Let me just start off by saying that getting your driver’s license in Spain is a HUGE pain in the butt…especially if you’re like me and have been driving Stateside since you were 15. It took me about 10 months to get my B license (due to some serious procrastination on my part) and cost a little over €600. It’s possible to get your license within a month or two, but unfortunately it seems there’s no way to avoid the high cost.
Americans (non-EU) can drive in Spain as a tourist with their American driver’s license. If you’re here for an extended period of time (ex. studying abroad) another option is getting an International Driving Permit. If you get residency in Spain however, your only option for driving (legally) is to get a Spanish driver’s license.
Can you get your license with an automatic car in Spain?
If you live in Spain you’ll know manual cars are the norm, but it is possible to get your license with an automatic car. The catch is, if you get this type of license you cannot drive manual vehicles – only automatic. Also, it’s not easy finding an autoescuela (driving academy) that has an automatic car…I had to travel 45 minutes to Cádiz for each of my driving classes and to take the driving test.
What’s the process for getting your license?
There are different kinds of driving licenses in Spain, but generally the process involves two exams; first you need to pass the teórico exam (written) and afterwards the práctico exam (driving). To take the teóríco you’ll either need to sign up for the course/exam with an autoescuela, or you can do an online course yourself and take the exam at the testing center. If you want to do an online course check out teorico.net – my friend used this site to do her teórico exam and it only cost €30 a month. Personally, I’d recommend using an autoescuela so you can have an instructor to answer your questions…sometimes Spain’s traffic laws make absolutely no sense (sorry not sorry). Also, if you go through an autoescuela they will drive you to and from the testing center to take your exams.
1. Teórico / written exam
My course at the autoescuela included a book and online practice exams. You can take the teórico exam in English, but be warned…the translations are so bad that you will get questions wrong simply because they’re so horribly written (seriously). I started studying in Spanish, got intimidated by all the new vocabulary, switched to English and after struggling through about 30 exams I switched back to Spanish.
When I was ready to take the teórico exam my instructor submitted all the paperwork for me and then we had to wait a week before finding out the exam date. On the day of the test my instructor drove me (along with five other students) to the testing center and the next day I was able to view my test results online.
2. Práctico / driving exam
Once you pass the written exam you have two years to pass the práctico exam. You are required to take this exam with an autoescuela. If you know how to drive a manual or automatic car I would recommend taking at least one driving class…there are a lot of weird, strict rules your examinador will be looking to fault you on (like stopping two to three times at stop signs with limited visibility…what?) and you should prepare a 10 minute “free style” driving route ahead of time. The driving test lasts 20 to 30 minutes and usually the first 10 minutes are spent on your “free style” route. During the rest of the exam the examinador will tell you what to do and where to go. You may also be asked to identify parts of the car under the hood and demonstrate you know how to use different lights and features inside the car.
How much does it cost to get your license?
I hope you’ve got some money saved up because getting your license is not cheap! The cost will vary depending on where you live – it can be as cheap as €400 or cost over €1,000. In Sanlúcar the total cost comes to about €800; I paid €300 for the book/practice tests and written exam fees. The práctico exam fee was €90 plus an extra €60 that I had to pay to the autoescuela (for using their car for the exam). Also driving classes cost around €35 an hour so if you need 10 classes (which is the amount most people need) you’re looking at another €350.
IMPORTANT: If you’re planning to get the automatic license you need to be sure this information is included in the paperwork you submit when you take the teórico exam. Unfortunately, my paperwork said I was applying for the manual driver’s license so before taking the driving test I had to pay the €90 fee again. Keep in mind the fees you pay to take the exams (for the B license) allow you two attempts; if you fail each exam twice you will have to pay the fees again.
What else do you need to get your license?
Before taking the written test you’ll need to get a medical certificate from a doctor. You’ll also need to provide a couple of “passport” sized photos and a copy of your ID/passport along with the required paperwork.