The law regarding pedestrian crossings used to be quite relaxed and still, in no way compares to the strictness of the UK, where the driver is automatically at fault if he hits a pedestrian on a crossing. If you are the pedestrian, be sure to look LEFT first and it is considered advisable to hold up the palm of your hand to oncoming traffic. Drivers can now be penalised for not stopping at a crossing.Be aware that traffic lights are often situated right at the stop line, making it very difficult to see when they turn green, except where there is a lower set of lights on the post. There are often flashing amber lights to warn that you are approaching a set of traffic lights and sometimes there are lights which will detect your speed and turn to red if you are exceeding the limit. Very sensibly, stop lights are often turned off, replaced with flashing amber, at night and at other times when the traffic flow is much less.
Parking is prohibited where there is a yellow line along the edge of the curb. You will note that Spaniards have double parking down to a fine art and any roundabout, pavement, corner or pedestrian crossing will also serve as a convenient parking space. However, if you are driving a foreign registered car, you would be well advised to stick to legal parking as you otherwise risk being towed away.
In most towns there is plentiful cheap parking, usually restricted to a two hour maximum, designated by blue lines. You will need to buy a ticket at the nearest machine, but you will mainly find that parking is free until 9:30am, between 1:30 and 4:00pm and after 8:00pm (hours differ from winter to summer). You will also find some free parking.
Be careful of small, privately owned car parks. These often close over the (long) lunch break so be sure to check or you may have a lengthy wait to retrieve your car.Autopistas/Autovías/Motorways - These are generally of very good quality, with plenty of rest areas. Parts of the autopistas are toll roads and you will get due warning of these. You can pay by card or cash.
The Solo Tarjeta (card only) lanes are the quickest and closed lanes are signified by a red cross above. They are expensive for long journeys, but well worth the expense as many lorries and locals refuse to pay the tolls required and stick to the main, non-motorway roads, making these very congested. Except in July and August, the autopistas are generally quite empty, particularly compared with those in the UK and the standard of driving is very high. It is rare to find a Spanish driver hogging the outside lane. They really do use it for overtaking and will return to the inside lane as soon as they have finished their overtaking manoeuvre. However, you will find that some drivers drive at very high speeds, well in excess of the speed limit, so be vigilant.
Petrol and diesel are relatively cheap in Spain, certainly much cheaper than in the UK. Gasolina (petrol) can be unleaded (sin plomo) 95 or 98 octane or lead replacement 97 octane. Diesel (gasoleo or gasoil) usually comes in standard and a higher quality.Vehicle security - Unfortunately, as in other countries, Spain has its share of unscrupulous people, many of whom are actually foreigners themselves. Beware of being approached you as you get out of your car or as you sit, maybe waiting for a companion to return from a shop or the bank.
Make sure that your doors are locked and your windows are open only enough to hear and be heard. If you are getting out of the car, keep a firm hold of cameras, handbags, wallets and mobile phones. These people may try to distract your attention by speaking rapidly in Spanish while pointing as far from your vehicle as possible, or by gaining your sympathy while asking for directions to the hospital, where their sick granny lies dying.
Do not leave valuables unattended in the vehicle for even one second or you may find that an accomplice has reached in and helped him or herself. These gangs usually work in twos or sometimes threes, with one or two of them causing a disturbance or distraction while the other makes off with your worldly wealth. If you do fall victim to one of these scams, don't forget to get a police report, although you may well find that your insurance will not cover belongings left "unattended" in a vehicle.Exercise normal caution and your Spanish trip will be one to remember.¡Buen viaje!..
Michael Russell.Your Independent guide to Driving Tips.
By: Michael Russell