How to get a driver’s license in Spain

Guest Post:

If you have moved to Spain permanently, it is likely that you will want the freedom of having your own car and driving to where you want while you living here.

You can get away with using your international driver’s license for awhile, but once you are legally residing in Spain you need to change over to a Spanish license.

If you haven’t braved driving yet in Spain, you might want to check out this How to survive driving in Spain

Spain has agreements with some countries such as those within the EU and the UK so they aren’t required to re-take the driver’s exam. If you have a license from one of these countries, you can simply exchange the license from the other country of origin to a Spanish one for a fee. For more information on this process, see this article Renewing or exchanging EU driving licenses in Spain.

If you fail to register to get a Spanish driver’s license and you get caught you can be fined 200 Euros.

Unfortunately, this agreement does not extend to either Canada or the USA.  For either of these countries and many others, you will have to get your driver’s license from scratch—by taking the theoretical and practical exams.

What is the process of getting a driver’s license in Spain?

If you do have to go through the process to get a license in Spain, these are a few things you need to know:

The laws about driving and anything related to driving, including getting your license are regulated by Departamento Generál de Tráfico.

You must be 18 to drive in Spain.

Most cars are manual shifts, and the exam is taken in a manual car.

If you are nervous about taking your driver’s license with a manual shift you can do the exam with an automatic as an exception, but then your license will be restricted and you will only ever be able to drive an automatic car in Spain.

This will limit you to choices of what to buy in the future as there are almost no manual cars. My suggestion is to bite the bullet and learn to handle a manual shift. It will make life easier for you here once you learn.

Getting your license requires two exams: theoretical and practical.

Theoretical Exam

To get your driver’s license in Spain you will need to register with a government-recognized autoescuela.

“What????” I can already hear you screaming. “I have been driving for 20 years, why would I need to go to a driving school here?”

An excellent question, one that most of us who have had to go through the process have complained about. However, in Spain the entire system is set up so that you have to get a license through a Government-validated school.

Even before you can start your 1st class in the government-recognized autoescuela, you’ll have to gather the following:

  • Proof of legal residence in Spain for a minimum of 6 months – show a valid NIE or passport with visa affixed.
  • At least one photo for your physical license. ( these are standard size and all photo stores can take one in a moment)
  • Certificate of mental and physical health, called a certificado medico (The certificado medico is an exam that tests your vision and reflexes. It costs around 20€ – 25€. Ask at your autoescuela for the one nearest you)
  • The form Obtenación de Permiso de Conducir (available at all driving schools)
  • A photocopy of your license from your home country
  • 30€ registration fee

Do I really need to study for this, it is just a theory exam after all?

The short answer is yes, you need to study.

The theoretic exam is much more extensive than I expected. It is nothing like the theoretic exam in Canada which requires glancing at the booklet for a few days and answering 20 easy questions at the nearest Government office.

The first clue of what the exam might be like is from the thick textbook you are issued when you sign up for the driving school. You need to learn not only traffic laws, but also some information about car’s mechanics—I’m not just talking about how to change a tire—but details about the motor, basic first aid skills and other a few other topics thrown in for good measure.

The exam is multiple choice and full of trick questions.

One tip:  If your Spanish is above the most basic level I strongly suggest you take the exam in Spanish. You can request to take the exam in English, but the translation is so poor that you will have no idea what they are asking you. I took the exam when I was still very new in Spain and I wasn’t confident with my Spanish. Thinking it would be to my advantage I requested the exam in English but that was a huge mistake. The grammar was a direct translation from Spanish with the English words thrown in—as for the vocabulary, I don’t know where some of the words came from, but I think it was something Shakespeare may have been better able to decipher, but for anyone who only speaks modern English it was a bust. I failed. When I retook the exam in Spanish I was able to pass.

The autoescuela books the exam for you and tells you the day and time. When you arrive you wait in a holding area as someone calls out the names of everyone being examined that day. Make sure you show up with your identification or you won’t be writing the exam. In Madrid there are usually around 200 people taking the exam at a time.  Everyone is then usured into a large exam room. You are given ½ hour to write the exam.

Don’t bother trying to cheat as not everyone gets the same exam. On any given day they will hand out about 5 different exams so it is unlikely that the person sitting next to you will have the same one.

The practical exam

Most schools offer classes to help you pass the theoretic driver’s exam and then throw in about 5 road classes for free. After that, you have to pay per road class, and they are rather pricey.

If you already have your license you won’t have to worry about the expense of extra driving classes as you can already handle that.

As I was from a small town in the rocky mountains that had more deer, elk and bear traffic than cars, I took advantage of the 5 free classes to get tips for driving in Madrid city centre, maneuvering around the roundabouts and making sure I understood some of the laws that are different here from in Canada.

As I had been driving for years I wasn’t very concerned about the practical exam.

It is about what you would expect. You have to show that you are comfortable driving, know how to tackle a roundabout, can drive on a freeway and parallel park.

The part I found odd was that you don’t show up in your own car, rather you use the autoescuela’s car. The examiner rides shotgun and two other students as well as the driving instructor from your autoescuela ride in the back. The three students take turns doing the exam.

Final thoughts:

The price of autoescuelas varies a lot so it is best to shop around. As with almost everything the cheapest is not always the best. It is better to go with recommendations of friends or put a note on a Facebook group to get suggestions.

For more information check out the DGT website.

About the author:

Author-Kimberly Shellborn copia

Kimberly is a Canadian who has been living in Spain for over 15 years. She spends her free weekends and vacations with her family getting to know her adopted country.

Her blog, is all about helping you discover the best of what Spain has to offer.

Along with many of the top tourist attractions, she also includes some of the smaller, but equally as interesting off-the-beaten-path villages, side streets or attractions.



If you found this post to be helpful, take a look at our other posts as we discuss a variety of topics related to Spain. If you are interested in teaching and living in Spain for a year or need assistance becoming autónomo, send us an email at letting us know so we can contact you to set up a free 20 minute consultation!

RVF Spain Consultants as featured in

Captura de pantalla 2018-02-26 a las 16.11.24Article Title: RVF Spain Consultants

Recently, RVF Spain Consultants was featured in an article in a prominent Spain travel blog, We highly recommend this site as an all-encompassing travel companion for all things related to Spain. The original article featuring RVF Spain Consultants can be found here.

Excerpts from the Article


Spain, a dream destination for all!! Who doesn’t want to visit this enchanting country in Europe and be lost in paradise. The sun, the sand, the beaches, the food and the culture of Spain entices you to stay longer and experience more. You can live that dream of yours to travel, live and/or work in Spain by consulting the services of RVF Spain Consultants – The experts in helping you live, work and teach in Spain

Founder, Harrison Fowler

Getting residency in Spain or a NIE card or, even for that matter, marrying a Spanish national, can be a debilitating task making you lose all hopes and future dreams. Harrison Fowler, the founder of RVF Spain Consultants, has gone through the same experience himself.

But he didn’t give up and continued to struggle, and today is well settled with a Spanish national (his wife), a job and residency. This has motivated him to make all the lives of those wishing to travel, visit, live or work in Spain easier by helping you live out your dream in Spain.

RVF Spain Consultants

I, an Indian national, married to a Spanish national and holding a job in Spain, know how difficult and exhausting the path can be, and hence, would recommend you to consult RVF Spain Consultants to be where we are.

RVF Spain Consultants  offers various services including assistance with the North American Language and Cultural Assistants program, a Spanish government program that brings in native English speakers from around the world to teach in Spain for one year as they get paid. RVF Spain Consultants will assist you with the entire process from start to finish and will make sure you are comfortanbly and succesffully settled in Spain by assuring you have all the basics such as a working phone and bank account.

They also offer Autonomo assistance, NIE extranjero assistance, Spanish residency and Empadronamiento and 1-on-1 and/or group Spanish classes via Skype. You can also book a free 20 minutes of consultancy with them to see what they offer and how they can assist you before you ever make the decision of moving forward with their services.

We thank Wander Pie for their kind words and generous article. If you are about to visit Spain for whatever reason, or currently are living here, visiting their site to help achieve the most during your stay is an absolute must.

RVF Spain Consultants as featured in

Captura de pantalla 2018-02-28 a las 10.11.15Article Title: This Kentucky boy finds love in Spain, and a niche for his business

Recently, RVF Spain Consultants was featured in an article in a prominent Spain travel blog, Travelling Around Spain. We highly recommend this site as an all-encompassing travel companion for all things related to Spain. The original article featuring RVF Spain Consultants can be found here.

Excerpts from the article

Founder, Harrison Fowler

Inevitably, some visitors find reasons to stay longer. Some for the culture, some for the weather and the fact that it is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to live in—but many for love.

The latter reason is the case of Harrison Fowler, originally from Kentucky in the USA. He studied Spanish at University so decided to come to Spain to fine tune his Spanish skills.

Once in Spain, he met Alejandra, whom he said he fell head over heels for almost immediately.

For this love story to continue Harrison needed to find a way to stay in Spain and spend more time with Alejandra. He applied for work as a Conversation Assistant in a Government program for Bilingual schools.

Once Harrison popped the question, he decided to stay in Spain. He said, “ultimately I wanted to be wherever she was.” He added that as they were both bilingual they would have job opportunities in Spain that may not be as available to them in the States.

Business Venture

After dealing with the headaches of bureaucracy when applying for his residence and work permit, Harrison realized that probably other people are having the same struggle. Out of his own bureaucratic nightmare,  RVF Spain Consultants was born.

Harrison offers the service of helping new arrivals to find their feet in Spain. As he has waded through the paperwork for the  North American Language and Cultural Assistants program for Teacher’s Assistants, he felt he can be a help to others facing the same overwhelming amounts of paperwork. (I wish there had been such a service years ago when I had to fill out the paperwork for that program! Trust me it is a nightmare if you don’t have someone walking you through it)

He also offers the service of helping people through the paperwork of getting a work visa,  a NIE, starting a business or even something seemingly simple as helping people get a sim card for their phone. Any of these tasks is daunting in a new country, but much more so if someone isn’t fluent in Spanish.

Harrison offers a free initial consultation to help people with the bureaucratic mess. If you would like to learn more about what services are included, head to his web page:

We thank Travelling Around Spain for their kind words and generous article. If you are about to visit Spain for whatever reason, or currently are living here, visiting their site to help achieve the most during your stay is an absolute must.

Fantastic Spain Travel Blog

Captura de pantalla 2018-02-26 a las 16.11.24

Captura de pantalla 2018-02-26 a las 16.11.45As many already know from experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant, making your way around a new and foreign country is either the most exhilarating experience one can have, or it is a sheer headache-inducing nightmare. Traveling can, and should, be an exciting and awe-inspiring experience. But for it to be that, it often takes a great guide who knows exactly what they’re talking about, which is why we highly recommend Wander Pie.

Wander Pie is a fantastic Spain travel blog that started in 2017 and is the perfect travel companion for all those wishing to travel, visit, explore, and experience Spain. The blogs founder, Aastha Rohatgi, lives and works in Spain and can best be described as someone who knows what their talking about. Just even a quick look at her blog reveals an in-depth “insiders” knowledge of the “mechanics” of such an amazing and beautiful country as Spain.

Wander Pie breaks down the potential experience you might have in Spain into many different categories making it easiest for you to gather the information you need to plan accordingly. Want to explore Bilbao, Spain as a DIY city walk? It’s on the blog. Need information on day trips you could take from Madrid, Granada, and/or Bilbao? It’s on the blog. Looking for a new city to explore in Spain? Try Córdoba. And you guessed it, it’s on the blog. Without meaning to sound redundant, the point we are trying to get across is that Wander Pie is a must for all those visiting Spain, and even for those who are already there.

Spain is a rich and diverse country in many amazing ways, and why go at exploring it alone? We highly recommend you take a look at Wander Pie so that you can have the best experience possible while traveling throughout Spain. The travel blogs founder, Aastha Rohatgi, said it best when she said, “For all you wanderers out there, lets embark our trip to Spain with WanderPie and unravel the splendor and tradition of Spain! Its time to create some memories!!!!” And we couldn’t agree more!

What is the Spanish NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) and why do you need it?

Captura de pantalla 2018-02-15 a las 12.28.31
NIE Card (Credit:

The NIE, Número de Identificación de Extranjero, is a Spanish Foreigner’s Identification Number needed for all non-Spanish/EU citizens wanting to stay in Spain for more than 90 days. It is an incredibly important number issued by the General Administration of the State (Administración General del Estado) and is necessary for just about every conceivable transaction or affair you would like to pursue in Spain.

The NIE itself is a plastic identification card that is about the exact same size and feel as a U.S. driver’s license. It contains a photo with your Spanish address, fingerprint and personal information.

But the most important bit of information it contains is your NIE number, which is a seven-digit number that begins with a letter and ends with a letter, such as X-1234567-P. This number will never expire and cannot be transferred to another person or changed.

For what types of activities would you need a NIE?

If you are planning on staying inside of Spain for more than 90 days, you will 100% need a NIE. If you are planning on staying inside of Spain less than 90 days, for example maybe you are studying abroad in Barcelona for two months, you won’t need to worry about this at all. Chances are you won’t be doing anything that would require a NIE, such as working or purchasing property if you are staying for that little of time.

You will need a NIE in Spain if you are:

  • Staying in Spain more than 90 days;
  • Working in any capacity or attempting to get a job or are becoming autónomo/freelance;
  • Paying taxes in Spain;
  • Applying for a Spanish drivers license;
  • Applying for a social security number and/or social security benefits;
  • Purchasing a car or property or any asset that has a value of €3,000 or more;
  • Receiving any type of inheritance asset;
  • Applying for a loan or a mortgage;
  • Pursuing most any form of professional, business or economic related interest.

Most likely if you are a tourist and only plan to visit Spain less than 90 days, you won’t need a NIE. However, if you are planning on staying in Spain more than 90 days, and/or do any of the above mentioned activities, you will absolutely need to apply for one.

If you need assistance applying for a NIE and starting the process, you can send us an email at and we can help you with the process from start to finish.



If you found this post to be helpful, take a look at our other posts as we discuss a variety of topics related to Spain. If you are interested in teaching and living in Spain for a year or need assistance becoming autónomo, send us an email at letting us know so we can contact you to set up a free 20 minute consultation!

What is the Abono and how can you get one?

Abono (Credit:

The Madrid Public Transportation Card, referred to as an Abono Transportes is a small, red plastic card (same feel and size as a credit card) that is used to access public transportation within the city of Madrid, Spain. Much like a Charlie Card for Boston or a Metro Card for the New York subway, the abono transportes is a plastic card that is pre-charged with either a specific number of uses, or for unlimited use within a 30 day period.

It used to be that several months ago if anyone in Madrid wanted to take the subway (known as the metro in Madrid) they could just buy a one-way pass in the form of a small, paper ticket. However, those days are gone and it is mandatory in Madrid for all, natives, foreigners and tourists alike, to purchase the abono and charge it for however many trips they will be needing it for.

How much does an abono transportes cost?

That depends on your age. And where you would like to go. Madrid is a city but it is also the name of the autonomous community (more or less a state for all of our American readers) that Madrid the city resides in. The abono can take you anywhere you like to go in Madrid the city or Madrid the “state.”

If you are 25 years old or less, then the “youth” abono will only cost you €20 each month for unlimited transportation on the metro, buses and trains anywhere inside Madrid the “state” for 30 days. Such a good deal!

If you are between 26 years old and 64 years old you will have to apply for the “normal” abono that ranges in price depending on where you would like to go. For most tourists visiting Madrid, and even for most expats living in Madrid, you will almost certainly find yourself exclusively in Zone A, which for someone with the “normal” abono would cost €54.60 for unlimited use of public transportation, inside Zone A, for a 30 day period.

If you are older than 64 years old, then a “senior” abono for you will cost €12.30 for unlimited use on all forms of public transportation for 30 days within Zone A to Zone C2, which is a basically anywhere you would like to go/would ever have any reason to go, especially if you are just visiting.

Below you can see a more detailed photo of the abono pricing depending on your age and the Zone you would like to visit, including a map of Madrid the “state” and all the Zones its divided in to.

Captura de pantalla 2018-02-14 a las 11.53.35
Abono Prices (Credit:
zone map
Autonomous Community of Madrid Zone Map


How and where can you apply for the abono?

If it is your first time applying for the abono all you will need to do, once in Madrid, is make an appointment online and then schedule the day and time of the appointment at your convenience at a metro station near you.

The online appointment can be made here, and all you will need to do is:

  1. Click on the first option Quiero obtener una Tarjeta Transporte Público/I would like to obtain the Public Transportation Card, and then Aceptar/Accept.
  2. On this page there will be three options. Click the first option El solicitante tiene entre 7 y 25 años if you are between 7 and 25 years old. Click the second option El solicitante tiene 26 años o más if you are older than 26 years old. After selecting the option that applys to you, click Aceptar.
  3. Next you’ll have to select Pasaporte/Passport and then enter the numbers of your passport in the small, rectangular box where it says Documento as well as your country abbreviation. Now you will have to click on Pedir Cita Previa/Schedule an Appointment, if this is your first time.
  4. You’ll be directed to a page where you will see two options that allow you to search by administrative office or by date. The first of the two, Iniciar búsqueda de cita previa por oficinas de gestión, will allow you to search by administrative office, and the second, Iniciar búsqueda de cita previa por fecha, by date. After checking the small box on either of the two options and filling in the information that applies to you, click on Buscar Cita Previa/Look for Available Appointments.
  5. After choosing the day and time that suits you best, click on Confirmar Cita/Confirm Appointment down at the bottom.
  6. In the next page, enter your email address where it says Correo Electrónico, and your phone number where it says Télefono Móvil; enter the codigo de validación/validation code, and lastly click on Finalizar to finalize the process.
  7. You should receive an email confirming your appointment. Print out that confirmation email and bring it with you to your appointment.

What do you need to bring to your scheduled appointment?

You will need to bring:

  1. A completed abono application form which can be found here;
  2.  A passport sized photo (there are small picture booths in many tourist areas of Madrid, such as Sol, near or in the metro stations where you can pay €5 for a pack of 6 passport sized photos);
  3.  And either your passport, or your Spanish residency card and a photocopy of that documentation. If you’re just visiting Madrid we recommend you use your passport because that’s most likely the only official documentation that they will accept. If you don’t have a printer and don’t know where you can make a photocopy of your passport you can click here to find the nearest printing service in Madrid.

Now all you’ll need to do is go to your appointment, get your abono and explore to your hearts content!


*You can download a copy of the Madrid Metro Map here.



If you found this post to be helpful, take a look at our other posts as we discuss a variety of topics related to Spain. If you are interested in teaching and living in Spain for a year or need assistance becoming autónomo, send us an email at letting us know so we can contact you to set up a free 20 minute consultation!