UK drivers warned of potential fines for driving a petrol or diesel vehicle in Spain

Driving abroad: RAC's tips for driving in Europe

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Many Britons will be looking to visit Spain in the coming weeks to take advantage of the sunny weather as the summer holidays continue. However, Mike Caunter, Managing Director of Airport Parking and Hotels (, warned drivers of the charges they may face when driving in Europe this summer.

An increasing number of major cities are introducing Low Emission Zones to combat the air pollution rates.

Speaking to, he said: “An increasing number of European countries are introducing low emission zones across cities and towns in a bid to reduce congestion and air pollution. 

“With more destinations joining the list, it’s important drivers are aware of the rules and regulations before arriving on holiday.

“We hope the APH research will help savvy drivers ensure they have the correct fees, certificate or sticker displayed for their vehicle.”

Low Emission Zones

The two most notable cities with LEZs are Barcelona and Madrid. 

To enter the cities on working days between 7am and 8pm, a vehicle must comply with Euro 3 petrol standards and Euro 4 diesel.

Drivers must also purchase the correct badge for the vehicle before entering the controlled zone.

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Barcelona can also bar entry of all cars into the centre on when an episode of excess NO2 pollution is declared.

It costs seven euros (£5.93) to register a car, with drivers facing fines up to €200 (£169) if they do not comply and their vehicles are not compatible. 

From 2023, towns in Spain which have more than 50,000 inhabitants – and some with more than 20,000 – will need to designate a Low Emissions Zone to comply with the Climate Change law. 

This will apply to at least 149 towns and cities in the country.

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Hiring cars

Drivers need to be at least 21 years old to hire a car, with some companies requiring drivers to be at least 23.

Under most circumstances, drivers under the age of 25, are required to pay an additional young driver surcharge, which can cost upwards of €20 (£17) per day.

Most rental businesses will also require drivers to use a credit card to hire a car.

Driving licences

British expats in Spain are still waiting for a resolution between UK and Spain’s Governments as to whether they will be able to drive using their DVLA-issued driving licences.

The British Embassy Facebook page issued an update this week, saying: “This week, we have continued working with the Spanish Government to settle the small number of outstanding points in the annexes.

“Concluding these negotiations remains our top priority and we will post an update as soon as we have developments to share.”

Safety equipment

By law, drivers are required to have a number of items in their car to ensure their safety in the event of an accident.

Safety vests are not mandatory to carry in a car in Spain, however, the driver could be fined for walking on a road or hard shoulder and not wearing one. 

Warning triangles are obligatory for every vehicle with four or more vehicles and residents must carry two, as well as needing beam deflectors.

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