to be forarmed!

    • June

      25 July 2022 • 22:16

      Iv got one it’s not worth it for £5,50 ,all the trouble it can cause ,

    • USER

      26 July 2022 • 08:48

      If you are right then driving through France you need a different IDP to the one you need in Spain so you must buy 2! But you are wrong as previous replies say

    • snikpoh

      26 July 2022 • 13:45

      No such thing as an International Drivers Licence – it’s a permit. Quite different!

    • M

      26 July 2022 • 19:43

      I would aire on the side of caution anyway, with Spain keeping the wording deliberately ambiguous, you can guess who’s side the Guardia civil will take, and roll out the fines!!!


    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published.