Since Brexit, a lot of back and forth has been going on regarding United Kingdom, Gibraltar and the Republic of Ireland driving licenses. Many British nationals who spend time in Spain either as residents with a second home, or on extended holidays, come by car, or want to hire one for travel and excursions.
Can they legally drive with their original driving license? Or do they need a Spanish driving license and what are the rules … how do they go about obtaining one?
Let’s start with the latest situation because you won’t be that much interested in what has happened in the past. In March of this year, an agreement between the UK and Spain allowed UK driving license holders who have been residents in Spain before 16 March to swap their license for a Spanish one without the need of a theory or written test. And all treaties being reciprocal, Spanish people kept their right to drive in the UK.
That was good for six months from 16 March, or six months of the date you obtained Spanish residence, whichever came later.
Now, most Brits who still failed to make the switch are not allowed to drive with their UK license after 15 September. If you do and are stopped you, will no doubt be fined, which will run you 200 euros. BTW: the license exchange procedure costs about 30 euros.
The Spanish authority to deal with the exchange is the DGT, which has several branches in Spain.
Thankfully, their website is also in English.
Suffice it to say, if you failed to exchange your license in time, you are in trouble.
If you drive with your UK license after 15 September and are stopped you, will no doubt be fined, which will run you 200 euros. That’s just the beginning ….
So, the question is, what to do if you missed the deadline?. There is always the possibility to get a Spanish license “from scratch,” so to speak. But, it is a long and very expensive process which includes having to take driving lessons even if you have been driving many years.
The good news is, you can take the theory test in English, and lessons with an English-speaking instructor. BUT the actual driving test is always administerd by a Spanish-speaking examiner.
If you have an Irish license, you are good to go because the Republic of Ireland is part of the European Union and not affected by any Brexit rules. If for some reason you have a license from another EU county ( I for instance have a German one), you are also fine.
If none of this applies, get in touch with the nearest branch of the DGT and ask about the grace period. Nothing to the effect has been published yet or agreed, but stay vigilant, check the press, relevant FB groups and websites so you don’t miss another deadline, if there should be one.
Another helpful post is here, but it does not address the problem of what to do if you missed the deadline. Also, this is interesting … there’s a dedicated license for driving a car with an automatic transmission!
Another piece of advice: if you have to contact the DGT, either by phone or in person and you’re not fluent in Spanish, be sure to take someone with you who is.
This is all way more complicated and vague than it should be. So, thank Boris, Nigel and that lot for screwing up everyone’s lives.
Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel and lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits among many other publications.